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Saturday, 15 December 2012

Events, dear boy, events...

My poem Against Togetherness which was published on the Upstart.ie website, and an extract of which was quoted on one of the posters which the Upstart people put up around Dublin during the 2011 General Election campaign, has been given a new lease of life by what former British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, once described as "Events, dear boy, events." 


Saturday, 1 December 2012

Poem in response to Savita Halappanavar's death

Last week I wrote a poem which was inspired, no, provoked by the huge international controversy in response to Savita Halappanavar's death here in Galway in late October. It is published on the website of Clare Daly, the United Left Alliance T.D. who proposed legislation to deal with the X-Case last Wednesday. The poem, titled 'The Euphemisms', is dedicated to everyone in Ireland who has ever not said what they meant when talking about the issue of abortion. http://www.claredaly.ie/the-euphemisms/

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Irish Anarchist Review on Mentioning The War

Cork based writer and activist, Kevin Doyle, has reviewed Mentioning The War: Essays & Reviews (1999-2011) in the current issue (no.6) of The Irish Anarchist Review, the magazine of The Workers Solidarity Movement.  Kevin Doyle has also posted the review on his blog here http://kfdoyle.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/kevin-higgins-review/

To buy a copy of Mentioning the War go to http://www.salmonpoetry.com/details.php?ID=255&a=108

Born in Cork in 1961, Kevin Doyle attended University College Cork where he studied chemistry.  A graduate in Organic Synthesis (MSc), he worked in the pharmaceutical industry on drug development and production optimisation in Cork and the later in New Jersey in the USA.  After travelling extensively in Australia, Asia and Central America he returned to Cork where he now lives and works.

A short story writer since the mid 1990s, Kevin Doyle’s work has been published in a range of literary journals including Cúirt Journal, Stinging Fly, The Sunday Tribune, Burning Bush, Southwords, Liblit and The Cork Review. His stories have also been included in the anthologies, Pulse Fiction (London, 1998), Snapshots (London, 1999), Irish Writers Against The War (Dublin, 2003) and Train In The Night (UK, 2010). His work has been profiled at the Frank O’Connor Festival of the Short Story and he has been shortlisted for a number of prestigious short story awards: Hennessy Literary Award, Michael McLaverty Short Story Award,Over The Edge New Irish Writer Award,The Kilkenny Prize, Ian St James International Short Story Award

For more about the Workers Solidarity Movement see here http://www.wsm.ie/

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Review of Mentioning the War in Carty's Poetry Journal

A short review by Thomás Ó'Cárthaigh of Mentioning the War has just gone online at Carty's Poetry Journal. Thomás is a member of the Offaly Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes http://www.cartyspoetryjournal.com/index.php/mentioning-the-war-by-kevin-higgins-salmon-publishing/ 

Friday, 28 September 2012

Austerity Mantra translated into Greek

My poem Austerity Mantra, which I wrote in November 2010 when the IMF were in town, has been translated into Greek by the esteemed translator, Lina Sipitanou. Lina's translation is published alongside the poem in the original English on the leading Greek online poetry journal Poetica.net

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Clare Daly and the true meaning of the word 'comrade'

with Clare Daly at the Dublin launch of my book Mentioning the War: Essays & Reviews (1999-2011)

Clare Daly has been much in the news over the past twenty four hours following her resignation from the Socialist Party. No doubt today's newspapers will have more.

I first met Clare in 1988 at a Labour Youth conference in Liberty Hall. She had become a supporter of Militant in Newbridge a couple of years previously and I'd been involved in Galway for the previous six years. At that conference Clare was elected to the Administrative Council [National Executive] of the Labour Party. The following year she was expelled from the Labour Party in Dick Spring's anti-Militant purge. I was similarly expelled from the British Labour Party a couple of years later.

I first really got to know Clare when I returned to Galway in 1991 after three years in London. Often times I stayed with her when I was up in Dublin for meetings which were so important I've got no memory at all what most of them were about. I left what we used to call the 'organisation' in 1994 but always retained huge respect for Clare. She is 100% principled and 100% human. A million miles from the caricatures of socialists which are all too often close to the mark.

The Socialist Party's statement about her resignation, which sparked off the media storm yesterday, is an absolute disgrace. But it is no surprise.

