Thursday 22 February 2018

Our President's a much better poet than your queen, anyway

Is Michael D a poet or a mere versifier? Those who have happened upon his work down through the years will have their own opinions, but award-winning London poet Carol Rumens is in no doubt about the matter.

Mind you, it was a bit unfair of her to judge our new President on the basis of just one poem, but that's precisely what she did last week in her Guardian online column, where she selects and analyses a different poem each week.

Under the headline 'Michael D is no poet' and after quoting in full the prophetically titled 'When Will My Time Come?', she decried various phrases and images as "clumsy", "awkward" or "laboured" and the last stanza as "cushioned in platitudes".

And she ended by recalling how some eminent Northern Irish poets of her acquaintance described "rubbish poetry" as "mad-dog-shite" -- a category, she said, into which Michael D's poem "effortlessly slips".

Within a day of her savaging, there were more than 200 online responses on the Guardian website, some agreeing with her judgment but others furious at her "puerile sneering". "This isn't analysis," one respondent angrily maintained, "it's an assassination." Others defended the man, rather than the poet. "I don't demand good poetry of my President," one stoutly declared, "I demand that he has principles," while quite a few defensively pointed out that "he doesn't claim to be a good poet".

Two comments I especially liked. "His poems might not be brilliant," one man observed, "but they're better than anything the queen has come up with," while another exclaimed: "She's right! He must resign immediately, crawl under the bed and stay there until he's written a Nobel prize-winning collection."

And someone else dismissed her critique as "typical British cultural snobbery".

The 67-year-old Ms Rumens, who has 14 collections to her name, has enjoyed stints as poet in residence at Queens and UCC, but if I were her I wouldn't be expecting a similar invitation from Michael D's beloved NUIG any time soon.

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