Kevin Higgins

Kevin Higgins

Kevin Higgins is a Galway-based poet, essayist and reviewer, and satirist-in-residence at the alternative literature site The Bogman's Cannon, www.bogmanscannon.com.

Homage to Henry Kissinger
Monday, 21 September 2020 06:53

Homage to Henry Kissinger

Published in Poetry

Homage to Henry Kissinger

by Kevin Higgins


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 lap
           Someone organises a Nelson Rockefeller lookalike party
          Which Henry Kissinger attends
           An election result somewhere is declared null and void for its own good
           An interrogating officer switches on the electricity
           A government spokesman interrupts his denial to wish Dr Kissinger well
           Another tin of Heinz baked beans is sold in China
           And the CEO personally thanks Henry Kissinger
           A ginger cat named Agent Orange leaps down off the garden wall
           A baby slides from the womb with a surprise third arm.

When Henry Kissinger again fails to die:
           A ginger cat named Agent Orange leaps back onto its garden wall
           A government we didn’t like is overthrown in a military coup,
          Welcomed by the European Union
           A hut is set on fire for the greater good,
           The European Union calls for an inquiry
           Someone dies of politically necessary starvation
           But that someone is never Henry Kissinger
           A bomb is dropped on someone whose name you’ll never have to pronounce
Because it’s not Henry Kissinger.

           For its birthday, a baby gets Spina bifida
           A Bengali family have all their arms sawn off.
           Fifty bodies topple into the sea off Indonesia
           But none of them are Henry Kissinger
Each time Henry Kissinger again fails to die.

After recent unfortunate results
Monday, 17 August 2020 09:49

After recent unfortunate results

Published in Poetry

After Recent Unfortunate Results

by Kevin Higgins

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 a few unobtrusive questions
to prove they’ve consumed it correctly.

A third for those who also present receipts
that show they’ve dined sufficiently
in restaurants with at least four stars,
and a note from the maître d
that they know their way around the cutlery.

A fourth for the lucky few in possession - to boot -
of a ticket for one of those pampering spas
at which one temporarily discards
worldly things to have one’s darker parts
irrigated of all subversive thoughts.

So when all’s said and counted,
people who shouldn’t matter
can go back to not mattering.

KH 1

Tribute Acts
Friday, 17 April 2020 15:48

Tribute Acts

Published in Poetry

Tribute Acts

by Kevin Higgins

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.

Author's Note

The poem is inspired by all the various witchunting committees I have faced since I became an activist, joining the Irish Labour Party in 1982 at the age of 15. I was expelled from the UK Labour Party in 1991, having been investigated by the British Labour Party in 1989, 1990-91, and, before that, by the Irish Labour Party in 1988. I was suspended from the British Labour Party in 2016 and apparently remain suspended, or may even have been expelled again? Or maybe not. My local branch of Labour International says I am still a member. But Labour HQ won't confirm this, though I have asked them to. And I didn't receive a ballot for the recent Leadership and NEC elections.

KH Emmett Kevin Nimrod

Kevin Higgins (centre) as Chair of Galway West Labour Youth in April 1984

The Advent of Mr. Nothing
Tuesday, 07 April 2020 10:37

The Advent of Mr. Nothing

Published in Poetry

The Advent of Mr Nothing

by Kevin Higgins

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.
Should anyone think of scaling the wall,
the garden is now patrolled
by wolves with orders to dine first,
and be exonerated in the inquiry later.

Those who shouldn’t be in jail
are that bit more securely there.

Those who sleep in doorways
that bit more completely know their place;

those who own islands
are that bit more secure on theirs.

Celebrity paedophiles chuckle
to themselves in their graves.

And the Brigadier General
can unclench in the knowledge
his plans for the war after next –
nowhere you’ve heard of yet –
will be given a white-toothed
statesmanlike Yes.

