A Parody by Liam Miyar-Mullan

I wrote this because we in creative writing were learning about parodies in a Humor unit taught by Sam Hamm. I think it is especially for those who know the geography of the West Portal area well. It is inspired by the neighborhood’s blandness and simplicity:

A (West Portal) Parody of the Romeo and Juliet Balcony Scene

O dearest Juliet is it you that comes wrapping down that Chase-bank stairwell: that runs off the wide Portola highway like snow off of a hill. Yes, that is what I thought when I once again found myself upon the metal rump outside Eezy Freezy, where I have rested many times and waited for my Juliet. Outside the Italian restaurant and outside the Church. Waiting, waiting: thinking of the train station and of Trains and Rails, drinking a cold rock-shandy, praying to God by the old Scottish Rite: waiting for my Juliet to come down that familiar Chase-bank stairwell. For when she does she’ll be standing by the Rite and I’ll be subsided into the banks of the forest. She will call my name like she has done many-times-before, and I, as I most-normally do, will calmly and affectionately say her’s: Juliet. That is what I will say. I will say how was the Chase-bank stairwell and the hot metal rump outside Eezy Freezy, and how do you think of the whiteness of the Rite in the hot sun. O for the trains are constantly passing through that area, sending large vibrations and stutters across the streets and fields and into the trees. And from some Boughs I’ll sing as in the good song: Their’s is a land of Hope and Glory, and mine is the Green fields and the Factory floors.

Liam Miyar-Mullan, class of 2018

On Our Trip To New Orleans Louisiana, by Liam Miyar-Mullan

Nowadays when I sit down to write anything, I can only tell a true story and more specifically one that has happened to me. And it is this that I’ve learned most importantly this year, that, for me, the best way to write a good story is to experience it. For that reason I am excited that the whole of the Creative Writing department will be going to New Orleans, Louisiana next month. It is important that a writer draws inspiration from certain aspects of the world and has something good to say about it or else it’s useless and the best way to practice this is by going into a different city or place and writing from what you see and learn there.

We have been talking a lot in class about this as preparation for the trip and in designing our itinerary, which has academic agendas like learning more about the literary history of the city, but also has other more random seeming adventures like boating in a swamp. And when I’ve sat here and thought about it I do think the most creative work I’ll be able to produce will be from these random excursions. It is a writer’s job to transcribe the weirdness of the world and to put it in a little text which I do think is a very hard job but it is suddenly made much easier when you find yourself in a much newer place and somewhere as crazy and Hellish as a damp Louisiana swamp!

I think it is important that we take this trip to New Orleans not only to learn about writers who have worked there but also so we can write about the boozers and ghosts and the broad majestic Mississippi river that are found in that part of the country. It isn’t stressed enough I don’t think how important it is that a writer gets out of his or her house and takes a look at something and uses it to write about. I went to Spain this summer which I find to be a very crazy and weird place (as is New Orleans!) and have in response written about 80 percent of this year’s work about the hills and villages of that area.

I did not realize how important it was to travel as a writer until I decided that it was just about impossible for me to sit at my desk and write a story completely pulled from the banks of my mind, because there’s nothing about a clean classroom that inspires me in any way or triggers any sort of crazy story like a big wooden steamboat might. And so I do think it is important to spend time reading the classics and the great writers of the history of the world but I also think it is equally important to find something new to look at and to use the world’s funniness as an inspiration for your writing and so I am pleased to be boarding a little plane this March and going down to the dirtiest swamps and rivers of Louisiana!

Liam Miyar-Mullan, class of 2018

About Good Books by Liam Mullan

About Good Books to Follow And the Writing of Them

Of Finn McCool of county Antrim it is said he was a giant, but I never imagine that he was very big at all, for it is not his strength that is intimidating, but instead his wit and his broth that stirred within him from a very young age, and so when he heard of the Scottish red-footed giant Benandonner and his challenge to fight, he said “Okay” and with many black hexagonal stones made a bridge to Scotland and called to him from behind a cliff’s side that he was there to fight him and that he had made a bridge from Antrim with his own hands because he did not want to get his shoes wet, and when old Benandonner appeared he was much larger than Finn had thought and so he ran back home to Antrim and to Oona, his wife, said:

