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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Reading in Limerick next Tuesday

I will be reading from my new book, The Ghost in the Lobby, published by Salmon, at this event in Limerick next Tuesday evening.

"The March 2014 ‘On the Nail’ Literary Gathering take place on Tuesday 4th March 2014@ The Loft Venue @ The Locke Bar, Georges Quay, Limerick. Start 8.00pm sharp."  

I will, for the first time in human history, be reading in public my poetic tribute to Munster's answer to the Emperor Bokassa, the great Pat Cox. See here.
'The Ghost in the Lobby' will be on sale at this event as will copies of the greatest poetry publication in the West, the Skylight 47 poetry paper.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Mention: How To Speak Poetry


Nice mention in this most interesting and provocative article by Dave Lordan: "I’d also say the best page poets writing in southern Ireland at the moment, people like Kevin Higgins, Billy Ramsell and Kimberly Campanello also have far better stage presences, by some distance, than a lot of the performance poets I know of." 

You can read the full article here

Catholic Online Forums Exposes True Agenda Of Lefty Poet Kevin Higgins

One of my poems is given some close textual analysis by 'Hibernicus', the administrator on the 'Irish Catholics' online forum. It appears of their 'Abortion 2013' discussion thread. Here is what Hibernicus has to say:

“Another example of how our oh-so-arty pro-aborts use their self-image as culture heroes to push their agenda. This poem by the lefty poet Kevin Higgins is being circulated on the pro-abort sites. For Mr Higgins see HERE
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Higgins_(poet)
and here is his self-description of the poem and another atrocity in which he represents Our Lady of Knock as calling for the reopening of the Magdalen Asylums, and which is likewise circulating on the web in the same milieu
mentioningthewar.blogspot.ie/2013/07/poem-in-search-of-good-home.html
EXTRACT
Last week I put out a call on Facebook asking if there were any political or literary blogs that might be interested in publishing my poem 'What The Virgin At Knock Would Say If She Could Speak'. Roisín Peddle stepped up and published the poem on her excellent personal blog Random Descent. The poem was very quickly condemned as 'not poetry' by a foaming at the mouth member of Youth Defence, or at least a member of Youth Defence I will now forever imagine foaming at the mouth. This I considered a great success.

In a similar vein, I am now looking for a home for my just finished and very topical poem: 'Irish Government Minister Unveils Monument To Victims Of The Pro-Life Amendment' [to the Irish constitution in 1983]. Like Bertolt Brecht's 'To Those Born Later' and Mayakovsky's 'At The Top Of My Voice' the poem looks forward to a tomorrow which can only be better than today and will, certainly, be infinitely better than all our dark abortion free Irish yesterdays.
END OF EXTRACT

Mr Higgins' poem is reproduced below as legitimate fair use for the purpose of legitimate literary criticism (which I am sure he himself would agree must necessarily include criticism of the work's political-ideological assumptions), IN CAPITALS

A poem by Kevin Higgins

'Irish Government Minister Unveils Monument
To Victims of Pro-Life Amendment'

