Cork launch of Chuck’s new collection of poems by Leo McMahon, The Southern Star, Saturday, January 25, 2008

‘Sourcing,’ a new collection of poems by Chuck Kruger, was officially launched at a most enjoyable reception in City Library, Cork last week by poet Tom McCarthy who described the American-born Cape Clear islander as a “fantastically cosmopolitan man” whose works demonstrated “a most intense enjoyment of the experience of being in the world”.

Guests were welcomed on behalf of the City Library by Eamonn Kirwan and on behalf of the publisher Bradshaw Books, Tigh Fili, Cork, by its literature officer Paul Casey who described the poems in ‘Sourcing’ as being extremely evocative of island life which enticed one to further explore such places. Paul thanked everyone associated with the 103-page publication and said it was a great sign for poetry when so many people turned out on a wet and windy night to attend its launch.

Well-known Cork poet Tom McCarthy said one could sense in Chuck’s early works of journalism the highest standard as he chronicled the passing seasons. In his poetry there was a powerful affirmation of the brevity of being in a stormy nowhere but also a sense of spirituality in primitive places.

Paying a glowing tribute to Chuck Kruger, Tom continued: “His life and lifestyle is rooted in deep thought and contemplation and it is no surprise that the recurrent heroes of this collection of poems are the butterflies that survive the ferocious winter and spring storms of Cape Clear”.

Chuck Kruger returned thanks and then delighted the large turnout for the launch by reciting some of the 67 poems in the book with its magnificent cover photograph by the man himself of Fastnet Rock and sea birds. This, the fifth book by the well known writer, poet, storyteller and broadcaster, is dedicated to island neighbours and friends Duncan Mac Lachlan, Patrick Cadogan and Conchubar O Drisceoil.

Seventy year young Chuck was accompanied by his wife of 45 years, Nell, and the attendance included Donal O Drisceoil, Cal and Joan Hyland, Frank Cadogan, Jerry Donovan, Alannah Hopkin and Fr. Patrick Hickey PP, Timoleague, while the City Library was also represented at the wine reception by Susie Maye.

Chuck recited the poems ‘Judging by the size of it’, ‘A break’, ‘Feathering Mackerel’, ‘Teapot Tempest’, ‘Cat’, ‘Pleiades’, ‘I pick asparagus to dolphins’ illustrating his love of the island and its community, the sea and the stars and this poem about the day when he and others saw waves in South Harbour that were so high they covered the youth hostel.

The West Cork launch of ‘Sourcing’ by Chuck Kruger will be performed by young Beara poet Leanne O’Sullivan this Thursday evening, January 24, at 7.30 pm in the west Cork Arts Centre, North Street, Skibbereen.  


A Confluence of Alarm

 

Barometer plummets a hundred eighty degrees

to 938 half a day before waves in outer harbour begin

obliterating all into booms of white against grey cliffs.

    Full moon, high tide, and storm,

    A confluence of alarm.

 

In inner harbour, closer to homes, island eyes

centre on waves crashing high up shingle against seawall,

blasting heavenward. Force 11 gusts then buffet the kingdom come

explosions so that instead of fireworks over hostel roof,

they shoot straight up, synchronized multitudinous geysers,

their eastward not upward momentum stopped

by an invisible Jerusalem wall of wind, and they wail,

collapse, collect, roll back down beach, wash roaring,

each old remnant bit of might roiling into part of next attack.

    Full moon, high tide, and storm,

    A confluence of alarm.

 

Maverick crests skyrocket over breakwater and pier,

roads metamorphose into white-water rivers, stones and hunks

of macadam scatter into wrack and we into hunkered gawking groups.

Our growing crowd oohs aahs screams, occasionally retreats

for safety, but still we have one blowout bash, witness the opening lid

of Davy Jones’s locker as Colum’s car momently disappears,

tipped by billowing surge onto two wheels when he chances run;

we cheer when Paddy’s fully baptized as he crosses the foot of Ceili Hill;

we chuckle to see the priest’s front yard fill with stones, and fish.

    Full moon, high tide, and storm,

    A confluence of alarm.

 

The event brings us together – a meitheal in a wilderness – ,

fills us with tempest and temptation instead of work,

and like a pack of hungry wolves we howl as we paw in awe,

approaching knoll with caribou rising into snow-capped mountain peak.