“Oona! For a Scottish giant named Benandonner is after me and he is currently crossing a bridge of hexagonal black stones I happened to make across the Northern ocean, and so I need you now to dress me as a baby and convince the poor man that I am our little baby son and you must also make a batch of griddle cakes and leave an iron griddle in the middle of one and say to him ‘Old Finn eats these all the time’ and perhaps then he’ll truly fear me and will never come back” And so this Oona did and she dressed her husband in baby’s clothes with even a little baby’s hat and sat him down upon a bed and when Benandonner knocked on their door said to him that Finn was out but that he would be home soon for a dinner of griddle cakes but in the meantime would he like to come in and see her baby son and also have a griddle cake, which I find very sweet and hospitable, and Benandonner of course said “Okay.”

When Benandonner saw the little baby, who was funnily enough Finn McCool of Antrim, he said that he had never seen a baby so big and he then became very nervous indeed, for if poor Finn’s baby was so big then how big was Finn himself! And so he broke a large rock and said to Oona look how strong he was that he could crack such a rock and she said it was impressive indeed and if he would like his griddle cake now and Benandonner of course said “Sure.”

Oona fed the red-footed giant his griddle cake and within it was the iron griddle itself and so when he bit down upon it out came three teeth and he said Damned is this, for if Finn eats this his teeth must be very big indeed and Oona assured him that this was Finn’s favorite meal and that never had he broken a tooth on it and she then fed a griddle cake to the baby, who was funnily enough Finn himself, but this time it was just a soft little griddle cake and had no hellish iron griddle within it, and so the baby ate it comfortably and it is then that it is said that Benandonner of Scotland wailed and screamed and ran from the house back to Scotland and destroyed the hexagonal black stones along the way so as to make sure old Finn never came back and then Oona and Finn laughed for many days.

☘ ☘ ☘ ☘ ☘

I tell you the story of Finn McCool so as to explain to you what it is I mean to have a sure and definite idea of the broth within you, which I can say I do, and that is all I know now for I am only a certain amount of years old and am not very wise or experienced, in fact I was just born, and perhaps when I am much older I will write a good book so as to tell you how I think you should live and the procedures you should complete to go about doing so, and I reference now what I believe to be the greatest book ever written and a beautiful account of the sad pauper life: “’Tis said in the good books that describe the affairs of the Gaelic paupers that it’s in the middle of the night that two men come visiting if they have a five-noggin bottle and are looking for a woman,” and so I believe one day my book should be the same and will tell you how it is you should be looking for a woman. But alas, I have never found a woman myself and was just born and so don’t have much more to say about that now.

Liam Mullan, class of 2018

Literary Critiques by Liam Miyar-Mullan

Every marking period (usually six months), Creative Writing students have to turn in a series of things we’ve been working on: submissions, responses to readings we’ve been to, a response to a movie we’ve seen, and a literary critique. These are called “Department Requirements.” Although they’re stressful, time consuming, and kind of a lot of work, literary critiques are fun. It’s an unpopular opinion over here in the Creative Writing classroom, where every “Lit Critique Day” is met with a loud wall of moans, but if you get into them, they’re really quite enjoyable. Now, I have to say, I think a large reason they are cool is because THEY DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO BE A CRITIQUE ON SOMETHING LITERARY. Two times out of the six total times we do them a year, a lit critique can be on a song or a movie or anything else, which really, really, really makes the whole thing better. Below is an example on a critique of a favorite song of mine…

On “The Sickbed of Cuchulain”
Written by Shane MacGowan

“The Sickbed of Cuchulainn” marks a point of highest success in Shane MacGowan and the Pogues’ careers, kicking off their second album, “Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash.” (1985.) A song about famed playwright Brendan Behan, who MacGowan compares to Ulster Cycles hero Cuchulainn, it talks of art and creativity in terms of influences and muses. The song differs from other tributes to fellow artists by painting a much darker and bleaker scene to the life of the muse, pounding through a message of hopelessness for the art world and its future. By using grand allusions and a keen sense of rhythm, Shane MacGowan writes the strongest homage to an artist I’ve ever seen.

