And there are among them composers of verses whom they call Bards; these singing to instruments similar to a lyre, applaud some, while they vituperate others. -- Diodorus Siculus, 8 BCE
All poets have the uncanny ability to tap into the realm of spirit. It is a gift that enables us to transcend the mundane, and experience the world as we see and feel it, and know how it should be. We have the ability to turn what to most people, are chaotic thoughts and feelings, into beautiful and meaningful works of art. We are blessed with the grace that enables us to never stray far from our original nature, despite having to live and survive in the material world. We poets pass on what we have learned through our words, which are the manifestation of our collective knowledge. It is a shamanistic quality which we possess. If we believe as I do that we are gifted and if we further believe that a gift only works when we give it away willingly, then it is our duty to pass it on. All cultures revere their poets, none more so than my own, the Irish. We call them Seanacchie (shan-a-key) meaning the storytellers, the bards and the minstrels.
It is widely accepted that both the oral tradition of storytelling, and the early written works of ancient Ireland are among the most original and earliest forms of communication in Europe. Poetry in Ireland has survived the ravages of time for two main reasons. Firstly, Ireland sits in the Atlantic Ocean, on the westernmost edge of Europe and thus insulated from much of the happenings elsewhere on the continent. From the end of the last ice-age until the 4th century it enjoyed relative peace and solitude. It remained unscathed even when the violent legions of the Roman empire swept across the world conquering towns and villages and imposing Roman law.
Secondly, prior to the 4th century, writing had not yet been developed in Ireland and all important information such as history and lore was memorized and passed down orally through the generations by master storytellers, and from father to son. Even after literacy took hold in the 4th century, and much was written down by scribes and monks in the monasteries, the old tradition was kept alive and is still used today. The thinking at that time may have been that if you put your words on paper you run the risk of them being lost or destroyed. This did actually happen when the Saxons raided Ireland in 686 AD and again when Viking marauders struck in 798 AD.
The first mention of the storytelling tradition in Ireland, is found in the one of the old annals called the ‘Book of Invasions.’ The tradition begins with the Tuatha De Dannan, a race of people who inhabited Ireland well before the beginning of western civilization, and has been handed down ever since through each successive generation. The name Tuatha De Dannan means “people of the goddess Danu.” They were a supernatural race who came to Ireland with the intention of removing the evil Fomorians, a race that already inhabited the island and who caused destruction and mayhem. The Tuatha were divided into three tribes, the tribe of Tuatha who were the nobility, the tribe of De, the priests and the tribe of Danann, the bards and storytellers.
In medieval Ireland, there was a distinct hierarchy in the poetic tradition. Two groups of Poets existed, the Ollamh and the Bard, and each group took their respective places side by side, in the recounting of all important Irish affairs. A poet in Irish society was revered, held a privileged position and was granted special rights regarding property and immunity from many legal issues.
The name Filid comes from the same root as the Welsh word meaning “to see.” It is believed that originally they were all powerful, holding high office as magicians, lawgivers, judges, advisors to the kings, composers and poets. Later, after a fundamental change occurred, the Brehons took over the position of lawmakers, and all other legal matters. Another group, the Druids took over as priests and handled all supernatural matters. Filid then became the master poets and philosophers, being mostly concerned with language, and court poetry. They held a very prestigious social position in Celtic Ireland and worked side by side with and in support of the Druids as they carried out their duties.
There were seven grades of Filid, the most important being the Ollam (pronounced olav) and the lowest position taken by the Bard. An Ollam had to devote as many as twelve years of his life to studying and learning and by the end of his apprenticeship he would have memorized more than three hundred different meters, at least two hundred main stories and about one hundred lesser stories. The apprenticeship employed the use of sensory deprivation and the novice would spend long periods of time alone in a dark cell with nothing but his own mind for company. It was believed that in this way only, could the higher realm be accessed, the place where all inspiration emanates. When his learning period was complete, the Filid was then allowed to wear the coveted ’cloak of crimson bird feathers' and carry a wand of office. The most widely used form of poem used by the Filid was known as the Deibide, which means “cut in half,” and was a quatrain made up of two couplets joined by rhyming one stressed syllable and one syllable not stressed.
