November 2011 | Nate Pedersen

Poet Politicians

As you may have heard by now, Ireland just elected a poet to the presidency. Michael D. Higgins, a former lecturer at the University College Galway, and a published poet, crept up from behind to win over a million votes and become the ninth President of Ireland.

The poet also has the political chops to justify the election--Higgins has been an MP for 25 years and was Ireland's Arts and Culture Minister in the 1990s. Furthermore, he has a laudable background in human rights issues.
But back to the poetry. Higgins has published three collections of poetry, in addition to placing poems in a number of journals. The first collection, The Betrayal (1990), was followed by The Season of Fire (1993), and An Arid Season (2004). A volume of new and selected poetry was released earlier this year. And if collecting the poetic endeavors of politicians is your game, all of the books are available on the cheap. For example, signed copies of The Season of Fire can be had for about $20.00, with signed copies of The Betrayal coming in for close to $30.00.

I think a collection of books by politician-poets would be quite interesting and I imagine Ireland's contribution to that list would be impressive. W. B. Yeats, of course, was an Irish Senator and published a poem or two in his lifetime. From America, we can contribute Jimmy Carter, who published the collection Always a Reckoning in 1995. (And Barack Obama published a couple poems in his undergraduate days). From France, we have Dominic de Villepin, a career politician and published poet. And from South Africa, we have Mongane Serote, who had an impressive literary career before dabbling in politics.

And who else? What other poet politicians are lurking (or have lurked) in our mists?