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Recent review of Michael J. Whelan’s PEACEKEEPER by Daniel Wade

Peacekeeper, by Michael J. Whelan, Doire Press, 12.00, ISBN: 978-1-907682-46-9

'Peacekeeper' by Michael J. Whelan. Poetry collection published by Doire Press - April 2016

‘Peacekeeper’ by Michael J. Whelan. Poetry collection published by Doire Press – April 2016

Review by Daniel Wade.

In a 1732 letter addressed to Charles Wogan, Jonathan Swift wrote admiringly of the legions of displaced Irishmen who served in various European continental armies following the 1691 Treaty of Limerick (and whose mass departure from their homeland is known to history as the ‘Flight of the Wild Geese’), praising in particular the bravery of their decision to enlist: “I cannot but highly esteem those gentlemen of Ireland, who, with all the disadvantages of being exiles and strangers, have been able to distinguish themselves by their valour and conduct in so many parts of Europe, I think above all other nations.”

It is true that the Irish have a long history of fighting other nation’s wars. From the galloglaigh or ‘gallowglass’ corps of elite mercenaries deployed to assorted conflicts across mainland Europe in the 1500s, to the 40,000 documented Irish ex-pats who fought for the Union and the 20,000 who fought for the Confederacy during the American Civil War, the Republican and Blueshirt volunteers who signed up to fight one another in the Spanish Civil War, as well as the thousands who swelled the British Army’s ranks in WWI (and indeed, the countless more who wore a British Army uniform down the centuries), not to mention the 5,000 members of the Defence Forces who enlisted to fight in WWII, following Ireland’s officially neutral position in that particular conflict, and who were later branded deserters by the Irish government of the day upon their return. This isn’t even including the pioneering work undertaken by Irish-born war correspondents such as Peter Finnerty and Sir William Howard Russell, who covered the Napoleonic wars and the Crimean war respectively, as well as Samuel Beckett, who volunteered with the French Resistance in WWII and was awarded a Medaille de la Resistance for his efforts.

The nuance and increasingly complex gradations of Irish identity that resulted in this mass involvement with the military affairs of other nations is perhaps best summed up by Christopher St. Lawrence, the 10th Baron Howth and a captain in the Earl of Essex’s army during the Nine Years War, who, frustrated by the ridicule he received as both an Irish-born peer and a loyal follower of the Crown, declared: “I am sorry that when I am in England, I shall be esteemed an Irishman, and in Ireland, an Englishman. I have spent my blood, engaged and endangered my life, often to do her Majesty’s service, and do beseech to have it so regarded.”

To this end, it is no surprise that Irish poetry has rarely shied away from addressing bloodshed and the full effects of warfare. The Tain Bo Cuailnge arguably counts as the definitive Celtic war saga, while Piaras Feiritear, who fought in the Confederate Ireland wars, ranks as an invaluably early example of a soldier-poet writing in the Irish language. In the contest of the Easter Rising, Padraic Pearse, Joseph Plunkett and Thomas MacDonagh were each published poets, and the outpouring of poetic tribute to them subsequent to their executions, from authors as disparate as James Stephens, Katherine Tynan, AE and Francis Ledwidge, proved once more that poetry is instrumental in making sense of bloodshed’s aftermath throughout the nation’s most historic events.

Meanwhile, in the trenches of WW1, Tom Kettle and the aforementioned Ledwidge (both avowed nationalists) would become known for their poignant verses, if not for their direct depiction of the war itself, and would come to symbolise the loss of the Irish involvement of in the trenches. W.B. Yeats repeatedly addressed the thorny and troubling effects of the Easter Rising, the War of Independence, and the Civil War upon Irish life during both their duration and aftermath in poems such as ‘Easter 1916’, ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’, ‘The Second Coming’ and the long poetic sequence ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’ (and also infamously refused to write about WW1 in ‘On being asked for a War Poem’).

