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This article is taken from PN Review 120, Volume 24 Number 4, March - April 1998.

Tom Paulin's Paisley: Politics, Poetry and Penises Alan Munton

Sow the teeth of a dragon and you get violence. The armed men who appear will either attack you, if you are Cadmus, or set upon each other. Sow just one tooth and you will still get an armed man who will have only one option: to attack you (or Cadmus). In July 1997 Tom Paulin published a poem entitled 'Drumcree 3' in the Observer. It is one of those 'while I was doing ordinary things, something really important was happening elsewhere' poems. In this case, 'On the day of Drumcree' Paulin is at home by the Thames, 'hackling' [sic] at his overgrown vine from a red stepladder whilst the police are 'hacking' a route through for the Orangemen. Next morning the stepladder is still there, and he tries to establish what it means: Jacob's ladder? gantry or derrick? liberty tree? As he looks at this 'bloody maddening steel stook' it begins to sing 'thing/thing thing,' like the Theban rocks:

till almost
- and I stress almost
it looked like a dragon's
tooth
that had just popped out of the earth
intil the which it had bin drapped

The poem ends with that sudden voice, which I hear to be Northern Ireland Protestant, and threatening too.

Paulin has used the Cadmus story before, in 'Cadmus and the Dragon,' one of the 'big' poems of his 1994 collection, Walking a Line. Cadmus may have built Thebes with ...


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