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Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Condemned Poem Ascends Into Heaven

On March 27th 2008 I was interviewed by Kernan Andrews in The Galway Advertiser in the lead up to the launch of my second collection of poems, Time Gentlemen, Please. In that interview I expressed an opinion or two about, well, things. One of the more measured responses was this letter which appeared in the following week's paper (April 3rd) having apparently been collectively authored by the Galway branch of the Socialist Workers Party.

'Dear Editor,

Having read the article in the Galway Advertiser about Kevin Higgins, we wish to address his quote from “Socialist Worker” concerning Darfur. We are sorry that an “acclaimed” Galway poet would use a quote out of context.

The Darfur war was being depicted as genocidal “Arabs” slaughtering “black Africans” –this bore little relationship to facts. However, the depiction fitted the Islamophobic view of Arabs as violent aggressors and the portrayal of Africans as “ever the victims”.

It was problematic to label the conflict “genocide” in as much as such a term did not convey the complexity of tensions, political overspills, civil war, shifting alliances.
Creating ‘Arab’ versus ‘African’ was bogus, but powerful – in whose interests? We are alarmed that Higgins would disingenuously use a quote – for his own interests.

“Socialist Worker” aims to give readers a greater understanding of world politics than the controlled mainstream media. Socialists deplore war — the senseless killing, suffering and waste — and the agendas hiding behind military interventions.

Is Higgins a self-professed socialist, just like an Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, if he thinks that, “the society we have is far preferable to anything the comrades would bring”. So, children living in poverty denied adequate housing and education, people dying from curable diseases or on hospital waiting lists, and millions of innocents being slaughtered in resource wars, are acceptable?

Maybe Higgins had an unhappy childhood in Militant, or maybe he would have been better off if he had found masturbation. He definitely didn’t find the socialism that many on the far left in Galway envisage and work towards: true democracy, peace and equality, whether one lives in Ireland or elsewhere. Thankfully, he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

Yours Socialist Workers Party

Galway Branch'

As you read the above quoted letter the word 'measured' is perhaps not the first that floated to mind. But trust me, other responses to my comments in that interview were altogether less mild, as was recently alluded to in David Wheatley's quite detailed examination of my favourite subject

But I digress, the good news is that the poem which so vexed the hard arsed revolutionaries of Galway SWP is on its way to achieving- if I might be so immodest as to type the word - immortality.  

Said vexacious verse is included in the anthology The Hundred Years' War - Modern War Poems, Edited by Neil Astley.
Other contributors include: Anna Akhmatova, Yehuda Amichai, Guillaume Apollinaire, W.H. Auden, Aleksandr Blok, Bertolt Brecht, Joseph Brodsky, Paul Celan, Jean Cocteau, Mahmoud Darwish, Keith Douglas, James Fenton, Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca, Zbigniew Herbert, Geoffrey Hill, Miroslav Holub, Philip Larkin, Denise Levertov, Primo Levi, Robert Lowell, Louis MacNeice, Antonio Machado, Derek Mahon,  Eugenio Montale, Pablo Neruda, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, W.B. Yeats & Yevgeny Yevtushenko.