There is nothing quite as beautiful as the spoken word, spoken well. And chosen well. Enter Neil McCarthy. Originally from Co. Cork, he now lives in Los Angeles, via Vienna, and although I’d be chuffed to call him a mate, the truth is I’ve only met him the once. And very briefly at that. He was in Budapest doing a gig at Treehugger Dan’s on Lazar utca and I’d gone along, on my own, to hear if he was as good as his publicity said he was.
At the time, I was feeling a little homesick – not for Ireland but for her people. For that rich and wonderful way we have of telling stories. For the calculated casualness with which we choose our words. For the pictures we paint with our imagery and the tunes we create with our turns of phrase Even in the innermost of our inner cities, poetry is on the move. We have a way about us and McCarthy is better than most.
He sat onstage, with his trademark flat cap turned backwards, looking every inch the fellah who sits in my local at home, sorting the world’s problems over a pint or three. And a little bit of me fell in love with him. I’m not usually given to such flights of fancy but that night, I wanted to take his words home. I cornered him outside over a smoke and asked if he had a CD – I had visions of listening to him each time that hankering for all things Irish hit me. He was thinking about it, he said, but in the meantime, he had a booklet that he could send me when he got back to Vienna. And he did.
That was three years ago. He’s come to mind since on that rare occasion when I hear something that resonates with me, something that captures what I see or feel:
My accent stands out more and more every day,
as if I’m deliberately, yet subconsciously, over-pronouncing
my Irishisms ~ Ecdysis
He came to mind when I was in Transylvania, gobsmacked by its beauty and struggling to find the words to do justice to what I saw.
What couldn’t, however, escape my mind were those
clouds, inhaling the lights below until they engorged
and wore their whirl of colours like the Roma on the
train; their children feverish and wide-eyed as they
leaned out of the open-door carriage filling their cheeks
with slices of Transylvania through the trees.~ Sighisoara in Mid-February
His poetry is pitted with phrases that make me want to adopt them as my own
Two years ago in Shanghai,
I saw buildings as big as
my ambitions. ~ Worry about it Tomorrow, Do
And then this morning, I get an email from him. It’s not addressed to me so I know I’m just one in a long line of BCCs. And honest as he is, he admits the same:
I apologise for the group email but the list of this one is big, and I will sit down and write to each and every one of you in good time.
He tells us of his new project – he wants a push to get a live CD of spoken word (recorded in Verein 08, Vienna earlier this year) into physical form. Three years, it’s taken, I think to myself. Three years. But a long threatening comes at last. He’s using RocketHub to fuel the coffers and bring in some money to help make this happen. I’m not blogging this because he’s promised me anything other than the CD I will get for fuelling his funds and the poem he will write for me in memory of my mate Lori. I’m blogging this because everyone who has any love for the spoken word should hear Neil McCarthy – at least once.