Poet in Profile: Kevin Barrington

Photo of Kevin Barrington by Conor Horgan.

Photo of Kevin Barrington by Conor Horgan.

It is with great pleasure – and with grave reservation at having to resort to the use of clichés – that I introduce this issue’s Poet in Profile as ‘No Stranger to Controversy’. It is maybe a little too cheap and easy a way to introduce Kevin Barrington to NewsFour readers, so to avoid sensationalism, let’s start with the context and work forward to the poetry.

Kevin, pictured right, spent much of the 1990s as a journalist, a foreign correspondent in far-flung locations like Cambodia, the Congo and the Cote d’Ivoire, before moving to the American West Coast, to Hollywood, and entering the advertising industry.

He continued with this new career until around three years ago when, like many of us, he was made unexpectedly redundant. Kevin explains that, through his life, he has had three over-riding ambitions. “Well, three ambitions and one sort of meta-ambition: to never become embittered!” The three more specific goals were to work as a foreign correspondent, to work in advertising and to write a book.

“I remember seeing John Cooper Clarke [a British punk-era spoken word artist sometimes referred to as the Punk Poet Laureate] when I was younger, and thinking that was someone I wanted to be, or at least be like.”

Kevin is well-known on the Dublin scene and beyond for his vivid spoken word performances, and his engaged discussion of politics through the medium of poetry. He describes his family, with tongue in cheek, as “all revolutionaries” on his mother’s side and his father’s family as “Fenians who gradually evolved into Constitutional Lawyers over four or five generations.”

Last year, he released an ebook, I Love the Internet, which emerged from an unusual political fray. “I was being sued for libel by the politician Declan Ganley, over a few ironic tweets I put out on Twitter. With the libel laws in the country being what they are, I was told that I didn’t stand a chance of winning. When the news went public, I was approached by a member of a forum called PoliticalWorld.org, who wouldn’t be fans of politicians like Ganley, and so all of a sudden I had this nice international team who wanted to help me put together a book.

The ebook was launched in May 2013 and Kevin describes himself as delighted with the reception. “There are audio sections in the book, which I enjoy performing.” Some of these are available to view on YouTube.

Kevin’s poem, Sovereign Once Again, made some waves late last year, on sites such as Broadsheet.ie. An ironic response to the announcement that Ireland’s debt management programme was no longer controlled by the Troika, Kevin explains that “I was actually in Cavan, in a taxi. The driver had a sort of verbal tic so he would repeat things he had said three times. Once I heard him say ‘taken to the rope taken to the rope taken to the rope’, I thought ‘this is too perfect’ and just had to include it.”

Currently, he is in the process of assembling a new book, for both print and ebook formats, and work is also being done towards making short films of some of the poems, “hopefully in time to enter them in the Berlin Zebra Poetry Film Festival.”
You can find Kevin on Twitter @kevbarring

By Rúairí Conneely

By Kevin Barrington
The Irish Times
Of Friday November 15th
Just told me
Over Annaghmakerrig tea
We’ll be sovereign again
Sovereign again
So I took to the bike
Without precaution
Or credit
And I took to the hills
Where houses were boarded
Dogs barking
And pubs all closed
Village after village
Pubs were all closed.
And finally in Cootehill
In the county of Cavan
I sat for a pint
Where Charlie the taxi-man
Leaned forward
And said
A fierce amount had taken to the rope
Taken to the rope
Taken to the rope
Dangling from
troika trees
And yet others had gone to the bottom of
Many the lake
Many the lake
Many the lake
So I swallowed my pint
Got back on my bike
Looked up the trees
Stared down the lakes
And cried out
At the top of my voice
Time after time after time again
For God’s sake come back
Please Lord just come back
Do you all not know
We’ll be sovereign again
Sovereign again
Get the fuck up
And out of those graves
We’ll be
Sovereign Once Again.