Author Archives: Kevin Higgins

Irish Times, April 16

Kevin writes:

A poem inspired by the great work Niamh O’Reilly of the Dawkey Episcoplian has been doing of late to whip up support for World War Three. It is great to see said newspaper following in its own tradition by whipping up support for word war, just as it did in 1914.

She had, she thought, a thousand things to say
(after Edmond Jabé)

Of the Trinity school of journalese
she was a product.
And when they were told to
people bought her;
put her on their marble finish kitchen counters
and dreamed of world war three and four
and liked her monotone clack so much
they plopped another two Euro coin in the relevant slot
so they could hear once more
everyone she disagreed with
or whose fabulous hair she was jealous of
be called Chinese spies.

And all the other little journalesers
rushed in to squeak their weasel agreement
apart from the predictable elements
who were, naturally, just more Chinese spies.
As people like her tend to
she got what she wanted
lots of people saying her name
though not all of them pronounced it right
and some of them were barely people.
And, eventually, both world wars
and four.

And there were no more marble kitchen tops.
No more two Euro coins.
Nor slots to plop them in.
And, from her, no more squeaks.
Best of all there were no more four wheel drives
or children to drive to sporting events in them.
We all died happily ever after
apart from the Chinese spies and their acolytes
who died most unhappily.
But there’s no pleasing some people.

Kevin Higgins

Today is Ireland’s ‘Poetry Day’

This afternoon.

Three point poetry manifesto

(1) Poetry must at all times be fun. Or at least aspire to be. Fun to write, and fun to share with others. Not earnest fun of the Episcopalians-allowing-themselves-a-second-sherry variety. But the sort of fun which sometimes involves laughing at funerals. Usually your own funeral. We will be dead long enough. Some of us already are.

(2) Every poem is a potential revolution; no real poem is ever a means of the poet getting in with some kind of in-crowd. The out-crowd always have the most fun, and hence are the most poetic. The only crowd a real poet want to get in with are the out-crowd.

(3) No poet who has climbed some way up the ladder towards poetry heaven should ever try and push back down those immediately behind her/him. And no real poet ever kicks the ladder away, having climbed it themselves. No real poet ever retreats into a snob ghetto where they can pretend to be more important than they are. Every poet must be a mentor to someone or be compelled by law to take up some more honourable occupation, such as for example becoming a human trafficker or, worse, a Fine Gael member of the European Parliament, a Lib Dem member of the House of Lords, or a spokesman for the Small Firms Association.

Kevin Higgins

Poetry Ireland



Kevin writes:

A poem I wrote specially to include in our census form, in the section where you were invited to pen a message which will be opened in a hundred years time.

Not To Be Read Until 2123

Things abolished by their own internal discrepancies
since I typed this:

my friend Trevor who insists nothing ever changes;
the European Union;
videos of Cliff Richard dancing on YouTube;
what we used to call society,
which at this point is mostly
vaccination programmes and the military;
Facebook, Twitter, and the Episcopal Church;
the United States’ eastern sea board;
and all references anywhere to Chiang Kai-Shek;
the British Broadcasting Corporation;
the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
and, in all likelihood, the north Atlantic;
all evidence of Noel Edmonds;
though the EastEnders’ Christmas Special
will continue to be shown
in abandoned hospital waiting rooms,
nobody will be there to not watch it;
the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland;
the print media, the Saudi Royal Family,
and all the people
I pretended to be;

now you’ll have to look them up
on whatever Wikipedia is called these days,
if indeed the internet.
not to mention the world,
still exists.

Though in our time these
were of great importance,
and we used the word always
when speaking of them.

Kevin Higgins


A Ukrainian family is reunited at Dublin Airport on March 9

(for Suad Aldarra)

Now they are bombing white people!
with bombs not officially signed off on
by the people who sign off on such things.

Television and internet are laden
with white people fleeing their houses
many of which are no longer technically houses
into any country that’ll have them
which is pretty much any country they want.

The leader of the white people
flashes around the world,
or at least your smart phone,
dressed as a hero.

Elderly white women everywhere
pray he’ll marry their daughters;
a few, even, that he’ll take one
of their bachelor sons as his wife.

White people everywhere race
to register their sorrow for those
whose white bones and even whiter faces
make them ill suited to having
bombs dropped on them.

Those of us who live in half a shed
will happily share our half a shed with
the white people; their children, if needs be,
can rest their heads on our mousetraps

and we’ll all be heroes,
which is well and good
but when will the world get back to
just bombing brown people?

Kevin Higgins

Pic: Sky News


The warm welcome given to Ukrainian refugees by the Government proves that the State has been capable of providing a more compassionate support system for asylum seekers, a leading migrant rights activist has said.

Lucky Khambule, co-founder of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, said the decision to immediately support Ukrainians fleeing the war while migrants from Middle Eastern and African countries wait years for decisions on their asylum claims reveals a “glaring inequality” in the immigration system.

