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Rogue States

Fred Johnston

ISBN: 978-1-912561-25-4

Page Count: 74

Publication Date: Saturday, November 17, 2018

About this Book

‘Fred Johnston’s new collection proceeds from a generous and enhanced awareness of poetry as a human necessity for good living.’
Noel Monahan

‘What is most impressive about Fred Johnston’s work is how it speaks volumes for this conflicted age we find ourselves in, when short attention spans fatigue even the liveliest. Johnston helps us to focus on what is tearing us apart, egging us on, and asks for loyalty where we have division, and where sometimes we need compassion, as he is holding on to hope as best he can.  To heal this hard matter requires our gravest attention and our sorest need.’    
Rosemarie Rowley

The phrase ‘rogue states’ has been conjured up with deadly purpose, by major world powers, in particular the United States, to describe weaker countries who have fallen out of favour with the West, some of whom enjoyed the role of client states for many years, or were permitted to rule despotically under the benevolent threat of ‘regime change’ if they in any way proved politically or economically difficult. Issues of human rights never entered into it. Johnston’s new collection of poems adopts the phrase and personalises it; serious illness is seen as a ‘rogue state,’ a usurpation of the lived ordinary, a demolishing of physical and moral routine, a form of invasion. In illness, as in civil turmoil, civilising rules are often turned upside down or disregarded, a powerful and selfish striving for survival develops. Other poems take on the mundane everyday, the speculative, and contemplate the uses of the poetic imagination in a society where, in the poet’s view, poetry itself is under siege and its use and importance reset. Politics and society can never be outside or beyond the poet’s critical reach. At a time when poets and writers in less humanitarian societies than our own can still suffer – and are suffering – imprisonment, the banning of their work, or much worse, we have, he would maintain, a duty to use our freedom to speak out against injustice, even at the risk of being labelled ‘rogue’ ourselves. 

Author Biography

Fred Johnston was born in Belfast in 1951. Most recently, his poems have appeared in The Spectator, The New Statesman, and a short story in Stand magazine; some more new work is also due to appear there. In 1972, he received a Hennessy Literary Award for prose. In the mid-Seventies, with Neil Jordan and Peter Sheridan, he co-founded The Irish Writers’ Co-operative (Co-Op Books.) In 2002, he was a co-recipient of the Prix de l’Ambassade, Ireland. His most recent collection of short stories, Dancing In The Asylum, was published by Parthian.  In 1986, he founded Galway’s annual literature festival, Cúirt; in 2002, he was writer-in-residence to the Princess Grace Irish Library at Monaco. Fred has published nine collections of poems, four novels and two collections of short stories, one of which has been translated into French. He has also composed poetry in French and published it in France in magazines such as Ouste, Hopala!, Le Moulin de Poésie and Le Grognard, among others. 

Read a sample from this book

A Poem For You

Do not tell me my name
Only my tongue is strong enough to carry it

Do not open my door
My heart alone has the key

Do not measure my acre
Only my stride is long enough

Do not look over my wall
Only these eyes can see that far

Do not stare at my children
For only my eyes can see them

Do not plough my fields
For my earth will not yield to you

Do not harm my olive tree
For it is watered by my blood

Do not wound my flesh
For the mark is inscribed on your soul

Do not offer words to humble me
For no language can drown my shout

Do not tell me where I live
For I know every inch of my own flesh

Do not call me invisible
You cannot see the wind when it blows

Do not offer me vinegar for wine
Nothing is as bitter as the taste in my mouth

Do not offer me sand for bread
For I will make bread even from sand

Do not tell me who I am
For I am written in the Book of the World.

Written for the visit of the Lajee Dabka Dancers to Galway, from the Aida refugee camp in Palestine.

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