An Interview with Michael Mc Aloran
breath(en) flux is a stunning collection of experimental writing by Michael Mc Aloran. He writes about flesh, meat and death, but this is over-simplified and does not give credit to the breadth of allusion or the breathtaking imagery that Mc Aloran conjures. It is beautiful and perplexing. I hope that by doing this interview I can pique the interest of readers to explore the writing of this intriguing poet. His narrative reached me on many levels. The more I read, the more I value Mc Aloran’s work. For those of you who are put off by the subject matter, I can only encourage you to have a read. His writing is tender, highly original and accessible. Actually not to be missed.
I was struck by Mc Aloran’s lyrical style, controlled rhythms and dark imaginings. The brutality of animals dying in an abattoir becomes an esoteric experience. His collection breath(en) flux is powerful poetry that caused me to consider the flesh on my own body and the value of my life with new insights. There are very few explanations as to how Mc Aloran came to write as he does. Until now the reader has been led to make of his writing what they will. I feel honoured to have this opportunity to ask some questions, to find out more.
Sarer: Can I call you an experimental poet or a symbolist poet, who writes about flesh, death and meat? How would you describe yourself as a poet? Do you use metaphors?
Michael: I don’t consider myself as being a poet, although breath(en) flux, however loosely, could be described as being the nearest I’ve come to poetry for some time. I don’t really know what a poet is, it seems like a label used by others, or some kind of snare used to define oneself, often born more of vanity than anything else. However I do write experimentally, and I try to do something different with each text and also with language, sometimes to the point where it breaks down altogether, and meaning is left redundant. It’s true that I write about death, meat & flesh, but also, or at least I did until recently, about futility, meaninglessness, dystopia and the ‘endworld’, all bound together by an over-riding sense of there being ‘nothing’. So the work isn’t exclusively about meat, flesh, and death, it also deals with silence and breath. breath(en)… seems to me to also be a kind of shedding of metaphor, also, at least when I read it last.
Sarer: What made you want to write about flesh and death? Are there any life experiences that have influenced your fascination with writing in this way?
Michael: I experience finitude as both attendant and inescapable. Over the past two decades I’ve been exposed to quite a lot of it, in many forms. Of course, flesh is tied in with that, and I’ve written about atrophy, decay, etc. To say that is an unpleasant landscape to write through is a bit of an understatement, though I appear to be writing less about death these days. Flesh of course is also a means to an end, what we call pleasure and escape through flesh, yet still the horror of the flesh, almost a sudden shock awareness of its fate, is something that still assails.
Sarer: What sort of cultural experiences have influenced your writing. Are you influenced by religion, either Catholic, or Buddhism. Have you read The Tibetan Book of the Dead? What about eating the body of Christ? Mexicans celebrate the day of the dead? Is there a spiritual aspect to your writing? You write at times with such tenderness and mix the violence of slaughter with an almost religious rapture, as though the animals were involved with a crucifixion…
eats soil as if to dance/ in dressage of final
teeth drenched through sarcophagus/
Michael: I’m not at all religious. Thankfully, I wasn’t subjected to religious suffocation as a child and beyond. I did have a brief flirtation with The Tibetan Book of the Dead when I was in my early 20’s, before I started writing, but I don’t remember very much about it now, I will have to revisit it. The only animals involved in the more general text/s are human ones, or perhaps hyenas, as if they were death’s messengers/servants, as such. Which isn’t to suggest that I believe death to be some kind of over-seeing force or any such nonsense, I just happen to like to use desert imagery sometimes in my work. The idea of consuming anything related to Xianity seems absurd, unless of course one has raided the liquor cabinet in the church vestibule…
Sarer: Some of the language in breath(en) flux is almost bible-like and the descriptions of eyes remind me of painting on the Cistine Chapel, eyes rolled upward. Why have you written in this kind of way?
sky glance / unto rot/
ghost limbed rapture no/traipse till yet
un-afar a-light unlit light of silhouette dark
yet not of a from unto
other than/(it is said
Michael: When I use the ‘eye’ it is often just awareness, perception, the upturned eye of transcendental suffering, or pleasure, however it may be defined.
Sarer: My mind is somewhat drawn to Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye. Are you familiar with this novelette? You refer throughout breath(en) flux to the eyeball and the last word in the second movement is
light dream of/ cracks eye/ egg/ bollock…
Michael: That is just an arbitrary reference that slipped out. I worked on the theme of eye/perception further in The Zero Eye (Oneiros Books 2014). The eye does appear quite frequently throughout my work though, whether frozen or otherwise.
Sarer: Have you read any Bataille? Why do you focus on the eye so much in this piece of writing?
Michael: I’ve read some of Bataille’s novels/novelettes: Story of the Eye, Blue of Noon, The Impossible. This was some time ago, though I do revisit The Impossible from time to time. I’ve also read some translations of his poetry (unfortunately, I don’t have the French and they’re possibly no good).
Sarer: The imagery also reminds me of the paintings of Francis Bacon, cut-up body parts; shapes represented in a grotesque way. Are you influenced in your writing by any particular painters, or styles of painting?
Michael: Mainly Bacon, and his idea about chance playing a key role in creation/existence itself (he was an avid gambler also). I also admire Soutine.
