Poets from opposite ends of the universe

Christine Valters Paintner - Dreaming of Stones (Paraclete Press) and Patrick Chapman - Open Season On The Moon (Salmon Poetry)

CHRISTINE VALTERS Paintner and Patrick Chapman are, in most ways, poets from opposite ends of the universe. Dreaming Of Stones is Valters Paintner’s debut collection while Open Season On The Moon is Chapman’s ninth.

Valters Paintner’s book, published by Paraclete Press, includes a 19 poem long section, ‘Monks and Mystics’, in which she whimsically reveals aspects of the lives of various saints; while Chapman’s collection, published by Salmon, features a poem titled ‘The Old Pornography’, an homage of sorts to an early collection of his own, The New Pornography, also published by Salmon in 1996. It is hard to be sure what the characters in Valters Paintner’s poems would make of those which populate Chapman’s.

My strong impression is that Valters Paintner’s saints would not be too judgmental. St Gobnait, for example, has her rather psychedelic epiphany when “an angel buzzes to Gobnait/in a dream, disrupts her plans,/sends her in search of nine white deer.” To some this might seem a somewhat impractical request which could prompt the response: where am I going to find nine white deer at this time of night? Gobnait takes it good humouredly, “wanders for miles across/sea and land until at last/they appear”.

'Chapman is the Velvet Underground of Irish poetry and makes many poets 20 years his junior look like aspiring archbishops in comparison'

Gobnait finds a contentment she appreciates all the more because she knows it is transient and “nothing surpasses this moment”. Later in the same poem Valters Painter asks: “Is there a place for each of us,/where we no longer yearn to be elsewhere?” So many of her poems have such clinching moments of quiet profundity.

Meanwhile, Chapman is writing poems which take their spirituality from the three Davids (Cronenberg, Lynch, and Bowie ) rather than from any traditional saint. ‘In Heaven’ is indicative of Chapman’s radical style and existential concerns. In places words are apparently tossed wildly across the page, and most lines contain no more than one or two: “I/eat/sleep/piss/drink/when is it time for us to f***k/wake/shit//all day the kindly angel watches over us/we must ever love the angel or be lost...”

In ‘Foreign Exchange', he remembers with devastating clarity “that gone kid who matured/into this tired waste of meat.” The 15 page ‘Contamination’, which makes even more drastic use of the page and typography than ‘In Heaven’, has a narrator who variously asks a “you”, a “her”, an “us”, to put “seed”, “blood”, “rage”, “sick”, “come”, and finally “joy in me” before closing on the raw unrhymed couplet: “I want you to put/your next miscarriage in me”. Chapman is the Velvet Underground of Irish poetry and makes many poets 20 years his junior look like aspiring archbishops in comparison.

Christine Valters Paintner and Patrick Chapman will read at the May Over The Edge Writers’ Gathering at the Kitchen Café, Galway City Museum, Spanish Arch, tomorrow [Friday May 10] at 8pm. Admission is free and all are welcome.


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