Kevin Higgins

Notes


Life
1967- ; b. London; moved back to Ireland from Coventry with his parents, aged seven; became a Trotksyite and youth-member of West Galway Labour Party, 1982 [aetat. 15]; moved to London in the late 1980s, working in the anti-Poll Tax movement; returned to Galway and organised Over the Edge literary events in Galway City with his wife Susan Millar DuMars; teaches creative writing at Galway TI; writer in residence at Merlin Park Hospital; co-founded The Burning Bush with Michael S. Begnal; winner of the Cúirt Festival Poetry Grand Slam, 2003 and an Arts Council of Ireland literary bursary in 2005; his collections include The Boy with No Face (2005) and The Ghost in the Lobby (2014); he is noted critic of neo-conservative politics; suspended from the Labour Party for “Listening Exercise”, printed satirising John McDonnell in the Morning Star - and vigorously defended by Ken Loach; lives in Galway.

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Works
Poetry
  • The Boy With No Face (Galway: Salmon Poetry 2005);
  • Time Gentlemen, Please (Galway: Salmon Poetry 2008);
  • Frightening New Furniture (2010);
  • The Ghost in the Lobby (Galway: Salmon Poetry 2014).
Selected Poems
Song of Songs 2.0: New & Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry 2017), 168pp. [incls. “Selfie”; “Manifesto of The Last International: Address To The Men and Women of Waterlooville”; “Exit” - see at Salmon Poetry - online ];
Prose
  • Mentioning the Wars: Essays and Review 1995-2011, with a foreword by  Darrell Kavanagh (Salmon Poetry 2012), 217pp. [47 reviews & essays].
Miscellaneous (contribs.)
  • contrib. to Emergency Verse: Poetry in Defence of the Welfare State, ed. by Alan Morrison (2010);
  • contrib. to Identity Parade – New British and Irish Poets, ed. Roddy Lumsden (Bloodaxe, 2010);
  • contrib. The Hundred Years’ War: Modern War Poems, ed., Neil Astley, Bloodaxe, 2014);
  • contrib. to The Children of the Nation: An Anthology of Working People’s Poetry From Contemporary Ireland, ed. Jenny Farrell (Dublin: Connolly Books 2019)

See also poems in Culture Matters [infra].

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Quotations

Kevin Higgins, Ostalgie

Ostalgie” - for Helena Sheehan: I remember Bertolt Brech and Red Westerns / in which the Indians were the good guys. // I remember drinking Vita Cola at the University of Leipzig / and Kindergarten kids visiting the factory. // I remember white Trabants with hacking exhaust pipes / and the songs we sang at the World Festival of Youth. // I remember Spreewald pickles / and no beggars ever along Karl-Marx-Allee. // I remember the eyes / of a Felix Dzerhinsky Regimental Guard / scanning a whole street between blinks. // I remember a place to live / and a hospital that didn’t snatch cents from sick men’s pockets. / I remember rock bands singing in German only; / the lyrics of Wolfgang Tilgner. // I remember no one / unemployed and holidays in Moscow / and Prague. // I remember desks full of children / who didn’t appear to mind / having to learn Russian. // I remember the man at the next table, listening in on our conversation, / but not as closely as you thought he was. // I remember corpses left on the wire at the Wall, / but only every so often. [Transcribed BS; err. The Ghost in the Lobby (2014) - for 2104 above.]

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To The Man Who Defines Ireland

Text: ‘When telling us, as a nation, to cop on to ourselves / you spit the words Provo / or workers’ paradise like a lady / trying to rid her mouth of sour milk.// But your voice is church bells and sunshine / pouring down on Kingstown Harbour, circa 1913 / when you put your tongue across the syllables / Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth. // The greatest thing to come out of Crumlin / since the curried chips / that made a young Phil Lynott / question his lifestyle choices. // You are as politically and philosophically serious / as a Second Division footballer’s fashion sense, / circa 1977; or a stockbroker last seen exiting / a high-end house of great repute / wearing a thirteen-gallon hat; / or a guy in a white linen jacket / who’ll end up wandering O’Connell Street / shouting against Home Rule. // And without you, we’d not be ourselves. / For you are our national anticonvulsant / without which we’d be in danger / of actually doing something. (Available at Culture Matters (14 Aug. 2019) - available online; see lineated copy under O’Toole - infra.)

