I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Questions of Balance

Questions of Balance

Peter Robinson
The Painter on his Bike, by Enda Wyley, Dedalus Press, 64 pp, €12.50, ISBN: 978-1910251621 The cover of Enda Wyley’s new collection reproduces “Grafton Street Cloud”, a colour photograph by Mark Granier, in which the precipitously sloping brownish rooflines of both sides of the street form a frame for the deepening blue of the sky. Across it a single white cloud is caught, mid-way, on its travel probably from left to right. Above the cloud, printed in white, is the collection’s title, underlined in a more turquoise blue, with the author’s name immediately beneath it – associating, thus, the cycling painter and composing poet with the cloud in transit. This presentation of Enda Wyley’s latest collection couldn’t but remind me of works by two Trieste-based writers, both relevant, but one more happily suggestive than the other: James Joyce’s story “A Little Cloud” of 1906 from Dubliners, and Umberto Saba’s 1920 collection Cose leggere e vaganti (Light and Roaming Things). Little Chandler’s dream of literary fame, doubtless mocking Joyce’s own aspirations to recognition, indicated, for instance, by its author’s printing up sheaves of review snippets for Chamber Music, has been a haunting caution: “The English critics, perhaps, would recognize him as one of the Celtic school by reason of the melancholy tone of his poems; besides that, he would put in allusions” – as, indeed, would T Malone Chandler’s creator. What Joyce and Saba had in common, aside from taking inspiration from the scenery and setting of Trieste, is that they both drew overwhelmingly upon their own family and city for materials. I’ve often wondered if either knew of the other, but haven’t yet found any evidence to suggest that Joyce ever read Trieste e una donna (1910-12) or that, at that time, the Italian poet knew of his Irish fellow citizen. Yet Joyce would write the fragile lyric “A Flower Given to my Daughter”, dated Trieste 1913, only a few years before Saba published “Ritratto della mia bambina” (Portrait of my Little Girl), in which he thinks (in my translation here) of things with which to compare his own daughter: Certainly to foam, to the seaside foam whitening waves, to that blue wake which emerges from roofs and the wind disperses; likewise to the clouds, the indifferent clouds being made and unmade in clear sky and to other light and roaming things. The Painter on his Bike is dedicated to Enda Wyley’s daughter, Freya, and her husband,…

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