Mr Khambule said: “We’ve had the Syrian refugee crisis, the Afghan refugee crisis, there’s Yemen, there’s Ethiopia, there’s Libya – all these are conflict zones but we’ve never seen an effort from the Government like this.

“The world is praising Ireland for taking this stance but they need look into the backyard at what is happening to others.”

State’s welcome for Ukrainians reveals ‘hypocrisy’ of Irish immigration system (Irish Times)

The train station at Lviv, Ukraine yesterday

The Book of War

The book of war is busy scribbling
another chapter of itself
hardly a syllable of which is true
you are in it
given your own continued existence
at this point in the story
though being microscopic
you’re not exactly named
everyone has an opinion
each chicken its own cluck
one vows to abstain from Shostakovich
another refuses from now on to teach Dostoevsky
not to be outdone, a third clucks
that this morning it tried to send
a parcel of AK47s by registered post
others want to shoot down planes
because that’s how peace is made
and the pilots, we’re reassured,
are only vermin
though obviously the clever sort
if they can fly planes
the Fédération Internationale Féline
has banned Russian cats
from its competitions,
though it’s unclear if any
cats took part in the invasion,
because this is how peace is made
Radio Four’s Women’s Hour is instructing its listeners
in how to make Molotov cocktails
of which everyone is suddenly in favour.

Kevin Higgins

Pic: NPR

Kevin writes:

The Galway City Council u-turn on the Salthill cycle lane (background here) calls to mind another Salthill related City Council u-turn (background here, here and here) which provoked the poem below.

Newly Elected Face Makes Maiden Speech

I am an idea someone else had
when they weren’t thinking;
a fat bouquet from my mother
who always knew it would come
to something like this;
a ventriloquist’s dummy
that hasn’t yet said anything.

I have nothing against homosexuals,
but am not in favour of them either.
Now you’ve told me Ché Guevara
was a Communist and Adolf Eichmann
a very bad man, I’ll bear those facts
in mind, when talking about septic tanks,
a subject on which I’ve loads to contribute.
I’m against nuclear war and the Spanish
Inquisition, except when they actually happen.

Kevin Higgins

From The Ghost In The Lobby (Salmon Poetry, 2014)

Image: Galway City Coiuncil

Previously: War Path

Kevin writes:

When it was initially advertised, the terms and conditions of the Irish Times/Shelbourne Hotel poetry competition to celebrate 100 of the Irish constitution was only open to residents of the Republic of Ireland i.e. the 26 counties. This provoked no small amount of hostile social media commentary (see here and here and here).

Recently, the terms of conditions have been changed to allow Northerners to enter. I have entered this poem in the competition.

The Dialectics of Irish
after Francois Villon

There is no great starvation
without someone somewhere keeping the trout paté for later,
no t-bone steak at The Shelbourne (rare or well done)
without bales of straw being dragged through January mornings,
no plate of cabbage without the possibility
of an open safety pin camouflaged within it like a terrorist,
no refusal of a cup of tea
that’s not a potential resumption of hostilities,
no glass of high end whiskey
you can be sure the night porter
didn’t celebrate his departure
by lacing with high end Dublin piss –
though these days he’s mostly from Latvia or Killybegs –
no problem that can’t be made worse
by a pair of fashionable glasses whose big idea
is a poetry competition sponsored by Guinness
on the theme of black and white.

There is no Tá without Níl,
no no without the wink of other possibilities,
no card game that can’t finish up with everybody losing,
no peace talks to which the dead aren’t invited,
no ballot box in Leitrim without the ghost of an ArmaLite,
or the actual metal of a Heckler & Koch
Garda submachine gun in the hands of
a large farmer’s son from County Meath,
no pint of Guinness that can’t be made worse
by a poem about peace
shouted out by a pair of fashionable glasses.

There’s no wealth like empty office blocks,
no talent like the country’s least favourite novelist,
no generosity like an Anglo-Irishman taking
his ten gallon hat out for the evening,
no wisdom like a Leinster rugby fan
screeching for war with Russia,
no courage like informing,
no place in the minds of the nation’s keenest intellects
that exists less than Creggan, Ballymurphy, Crossmaglen…
and no poem about all this
that can’t be made more unpalatable
by a pair of fashionable glasses
trying to sell you the best of all possible
pints of what might be Guinness.

Kevin Higgins

 Poet Felicia Olusanya in a recent TV ad for Laya Healthcare Ireland

Kevin writes:

A new poem inspired by the UK poet who did an advertisement for a building society/bank and the Irish poet who did one for a private health insurance company which is now owned by AIG, one of the largest financial services companies in the world (and the recipient of many billions of Dollars of U.S. tax payers bail out money in 2008).

