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Under the Eye of the Clock
March 2, 2009 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Irish poet and writer Christopher Nolan died on the 20 Feb. Nolan was born with cerebral palsy, and typed using a 'unicorn stick' attached to his head. Nolan has never spoken, yet his poetry has been compared to that of Joyce, Keats, and Yeats.

Among firs, a cone high-flown,
Winged, popped,
Hied, foraying, embalming,
Sembling tomb
Among coy, conged fir needles,
A migratory off-spring
Embarks on life’s green film.

A link from the Economist about him, and the Irish Times.

He had an incredible vocabulary, and amongst other notable achievements provided the inspiration for a U2 song.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth (27 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have to ask: what U2 song?
posted by SaharaRose at 8:21 AM on March 2, 2009


I am not known for the subtlety of my appreciation of poetry, but I can definitely appreciate perseverance. Also, I like the phrase "life's green film". An slight upgrade from "pond scum".
posted by DU at 8:24 AM on March 2, 2009


Miracle Drug which appeared on their album 'How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb'.
They were in the same secondary (high-school) school together.

I should probably have included the Irish Times obituary too.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 8:26 AM on March 2, 2009


Wow, looks like it's a visit to the library for me tonight.
posted by xthlc at 8:44 AM on March 2, 2009


Nice post (but let's at least spell his name right...!)
posted by creeky at 8:52 AM on March 2, 2009


The OP doesn't point out that Nolan wrote that poem at THIRTEEN. Jeebus.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:54 AM on March 2, 2009


Second link don't work for me.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:01 AM on March 2, 2009


.

(I typed that by banging my forehead against the keyboard.)
posted by Slap Factory at 9:03 AM on March 2, 2009


You must have a very narrow forehead.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:09 AM on March 2, 2009


Slap Factory is a unicorn.

Where are links to the poetry?
posted by pracowity at 9:26 AM on March 2, 2009


Nolan is one of those naturally offbeat wordsmiths like Joyce or Flann O'Brien that make me so proud to have Irish blood.

.
posted by jonp72 at 9:47 AM on March 2, 2009


Second for more links to poetry. The above is GOOD.
posted by flotson at 9:47 AM on March 2, 2009


(And a stunning artistic achievement for a freakin' thirteen-year-old. Wow.)
posted by flotson at 9:49 AM on March 2, 2009


Maybe I don't know enough about either situation, but with this, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, I always get this tickle of doubt - are they really writing every single word, or are their handlers maybe...interpreting some of the material into existence?

Certainly remarkable edge-cases like these guys do exist, but they also tend to be surrounded by people who, for various reasons, have a lot invested in their being remarkable edge-cases. And when their communication has to pass through such specialized steps (Nolan required his mother's assistance to type) involving another person, the idea that there could be some kind of symbiotic aspect to the words that come out does not seem far-fetched. In this case you actually saw the family attempting to impose meaning on largely random strings of text. If everything Nolan wrote went through his mother, it's too easy for me to imagine her going "yes...I'm sure that sequence of head-nods meant "life's green film". That must be what he meant".

I'm not suggesting any nefariousness on anyone's part and I don't mean to distract from his accomplishments, or his passing. I just have to wonder.
posted by anazgnos at 9:52 AM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Please let's not go down that path.
posted by tula at 9:55 AM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, for fuck's sake, anazgnos.

.
posted by craichead at 10:05 AM on March 2, 2009


I'm pretty sure Anazgnos didn't mean it like that - he just can't control what his helper monkey types.
posted by isopraxis at 10:29 AM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I found it hard to get any of his work online - here are some google book previews:

The Banyan Tree

Under the Eye of the Clock


I regret never having written to him while he was alive and telling him that I really liked his work - which was why I wanted to make this post to inform others about him. Also, he does not seem to be very well known. In the course of my searching for poetry samples, I reached my mefi post via google, making this recursive in a surreal way.

I think (and it's been some time since I read his work) there was a controversial interview referred to in Under the Eye of the Clock, similar to the issue anazgnos brings up. A reporter came to watch him write, and wrote pretty disparagingly afterwards that he didn't believe a child could have such literary greatness. I strongly believe he did (and technically, he used his head, which is different from locked-in sydrome sufferers).
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 10:48 AM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The poet used a technology that allowed him to type his words directly, Anazgnos.
posted by flotson at 11:33 AM on March 2, 2009


His mother had told him, when he was three and crying with frustration, that she liked him just as he was. From that point, “he [fanned] the only spark he saw, his being alive”.

What an amazing man.

Thank you for posting this, womble.
posted by jason's_planet at 12:27 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Damn. No more Batman movies.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:33 PM on March 2, 2009


I'm with Azagnos. How exactly was he reading enough to acquire this extensive vocabulary?
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:36 PM on March 2, 2009


What's wrong with anazgnos' query? It seems like a very reasonable one to me.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:07 PM on March 2, 2009


The excerpt from The Banyan Tree is pretty agonising, but I quite like that poem. Good for him, in any event - he certainly grabbed his condition by the balls and made it yelp.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:24 PM on March 2, 2009


Oh, for crying out loud, people. A severe physical disability doesn't preclude someone from expressing oneself. I also type with my head and, as far as I know, these words have no author other than myself.

And as to how he was able to read, he probably did it the same way I do: prop the book on a stand and signal someone to turn the page.

Geez.
posted by wintermute2_0 at 3:30 PM on March 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


In Ireland they often have poets on the radio, or at least they did when I was a kid. A lot of people listen to far more poetry than they ever read.
posted by fshgrl at 11:10 PM on March 2, 2009


A severe physical disability doesn't preclude someone from expressing oneself. I also type with my head...em>

A nod's as good as a ;

posted by pracowity at 5:49 AM on March 3, 2009


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