Aidan Andrew Dun: ‘Grand Sky’

Aidan Andrew Dun spent his childhood and adolescence in the West Indies and knew his calling for poetry from an early age. Returning to London as a teenager to live with his inspirational grandmother, dancer Marie Rambert, he attended Highate School but left without A-levels. After several years travelling the world with a guitar Aidan was drawn back to London to explore the psychogeography of Kings Cross, a magnet to other visionaries before him. Vale Royal (published by Goldmark, 1995) written and recited in the form of a quest, dreams of transforming an urban wasteland into a transcultural zone of canals at the heart of London. Vale Royal was launched to critical acclaim at the Royal Albert Hall and earned him the title ‘Voice of Kings Cross’.

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aidan

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Having published his second epic poem Universal – India Cantos (Goldmark) in 2002 he embarked on an American tour, reading in New York, Santa Fe and San Francisco (at City Lights Bookshop). He has also read alongside David Gascoigne, Ben Okri, Iain Sinclair and Andrew Motion. The Uninhabitable City (Goldmark) was published in 2005; Salvia Divinorum (Goldmark ) was launched 2007. McCool, a verse-novel in 264 sonnets, followed from the same publisher in 2010.

In 2016, he published  Unholyland, a verse-novel in 800 sonnets set in Palestine/Israel. Heathcote Williams described it as ‘a pyrotechnic, apocalyptic dance …. a powerful meditation on the place where civilization began and where it could end.’ In a private letter,  the poet, Tom Paulin, said of the work: ‘I was deeply moved by Unholyland – it has extraordinary energy, wit, knowledge, and beautifully marries the vernacular with rhyme. It reads beautifully and is like nothing else I’ve read.’

In 2012 a triad was installed at London’s newest open space: Granary Square, N1. The inscription – in granite – runs 70 feet along one side of the square and reads: ‘Kings Cross, dense with angels and histories, there are cities beneath your pavements, cities behind your skies. Let me see!’ This triad, from an unpublished long poem titled ‘The Brill’, was originally spray-painted on the walls of Battle Bridge just before it was demolished. The developers somehow noticed it there and contacted the poet to ask if they could install the poem in Granary Square.

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Further information about Aidan Andrew Dun, including details of all of his books will be found by visiting his website: https://aidanandrewdun.com/

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Aidan Andrew Dun: Eighteen Sonnets from Grand Sky

The night-train we rode was streamlined.
And you were even more beautiful
so young in yesterday’s refined
couture, your hair lush and plentiful
jet-black and luxuriant
your eyes flashing transient
glances of interconnection
looks of passionate affection
for me, your wayward wildchild.
And as we soared through dark stations
starclouds and mystic destinations
into these dimming eyes you smiled:
‘The flight is endless’ you said.
And the suns were all green ahead.

***

Have you watched swallows nestbuilding
beaks overflowing with wet mud
to pack in the wooden scaffolding
cementing twigs with their lifeblood
when slow-prowling cats in the eaves
hunt the housebuilder who weaves
the fabric of her intricate home:
some miraculous inverted dome
worthy of Sir Christopher Wren.
I have seen flickers of indigo
flashing from blue wings aglow
where life takes form in an earthen
cradle shaped like a hemisphere
in the summertime of the year.

***

Only one tent in the funfair.
And lining up for three hours
hypothermic in the mountain-air
there was excited talk of superpowers
the mountain-people saying frankly
what they thought, as I waited blankly.
Then came the crisis as our slow snake
inched through: long-drawn-out intake.
Never will I forget what I saw
in a shoebox of glass. Trapped inside
on a dollshouse ottoman I spied
something from fairytale and folklore:
the homunculus, by magic spawned
a tiny man, who as I stared, yawned.

***

One shoe of yours, one shoe of mine
lie side-by-side in Orson’s den
guardians of those labyrinthine
aeons spent each night alone, when
ghosts come knocking at the back door
when, along his spine twinings of fur
register the world of the unseen
with small horripilations (between
the dead hours of four and five).
These two watchmen hold his keep
when those he loves above lie asleep
in the night when he is most alive
with his eyeshine of emerald:
sentinel of old Schwartzwald.

***

An edifice behind City Road
hides itself anonymously
but we can probably decode
its secret guarded jealously.
Here’s a stepdown transformer
in grey utilitarian armour
presiding over streets so dead
flat-windows seem made of lead.
Atmospheres of the necropolis
surround this sombre watchtower;
at night you feel its lethal power
permeating the metropolis.
The dark angel of the substation
feeds on our extermination.

***

Before the inconsiderate
overbrightness of gas-lighting
arrived to really illuminate
his city, it was better writing
when he lit two long white tapers
and, without manuscript papers
calm after the day’s futility
allowed his hands’ versatility
to imitate delicate wings.
Then he would become a hummingbird
extracting nectars from a strange chord
found behind a cloud of unknowings:
sipping at flowers of ecstasis
hovering above darkened Paris.