On a date to be confirmed,
when those who remember 1983
will sleep safely in their graves,
or be anxiously telling nurse
about the auld ones with crucifixes
they think are coming to get them
[HERE WE SEE MR HIGGINS REASSURING HIS AUDIENCE THAT HISTORY IS ON THEIR SIDE SO THEY CAN ASSUME THEY ARE RIGHT AND NEED NOT BOTHER WITH ARGUMENTS, AND THAT PRO-LIFERS WILL ONE DAY ONLY BE REMEMBERED AS SENILE LUNATICS AND SEMI-MYTHICAL GHOULS. NOTHING LIKE RIDICULING THE MESSENGER TO AVOID TAKING THE MESSAGE SERIOUSLY. THIS ALSO REFLECTS THE FACT THAT HE ASSUMES MUCH OF HIS AUDIENCE WILL BE TOO YOUNG TO REMEMBER 1983, SO HE IS REASSURING THEM THAT THEY ARE WELL ON THE WAY TO THAT DESIRED CONSUMMATION]
a girl, today
on holidays from primary school, [JUST LIKE TURN-OF-THE CENTURY IRISH REVIVAL OCCULTISTS PROCLAIMING THAT THE IRISH MESSIAH WAS ALREADY BORN AMONG US, ONCE AGAIN MR HIGGINS ASSURES HIS ASSOCIATES THAT HISTORY IS INEXORABLY MOVING IN THEIR DIRECTION]
by then grown into
a Maggie Thatcher suit, will thank
the Chamber of Commerce
for use of their microphone
as a pulled chord unwraps
this thing chipped from stone
AS MR HIGGINS IS PRETTY FAR-LEFT HE PRESUMABLY DOES NOT IDENTIFY WITH THIS MARY ROBINSON/MARGARET THATCHER FIGURE OR WITH THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. HIS POINT IS THAT BY THE TIME WE GET TO THE BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN HE PROGNOSTICATES, EVEN THE MOST HIDEBOUND IRISH ESTABLISHMENT FIGURES WILL RECOGNISE RESTRICTIONS ON ABORTION AS POSITIVELY EVIL, AND WILL BE ENGAGING IN COLLECTIVE SHOWS OF REPENTANCE FOR THEIR QUONDAM EXISTENCE AND HELPING TO PUT UP MONUMENTS TO THE 'VICTIMS' JUST AS AT PRESENT CHURCH AND STATE ARE ERECTING MONUMENTS TO THE GENUINE VICTIMS OF THE MAGDALEN LAUNDRIES, INDUSTRIAL SCHOOLS, AND CLERICAL ABUSE - I DETECT A FAIRLY DELIBERATE REFERENCE TO THE PROPOSED MONUMENT TO VICTIMS OF INSTITUTIONAL ABUSE PLANNED FOR PARNELL SQUARE, AT THE BACK OF THE GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE
in memory
of those forced
to change trains at Crewe clutching
solitary suitcases that screamed
one night only,

those that bled out in the backs
of London taxis after journeys
made possible by post office accounts
and extra hours at the newsagent’s;
[THIS IS AN EXPLICIT REFERENCE TO A WELL-KNOWN RECENT CASE, AND OF COURSE MR HIGGINS BLAMES IT ALL ON THE EVIL PRO-LIFERS AND GLOSSES OVER THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE ABORTIONIST FOR LETTING THIS WOMAN, WHO HAD A CLEARLY DEFINED MEDICAL CONDITION, LEAVE WITHOUT PROPER AFTERCARE OR OBSERVATION. IF HE THINKS IRISH-BASED ABORTIONISTS WOULD BE MORE FASTIDIOUS ALL I CAN SAY IS THIS IS PRETTY INCONGRUOUS WITH THE STANDARDS OF REGULATION WE GET IN IRELAND, AND WHICH LEFTIES LIKE MR HIGGINS NEVER CEASE TO EXCORIATE WHEN THEY CONCERN ANYTHING EXCEPT THE SACRAMENT OF ABORTION]
all because of a stick
which, for them, turned
the wrong colour
the wrong year
in the wrong country.
[THIS IS LIKE SAYING THAT NAZI WAR CRIMES TRIALS WERE ALL OVER A FEW PIECES OF LEAD AND PUFFS OF EXHAUST FUMES; IT'S WILFULLY GLOSSING OVER THE HUMAN LIFE AT STAKE. NOTE THAT MR HIGGINS DOES NOT SAY ANYTHING ABOUT THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE "CHOICE" - THOUGH THE REFERENCES TO POST OFFICE ACCOUNTS AND WORKING EXTRA HOURS AT THE NEWSAGENTS' IMPLIES THESE WOMEN ARE POOR AND HAVE DIFFICULTY RAISING THE FUNDS TO TRAVEL, THE UNDERLYING ASSUMPTION OF THE POEM IS THAT ABORTION SHOULD BE AVAILABLE WITHOUT RESTRICTION FOR ANY REASON OR NONE
And as the Minister continues,
across the road a little girl will grab
her mother’s arm and ask:
what’s that lady saying?
THE LITTLE GIRL, FOR MR HIGGINS, IS THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE INEVITABLE TRIUMPH OF THE PRO-ABORT PRINCIPLE, SO THAT FUTURE GENERATIONS WILL BE UNABLE TO COMPREHEND THAT SUCH CREATURES AS PRO-LIFERS COULD EVER HAVE EXISTED, OR THAT ANYONE COULD EVER HAVE SERIOUSLY WISHED TO PROTECT THE LIFE OF THE UNBORN CHILD.