There are two types of people in organisations like the Socialist Party. There are those who would stand in front of an oncoming tank in defence of someone smaller than themselves. And then there are those dull little people for whom Trotskyist politics is less about changing anything than it is about finding a place to hide. They are the type who love committee meetings held on a Sunday and whose feeling of political purity tends to be dependent on their ability to find some ex-comrade to denounce.

Later today the Socialist Party is holding a press conference about Clare's resignation. It's likely that all their public representatives will line up to put the Party spin on her departure from their ranks after 26 years. Their faces will be a picture of earnestness. The one thing you can be sure of is that, whatever they say, you shouldn't believe a word of it.

One or two of their public representatives will probably be there only because if they were to refuse they would soon enough be on the receiving end of the sort of statement the Socialist Party issued against Clare yesterday.

Clare was never a Party hack in that way. She's the sort of person who'd speak up for you when there was no one else left to speak up, which of course is precisely why she is such a brilliant public representative. Long may she continue.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Hello Tullamore!

"Tullamore Rhymers Club in association with Offaly CAHWT (Campaign Against Household & Water Tax) and 100 Thousand Poets for Change
welcome writer and activist Kevin Higgins to Tullamore
 on September 19th at 8pm in Hugh Lynches pub on Kilbride Street."

Thursday, 9 August 2012

My Militant Tendency: me at a meeting addressed by Peter Taaffe in 1984

Dr. John Cunningham who teaches in the History Department at NUI Galway sent me this photo via Facebook today. It shows part of the audience of a public meeting here in Galway addressed by Peter Taaffe, the leader of the Militant Tendency in Britain. That is me scratching my neck and yawning slightly. I have to say, I don't remember being bored. The meeting took place in the Atlanta Hotel on Dominick Street in the Spring of 1984, just before the Miners' Strike began in the U.K. I was a couple of months shy of my seventeenth birthday and a fifth year student at the Bish secondary school. Here is a relevant poem:

My Militant Tendency
It's nineteen eighty two and I know everything.
Hippies are people who always end up asking
Charles Manson to sing them another song.
I'd rather be off putting some fascist through
a glass door arseways, but being fifteen,
have to mow the lawn first. Last year,

Liverpool meant football; now
it's the Petrograd of the British Revolution.
Instead of masturbation, I find socialism.

While others dream of businessmen bleeding
in basements; I promise to abolish double-chemistry class
the minute I become Commissar. In all of this
there is usually a leather jacket involved. I tell

cousin Walter and his lovely new wife, Elizabeth,
to put their aspirations in their underpants
and smoke them; watch

my dad's life become a play:
Sit Down In Anger.
 
'My Militant Tendency' is from my 2008 collection Time Gentlemen, Please which is available from Salmon Poetry here http://www.salmonpoetry.com/details.php?ID=35&a=108

The poem also features in the 2009 Forward Book of Poetry which is available from Faber & Faber here http://www.faber.co.uk/work/forward-book-of-poetry-2009/9780571243969/

Monday, 6 August 2012

'My Inner Conspiracy Theorist'

G.K. Chesterton said "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing — they believe in anything." I don't believe in God and so disagree with that statement. However, it's clear that when the big ideas collapse - god being but one such idea, the Marxist idea of the class struggle and historical progress is another - some people can't cope with the nothing that's left to believe in and do indeed end up believing any old rubbish. The evidence is everywhere. Nowhere more so than on Facebook.

The other day a Facebook 'friend', who I do not know personally, posted a propagandistic picture about the 'Zionist bankers', the Rothschilds, a favourite of conspiracy theorists everywhere. I commented to the effect that this was the same old anti-semitic rubbish Hitler used to go on with and then unfriended said individual. Life is simply too short. But I could still see this person's Facebook posts. One Facebook friend of this person commented that "Hitler was a Rothschild" and that the 'Holocaust' [the inverted commas are hers] was set up to "get them [the Jews] back to Israel". My by now former Facebook friend commented that she agreed absolutely.

This person is a big supporter of rights for the Palestinians and no doubt considers herself to be on the Left. She's nothing of the sort of course; no Marxist or Liberal or Anarchist (if these words are to have any meaning at all) would ever put inverted commas around the Holocaust. She is rather a believer in wild conspiracy myths, some of which have their roots on the Left but many of which clearly have their roots on the extreme Right.

