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8th June 1996

Sara Berkeley on a batch of recent work by Irish ports

From the windy bus stop to the reticent I

Higher Purchase (Salmon)

Rita Ann Higgins writes poetry about standing at the bus stop, laughing into the bitter wind, with crisp bags blowing about your knees. Filling the conmonplace with vigorous hilarity, the poems  run at a clip - a sort of fairytale mixture of madness and glee, horror and pathos, with a Dylan Thomas twist to the language:

She was all over the place
up and down coal buckets
in and out of old overcoats
tears in her lap.

                ("The Thistles")

In spite of the presence of the Greeks - Plato, Socrates, Zeus, Agamemnon - Higgins's world is a gritty local one of a 1996 Irish suberb, peopled with fimiliar characters: priest and nun, swimming-pool attendant, BabbsLaffey blabbing gossip to the whole street, and Betty, who gives up smoking when the brother gets lung cancer. As an emigrant, I find in her work a wealth of forgotten phrases ("acting the maggot", "the craic was almighty"). 

At home or abroad, however, Higher Purchase would make any Irish person with half a heart laugh till they cried.



Rita Ann Higgins


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