Later on, the growing sectarian tensions that would eventually culminate in the Northern Irish Troubles and the growing crisis of same is later on tackled by a plethora of poets such as Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon and Michael Longley (the latter in particular noting time and again the lingering after-effects of battle on his father, who had seen service in WW1). Yet for all this, and in spite of exquisitely exhaustive anthologies such as the 2009 Gerald Dawe-edited Earth Voices Whispering:An Anthology of Irish War Poetry 1914-1945, there is no longstanding equivalent tradition of Irish war poets to equal the pantheon ofthat encompassed Owen, Sassoon, Brooke, Gurney and Thomas.

Despite all this, and despite the long-standing stereotype of the ‘Fighting Irish’ embodied by the G.K. Chesterson line concerning the alleged inborn Gaelic readiness for battle:

 

For the great Gaels of Ireland

Are the men that God made mad:

For all their wars are merry

And all their songs are sad…

 

it is actually Ireland’s long association since the founding of the State with overseas peacekeeping operations that has proven to be its most prominent and exemplary martial endeavour on record. Following Ireland’s 1955 entry into the UN, the Irish Defence Forces has found itself involved in various peace support and crisis management missions, chiefly in the Middle East.  Irish peacekeeping missions, under the various auspices of UNFICYP (the Congo), UNDOF (Syria-Israel Border) and UNIFIL (Lebanon), to name but a few are examples of this tradition. Indeed, the recent return of Irish troops from the 50th Infantry Group, on April 7th, to Dublin Airport after a six-month deployment to the Golan Heights on behalf of UNDOF, indicates the currency of this aspect of Ireland’s international relations. Since the beginning of these operations, there have been 85 recorded deaths among Irish military personnel.

Hence, the debut collection of Tallaght-based poet Michael J. Whelan, entitled Peacekeeper, is the first such volume of poetry to address this fascinating if often-overlooked aspect of Irish history and current affairs. Whelan himself is a former member of the Irish Defence Forces and has seen service in South Lebanon and Kosovo as an Irish United Nations support operative. Because his poetry has the added credential of being authored by a former member of the Irish Defence Forces, it draws immediate comparisons with the poignant and often harrowing poetic accounts of modern warfare by contemporary American war poets Brian Turner (Here, Bullet) and Kevin Powers (Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting), both veterans of the Iraq War. As such, it is a slim and unassuming volume, but certainly not a trivial one.

Whelan is no propagandist, but nor is he condemnatory. He certainly details the horrors and attendant upset a war-zone will induce, and does so with an admirably unflinching eye. His poetic voice is that a survivor and an eye-witness, not of a triumphalist. The complex nature of being a soldier fighting to preserve the peace in a combat zone is an ever-present source of tension within the book. The work is brutal and thankless, yet necessary. There is no glory to be expected. Indeed, early on in the collection he writes,

 

I come in peace not victorious or triumphant

no palms will be thrown under my feet

when I enter the City of David. 

 

His poetry serves as a valuable and even historically-significant document of the Irish soldier’s experience in peacekeeping work. Arguably, Whelan proves that those most qualified to talk of war and war’s alarms are those who see it from the coalface, as in ‘Portal’, when he writes: “The rest is just history/shovelled down the neck of a hungry war feeding/on souls, a monster that’s never satisfied.”

Whelan makes it clear that he and his fellow soldiers are in as much as danger as those they either sent in to protect or fight. The human cost is never far away. The danger is ever-present, and is devoid of any glamour or adrenalin-inducing thrills that might be expected in a warzone. Whelan makes it clear that, for the peacekeeper, every footstep taken is risk for the peacekeeper whose only armour/was the feeble weave of a blue flag. Their status does not shield them from being shot or bombed (“Our presence does not halt their conflict), and in fact gives them a clear indication of both sides being equally lacking in compromise:

 

“…we who keep the middle ground will feel

the vibrations of their vengeance.”

 

In ‘Moral of the Story’ which details the shooting on an IDF checkpoint by a runaway squad of Hezbollah fighters fleeing the Israeli army, he states:

 

Peacekeepers in Lebanon may not always

hold the centre ground but they are always

caught in the middle.

