KARL PARKINSON is a writer many Irish men and women of letters secretly think should not exist. This is partly the snobbery of the well fed, who dominate the deciding echelons of conventional literary taste-making.
It is a mentality which believes there is no place in Irish poetry for someone who grew up in a part of Dublin where males of his generation are more likely to end up in Mountjoy than Trinity.
Many Irish literary heads consider themselves radicals; in most cases this amounts to not much more than the fact that they would give anything to meet Meghan Markle. Such people accept the class system as a given in the way that most people in 18th century England accepted slavery or French peasants before 1789 accepted the divine right of the Bourbons.
In his new collection, Sacred Symphony, published by Culture Matters, poems like ‘One Man Tent’ mercilessly confront the reader with the fact the class system is not something imagined up by People Before Profit, but a real and violent and intolerable thing for many.
Parkinson’s poetry makes these people visible, and gives them voice: “Here I can dream of my old life,/the factory floor, Marie my wife/before the cancer ate at her liver”. The closing stanza moves into savage Swiftian mode: “Living in a one man tent,/nobody can f**k me out/all they can do is come collect/when I keel over or freeze,/and the crows can eat out my eyes,/and the rats can chew out my tongue,/and the Devil and his minions be done.”
The stunning 11 page tour-de-force ‘The People Died', is clearly influenced by Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl. However, the trance inducing Beat style mantra is toughened up considerably by a strong dose of Dublin brutality, of which the aforementioned Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral would have been proud:
“They died eating Coco Pops, and starting the day with an Actimel/...They died while tweeting lies about immigrants and queers/...They died jerking off to Tik Tok in their one bedroom council flat/...They died of cervical cancer they were told they did not have...”
In one section Parkinson takes fabulous aim at the Irish poetry world’s equivalents of the Oireachtas Golf Society: “You are the murderers of poetry:/your lines wait like creeps in alleyways,/...your stanzas so boring they make a glory of ironing...” Karl Parkinson is a poet still learning his trade, and his poetry is too urgent to be flawless, but this collection is a near masterpiece of revolutionary intent.