The Butterfly Garden of Icarus

Jayna Rohslau navigates her way through the poetics of the Icarus launch party

Romance is dead and we couldn’t care less. After all, his funeral is the party of the year. Icarus, the social butterfly among Trinity College’s publications, officiated this celebration. We may have encountered heartbreak, grief, and unpleasant commutes in the past few months. Tell me about it. Even better, write a poem and send it in. Who knows what may bloom? Spreading wings, this issue surprises with an unusual flight path, illustrating that words can still propel hearts skyward when all else is fallen leaves to the ground. 

Poetry is in season. Last month, Icarus editors Charlotte Moore and Eloise Rodger found no shortage of blossoms at their feet. Surveying the field, they searched for the perfect bouquet among the 1200 poems and short fiction pieces submitted. This contest proved unusual. Aiming to upend soiled conventions, Moore and Rodger disregarded traits most would consider defects, instead plucking uncanny flowers with relish. Never mind if bruised, bent or asymmetrical, such beauty is seldom found where it grows. Sometimes, you must look outside the flowerbeds where the wild things roam. That doesn’t mean Moore and Rodger found the decision process easy. After a moment’s deliberation, our florists made their final selection. Inboxes fluttered, along with hearts. The best rose to the garden for an ultimate selection representing the finest 47 works sprouting within College’s literary scene.

“Poetry is the act of tugging up roots and inner feelings, plucking out seeds and heartstrings”

Let the centrepiece speak for itself. Let the words. The November 16 launch party commemorating Issue One in the Hist Convo Room united contributors, artists and wine drinkers from scattered paths across College but mostly the Arts Building. We all gathered in shifting circles to chat, the editors flitting around to fill the hollows and ensure all felt welcome. Far from the popular conception of poetry as cool and detached, the warmth throughout the room was immediately apparent. Arriving a bit late, I quickly ditched my layers on a sofa, attracted by the unfurling personalities. An introvert by nature, I felt the environment nurtured my curiosity, so I spoke with several people. I suppose this open atmosphere should not have been surprising. After all, poetry is the act of tugging up roots and inner feelings, plucking out seeds and heartstrings, all presented by the writer in an outstretched palm. Effectively, appreciating a poem is to take this hand in yours.

Adorning every table and conversation was the new Icarus itself. Catch us opening to a random page. Eyes darting from poem to poem. Over and over, again and again. The print edition intertwined with our discourse as we expressed our admiration for Jessie Huang’s beautiful butterfly depiction. Flipping through the pages, more art struck our attention, internalised feelings expressed in vivid portraits. A jester, a sea swim, a girl wrapped in snakes for protection or signifying possession, it proved impossible to tell. What was clear is that the team of artists has imbued the poetry with new resonance. Although many copies were dispersed, I was a late bird and so counted myself fortunate to snatch up a pamphlet.

Alongside the artists, we noted the presence of esteemed poets Rhiannon McGavin and Simon Armitage in the collection. Both writers contributed three poems to Icarus, evoking the flow of thought, expansive despite the physical constrictions set by space and time. These poems echo how one memory recalls another, with no explanation but the next itself. 

“I’m building a love / from the smell of rain and the bus driver’s / soft wave when I’m broke”

Within Manifesto In An Unknown Language, McGavin details how “I’m building a love / from the smell of rain and the bus driver’s / soft wave when I’m broke” and we are on the bus with her, hurrying on with the fragile sense of relief that even if we are no longer loved, at least we do not have to embarrassingly disembark. 

“And if that sounds like a Belle & Sebastian song / I’m just writing down what the wardrobe says / about too much rain in a world gone wrong”

In his poem It’s Getting Harder To Wear Suede These Days, Armitage says of the title, “And if that sounds like a Belle & Sebastian song / I’m just writing down what the wardrobe says / about too much rain in a world gone wrong” and we are listening to a wistful Belle and Sebastian song with him, weighed down by the heaviness of wet suede and the times before it.

Evidently, the poems hold greater resonance than I can explore here. The author and the audience also may impart different meanings based on, say, their experiences grappling for change on the bus. Some of us may be heartbroken and also get kicked off the bus rather than having the bus driver take pity. But that is the joy of taking the poet’s hand, making an impression in your sense of self while remaining wholly conscious that their skin belongs to a life you do not inhabit. Therein lies the thrill.

Following this flurry of activity, it was time for the reading. Audience members sank into their seats or in my case, the floor. I didn’t mind. Where you are sitting does not matter whilst awaiting the fall, the rush and the propulsion of familiar elements into unfamiliar terrain. This issue instilled Moore and Rodger with “so much hope for humanity and artists”  It was easy to see why. Each rising after the last, the poets who read their work drew us in with observation as a shell for emotion, throwing subjectivity to the wind, instead favouring the free expression of suppressed desire, that which lies dormant, rejecting the need for things to be left unsaid what you’re dying to voice aloud.

“If the poets of Icarus are flowers, they are the tulips described by Sylvia Plath”

So speak. If the poets of Icarus are flowers, they are the tulips described by Sylvia Plath, who “should be behind bars like dangerous / animals.” Each had a unique perspective to offer. Rosa Thomas memorably compares men on Tinder to “the arrogant Georgian mansions and their windows.” Eoghan Conway contemplates Pascal’s Wager. Rhys Pearce wrote lines like “I feel most alive when I’m burning” when on a night out with presumably former friends. We turn from burning to yearning from Fiona McShane, specifying “It’s not a love poem.” Jump Ship, in the words of author Fionn Andrews, is “comprised completely of idioms and phrases that don’t receive the recognition they deserve” which provided a stark contrast to the previous poem read by Andrews, New Look, “about the time my aunt was dying of Stage 4 cancer and one particular afternoon the family went wig shopping.” Ella Spitz evokes our eternal sympathy when she says, “This was the summer / men had shroom-epiphanies / about things I knew in the third grade.” Eoin MacNally makes us think about night and death. Jack Briody makes the experience of eating a blueberry metaphorical. 

Eight poems flowed into each other, their writers providing context without aiming to define the poem itself. Therein lives the thrill of reading poetry. Throughout the night, I was reminded of that elusive factor: to try and discern personalised meaning, to search for a clover in the garden that may or may not be imaginary. But who cares, when all the fun lies in the looking.

Jayna Rohslau

Jayna Rohslau is the Arts and Culture Editor and is currently in her Senior Fresh year studying English in the Dual BA