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Friday, 1 January 2016

Irish literary happening of 2015: The Bogman's Cannon

Loathe it, as a few careerist literary nerds here and there certainly do, or love it, as I - and many others - do, there isn't much denying that the advent of the alternative literary site The Bogman's Cannon has been the event of the year in Irish literary circles. 

The Bogman is unusual, not to mention revolutionary, in the way that it combines literarature and political criticism in an always lively manner. Many literary magazines like to claim that they are not afraid to offend the Establishment. Mostly, when such claims are made, it's either a lie, or at best an exaggeration. For your average state funded lit-mag there is always a line one will not be allowed to cross. For example, no state funded Irish literary magazine will ever run an article detailing what an atrocious Minister for The Arts Heather Humphreys has been, though everyone knows it's the truth.
Of course Heather will be gone soon, and there'll be another Minister to lick up to, for those with willing tongues. What separates The Bogman's Cannon from such slurpers is that not only is it prepared to offend establishments of all varieties, it actively sets out to offend those who need offending. It has also been a real stimulus for much needed debate. And it is not at all totalitarian; you don't have to agree with everything that's said in every article, poem, story, or video. 

The aforementioned careerist nerdlets hate The Bogman, and their hatred is similar to that felt by the Blairites in the British Labour Party for Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. They expected to easily inherit the Earth, but it's not turned out as straightforwardly as they imagined; history and politics appear to taking one of those violent turns. Like 1848, 1871, 1917, 1936, or 1968. And all such inheritances are open to challenge. Irish poetry now certainly has a left wing, and it of course has a right wing, though as in the British Labour Party, that right wing pretends to be something other than what it actually is. Such 'moderation' has always been with us. Though, thanks in part to the stimulus provided by The Bogman's Cannon, the 'moderate' critics of too much political poetry, and too much irreverence, are increasingly not the prevailing trend in Irish poetry.

2015 was a huge year. If someone had told me last January 1st that I would again be a member of the British Labour Party, and a supporter of the leader, I would have suggested that they see a psychiatrist urgently. Indeed, I would probably have phoned the psychiatrist of their behalf. Yet on Saturday, September 12th Jeremy Corbyn was elected Leader of the British Labour Party by an overwhelming majority, and I voted from him, having re-joined the party as an overseas member. Twenty four years previously, to the day, on September 12th 1991, I was expelled from the British Labour Party because of my (then) membership of Militant and involvement in the anti-poll tax campaign. As part of the campaign to support to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership bid I put together, with the support of Portsmouth Labour Party member Darrell Kavanagh,  21 Poems: 21 Reasons For Choosing Jeremy Corbyn, an initiative The Bogman enthusiastically backed.

The revolution may not exactly be at hand, but things are not as they have been for the past quarter of a century or more. The 'moderates', or to call them by their proper name, the Right are now on the defensive both politically and culturally.

My main contribution to the cultural aspect of this revolt has been as The Bogman's Cannon's Satirist-in-Residence. I published about twenty poems on the site during 2015.

I am really looking forward to 2016 during which, as well as continuing to satirise those that need it for The Bogman, I will also be going to Dublin to do some canvassing for my friend Clare Daly in the Dublin Fingal constituency, as well as doing my bit to block Irish Water contractors entering the Corrib Park estate, one of the largest in Galway City, the only entrance to which is, as luck would have it, right outside our front door. Last August, along with four local women, I stood on the road in front of one of their vans at seven o'clock in the morning and, together, we held the line until more residents joined us and the contractors gave up. 2016 will no doubt see more such excitement. 

I already have a few new poems ready to go for The Bogman's Cannon, with which I am proud to be associated. Dave Lordan, the main driving force behind the site, deserves huge credit for what he's brought about. May it continue to inspire us, and to upset those who deserve to be upset.