The Filid were made up of a large, aristocratic class and as professional poets, could and did command payment. Some charged large fees for their services and made good use of what was known as the ‘Poet’s curse’ to ensure their continued power and of course, employment. It was firmly believed that a well composed verse could ruin a person’s reputation and cause harm and even hasten the death of an individual. Of course as with all matters pertaining to the human condition, some Filid overstepped the boundaries and were taken to task for their infractions. In the latter half of the 6th century the ‘Synod of Drumceta’ was convened. During the Synod, many of the Filid were indeed accused of abusing their power and influence with the nobility in efforts to further their own aims.
Fortunately, one of their major defenders at the Synod was Colmcille (St. Columba) the 6th century Irish scholar monk. Colmcille was the dominant figure in early Christian Ireland, active in all affairs, was a revered scholar and a force to be reckoned with. Even though a Filid could be penalized for abusing his position, belief in the “Poet’s Curse” was so widespread and powerful, few were rarely punished, and their legacy has survived right up to modern times. Another asset in their arsenal was the fact that they were closely aligned with monasteries, which were the seats of learning, and with Colmcille’s blessing, they survived the inquisition and prospered.
Filid held a very responsible position in Ireland and among their many official duties they were obligated to teach the residents of their respective area in all aspects of literature, folklore and the history of the country. These small schools would later become the Bardic colleges. By the 12th century Filid were writing nature poetry and poems of a personal nature, in praise of their benefactors more human attributes rather than their skills in battle and heroic deeds. By the 13th century the schism between the Filid and the Bard was complete and the Bard became the sole, recognized poet of the land.
Read more Here: https://www.britannica.com/art/fili-ancient-Gaelic-poets
The term Ollam was a title given to the highest ranking member of the Filid, and set him apart from the others, signifying a “person of great learning.” It is a term also used to refer to the highest member of any group, so for example, an Ollam brithem would be the highest rank of judge and an Ollam Rí would be the highest rank of king. Typically, a 'Chief Ollam of Poetry’ was considered equal to the king and could therefore wear the six colors worn by the nobility. He sat at the King’s table and even ate from the same dishes as the king denoting his stature and importance. One of the most famous Ollams was a poet named Ollav Fala, the eighteenth descendant of Érimón who lived around 1000 BC.
An Ollam Ri ('most high') was the chief poet of literature and history. Each province had its own Ollam Ri and would be employed by the local chieftain or noble. The Ollam Ri would be in charge of all other Ollams in his province. He had his own ‘great house’ and could have as many as thirty Ollams under his charge. In our modern society, the title, Ollam Ri is equivalent to a combination of today’s Minister of Education and Culture and Poet Laureate. His father, and probably his grandfather too, would have held the same position, making it a hereditary post, handed down. Prior to the 6th century, the Ollam Ri was appointed by the king but after that date elections were held in which the other Ollams of the province voted him into office.
The Bard was a professional poet and musician, trained in the ‘Bardic Schools of Ireland’ and was employed by a king, chieftain or nobleman. His role was to compose poems and songs to glorify the virtues of his employer and family. As officials of the court of king or chieftain, they performed a number of official roles. Bards were considered lesser than the Filid but were renowned performers and entertainers, and were also revered as teachers. Both Bards and Filids used meter and rhyme as a way of memorizing their words. The Bard memorized and preserved the history and traditions of their clan and country, as well as the technical requirements of the various poetic forms, such as syllabic, assonance, half rhyme and alliteration. Both Filid and Bard would also be required to study, understand and be fully versed with the Ogham tree-alphabet when it arrived later on In Ireland.
The Bard would be familiar with the history of the royal family, his own clan members and the country and would compose eulogies. They were chroniclers and satirists whose job it was to praise their employers and curse anyone who dared to anger them. It was believed that a well-aimed poem, could cause blisters to break out on the face of its target, so sharp and direct were the words. It has been recorded that Bards had the power to settle arguments and even intervene in violent confrontations, and using their words, defuse the situation.
It has been speculated that the differences between Filid and Bards may have originated when Christianity gained a foothold in the 5th century. One theory, widely believed, is that the Filid were more in line with the new church and composed many prayers and hymns. Although Bards were seen as somewhat lesser than the Filid, their influence has endured as modern Ireland continues the age old tradition of storytelling.
Below is an example of a poem written by a Bard and translated from the Gaelic by the scholar Osborn Bergin.
