Tag Archives: Irish poets

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.

Cocktail hour with Liz Gallagher

Liz Gallagher by Vladi Valido

     
Liz Gallagher was born and brought up in Donegal, Ireland. She has been living in Gran Canary Island for the past 14 years. She has an Education degree and a Computer Science degree. She is at present doing research for her doctoral studies. She began writing about five years ago and has won a variety of awards in both Ireland and the US: Inclusion in the Best New Poets 2007 Anthology (Meridian Press, Virginia University), First Prize in The Listowel Writers’ Single Poem Competition 2009 and she was selected by Poetry Ireland for their 2009 Introductions Series in recognition of her status as an emerging poet.
     

The Wrong Miracle (Salt Modern Poets, 2009)

       
Liz, welcome to Johannesburg and cocktail hour at peony moon.  It’s been a heady experience following The Maximus Miracle Tour.
         
I hope something on the menu tickles your taste buds.  We have Absinthe, Acapulco Sunrises, Alabama Slammers, Alchemist’s Punch, Banshees, Barry Whites, Bitches Brew, Fuzzy Navels, Beijing Mules, Blueberry Martinis, Screwdrivers, Sex on the Beach, Singapore Slings and, of course, Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters.
         
Hi Michelle, it is wonderful to be here in South Africa.  It’s my first time and I know it will be an experience to remember.  Thanks so much for having me and for preparing such an interesting cocktail menu.  Some of these drinks are just too irresistible, so I shan’t even try.  Thanks, Michelle, all of my cocktails I love shaken but not stirred.
       
     

A favourite 'living on the edge' house along Las Palmas promenade

    
I see you have your photo album tucked under your arm.  Tell me something about your life in the Canary Islands.
        
Well, we live in the country in a protected valley.  We have a little tumbledown farm that we are looking after and renovating very slowly!  We both work as English Teachers in the Aula de Idiomas in Las Palmas University in the afternoons which is nice as we avoid all rush hour traffic to the city.  The light and spring-like weather practically all the time make it a very pleasant place to live.  The Canarian people are very sociable and outgoing and thus there are always things happening on the island from WOMAD  to the Las Palmas International Film Festival and of course there are always local festivals of song and dance to celebrate grape picking, olive picking, almond picking, water festivals, mud festivals … literally you name it, and they have a festival for it.
       
It is nice having the mornings free as I either write or study for an hour or two and then go to the farm with our dogs.  The quietness and sense of calm in the country contrasts with the very energetic busy atmosphere of the villages and cities.  All in all, it is a nice place to live in and it lends itself very well to hibernating and escaping the world which suits me fine, at times. I feel very lucky to be here and remind myself not to take it for granted.
      
      

Man Imitating Nature

     
Would you describe your writing process, Liz.
    
I usually write early in the morning and quite often take part in daily writing challenges with fellow poets to help get motivated.  I normally get inspired by a line or phrase and go where that takes me.  I sometimes write in white text into the screen for a timed period of maybe anything from ten minutes to 30 minutes.  This usually takes the form of what I like to call ‘mental-rioting’ as explained in TFE’s interview:
     
“The idea of writing in white font is to temporarily avoid Ms. Inner Critic who is usually on 24/7 duty casting an eye on what has been written, she will have her time to do that in the next re-drafting stage but for the tentative beginnings of a poem, I like to give free reign to whatever is in my head.  The first draft usually contains the absolute bones of where the poem is going and where it has landed.  I usually leave the first draft aside for a few weeks and then return to it to view it anew.  My revision usually deals with cutting excess and such like and tweaking here and there by substituting words and phrases but the basic thought and sentiment of the poem remain the same.”
     
     

The Three Wise Men on Canteras Beach, Las Palmas

      
The royalties from The Wrong Miracle sales are going to Sands (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity).  Tell me about the support services Sands offers to those affected by the death of a baby.  How can people get involved?
     
Sands have a website here.  There are so many different ways to support Sands.  On their website, they outline some very practical ways, and they say the following:
     
“The death of a baby is a devastating experience.  The effects of grief can be overwhelming, and in the early hours and days parents can be left feeling dazed, disorientated, isolated and exhausted.  It can be hard to take in information, to make decisions or to imagine how you are going to cope.  At Sands there are people who understand what it’s like because many of us have been through this experience ourselves, and we are here to offer support and information when you need it.
     