***

Entering the ten-gated prison
after wandering the night sky
once again he finds his soul frozen.
Like a ship at anchor he must lie
in this embodied haven quietly
with head rocking very lightly
to waves of music left behind
vague sonorities of mind.
Yet some fragments of melody
from drinking at the night-fountain
in consciousness still remain
for navigators of harmony
perhaps the beginning of a theme?
How low these guttered candles gleam!

***

These tatters and rags are worn with pride.
They are the footsoldier’s uniform
of one who marches side-by-side
with all those dead in the firestorm
those deserters in extremity
struck from the ranks of conformity
written-off, forgotten and spurned
the missing-in-action, unreturned
from the fronts of spiritual war.
I stand with all those rejected
Van Goghs and Rimbauds deselected
one more suicided troubadour.
What are this world’s tin medals
flags, anthems, creeds and other swindles?

***

Five horses out of control
unreliable drivers of mind:
always some new distant goal
forgetting what’s left behind.
Bring me one stallion of fire
called evolution of desire;
whisper his name across the night
this mount of mystery in moonlight
crossing the relative universe
thundering out of what we call time.
One racehorse runs to the sublime
overcoming the adverse
leaving duality and stardust.
Ride him because tonight you must.

***

Thoughts so dark they eclipse the sun
come over like a thunderstorm:
the rage of being only one
apparently separated form
powerless to help another
here where affinities wither
where seeming random chance excludes
here where the formula eludes
and cyclic thoughts hold endless sway.
Closing my eyes to this dull substance
I go back into pre-existence
forgetting the life-farce we all play.
With rains of release on my cheek-bones
even dark days are stepping-stones.

***

With one torn string remaining
her old-time lyre is untuned.
See, under long constraining
she kneels exhausted, impugned
feeling polar ice-caps melting
sensing wastelands sweltering
as hot dust-shrouds wrap around
lost equatorial ground.
Earth, all conflagration-red
breaks-out in war-zones, fevers
raves with insane believers
helpless on the world’s deathbed.
No song, just a single note
as hope sticks in a dry throat.

***

The power of evil against good
overshadowed, saddened me;
at the fenced skirt of the greenwood
the morning darkened suddenly.
A gate stood open against the sky
on the firehill, and I testify
what lumbered there made me heartsick:
tall throwback to the paleolithic
superb vast-headed blond man-beast
shambling down into the valley
low-browed, signifying viscerally
the return of some brutal priest
with barbarities of the past.
And yet I judged the thing too fast.

***

There was slavery in these fields
only a hundred years ago
before the mechanizing yields
made redundant hands which laid low
the burnished corn, brought in golden wheat.
Often gleaning just to barely eat
scratching about like dogs in furrows
made barren poor men’s tomorrows
told a tale of strong backs broken
to bring the master’s harvest home.
Yet was it so bad to work the loam
before the old ways were forsaken?
If machines are the new slave-drivers
this time round: maybe no survivors.

***

Earth tipped back as the sun sank.
Inclining myself to stay upright
I saw above the hill’s black flank
a silhouette in twilight.
It was the discovery of strength.
The lunar world waxed at length:
long had been the waiting for that light.
A giant from the western height
frowned down from a far ridge
from the days of the pagan
a sacrificial wicker man
who burned in rites of carnage
before those hands upon these hills
destroyed his dark Druidic mills.

***

Since his set is labyrinthine
wise Brock is patron of taletellers
who weave some twisted storyline
incidental to travellers;
who also must have great courage
like one who makes a night-voyage
perilous and magical.
His journeys are teleological
full of purpose and design:
nothing chance in his undertakings
in his old circuitous snakings
through some subterranean mine
maze of deeper explorations:
earthmover of dark operations.

***

The hunched dove of midwinter
sulks atop the lifeless tree
cold beak sunken down into
a chasm of misery:
picturesque caricature.
Each miserable feature
sodden feathers, drooping head
reminds of a conflicted
personage well-known to me.
December’s begun its trudge
ambivalent pilgrimage
through a dark infinity
region of the shadowlands
where, black mast, a dead tree stands.

***

Imagine a drug in the brain
sweeping away all logic
coming on like a hurricane;
the body lost, or so lethargic
as to seem nonexistent
yet habitually persistent
in old pattern and routine
as cells dependent on morphine.
And the pining for salvation
keen as a mysterious hunger
like craving for love, but stronger:
the need for transubstantiation.
Overwhelming, mind-amplifying:
the powerful drug known as dying.

***

What about the willpower of trees
launching out of the gravity-field
standing tall like long-limbed sentries
on guard, strong ones who don’t yield
defending the planet’s biosphere
replenishing its sick atmosphere
building lung-like many-branched leaves
radiant structures where green blood weaves
through veins and arteries, emerald sap
driven upward through the sunlit fuse.
And still the futile city spews
darkness from the urban mantrap
where the big road-transports choke
blackening the blue noon with smoke.

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