These are poems that seem to come together almost organically in, I hope, the one voice that, as Irish poet Brendan Kennelly has said, is always with the poet once he/she has formed it, irrespective of time. They were intended as the last sequence in my big collection, Shot Silks, due to be published by Waterloo Press. However, as I am adding more poems to this group, and fitting in others, I now think I will make this sequence, entitled ‘Pledge Badges’ into a separate collection.
Pledge Badges are worn by those who give up alcohol for the love of God in Ireland. I was attacked, as a student in Dublin, by a taxi driver sporting a pledge badge, therefore there is a certain satire or irony in the title. The sequence will be headed by a poem, ‘Dirty Old Men of Dublin’ which happened to be a runner-up in the National Poetry Competition in the early 1990s. (I have only gone in for this competition three times and came up lucky with my winning poem, ‘Clothes that escaped The Great War’ a couple of years ago).
In general, I explore being half Irish and half English (and brought up in both countries), or ‘divided in the vein’ as Derek Walcott puts it, and because this seems particularly relevant today, I somehow, right now, have a gush of energy in addressing this theme more fully. Looking into the Irish side of my family’s past (which could be any family), I have discovered not only wonderful High Kings of Munster (my father always told us we were princesses of Munster, even though the name ‘McCarthy’ is on practically every small shop front all over County Cork!), but also one or two hidden, glossed-over characters. One of these is a great grandfather, in a poem not yet finished, entitled ‘Under the carpet’ who was actually imprisoned for three years because of the drink.
Because I am so busy as an editor, my own writing is usually squeezed in, perversely, just when I am up against a deadline and a devil in me insists I put pen to paper exactly when I shouldn’t.