Mr Higgins trusts in the inevitable triumph of his version of civilisation, just as his literary model Mayakovsky trusted that the Marxist-Leninist state would produce the earthly paradise. Mayakovsky was disappointed in his expectation - though he didn't live to see the worst, because he killed himself when he realised the way things were going. Just as the bloody dictatorship that sold Mayakovsky and so many others that promise of earthly paradise didn't last forever, but destroyed many lives and did a vast amount of harm, so Mr Higgins and his cronies can do a vast amount of harm even though the universal moral blindness which he prognosticates may never come to pass. Educate, organise, to resist that darkness.

In the meantime, as GK Chesterton put it "Many clever men have trusted in civilisation - many clever Babylonians, many clever Egyptians, many clever men at the end of Rome". Mr Higgins' poem reminds me of someone else who believed the constitution of his own country should be reinterpreted to get rid of unrealistic pie-in-the-sky provisions about universal rights, provisions which in his opinion could only cause trouble; someone else who thought history was on his side and that all future generations would realise how right he had been and despise his narrow-minded opponents. In that case, the opponents were those who wished to abolish American slavery, so for comparison with Mr Higgins' effusion I leave you with Alexander Stephens, first and only vice-president of the Confederate States of America, telling his audience that history was on their side:
en.wikisource.org/wiki/Cornerstone_Speech
EXTRACT
But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other — though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew."


Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind — from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics; their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just — but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.


In the conflict thus far, success has been on our side, complete throughout the length and breadth of the Confederate States. It is upon this, as I have stated, our social fabric is firmly planted; and I cannot permit myself to doubt the ultimate success of a full recognition of this principle throughout the civilized and enlightened world.


As I have stated, the truth of this principle may be slow in development, as all truths are and ever have been, in the various branches of science. It was so with the principles announced by Galileo-it was so with Adam Smith and his principles of political economy. It was so with Harvey, and his theory of the circulation of the blood. It is stated that not a single one of the medical profession, living at the time of the announcement of the truths made by him, admitted them. Now, they are universally acknowledged. May we not, therefore, look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgment of the truths upon which our system rests? It is the first government ever instituted upon the principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society. Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature's laws. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material-the granite; then comes the brick or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of his ordinances, or to question them. For his own purposes, he has made one race to differ from another, as he has made "one star to differ from another star in glory."
END

THAT is the sort of speech Mr Higgins' imagined minister will be making if his proposed monument is ever unveiled, and if you or I or any of us happen to be present, let us make a face and go home to our catacombs to write a rebuttal for samizdat circulation. But in the meantime let us educate, organise and agitate so that that day may never come, or if it does come there will always be witnesses against it.”

As my mother used to say: now will you go to Mass!  He's a great man for the capital letters, is old Hibernicus.

Both of the poems he refers to here feature in my soon to be launched new poetry collection, The Ghost in the Lobby.
I very much hope that Hibernicus, Beelzebub bless him, will come to the Galway launch, to which he is very invited.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Are You Or Have You Ever Been A Member of The Communist Party?

This was a question the late Senator McCarthy often asked people. The answer, in case you're wondering, is no I've never. But I do have a poem in the current issue of Communist Review, the theoretical journal of the still existant Communist Pary of Britain. 
And my next poetry collection is being launched in London on April 20th by the one time President of the Slovak Communist Youth Movement.

Seattle launch of 'The Ghost in The Lobby', my fourth poetry collection

My fourth poetry collection, The Ghost in The Lobby, published by Salmon, will be launched by Professor Marck Beggs at the big Salmon Poetry event at this year's AWP Conference in Seattle at the end of the month. 

 Marck Beggs

The launch takes place at the big Salmon Poetry event on Friday, February 28th, 7pm at the conference, which is the biggest annual literary gathering in North America. 

Here's the details from the AWP website:

"F310A Salmon Poetry: A Reception and Reading to Celebrate our Spring Poetry Collections

Kirkland Room, Sheraton Seattle, 3rd Floor
Friday, February 28, 2014
7:00 pm to 8:15 pm 


Our Spring Poetry Collections: Featuring Raina Leone, Cameron Conaway, Stephen Powers, Philip Fried, Jean Kavanagh, Kelly Moffit, Lex Runciman, John Menaghan, John Fitzgerald, Kevin Higgins, Jo Slade, Ed Madden, Joseph P. Woods, Jo Pitkin, Mary Pinard, Dan Moran, Robert McDowell, Alan Jude Moore, Jacqueline Kolosov-Wenthe, and Laura-Grey Street."

