When a critic says that a poet’s work is “a crime against literature,” you know punches are not being pulled. But when it turns out that the poet in question just happens to be the president of your country, something larger might be at play. In the Irish Independent, books editor John Spain writes:
BEING President is no protection from the critics. In one of the most scathing reviews ever published here, the new book of poetry by Michael D Higgins has been torn apart by a leading critic.
Professor Kevin Kiely says that the President’s latest book is “lame, stale and stilted”, that it is “bland, imprecise and ultimately incomprehensible” and that it’s so bad that Michael D Higgins “can be accused of crimes against literature”.
The book being ripped up here is called New and Selected Poems and was published recently by Liberties Press. Kiely, whose credentials to pronounce on Irish poetry are firmly intact, seems determined in his review to eviscerate the work.
Prof Kiely is particularly dismissive of the attempts at philosophising in some of the poems, saying Mr Higgins’s “quasi-philosophical verse, not even humble fireside or armchair philosophy, is similarly cringe-worthy”.
President Higgins’ reaction to the critique was not reported on though, as Spain points out, at an upcoming PEN event where Higgins will be presenting an award, “They won’t be stuck for a topic of conversation at the dinner.”
Michael D. Higgins is the ninth president of Ireland. He took office on November 11, 2011.