Flled with sharp dart-like pens
Limber tipped and firm, newly trimmed
Paper cushioned under my hand
Percolating upon the smooth slope
The leaf a fine and uniform script
A book of verse in ennobling Goidelic.
I learnt the roots of each tale, branch
Of valor and the fair knowledge,
That I may recite in learned lays
Of clear kindred stock and each person's
Family tree, exploits of wonder
Travel and musical branch
Soft voiced, sweet and slumberous
A lullaby to the heart.
Grant me the gladsome gyre, loud
Brilliant, passionate and polished
Rushing in swift frenzy, like a blue edged
Bright, sharp-pointed spear
In a sheath tightly corded;
The cause itself worthy to contain.
Croom, County Limerick is a small 4th century village located on the banks of the River Maigue. Although now having a tidal flow only to the town of Adare, in ancient times the river had a tidal flow past Croom, making it a convenient route for the Viking ships sailing inland from the River Shannon, during the 9th and 10th centuries. Contacts made along the Maigue River between those marauders and the clan O’Donovan provides us with details of the alliance between the two groups, in the late 10th century.
An important school of poetry was born in Croom in the early 18th century, and the poets who met there wrote and recited their works in Gaelic. A new form of verse was also founded in Croom by two notable bards who grew up together and were lifelong friends. This new form became known as the Limerick, named after the County of Limerick.
The two founders of the Limerick, were Maigue Poets Sean O’ Tuama and his friend Andrias MacRaith. Both men grew up and were educated together near the small town of Kilmallock, Co. Limerick. A large part of their education came from local Hedgemasters.
Aindrias MacCraith 1710-1795
Born near Croom, County Limerick, MacCraith was a poet and wandering minstrel known as ‘The Wandering Peddler’. He was one of the leading poets of the Maigue school. Like many of these Gaelic poets, they supported the Jacobean cause and, like so many others, got into trouble with the authorities and were forced to leave the neighborhood. One of MacCraith’s most famous works was the eulogy he composed in honor of his fellow poet Seán Ó Tuama. Aindrias MacCraith is buried in County Limerick.
Seán Ó Tuama c. 1706-1775
Born near Kilmallock, County Limerick, O'Tuama was a school teacher and a leading member of the Poets of the Maigue. He also ran an inn that became a well-known meeting place for the local poets. The inn is opposite the church where he is buried. His best known poem is ‘A Chuisle na hÉigse’. After the two men had a falling out (probably over a woman), they began castigating each other in rhyme.
Below are believed to be the first Limericks ever written and predate Edward Lear by almost one hundred years. O’ Tuama is buried in Croom, Co. Limerick.
“I sell the best Brandy and Sherry
to make all my customers merry.
But at times their finances
run short as it chances.
And then I feel sad, very very.”
“O’Tuama, you boast yourself handy,
at selling good ale and bright Brandy,
But the fact is your liquor
makes everyone sicker
I tell you this I, your good friend Andy.”
Ogham is a Medieval alphabet which was used to write on trees and stone and was an early Irish language widely used
until about the 9th century. One possible origin of the word ogham is from the Irish og-úaim 'point-seam', referring to the seam made by the point of a sharp weapon as it carved on wood and stone. According to many of the ancient manuscripts, Ogham was first invented soon after the fall of the Tower of Babel, along with the Gaelic language, by the legendary Scythian king, Fenius Farsa. The story goes that Fenius journeyed from Scythia together with Goídel mac Ethéoir, and a following of seventy-two scholars.
They came to the dusty plain of Shinar to study the babbling languages spoken at Nimrod's tower, which was also known as the Tower of Babel. Finding that the languages had already been distributed, Fenius sent his scholars far and wide, to study them. Fenius stayed behind at the tower, and awaited their eventual return. After ten years had elapsed, the investigations were complete, and Fenius created "the chosen language", by taking the best of each of the confusing tongues, putting them together and creating a new form which he called 'Goídelc.' He also created Ogham as a perfected writing system for his languages. The names he gave to the letters of his alphabet were those of his 25 best scholars.
Another story tells of the ‘Ogham Tract’ and credits an individual named Ogma with the script's invention. Ogma was skilled in speech and poetry, and is said to have created the system for those who had some literacy. The first message reputedly written in Ogham were seven letter ‘b's’ carved on a birch tree. It was a warning to a local chieftain, deciphered as meaning: "your wife will be carried away seven times to the otherworld unless the birch protects her".
