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Poets for president!

Michael D. Higgins, the new president of Ireland

Today Ireland inaugurated a new president — Michael D. Higgins. Higgins is 71 years old. He is a supporter of the Labour party. He is an intellectual, and he is a poet. Few countries other than Ireland are capable of electing a poet for president.

Ireland seems to be returning to its senses after years of whoring itself out to international corporations. When the boom turned to a bust, Ireland’s “business friendly” government bailed out banks with taxpayer money. This was a direct bailout in which taxpayers took on bad debts, not merely an extension of government-backed loans. Consequently, austerity is now the rule for ordinary people in Ireland, though rich bankers took no losses. Once again, Ireland’s population is declining as people move elsewhere, now that the boom is over. The unemployment rate is 14.4 percent.

Predictably, this awful misgovernment led to a backlash. Higgins has promised that he will govern from values other than wealth. Considering his history and his character, he might just keep that promise.

A columnist for London’s conservative newspaper The Telegraph, which doesn’t like Higgins’ kind, made fun of Higgins poetry. I strongly suspect, though, that the Irish wouldn’t trade a turnip for what the banker-loving Telegraph thinks. (I certainly wouldn’t.)

Here is one of Higgins’ poems.

When Will My Time Come

When will my time come for scenery
And will it be too late?
After all
Decades ago I was never able
To get excited
About filling the lungs with ozone
On Salthill Prom.

And when the strangers
To whom I gave a lift
Spoke to me of the extraordinary
Light in the Western sky;
I often missed its changes.
And, later, when words were required
To intervene at the opening of Art Exhibitions,
It was not the same.

What is this tyranny of head that stifles
The eyes, the senses,
All play on the strings of the heart.

And, if there is a healing,
It is in the depth of a silence,
Whose plumbed depths require
A journey through realms of pain
That must be faced alone.
The hero, setting out,
Will meet an ally at a crucial moment.
But the journey home
Is mostly alone.

When my time comes
I will have made my journey
And through all my senses will explode
The evidence of light
And air and water, fire and earth.

I live for that moment.

— Michael D. Higgins

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