    Full moon, high tide, and storm,

    A confluence of alarm.

 

Two hours later, as tide ebbs, as light fades,

we split, go our separate townland ways;

it’s as if the sea has nothing more to say.

    Full moon, low tide, and storm,

    A confluence no longer of alarm.

                                                                        ––Chuck Kruger  


Chuck’s poetry should prove popular with wider audience

Reviewed by Carmel Walsh, The Southern Star, Saturday, February 16, 2008

Chuck Kruger’s new collection of poetry, Sourcing, is very easy reading, and should prove popular not only with the traditional poetry lover but by a much wider circle. It portrays a way of life lived on Cape Clear and smaller surrounding islands, and gives readers an insight to island life unknown to most in the busy world.

Poetry is an art often over analysed by the reader, and frequently the poet uses language unfamiliar and meaningless, and when examined the true message has evaporated. Not so in Sourcing. Over sixty poems are contained in Sourcing, each written with a different technique. The book is in a style one can pick up and aim at reading the short lighter poems and reflect on longer ones, which can even be read in stages to be absorbed.

Cape Clear was known to sailors for centuries and was visited by many throughout the ages. Traditional stone walls divide the land into small fields and in the poem ‘Altars of the Earth’, Chuck writes about tradition as any islander would, but only he could pen the words. The characters in some of his poems are of butterflies surviving life on Cape Clear, as in ‘Butterfly Days’.

Sourcing is written by someone who has developed deep roots in the area and an understanding of its ancestors and in his poem ‘Sister Skellig’ he portraits the true quality of his writing when he describes the harshness and beauty of an island.

            “Now a beehive hut in a butterfly world

            Perched on the edge

            Of heritage

            Tells blow-in me not mainly of hardship

            But of a wildly simplifying place.”

The poem is an understanding of the struggles and the beauty the monks must have experienced while living on

            “hunkering down on that God-

            Unforsaken outpost of an Atlantic Isle.

On a small island which is so confining and with such a small population, a tight-knit community has to exist as Kruger says

            “When call came to come quick, help

            Coral marauding Kerry cows.”

Much of the language he uses is absorbed from his living on Cape Clear and not obtained from his life in New York or Zurich.

Of all the poems in Sourcing, the very last poem, titled ‘Sourcing’, may entertain some serious thought on its content, probably intended by Chuck as a finale to his book.

Many visit Cape during summer months and witness it as a holiday resort, with boats bobbing in the harbour, and long sunny days. One sees the old ruins of previous times, and are told about St. Ciarán and his missionary departure from his home land Cape Clear to County Offaly, Cornwall, Scotland, Brittany and many other lands. On departure, we forget the island is a year-round effort, surviving lashings of enormous waves, dark winters where the locals live and they look forward to the first taste of Spring.

The name Chuck Kruger is now indelibly linked to Cape Clear and all the imagery that it conjures up, especially after the publication of Sourcing. He has closely watched the locals as in his poem ‘Little Stone Steps’:

“I’d never have spotted them  
If I hadn’t watched a lobsterman.”

Chuck has lived on Cape Clear since 1992, having bought a twelve acre [60 acre] farm there in 1986. It was a daunting task for an American to move to such a tiny Island full of history and folklore and since his move there his name has become synonymous with the island’s literary scene.

He was born in 1938, grew up in upstate New York’s Finger Lakes and prior to his arrival on Cape Clear he was a lecturer in Zurich for over twenty years before he and his wife Nell moved to the Island. For a stranger to survive on the island it is a real test, but many seasons later he has mastered life there.

He seemed to have had a sense of Irishness developed prior to his arrival on Cape Clear. Like the natives, it is known he needs no encouragement on the talking scene, and as regards telling a story he is known to be more than adept, and they are vital ingredients for a beginning on Cape and in getting to know the locals, as many of their ancestors had arrived over a thousand years previously, and probably took a cautious approach to Chuck especially on his venture in publishing books.

Chuck is an award winning author and poet, winning many awards and competitions. He and his wife organized the Cape Clear international story telling competition and it is now an annual event on the island. He felt the tradition of story telling on the island was fading fast and decided to revive it. The annual festival is now a well-established and popular event.