The Acquisition

No longer exactly young
but still in a hurry
to board the bus bound for
what they call

Emerging poet acquires agent
so sang the update.
Or is acquired by,
it neglected to add.

From now on they
will focus less on the bits that don’t pay,
like putting one word in front of another.
Only the sentimental still
measure the world in syllables.

It’s time to move on to other currencies,
to stride confidently through the capital of –
it could be anywhere –
trying to persuade the affluent

to insure their eyeballs,
their coming arthritis,
their battle-hardened large intestines
against the vagaries of the public health system;

then graduate to be
the strawberries and whipped cream voice
propositioning the consumer
with artificial arms, cheap
easily flammable seat belts, electrodes
for use in enhanced interrogations
of those you, the consumer, want answers from.

Increasingly, when the future lurches at you
through some screen or other
to flash its hawker’s suitcase
of stuff it has in mind for you
will be its wide smiling face.

Kevin Higgins

Pic; Laya Healthcare

Conor Cruise O’Brien in 1973

Kevin writes:

On foot of the first part of RTE’s documentary three=part series Crimes And Confessions [examining the most notorious miscarriages of justice from the 1970s and 1980s especially the methods of the Gardai] which was aired on RTE television last evening, the coming week is going to be a stressful one for members of the broad political movement Continuity Conor Cruise O’Brien, foot soldiers and big shot columnists alike.

Last evening’s episode made repeated, and in the opinion of some in the greater Howth Hill area, gratuitous use of the term “heavy gang“, a phrase which brings your average fan of the 1973-77 Fine Gael-Labour Coalition government out in raging hives. Near the end of last evening’s episode, the great Dr O’Brien himself is shown in a most unflattering light which, in the eyes of some misguided young people, may make him look like a kind of poor man’s General Pinochet.

The second episode, which airs next Monday January 17 on RTE at 9.35pm promises to be such unpleasant viewing that many Conor Cruise O’Brien fans will spend the next week face down in dark rooms, without so much as another Fintan O’Toole column about Brexit (or how it’s all the Provos fault) to hand. If you are a carer for, or relative of, a member of Continuity Conor Cruise O’Brien, feel free to print out this poem and mop their brow with it. We owe them that much.

To The Man Who Defines Ireland

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 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.

Kevin Higgins


Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair

Kevin writes:

a poem to mark  Prince Andrew’s mammy’s decision, on her own personal recommendation to herself, to say “Arise Sir Tony Blair” in the New Year’s Honours List, Here is director Ken Loach reading same. And here is PJ Harvey singing the lyrics of the Brecht poem (Ballad of the Soldier’s Wife) on which mine is based. I hope to turn up at Buckingham Palace on the day Tony is knighted and to perform my poem dressed similarly to how PJ Harvey is in that video..

What Did The Politician Get His Wife?
(after Bertolt Brecht)

And what did she get, the girlfriend,
from the student union meeting
at which he rose to his feet
and realised he could speak?
From that meeting she got
the Snickers bar he forgot to eat
so busy was he watching them listen;
and that speech, unabridged,
every other night for thirty five years.

And what did she get, his new wife,
from the time he first used a party
conference microphone to agree with both sides?
Those okay with the Moslems/Mexicans/Gypsies being here,
and those who want them kept over there.
From that microphone she took away their
invitation to dine with the Deputy Mayor
and his not new wife.

And what did she get, his no longer new wife,
when, at the second attempt,
he won that seat on the City Council?
From his election she got to drink Pinot Noir
and go swimming in their private club
with the no-so-new wives
of those who got the contracts
to make the paving stones and install
the pay-and-display ticket machines
during his years as Chairman
of the relevant committee.

And what did she get, his well-maintained wife,
the night he was elected to the big shiny
parliament? From that night she took away
an architect to re-design their new three storey pad
in the priciest possible part of the capital,
and an article about herself
in the Daily Express lifestyle pages.

And what did she get, the no longer new MP’s
no longer new wife, the morning
they made him Minister?
That morning she got to go horse riding
with the Leader of the House of Lords’
fourth (or fifth) wife.

And what did she get, the no longer new
Cabinet Minister’s wife, the night the landslide
made him Prime Minister? That night
she got to hold to her breast
invitations to break foie gras
with the Sultan of Brunei, the President of China;
and the chance to write husband’s speech
announcing the crackdown on beggars
who accost hard working
families who stop to ask for directions
enrouteto the nearest funeral parlour.

And what did she get, the ex-Prime Minister’s
no longer new wife, from all the depleted uranium shells
he had dropped during the Battle of Basra, all the soldiers
he sent to meet improvised explosive
devices in far Mesopotamia in the hope
of getting rid of something bigger
than the beggars and prostitutes
at Kings Cross. For these she got
white night terrors
of him on trial for all their crimes,
and the desire to never again
look out the front window of their fine
Connaught Square house
at the tree from which, it’s said,
they used to once string

Kevin Higgins