Ode to the Late Late Toy Show: ‘A country stops. Dead. In its tracks. On a drinking night’

Rye Aker on the Toy Show: ‘A Masters Degree in/ soundness/ passed subliminally’

Dutch poet Rye Aker’s latest poem to capture our heart is ‘Toy Show’, for the week that’s in it.

Dutch poet Rye Aker’s latest poem to capture our heart is ‘Toy Show’, for the week that’s in it.

 

There’s something about an outsider quietly among us who’s nailing us, with affection and accuracy. That outsider this week, this year, is poet Rye Aker.

It’s been a very strange time, through pandemic and lockdowns, that he’s been chronicling in his observational poetry, full of nuance and humour and soul.

His latest poem to capture our heart is Toy Show, for the week that’s in it.

It captures the way “a country of rocks and winds/ And hardened hoors” stops in its tracks for a show “where all the guests/ Are less than three feet tall”. They tune in for treats but are taught a lesson “in how a country treats/ its youngest. A Masters Degree in/ soundness and decency/ passed subliminally.”

Rye Aker was born near Breda in Holland before moving as a teenager with his family to Belgium and Germany; later, in 1987 hitchhiked through Ireland, where “I was captured by Les Lacs du Connemara, the rousing French song”.

He arrived back in Ireland in late 2019, to chronicle Galway’s year as European Capital of Culture in poetry; the plan was for his work to eventually be part of a book about Galway 2020. The Capital of Culture year and our entire lives were upended, but Aker remained, observing and writing; as he puts it “but it rained and it was stormy and Covidy and then I have difference experience”.

Storm Ciara on February 8th, 2020, which scuppered the Capital of Culture opening ceremony, and then Covid, “anchored me here and I decided to become as Irish as I can”. He shares his poems on social media, and has published two books of poetry about life in Ireland while he’s been here.

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/ode-to-the-late-late-toy-show-a-country-stops-dead-in-its-tracks-on-a-drinking-night-1.4736400

“My time in Galway has been a beautiful journey in which I have found myself enriched by embracing a simplicity of life. I live in a frugal way, no phone (left at home to die in a box) but the small laptop, and I have rekindled my loving affair with the way Irish use words.” Friends – Seamus, Maureen, James, Declan and more – “make me straight” when he gets it wrong.

He talks about “the uniqueness of Irish things” and says “I was watching the show for toys last year and was impacted by the beauty of the children in a space that is not their domain. Late at night, all trying to be children. I thought the host was excellent and the stories were so heartbreaking and encouraging. I said I have to write this down because we do not appreciate what is happening here. At this point in our history. We are teaching empathy and ‘sound-ness’ and camaraderie and getting the country around the fire and to hug the children, to hug the future of this country. So that is why I write.”

Aker observes that “what is wonderfully rare in the world is commonplace in Ireland. This term of ‘soundness’ and empathy. The twisting of phrases into meaningful expressions.”

Rye Aker’s collections of poems about all aspects of Irish life are Fifty Akers – A Penance of Sundays, and 100 Akers – To Be Among, on sale “in Kenny’s bookshop (they have been very kind to me) and online on Amazon. I hope people buy so I can enjoy a turkey”.

Toy Show

by Rye Aker

Who would have thought
A country of rocks and winds
And hardened hoors would stall.
Just stop.
Dead. In its tracks.
On a drinking night
for a chat show where all guests
Are less than three feet tall.

I waited to see Mattel’s finest
yet toys faded silently like the
mountain of teddy bears
in the background.
We heard the excited
voices of those
hopeful citizens
who never speak on TV after nine.

Into every sittingroom,
falsetto tones rang out
Past roaring fires
toasting furry jammies,
munching
Mr Tayto’s latest work
Stay-uppers
thrilled to the clock
strike ten, eleven, twelve.

They tuned for treats
but were taught a lesson
in how a country treats
its youngest. A Masters Degree in
soundness and decency
passed subliminally
with the crunch of crisps
Into their voracious minds.

We all wept at bravery
and hope of those who
will walk this land after us,
who will lie in the shadows
of the trees we plant, and learn
kindness from that
shown to them
And other.

With no epidemiologist
in sight, we saw
what living with Covid means.
to those fun-size thinkers
who gave up most this year.

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