Chuck says of Cape Clear: “Cape’s a poem I read every day, every night. It’s a point of reference, a metaphor by which I confirm my very being. It’s the place I love more than any other.”

Sourcing is a recommended poetry book and it captures a timeless way and pace of life.

 


A Selection of Poems

[Butterfly Days] [Teapot Tempest] [Light Work] [As In A Vision Once I saw]
[Grey Stone Beach] [Altars of the Earth] [The Shingle]



Butterfly Days

I don’t know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly,
or whether I’m now a butterfly dreaming I’m a man.
Chuang-tzu (369-286 B.C.)

Imagine being so equipped
you live full life in an average of three days,
well, three days and, if you’re lucky, maybe as many nights.
That’s what the Large Heath butterfly’s got,
three days out of chrysalis to death,
three days to find a mate, and mate,
and meet the Maker.
Man, talk about packing it in.

He don’t complain, just bobs about
on his truly daily business
fluttering from tussock to shaggy tussock,
rummaging for food and friend.
The Missus lays her eggs on the dead brown leaf
of hare’s-tail, drops to earth.
We got to know ’em when, into our also momentary space,
flies first Mister B., confused by glass, air turned solid, no smell,
up against invisible planes, and he but probably born today.
At last he alights in the conservatory’s upper southeast corner,
closes tawny wings as tight as Nell and I can eyes, reconnoitres,
three days to find a mate, and mate,
and meet the Maker.
Man, talk about packing it in.

Then in she daintily flits, fainter, fewer eye-spots,
and I wonder if marauding meadow pipit can be far behind.
Those staring eye-spots may encourage such a predator
to miss the body proper on his nabbing thrusts, but to me
such circles suggest, I must confess, kingdom come mandalas.
Why Mr. and Mrs. Butterfly, says I at last,
scooping him into a closing church of hands, and stepping outside,
let’s calculate: you’ve 72 hours,
so in our little communion hour together you’ve lived a year in my life.
Now go, you gentle. I separate sanctuary into halves
but he, quiet, waits, wings raised,
and I hear him pray, imagine being born today, middle-aged mañana
and dead the day after Tuesday, oh Mr. and Mrs. B.,
ain’t we all,
and off he flies, so Nell cups her, strides into outer space, opens church-door thumbs
and she’s free too, an angel flickering about above the shrubb’ry
in darting do-si-do dances with her man,
three days to find a mate, and mate,
and meet the Maker.
Man, talk about packing it in.

*************
[
Back to top.]


TEAPOT TEMPEST

Cursory early morning glance
southwest
out island bedroom window
tells wind direction, size of swell,
whether it’s a day for in or out,
when
shalom, shazam
all I see this morning’s
ship,
three flowering masts,
plunging bowsprit,
triangles & squares,
heavy press of Prospero’s gull-white sails,
& I wonder where I am,
& when,
& as the brave scene
begins
to dawn in Miranda me, I dash downstairs
for camera, back up, snap, whir, snap,
before she rounds the point
& disappears
into the Renaissance
or I wake up again alone as Caliban
and see wood pigeons
have unearthed the shoots of corn.

Why I need
such black & white
confirmation of what is
I don’t rightly know but mull,
& in the routine
pre-breakfast wake-up rinse
someone from somewhere murmurs simply that
a plant denied water dies -- & so do we
without surprise.
[
Back to top.]


Light Work

Most seasons
of most days
I gaze across South Harbour,
check out how the light addresses walls & pastures,
on how the walls themselves begin to blend
as they approach the level of my eyes.

This mid-morning, a cup of home-grown peppermint tea
reminds & admonishes sedentary me
to step outside, relax
on Look-out Point,
scan the seascape landscape all together.
I pause on "The Palace",
whoa boy can’t
budge eyes or mind
from what that collapsing ruin might have been
three hundred years ago:
Island women working,
making in deed
light work
of their men’s last catch,
all day pickling & packing pilchards in hogsheads,
all day working against the sun,
against rot & stink,
against final absence of light,
hands & bodies so fishy
I smell them an acre away,
lives so hard
they shine like bits of quartz crystal caught
by a passing swath of light.

The group of women
slowly disappears,
gone as completely as a cloud blown below the sea’s horizon.
& I, as I drain my mug,
prowl again the patterns
& shadowy consequences
of dry stone walls.
Hey, pal, up ya go, time to skedaddle back
to the confines of your study.


