"We make our own uncertain magic..." - The launch of New and Selected Poems by Michael D. Higgins

New & Selected Poems

'Poetry in the broadest sense is probably our only way forward in destitute times. At a time when language loses meaning, when life becomes commodity, when values are lots at the auctioneers' disposal, our personal duty is to return to the source where the heart utters truth in stammering soliloquy, where "The stuff of hope beckons. | Out of the darkness".' Abbot Patrick Hederman OSB

Michael D. with his wife Sabina and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore
On 19th June 2011 in Dublin's Mansion House Michael D. Higgins was selected as the Labour Party's presidential election candidate. A month later, On the 20th July 2011, not far from the Mansion House, in the National Library of Ireland Michael D. Higgins joined family, friends, and colleagues to launch his poetry collection New and Selected Poems. Guests at the event included the Lord Mayor Andrew Montague, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Michael D.'s political acquaintances and colleagues as well as author Christine Dwyer-Hickey and members of Culture Ireland, the Arts Council and Aosdána.

Author Christine Dwyer-Hickey with
Lord Mayor Andrew Montague
Seán O'Keeffe, Liberties Press Publisher and MD, formally opened the evening by welcoming everyone in attendence and reminding us all of what such an event represents, adding to the legacy of this country which was 'bulit by poets'. Seán also remarked that Michael D.'s wonderful collection marks the beginning of Liberties Press' poetry imprint and is, we hope, the first of many.

It was Liberties Press' delight and honour to have Professor Declan Kiberd launch New and Selected Poems. Prof. Kiberd began by saying that 'it seems almost redundant to launch a book that is already a roaring success...' A dear friend of Michael D.'s, Prof. Kiberd regaled the audience with stories of Michael D. singing karaoke late into the night and also of himself and a fellow Trinity student costing Michael D. 'at least one thousand' votes when they canvassed for him in the west of Ireland in the '80s. He spoke with fervour and sincerity about New and Selected Poems. Referring to the five different sections of the book - Early Days; Of Rural Realities; The Gaze Not Averted; Of Irony and Insufficiency; and Of Friendship, Loss and Hope - Prof. Kiberd said that in 'Early Days' 'he [Michael D.] had unerringly recreated the lost world of his childhood'. Prof. Kiberd described how that lost world is recreated through the 'stern schoolmasters and parish priests walking again in these pages'. He also drew attention the unsettling elements within the collection but revealed Michael D.'s power as a poet by saying, '[his] words heal the pain he describes...because he believes literature has a kind of utopian ideological surplus'. Prof. Kiberd added, 'What impresses most in the collection is...a noble, candid eloquence; an imaginative audacity; a sharp intellectual analysis; a depth of feeling; and most of all a sense of the dignity of everyday life - that ordinary people can, and still do, do extrodinary things'. Prof. Kiberd finished by saying, 'Michael D. thank you for [your words] and thank you for everything'.

The speeches were aptly concluded by Michael D. Higgins who read first from Abbot Patrick Hederman's Forward, which cannot even be scanned without realising the value of poetry, especially in days like these. New and Selected Poems is no ordinary poetry collection in that it includes a prose piece before each of the five sections explaining the events - personal and other - that inspired and influenced. Michael D. took time to refer to some of the events mentioned in those sections, whetting the reading appetites of the audience, many of whom already held copies of the book to be signed, read, and treasured. Michael D.'s life has been rich and varied: from his involvement in Irish politics, to his efforts within human rights, to his continued and persistent support of the arts. Michael D. delighted the crowd by reading from his latest collection, including the poems 'The truth of poetry (for Mark Patrick Hederman)' and 'Bank manager faints at the mayor's ball'. As both these poems reveal, this is an emotive collection and whether you laugh, cry, or sit in silent contemplation, one thing is clear: language is paramount. As Abbot Patrick Hederman said, '...poetry can be, and should be, a guide towards the future, an essential voice in the drama of creating a more habitable planet.' And as Michael D. said, 'Language gives way last'.

Michael D. and his family.