For this reason, the letter ‘b’ is said to be named after the birch tree. Even after it ceased to be used as an everyday alphabet for writing, Ogham continued to be used as the basis for teaching grammar and the rules and metrics of poetry in the Gaelic language. The medieval book, ‘The Scholar's Primer’ set out the basics for writing poetry in the Irish language for the trainee Bard or Filid, and used Ogham as a guide. The ogham alphabet was felt to be peculiarly suited to the needs of the Irish language.
Below is a poem written in the 8th century by a monk about his cat.
Messe ocus Pangur Bán,
cechtar nathar fri saindán:
bíth a menma-sam fri seilgg,
mu menma céin im saincheirdd
Myself and White Pangur,
each of us two at his own art:
his mind on hunting,
mine on my reading.
Christianity came to Ireland in the 5th century and almost immediately set out to convert the whole island. One side effect of this conversion was the strain it put on the coffers of the Chiefs and Noblemen. As more and more monasteries and later churches, sprung up and the new religion took a firm hold, the nobility were expected to provide land and titles for the church leaders. In the 6th century, already stretched to the limit with the ever increasing costs of frequent inter-tribal conflicts, a far reaching decision was made to cut the number of Filid employed by many of the clans, in an effort to curb expenditure. Not a popular decision among the wordsmiths I am sure, but sadly, at the time it was deemed a necessity.
From the 12th century onwards Celtic culture suffered a rapid decline as a direct result of the invasion by the Normans. The new invaders were fully literate and preferred the written word as opposed to the oral tradition. This so called high society lasted right up to the time of the reign of Elizabeth 1. Eventually, the new form of literature replaced the old familiar style used for centuries by the ancient Filid and Bards. In spite of all of this upheaval, the old system lasted until the middle of the 17th century, but rapidly declined during the time of the Tudor re-conquest.
After their defeat at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, and the end of the Nine Years' War in Ulster in 1603, Hugh O’Neill, the Earl of Tyrone and Rory O’Donnell, the Earl of Tyrconnell together with many other noblemen were forced into exile by the English government who now ruled Ireland, under the leadership of Lord Mountjoy. The land had been laid to waste due to the violent destruction and a countrywide famine devastated the population. For many, the end of the world had finally arrived.
On September 14, 1607 the Earls and their many followers left Ireland for Spain. Their plan was to enlist a new army in France and Spain and return to Ireland to oust the English settlers who had taken their titles and lands. Unfortunately, O’Neil and O’Donnell both died in exile and the planned return to Ireland and subsequent rebellion, never took place. This singular event was the death knell for the age old tradition of the Filid and their centuries old connection with the Irish nobility.
Art McCooey: The Last Ollam.
“In Creggan graveyard I slept last night in despair.
With the rising of the morning a woman came to me with a kiss.
Bright burning were her cheeks and her hair shone like gold.
It would be medicine to the world to behold that young Queen. “
Those words are from the poem “Creggan Graveyard” written by Ollam Art McCooey, the last one of the five Gaelic poets of the province of south east Ulster. He was also known as “Art of the Songs” and was the chief Ollam attached to the royal household of the O’Neill clan, the rulers of a barony in south Armagh called “The Fews.”
Art McCooey was born sometime in the early 1700’s, in a townland close to my hometown of Crossmaglen. The area known today as Mounthill, sits near to the old church at Creggan, and what remains of a castle at Glassdrummond, both built by Henry Og O’Neill, the Lord of the Fews.
He died on January 7, 1773 and is buried in Creggan graveyard, close to the O’Neill family vault.
In Creggan graveyard I slept last night in despair
With the rising of the morning a woman came to me with a kiss
Bright burning were her cheeks and her hair shone like gold
It would be medicine to the world to behold that young queen
"Good generous man, be not consumed in clouds of sorrow
But rise up now and come with me, westward on the road
To a good land of honey, yet untouched by the stranger
There will be pleasant melody in our halls when you play your music"
'Righteous queen, are you Helen from Troy
Or one of the nine women of Parnassus, taking on this form
What land of the world has raised you, queen without peers?
With your wish for the likes of me to conspire with, out on the road?'