A favourite of conspiracy heads everywhere is the 'issue' - the inverted commas in this case are mine - of fluoride in your tap water.

Last year I published a poem titled My Inner Conspiracy Theorist in The Galway Advertiser and also on the Upstart.ie blog. Here it is http://www.advertiser.ie/galway/article/39610/my-inner-conspiracy-theorist It will also feature in my next collection of poems The Ghost In The Lobby, which will be published in September 2013 by Salmon Poetry.

I dedicate it to everyone who believes that the Rothschilds are putting fluoride in the tap water in an effort to drug us into dumbly accepting the 'New World Order'.

'My Inner Conspiracy Theorist'

G.K. Chesterton said "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing — they believe in anything." I don't believe in God and so disagree with that statement. However, it's clear that when the big ideas collapse - god being but one such idea, the Marxist idea of the class struggle and historical progress is another - some people can't cope with the nothing that's left to believe in and do indeed end up believing any old rubbish. The evidence is everywhere. Nowhere more so than on Facebook.

The other day a Facebook 'friend', who I do not know personally, posted a propagandistic picture about the 'Zionist bankers', the Rothschilds, a favourite of conspiracy theorists everywhere. I commented to the effect that this was the same old anti-semitic rubbish Hitler used to go on with and then unfriended said individual. Life is simply too short. But I could still see this person's Facebook posts. One Facebook friend of this person commented that "Hitler was a Rothschild" and that the 'Holocaust' [the inverted commas are hers] was set up to "get them [the Jews] back to Israel". My by now former Facebook friend commented that she agreed absolutely.

This person is a big supporter of rights for the Palestinians and no doubt considers herself to be on the Left. She's nothing of the sort of course; no Marxist or Liberal or Anarchist (if these words are to have any meaning at all) would ever put inverted commas around the Holocaust. She is rather a believer in wild conspiracy myths, some of which have their roots on the Left but many of which clearly have their roots on the extreme Right.

A favourite of conspiracy heads everywhere is the 'issue' - the inverted commas in this case are mine - of fluoride in your tap water.

Last year I published a poem titled My Inner Conspiracy Theorist in The Galway Advertiser and also on the Upstart.ie blog. Here it is http://www.advertiser.ie/galway/article/39610/my-inner-conspiracy-theorist It will also feature in my next collection of poems The Ghost In The Lobby, which will be published in September 2013 by Salmon Poetry.

I dedicate it to everyone who believes that the Rothschilds are putting fluoride in the tap water in an effort to drug us into dumbly accepting the 'New World Order'.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

First paragraph of my quintessential Irish novel

A few years ago, one dull summer day, I set myself the challenge of writing the opening paragraph of my quintessential Irish novel. I tried to encompass all the key elements.

“Jude was slumped in the pew nearest the door of the church. He'd killed himself
again. "Hopefully this time it'll work", he'd whispered, as he sat down, opened
his silver flask and began to drink the stuff for burning off scutch grass, which
had been left in the far outhouse since the day De Valera died. It was to that
same outhouse uncle Padraig used to take him on September afternoons, when
the hay was in and the rest of the family watching the All-Ireland Final, to tell him
jolly green tales of old IRA heroes and make him do those terrible things.”

Monday, 30 July 2012

A Reason To Leap Ecstatically Out Of Bed: Welsh Author Of Whom I had Until Today Never Heard

“Cancer patients can’t get the drugs they need because they are too expensive.... Wheelchairs are in short supply, families can’t get the care they need for their elderly relatives and yet the Welsh Assembly feels it is morally right to dish out millions of pounds of your money for a few people to propagate a Welsh ‘literary’ agenda that few are interested in, whose books, magazines and pamphlets patently don’t pay their way and most importantly of all, contributes precisely nothing for the overall good of society.” A Welsh author of whom I had until today never heard has claimed this For more http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2012/07/30/91466-31502019/
If he was Irish he'd be writing angry letters to the Athlone Independent, phoning Liveline to tell Joe Duffy about how standards have slipped beyond repair and some whiskered toss in Tigh Neachtains pub, Galway would be calling him "outspoken", before getting back to the more important job of killing his whiskered liver.

