An independent small press poetry review

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Salmon Poetry
Cliffs of Moher
Co. Clare
ISBN 1 903392 44 6

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A subsequent collection is TIME GENTLEMEN, PLEASE (Salmon Poetry ISBN 978 1 903392 76 8)

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Kevin Higgins is a widely published poet, who has performed his work across the world. His is a committed, engaged poetry, shot through with both humour and melancholy. In a conversational tone, he describes the slightly grubby details of what passes for real life for many people between work and settling down to watch the television. He is all too aware of the precariousness of society and the communities we live in, and not afraid to tackle politics. The political poems are always thought provoking, though I found many of them lacking in lyricism. However, it is perhaps too easy for poets to avoid observations such as those in THE LEADER:

		But he'll be here,
	like the old man buying The Racing Post
	who growls about 'invaders' or the skinhead 
	with the petrol bomb whose hour is striking now.
The balance between message and lyricism is a difficult one in political poetry, probably achieved in this example, possibly not in several of Higgins' other political poems. However, poetry like this needs to be heard by as wide an audience as possible, to wake people up to what is happening around them there are perhaps too many politically under-engaged poets today. I suspect too that in a performance context, the energy of the performance will make up for the perceived lack of lyricism on the page.

On the other hand, some of the more personal poems in the collection offer some real moments of beauty. WINTER IN MINNESOTA for example, is a lovely sad meditation on mortality and the slightness of life:

	Never imagined he'd have to winter back in Minnesota,
	be there standing on his mother's front lawn,
	like a distant cousin in a photograph no-one remembers taking.
His poems about relationships are full of the banal disappointments of marriage and other couplings as in this extract from ESTANGEMENT: A SEQUENCE:
	Just another suburban marriage,
	it detonated and toppled in upon itself
	raising a frenetic smog of terminal
	dust over the migraine sky.
But as one relationship collapses, at least there is hope, in THE REQUIEM PLAYS BUT NOT FOR US:
	May the music we make 
	be a Spanish guitar,
	let no disconsolate adagio
	be any creation of ours.
Though you get the feeling from this collection that this sentiment is a frail hope, rather than an actual possibility! Overall this collection could be percieved as grim, with hope never being more than frail, but the humour rescues it and the mix of topics keeps it interesting from beginning to end.

reviewer: Juliet Wilson