Irish writers are moody, opinionated, self-obsessed, hypercritical, introverted yet oddly enough I’m quite happy to be considered among their number.
The long term collaboration between Anthony Clare and Spike Milligan graphically documented the depths of bottomless depression to which a uniquely open, talented comic writer and performer can succumb. Mood swings of bipolar proportion produced some of the funniest, zaniest and ultimately playfully insightful shades of comic reality ever shared publicly. Spike Milligan’s personal price for such insight and inspiration was his regular private endurance of dungeons of depression below seas of self doubt amid oceans of listless uselessness, clinging to a black blanket of tortuous mental and emotional turmoil. Spike the writer catharsizes his post-traumatic stress and second world war experiences through his unique humour and the expressive and reflective act of writing itself.
Writing literally changes people. Writing changes our brains, influences our moods and affects our personality in a multitude of ways. The dichotomy of most private inner composition/exploration and subsequent press ganged public exposure and dissemination (distortion) of our ideas and emotions are surely themselves bi-polar expressions in terms of (un)expected or seemingly incompatible sets of (mis)behaviours ? I have read quite a lot of material dealing with the psychology of writing, creativity, and consequent personality traits of many successful or well known writers, poets and artists (primarily in the interests of self-understanding and the initiation of some form of reflection upon personal writing practises). Bryonesque tales of romantic poetics and unrequited love, opium stupors, emotional excesses further shade or cloud any potential understanding of the aesthetic drives and creative impulses at play in the private worlds of genuinely talented individuals. Should exceptional talent actually become the rule of understanding creativity, perhaps that’s why it seems to prove difficult for some to see past Joyce, Yeats and Beckett and their illustrious ilk.
Recent articles, papers and publications have identified traits corresponding (sic) to levels of creative achievement among writers. I have written on my blog/website about my own individual encounters with the beast of depression, what might euphemistically be called mood disorder, the wallowing slothful black hole that is a pit of dark gluttonous useless glue of inaction. It is in no way pleasant, it fogs and clouds, serves the deflation of your will as it eradicates your passion for life, it renders everything and everyone irrelevant to the impending void of non-existence, its gloooom in a doom room with more owes. But depression itself is getting less and less bad press of late, as a society of creatively minded people writers have long been warned that madness is not generally a good subject to begin your writing career. But before deciding yourself first ask Flann O Brien, Ken Kersey, Gogol or even John Irving.. our propensity* to depression must have at least some tenuous connection to those long hours of self-imposed solitude.. (* can also be spelled: ‘pro – pen – sitty’)
Thus when my alter ego @clevercelt won tickets on twitter to @flatlake literary and arts festival for the last June Bank Holiday weekend I had yet another opportunity to get Down with Irish Writers. Amid the wonderful diversity of activities and entertainments I found myself on occasions, quietly analysing the exterior expressions of the many (usually private )personae of various writers present. I specifically attended the sessions of Paul Murray of Skippy Dies Fame and ‘City of Bohan’ Author Kevin Barry. I was somewhat disappointed that there was no time for questions, well certainly five minutes would not allow for any depth of answer and I wondered what level of honesty could such an answer attract in such a public setting, even for writers promoting their essentially comic work. The ringmaster was of course Captain Butty – aka Pat McCabe, co-organiser (with Richard Allen) and renowned Irish Novelist in his own right. Pat is a glorious candidate for several future PhDs broaching any combined subjects of psyche, writer and genius. He is of course a hugely talented and generous individual and it was truly wonderful to witness his public alter-ego in full flow. The private Pat (although subject of an RTE documentary some years ago) obviously contains many hidden levels and layers of which any would-be philology, writing/creativity ‘ologist’ (Maureen Lipman conjugation) would relish exploring.
Such traditional Irish writers continue along a long line of the Irish comic tradition, ( You could also google the Kells Swift festival of satire) which obtusely intersects or informs a major component of my own interest in new forms of writing, writing in non-traditional media, digital writing, electronically based expressions of those psychologically based ephemera, moods, strains, drives, impulses, ideas, concepts - feelings. While striving to understand more about my traditional craft, I am perhaps equally fascinated and drawn towards my emerging art. The art of creative writing in digital contexts. For the last three years, and two more before that, I have been academically engaging with what has been my life’s passion for over thirty years – the experimental junction between writing and technology, I have been studying writing and writers and the theoretical frameworks within which we are being scrutinized, the predominant ideologies being grafted onto an emerging cannon of work. The movers and shakers, the doers and winners, the whiners and diners.
Perhaps in a sort of People’s popular front of Judea sort of way it’s DOWN WITH IRISH WRITERS who can’t or won’t fully engage with these new and challenging developments, my current focus is to encourage and expand the understanding of digital writing in Ireland. To date it’s a pretty empty and lonely space, of course no one wants to stand up and invite critical analysis of such a currently isolated albeit emerging field of study & endeavour, i.e. without first beginning to feel some semblance of security in their own knowledge and understanding of it.. sadly intellectual brownie points are not available for intuition or feeling in understanding digital writing. There are plenty of good and knowledgeable people out there speaking about and also consulting on Digital Publishing but the nature of their activities mean their focus must remain commercial.
The only path forward for me is to engage fully with intersections in the field, in every aspect, with means that I get the opportunity to get DOWN WITH EUROPEAN WRITERS.. through three basic activities.. Firstly through my membership of the ELO that’s the electronic literature organization, a sort of western world global grouping dealing with and exploring the boundaries of the electronic literature world, a sort of grand daddy of elit, in a very similar vein to Loss Pequeno Glazier’s excellent EPC in Buffalo, and the highly academically attached and EU endorsed ELMCIP sadly UCD isn’t part of this HERA consortium funded project.
I am however very fortunate perhaps privileged to be the current English Co-editor for the latest independent European Anthology for e-literature and it’s my solid intention to write a lot more on this site about what we are getting up to on this community website over the coming weeks and months. I’m also looking forward to getting even further down with all sorts of writers.. If you have an interest in the various strands of digital writing and haven’t yet found a place where you are happy to fail at it (like we all must do) do please contact me and I’ll be happy to point you in one of any number of directions that are opening up… send me a email to MichaelJ (and then the @ sign) dime.ie – I respond to everything.. even spam..
And before I go, I gotta just say welcome back to Mr Netpoetic Jason Nelson, he was off the radar for a bit but you should really check out his excellent recently released new works on his website.