A Diary of Doneraile: Michael D. Higgins and New and Selected Poems

Michael D. with Mattie Lennon
As I mentioned yesterday, there is so much to say and share about the Doneraile Literary & Arts Festival that I've decided to write a number of blog posts. Caroline and I were there with two of our wonderful Liberties Press authors: Michael D. Higgins and Paul Soye.

Michael D. Higgins' events took place first: one on the Saturday morning and one on the Saturday afternoon. Saturday morning saw Michael D. being interviewed by Mattie Lennon, author, poet, folklorist, radio presenter and traditional music  aficionado. The festival programme states that Mattie is 'above all a gentleman, scholar and born entertainer' and he proved himself all three throughout the interview. Michael D. was immediately at ease with Mattie's warm and engaging manner, not to mention his ability to make both Michael D. and the audience laugh from time-to-time. The two talked poetry, politics, family life, philosophy and much more as the audience sat spellbound listening to Michael D. remind us of the power and potential of the Irish nation and his own personal commitment to 'the version of the world that is yet to be'. Michael D. warned against the 'radical individualism' that has crept into Irish society and life and how damaging that is to the model of community and social responsibility that makes a country great. Mattie and Michael D. talked about life in rural Ireland and Michael D.'s experience of farm life, country-living and all the animals that come along with that! Michael D. answered with wonderful anecdotes and memories from his rich and varied life and gave us all a chuckle when he declared, 'These are all necessary experiences for entering cabinet...' Michael finished by reading some of his poems from New and Selected Poems and left the audience with a whetted appetite for the launch later that day.

Gabriel Fitzmaurice who launched Michael D.'s
New and Selected Poems
Caroline Lambe, Liberties
The launch took place at 5pm in Creagh Castle. Caroline, Liberties Press' Publicity and Marketing Manager, began the event by welcoming the packed-out room and introducing poet Gabriel Fitzmaurice who was to launch the title. He had this to say:
"Michael D. Higgins is a poet who embarks upon a journey for which there is no map. A distinguished politician, he lets his poetry inform his politics. For Michael D. Higgins, poet and politician, everything is possible. There is a sense in which he is a deeply religious poet, not a poet of trite pieties and unquestioned certainties, but a soul in search of truth, in search of the sacred. Like any poet worth his or her salt, he is subversive - in a way that, say, Paul Durcan or Rita Ann Higgins can be subversive as he rages against the hypocrisies of state, money and the Church. But he turns this rage to prayer. Indeed, his poetry is both confession and bendiction. His is a poetry that doesn't shy away from the dark; neither is it afraid of the light. This journey is often a lonely, painful one. Unlike Prufrock, who won't ask his overwhelming question, Michael D. Higgins asks the fundamental questions. His is a journey from destructive individualism to hope, love and solidarity. Recognising the importance of authenticity, he inhabits spaces previously unquestioned. His is a poetry of hope and a search for peace. Whether by miracle or by magic, he reclaims the divine beauty of the ordinary. A survivor of great rages against powerful forces, indominatably he leads us into a new light.
Gabriel Fitzmaurice
Michael D. Higgins is a poet of engagement who throws all cerebral pretence aside. He is a man who has escaped rural intimacies to embrace the spirituality of earth and city. At home in both country and city, he writes lovingly of those rural intimacies from which education delivered him, yet, I feel, he is a countryman at heart. As the old adage puts it, you can take the boy out of the country but you can't take the country out of the boy. That, too, is part of his authenticity.
I welcome Michael D. Higgins' New and Selected Poems as a powerful addition to the Irish canon, as a book that is a joy to hold and to read. He has made his own hope and history. He would make a fine President of our country. It is an honour and a pleasure to launch his book."
Michael D. Higgins
After such an eloquent and fitting introduction, Michael D. took the floor and regaled the audience with readings from New and Selected Poems, adding to the depth of the words by sharing the stories that inspired and influenced. He went over his allotted time, but no-one seemed to mind, or notice. 

[Videos of Michael D.'s reading to follow. You can also listen to Michael D. introducing and reading poems from New and Selected Poems here.]

[Details of Paul Soye's event also to follow...]