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,

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’.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019 14:19


Published in Poetry

Backlash by Name
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 and keeps
taking until you have less
than you had December the first,
the year you were born.

He stuffs you into the boot of a car
and drives you
backward many miles until you’re further
from your destination than you were
the day you started out.

He gives you back
all your illnesses at once
but lets you keep the side-effects
of the poison that was going to fix you.

He rents a skip for outside
what was once your house;
lets local children put you
and your opinion
of yourself in it.

He makes your mother
drag herself up out of her grave
and bang the table
as she tells the committee, no
she never heard of you.

National Poetry Day: Deliberately Offensive Truthful Song
Tuesday, 17 September 2019 09:24

National Poetry Day: Deliberately Offensive Truthful Song

Published in Poetry

Deliberately Offensive Truthful Song

by Kevin Higgins

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 owner, the Council, or any member
of An Garda Síochána.

- Galway City Council bylaw as of 2-1-2020

Despite the Alderman, his head a sweaty pink moon,
who wanted travellers castrated,
or at least kept behind an electric fence.

Despite the former Mayor who liked to taste
the thighs of teenage boys in a local pub’s
musty meeting room and wore
his ceremonial robes while doing it.

Despite the motion you passed overwhelmingly
against contraceptive devices and students
engaging in sensuality without responsibility.

Despite the fortune one of your number got
from coffin ships his grandfather
profitably fed to the starving
Atlantic sharks.

Despite the “dastardly” Rising
at whose failure you rejoiced and the diamond
welcome you gave Edward the Seventh.

Despite the lines of white powder expertly
inhaled off a professional lady’s
clavicle which none of your number
knew anything about.

In truth,
you are inoffensive as a fairground
run by defrocked priests in grey raincoats;

In truth,
as a former Mayor owning
a seafront casino that took
the pensions of passing widows,
the disability benefits
of bald guys with the shakes;

In truth,
as a line of giant white puddings
who’ve calamitously been
let talk.

The new law comes into force the day after Galway becomes European City of Culture 2020. For further details see here.


Fintan O'Toole
Wednesday, 14 August 2019 10:03

To The Man Who Defines Ireland

Published in Poetry

To The Man Who Defines Ireland

by Kevin Higgins

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.

See here.

Waiting for Boris
Tuesday, 25 June 2019 17:52

Waiting for Boris

Published in Poetry

Waiting for Boris
after Constantine Cavafy

by Kevin Higgins

What are they waiting for,
the archbishops and casino owners
clutching their bags of cocaine,
the barman at Wetherspoons eyeing the clock,
and the little people who live
in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s top hat
who’ve been watching things
go slowly downhill
since thirteen eighty one?

Boris is to arrive today
in a chariot driven
by a man with syphilis.

Why so few new laws
up for debate in the House?
Why do the Lords seem happy
to lie about the place waiting
for aneurysms to take them,
without even the energy
to pay their assistants
to give them one last beating
with Daddy’s bloodstained walking stick?

Because Boris arrives today
wearing an eye-patch he borrowed
from Madonna.

Why should the Honourable Member
for Cambridgeshire South bother
crying her usual tears?
Boris, when he gets here,
will have everyone except himself in tears.

Why do the Chairs of Select Committees
race up and down Whitehall
wearing only ceremonial dicky-bows
quoting passages from the Magna Carta
and the new Ann Widdecombe cookbook
into the surprised faces of tourists?

Why have the Speaker of the House
and Lord Privy Seal exhumed
from Westminster Abbey the bones
of Alfred Lord Tennyson
and dragged them to a cheap hotel near Waterloo
to engage in a rattly threesome?

Because Boris arrives today
and approves of such things.

And why doesn’t the Office for National Statistics
give us the latest disastrous news?
Because Boris arrives today
and is bored by people who can add and subtract.

What does this sudden outbreak
of accountants and High Court Judges
vomiting on each other mean?
How grey their jowls have grown.
Why have all the escalators stopped moving?
Why all the red buses crashing into the Thames?

Because the clock has rung
and Boris is not coming.
Some journalists formerly resident in Hell
but now working for the Telegraph
have been sent from the frontline to confirm
there is no Boris.

And now what will we become
without Boris?
We must urgently set about inventing
some other catastrophe
to rescue us from ourselves.

The Restoration
Monday, 03 June 2019 13:53

The Restoration

Published in Poetry

The Restoration

by Kevin Higgins

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 have long since discarded their G-strings.

Things as they used to be
have been pasted back together,
or almost, like a vase broken during an argument
or a marriage in which both parties
have agreed to pretend.

Right-thinking people will have restored to them
the right to their old wrongs
and for the first time be permitted by law
to order children’s teeth on Amazon,
to do with as they wish in the privacy
of their vastly worthwhile lives:

for example
fashion them into impromptu dentures
for their Julian Assange effigies,
or offer as mints to those who got unlucky
and now mess up the pavement
by living on it.

Five sizeable middle-aged gentlemen were recently elected as Fianna Fail councillors for Galway City Council. Fianna Fail are the party who led Ireland into the banking crash, and they now support Leo Varadkar's minority government. As you'll see from the photo, they are generally quite well fed.


On the birth of Prince What's-His-Name
Monday, 06 May 2019 18:08

On the birth of Prince What's-His-Name

Published in Poetry

On The Birth Of Prince What’s-His-Name
before Carol Ann Duffy

by Kevin Higgins

Receive this boy-child, world,
to pursue him about the pages
of the tabloids and glossies that were
his granny’s premature end.
Under the sign of the Express,
and Nicholas Witchell of the BBC, we conspire
for him a life of turning up to declare
things that would’ve opened or closed anyway
open or closed. We beseech the gathered
spirits of Fanny Craddock,
Lord Denning, and Sir Patrick Moore
that he exhibit no more
fascist sympathies than absolutely necessary,
and no more casual hatred of the Irish
than the late Princess Margaret.
Oh ghosts of Edmund Burke
and Lady Jane Birdwood we beg
you allow the mob disturb not one follicle
on this particular head; and ensure he’s never led
down to the basement by Bolsheviks,
even in the unlikely event of a Labour government
that actually keeps its promises.
We ask God, as Michael Heseltine and
Julia Hartley Brewer understand him,
to arrange for this child a life
of tennis, polo
and knowing as little as possible.

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