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Blair’s advice - on hearing tell of his column in Sunday’s Observer

Easy to say,
you’d rather make loud love
to Lord Prescott, or have
your face smashed between
Sir Cyril Smith’s quivering cheeks
than read Tony Blair on how
the motorway to the mountaintop
he envisages lies
through the centre ground;
when you know neither
gentleman’s available, right
here right now, to take you.
We need to make voting Labour
as pleasurable
for call centre managers and
estate agents of a certain age
as lowering their roasting
menopausal testicles
into a nice cold bath.
To this end, we need a leader

with ideas thrilling as a dripping cistern,
a man (or woman) likely conceived during a Conservative
                                           Association dinner somewhere in darkest Buckinghamshire;
who, while his or her fellow students
were thoughtlessly dancing the blues,
bravely danced the beige;
a person of exemplary character apart
from that one conviction for stealing
the brass handles off
their own father’s coffin.
We must offer hope
to those who aspire to shop
for gourmet sausage meat
at Waitrose, and not
waste time on people who perspire
as they rifle through packets
of past-their-use-by-date
picnic ham at Aldi.
—Morning Star [q.d. 2015); reprinted in The Irish Times (22 May 2015) - available online; accessed 20.08.2017.

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Tribute Acts

Each witch hunt is a tribute act to the last.
There is always a committee of three.
The gravity in the room is such
they struggle to manoeuvre
the enormity of their serious
faces in the door.

Except in the TV version,
there is hardly ever a microphone.
Though they will usually give you
a glass of water and, if you ask,
tea in a slightly chipped cup.

The better quality of witch hunt
will provide you with a plate
of sandwiches which, these days,
would likely include
coeliac and vegan options.

One member of the panel interviewing you
is always a man with a shakey voice
who obviously doesn’t know what he’s doing.
His wife thinks he’s at the garden centre.

Another is a woman trying
on a posh accent for size
who looks like she’s dreaming
of killing you
in some way that would give her
special pleasure.

It is written,
somewhere deeper than law,
that no such committee
shall ever be constituted
unless it contains
at least one ex-hippy.

There is always the moment
when a pile of typed pages emerge
from an already opened envelope,
and one of them asks you:
how, then, do you explain this?

And the three of them sit there,
pretending it’s a real question.

And you realise this committee is history
paying you the huge compliment
of making you (and people like you)
the only item on the agenda;

that in asking you about what you said,
did, or typed on the mentioned dates,
they reveal themselves
like the black tree at the bottom of the garden
that only shows its true self in winter.

—“In Labour Against the Witch-hunt” (12 April 2020) - online; accessed 15.07.2020.

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Extracts from Talking about the Wars (2012)

The Irish Recession: “Since the implosion of the international banking system in September 2008 ushered in this era of great economic unhappiness, the atmosphere of everyday life in Ireland has changed for everybody to an extent that would be unimaginable just three years ago.”

The Iraq War: “The world, from New York to Madrid to Bali, is wracked by a conflict between a Texan buffoon ... and a batty Saudi aristocrat out to restore the seventh-century Islamic Caliphate.”

Left-wing dictatorship: “I had known about the deadly Stalinist combination of lies and mass murder since I was a fifteen year old recruit to Trostkysim ... I thought Left wing apologia for mass murder was something from terrible times past. I now began to ask myself whether there is something inherent in Left Wing thinking which, where it holds sway, makes lies and mass murder likely if not inevitable.”

On Oliver Cromwell: “[T]he worst atrocities of Irish history were committed by a man who was, as the Marxist would say, a progressive rather than a reactionary.”