"Do not ask me why I sleep on this side of the Boyne
I am a child of the sidhe, brought up beside Grainne the young
In the true fort of the Ollams, I openly strike up the music
In the night I am at Tara, in the morning in the middle of Tyrone"
'And it is My sharp-cutting fervor to be wanted by the Gaels of Tyrone
And the joyless scions of The Beeches, deteriorating in their inheritance
That the clean-colored heirs of Neil Frasaigh would not forsake song
And give clothing at Christmas to the Ollams who are loyal to them'
"Since the plowing of the tribes in Eachroim and—alas! -- beneath the Boyne
The signs are that the powers will bring pressure to every druid, without battle
Would you not rather be in the fairy rath, with me by your side every day
Than have the archers of Clan Volley pierce your heart through and through?"
'I would not forsake you for all the gold in the world
But it would be cowardly to leave my friends yet in this land
I’ve a wife, her that I wooed when she was young
If I abandon her and go with you will she not be in sorrow?'
"I think that you have no friends left among your living kin
You are bare, without possessions poor, barren, aimless, without goods
Wouldn’t you rather be off with a hot blooded maiden
Than in this land where there is mocking under every tuft of grass for your songs?"
'O, righteous queen, you have persuaded me with your treasures
Let us go as you promise me in the morning on the road
If I die below the Shannon, In Mannannan’s land, or in Great Egypt
In fragrant Creggan Graveyard lay me in the clay below the sod'
*This poem is a conversation between the poet and a goddess or woman of the otherworld. She convinces him to forsake the tribe that did not take care of him.
The old tradition however, was not obliterated completely thanks to the birth of Hedge Schools in the 17th century. Today, modern Ireland continues the age old tradition with the worldwide popularity of a plethora of celebrated Irish poets, musicians and playwrights. (JAB)
In 1603 James VI of Scotland ascended to both the English and Irish thrones. He became known as James I of Ireland and immediately a series of repressive new laws were enacted. These new laws became known as the Penal Laws. From 1607, Catholics were barred from holding public office or serving in the Irish Army. All Catholic churches were brought under the control of the Anglican church, which was considered to be the true church. Catholic priests were tolerated for a short period, but bishops were forced to operate in secret. Later, more repressive laws outlawed the Priests as well and the dreaded Priest Hunters scoured the land in search of the hidden Priests, who now had a bounty on their heads.
Schools were not permitted to teach the Irish language or history and were strictly controlled. The new monarch’s aim was to eradicate Catholicism in one generation. Out of all of this mayhem the Hedge Schools were born, purely in retaliation to the harsh Penal Laws. The first of those laws stipulated that “no person of the popish religion shall publicly or in private houses teach school, or instruct youth in learning within this realm..."
The English government did set up Charter schools but the Catholic population refused to use them as they were seen as an attempt to Anglicize the children. Those who could afford the Hedgemaster's fees sent their children to Hedge Schools where Brehons, Bards, storytellers and musicians secretly taught Irish history, tradition, poetry, and told tales of their ancestors. Mathematics, geography, world history along with all other subjects taught in the state sponsored schools, were taught in the Hedge Schools too.
In the beginning, both adults and children would meet secretly in old dilapidated buildings, behind old walls or in ditches along the roadside. Some lessons were actually taught in the hedgerows, giving rise to the name Hedge School. Other schools met in old barns and outhouses. In this way, despite the efforts of the English government to wipe the slate clean of all things Irish, we as a people survived. In the final analysis, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to those brave Hedgemasters, who, at great risk to their own lives, kept the culture alive.
Read more Here:
List of major Irish Poetry Forms
Ae Freslighe: (ay fresh lee)
Each stanza is a quatrain of seven syllables. Lines one and three rhyme with a triple (three syllable) rhyme and two and four use a double (two syllable) rhyme. As was stated earlier. the poem should end with the first syllable word or the complete line that it began with.
Casbairdne: (koss buyer dne)
Each stanza is a quatrain of seven syllables. Lines two and four rhyme and lines one and three consonate with them. There are at least two cross-rhymes in each couplet. In the first couplet, this isn't necessarily exact. The final syllable of line four alliterates with the preceding stressed word.
Deibhidhe: (jay vee)
Each stanza is a quatrain of seven syllables. Light rhyming in couplets. Alliteration between two words in each line, the final word of line four alliterating with the preceding stressed word. There are at least two cross-rhymes between three and four.
