In 1977, Padraic Fiacc – perhaps the greatest urban poet ever to come out of Belfast in our modern times, wrote a remarkable poem called ‘An attempt on his life’ *. Fiacc didn’t just write about the Irish war. For example, he was a great poet of myth, and myth busting also, but he is very much a ‘Troubles’ poet. ‘An attempt on his life’ embraces the savage irony of being a subject of close up state brutality. The almost loving attention of a torturer being preferred to the “Hidebound silences of the others/So slyly passing by with their noses/High up in the cleaner air.”
Of course, I am making no analogy between a torturer and the Irish Times, though the ridiculous ‘Property Section’ can sometimes have that momentary affect on me. Rather, I am highlighting the savage importance for artists of not being ignored. This is especially true of writers who do not mix in literary circles and – like me – literally and metaphorically live and create at the margins of Irish life. Margins, though, can be at the centre of things, or become the centre of things, and I believe that my novel ‘Éilis from the flats’ sounds the depths of the marginalised and gives them new life and hope. Places them at the centre. Or at least, some kind of point where they are anointed with dignity. The Irish Times has accepted the validity of my creation and my artistic vision by choosing to study it in depth. That is a precious gift in the process of discourse that all artists seek.
I will make no comment on the opinions expressed by the reviewer, Joanne Hayden. For that is a sacred contract between the reviewer and the readers who take ‘Éilis from the flats’ into their hands and all parties to that profound literary and social contract must make their own minds up and draw their own conclusions. I was inspired to place a group of characters and life experiences into a particular environment and range of motivations and explore where that would take me. They will take to my stage again as actors in a hexalogy of novels – six books. It is for readers themselves to judge whether I have succeeded artistically; whether I have created a valuable vision from what was not there before – the miracle of art.
For her part, the reviewer does exactly what literary critics are supposed to do. My literary approach is thoroughly assessed and pointers to an underlying style, or set of styles in my case, are analysed; is the narrator omniscient and is he or she the voice of the author; is there one central character, or more than one; are the characters and their worlds believable; can the author craft and plot this story successfully and what is the underlying ‘message’. This latter point provides the opening lines of Joanne Hayden’s review, which can be read here (subscription only I’m afraid):
There will be a number of launch parties Ireland for ‘Éilis from the flats’ and I will give notice of these at a later date.
Carraic, Dún na nGall
* See for ex ‘An attempt on his life’ – Semper Vacare collection, Padraic Fiacc, Lagan Press, 1999