 

Combined with these moments of heightened chaos, the boredom of down-time is mixed with the ever-present anxiety of sudden, random outbursts of carnage, as in the poem ‘Funeral’, where the speaker’s enjoyment of a televised World Cup match is interrupted by the sudden attack of Resistance fighters: “all commentary lost in emotions,/I reach for my helmet and gun,/in a moment the shells will start falling.”

But perhaps most poignantly is the aftermath of such encounters, as exemplified in ‘Prishtina’, wherein the speaker finds himself having to confront a seriously injured comrade after a detonation, and, in a space of a few short seconds, getting a glimpse of his and everybody’s mortality:

 

It was only a moment

but he looked into me.

Could see me as clearly

as I see him after all this time,

his eyes piercing my soul, 

digging deep.

 

This poem easily ranks among the collection’s best. It most clearly demonstrates Whelan’s ability to bring alive the most harrowing of scenes with the most economized of language. The helplessness of the situation described above is lessened only the mutual, unspoken understanding the two men come to have, an understanding which perhaps could not have been reached in less traumatic circumstances. The poem’s conclusion is terse and superficially matter-of-fact, but the reader is left with no doubt as the effect such an encounter will leave on the speaker: “I couldn’t help him/but I know he sees me,/like I can see dead people.”

As already stated, there is no prettification or avoidance of the sanguine realities of warfare in Peacekeeper. The imagery Whelan makes use of is visceral, uncompromising, cinematic and yet, the reader instinctively feels, somehow true to life, reaching a stark vividness on a par with the horrific nightmare-verses of Wilfred Owen. A boy buried in rubble is found by his grandmother: “his shrapnel body lashed to the ruins/and mixed with false promises,” fresh rain falls “to wash away the footprints of killers/and the hopes of the hurting,” a fatal wound is “the ball of his knee hanging,/attached by loose skin and gristle/and wrapped in a bloody white shirt.

But to counterbalance the carnage are the evocative landscapes in which Whelan the soldier finds himself deployed to. Binaries are in the very nature of peacekeeping, insofar as soldiers fighting to keep the peace is in itself a contradiction in terms. The sheer physical beauty of the Lebanese countryside acts as a fragile counterbalance to the carnage threatening to engulf it.

It is contrast that informs the collection’s longest poem and easily its thematic mission statement, Paradox of the Peacekeeper in the Holy Land, a prolonged and moving meditation on the long, diverse and complex nature of the land he has been sent to. Myth, history and current affairs are each brought to bear: Lebanon is “where Gilgamesh cleaved the cedars for his ships” as well as a place where “so much metal has been fired in this cauldron/from arrowheads and spears to icons and the corrupted jagged shards of bombs,/shrapnelled landmines and bullets.” In stanzas such as these, we see the landscape serve as a witness and a theatre to the chaos that has tainted and moulded its history, a history which Whelan knows is ongoing, where chariots are replaced by tanks, yet with the effect of these war-machines being much the same:

 

This is the land of the Canaanites,

the Phoenecians who traded from these beaches and ports

and I know it can never be as it was.

Alexander’s siege of Beirut can still be heard,

in the tracks of a tankthat replaced the chariot,

the bullet that replaced the arrow,

the rise and fall of empires.

 

Overall, Peacekeeper is a challenging, robust debut collection and a clear result of years of contemplating and traversing such disturbing terrain where violent death is an everyday occurrence. With these poems, Michael J. Whelan has achieved something very singular that deserves to be read by soldier and civilian alike.

