Page Count: 116
Publication Date: Wednesday, October 06, 2021
Cover Artwork: Black Panther Eyes © Eric Gevaert | Dreamstime.com. Thanks to Noelle Cooper for creating the glyphs demarcating the different sections of the book and for some of the more intricate typesetting inside the book.
About this Book
Keep looking at the outside world until the outside world is no longer outside
‘Wyeth is a poet of ideas exquisitely wrought and swarming, demanding a reader awake to complexity on a subtle scale.’ Ailbhe Darcy
‘Adam Wyeth’s work is fresh and intriguing, alive with imaginative riffs, grave humour and more besides –
it rewards close attention.’ Derek Mahon
‘Wyeth is a beachcomber on the edge of his own infinities, where fact, legend and anecdote flow together.’ Harry Clifton
‘about:blank crystallizes Adam Wyeth’s grasp of the theatrical power of language. His creative interweaving of poetry, prose, monologue, drama, and theatricality creatively meets the moment we as a society and artistic community find ourselves in.’ Jesse Weaver, New Work Associate, Abbey Theatre
' ‘Words must be some kind of cybernetic hoax,’ Adam Wyeth writes in this hallucinatory and shape-shifting collection. Musing on language and relationships, where ‘words are looking through you’, Wyeth conjures a seeking consciousness from the restless ‘blanks’ of our lives, and like W.S. Graham, a modernist romantic, Wyeth makes writing a raison d’être. The diversity and depth of these inquiries into poetic identity, and self-hood are by turn meditative and dramatic. Here’s a book which delights in the ‘drunkenness of things being various’, and fuses connections from the inner and outer lives of its speakers. Imaginatively rhizomatic, about:blank is both a playful and deadly serious manifesto about how language shapes who we are or what we might be.' Paul Perry
'Wyeth is a remarkable wordsmith with a truly distinctive and unique approach to the craft – in that his words play like firecrackers within their own sound and metaphor scape, truly blending poetic idioms with oblique narrative to produce a highly distinctive and evocative set of worlds unlike any other writer in the field today. about:blank takes readers on an epic journey through a dreamtime text of isolation, love, loss and misspent language that is contemporary Dublin. Written as a circular mixture of narrative-poetry, prose, monologue – the work has also been adapted as an immersive audio journey that is suspended within a binaural stereo soundscape. With the highly regarded and unique talents of actors Olwen Fouéré and Owen Roe this is certain to be a highly memorable, high-profile offering in these times of social isolation.' Michael Barker-Caven, Artistic Director, Civic Theatre, Dublin
Adam Wyeth is an award-winning and critically acclaimed poet, playwright and essayist with four previous books published with Salmon Poetry. In 2019 he received The Kavanagh Fellowship Award. His debut collection Silent Music (2011) was Highly Commended by the Forward Poetry Prize. In 2013 Salmon published his essays The Hidden World of Poetry: Unravelling Celtic Mythology in Contemporary Irish Poetry, Foreword by Paula Meehan. His second collection The Art of Dying (2016) was an Irish Times Book of the Year. Wyeth’s plays have been performed across Ireland as well as in New York and Berlin. His play This Is What Happened was published by Salmon in 2019. In 2020 he received the Arts Council Ireland Literature Project Award and was selected for the Abbey Theatre Engine Room Development Programme to work on an audio production of about:blank. about:blank premiered at Dublin Theatre Festival 2021, performed by Olwen Fouere, Owen Roe and Paula McGlinchey - aboutblank.ie. In 2021 he was a recipient of the Live Music & Performance Scheme for there will be no silence, a new music and text work, in collaboration with Emmy-nominated composer David Downes, performed by pianist Rolf Hind and cellist Adrian Mantu, with actors Aisling O’Sullivan and Owen Roe, produced by Pauline Ashwood. In 2021 Wyeth was selected for artist residencies at the Heinrich Böll Cottage and the Ámeto Mítico Residency along the Camino de Santiago. Wyeth lives in Dublin where he works as a freelance writer and teaches online creative writing correspondence courses at adamwyeth.com and Fishpublishing.com. He is an Associate Artist of the Civic Theatre, Dublin, and works on ideas and research for the RTÉ Poetry Programme.
Read a sample from this book
It’s late –
I look out of the window onto Grosvenor Square
and catch the moon
behind the tree
a black cat watches across the street
I look out of the window
a man get into a car
no he’s stepping out
I look out of the man stepping out of a car
shutting the door
a comforting clunk
the whole car sleeps
the moon is scaling the tree
I pick up a pace
patting my pockets
under the tree
I return to the car
bleep it awake open the door
I search for something
that stirs and rocks
with my weight
as I root through
the glove compartment
[there are no gloves in the glove compartment anymore
all that’s over]
I rummage down the side of the doors
sliding my arms
down the back-pocket sleeves of the front seats
what is it he’s searching for
he’s coming out
he closes the door
an equivocal clunk
did he find what he was looking for
I don’t see anything
on his person in his hand
the black cat slinks across the street
the whole episode has become a mystery
and he doesn’t know I know it exists
but who else looks
who sees me looking now
a stranger looking over
no looking down
a man about town a man about a woman
a town about a woman
not what I see but what I don’t
the moon is free of the tree at last
and catches the cat’s eye
holding its tongue
who looks out of the man
onto Grosvenor Square
the slate rooftops are moonwashed
the gardens sleep in their lost colours.
