Rita Ann Higgins is
a poet of the present tense. If her first collection Goddess on
the Mervue Bus were to capture any more of the character, of the
quirks, of the desperation of this island - and the West in
particular - she would have to have published a
telephone-directory-sized volume complete with the Birth
Certificates and Curricula Vitae of all the people who
(consciously or unconsciously) compelled her to put pen to paper.
Ever, Life lived to the backdrop of supermarket clatter, pub talk,
Galway-speak, and factory chant is reproduced in a musical rather
than rhythmical style that seems not uninfluenced by the
socially-involved 'sub-cultures' of the 60's and early 70's.
But the past 25
years have given us more than music:
You put Valium on a
in the form of a
juicy, red apple,
"Ode to Rahoon
Flats" reminds. Elsewhere other aspects of our enslavement to
the new culture are highlighted, sometimes to great effect, as in
she was a coupon saver,
she saved them
but they never saved her.
light-heartedly in the tale of "Lizzie Kavanagh" and her
"maroon imitation fur" coat, a commuter between
Quinnsworth and the bingo session via the Shantalla bus.
walks a thin line occasionally when it comes to an unveiling
moment at the close of a poem. As in the case of "The Long
Ward", a poem breathing with life and precise observation
"In the long ward/silvermints are/shared and returned/with
photographs of/'My second eldest'/or 'This one is in
Canada'." where the line "pain well out of sight"
suddenly, almost bathetically, returns us to the mundane, attempts
to explain something that the poem has already managed to convey.
These are the kind of lines that confidence only can erase, and it
is hardly necessary to say that the achievement of many other of
the poems in this collection is certain to provide that confidence
and self-assurance. For instance, "Secrets,"
Keep well clear of burning bushes,
with egg-shell slippers
and Dundee cake.
a poem which
creates an uneasy atmosphere of jocularity mingled with paranoia.
Ann Higgins succeeds admirably in juxtaposing the humorous and the
tragic elements of everyday life. Her success can be measured by
the degree of unease she instills in the reader who finds himself
confronted with a very real and frightening situation which he
has, up to that point, found himself amused by.
When this happens,
when the socially-conscious poet manages to reflect life without blatantly
manipulating the 'facts', the 'events', then we have a poet whose
work should be watched carefully, as carefully as one might read
the newspapers, listen to friends, count the grey hairs. The poems
in this collection if they are not mirrors are, at least,
well-focused photographs of the world.