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The Independant - London - 12th Oct 1996

The imagination of the poet, according to Shakespeare, gives "to airy nothing / a local habitations and a name" -- to an idea or an emotion, in other words, a tangible place and an audible voice: a home.

It is this sense of home that makes Rita Ann Higgins'' poetry in Sunny Side Plucked (Bloodaxe, 8.95) so refreshing. Higgins is blissfully sure of her voice. Like one of those extraordinary Irish women who will sit beside you on the bus, settle her shopping in her lap, fix you with one wild blue eye, and strike up an astoundingly colourful and confidential conversation. Higgins's poems simply launch into stories -- "She wasn't always this bitter / I knew her when she sang in pubs": autobiography -- "My father just passed me / In his Fiat 127 / I was cycling my bicycle, hideous"; or fantasies -- "I always / Have my hair done / So I can look good / In the bath / In case / Kim Basinger calls round" -- with complete confidence that we know her relatives, history, hometown, her whole, off-kilter frame of reference. Which, because her world is so confidently revised, we soon do.

Higgins's voices are so distinctive and real that a whole world of semi-rural Irish poverty rises around the reader with the jolting acuity of an excellent documentary. Being drawn into Higgins's home is a hilarious, absorbing and thoroughly disturbing experience and as such constitutes a political statement.



Rita Ann Higgins


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