is coming for me
as large as the city
this is what happens
when we look out of the window
all of the time
now in Dublin
Copyright © Adam Wyeth 2021
LAUNCH INTRODUCTION SPEECH by poet JESSICA TRAYNOR - MoLI - Museum of Literature Ireland, Dublin - 13th October 2021
These lines form the last stanza in one of the fractured, fragmented poems in Adam Wyeth’s about:blank. They caught my attention on a first read and have wormed their way into my brain since then.
about:blank is a piece of writing that both defies categorization and pays homage to the great literary innovators of the 20th and early-21st century. It’s chimera-like, engaging in a process of making and remaking, of peeling away and collaging different viewpoints, times and experiences. It’s experience without ego, with the figure of the writer guiding these drifting spheres as they pass each other in a Dublin both strange and familiar.
Dublin is a major character in about:blank. Cityscapes seem to exert a strange pull on writers. These Flâneurs – these Joyces and Calvinos – wander the streets, it seems, in order to see the city through the eyes of passersby. And what they find on their travels reconfigures our idea of the living city, raising questions about how we constitute a single city out of so many lives and perspectives, constantly jostling against each other. What happens when the act of looking occurs? How does this act effect the thing seen? And, to quote another of the poetic fragments:
In the Dublin of Adam Wyeth’s imagination, those seen and unseen are acted upon by forces beyond their own understanding. They’re transformed through the very act of being seen, through being imagined. They – like the figure of Claire – both exist, and don’t exist. In some sense of the word, they are blank: ghosts haunting the text. In a quote from Pinter’s No Man’s Land that prefaces the collection, however, the idea of the dead being ‘blank’ is dismissed as nonsense. In about:blank it becomes clear that blankness is not synonymous with emptiness. Rather, it’s the conceptual beginning, the space in which Schrodinger’s cat can be both alive and dead.
about:blank proposes that this space is endlessly fertile; a space in which the imagination can make entire universes. But the current that flows throughout, shaping the energies that make us is love; the love inherent in the potential of a book resting unread on a shelf, in the celebrations of the Celtic calendar, in the practice of yoga, in the works of Rumi, in the writer’s care for his creations.
So what do we see when we gaze through the eyes of the figures which populate about:blank? We see some familiar topographies; canal banks, the seaside at Irishtown, Rathmines Town Hall, the nearby park at Grosvenor Square. We see the inside of a woman’s apartment, we search for a black cat on a dark night. We try our hand at some yoga. We worry about the roses and the railings. We try (and fail) to become poets, we try (and fail) to understand the butterfly effect of a glance shared between a woman on a bus, and a man walking by.
And then something strange happens. As we read further we come to realize that we’re not seeing the world through the eyes of these figures at all, but rather, that the world is looking through us. ‘This’, as the poem tells us, ‘is what happens when we look out of the window/ all of the time/ everywhere/ now/ in Dublin.’
Adam Wyeth, like Joyce, is chronicling a day in the life of a city, but the question of which day is not so simple here. It’s both everywhere and Dublin, both all of the time and now. And although the figure of the writer may recede behind the scenes, it’s the generosity of this expansive vision that allows us to become wholly immersed in about:blank, and to emerge, again, changed.
Review: about:blank reviewed by Roisin Ni Neachtain for Crow of Minerva Arts Magazine (Jan 2022)
about:blank is a fiercely intelligent, philosophically complex book of poetry resonating with references to philosophy of language, existentialism, Beckett and Descartes amongst others. The poet himself discusses the process of writing it in reference to the “Jungian active imagination.”
Wyeth invites us here into a haunting, protean, rhizomatic dreamscape which forces us to question everything. Immerse yourself in its rhythm and language, let yourself fall into a trance and find some part of yourself altered.
The work is prefaced by several quotes but the one which struck me the most was Harold Pinter’s, master of psychological drama, of spaces. Instantly I thought of the quote: “no man’s land… does not move…or change…or grow old…remains…forever …icy…silent,” of how some memories remain frozen and others, perhaps most others, fade and change and continue to do so. But I also thought of a no man’s land, a terrifying and dangerous place between the trenches where deserted soldiers would hide and appear as “ghoulish beasts” to scavenge from the dead, which poet Wilfred Owed described as “the face of the moon, chaotic, crater-ridden, uninhabitable, awful, the abode of madness.”
My mind was equally drawn back to Giacometti, the painted frame around his portraits, the sculpted figures, elongated, warped and distended in space for this is a book whose anxious, hallucinatory loops play with your perception and imbues its sensory space with profound questions and contradictions. It forges infinite connections while also imparting a sense of alienation.
The “blank,” a non-linguistic form, here both visual and auditory, reinforces this idea of a “structural transformation.” Myth, chimera and alchemy, Wyeth’s poetry challenges the reader’s reality through a richly imaginative, Joycean journey of his unconscious.