In The White Man’s Clinic
Wednesday, 25 March 2020 08:31

In The White Man’s Clinic

Published in Poetry

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's two tier health system which will hopefully never come back. It was inspired by a private hospital, the Galway Clinic, which actually does have a self-playing grand piano in the foyer but is only open during office hours.

In The White Man’s Clinic

by Kevin Higgins

A grand piano plays itself
on a giant Chinese rug
in a foyer so vast I once went there
by mistake, hoping
to catch a long haul flight
to Melbourne via Abu Dhabi.

Instead found myself in a glass palace
where surgeons do things
no one thought possible
and which, in the end, weren’t;

in the process making sad intestines sing
like water damaged concert violins,
lungs hoot like ruined tubas
in a building designed to mature
into a hotel, when it fails as a hospital
for those who can afford to die
during office hours.

The Shipping Forecast
Monday, 02 March 2020 15:18

The Shipping Forecast

Published in Poetry

The Shipping Forecast

by Kevin Higgins

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
about what makes them float.

After loading your gut at the buffet
with more prawns and chocolate cheesecake
than it could be trusted to process –
each prawn pausing to give you
a filthy look before it slid
down your in-pipe –
you’d relax on the deck
of whichever of these
great ships you had a ticket for,
sip a glass of alleged
sophistication, as a talking
corduroy jacket
at the table next to you
waxes loud and large
about cheap insurance
policies and the invincibility
of ships such as this.

Now you’ve speed-read the technical manuals
and know
if certain particulars aren’t fixed
we’re all going to die
or, at least, want to;
you look at the corduroy
jackets talking their opinions
and wonder if it’s better
to be like them;
to think the answer
might be to elect as captain
some demagogue made of blancmange
or, failing that, Joe Biden;

or if not knowing just makes the shock
of the ocean hugging you
that bit worse?

The New Rising Will Not Be Available Later On The RTE iPlayer
Friday, 14 February 2020 10:11

The New Rising Will Not Be Available Later On The RTE iPlayer

Published in Poetry

The New Rising Will Not Be Available Later On The RTE iPlayer

after Gil Scott Heron

by Kevin Higgins

There will be no avoiding it, gobshite.
You will not be able to log on, click like and see both sides.
It will interrupt your plans for a gap year in Thailand,
or to skip out for a wank during the new Guinness ad.
The new rising will not be available later on the RTE iPlayer.

Because it will not be suitable for children
or county councillors of diminutive stature who might find it
by accident on the internet while trying to hire
a hitwoman or a dominatrix in the greater Ballyseedy area,
or open an offshore account on the Aran Islands.

The new rising will not be available later on the RTE iPlayer.
Will not be presented by Joe Duffy
in four parts with every possible intrusion
from people trying to sell you bits of Allied Irish Bank
or butter that’s more spreadable than Ebola.
The new rising will not show you pornographic clips
of Micheál Martin blowing the biggest tin whistle
in recent Irish history and leading a charge by Eamon
Dunphy, and all the assembled wise men of Aosdána
on the kitchens of the Shelbourne Hotel.

It will not be available later on the RTE iPlayer
or be brought to you by the Abbey Theatre
not Waking The Nation. It will not feature
guest appearances from Princess Grace of Monaco,
Graham Norton, and Bono’s old sunglasses.
The new rising will not give your Danny Healy Rae
blow up doll sex appeal. It will have no advice
on how to reduce the size of your moobs
overnight in the greater Cootehill
area by just dialling this number.
It will not try to sell you
travel insurance every time you buy
a bus ticket to anywhere in Sligo.

There will be no pictures of you, Mary Kennedy, and Daithi
Ó Sé pushing shopping trolleys around Supervalu
in aid of Children In Need, or trying to smuggle the body
of Ann Lovett onto a flight to Medjugorje
in aid of CURA. The new rising
will not be available later on the RTE iPlayer.
Harry McGee’s haircut will not be able
to predict the result by midday the following day
based on reports in now from 43 constituencies.
And it will not be available later on the RTE iPlayer.