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Dialectics 2: I thought the word 'Workers' in Galway Socialist Workers Party was a real word

I've been at it again, thinking undialectically. In everyday talk this means that I didn't realise that what I know to be the truth is actually the opposite of the truth i.e. a wicked lie that only serves imperialism. I confess my error and am truly thankful to Galway Socialist Workers Party (pictured above) for putting me right. 

It all started late last night when I noticed that Galway SWP are holding a meeting this very evening on the subject of 'Poetry, Politics and the Left'. I should have looked away but I am a weak man. And not just when it comes to Galway SWP. 

Moments earlier I clicked like on a photograph of Jeff Goldblum (pictured below) and as a result got caught up in a Facebook fad in which anyone who clicks like on a Jeff Goldblum photo has to themselves post a photograph of, yes, Jeff Goldblum.
It should be pointed out that Jeff Goldblum (pictured above on the right) has never, so far as I am aware, had any connection with Galway SWP (pictured below with the sign about the C.I.A.). 
Anyway, as I say, I am a weak man and plead guilty. I should have continued looking at pictures of Jeff Goldblum but didn't. Instead, I clicked that I would be attending the Galway SWP event. It was the event's title that grabbed me. 'Poetry, Politics & the Left' was also the title of an interview Red Banner magazine in Dublin did with me back in 2009. You can read that here

Then, in a particular moment of madness, I posted a link to this poem, on the Facebook page of Galway SWP's 'Poetry, Politics & the Left' event. It's about an entirely fictional Community Employment Scheme where the rights of the employees were trampled on. The title of the poem is simply 'Community Employment Scheme'. Read for yourself. 

What I got wrong is I assumed that the word 'Workers' in Galway Socialist Workers Party meant that they would like such a poem, which is, after all, written from the point of view a FÁS (now Solas) scheme participant. I thought the word 'Workers' in Galway Socialist Workers Party was a real word. Seems it's more like the 'Democratic' in German Democratic Republic

It was the dialectics that got me, your honour. If I'd looked at the issue from the point of view of the anti-imperialist struggle in Iraq/Afghanistan/Syria/Palestine, I'd have known that not all abusive and incompetent FÁS scheme managers are actually abusive and incompetent. Those are just more words. And the words people use to describe the things that happen to them are subjective i.e. their own and so are not to be trusted.

If I'd looked at it from the correct Marxist position i.e. while standing on my head in the middle of Shop Street and listening to Galway SWP (pictured above) shout slogans down a megaphone, I'd have known that sometimes it's not that simple. 

Sometimes the not at all abusive, not at all incompetent FÁS scheme manager is actually an anti-imperialist who's forever big mouthing it about Iraq and Shannon and Palestine. 

In such instances, in the interests of the anti-imperialist struggle, a real Marxist would say that those bastard Community Employment Scheme participants deserve everything they get:

that it's okay if their wages were paid late;

that it's okay for their Manager to write secret reports about them, full of things that are well, not true, and then circulate said reports to the Board and another employee;

that it's okay that the Scheme participants themselves should not be shown these reports, or be given a chance to respond to them;

that it's okay that the Scheme participants should only learn of these reports' existence when the Manager is stupid enough to leave them in an envelope on one scheme participant's desk;

that it's okay when the scheme participants eventually resign and find other employment that the Scheme Manager should, on a number of occasions, use the company website to post demeaming and abusive comments about these now former employers;

that it's okay that said Scheme Manager should email people, who the former scheme participants go on to work with, to try and make trouble for them in their new employments.

I should have realised that it's fine to do all of these things so long as you're also prepared to rattle on about Iraq and Shannon and drones and Afghanistan in the pages of the Ballygar Arsewipe.  

Furthermore, I should also have known that it's very, very okay for the Socialist Workers Party to support such an individual by signing petitions asking the government to give them more money and describing him in their paper as someone who always speaks his mind.

Within minutes Galway Socialist Workers Party deleted the link to my poem which I posted with only the following fairly mild commentary: 

"This is a poem about a corrupt and abusive government back to work scheme." 

I thank the Galway SWP for giving me this lesson in the dialectics of anti-imperialism. I was lost. But now I'm found.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Sympathy for Rosita Boland



Irish Times journalist and travel writer Rosita Boland is also an aspiring poet. And more power to her fur coat. Everyone should give poetry a try. She first came to my serious attention when her article about the 2012 Cúirt Festival of International Literature appeared in the Irish Times. She had been sent by our paper of record to cover the festival. 

