Irish Jesuit Edmond Grace has written a comic saga of poetry in four parts entitled Mad Messiah. Irish Jesuit Communications have recorded Edmond reading his work which he does in a variety of accents that lend another layer of meaning to his richly symbolic verse. It’s poetry like you’ve never heard before – a funny, provocative, moving, clever commentary on modern life and the ancient quest to encounter the living God, who shows up in Edmond’s work as the paradoxical figure of Jesus Christ, ‘Mad messiah’.
Edmond writes from a different personal perspective in each of the four cycles of poems – Dublin south-sider, aging Jesuit, bewildered male, and Irish Catholic. Below is a note from him that might serve as a map for you as you accompany him on his ‘mad’ and ‘mythical’ journey.
A NECESSARY FEW WORDS IN PROSE
I have been told that the reader of these poems will be helped if I give a matter of fact non-poetic introduction. Let me begin by saying that my faith in God and in Christ has always been simple, but that does not mean that I myself am simple. These poems put that no-doubts-ever faith side by side with my complicated personality. The Introduction is about the impact on me of the Samuel Becket play Waiting for Godot. Then follows the Prologue which introduces the four cycles and their respective themes – Dublin south-sider, aging Jesuit, bewildered male, and Irish Catholic.
The first cycle – Reptiles and the Rising Sun – is a satirical take on middle class Dublin. This is a group of people whom I know particularly well and with whom I feel very much at home. That makes it easy to do what I have done to them in these poems. I could have written much in praise of that same group but it would not be nearly as interesting. When you describe virtue you have to be faithful to the facts, whereas satire opens the door to creativity. Mind you, the end of this cycle moves beyond satire to a vision of Ireland. Middle class Dublin is part of a wider story; we all have roots in something deeper.
The second cycle – Floating Eyes in Venice – is a satirical take on another group whom I know well and with whom I also feel at home. These poems are a portrait of a Jesuit gone wrong which, given that we describe ourselves officially as sinners, means all Jesuits. We have been satirized before but I’m not sure if it has ever been done from the inside. You might ask why they – or we – only come second in line for this treatment? There is a simple answer. I could stop being a Jesuit in the morning, but I will never stop being a Dublin south-sider.
The third cycle – Two Dead Israelites – is about manhood and I am not sure if it is satirical or simply accurate. In the audio version you will hear an American accent. Only as I wrote these poems did I realize that Samson came from the Wild West and that Jesus of Nazareth’s Galilean accent was reminiscent of Elvis. Who would have thought it?
Finally, the fourth cycle – Saving Jonah – is a study of hatred. Of course, it’s also about Irish Catholicism. Jonah has a mean Northern accent for obvious reasons, but why does God the Father have a slightly absent-minded Oxbridge tone. That’s something to do with a deceased English Jesuit whom I – and many others – hold in high regard. Many of us Irish Catholics no longer hate the Brits, but many of us have found another enemy.