So, this first day of Race Week here in Galway, I have found a reason to leap ecstatically out of bed: this Welsh author of whom I had until today never heard doesn't live in Galway and I don't have to put up with twitchy little guys telling me that said author has lost the run of himself and then creeping around the corner to tell the man himself that he is speaking home truths. Apologies for the “home truths” cliché but these people always speak in clichés and they are of course by no means all guys; many of them are what Rita Ann Higgins would call “wans”.

Two immediate observations on said Welsh author's comments:

I may never have heard of him but, for example, I have heard of (and read) the Welsh poet R.S. Thomas whose publisher Bloodaxe certainly received Arts Council funding for his books. Thomas died in 2000. Welsh author of whom I had until today never heard says “Since the 1950’s there hasn’t been one single Welsh writer of any national or international note to hit the tarmac beyond the Severn Bridge.” So, presumably R.S. Thomas is one of the Welsh writers for whom he has no regard?  Other contemporary Welsh writers with reputations well beyond the Severn Bridge I can think of (without even having had my morning mug of tea) would include Dannie Abse & Robert Minhinnick. Another Welsh poet whose work I’ve been reading lately is Tiffany Atkinson. On this issue the Welsh author of whom I had until today never heard is guilty simply of talking out of the wrong part of his anatomy.

Far more serious is his assertion that there is some link between Cancer patients not being able to access the drugs they need and government grants being given to Welsh writers and their publishers. The amount of government money given to literature in Wales (or indeed anywhere) is a tiny proportion of the overall budget. This money, even if all of it were cut, and all of it were put into the National Health Service would make no significant difference to the treatment cancer patients would receive. To imply that it would is simply propaganda of the lowest sort.

His concern for cancer patients I do not buy. His dislike of other Welsh writers, on the other hand, appears to be very real.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Dear Editor

I have a letter in today's Galway Advertiser. I rarely write letters to the local newspapers these days. The letters pages are typically so littered with cranks that, well, most of the time I'd rather not go there.

I even have a poem satirising the compulsive writer of letters to the editor. You can read it in issue one of the recently revived online Burning Bush, edited by Alan Jude Moore. http://burningbush2.com/contents-3/kevin-higgins-two-poems-2/

I made an exception and sent this letter in because I consider the issue an important one. http://www.advertiser.ie/galway/article/53829/hospital-arts-trust-deserves-every-penny-it-gets
For more about the arts progamme administered by Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust  

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Interviewed by Conor Harrington in today's Galway Independent

I am interviewed by Conor Harrington in today's Galway Independent. He talks to me about my new book; about teaching creative writing; about politics; about begrudgery and, well, click on the link below and read for yourself.

"London-born writer and poet Kevin Higgins is a firm believer that there is a direct link between politics and writing..." http://galwayindependent.com/stories/item/3275/2012-30/Kevin-Higgins---Writer

Monday, 23 July 2012

Fundraiser Reading For The Abandoned Darlings

I'm reading at a fundraiser event for the Abandoned Darlings
(aka the class of 2011/12 MA in Writing @ NUI Galway)

The readings takes place on Thursday, August 23rd, 8pm
@ The Cellar Bar
ABANDONED DARLINGS
PRESENT
NUIG MA in Writing 2011-2012
ANTHOLOGY FUNDRAISER

A night of entertainment with MC Pete Mullineaux and readings by
EVA BOURKE, KEVIN HIGGINS and NUALA NI CHONCHUIR
followed by an OPEN MIC session (for you, yes YOU, to strut your stuff on stage!), and LIVE MUSIC from Christian Wallace and Sea Area Forecast:

Admission: €5

Nicholas Killoury

I've just heard that Nicholas, the legendary barman at Garavan's on Shop Street in Galway, died last Friday. Nicholas was a true original. It was from him that I borrowed the last two lines of my poem 'A Real Galwegian' which you can read here http://www.virtualwriter.net/vw_content.aspx?id=9050

The poem features in my 2005 poetry collection The Boy With No Face which can be purchased directly from the Salmon Poetry site here http://www.salmonpoetry.com/details.php?ID=108&a=108

Funeral arrangements for Nicholas Killoury - Reposing at the Holy Family Funeral Home, Mervue from 6pm on Monday, July 23rd with removal at 7pm to the adjoining church. Funeral mass on Tuesday, July 24th at 11am followed by Burial the New Cemetery, Galway. http://www.rip.ie/death_notices_detail.asp?NoticeID=169267

Friday, 22 June 2012

Ted Grant Remembered


Ted Grant (1913-2006)

Ted Grant was born Isaac Blank in South Africa in 1913. He spent most of his life in Britain and was a key leader of the British Trotskyist movement, a founder of the Militant Tendency which grew to be, by the mid-1980s, perhaps the most successful Trotskyist organisation in history.