Being the center and nucleus to the song, I should talk first about the muse: Brendan Francis Aidan Behan. “Sickbed of Culchulainn” is an allusion to many things, but primarily an allusion to the life of Behan and his travels to Germany and around the world. The song reads as a textbook, not in the way that it bores you to death, but in the way that it serves as a historical document about a legend who’s famous downfall into alcoholism left him virtually buried and obscured from the public as an artist, and instead idolized as a drunken, half-witty, Irishman. By using a chronological, document-based-question format, Shane MacGowan lifts Behan from his common state of mockery to his proper seat as one of Ireland’s most profound and influential artists. This specific format rings most clearly in lines such as “When you pissed yourself in Frankfurt and got syph down in Cologne” or “Now you’ll sing a song of liberty for blacks and paks and jocks”, where MacGowan references specific events in chronological order. This format not only pairs with the song’s content in that way, but also matches with the fact that Brendan Behan’s public image was depressing to MacGowan, who in turn wrote this song from the perspective of an Irish artist who’s work had been greatly influenced by Behan. In his autobiography, A Drink With Shane MacGowan, Shane says of Behan, “I was really into Brendan Behan…I think I identified with him because I had a massive drinking problem and because I liked his writing and because he was Irish…he was a writer who really lived, he was in the IRA, he’d been in jail. It appealed to me that he had really been there, that he wasn’t making it up.” Shane’s and therefore the song’s love for the muse is what creates this very unique, historical format.

“Sickbed of Cuchulainn” is really one large conceit, comparing the life and death of Brendan Behan to Cuchulainn, a famous Celtic war hero. Cuchulainn first gained fame as a warrior when he slayed a large and frightening guard hound who guarded a blacksmith named Culann’s house. Later in his teenage years, Cuchulainn fought off Queen Maeve single handedly when she attacked Ulster in the Cattle raid of Cooley (The Hero Deeds of Cuchulainn). The theme of fighting and violence is not only abundant in Brendan Behan’s works but also Shane MacGowan’s, “The Sickebed of Cuchulainn” specifically. Cuchulainn’s most famous quote, “Here am I—no easy task—Holding Ireland’s men at bay. My foot never turned in flight From a single man or ranks of foe.”, captures exactly what Shane MacGowan is painting Behan as: a muse and a cultural rebel. By writing a historical biography as mentioned in paragraph one, and comparing this same biography to the biography of the most famous warrior in Celtic mythology, Shane MacGowan not only paints Brendan Behan as an influential Irish author but also as one of the world’s most profound writers in all of history.

As well as allusions, the song displays many types of rhythms, weaving out of slow, bleak refrains and into fast, violent choruses. The song’s biggest themes are drinking and violence. By writing a chaotic song that at one point hurls a loud tin whistle solo at you, Shane MacGowan captures Behan’s drunken behavior. The song opens on the deathbed of Brendan Behan (compared to the deathbed of Cuchulainn), who’s lying on the bed drunkenly surrounded by devils “with bottles in their hands.” The use of a minor, almost scary melody to recreate this scene works well, especially on lines that mirror the unfriendly, unfamiliar tune of the first refrain, for example, “One more drop of poison and you’ll dream of foreign lands.” Then we see the song suddenly explode into a crash of speeding mandolins and drums and flutes and MacGowan tells us of all the drunken, stupid things Behan has done: “And in the Euston Tavern you screamed it was your shout, but they wouldn’t give you service so you kicked the windows out, they took you out into the street and kicked you in the brains so you walked back in through a bolted door and did it all again.” Using different rhythms, MacGowan recreates Behan’s life of drunken violence.

“The Sickbed of Cuchulainn”, written by Shane MacGowan, uses a historical format, cultural allusions, and differing rhythms to tell the life of MacGowan’s greatest influence: Brendan Behan. By comparing the playwright to the greatest Celtic war hero of all time, Cuchulainn, the song successfully plays homage to one of Ireland’s greatest authors.