There will be no pictures of well ironed Garda uniforms
dangling known subversives out high windows
in strict accordance with the law.
There will be no pictures of Joan
Burton and Katherine Zappone being run out of Jobstown
in the extreme discomfort of cars paid for by you.

Whether or not Louis Walsh dyes his
pubes will no longer be relevant. Nobody
will care if Paul finally gets to screw
everyone on Fair City, including
himself, because the small people
will be in the street turning on the sunshine.
And this will not be available later on the RTE iPlayer.

To assist the re-education of those
who insist on just watching it on TV,
the Angelus immediately before the Six One News
will be replaced with smoking videos
of outgoing cabinet ministers
at length (and with great enthusiasm)
feasting on the more excitable parts
of Apple CEO Tim Cook.
For in the new jurisdiction
the powers that were will be made admit
their true religion, and then set free.

There will be no lowlights on the nine o’clock
news claiming there was hardly anyone there.
The theme song will not be written by Phil Coulter
or Dustin, nor be sung by Linda Martin, Westlife,
or Foster and Allen. And it will not be available later
on the RTE iPlayer.

It will not be right back
after a message from an actor in Killinaskully
you can’t quite name promising to kill
99% of known bacteria, including those
that’ll make Michael O’Leary’s ass eventually decompose.
The new rising will hand the Lewis sub-machine gun
to you, your increasingly discontented cat,
and your most eccentric auntie.

This rising will not be available later on the RTE iPlayer.
This rising will be live,
gobshite, live.

Anthologies of poetry as revolutionary documents: The Children of the Nation
Thursday, 13 February 2020 19:58

Anthologies of poetry as revolutionary documents: The Children of the Nation

Published in Poetry

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 been much tweeting lately about inclusivity in Irish poetry publishing and reviewing, particularly in relation to women poets. I’m all in favour of giving platforms to poets who are not white heterosexual males.

Every year since its foundation in 2003, the Over The Edge readings I co-curate with Susan Millar DuMars have seen women writers in the majority. Most of the poets I review here are women. Elsewhere, there are a couple of legacy Irish literary institutions which still appear to live in the 1950s.

The main problem with the Irish poetry world in 2020 is no longer women poets not being published and reviewed; it is that the entirely State-funded, and largely unaccountable, Irish poetry establishment is dominated by posh liberals who suppress things they do not like. Your average member of the Irish poetry establishment today is an increasingly frightened Irish Times reader who paid water charges, secretly prefers Irish people (of all genders and colours ) dying of homelessness to the horrid thought of a Left government led by Sinn Féin, and lives mostly on the public purse.

Ireland is a country facing a grave social crisis. You would not know it from our main literary festivals which are extravaganzas of complacency at which people who read Kathy Sheridan’s columns, and take them seriously, wander around the place agreeing with each other.

In this context, The Children of the Nation: An Anthology of Working People’s Poetry from Contemporary Ireland, edited by Galway-based academic Jenny Farrell, is a revolutionary document. From the opening sentence of Jenny’s introduction, it is clear we are in a different world from those deluded literary festivals: “Just as societies today are rooted in classes, those who exploit and those who are exploited, so too there exist two cultures, divided along the same lines.” Though they would start foaming about the lips if you said it to them straight, the Irish poetry establishment is the literary wing of the exploiter class. It gives us the poetry the landlords and vulture funds want us to have.

The Children of The Nation, taking its title from the radical aspiration for equality in the 1916 Proclamation, contains work by many well known poets such as Gearóid MacLochlainn, Rita Ann Higgins, Celia de Fréine, Gabriel Rosenstock, and Rachel Coventry, but the way Jenny Farrell has put it together, this anthology fundamentally challenges Irish poetry’s official version of itself. There is a poem here about being stopped by the British army in Belfast in 1979, a poem about being a whistleblower, a poem about how eager the State is to push tranquillisers on the inconvenient, a heart tearing poem about a woman alcoholic dying in vividly described squalor, and much more.

