Skip to main content

Poem Focus: Great Poems From Identity Parade #03

The third poem in this series of contemporary "British and Irish" classics is by Galway-based poet Kevin Higgins. Higgins can be said to have introduced a paradigm shift in Irish poetry around the turn of the century - away from, on the one hand, Joycean avant-gardism, and, on the other, Heanyesque sincerity. Instead, Higgins returns Irish writing to its third policeman, Satire. Not the po-mo irony of Muldoon, mind you - not the bitter loam of Kavanagh - not the high tone of Yeats - but as down-and-dirty Swift as it gets, with the additional blade-in-the-apple of Aubade-era Larkin. Higgins has turned Galway into a Higginsland - the new Boom-and-Bust Ireland of power lunches, Polish waitresses, and sudden economic collapse - and turned his caustic eye on the country as a whole. With a dash of performance hubris, he is that rare thing - a crowd pleaser with the mirror turned on the audience.

'The Couple Upstairs' is one of Higgins's gentler, more Larkinesque poems, but it captures his midway style between humour and lyricism. It features a nameless couple upstairs (who may or may not include Higgins) and an unnamed widow below, armed only with her stick "suddenly frantic against the ceiling" as sex happens, or a poetry book drops to the floor, ruining an ordinary Tuesday afternoon. Higgins here uses his original trope of contextualising the Irish-banal with historic events ludicrously outsized, so that the "chair/ you've sat in since Jimmy Carter" places her decades past her due date. The poem finally ends with a bit of lightning that Thomas might have forked.
1 comment

Popular posts from this blog

AMERICA PSYCHO

According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…

DANGER, MAN

Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…

OSCAR SMOSHCAR

The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…