Sarer: I was particularly impressed by the poetry in the third chapter. There is a mercurial quality to your writing that is very difficult to pin down. Just when I think you are about to make clear your meaning it moves just slightly out of reach, a transient quality. Does this reflect your attitude to dying?
echoes out from some desire/ a soldered room/ a broken lock /measured out / for some non beyond/
Michael: The writing is instinctual, which affords me the capacity to become aloof as well as anything else for that matter. I can shift between meaning and an absence of meaning quite easily. I suppose the overall impact is what is important, the trace remaining to
some extent, yet with a measure of silence, perhaps the text wiping itself out as it moves towards its final conclusion, (or absence thereof).
Sarer: There is a powerful sense of longing in the writing, what would you say is the overriding emotional thrust of the piece?
Michael: The longing for something ‘other than’…
Sarer: What are the subtexts? Are there any?
Michael: I have no idea.
Sarer: Can you describe the narrative plot of breath(en) flux. There are three movements, where do you intend to lead the reader?
Michael: The text is composed of ‘silence/breath/meat’. I suppose I, loosely, wanted to explore for myself, in a concise manner, the aforementioned themes. Cioran maintained that silence was the only true reality, Beckett felt it to be language. Somewhere, in the midst of the text’s chaos there is perhaps an element of both. I offer no answers to any of the themes explored. They exist, that is enough for me…
Sarer: Is there a political aspect to your writing? The sense of waste and disempowerment is suffocating at times, as though the dumb animals were sacrificial?
Michael: I like to think I have avoided politics pretty well. I have no agenda in that respect that would be anything other than obvious. As for the creation of waste, it may indeed be one of our finest attributes.
Sarer: Your description of the animals journey towards death is full of fractured imagery. What are your thoughts about animal welfare? I don’t eat meat and was very struck by the sensitivity with which you dealt with the decomposition of their bodies.
etches into nothing that ever was/ blind-
sighted cavalcade/ stun laughter breakage
Michael: The idea of ‘abattoir’, its context, is as much about invisible sanctions, how we suffer invisibly, for the greater part, and bleed, hung out. There is no dignity in death and existence is degrading, meaningless, finite. This is my view. The laughter of the above quote may be laughter in the midst of madness, within the nothing of the ever if, blind-sighted and obliterated by death/nothing…
Sarer: The punctuation in the piece is made up solely of slashes. Cutting up the sentence with the skill of a butcher cutting prime loins. What did you aim to achieve by chopping up the language in this way?
Michael: The forward slashes serve as a replacement for commas, obviously a pause, also to fragment the lines and perhaps open up unto a different association other than being directly rational in approach. I suppose it could be described as a kind of rhythmical dissonance. I cut and delete the text as I go along.
Sarer: When I first read the manuscript I experienced it as an incantation of the flesh, tacit memories, whispers from the bones and muscles, eyes, teeth and jaws. It made me very aware of my own mortality. Is this your intention?
Michael: I rarely intend to do anything other than create a full body of text. The impetus can be arbitrary, and develop as I delve further into what appears to be driving it. I merely write my own awareness, though with breath(en)… it was perhaps more deliberate.
Sarer: What do you like to read for fun? What do you read to challenge yourself? May I ask who is your main influence is as a writer?
Michael: I read very little these days. Francis Bacon has had a large degree of influence, for example many of the landscapes that appear in my work are suffocating, dark, alienated chambers, filled with suffering and little else. More recently, Gherasim Luca, a Romanian Surrealist, E.M Cioran, Celan and Vasko Popa. I read a little Beckett now and then, but I try to keep that to a tight minimum.
Sarer: I would really love to hear you reading some writing from breath(en) flux, I know you don’t usually read at poetry nights, but would you consider recording some of the last chapter? I am totally intrigued to hear what your voice is like set to your writing. It isn’t just your accent… honestly…
‘In a landscape of bland poseurs and safe, vanilla poetry, Mc Aloran cuts like a knife and writes in blood.’ AD Hitchin
breath(en) flux by Michael Mc Aloran is published by Hesterglock Press. It’s our first fully-bound collection and we’re very proud of it. You can read more about it and order a copy by clicking here.
Michael is a prolific poet, writer and artist. Belfast born (1976), he is the author of a number of collections of poetry, prose poetry, poetic aphorisms and prose, most notably ‘Attributes’ (Desperanto NY 2011), ‘The Non Herein’ & ‘Of Dead Silences’ (Lapwing Publications 2011/ 2013), ‘Of the Nothing Of’, ‘The Zero Eye’, he’The Bled Sun’, ‘In Damage Seasons’ (Oneiros Books (U.K)–2013/ 14); ‘Code #4 Texts’ a collaboration with the Dutch poet Aad de Gids, was also published in 2014 by Oneiros. He was also the editor/ creator of Bone Orchard Poetry, & edited for Oneiros Books (U.K 2013/ 2014). A further collection, ‘Un-Sight/ Un-Sound (delirium X.), was published 2014 by gnOme books (U.S). ‘EchoNone’ & ‘Of Dissipating Traces’ were also recently released by Oneiros Books.