Having set herself the task in her introduction of showcasing a contemporary “plebeian, democratic, socialist culture...of the dispossessed”, Jenny Farrell succeeds admirably.

The Children of the Nation: An Anthology of Working People’s Poetry from Contemporary Ireland, is available here. This article is republished from the Galway Advertiser.

What They Don’t Know Is
Friday, 03 January 2020 09:41

What They Don’t Know Is

Published in Poetry

What They Don’t Know Is

by Kevin Higgins

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 remain closed until further notice.
That Kim Kardashian’s arse has been abolished.
That the idea of tomorrow is suddenly quaint as a dinner plate made in West Germany.
That the price of house insurance just went up ten thousand per cent.
That the lack of reception on their mobile phones isn’t because they’re going through a tunnel.
That even the hairstyle of the Fox News anchor woman is no longer perfect.
That Adolf is now the second most hated politician in history.
That the station at which this train terminates no longer exists.
That the priest who’ll give them last rites is just a guy in an outfit
his brother recently wore to a fancy dress.
That God is a skeleton who knows everything and will one day talk.

Author's Note:

I got the idea for this poem while walking through the grounds of our local hospital, just behind our house, the week after Donald Trump was elected. I looked at the apparently solid buildings and the normal life going on all around and thought: none of this is guaranteed to continue. A world war which would bring buildings like these down and put a stop to what we think of as normal, everyday things is now entirely possible. The image is Napalm, by Banksy.

Tiocfaidh Do Lá
Tuesday, 24 December 2019 09:52

Tiocfaidh Do Lá

Published in Poetry

Tiocfaidh Do Lá

by Kevin Higgins

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 won his victory and proper
order was temporarily restored that your wife was about to
speed-dial the cardiologist when you finally drifted
on your latest new sofa to your recurring night fret: how will
the united Ireland the papers say all this
makes more or less inevitable
pay for my pension?

Short answer: it won’t. Though worry not,
there’ll be plenty of gainful work
for buck-eejits like you: painting road-signs in Irish
in the likes of the Shankill and Ballymoney with the giant
can of extreme green spray paint
that will be provided.

Your induction day task,
that first Monday morning, to daub
Liam of Oráiste on the statue
of King Billy at Carrickfergus
under the bespectacled eye
of a trained Gaelgeoir, there to ensure
you restore – though a few centuries late - the fada
they stole off the ‘a’ in ‘orange’.

Author's Note: In this poem a fictional narrator living in the Republic of Ireland addresses an entirely fictional elderly in-law who lives in Northern Ireland and is from a protestant, unionist background. All of the towns and districts mentioned are staunchly unionist (sometimes called loyalist). The fictional in-law in question is a big fan of Doris Johnson (and bad things generally) at least in theory. But said fictional in-law is worried that Doris Johnson’s political wrecklessness might lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom and a united Ireland which he worries might not be able to pay his pension.

The poem’s narrator decides not to assuage his in-law’s fears because he doesn’t think people who cheer on upper-class psychopaths deserve to be reassured. One of the key issues preventing a restoration of devolved government in the northern part of Ireland is the fact that the DUP have resisted an Irish language act which could mean, among other things, that all road signs and public notices would have to be in both English and Gaeilic. “Liam of Oráiste” is the Gaelic translation of William of Orange; a “Gailgeoir” is an Irish-language enthusiast (some would say fanatic); a “fada” is the Gaelic equivalent of the French accent which appears, for example, over the “a” in “Oráiste” to indicate a vowel should be pronounced long; “Tiocfaidh Do Lá” means ‘your day will come’ and is a play on the traditional Irish Republican slogan “Tiocfaidh Ár Lá”, which means ‘our day will come’.

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