Horseleap poet Patrick Carton talks about his new book and his fondness for tea – and spuds
When I went out to Horseleap recently to interview Patrick Carton about poetry I found him out in the garden, digging potatoes. “I’ve come to talk to you about poetry,” says I.
“Right,” said he, “could you just hold on to this bag a minute until I heel these spuds into it?”
I took hold of the bag and held it as Patrick poured the tubers into the sack.
“What breed of potatoes are these?” I asked, noticing the unusual purple-blue colour.
“Them’s Blaue Anneliebe,” he said, “a class of a German spud – I got them from my good friend Stephan in Bavaria. Look, they are blue all the way through, unlike the Rooster – that pretty much loses its purple skin colour when you boil it.”
To demonstrate his point, Patrick took a knife out of his pocket and sliced one of the tubers in two and sure enough the purple blue colour was all the way through, like a beetroot but without the rings.
“Isn’t that a good one?” he asked with a grin. “They make great potato salad – mind you the taste isn’t that great but the appearance is good. The best potatoes I ever got were a breed called Vorans – I got them off Jack Willis in the Harbour in Mullingar.”
“How do you spell that?” I asked him.
“I am not too sure,” he admitted, “but it isn’t how you spell them that matters – it’s the taste that counts and that breed beats any fancy pants German potato hands down. Jack was kind enough to give me a few of these spuds to sow out here in Horseleap. Sure didn’t I go ahead and marry his daughter!”
“Go away,” says I.
“Oh it’s true,” he said, “I met Anne in Mullingar Arts Centre on National Poetry Day 2009. I tell you that Marty Mulligan has a lot to answer for. He invited me to ramble over from Horseleap to recite a few poems in the Arts Centre on October 1, 2009 and sure I hopped up on stage with my mouth open and the rest is mystery.”
“Don’t you mean history?” I asked
“It’s a mystery to me…” he replied. “We have one daughter, Charlotte Jane, and our son, George Oliver, was born on Friday September 20 just gone.”
“Oh congratulations!” I exclaimed.
“Thanks very much,” he said, “although my plans for Culture Night were sort of interrupted. Myself and my wife have strict job demarcation: she delivers the babies and I deliver the poetry. When you look at childbirth, this poetry lark is only a cod – but still, I have to be at something. I have a class of talent or a penchant for poetry and the time has come to make it pay dividends. I have a family to support.”
“How do you mean?” I asked him, not quite catching his drift.
“Well here you are here in my garden to talk about poetry and the rest of these spuds to be dug out. Aren’t you here because you heard I have a book coming out? The kind people of Kilbeggan Preservation and Development Association agreed to sponsor my book of poems. The book is now available at a cost of €10 - check out my website patcarton.com”
“Your book is called Growling at the Gate – why is that?”
“Sure I had to call it something.”
“But where does the title come from?”
“Well I was in the Tate Gallery in London and I saw these paintings by Marc Rothko – they were sort of red and purple, not unlike the colour of these spuds here and I sort of felt a growl in my guts and there you are.”
“Where am I?”
“In the garden.”
“Well, you see, it is a bit like this: I am trying to get in, basically to be accepted as a bona fide poet who will put on shows of enterprising theatricality and people will come along to hear me recite and they might even buy my book. I also have a spoken word CD, Now You’re Talking, available. There are bouncers at the night club door and they are saying ‘Ah lads, I don’t think you would like it in there’ and I am like ‘let me in, I want to dance’. Many’s the reveller fell at the final fence,” he mused.
“And your father wrote poetry?”
“Yes, my father Michael Carton was a noted composer of rustic rhymes – he also grew damn fine potatoes.”
“And you have a few shows coming up?”
He started to rattle them off:
“National Poetry Day, October 3: Athlone Library 4pm; Tullamore Library 6.30pm and then back to The Dean Crowe Theatre, Athlone, to participate in a gathering in the bar – I should be there by 8pm or so. It will be all go that day. Then my grand official launch in Ryan’s of Horseleap at 8pm on Saturday October 5 – I’ll be hoping to get the crowd going home from Saturday vigil Mass. Then Thursday October 10, 8pm, Clara Bog Visitor Centre, and culminating in a grand theatrical show in Tuar Ard Moate on Friday October 18, starting 8.30pm. It is a brilliant theatre and it is great to have the chance to perform there.”
“You are going to be one busy man,” I said, “but what about a Mullingar show?”
“I will certainly hope to be doing a Mullingar show at some point – maybe in the library or Arts Centre. Rome wasn’t built in a day – but it was built eventually. I have to organise and liaise and network – y’know? Ah but wait until I tell you – if this is going in the newspaper you can let people know that I am a poet for hire.
“I mean I am available to write poetry on any theme you care to mention. A poem is an ideal retirement present – I did one for Eddie Moran there in Tubber. And I wrote a right one for Rosie Wrafter there in Kilbeggan for her 80th birthday.”
Then the poet began to recite: “Rosie Wrafter makes better butter than anyone else in town,/ She’s the talk of every threshing for many miles around….”
“Sounds good,” says I, “and where can people contact you?”
“Ah sure I even have the website and the email email@example.com and you can stick in my mobile too if you want to 087 6271912 – sure what harm would it do? You have to put yourself out there.”
“By the way, what are the poems about?”
“Ah now,” he said with a grin, “tell your readers to buy the book and find out. Day’s Bazaar said they would stock it for me and I still have to chat to them in Just Books. But you can get it through the website if you are stuck – the best is to keep an ear out for a Patrick Carton performance, coming soon to a venue near you and come along and listen and buy a book then if you want to. Check out Pat Carton Litany on YouTube – some lad put a load of visuals on to one of my poems without so much as a by your leave, but fair play he did a great job. The internet is mad.”
“That’s around it for now I think,” says I, putting my notebook in my pocket, “I’ll do the best I can to get a good write-up in the Examiner for you. Was there anything else?”
“Well make sure and thank Nancy Willis for all the cups of tea I drank in her house. Nancy is my mother-in-law and she is a great one for the bingo – I hope she wins thousands!”
“Well I’ll send my report of the interview into the editor and see how it goes”
“Sound,” said Pat as he went back digging spuds. Patrick Carton, the poet of Horseleap is growling at the gate – can you hear him?