Irish U.N. foot-patrol, Tibnine Castle, S. Lebanon 1994. Photo: Michael J. Whelan(L)

Irish U.N. foot-patrol, Tibnine Castle, S. Lebanon 1994. Photo: Michael J. Whelan(L)

 

Daniel’s review was originally published on writing.ie see  http://www.writing.ie/readers/peacekeeper-by-michael-j-whelan/

and on danielwadeauthor.com

 

 Reading The Lines – Easter 1916 Commemorative Edition

Really happy to have a poem included in this publication, where I and other poets took a line from the famous Yeats poem….check out the wonderful artwork too, enjoy!

live-encounters 1

live-encounters 1

“The idea behind Reading The Lines derives from William Butler Yeats’ Easter 1916. Poets  were invited to choose a line from this iconic work which resonated for them, either culturally, politically or historically. The chosen line was then given a new lease of poetic life, forming a transitional bridge from the now of 2016 to a century ago and the events which led up to or followed on from Ireland becoming a Republic.”
Eileen Casey, Irish Poet and Writer

 

Click here to connect to Live Encounters where you can read or download this beautiful publication for free!

 

 

Live-Encounters-Platform-One-Writers-Easter

Live-Encounters-Platform-One-Writers-Easter

 

Editor of Live Encounters, Mark Ulyseas, has served time in advertising as copywriter and creative director selling people things they didn’t need, a ghost writer for some years, columnist of a newspaper, a freelance journalist and photographer. In 2009 he created Live Encounters Magazine, in Bali, Indonesia. It is a not for profit (adfree) free online magazine featuring leading academics, writers, poets, activists of all hues etc from around the world. March 2016 saw the launch of its sister publication Live Encounters Poetry.

http://liveencounters.net/2016/05/10/live-encounters-poetry-reading-the-lines-easter-1916-commemorative-edition-2/

Michael J. Whelan & Rick O' Shea - presenter of the RTE Radio One Poetry Programme, Photo: Michael J. Whelan

Michael J. Whelan & Rick O’ Shea – presenter of the RTE Radio One Poetry Programme, Photo: Michael J. Whelan

 

So this is how my poetry day went yesterday – Wednesday 04 May 2016. First off I made my way to the Radio Telefis Eireann studios in Donnybrooke to meet Claire Cunningham – producer for the RTE Poetry Programme, where at 2.30pm I met and recorded an interview with the presenter Rick O’ Shea (pictured with myself holding a copy of ‘Peacekeeer’). I read three poems from the collection and discussed some of the poetry for the show, which will be broadcast in the autumn, thanks to Doire Press, and to Dave Lordan for helping with the interview topics.

 

Simon Lewis author of Jewtown and Michael J. Whelan author of PEACEKEEPER at BooksUpstairs, Photo: Michael J. Whelan

Simon Lewis author of Jewtown and Michael J. Whelan author of PEACEKEEPER at BooksUpstairs, Photo: Michael J. Whelan

 

After this I made my way to the James Joyce Library in University College Dublin (UCD) to meet Ursula Byrne and her team at 3.45pm, where I was filmed reading a number of poems for the ‘Poetry Reading Archive  http://libguides.ucd.ie/ipra .’ and afterwards I made my way back into the city for the Poetry Ireland / Éigse Éireann reading event at Books Upstairs for 6.30pm, where I read poems from my new PEACEKEEPER collection. Simon Lewis (photo 4&5) also read from his new collection ‘Jewtown’ (Doire Press) as did Rita Ann Higgins who read from her new collection. It was a great event and packed out to the gills.

So all in all I had a very long exciting day of poetry reading and events, discussions and recording/filming, which I enjoyed very much, thank you to Doire Press, The RTÉ Poetry Programme, the Poetry Reading Archive at UCD, PoetryIreland and everybody involved in making it happen… Michael

 

Michael J. Whelan - Poet, South Lebanon -1994

Michael J. Whelan – Poet, South Lebanon -1994

 

I’m very lucky and honoured to be taking part in the May ‘Poems Upstairs’ Event in Dublin City tomorrow evening (Wednesday).

Rita Ann Higgins will read from her new collection ‘Tongulish’ and will be joined by two poets published by Doire Press: Simon Lewis, who will read from his debut collection ‘Jewtown’, and myself  – Michael J. Whelan who will read from ‘Peacekeeper’. Simon is from Carlow and won the Hennessy Prize for Poetry last year. I will read some poems from my debut poetry collection, which revolve around the personal and collective experiences from my time as a UN Peacekeeper in Lebanon and Kosovo.

