Poems by Thomas McCarthy
The wind approaches this new year window-ledge:
I think it wishes to make a major public statement,
Through me, I presume, but I’m having nothing more
To do with these sudden winds that level my hedge
Just when all the growth has knitted properly. I sent
The last sullen storm away. Whatever was in store
Will never be shared by me; nothing in the public
Realm will be compromised. I close the blinds
On what the wind might have meant. There is
No new matter of public concern; no wind-break
Is required in January’s private, ink-stained lines.
I leave what’s public to the wind that sends trees
Into a paroxysm of applause. The loosened bins
Of an aluminium neighbourhood deaden any word
This January weather may proclaim and the rain
Adds insult to our deafness. Whatever awakenings
Occur in the public realm, whatever was heard
When I woke in the night, I shall refute yet again.
The Empty Art Studio
You were cutting edge years ago, just as I was
Getting into the valuable insights contained within
That concept of ‘installation.’ It is all art,
You promised me, it is all art when you look
Straight ahead at something that is already
Reading you sideways, that Google glass
To beat anything Mr Pilkinton or Mr Corning
Might have imagined from their boxed-in furnaces.
You were not looking, but reading –
As art now must be glass rather than a box,
With your algorithm both a palette and a brush.
From poetry I’d already learned that a desired
Outcome is a hopeless starting point, which is
Why I tried to cling to a consolation of canvas,
Wanting always a form to keep data safe.
Online it seemed that you were doing so well;
So well that I’d travelled across the Atlantic
To see how you trained the machine of art
In your studio a few blocks from MoMa. I did
Learn to believe in your continuous mathematics,
Casting about, as I was, for a new kind of poem –
Which is why I now find myself standing alone
Against your door off Third Avenue, a door
That says ‘Gone Away.’ The future, gone away –
Just like that, as if my version of you were glass.
Thomas McCarthy was born in Co. Waterford in 1954. He is the author of several collections of poetry, most notably The Sorrow Garden (1981), The Lost Province (1996) and Merchant Prince (2005), as well as two novels and a collection of essays and diaries. He was an Honorary Fellow of the International Writing Program, University of Iowa in 1978/79 and Professor of English at Macalester College, Minnesota in 1994/95. A former Editor of Poetry Ireland Review and The Cork Review, he has directed Poetry Workshops at Arvon Foundation, Listowel Writers Week and at Molly Keane Writers Retreat. He has won the Patrick Kavanagh Award, the Alice Hunt Bartlett Prize, the Ireland Funds Annual Literary Award and the O’Shaughnessy Poetry Prize (Minnesota).