Ted died six years ago this month. You can read his Guardian obituary here http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2006/jul/27/guardianobituaries.southafrica

Ted was always predicting another 1929 style economic slump. It's ironic then that in the same issue of The Guardian in which his obituary appeared, there was an article about the record profits which a certain British bank had just announced. That bank  was Northern Rock, which was one of the first to topple when the present crisis began the following year.

Members of Militant (in the UK) included such well known names as Derek Hatton & Tommy Sheridan. Members of the organisation's Irish section included the T.Ds Joe Higgins, Clare Daly and Joan Collins.

From 1982 to 1994 I was a member of the organisation myself, at first here in Galway where I was a Militant supporter within Galway West Labour Youth and later in north London, where I was chair of Enfield Against The Poll Tax. For my trouble, I was expelled from the British Labour Party in 1991.

When I heard about Ted's death, it inspired this poem http://www.nthposition.com/deathofa.php

The poem is also available in my 2008 poetry collection Time Gentlemen, Please which can be purchased directly from the Salmon Poetry site. http://www.salmonpoetry.com/details.php?ID=35&a=108

Monday, 18 June 2012

Juliet Poyntz, founding member of the Communist Party U.S.A.

Juliet Poyntz (1886-1937)

My poem about Juliet Poyntz is today discussed in some detail on the very much right of centre American website Neo-neocon here http://neoneocon.com/2012/06/18/juliet-poynz-changer/

Poyntz was a founding member of the Communist Party U.S.A. She became disillusioned with Stalinism and was, apparently, 'disappeared'  by Soviet agents in New York City in June 1937. Her murder happened at a time when the likes of George Bernard Shaw and Lillian Hellman (to name just two) where loudly telling anyone who would listen what a great guy Stalin was.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Ranting Beast review

Stephen Byrne reviews Mentioning the War
on his very interesting website The Ranting Beast
http://therantingbeast.com/book-review-mentioning-the-war-by-kevin-higgins/

Occupy London: Poem quoted

A poem I wrote back in 2001, A Brief History of Those Who Made Their Point Politely And Then Went Home, is quoted in Hilary Aked's web article about Occupy London
A history of those who made their point politely, and then went home, has never been written, as poet Kevin Higgins put it.
The poem is from my 2005 collection The Boy With No Face which can be purchased direct from Salmon Poetry here http://www.salmonpoetry.com/details.php?ID=108&a=108&PHPSESSID=c088b6e792087746a022ba5fd7e2052f

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Mick Wallace poem

I have a new poem on Irish Left Review.
It was provoked by the reaction to the Mick Wallace V.A.T. issue.

Mick Wallace ran on the platform of 'A New Politics'. He was a T.D. for only 14 months when he co-sponsored (with Joan Collins and Clare Daly) the bill to legislate the the X-Case. It was the first attempt to legislate for abortion in Irish history. Seems like a new politics to me. Given that in the 20 years since the X-Case not a single T.D., not one, had the courage to attempt to legislate on this issue. Just saying.

Friday, 8 June 2012

After the Dublin launch, The Stinging Fly review

REVIEW by Philip Coleman in Summer 2012 issue of The Stinging Fly (Edited by Dave Lordan).

"Turning to more recent developments in Irish literary culture, in fact, it is useful to think of poets such as Kevin Higgins, Dave Lordan, Elaine Feeney, and Sarah Clancy as the inheritors of this extremely diverse and largely non-academic Southern Irish poetic culture over the last few years—a cultural context that has received significantly less critical consideration to date than its Northern Irish counterpart.