From the sound of it Rosita didn't enjoy that year's Cúirt. Her tone was that of a 1960s parish priest who, after the Stations mass in auntie Bridie's and uncle Pat's farmhouse, had suffered the indignity of having to wait to be fed like the rest of us, rather than being rushed to the parlour to breakfast (with the men). Her piece ignored most of the main festival events and concentrated on what amounted to a posh girl attack on the festival for being too inclusive. Rosita took particular exception to the fact that, at that year's Cúirt Over The Edge New Writers' Showcase event, audience members applauded after every single one of Kevin O'Shea's poems. It isn't easy, I do realise, for aspiring poets to listen to others get such applause. Whines such as Rosita's should be compassionately listened to, before one orders another - make that a double - brandy. 

Rosita's May 2012 article provoked a big Facebook reaction: every literary crank/fraud/failure in the country took a break from playing with themselves to click like. When the cranks, fraunds and failures gather on Facebook to like attacks on literary inclusivity, they often liken themselves to Soviet dissidents. Really, they are complaining about their last rejection slip. Or the fact that Cúirt didn't invite them to read that particular year. Yes, people are sometimes that simple, that sad. 

In today's Irish Times Rosita's target is Áosdana. Of course Rosita being Rosita she doesn't just come out and say it. In terms of directness she is, I think it's fair to say, no Christopher Hitchens. No doubt the aforementioned Soviet dissidents will be out and about soon to click like and comment approvingly. 

The only result of this gutless article will be to give succour to those who want to cut spending on the arts further. Fine Gael Junior Ministers everywhere will experience a warm feeling in their bits. Rosita appears not to like her fellow artists much, be they near beginners or at the top of their game. I feel sorry for her, it can't be easy being Rosita. We should all send her sympathy cards c/o The Irish Times. 


I plan also to have a special Mass said for her. It will, I hope, be concelebrated by John Waters and Breda O'Brien. 

Monday, 3 February 2014

Chichester, Wednesday April 23rd

Chichester Open Mic poetry reading at New Park Centre, Chichester Wed April 23rd, 7.30 – 9pm. Reading from guest poet Kevin Higgins 7.35-8pm, followed by open mic, with a final poem from Kevin Higgins. Bar and chat, book stall, etc.


Venue:

New Park Centre

New Park Road

Chichester

West Sussex

PO19 7XY



Kevin Higgins facilitates poetry workshops at Galway Arts Centre and teaches creative writing at Galway Technical Institute. He is also Writer-in-Residence at Merlin Park Hospital and the poetry critic of the Galway Advertiser. He was a founding co-editor of The Burning Bush literary magazine and is co-organiser of Over The Edge literary events in Galway City.


His poetry collections include The Boy With No Face (2005), Time Gentlemen, Please (2008), Frightening New Furniture (2010) all  published by Salmon. His work also features in the generation defining anthology Identity Parade – New British and Irish Poets (Ed Roddy Lumsden, Bloodaxe, 2010). Mentioning The War, a collection of his essays and reviews was published in April 2012 by Salmon and has been described by prominent member of the Irish Parliament (Dáil) Clare Daly as “a really good and provocative read. It will jolt you; it will certainly touch you; make you laugh; maybe make you snarl a little bit as well, depending on where you come from or what your background is.”



Kevin’s poetry has been translated into Greek, Turkish, Spanish, Italian, Japanese & Portuguese. The Ghost In The Lobby is his fourth collection of poems. 

Praise for Kevin Higgins’s poetry: 


“His contribution to the development of Irish satire is indisputable…Higgins’ poems embody all of the cunning and deviousness of language as it has been manipulated by his many targets... it is clear that Kevin Higgins’ voice and the force of his poetic project are gaining in confidence and authority with each new collection.” Philip Coleman

“With backstage guardians in Paul Durcan (see his titles) and Patrick Kavanagh, Kevin Higgins's work has a buoyant spoken immediacy (often taking the form of dramatic monologues), his poems springing out of colloquial address and celebrating the ordinary through a use of quotidian bric-a-brac, which he often pits - with positive effect - against larger (but no more important) forces…Comedy is part of his poetics, and what I especially like in his work is its swiftness of wit, its tone of buoyant contrarianism and jubilant disappointment”, Eamonn Grennan, The Irish Times 

“It is a profound compliment to the quality of Kevin’s writing that you can disagree with the content and yet find yourself still reading on and appreciating the style. You’d have to say that he is one of the lead poets of his generation in Ireland at this stage.” Clare Daly T.D. 

