“The unnameable constellation of islands on the Eastern Atlantic coast”

Still waiting for my Tom Paulin The Camouflage School, I’ve been told it’s at the final proof stage, but in the meantime I thought some of our more literary inclined readers might be interested in a new publication from Clutag Press. It’s a literary magazine, Archipelago, due to be launched at Emmanuel College Cambridge on 23th June. The title brings to my mind John Hewitt’s oft-quoted line on identity, although the remit seems wider, and the first issue promises contributions from, amongst many others, Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and Derek Mahon. From the blurb

ARCHIPELAGO is to be a literary magazine in the ordinary sense, in that it will contain writings in non-fictional prose, and verse. Extraordinary will be its preoccupations with landscape, with documentary and remembrance, with wilderness and wet, with natural and cultural histories, with language and languages, with the littoral and vestigial, the geological, and topographical, with climates, in terms of both meteorology, ecology and environment; and all these things as metaphor, liminal and subliminal, at the margins, in the unnameable constellation of islands on the Eastern Atlantic coast, known variously in other millennia as Britain, Great Britain, Britain and Ireland etc; even, too, too readily, the United Kingdom (including the North of partitioned Ireland), though no such thing ever existed, other than in extremis during wartime, but in the letter. But while the unnameable archipelago is its subject, its vision is by implication global, and its concerns with the state of the planet could not be more of the hour.

Orders are to be supplied on a first come first served basis so if you want a copy, or two, probably best to print off the order form[pdf file] asap. Mine’s in the post already.

  • Token Dissent

    Archipelago sounds like an interesting venture – if ever so slightly intimidating! Its noticeable that in dealing with the relationship between the land, historical memory and identity, writers are now using Irish experiences as a gateway to exploring the ‘mainland’. In particular no longer is the North seen as comfortably seperate from secular Britain. A welcome development, or am I exaggerating this trend?

  • curious

    Thank you Pete,
    here is a poem by Tom Paulin some may not have read.

    Published in LONDON REVIEW of books.
    Volume 22 Number 1 6 January 2000

    James ‘Mick’ Magennis VC
    By Tom Paulin 2000

    You get of the boat
    and they call you Paddy
    – Paddy or Mick
    of course its the same thing
    and sometimes that nick –
    name’ll stick
    as it stuck to me
    – clamped – mine
    waiting for that time
    we nudged our midget submarine
    under the Takao’s keel
    – I tried open the hatch
    but it hit on the cruiser’s bottom
    – there was no room to get out
    so I loosened the catch
    on my breathing set
    took a deep charge
    of oxygen
    then pushed the set through
    followed it out
    and fixed the set back
    – talk about setbacks
    that was like squeezing
    between two positions
    but the ship’s bottom
    it was all one dense mass
    of barnacles weed
    and razorsharp shells
    that tore my hands and my diving suit
    – no way could I make
    the limpet mines stick
    I went back to the sub
    and noted the gap
    was even narrower now
    – the tide was dropping
    – and I’d be trapped
    then captured – and worse – by the Japs
    so I took some rope
    and lashed the mines to the keel
    then back to the sub
    and squeezed my torn rub-
    ber suit and me in
    to the wet and dry compartment
    – I closed the hatch
    and started to drain down
    but to free the sub
    from under the cruiser’s keel
    was almost impossible now
    so Lt Fraser – Titch –
    he blew out the ballast tanks
    and we bobbed to the surface
    just for a moment
    – no searchlight nothing
    we dropped back
    onto the ocean floor
    just a few yards from the Takao
    then he pulled a lever
    – both side carriers
    two tons of Amatol explosive
    they fell away
    but the limpet mine carrier
    it wedged us hard in
    and wouldn’t drop clear
    Titch said he’s go out
    -I was bate sweating dogtired
    but no this was my job of work
    so taking a big spanner
    I made a third visit
    outa that jammed hatch
    and turned off the crate
    then got the fuck out
    not a moment too late.
    I tell it now
    for all that it was
    – an exact adventure
    except that hatch
    and the ways I squeezed through
    come back like a catch
    in my lungbursting tale
    – Sir Crawford McCullough
    a hardbollock
    Unionist Lord mayor
    he wouldn’t make me a freeman
    of the City of Belfast
    while down at St Finians
    my old school on the Falls
    no one stood in the classroom
    – not a single Nationalist
    I’d betrayed the cause
    that’st they said
    I left the navy
    and when times got hard
    sold my VC
    – but I- BUY-ANYTHING- Kavanagh
    he gave me it back
    – my photie in the Tele!
    I was shamed to the world
    so I left belfast for good
    – I blew up that ship
    but the cith
    it blew itself up
    again and again and again
    this is no green rub
    no hard luck story
    for when I took that deep breath
    to push out of the sub
    I was inside history
    and away far out of it
    – I’d squeezed through the gap
    and swum free
    a silent bubblebrushed diver
    who moment by moment
    knew exactly what it was
    to dive like a gannet
    into the deep deep ocean
    then rise out of it again
    free and complete
    yes a one off a genius.