Kevin Higgins’ interest in the performative and political aspects of poetic practice certainly owes something to the combined efforts of writers such as Galvin and Durcan before him, and the public impulse of his work is reinforced by the essays and shorter prose pieces collected in Mentioning the War: Essays and Reviews, 1999-2011. As the title suggests, Higgins’ work—like Bardwell’s, in this respect—seeks to discuss things that are often not given broad or open coverage, and in this collection he writes with equal critical insight about literary as well as political matters, regardless of their current cultural status, currency, or standing. An essay on George Orwell is followed by a piece on Elaine Feeney, which in turn gives way to reviews of books about the corrupt banker Seán Fitzpatrick and the Corrib gas pipeline controversy. Literary criticism and political/social commentary appear side by side in a book that demonstrates Higgins’ clear commitment to the value of the written word. Indeed, the contents of Mentioning the War are drawn from a diverse array of publications, including literary magazines and periodicals in Ireland, the UK, Canada, and Australia, but also from publications such as The Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society and the Albanian newspapers Ndryshe and Shekulli, demonstrating both the high regard with which Higgins’ work is held internationally and the transnational range and reach of his interests.


In an essay on the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva’s prose, Joseph Brodsky wrote:

What does a writer of prose learn from poetry? The dependence of a word’s specific gravity on context, focused thinking, omission of the self-evident, the dangers that lurk within an elevated state of mind. And what does the poet learn from prose? Not much: attention to detail, the use of common parlance and bureaucratese, and, in rare instances, compositional know-how (the best teacher of which is music). All three of these, however, can be gleaned from the experience of poetry itself (especially from Renaissance poetry), and theoretically—but only theoretically—a poet can get along without prose.

Kevin Higgins, like Leland Bardwell, is a poet first and foremost, but he did not need to write prose to learn the things flagged here by Brodsky. His essays, like his poems, attend with great care to relevant details, just as his political and cultural observations are often informed by actual experience and insight. As he puts it in an interview included in this collection but first published in 2009: ‘The writers I am always interested in are those who see everything in the world as their subject, and ruthlessly write the truth as they see it, come what may. Far better to do this than become a yes man or woman for this or that popular front.’ The breadth of topics discussed in Mentioning the War, coupled with Higgins’ intelligence and candour as a social, cultural, and literary critic, make this an indispensable volume, not just to readers interested in contemporary Irish poetry but to anyone interested in the current political, cultural and social climate. Including illuminating introductory pieces by Darrell Kavanagh and John Goodby, Mentioning the War reproduces some of the work published in Higgins’ earlier volume Poetry, Politics & Dorothy Gone Horribly Astray (Lapwing Press, 2006). Like Bardwell’s Different Kinds of Love, however, the pieces reprinted here retain all of the urgency of their earlier occasions. A poet may get along without prose, but no reader interested in the state of contemporary Irish poetry or culture can afford to ignore the interventions made by Bardwell and Higgins in these very different but immensely valuable prose collections."

The book was reviewed alongside the short story collection Different Kinds of Love (Dedalus Press) by Leland Bardwell.

Philip Coleman has previously written about my work in his extensive essay Against the Iron Railings of History: the poetry and some of the prose of Kevin Higgins which was published last August on Irish Left Review http://www.irishleftreview.org/2011/08/04/iron-railings-history-poetry-prose-kevin-higgins/

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Successful Dublin launch of Mentioning the War

Lovely crowd from various walks of literary and political life at the Dublin launch of Mentioning the War at the Irish Writers' Centre last night. The launch speech was by Socialist Party and United Left Alliance T.D. Clare Daly and you can read it here  http://www.irishleftreview.org/2012/06/12/speech-clare-daly-td-dublin-launch-kevin-higgins-mentioning-war/

Clare Daly

Maurice Harmon, Aidan Hynes, Niall Ó Brolcháin...

Jessie Lendennie

Kevin signing books

Kevin & Clare catch up


Aindrias Ó'Cathasaigh, Emmett Farrell and friends in deep discussion


Friday, 1 June 2012

Generous review of 'Mentioning the War' in Books Ireland

REVIEW by Joe Horgan, Books Ireland, Summer 2012 
Mentioning the War: Essays and Reviews 1999-2011. Kevin Higgins. Salmon Poetry.

