Productivity of Culture

Poetry Reading by Michael D. Higgins

Wednesday 17 October 2007

19.00 - 22.00


Poetry Reading by Michael D. Higgins

at Athens Centre

48, Archimidous Street116 36 Athens Greece
Tel: 210 7015242, 210 7012268

organised by the Greek-Irish Society

Michael D. Higgins is one of those unusual politicians who takes to poetry but which is not unusual for Ireland. When Seamus Heaney accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature, he said that this came about not merely because of his own poetry, but due to three generations of Irish poets.

Michael D. Higgins comes from Galway, a city akin to Gaelic as much as to the English language. That difference is of importance if European cultures are to be recognized and understood in terms of their own cultural diversities. As former Minister of Culture, Michael D. Higgins made this decision to secure the continuity of the Gaelic language by creating the institution of a Gaelic Television and Media Center to promote the language. Without such a powerful ally, there would not be this encouragement to read, to write and to speak in the Gaelic language even though between 40 to 60% of the population of Galway use it in daily communication.

The first encounter with Michael D. Higgins was during the CIED conference held in Galway 17 - 18th of October 1997. He continued from then on to upgrading CIEd in what relates to the objective of making use culture without thereby abusing it (Brendan Kennelly). Twice he came to conferences in Leipzig, the second time in June 1999 just after the bombardment of Kosovo and which prompted Michael D. Higgins there are several words no longer spoken in Europe, one of them being 'human kindness'. With his speech in Leipzig, he made possible a bridge of understanding between the rest of Europe and the Greek delegation at the conference. The latter were outraged by the bombardment and wanted to express fully their anti-Europe attitudes but which turned as well into an anti-Politician tirade of criticism. At this point, Michael D. Higgins stood up angrily and said he as a politician has every right to defend the ethics of his profession and he would not stand for this placing all the blame on all politicians for what is the state of affairs in this world.

When he came to Athens in 2000 to mark a day of culture thanks to a first invitation by Spyros Mercouris, he outlined a practical agenda as wished for, so his thoughtfulness, by Hatto Fischer. That demand still stands as he would repeat this major point during his presentation at the ECCM Symposium in the day following his poetry reading at Athens Centre, namely that the thesis developed by Rod Fisher and others in their book "In from the Margin" still stands today in a Europe hardly attentive to culture and the needs people have for authenticity in culture. Michael D. Higgins links this to 'integrity of memory'. This can be reflected in a poem he read that evening to the very same theme, and always he would add not as a politician, but as a poet he would know immediately like Michael Longley, Seamus Heaney or Brendan Kennelly, 'when a poem is made!'

HF 9.7.2010


And as Ricoeur said
'To be removed from memory
is to die twice.'
Nor should it be allowed
to make an amnesia
of violence.
An amnesty is enough
for the detail.
And who knows whether,
if in time
such a healing is possible
as would make an evening
of forgiveness
worth the going on.
We make an affirmation.
The stuff of hope beckons.
Out of the darkness
we step,
and blink into the new light.

Michael D. Higgins

(taken from "An Arid Season", New Island, 2004)

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