Droighneach: (dra eye nach)
A loose stanza form. Each line can have from nine to thirteen syllables, and it always ends in a tri-syllabic word. There is rhyming between lines one and three, two and four, etc. Stanzas can have any number of quatrains. There are at least two cross-rhymes in each couplet and alliteration in each line; usually the final word of the line alliterates with the preceding stressed word, and this is always true of the last line.
Rannaicheacht Bheag: (ron a yach viog)
Similar to Rannaicheacht Mhor except lines one and three have eight syllables and two and four have six syllables.
Rannaicheacht Ghairid: (ron a yach char rid)
A quatrain stanza with uneven lines. The first line has three syllables, the other three have seven. The stanza rhymes aaba, with a cross-rhyme between three and four.
Rannaicheacht Mhor: (ron -a yach voor)
A quatrain stanza of heptasyllabic lines consonating abab. There are at least two cross-rhymes in each couplet and the final word of line three rhymes with a word in the interior of line four. In the second couplet, the rhymes must be exact, but the first couplet need only consonate.
Rionnaird Tri-Nard: (run ard tree nard)
A quatrain stanza of hexasyllabic lines with disyllabic endings. Lines two and four rhyme, and three consonates with them. There are two cross rhymes in the second couplet, none in the first. There is alliteration in each line, and the last syllable of line one alliterates with the first accented word of line two. There are two cross-rhymes in the second couplet.
Séadna: (shay nah)
A quatrain stanza of alternating octosyllabic lines with disyllabic endings and heptasyllabic lines with monosyllabic endings. Lines two and four rhyme, line three rhymes with the stressed word preceding the final word of line four. There are two cross-rhymes in the second couplet. There is alliteration in each line, the final word of line four alliterating with the preceding stressed word. The final syllable of line one alliterates with the first stressed word of line two.
Sneadhbhairdne: (sna vuy erd ne)
A quatrain stanza of alternating eight syllable lines and four syllable lines with two syllable endings. Lines two and four rhyme, line three consonates with both. All words in the final line must rhyme, the final word of line four alliterating with the preceding stressed word.
List of Poetry forms courtesy of Terry Clitheroe's 'The Poet's Garret.'
List of Names of Irish Poets:
Pre-history era Poets
Adna mac Uthidir, 1st century A.D.
Early Medieval Poets
Torna Éices, c. 400
Dubhthach moccu Lughair, c. 432
Dallán Forgaill, died 598
Senchán Torpéist, Chief Ollam from 598 A.D. to 647
Máel Muire Othain, died 887
Flann mac Lonáin, 896
Torpaid mac Taicthech, died 913
Óengus mac Óengusa, died 930
Bard Boinne, died 931
Uallach ingen Muinecháin, died 934
Cormacan Eigeas, died 946
Cinaedh Ua hArtagain, died 975
Eochaidh Ua Floinn, died 984
Urard Mac Coise, died 990
High Medieval Era Poets
Clothna mac Aenghusa, died 1008
Muircheartach mac Cu Ceartach Mac Liag, died 1015
Cúán úa Lothcháin, died 1024
Cú Mara Mac Liac, died 1030
Mac Beathaidh mac Ainmire, died 1041
Ceaunfaeladh ua Cuill, died 1048
Flaithem Mac Mael Gaimrid, died 1058
Cellach húa Rúanada, died 1079
Mael Isa ua Máilgiric, died 1088
Cú Collchaille Ua Baígilláin, died 1119
Cú Connacht Ua Dálaigh, died 1139
Gillamaire Ua Conallta, died 1166
Tadhg Ua Dálaigh, died 1181
Máel Íosa Ua Dálaigh, died 1185
Late Medieval Era Poets
Giolla Ernain Ó Martain, died 1218
Gofraidh Fionn Ó Dálaigh, died 1387
Cearbhall mac Lochlainn Ó Dálaigh, died 1405
Sean mac Fergail Óic Ó hUiccinn, died 1490
Paidin Ó Maol Chonaire, died 1506
Seán mac Torna Ó Maol Chonaire, mid-16th century.
Art McCooey, Ollam to the O’Neills, died 1733
From: "Out of the Ice: Ireland Then and Now."
Available at: https://www.amazon.com/author/johnabrennan