In today’s (December 6 2012) edition of the Galway Advertiser (Galway, Ireland’s free weekly paper), my friend the poet Kevin Higgins reviews Future Blues, along with our mutual Salmon Poetry press-mate Patrick Chapman’s A Promiscuity of Spines. The review appears on page 112, and can be read here (click link then scroll down).
Below, transcribed is the part of the text which deals with Future Blues:
Children of The Burning Bush
By Kevin Higgins
Michael S Begnal lived here in Galway for several years and was editor of The Burning Bush literary magazine. Mike was keen to push the boundaries of Irish poetry and impatient with well made but dull lyric epiphanies about family, church, or the field across the road.
Mike’s view has been that too many Irish poets are nice boys and girls with excellent degrees who write acceptable little poems more designed to impress the poet’s parents than do anything else. He’s interested in the wayward strand of Irish poetry typified by the work of the late James Liddy, whose poems are perhaps the place where Allen Ginsberg meets Patrick Kavanagh at his most raucous.
If you think poetry should rhyme and be about girls with flaming red hair going to school barefoot through the fields, then Mike’s new collection Future Blues (Salmon Poetry) is definitely not for you.
In poems such as ‘Dead Rabbits’ Begnal doesn’t take the easy route of obvious autobiography, but instead disturbs the reader with images and makes us think: “mouths stained green with chlorophyll,/ the corpses lined the roadside then// the economy warped in its spasms,/ died or passed to America.”
He really gets into his stride in the longer poems, ‘Homage To Allen Kirkpatrick’ – which runs to four pages – and the Ginsberg style ‘Manifesto’: “WHEREAS/ they want to kill us—/ even now when I stand/ with my back to the window/ it’s like I might get shot/through the blinds.”
Here and there Begnal shows he shares Ginsberg’s weakness for profound sounding, abstract words, such as “transmigration” and “genealogies”. All in all, though, a strong collection. If you like Tom Waits’ stranger albums, then Future Blues may well be the poetry book for you.