Early moments of loss  There are choices you can make about what happens to your baby and to you in the early hours and days of their death.  These decisions, whether they involve keeping momentos of your baby or decisions about naming your baby, can have an impact on how you will feel about this time in years to come.  You may want to talk to someone or read about the feelings of other parents who have been through the same experience.
     
Important practical information   There are some things that you may have to do after your baby dies including registering your baby’s death and deciding about a post mortem and funeral. In this section we also include information about your post-natal check as well as any benefits you may be eligible for.
     
A bereavement journey  We understand that the death of a baby is not a one-off event but an emotional journey, that affects every aspect of your life. In this section we look at issues such as going home and back to work, thinking about a new baby, and remembering your baby in the years to come.
     
Family and friends  As well as supporting mothers and fathers, we are also here to help other members of your family, especially other children you may have and grandparents. Many people may be touched by your baby’s death, whether they be close friends or relations, and all are welcome to contact us for support and information.
     
Second trimester loss  Your baby may have died during its 2nd trimester. The death of a baby can happen to any one of us at any stage and Sands aims to provide support no matter what your situation.
    
Talk to someone  You may want to talk to someone who can listen to how you feel or can help you think through what you want to do.  You can do this by calling our national helpline or by exchanging experiences via our forum.  It may help to hear the stories of other bereaved parents in our personal experiences section, from our list of publications, or indeed from the various articles and media which have covered the issue of baby loss. We have a network of over 90 local groups around the UK and you may want to find out whether there is one close to you, or indeed you may prefer to find other support links – listed here in alphabetical order.”
      
Michelle, you asked how people can become involved. Here are a few of the ways:
    
Becoming a member
Donating
Getting involved with fundraising
Raising awareness
    
Thanks very much for asking about Sands, Michelle.  It’s great to have an opportunity to highlight what they do. 
   
Thanks also for being a great hostess and having me on your blog.  The cocktails added to the festive spirit.  I’ll be taking note of a few of the recipes to host a similar occasion when I get back to the Canaries.  I have enjoyed the experience.  Happy Festive Season to you and yours, Michelle, and lots of best wishes for the New Year.
      
Thank you for your whirlwind visit, Liz.  All the best for the rest of The Maximus Miracle Tour and I look forward to keeping in touch next year.
    
   

Cacti burst

Cocktails and Miracles

   
   
Make a date to join the charming Liz Gallagher, author of The Wrong Miracle (Salt Modern Poets, 2009), for cocktail hour (or the whole day) on 17 December 2009.
 
The Maximus Miracle Tour is now well under way. If you need to catch up with what’s been happening, here are Liz’s tour dates and hosts:
   
28 October 2009 – Event Museum, Arlene Ang
5 November 2009 – The Art of Breathing, Brenda Nixon
12 November 2009 – Women Rule Writer, Nuala Ní Chonchúir
19 November 2009 – The People’s Lost Republic of EEjit
3 December 2009 – More about the Song, Rambling with Rachel Fox
10 December 2009 – Savvy Verse & Wit, Serena M. Agusto-Cox
14 December 2009 – Savvy Verse & Wit, Serene M. Agusto-Cox II
17 December 2009 – Cocktails at peony moon
2 January 2010 – Theory of Iconic Realism, Jeanne Iris Lakatos
11 January 2010 – The Truth about Lies, Jim Murdoch
     
Liz will be chatting about her life in the Canary Islands and her writing process. She’ll also tell us a little more about Sands: Stillbirth & neonatal death charity, the organisation which is receiving the royalties from sales of The Wrong Miracle.
  
In the meantime, here’s what people having been saying about
The Wrong Miracle:
    
“Liz Gallagher’s poems seize us from the first line and tug us along, startled and exhilarated by the tumbling originality of her words.”
– Laurie Smith, Magma
    
“Whether about an untranslated paragraph on shooting ducks or breakfast cereals, Picasso and a sexual snap, Liz Gallagher’s poems are proof that everyday movements generate power and magic. The Wrong Miracle is the work of a master illusionist – a fusion of the surreal and the domestic, the strategic and the spontaneous – where perception is challenged and subtly reinvented.”
– Arlene Ang, The Pedestal Magazine
   