Liam Miyar-Mullan, class of 2018

On Interviewing by Liam Miyar-Mullan

In CW these past few weeks we’ve been preparing for the release of our zines, of which there are five differently-themed issues. On top of scouting for cool submissions, we were asked to conduct one interview. First we learned the basics of interviewing: how to stay cool and professional, how to engage, how to sound casual, how to get to the point, etc. Then we took a look at some examples via You Tube. The first one was an example of what to do. We saw a short exchange between Howard Stern and Jay Z, in which they talked about the rapper’s new book. Stern was very comforting and welcoming and the very obviously nervous Jay Z quickly became relaxed and confident.

Then we took a look at what not to do. A grainy video of an interview of Mark Zuckerberg was probably the most depressing thing I’ve seen in a long time. If you can imagine standing on stage and interviewing the most famous technology celebrity on the planet and have EVERYTHING go wrong, this would be that interview. The woman interviewing began off talking quietly to him and giggling, almost like she was flirting with the poor guy. Then, she started telling a story, leaving him nothing to say or do other than nod his head and confirm the story’s truth. Eventually, he got fed up with that and decided it would be best to stare blankly into the woman’s eyes, leaving her blushing and flustered. The following two minutes were an explosion of squabbling and mob-like audience responses that overall left the place in an extreme state of awkwardness. I went home that day and proceeded to watch one million bad interviews.

After days of practice, I felt comfortable with conducting my interview. My subject was a classmate named Floyd, who is famous at school for his eccentricity and creativity (this past Halloween he wore a rag and a mop of hair on his face and went as Jesus.) We talked about the apocalypse for a good twenty minutes and, using our new note-taking techniques, I was able to take good notes and transcribe it into a proper interview. The finished product, along with many other entertaining conversations, will be published in our zines next week.

Liam Miyar-Mullan, class of 2018

On Cockney Rhyming Slang by Liam Miyar-Mullan

In the East End of London, there’s a clot of people that refer to themselves and are referred to as “cockney.” The small group has gotten plenty of media through the years, being the center of plays like “Oliver” and “My Fair Lady,” mostly for their peculiar accents.

Most Americans are a little less familiar with the tradition of Cockney rhyming slang. It’s hard to imagine that this impressively tricky, poetic colloquialism could exist in such a brutally rough culture, but perhaps that is why it exists. It is a secret language. Something that identifies outsider from insider. Something that unifies people. Rhyming slang is the replacement of words with a phrase that rhymes with the word replaced, and it is, well, genius.

The following is a scene in which I have tried to write as many rhyming slang words into the conversation:

THE POKER GAME

TOMMY: Y’know, I heard Maria and Johnny aren’t getting along… her bacon and eggs (legs) are so sexy!

(Deals some cards.)

JACK: You’re yanking my cobbler’s awls (balls), mate!

TOMMY: Pass the army and navy (gravy), would ya’?

(JACK slides a tin of gravy down to TOMMY.)

JACK: Have ya’ seen Maria’s Bristol cities (titties)? I’d wait out their little marriage just for those!

TOMMY: Mate! So you Adam an’ Eve (believe) me ‘en?
(TOMMY starts chowing down on his potatoes and gravy.)
She’d make a hell-of-a-fine trouble and strife (wife).

JACK: She’s mine ya’ old Hampton wick (prick)!
(JACK shows TOMMY his cards. JACK wins.)
Ha-Ha ya’ old raspberry tart (fart).

TOMMY: Ya’ must be cheating! I always win! What are you hiding? Let me have a little butcher’s hook (look).

(TOMMY tries to swing around the table to see JACK’S cards but JACK turns his back to him.)

JACK: Yeah right! I beat you fair and square. If you try to peak again you’ll wind up like ole Jim.

TOMMY: What happened to ole Jim?

(TOMMY starts eating his potatoes again.)

JACK: Ya’ didn’t hear? He’s brown bread (dead), mate.

(TOMMY spits potatoes back into bowl dramatically.)

TOMMY: What??!! The poor guy! How’d he die??!!

JACK: Fell down the old apples and pears (stairs) on his way down for dinner.

TOMMY: The poor fellow. Must have broken his neck or something.

(TOMMY returns to eating his potatoes. JACK shows his cards. JACK wins.)

JACK: Ha-Ha! Ten for ten!

TOMMY: Ya’ stupid, ignorant little push in the truck.