  • OwenLeeJoeKing


    A poem eulogising a no-warning bomber. Very nice. Who did he fight for? Eh? Then it’s OK then.

  • Brian Boru

    Call it the “Eastern Atlantic Isles”.

  • paul Haslam

    There is a very useful discussion on the naming of the archipelago in Norman Davies’s book “The Isles”. What is unfortunategiven it’s manifesto, is the diatribe about the use of the United Kingdom, and the noticeable lack of the most common name for the archipelago. is this just another example of the takeover by the Celts.


  • Bill

    I thought it was a group of islands we lived on and not a group of stars.

  • Pete Baker

    That would depend on your interpretation of ‘island’, Bill. ;o)

    Cheers, curious.


    Too early to say?..

    Looks like an interesting venture, indeed. I’m looking forward to reading the content.

  • Bill

    Wikipedia has an article on:




    constellation (plural constellations)

    1. (astronomy): Any of the 88 officially recognized collections of stars in the night sky.
    2. An arbitrary formation of stars perceived as a figure or pattern.
    3. An image associated with a group of stars.
    4. (astrology): The configuration of planets, as used for determining a horoscope.
    5. (figuratively) A wide, seemingly unlimited assortment.

    #5 would seem to refer to Canada, Philipines, Finland and Indonesia (among others) but not http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/here-there-and-everywhere-but-northern-ireland/

  • Pete Baker

    *shakes head*

    Ever heard of poetic licence, Bill?

  • snakebrain

    Irish Pages is well worth a look if you’re interested in this kind of thing. It’s in a similar vein, but with the focus on Ireland in a local, national, and global context; so much the same idea, and operating out of the Linenhall Library (and some offices on Ormeau Road) in our very own Belfast.

    Not so many big name writers, but some good stuff nonetheless. I’m personally a bit wary of some of these international superstar poets. They sometimes smell a bit too strongly of University Literature departments and Critical Theory. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but can be an awful thing.

    Anyway, just a thought, and do have a look at Irish Pages. It’s really quite good.

  • Bill

    It is a question of who licenses the poets!

  • susan

    Cheers to you, snakebrain, and to Pete and curious as well.

    Bill, I have no idea why, but I’m thinking if “Slugger O’Toole” should ever become a movie (cough, splutter, wheeze) the part of Bill should be played by Rhys Ifans. “Canada, Philipines, Finland and Indonesia (among others)…” I have to give it up to your tenacity. Cheers to you, too.

  • Harry Flashman

    I understand the Philipines and Indonesia and I suppose at a pinch Canada, but Finland?

  • Rhys Ifans (Actor)

    Finland, land of a thousand lakes with at least one island per lake.

    And when (not if) I get the Oscar for best supporting actor I will dedicate it for all those who did not have Japan or the Phillipines accepted as answer to what country is known as the land of a thousand islands.