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Branding Ireland, one poem at a time

By Harriet Staff

Taoiseach Brian Cowen, the head of government in Ireland, recently placed the onus on poets to get the country “back on track.” Ireland is a “brand” and the arts are essential to defining it, he reasoned in a speech announcing the appointment of Harry Clifton as Ireland Professor of Poetry. Was Cowen’s call for Irish poets to show their country some love for the sake of economic prosperity out of line? Is he a lowbrow philistine, or just a savvy politician? Edna O’Doherty at the Irish Times questions whether or not poets should commodify their craft for the sake of their nation.

From the Irish Times:

“Ireland is a brand,” [Taoiseach] added. “Our country, her landscape and her culture, are known the world over. We must connect with that brand now and use it to give us the competitive advantage in a globalized world that is increasingly the same.”

Most of the negative comments on the Taoiseach’s speech focused on his use of the concept of “brand”. One senior poet, Derek Mahon, warned against the commodification of the arts and attempts to use them in building “brand Ireland,” an idea he regarded as essentially “dense and philistine.” Some attention, however, might also be paid to the phrase “back on track.” It would seem to be an article of faith for the Taoiseach and his Government – and, to be fair, probably also for most people who voted for them – that getting back on track, returning to that glorious age of loadsamoney that fizzled out two years ago, is what we are all praying for nightly . . .


Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, August 12th, 2010 by Harriet Staff.