Picnic at Áras an Uachtaráin

As I write the inauguration ceremony for president elect, Michael D. Higgins is taking place and I thought this opportunity for formally thanking this country , Ireland, for the generous hospitality that I have received in all these years. It is about time I did so since this great little island has enabled me to do what I do with great joy and satisfaction.

I am very excited about the appointment of Michael D. and thankful to the Irish people for electing him. Nothing pleases me more than having a poet as a president, a man of the ‘mind and heart’ and whose unique vocabulary repeatedly includes words and sentences like “the flowering of creativity in all its forms”, “celebrate all possibilities”, “being young in Ireland” and “Ireland as a seabed of creativity and expression”.

I feel that the future is a bit rosier, and not only for the Arts, and that the ‘transformation’ the president is repeatedly talking about is possible. In other words I feel I am in the right country and happy to stay while making my humble contribution. (I am not talking only about paying my taxes).

During the electoral campaign I retrieved from my shelves a book of poetry by Michael D. titled ‘The Season of Fire’ with powerful black and white illustrations by Mick Mulcahy. Back in 1993 when this book was being published I was a graphic designer and in our company, the Graphiconies, we used to design many book covers. So my claim to fame now is that I got to design a book cover for the President of Ireland and my copy is now resting on my coffee table. It will be for at least the next seven years.

I never got a chance to ask Michael D. to sign the copy for me but you never know, one day I might cycle up to Áras an Uachtaráin with my picnic basket full of words and ask the president to come out and share a sandwich of them with me sitting on his rug on the grass.

See below my favourite poem from ‘The Picnic’ from ‘The Season of Fire’.

The Season of Fire, a book of poetry by Michael D. Higgins

The Picnic

I have taken my basket of language

to a quiet place.

I stretch out my rug

on the grass

I remember

as a child.

I note,

even in their disorder,

how well they’ve travelled

in their sealed containers,

my words.

Looking at their variety,

as a cloud passes,

I remember

I’ve savoured them all before.

As I contemplate

the meaning

of “al fresco”

the clouds close in

and I remember

I am not hungry

anymore.

That hunger from another season

of the senses

was a fantasy

destroyed

by effort

at re-creation.