I've been trying to separate my "work" from my private life, at least digitally, in recent days. It's hard to do when your "work" is vocational and intimately connected with who you are. But one of the problems over recent years has been my inability to healthily engage in creative writing projects that require longer periods of crafting, rather than the brief, and frequently unrefined pieces I often put up here, that may, or may not, be related to my "day job". This has especially been the case since I was keeping both work and personal material on the same computer, meaning that it was harder to devote time to personal writing projects on days off without seeing the mounds of unaddressed work piling up, creating the very stress that days off and creative engagement is supposed to alleviate. Hence I have turned my hand in a limited way to more visual artistic endeavours in recent months. But recently I took the plunge and replaced our "household" laptop and have transferred all the material that is primarily personal to it (if the purchasing of the laptop was stressful the disentangling and transfer of around 20 years of personal and professional stuff was possibly worse...).
But anyway, that is a long and largely irrelevant introduction to this piece which is actually the beginnings of an epilogue to a play I started writing about 3 years ago after the 4 Corners rehearsed reading of Heaney's "Cure at Troy" and a conversation afterwards with my son Ciaran. I was expressing my frustration at getting any Unionist politician involved in the project, and the paucity of dramatic/poetic engagement with the political issue here from that perspective. There has been a number of more gritty plays from the unionist/loyalist side of things in recent years from Gary Mitchell, David Ireland and Philip Orr, but nothing vaguely lyrical that I have come across (I would love to be corrected...) In "The Cure at Troy" and "Burial at Thebes" Heaney used classical texts to, none too subtly, comment on affairs here, and Michael Longley also used the death of Hector in the Trojan War in his poem "Ceasefire" (and it was a real joy to hear him read it at the conclusion of the aforementioned 4 Corners event). Yet the image of a community under siege is the epitome of Unionist myths. It got me thinking about telling the story of the siege of Troy from the perspective of Trojan foot soldiers. Anyway, "The Last Watch" as I called it, never got much further than the first couple of scenes and this epilogue, which is obviously heavily influenced by the closing scenes and songs of Hamilton, but even I would never have the arrogance to try to do a hip-hop-PUL musical! But maybe now I have the material on a different machine I will get back to it at some point, but for now, here's the epilogue...
Who tells the storyWhen you have a plethora of priests but no poets?Who tells the real storyOf real people, not just royal people?Who tells of the real costRather than the effect on the economy?History is told by the victorsBut what happens when there is no victory?Or is the war wonBy the one who tells his story best?And is it always his story?What about hers?What about the women, and the children?Is it always about gods and heroes?The goddesses were not guiltless.The women not always powerless.And what about the victims?Does their story need to be toldOr do they just want to be allowed to live againRather than relive that life-changing instantAgain and again and again?So many stories.So many sides.Bring on the poets.There’s many a tale still to be told.