[Back to top.]

AS IN A VISION ONCE I SAW

For Nell

"The best known . . . is the Cornish chough, formerly a denizen of the precipitous cliffs of the south coast of England, of Wales, of the west and north coasts of Ireland, and some of the Hebrides, but now greatly reduced in numbers, and only found in such places as are most free from the intrusion of man or of daws, which last seem to be gradually dispossessing it of its sea-girt strongholds. . . ." The 1910-11 Encyclopaedia Britaninica (eleventh edition)

Tumbling through the air,
just the two of ‘em,
just the two in this whole wobbly world,
a pair of choughs
free-fallin’ past the cliff side into home,
a shallow cave beside the sea,
the whole world theirs in the final light of day.

I could barely believe happening upon such sun-
bright red beaks, red slender legs, such
bright black plumage.
Oh I was in love with ‘em, their wild domain,
& wholly privy to it too,
& feelin’, I confess, well, new.

Then when the pair came out again to play,
their cave’s mouth now in shadow,
they spotted me silhouetted on their barnacle-studded,
seaweed-slithery walnut-shaped peninsula,
& they darted furtively away,
vanishin’ like spies in a crowd of rocks above the scree.
"Ye’ve no business here," one pointedly proclaimed from nowhere;
and the other cried,
"Ye & your kind’ve already made us leave
all but the continental fringe.
Ye’ve evicted us from millenia of habitation
& here ye be again
in a place no normal man walks,
ye tryin’ to get away from man,
we trying to keep away from ye. Vamoosh! Amscray!"
They stayed shadows in the dusk
& I left, chastened, grateful, perplexed.

That night it came to me, vision or thought:
They were us, gal, you and me,
and me there, I was my cancer here,
and I went away,
and they were free of me, and back into play,
and so shall we soon be too,
just we two in this whole wobbly world,
a pair of choughs
free-fallin’ past the cliff side into home.


[Back to top.]

Grey Stone Beach

Ritual tea break time, ta da!
By words alone put in & down have maybe earned an exodus.
Saunter down to stove, fiddle pots, progress outside, sit & exhale long & loud & scan
the island’s autumn scene, knobbly hills, reflective harbour, grey stone beach,
bracken turnin’ brown, kestrel droppin’ down,
&, whoa boy, stop on spot of white at edge of low spring tide,
imagine perhaps a rug washed in last night.
But it looks -- I slowly put down mug -- almost -- by God -- alive.

Curious as a Cape Clear country kid, all sixty years of me set forth,
five minutes later approach the beach,
and from a hundred yards away see twitch, quiver, spasm,
sign of littoral life. I stumble over stone, slide down three-foot
seaweed tide-line mixed with plastic bits, strands of fish net,
halt mere feet from my first-ever beached baby seal,
white, clean as cloud, clean as all the inside of creation.

Pup raises head, twists neck, hisses over sloping thick-furred shoulder,
returns to lump, eyes cocked.
Oh you grey stone beach, I wonder what’s washed up on you
over the millennia, wonder wildly what’s up with this panting pup, where’s its mom,
dammit but what’s wrong
with the natural order of all things?

Over the next four days I put God on trial,
sift through evidence, adjudicate, interpolate,
visit twice a day the slow swimmin’ settlin’ stretchin’ restin’ witness pup
& at night read a bible of marine biology.
I learn at last that nothing’s up at all, dummy, no case no how,
only my own lack of understanding.
Why I discover that the Grey Atlantic Seal is, for its own growth & good,
naturally abandoned by its mother
after a rich two to three weeks of nursing,
that it has enough fat for another month, man, more, until it sorts out how to fish & fend,
that yes indeed the mother’s done her job & now it’s up to pup --
& I think of God, of my anger at His seeming absence during Holocaust,
famines, war after war to beat all wars, crimes, accidents, tumble of child
out of crib & onto neck; & then the dormant thought struggles toward the dawn,
the spring tide floods & cleans the grey stone beach,
the well-weaned pup swims off from what’s become his comfy seaweed-covered boulder bed,
& I sense, sense a sense, Gadzooks, but we’ve got to make it by ourselves, our God’s
a mother seal, has already done Her part, the rest, boy, the weaning’s up to you & me, & us.
Why I can no longer angrily conclude to condemn my God than I can
the mother of this pup, the mother out there whether her pup sinks or swims.
Why I’ve luckily at last been betrayed by my die-hard brief,
my iconoclastic, go-it-alone, now flagrantly egotistical belief;
why I’ve been Darwin’s bloody monkey’s uncle, a seal’s abandoned pup, one religious apostate
but by Christ as metaphor man the world, the world, it just might be joined
together after all. I mean, one shouldn’t be mothered through to death.