[Quoted in review in Rereading Lives - online; accessed 21.08.2011.]


Austerity Mantra
   

Everything must be on the table.
Your ninety seven year old granny
is no longer cost effective, would
benefit greatly from being brought face to face
with a compassionate baseball bat.
The figures speak for themselves and will
be worse by morning. The paraplegic
in his insanely expensive wheelchair
will have to crawl as God intended.
Here are the figures that won’t stop
speaking for themselves, this is the table
everything must be on. Yesterday my name was
Temporary Fiscal Adjustment.

Tonight, the insect in the radio calls me
The Inevitable. When the economist
puts his hand up, take care not to cough.

Everything’s on the table and
the table’s tiny. I’d send you a pillow
to hold hard over the child’s face
‘til the kicking stops, but at current rates
there’ll be no pillow. I am the unthinkable
but you will think me. Pack her mouth
with tea towels, hold down firmly
your old mildewed raincoat,
‘til there’s no more breath.

Tomorrow I’ll be known as
Four Year Consolidation Package.
Lock the cat in the oven and bake
at two hundred degrees centigrade.
Tie your last plastic bag over
your own head. The figures speak for themselves
and there is no table.

—In Poeticanet - online; accessed 17.12.2020.
 

Note: Shown by the poet on Facebook at the time of the Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s denial that the Irish Government [viz., Fianna Fáil] had bailed out the Anglo-Irish Bank in 2008. (Facebook 17.12.2020.)


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References
Salmon Poetry: Kevin Higgins is co-organiser of Over The Edge literary events in Galway, Ireland. He teaches poetry workshops at Galway Arts Centre, Creative Writing at Galway Technical Institute, and is Creative Writing Director for the NUI Galway Summer School. He is poetry critic of The Galway Advertiser. Kevin has published four collections of poetry with Salmon, The Ghost In The Lobby (2014), Frightening New Furniture (2010), Time Gentlemen, Please (2008), and his best-selling first collection, The Boy With No Face (2005), which was shortlisted for the 2006 Strong Award for Best First Collection by an Irish poet. His poetry is discussed in The Cambridge Introduction to Modern Irish Poetry and features in the generation defining anthology Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets (Ed. Roddy Lumsden, Bloodaxe, 2010) and in The Hundred Years’ War: Modern War Poems (Ed. Neil Astley, Bloodaxe, April 2014). A collection of Kevin’s essays and book reviews, Mentioning The War, was published by Salmon Poetry in 2012. Kevin’s poetry has been translated into Greek, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Russian, & Portuguese. In 2014 Kevin’s poetry was the subject of a paper ‘The Case of Kevin Higgins,’ or, ‘The Present State of Irish Poetic Satire’ presented by David Wheatley at a Symposium on Satire at the University of Aberdeen. He was Satirist-in-Residence at the Bogman’s Cannon (2015-16). The Selected Satires of Kevin Higgins was published by NuaScéalta in early 2016. A pamphlet of Kevin’s political poems The Minister For Poetry Has Decreed was published in December by the Culture Matters imprint of the UK based Manifesto Press. His poems have been praised by, among others, Tony Blair’s biographer John Rentoul, Observer columnist Nick Cohen, and Sunday Independent columnist Gene Kerrigan; and have been quoted in The Daily TelegraphThe Times (UK), The Independent, and The Daily MirrorThe Stinging Fly magazine recently described Kevin as “likely the most read living poet in Ireland.” (Available at Salmon Poetry - online; accessed 17.12.2020.)