(PS, forgive the image of Dick Van Dyke, an American actor pretending to be a Cockney chim-chim-cheree chimney sweep…)

Liam Miyar-Mullan, class of 2018

On My Visit to 82 Donegore Drive, Parkhall, Antrim, N. Ireland by Liam Miyar­-Mullan

In CW last week we learned about memoirs from our great artist in residence Margot Perin. We talked about the fictionalization of memoirs and how it is OK to play with them a little, but to go too far because you’ll wind up like James Frey, who wrote a memoir that was accepted into the Oprah Winfrey Book Club only to be rebuked because of the fact that he had lied about everything. We also discussed our own life stories and how to properly write about them.

This is a piece I wrote for one of her prompts, “Write about something that has happened to you.”

On our last day of our trip to Northern Ireland, we went to Belfast, an ugly, outdated, bland, shit of a city. There’s nothing much to do there other than go to the Queen Victoria Mall, a large, glass complex shaped somewhat like a dome. It sits in the city’s center, which is a cobblestoned square with an abstract metal fountain in the middle. The surrounding streets are packed in with hokey Irish-themed gift shops that sell plastic beer mugs, scally caps, and vapid retro posters that read, “Irish Handcuffs: holding a drink in each hand” or, “Whiskey: keeping the Irish from ruling the world since 1793” or, “I’m not Irish but I can sure drink like one” or countless other simple-humored memes for simple-minded people.

That is perhaps why we left early. Only after spending about in hour in the city we drove back towards the water, back into the thick Irish countryside. And on our way back, my father had an interesting idea.

“How about we visit the house I used to live in when I was your age,” he said.

“Sure,” my sister and I responded, not too eager, not too uneager. And that was that. We continued on Motorway 16 and swerved around and around the familiar Irish roundabouts before puling into Parkhall—a small housing community. And as we puttered   up to the stone entrance, listening to the low, grumbling voice of Luke Kelly, I knew

something was wrong. And by the way my father was staring at the gate, I knew he thought so too. The three rows of tiny houses were completely covered in Ulster Volunteer Force flags. (Ulster Volunteer Force (U.V.F.) is a protestant, loyalist, and anti-Catholic paramilitary organization.)

The community was shaped like a long letter “S” and looked like what you might imagine a rural, patriotic, Northern Irish working-class housing community would look like. For a Catholic to even be in there would be like suicide, like a black guy walking into a KKK trailer camp in rural Missouri. And although we weren’t Catholic ourselves, we came from a very republican (the belief in an Irish Republic) and nationalist family. My father slugged the rental car around for a couple minutes, following the red, white, and blue painted curbs. The people there were the seeds of this earth. Bleak sons-of-bitches walking around slowly, carrying watering cans to and fro. And as we sat in front of 82 Donegore Drive, we stared hard at the little door, the brown front yard, the stucco-walls, and the Union Jacks that hung wildly out the windows.

I asked my father if he’d like to get out and show us around, but he replied with a sturdy “no” and a harsh pull of the handbrake, wheeling us back into traffic. On our way

out our eyes were glued to the murals that were painted on the sides of the community Protestant church, which depicted the U.V.F. in full paramilitary garb: black ski masks, camouflage jump suits, and large, black guns. I don’t know what it is like to see your old house so violently colored with anti-Catholic propaganda. I can’t imagine returning to such a personal landmark only to see it’s been totally made over in an effort to scare away people like yourself.

* * * * * * *

A couple months later I asked him if he thought that he and his family could have settled down there in the state that it was in today. I didn’t really think much of this            question, and wasn’t really expecting an important or even truthful answer. My dad is reserved and very quiet about his life. In fact the only reason I know his sister was adopted is because of my mom. The only reason I know that he used to go in to Protestant bars and sing republican tunes with his buddies and get the living shit beaten out of him until his boots were red with blood is because my mom told me. So I didn’t think he was going to tell me anything I would remember. I expected him to say, “Yeah it would have been fine,” or “I don’t know.” But in fact he said, “No, probably not.”

* * * * * * *

And that sums up how I felt about Parkhall. No, it probably is not livable for a Catholic or a republican. And yes, it is crazy. But no, it isn’t uniquely more violent then the next loyalist housing community. And no, it isn’t a relatively big deal.

Ulster