Kevin Higgins’s Frightening New Furniture

Kevin Higgins

  
Kevin Higgins is co-organiser of Over The Edge literary events. He facilitates poetry workshops at Galway Arts Centre; teaches creative writing at Galway Technical Institute and on the Brothers of Charity Away With Words programme. He is also Writer-in-Residence at Merlin Park Hospital and the poetry critic of the Galway Advertiser. His first collection of poems The Boy With No Face was published by Salmon in February 2005 and was short-listed for the 2006 Strong Award. His second collection, Time Gentlemen, Please, was published in March 2008 by Salmon. One of the poems from Time Gentlemen, Please, ‘My Militant Tendency’, features in the Forward Book of Poetry 2009. One of the poems in this collection, ‘Ourselves Again’, appeared in Best of Irish Poetry 2009 (Southword Editions). His work also features in the The Watchful Heart – A New Generation of Irish Poets (edited by Joan McBreen, Salmon Poetry) and in Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets (edited by Roddy Lumsden, Bloodaxe, 2010).
 
 

  
In poems laced with the blackest humour Kevin Higgins spares no-one, least of all himself. In this his third collection of poetry, he takes the reader through the hubris of boom time Ireland and out the other side into a strange country where everything is suddenly broken again. Just when Ireland imagined itself to have finally escaped history, the statues of virgins and freedom fighters are on the move again. Higgins goes all the way into the dark to investigate what’s left when youthful political idealism – his ‘old political furniture’ – gives way under the sheer weight of what actually happens. As ever, the City of Galway is one of his pet subjects, and he takes time out to bring to hilarious life its bookshop romancers and women who decide to be fascinating.
  
 
Read an interview with Kevin and his wife, fellow poet Susan Millar DuMars, in the Galway Advertiser.
 
 
“important emerging voice”
 
The Irish Times

“a social critique as lithe and imaginative as that of the con-merchants who run the show… A satire which eschews moderation and openly admits its own savagery can only succeed.”
 
Justin Quinn, The Cambridge Introduction to Modern Irish Poetry, 1800-2000
 
 
“He is the only one of my Irish contemporaries who makes me laugh out loud regularly, not just because the work is funny, but because it has that great sense of character behind it, where one pictures the speaker in all his curmudgeonly grumpy-old-man-ness glaring at the reader wondering what the hell they’re laughing at!”
 
Nigel McLoughlin, Iota
 
 
“The left should hurry to welcome this collection. Here is poetry that we can identify with, that tells of our hopes and fears and doubts and questions, that puts our lives on the map too. The fact that one of our own can tell such stories in a way that is so powerful and satisfying is something to be proud of.”
 
Joe Conroy, Red Banner magazine
 
 
“This is work which raises the question of what the political poem can be, for us now, in our several cultures.”
 
Siobhan Campbell, www.dissentmagazine.org
 
 
“wonderfully inventive imagery”
 
Laurie Smith, Magma
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
Ourselves Again
 
In the park our ice lollies
fall victim to the June bank holiday heat,
while in glass rooms numbers moving
through dark computers
declare the future
finished.
 
Tomorrow, we’ll have our double glazing
taken out; the crack put back
in the ceiling and a draught
installed under every door.
I’ll attach a For Sale sign
to the seat of my pants.
 
Gangs of the angry unemployed
will bear down on the G Hotel
chanting “Down with Daiquiris
and Slippery Nipples! Give us back
our glasses of Harp!”
 
In pubs nationwide, the carpets of yesteryear
will be reinstated, and there’ll be meetings
of Sinn Fein The Workers Party
going on permanently upstairs.
 
On our knees, we’ll ask
for the unforgiveness of sins
and life not lasting.
We’ll be ourselves again
and then some.
 
 
  
House Guest
after Elizabeth Bishop
 
For eighteen months
he’s been staying
until the end of next week –
harder to pin down on any calendar
than the precise date of his world
uprising of the workers,
which he writes down for you nightly
on that day’s anti-poll tax leaflet.
 
All the first week of January, fried slices
of the Christmas pudding his mother sent him
in the post are breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Work or the laundrette would get in the way
of his plans for the planet.
Your one bedroom flat is starting to smell.
 
When not away on a demo chanting
“Victory to Iraq!” his afternoons are spent
doing despicable things to worse women
in your bed. The pile of twenty pence pieces
on your bedside locker diminishes daily.
 
Yesterday, he was rushed to hospital
to have the y-fronts he’s worn
for the past six months
surgically removed.
 
Today, he’s what
emerges from your living room
sofa bed to tell you
where you’re going wrong.
 
 
 
A School Boy Goes Home Early
 
Twenty five years after me, you moved
through a chaos of blue uniforms
down those same break time corridors
towards the day you became
a list of things that’ll never now happen.
Parties you won’t be going to.
Cities you’ll never visit.
A wedding day at which
you’ll never arrive.
You couldn’t see
that even the worst weather
of your worst day
would have given way
to something else;
that you could have lived
through anything
but this.
 
 
 
Together In The Future Tense
 
On a day that, for now, sits
unopened under the tree,
you’ll push me uphill in a wheelchair;
say things like: Augustus John,
as you’ll know, was obsessed
with motorcars
and think
people know what you mean.
 
Every other Wednesday
we’ll take the wrong medication
(you, mine and I, yours)
and the results will be
magnificent. I’ll be forever answering
the question before last.
 
In our thoughts we’ll commit
grotesque typographical errors:
for Athens read Athenry, for Ralgex
read Canesten, for Disabled Toilet
read World Weightlifting Championships,
for Swan Lake read Loughrea.
 
The once absolute monarchy
of my brain will grant autonomy
to my bits. Our bladders will be busy
writing their declarations of independence.
 
We’ll be our very own festival of befuddlement;
as the light on the Aegean Sea
becomes a small boy
taking his ball home for the evening,
and the stray dogs wander off.
  
 
 
from Frightening New Furniture (Salmon Poetry, 2010)
 
Order Frightening New Furniture.

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