Culture Matters - Poetry Contributions by Kevin Higgins during 19 March 2016-11 Nov. 2020

Building a new machine: A review of From the Plough to the Stars
Vote on Wednesday’ by Kevin Higgins. The same subject is covered in the delightful short story ‘They Also Serve Who Only…’ by Moya Roddy and in Kevin Doyle’s ‘The Water War’. ‘The 1970 Cement Strike’ by ...
11 November 2020 (Life Writing)

Homage to Henry Kissinger
Homage to Henry Kissinger. When Henry Kissinger again fails to die: Another tree in the Central Highlands loses all its leaves. A girl sits on a visiting diplomat’s ...
21 September 2020 (Poetry)

After recent unfortunate results
After Recent Unfortunate Results. Next election onwards, there’ll be a second vote for those who turn up with, under their arm, a print copy of one of the larger newspapers and answer
17 August 2020 (Poetry)

Tribute Acts
Tribute Acts. Each witch hunt is a tribute act to the last. There is always a committee of three. The gravity in the room is such they struggle to manoeuvre the enormity of their
17 April 2020 (Poetry)

The Advent of Mr. Nothing
The Advent of Mr Nothing. All the messiahs safely crucified; the choice again, as it should be, between the Imp of All Lies and Mr Nothing. We’re again outside the padlocked gate.
07 April 2020 (Poetry)

In The White Man’s Clinic
On the day the Irish government announced they are (for the duration of the crisis) incorporating all private hospitals into the public health system, Kevin Higgins offers this poem in memoriam of Ireland'
25 March 2020 (Poetry)

The Shipping Forecast
The Shipping Forecast. Back when the three giant liners, Britannia, Eurasia, and Sweet Land of Liberty weren’t all simultaneously taking on tonnes of water, you didn’t have to think
02 March 2020 (Poetry)

The New Rising Will Not Be Available Later On The RTE iPlayer
The New Rising Will Not Be Available Later On The RTE iPlayer after Gil Scott Heron. There will be no avoiding it, gobshite. You will not be able to log on, click like and see both
14 February 2020 (Poetry)

Anthologies of poetry as revolutionary documents: The Children of the Nation
Kevin Higgins lays into the Irish literary establishment, and praises The Children of the Nation: An Anthology of Working People’s Poetry from Contemporary Ireland, edited by Jenny Farrell There has
13 February 2020 (Poetry)

What They Don’t Know Is
What They Don’t Know Is. That this cannot be avoided by everyone wearing protective glasses. That the contents of their half-full cups are about to evaporate. That the University will
03 January 2020 (Poetry)

Tiocfaidh Do Lá
Tiocfaidh Do Lá. Dear great-uncle-in-law in Larne, who secretly thinks people should cease picking on the poor Duke of York. You punched the air so vigorously the night Doris Johnson
24 December 2019 (Poetry)

Backlash
After Nina Simone by Kevin Higgins, with image by Martin Gollan The moment you grow too sure he sends the world into reverse; one by one, begins taking back your Christmas presents
18 December 2019 (Poetry)

National Poetry Day: Deliberately Offensive Truthful Song
A street performer shall not act, say, do or sing anything likely to cause alarm, distress or offence to any member of the public, business
17 September 2019 (Poetry)

To The Man Who Defines Ireland
When telling us, as a nation, to cop on to ourselves you spit the words Provo or workers’ paradise like a lady trying to rid her mouth of sour milk.
14 August 2019 (Poetry)

Waiting for Boris
After Constantine Cavafy. What are they waiting for, the archbishops and casino owners clutching their bags of cocaine, the barman at Wetherspoons eyeing the clock,
25 June 2019 (Poetry)

The Restoration
Election results tumble in, like pinstriped clumps of hairy bacon being lowered via giant mechanical arm into a fizzing Jacuzzi to be congratulated by the media who
03 June 2019 (Poetry)

On the birth of Prince What's-His-Name
Before Carol Ann Duffy. Receive this boy-child, world, to pursue him about the pages of the tabloids and glossies that were his granny’s premature
06 May 2019 (Poetry)

Franz Magnitz Lied
The latest squib from Kevin Higgins follows these events and is a re-write/parody of the Horst-Wessel song; We button tight our
15 January 2019 (Poetry)