Yes I am very lucky and honoured to be where I am now, and to be reading in ‘Books Upstairs,’ D’Olier Street in Dublin City tomorrow evening (Wednesday) with Rita Ann Higgins and Simon Lewis as part of the ‘Poetry Upstairs Poetry Ireland / Éigse Éireann reading series’ and I am very much looking forward to meeting them both.

So.. everyone is welcome to come along to ‘Books Upstairs’
Tomorrow evening (Wednesday) May 4 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Tickets are €6 and include a glass of wine to help the poetry go down…he he.

 

Please see link below for details or pay at the door

http://www.poetryireland.ie/whats-on/poems-upstairs-rita-ann-higgins

Hi all, this is the first published review of PEACEKEEPER and is available also on the Doire Press website, details below!

'Peacekeeper' by Michael J. Whelan. Poetry collection published by Doire Press - April 2016

‘Peacekeeper’ by Michael J. Whelan. Poetry collection published by Doire Press – April 2016

 

 

Review of PeaceKeeper by Michael J. Whelan
– by Rob Buchanan

Let’s get something out of the way. Sometimes readers are put off by poetry collections which seemingly hinge on one theme. The military for example. Fortunately Michael J Whelan’s debut offering Peacekeeper has enough variety in its presentation of scenarios, its reportage and its reminiscences to maintain interest and guarantee it many rereading’s whether or not the topic war is your usual predilection.

Much could be made of the unique perspective that Whelan’s previous profession brings to the subject. He served in the Irish Defence Forces as a UN peacekeeper in South Lebanon and Kosovo. But it’s as important to realise that the poet’s authority comes as much from his own fatherhood and humanity as from his military role. Equally the uses of metaphor and perspective seen throughout the collection are as informed by his other profession, as a military historian. There’s a fascination for small details, bits of beauty and grace. And a certain uneasy neutrality and detachment.The poems show a respect for the locals as fellow fathers and sons, wives and daughters, tinged with regret at their aggression as combatants in interminable disastrous warfare. Violence directed both toward each other and the peacekeepers.

Frequently grim this first collection from Whelan has enough peppering’s of beauty to keep it from being a masochistic carnival. There is neither a glorification of war nor a fetishisation of weaponry. When guns and bombs are described it is almost as if read from a bestiary. Works like “Distant Whisper” and “Through the Steyr AUG….” elegantly point out the near mystical quality of how a gun can undo the miracle of life. Mostly we see the combatants in a non-judgmental pragmatic perspective of the outsider. When the conflicts are viewed in the context of comparison with the poet’s home in Dublin Whelan just about maintains an unsentimental longing. There is neither the flowery existential despair of Sassoon nor the baroque metaphysics of Brooke. We are seeing the inglorious chaperoning of local savagery instead of the blazing guns and wholesale slaughter of world war yet even outside the confluence of global history, we are in the rock pools whose tempests are no less terrible for their scale.

Whelan’s soldier boots are metaphorically and literally firmly on the ground, whether it be the desert sands of Lebanon or the grimy rubble of Kosovo. The language doesn’t run away with him. The text is usually short, especially when presenting the understated vignettes of wonder or horror. There are rare scenes of near normality like “Showing the Flag” that offer contrast. The verse is often sophisticated while keeping a vulnerability about it. The colour palette shifts from the sandy yellows and whites of arid deserts in the Middle East tinged with biblical mysticism to the grungy greys and blacks of urban Eastern Europe flavoured with the depressing familiar tasted of war.

