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Ross Hattaway – Black Cottage

Hattaway profile LEPW Feb 2021

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing February 2021.

Ross Hattaway was born in New Zealand and has lived in Dublin, Ireland since 1990. He has been widely published and he is a founder member and organiser of the Sunflower Sessions in Dublin, which publishes the narrowsheet magazine, Flare. He has read in Ireland, the UK, the USA, Australia and New Zealand and was the first Irish writer to be invited to read at the Poetry Spring Festival in Lithuania. Ross has three previous collections, The Gentle Art of Rotting and Pretending to Be Dead (both Seven Towers, Dublin) and How to Sleep with Strangers (Turas Press, Dublin). His fourth book, Plain, will be published by Turas Press this summer.


Black Cottage

What we have here
is a phatic gathering,
a celebration
of what we want in common,
raising the group to its good.

—-

Gather is the key.
We come together for what
we count as needed
– friendship, family, milestones,
pockets of love and shelter.

—-

We hope for something
of this to linger, delay
endings, disaster.
We give layers of ourselves.
Not enough, but what we have.

Looking Forward to the Funeral

Funerals are for the living
though they need the dead for focus.
We step quietly in and lighter out,
some shouldered weight left
and the pressure easing,
us but not us,
not this time.
We drive out of the rain
and into the rain ahead.


The Heart of Things

There is sometimes a sadness
at the heart of things
that can’t be run away from.
We try and outbleak ourselves
underneath what we need
but tunnels trap
as well as protect
and despair in dark spaces
will not let us go

Not

Not belonging is
almost a weapon.

Armed, aimed and all
intention.

But there is no bullet,
not really.

More a bulldozer,
pushing away
our gains and losses.

A way of being safe
by shedding. Excuses.

Surrender
before the struggle

and walk away
from the truces.


Slip

I climb the hill
behind the house
and sit above a small lake
next to a bigger lake.
There is snow
though not on my hill.
My hill has only sunshine
and a cold breeze.
The cattle watch me
but refrain from judgement
even though I have no horns
and am not covered in excrement
like a respectable creature.
Perhaps they think
I am avoiding appropriation
in a perverse display
of bad manners
presented as courtesy.
On the way back down
I will slip in some
and then they will
nod to each other:
try-hard outsider
trying to fit in.

Defined

I am at an open mic night.
I may be one of a few here
not making a definitive, outward
and deliberate identity statement.
We listen to a variety of readers,
in tone, approach and content.
All have something to say
and a way to say it
that will interest and appeal to
at least some of the people present.
As with everyone else,
I find some very enjoyable
and others less so.
Although I am at significant risk
of failing to shed
my heteronormative,
cis-gendered,
wanly patriarchal,
middle class,
middle aged,
multi-privileged,
unipolar,
binary,
testosterone driven,
structurally oppressive,
male gazing,
masculinist,
monolingual,
undoubting,
unwavering,
unintersectional,
unaware
and utterly uniform
at-one-with-all-other-similarly-identifying-and-identified-beings
voice,
I read some poems.
They seem to be well received.
There is a reasonable measure of applause,
although I have not sifted them for appropriation
and am later held to account
for defining and colonising female experience
by a haiku and haibun writer and teacher
from Connemara
and a Crumlin hip hop poet.
I offer to buy them
another glass
of the house tempranillo,
but the matter remains
somewhat unresolved
and we agree to differ.

Or do we?
I am rather unsettled
by the broom wind
of definition and identification
I have just experienced
from people who,
being generous,
can only be dealing
with sparse knowledge
of my position and situation.
I am, it is true, these things.
I am male
and I am openly heterosexual
and happy with my gender and sexual identity.
I am undoubtedly middle aged,
though maybe not for much longer,
but whether I am middle class
depends on a variable range
of social, economic and cultural
norms and external perspectives.
I am also
an immigrant
and a minority nationality
in my chosen home.
I am, by geography, demography,
heritage and birth,
a Pacific islander.
A comprehensive analysis
might confirm my genetic inheritance,
but it is likely that,
with the doubling of each generation rearing back,
I am from many more pools than I know of.
I am a father,
which fewer than half of humans can claim,
and a father of four,
which reduces the numbers further.
I am recently an orphan,
which most of us aren’t yet
though most of us will be.
I play cricket in a nation
still riven with suspicion
over this.
I am a lapsed Protestant
in a country defined
by lapsed Catholicism
and a northsider at a poetry reading
in Dublin’s southside.
I am at a poetry reading.
I write it.
I am all of these things and many others
that most of us aren’t
and I share them with many different people
in different places at different times,
when we do and we don’t differ
and what binds us is always more than what doesn’t.
We are not these things only.
We do not do these things alone.


© Ross Hattaway