The Roscommon evictions: Leader of Irish Government Speaks Out Against Hyperbole
After William Shakespeare. There has been much hyperbolic comment of late about the admittedly rather sad case of a man who
Created on 29 December 2018 (Poetry)

National Poetry Day: Anatomy of a Bomb Scare
For Jacqueline Walker. Tasks such as this are typically implemented on deniable mobile phones, ordered by a raised eyebrow or nod fourth or fifth floor of an
04 October 2018 (Poetry)

Cometh the hour, cometh the Dame
Cometh the hour, cometh the Dame after John Cooper Clarke. the fucking dame is fucking furious and not fucking having it fucking up is fucking down fucking in is fucking out fucking
08 August 2018 (Poetry)

The Truth Behind the Wire
Kindly disregard the attention seeking cries of the few. They are child actors being given scripts by liberals. Most of the young people there are delighted
20 June 2018 (Poetry)

Don't Stop Repealing
After Journey. In the interests of the coming equality, of which everyone is now theoretically in favour, the mahogany dining tables of Taylors’ Hill must be
28 May 2018 (Poetry)

Let Me Tell You About Them
The teenagers we shot yesterday were shot responsibly through the eye with plain-speaking dum-dum bullets, manufactured in Fife, or taken down with SR
19 May 2018 (Poetry)

Hoodied Bridget
After Bertolt Brecht & Kurt Weill. A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. - Karl Marx You’ve seen me doing my hours emptying the ashtrays of third
28 March 2018 (Poetry)

What Did The Politician Get His Wife?
After Bertolt Brecht. And what did she get, the girlfriend, from the student union meeting at which he rose to his feet and realised he could speak?
24 February 2018 (Poetry)

What Put The Diamonds In Your Owner’s Wife’s Ears?
After Bertolt Brecht. You clean-collared columnists should first help us fix the basic roof-over-head dilemma, before penning your
12 January 2018 (Poetry)

National Poetry Day: Ciúnas/Quiet
Ciúnas/Quiet after Camillo Sbarbero. Ciúnas, sad person, these are the great days when one must speak without whining. The children of the long political sleep forced awake. Like
27 September 2017 (Poetry)

Purchase progressive political poetry!
... telling truth to power and poking fun at it at the same time, artistically deploying a profoundly moral sense of justice and truth to expose lies, evasions, greed and sheer stupidity. Kevin Higgins, like
04 March 2017 (Poetry)

I am pleased to congratulate Mr. Trump
I Am Pleased To Congratulate On Behalf Of The People Of Ireland after Enda Kenny. Donald J. Duck on his election as forty fifth, and possibly final, President of that great entity
14 November 2016 (Poetry)

On The New Parliamentary Rump In The Absence of Mandatory Reselection
After John Milton. Because you have shrugged off all sentiment, like a convention of businessmen, each in turn,
10 August 2016 (Poetry)

After the Big Vote
After The Big Vote Intellectual Begins To Decompose. You sit minding that cup as if it contained, post-Brexit, the last frothy coffee in all of Brighton. You’ve the look of a pretend
20 July 2016 (Poetry)

Exit
Exit. for Darrell Kavanagh in his hour of need There will be no more thunderstorms sent across the Channel by the French, no acid rain floating in from Belgium. Pizza Hut will offer ...
06 July 2016 (Poetry)

The Minister for poetry has decreed
The Minister for Poetry Has Decreed by Kevin Higgins, after Zbigniew Herbert That during the Centenary celebrations in memory of our late revolution, poets in each of the twenty six counties from Kerry ...
25 March 2016 (Poetry)

Poets, presidents and politics
As we approach the centenary of the Easter Rising, Kevin Higgins, the Bogman's Cannon satirist-in-residence, lets rip at the state of poetry and politics in Ireland. See also Cold Old Fire. It’s probabl ...
19 March 2016 (Poetry)

Source: Culture Matters - search [Kevin Higgins] - accessed 17.12.2020.

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Notes
Online satirist: Higgins is the satirist-in-residence of the Bogman’s Cannon [online].