 “Gil Scott Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised as re-told by Victor Meldrew”. Phil Brown, Eyewear


“Higgins picks apart the human condition, its disappointments and indulgences, with vigour and acumen.” Roddy Lumsden


“good satirical savagery”. The Cambridge Introduction to Modern Irish Poetry, 1800-2000

Tuesday 29th April, 6pm at Pearse Street Library: two new poetry collections come to Dublin

Sunday, 2 February 2014

About Woody Allen

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” So said Leo Tolstoy in the opening sentence of Anna Karenina. It's clear that Woody Allen knows a thing or two about unhappy families. Today's New York Times has published an open letter from Allen's adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow in which she alleges that he sexually abused her when she was seven years old. You can read Dylan Farrow's Open Letter here.

I have a confession to make: I'm a Woody Allen fan, especially of the films he made in the seventies and eighties. It's easy when such allegations are made against people one doesn't like, such as, say, the late Father Sean Fortune.

Unlike Woody Allen, Father Fortune has no fans. Though he had plenty of apologists in and around County Wexford and in the Catholic Hierarchy when it mattered. 

Some people have said that the resurfacing of these allegations would make them refrain from ever again watching any of Woody Allen's films. Dylan Farrow's Open Letter ends with the sentence: "Now, what's your favorite Woody Allen movie?" It is understandable that she might say this. For others, though, to say that you can't separate the art from the artist is, well, the sort of stupid one would expect from people who watch Eastenders, vote for UKIP, take all of Michael D Higgins's statements at face value, think Michele Bachmann is great or that the Iona Institute have a point.   

It is on the obvious side to say that many artists are not nice people. For legal reasons I can speak only of the dead. Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Gauguin or Henri Toulouse Lautrec - in the unlikely event of their reincarnation - would not be the best people to put teaching creative writing or painting to your teenage daughter. And as for the Marquis de Sade, well, he definitely wouldn't get the Garda clearance necessary to work as a tutor on Poetry Ireland's Writers-in-Schools scheme; yet it has to be a good bet that his Justine will still be in print long after most of Maya Angelou is discreetly forgotten. It's not about who you'd rather have round for dinner. 

And it's not just the sex. Emily Dickinson was, well, racist in her attitude against Irish and other immigrants to the United States in the late nineteenth century. The novelist Jack London said "I am first of all a white man, only then a socialist." Ezra Pound was a loud and active supporter of Benito Mussolini and the French novelist Louis Ferdinand Celine became a quite deranged anti-semite and a big fan of Nazism. So much so that even some Nazis thought Celine a tad extreme. His  novel Journey To The End of The Night, published in 1930, had one perhaps surprising fan though: the Jew and Bolshevik Leon Trotsky who warmly reviewed the book. Read for yourself.  As you'll see from the last paragraph, he was not content just to be a fan: 

"Céline will not write a second book with such an aversion for the lie and such a disbelief in the truth. The dissonance must resolve itself. Either the artist will make his peace with the darkness or he will perceive the dawn."

None of this invalidates Journey To The End of The Night, or makes any of the hundreds of mediocre-but-worthy tomes composed by harmless types  during the 1930s a better novel than Journey To The End of The Night. Know the artist's biography. Know where their art comes from. Sure. But the art itself is separate from the issue of whether you would want to have the artist around for Fondu or to leave them minding your five year old. 

Perhaps the thing that most disturbs me about this latest episode is the way the allegations have surfaced i.e. via an Open Letter to the New York Times rather than a complaint to the police. 

The UK Socialist Workers Party (SWP) have, of late, gotten themselves into grotesque tangles because of their attempt to deal internally - through the party's 'Disputes Committee' - with allegations of serious sexual impropriety made by a young female member of the organisation against one of the SWP's leaders. Just google the words 'Comrade Delta' and see for yourself. Allegations of this sort cannot be dealt with either by the Disputes Committee of the SWP or by Open Letters to the New York Times

If there is a case to answer, it should be answered in a court of law, for it is the only institution so qualified. Courts don't always bring justice, of course. But they bring more justice more often than online comments, secretive internal committees or righteous villagers with blazing torches.