"As a poet I have a dark secret. It’s a problem I have when it comes to the reading of poetry. It’s not that I don’t read poetry or can’t. I do and I can. But I have to admit that the reading of a lot of contemporary poetry is something close to a chore. If... I can just get to the end, I tell myself, I can read something else with a clear conscience. Too often, amongst the pages of poetry, I am overwhelmed by feelings of irrelevance. What the hell am I doing in the middle of this polite parlour game? Fortunately, though, there are poets that can be read with, even, as sense of anticipation and fortunately for me as a reviewer Kevin Higgins is one of these. In this book of essays we get to see just why that is so and get to see, beyond his essays, just why his poetry is so invigorating. Quite simply, the writings of Kevin Higgins manage to make poetry seem important.


This book is a collection of disparate essays and reviews and as with any collection there are a few fillers and some that are far better than others. Higgins is never going to let you get bored though and as a politically and poetically active artist has the great gift of stirring up your thoughts, with even the briefest of pieces leaving you with something to chew on. For reviewing the ludicrously underrated Ken Bruen he gained my admiration. For favourably reviewing Jonathan Fitzgibbon’s Cromwell’s Head, by far the silliest book I have ever reviewed, my bewilderment. For reviewing Paul Muldoon’s band, in particular his lyrics, my disagreement. Muldoon’s cleverness is neither daunting nor accessible, it’s just tedious. For his essay / critique of Red Lamp, my cringing laughter. Indeed his portrait of the poets at the start of the essay had me looking around the room in case he was suddenly pointing at me with a smirk.

Higgins is far too much an engaged and relevant writer though for this to be a book just for insiders, for poets to nod over together. The essay ‘Unmasking the Real Enemy’ is a brilliant piece of writing, whether you wish to call it political or social or whatever you’re having yourself, it is the writing, the writing that carries it. Which is where his strength lies, for however politically alert and concerned he is, however argumentative and contradictory, both as an essayist and as a poet, Higgins never loses sight of the fact that you better be able to say what you want to say, as well as being sure what it is you want to say. So whether you are agreeing or disagreeing with him you are never in doubt that you are involved with writing of the highest quality. For instance in his review of a Douglas Murray book extolling neo-conservatism I found myself profoundly disagreeing with him but unable to stop reading. Like quite a few of us on the disappointed, defeated left he can seem quite lost, quite often, and in his review of Murray’s book manifests that most profoundly. Appearing to follow the journalist Nick Cohen in having the old habit on the left of seeing the settling of scores with other factions on the left as a priority, his partial embracing of the neocons in this review is both a brave inclusion and an example of a mind in movement. Devil’s advocate is often the default position now for a left-wing writer and Higgins’s display of this works to his advantage, even when you sharply disagree with his position. But then what kind of work would be produced by an artist who doesn’t wish to wander into uncertainty, even of the most disconcerting kind? From poetry, through politics, to the personal, Kevin Higgins’s collection of essays will have you nodding in satisfied agreement, emphatically shaking your head in disagreement, laughing, cringing, and thinking. You’re not surely going to ask for much more than that, are you?"

Joe Horgan is a poet himself. You can find some of his work here http://www.munsterlit.ie/Writer%20pages/Horgan,%20Joseph.html

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Herself to the very end: Mary Higgins


I have an article in today's Galway Independent about my Mom, Mary Higgins, who died of lung cancer on Tuesday, May 31st last year. http://galwayindependent.com/stories/item/2196/2012-19/Galway-Hospice%3A-Herself-to-the-very-end
Mom sitting beside Susan at an Over The Edge event at Sheridan's Wine Bar in 2007

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Galway launch of Mentioning the War: Essays & Reviews (1999-2011)

Some photos below from the Galway launch of my books of essays and reviews. It's a retrospective covering the past decade or so covering a wide variety of sometimes controversial literary and political subjects.

The book was launched by Darrell Kavanagh at Galway Arts Centre. Darrell also wrote the foreword for the book. You can buy a copy direct from the Salmon website http://www.salmonpoetry.com/details.php?ID=255&a=108


Des Kavanagh & Tom Lavelle
Me off in the distance listening to Darrell who is just out of shot

Darrell launching the book
Dani Gill, literature officer at Galway Arts Centre

John Walsh, Susan and Jessie Lendennie

Me reading from the book

Jessie Lendennie

Jean Kavanagh of Salmon