Perhaps the title of the collection itself most laconically describes the predicament of the underlying theme. Peacekeeping. The transience and fragile nature of security. Whether its manifested in the vulnerability of children in the face of conflict or the chaos and physical disorder that can be wrought by explosives and shifting allegiances. The irreparable undoing of destruction and disorder and the Sisyphus-like task of the UN Peacekeeper trying to separate and restore. The paradox of all the effort being only a temporary denouement, a sticking plaster over a wound that mankind will inevitably scratch open again for a new generation to bloody. The geopolitical as well as the moral position of UN Peacekeepers in these foreign lands is best summed up by the final line of the poem “Moral of the Story”: Peacekeepers [in Lebanon] may not always hold the centre ground but they are always caught in the middle.

Khalil Gibran , ever the witness and watcher of men, is oft quoted and fittingly so. The Lebanese poet was notoriously indirect with his messages and parables much like the code talking Middle Eastern nationals is alluded to in “Irish Martyrs in Lebanon.” Likewise the allusions to biblical locations and their supposed bucolic Arcadian properties are held in contrast to the conflicts in those much promised lands. There are so many stark stories and low key gory details that stick in the mind. But beyond those there are some stand out pieces which will linger long after the understandable repulsion of the blood. “Critical Outcome” has the reader drawn psychically as well as physically in to the brain of a prone soldier, mentally wincing as he imagines being shot in the head. It triggers a primal reflex, self-preservation and leaves you wondering how you would feel lying there. A companion piece for that poem would be “Mosaic” where we see the all too visceral reality which spawns the fearful scenarios that soldiers torment and protect themselves with. Again in both of these pieces there is an attempt at detached explanations of the weapons. A disassociation, even shame at bearing them. “Broken Spade” and “Question” are haunting tombstones that have a timeless quality.

“Tour of Duty”  is a great example of how uncomfortably close we can come to losing our cosy safety as the reader and being superimposed by Whelan in to a time and place where corporeal security is as fragile as sanity. Where the human body is placed prey-like before the awe inspiring weapons. The weapons have no conscience and are blameless. Violence creates chaos, and the uncertainty subverts domestic life. Even the seemingly solid protection of homes, institutions are unsafe because they are prey to bombs and bullets as readily as flesh is. An interesting metaphor for the unwinnable exercise of rebuilding and defending is offered by the sandbags in “Portal.”

“An Irish Peacekeeper on the Coast Road….” includes another quote from Gibran, and it imbibes the immediacy of the sense experiences of travelling through ancient lands towards a biblical city. It places the timeless nature of the role of a liberating or peacekeeping soldier. The misunderstood and sometimes naïve outsider who treads the thin neutral line between sworn enemies. In the observance of his thankless and deadly task it’s easy to forget that this foreigner is also a tourist of sorts. He is a visitor who is not immune to the beauty and history that is inseparable from the theatre of war he performs in. He is a young Irish father abroad. Wide eyed, candid and self-consciously terrified at times. “Phosphorous Dreams” and “Wild Juice” further elaborate on this dimension of the husband attempting to reintegrate and demob. The realities of PTSD are nodded towards. Even so we are left wondering at how frequently the soldier’s dream of home only to return home and dream immediately of being back in battle, for better or for worse. There are unforgettable images in “Grapes of Wrath” and “Chocolate” but less on the nose. As a father himself Whelan’s sincere sense of empathy for the most vulnerable victims of war, children, is apparent in pieces like the aforementioned Chocolate and Deliverance and especially heart wrenching in “The Soldier’s Face”. The last six lines of “Liberators” in particular is almost post-apocalyptic. Although sympathetic and almost righteous the tone never turns saccharine.

Occasionally disturbing, frequently enlightening and always beautiful Whelan’s verse is deceptively simple even when studded with military tech and biblical illusions. It’s easy to imagine how close to home this collection will hit for both those involved in the military and their families. There will be many previously inarticulate memories and emotions stirred up and perhaps it may even lay certain ghosts to rest when readers see a kindred spirit and realise their own nightmares and treasured memories are part of the burden of peacekeeping. But no military experience is required to take value from this collection. Neither triumphalist glorification of war or apologist travelogue of exotic lands, there is still a humanity which makes the grueling bleakness worthwhile. Peacekeeper is not a pleasant read, and it shouldn’t be. Whelan’s is a vivid and unique voice with an insightful vulnerable masculinity. I look forward to reading more from Whelan in the future.