And that mound of white? Returned to the ever-lovin’ sea,
returned to privacy, returned to beaches out of sight to me.
And I, I must confess, I’m not as abandoned as I was before
brother pup washed in, oh you grey stone beach.




[Back to top.]

Altars of the Earth

Everywhere ahead I sense the simple heritage
Of drystone walls, explore their will to wait,
Wonder wildly who built which, & when & why
& what was a winter day on Cape like then?
I conjure up the ‘ditch’ that disappears into the island lake.
The man who’s farmed beside it his every breath
Laments he’s never seen where that wall ends.

The mystery of the past, like a master stooped
In prayer, murmurs essences; 240,000 miles
Of drystone walls in Éire alone murmur, some that run
Under bogs & into stone age, some that be
But the soulful runes of unlettered folk who knew
What matters most. When amidst these murmurings –
As I grasp that nothing’s new about a prayer from a wall
That ends beneath a lake – in quiet chorus a congregation
of walls intones: “Our lines be but altars of the earth.”

I bow before these lines, some straight, some meandering,
Think of sheep creeps, stiles, mother stones,
Imagine all I’ve stood before, hitched legs over.
With 1600 walled fields on little Oileán Cléire,
I’ve luckily more telltale landscape to listen to
Than I can assimilate. So here’s a seat-of-the-pant’s
Touch of reverence at the altar of drystone walls,
With thanks for rescuing me from that
Which sighted soul appalls:
Walls share that living in an artless past
Would be like having sky always overcast,
Or sinking beside a lifeline-less ship,
Or looking at patchwork fields without the benefit
Of man-
Placed
Stone.


[Back to top.]

The Shingle

First glance of day he halts on shingle
shining blackly wet from ebbing tide.
Way west he watches a tanker’s tower sink
beyond the continental shelf.
Overhead a pair of ravens croaks
en route north. While he wonders
a niggly question –
where are they going, and why? –
early morning light intensifies,
autumn bracken shifts from inert brown
to warm russet; and the sound
of harbour wash
wakes in his ears.
He speculates on how much other nature
he may so simply miss.
An hour like a day later, he tallies up the birds:
the ravens, a pair of black backs, herring gulls,
a pair of wrens, a pair of magpies,
robins, linnets, hooded crows, blackbirds,
choughs, jackdaws, a sparrow hawk,
a flock of starlings, a male blackcap.
Like the sound of harbour wash,
a question rises: Why’s he simply sitting,
looking around just to sit and look around,
looking for nothing in particular, looking to look,
the stormy blackness north across Roaring Water Bay,
the purity of harbour below––
there, a colour, a shape, something not out of place
but still not normally there:
he focuses scope on lone grey heron
atop seaweed-covered rock,
hears that he himself’s a hunter too, hunting
and gathering on a rocky knoll his sustenance.
A curlew cries.
A friend comes up the drive.
It’s time to share a tale.
Before he turns toward entrance gate
and home, he sees
the shingle’s dry.

****

To hear and see Chuck read one of his poems at the launch of his first poetry collection, click on http://www.tighfili.com/Website/Recent2.html 

****

If you’d like an autographed copy of Sourcing, for yourself or a friend, simply enclose a personal cheque for €13.30 (from within Ireland) or for €14.85 (from elsewhere in the world), payable to Chuck Kruger with the name & address of the recipient attached, and mail to:

Chuck Kruger
Glen West
Cape
Clear Island
County Cork
,
Ireland

(Above prices include handling & shipping.)

Alternatively, if you wish to pay by credit card, you may buy online through an island website: emara.com

And if you'd like to read about Chuck's other books, then click on The Man Who Talks To Himself , Cape Clear Island Magic, or Between A Rock. 

 

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