Author Archives: Kevin Higgins

Kevin  Higgins

Brief Reflection On Not Alienating One’s Peers

Never say anything which can be misconstrued
or, worse, construed correctly.
If you can avoid it never be either
right or wrong about anything.
When lobbed a direct question
develop what looks like
a kind of facial twitch.

Never suggest they solve their differences
by wrestling naked on the Salthill prom
and never say on social media
you’d be happy to referee such a bout
wearing a three piece suit and a cravat.

Never announce them to the crowd
as Knocknacarra’s answer to Norman Mailer
or say on camera that in their absence
“I give you these twelve empty gin bottles”.
Keep schtum
when at their book launch or gallery opening
you’re handed a plate of cocktail sticks
with nothing at the end of them.

And never arrive at one of their soirees
without having about your person
a magnifying glass through which they appear
as big as they think they are.

Kevin Higgins

Playwright Alan O’Brien

Kevin writes:

‘The poem below is loosely based on what happened to playwright Alan O’Brien when he won RTÉ’s PJ O’Connor Award for Radio Drama. His play was never broadcast, despite that being part of the prize, because of serious artistic differences between the playwright and the RTÉ producers who tried to fundamentally change the content of the play.

‘The judges that year were Marina Carr and Rachel West; they talk about the play here. Alan O’Brien talks a bit about experience with RTE here and here and the play can be heard here

‘I have dedicated the poem to Alan.’


I hope you won’t take this personally
but think your script about a woman starving to death
in a high rise flat which, let’s face it, she was lucky to have
in the first place, of limited appeal
to what we’ll broadly call people like me.

The scene in which she notices her ribs
through her skin
just after the electricity is cut off
and she’s unable to call anyone
because her phone is out of credit,
I found oddly lacking in optimism.

One realises such things happen at the margins
and probably more often than is, strictly speaking,
economically necessary. But one must make it relatable
for people who’ve gone through the Flaubertian trauma
of getting divorced three times in Dalkey
or, worse, not getting divorced at all
in the better portions of Moycullen.

The people I represent demand nuance
in which your script
with its protruding ribs
electricity cut off
and dead mobile is weirdly lacking.

The occasional joke wouldn’t go amiss either
particularly at your main character’s expense.
It would make her more empathy-inducing
for the woman  queueing
in the specialist cheese shop,
a key part of our audience.

And a romantic interest,
perhaps with the guy who was her social worker
before the cutbacks–
she keeps mentioning him –
would be a humanising addition.

Otherwise, she’s reduced to being a woman who dies
of failing to complete the forms required
to access the relevant supports,
which I’m sure must be out there
somewhere from some government agency or other.
Or one of those philanthropic trusts who assist such people.

I’m surmising here but find
I generally know what I’m talking about.

Kevin Higgins

Pic via Kilkee Online

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