 

see http://www.doirepress.com/writers/m_z/review_of_peacekeeper/

…. when my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written. I have done. – (extract from the speech of the Irish Patriot Robert Emmet prior to his execution 1803).

 

Tieing history, peacekeeping and poetry together…

 

Lt Gearoid O' Briain with a signed copy of PEACEKEEPER in the Air Corps Museum on Poetry Ireland Day 2016.  Photo: Michael J. Whelan

Lt Gearoid O’ Briain with a signed copy of PEACEKEEPER in the Irish Air Corps Museum on Poetry Ireland Day 2016. Photo: Michael J. Whelan

 

Well today is Poetry Day in Ireland and it was a really fantastic day for me on the literary and history side of things as it falls in the middle of the Centenary week of the 1916 Rising (calendar). The Irish Defence Forces (and Irish Air Corps, of which I am a member) requested and posted some poems and images from my recently published collection ‘PEACEKEEPER,‘ (Doire Press); and they did a great job putting the pieces into context on their facebook and twitter pages. I’m very happy indeed to have this support from the defence forces, it means a lot.

The other really cool thing that happened today was that Lieutenant Gearoid O’ Briain came down to the Air Corps Museum, where I work, to purchase a copy of PEACEKEEPER from me and to get me to sign it for him, which I did. I also asked him if I could take a photo of him with the book as this was an important occasion for me as a writer and historian because you see not only is Gearoid a flying instructor in the Irish Air Corps, he also led the parade carrying the national colours of Ireland for the state commemorations of the 1916 Centenary at Easter this year. He is also the Great-Grandson of Cathal Brugha and Great-Grandnephew of Terence MacSwiney both of whom are very famous Irish patriots involved in the 1916 Rising and the revolutionary period as well being intrinsically tied into the Irish historical narrative. He is also a very humble and terribly nice guy and I’m really glad that I got the opportunity to come to know him over the last number of years.

The quote above is taken from the words of the other famous Irish patriot Robert Emmet, which he spoke from the courtroom dock just before he died, and it’s those words, which I use here, to tie my collection of poems about the experiences of Irish citizens engaged on international peace support missions across the globe for the last fifty eight years through Lt Gearoid O’ Briain, the Irish Defence Forces, peacekeeping and all the strands of history and symbolism which crossed over in the Air Corps Museum at Baldonnel today on Poetry Ireland Day.

Baldonnel (Casement Aerodrome as it is now) is the location where the first Irish troops to serve on United Nations peacekeeping service in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (1960-61) departed from in 1960 and where many still fly out to various peace support missions around the world to this day.

 

Lt Gearoid O' Briain with a signed copy of PEACEKEEPER in the Air Corps Museum on Poetry Ireland Day 2016.  Photo: Michael J. Whelan

Lt Gearoid O’ Briain with a signed copy of PEACEKEEPER in the Air Corps Museum next to Colonel James FitzMaurice – Atlantic Conqueror on Poetry Ireland Day 2016.                Photo: Michael J. Whelan

 

Peacekeeping is just one form, but a very important manifestation, of Ireland taking her place among the nations of the Earth!

I would like to say a big THANK YOU to the Irish Defence Forces and Air Corps Press offices and to Lt Gearoid O’ Briain for today, #PoetryDayIRL

Michael

poetry ireland doire press - day offer

Poetry Ireland – doire press – Poetry Day Special Offer

 

Hi all, just to let you know that in honour of Poetry Ireland Day today Thursday 28th April Doire Press the publishers of my recent poetry collection ‘Peacekeeper’ are offering a special deal.

For one day only (in association with Poetry Ireland), you can purchase one of the recent titles from their website and you’ll get another free,

please see poster and link below for details of this fantastic deal,

take care,

Michael

http://www.doirepress.com/Poetry_ireland_day_offer/

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