“These are poems that may surprise: sprinkled with humour and vivid word pictures. The verbal twists take you by a friendly matter-of-fact hand to show you other truths. Liz Gallagher owns a true poet’s eye for detail paired with a flair for oddly compelling juxtaposition. Her poetry wants to show you this other thing it has found, like a cat displaying its catch. (as in her poem) ‘Just look what the cat dragged in’.”
– Barry Harris, Tipton Poetry Journal
   
“Long lines with suprising phrases and rushing, tumbling images mark the narrative trend of Liz Gallagher’s poetry. The poems lean into the strength of these narratives, rely upon the poet’s willing experimentation with varietal voice, and in so doing, create a distinctive diction – one with instrospective vision that bubbles out of earthy perception, like a choice mineral spring.”
– Eve Anthony Hanninen, poet, writer, artist & editor
of The Centrifugal Eye
   
*
   
Liz blogs at Musings.
  
Order your copy of The Wrong Miracle here.

Vona Groarke on writing

 
“When I write, it’s like running my hand over a length of cloth, picking out patterns, testing the give, rubbing the fabric between thumb and forefinger to feel out the texture and the flaws.”
 
– Vona Groarke, Modern Women Poets (Bloodaxe, 2005)

Eavan Boland, from ‘Letter to a young woman poet’

  
“Occasionally I see myself, or the ghost of myself, in the places where I first became a poet. On the pavement just around Stephen’s Green for instance, with its wet trees and sharp railings. What I see is not an actual figure, but a sort of remembered loneliness. The poets I knew were not women: the women I knew were not poets.  The conversations I had, or wanted to have, were never complete.
  
Sometimes I think of how time might become magical:  How I might get out of the car even now and cross the road and stop that young woman and surprise her with the complete conversation she hardly knew she missed.  How I might stand there with her in the dusk, the way neighbours stand on their front steps before they go in to their respective houses for the night: half-talking and half-leaving.”
  
– Eavan Boland, from ‘Letter to a young woman poet’

Liz Gallagher’s The Wrong Miracle

 
   
Spring the Life Fandango
Liz Gallagher
 
I want something and there are twinges in my heart.
My heart twinges so badly that I fear the act of dropping
 
down dead before I get what I want. How is that for
momentum or for a god that has the sauciest way of telling
 
me that I have pushed the boat out too far, I have let
the boat land with a splash and a hoot and I am left in mid
 
ocean without a paddle – the paddle they had warned me
about, the paddle that takes on a life of its own and even beats
  
me over the head in my dreams to make me wake
up in the middle of the night with a bunch of hair stuck in my
  
mouth and my cat licking the back of my hand, frantically
reaching a high meter of lickability that says the big gong is
  
going to gong and tell me Time’s Up. I’d hoped to never want
something as badly as I want this – all the karma and jinxing
  
in the world could take it from me with one loose crack
of the whip. I could be sent marching the long way home
  
without the thing I want badly tucked up in my inside
pocket near my heart, no, on my heart, which now has stopped
  
twanging and is doing a la-la-la beat. It is not about wanting
to hold your hand nor about shaking all over, it’s about seeing
 
a tiny dream, like a foamy insole for a favourite winter
boot (a size too big), become something I can lay
myself on and spring, spring, spring the life fandango.
 
 
 
from The Wrong Miracle (Salt Publishing, 2009).
  
Read more about Liz and The Wrong Miracle here.
  
Visit Liz’s blog.

Barbara Smith’s Kairos

Roosters
Barbara Smith
  
My Granny used to soak the spuds too
making it easy to peel them later.
Part of morning’s ritual was topping
their pot with water. Later, after
fowl were fed and tae and bread were ate,
she’d peel them slowly, humming all the while
a medley of Moore’s Almanac songs.
  
Steeping my potatoes now, as she did,
brings her Four Green Fields down the years to me.
Scaly and red, these Roosters, instead of
her soft Queens; mine tattle of modern machinery,
long scars that I smooth away with a stainless
peeler. I split them with a long broad knife,
rinse them down and leave them by for dinner.
  
  
 
from Kairos (Doghouse Books, 2007).
  
Read more about Barbara here.
  
Order Kairos here.
  
Visit Barbara’s blog.

Seamus Heaney

 
” … Keep at a tangent.
When they make the circle wide, it’s time to swim
out on your own and fill the element
with signatures on your own frequency,
echo-soundings, searches, probes, allurements,
elver gleams in the dark of the whole sea.”
 
– Seamus Heaney, from ‘Station Island’