Agriculture, Book Review, History, Literature, Politics, Science, Uncategorized

The Technological Savage

(Published in the Dublin Review of Books, December 2017) In 1983 the world came within a whisker of nuclear Armageddon when Soviet satellite photos mistakenly revealed NATO missiles in the sky. Only the impulsive refusal of Russian officer Stanislav Petrov to believe his eyes prevented mutually assured destruction being set in train. Now a US President threatens to ‘totally destroy’ …


Literature, Music, Poetry, Uncategorized

Spinning Yarns and Weaving Tales

I start with a little criticism before I get into rhapsodies. For a venue to prohibit a band from playing any covers during a performance strikes me as misguided. I commend encouragement of artistic creation, but this rule offends my Romantic sensibility; it could encourage a breakdown of hallowed musical and poetic form. Experimental music has its place, even at …


Irish poets learn your application-writing-skills

Nothing quite matches the rancour of artistes scrapping for funding. They make a pack of feeding hunting dogs seem positively polite. Of late, teeth are gnashing on the pages of the Irish Times over an anticipated windfall being siphoned into a new quango: Creative Ireland. It’s not so much a call for art for art’s sake, but leave it to …

An Overflow of Violent Bacchanalia

Accounts of the storming of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg on October 25th 1917 read more like those of a party being violently gate-crashed than the single most shocking event of the twentieth century: the emergence of the Bolsheviks as leaders of the first Communist regime in history, in the world’s largest country. The old European order would soon …

Shelley, Corbyn and Ireland

The Irish political establishment looks askance at the apparent rise of Jeremy Corbyn. An historically warm relationship with Sinn Fein, lukewarm opposition to Brexit, and a stubborn commitment to socialism all receive a cool reception in government buildings. Corbyn’s approach to Ireland is conditioned by an anti-colonial, English republican and Chartist outlook, a cast of mind he would have shared …

The Slow Death of Poetry?

Oliver Saint John Gogarty tells a story about the twenty-three-year old James Joyce at the time of W.B. Yeats’s fortieth birthday party. Yeats was staying in the Cavendish Hotel on what was then Rutland Square (now Parnell Square). On a whim, the twenty-two year old Joyce called on the revered poet. Gogarty recalls: ‘he solemnly walked in and knocked on …

‘Immanent in the Landscape’

The highest compliment I can pay Mark Williams is that after reading his ‘Ireland’s Immortals: A History of the Gods of Irish Myth’, I have an appetite to learn the Irish language. He exposes to the light a literary inheritance that has barely flickered in the Irish national consciousness since independence in 1922. It allows this nation to consider its …

The Evil That Men Do

Published in the Dublin Review of Books: (http://www.drb.ie/essays/the-evil-that-men-do) The unconscious of a whole continent and age has made of itself poetry in the nightmare of a single prophetic dreamer Herman Hesse Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov casts a shadow over European literature. Sigmund Freud described it as ‘The most magnificent novel ever written’; while Friedrich Nietzsche acknowledged his Russian contemporary …

Can Justice be Poetic?

The Irish nation is rightly proud of its poetic inheritance. At first glance this sacred tradition has nothing to do with the law, but I argue that by engagement with our great poets we may arrive at a deeper understanding of the broader idea of justice. The lawyers and politicians who hand down our laws have studied poetry in school …

Democracy threatened by the torrent of the Internet

(Published in Village Magazine, July, 2016) We live in an age of digital ephemera that befuddles our wits and has thrown up the possibility of a Trump Presidency. Britain departs the European stage left after a campaign marred by misinformation. The siren sounds of advertising impel us to consume beyond what we need and Enlightened Despots in corporations exercise unaccountable …