Poem: ‘Congratulations’ by Kevin Higgins | Cassandra Voices

Poem: ‘Congratulations’ by Kevin Higgins


Poets may be divided into three types: those of us who must be and are, or have been, suppressed, at least until after we are dead; those whose subject matter is so commonplace/banal that it doesn’t matter either way; and then those who become pure decorations of the Regime.

One key qualification for a poet becoming a pseudo-poetic decoration for the Regime – a quality much on display this week – is to know when not to say that a terrible, long poem taking one side in a war in a most crude and unthinking way, is exactly as terrible as it is because he/she hopes to be published in the future (or again) in the same venue, suspecting, probably correctly, he/she would be less likely to achieve such publication if he/she doesn’t keep his or her beak strategically shut on such occasions.

Indeed, indiscreet beak-opening might make an invitation to participate in an upscale literary cabaret or two less likely. This is what it has come down to.

As I sit/lie on what might turn out to be my death bed – I am doing everything I can to survive and haven’t at all given up hope but really have no idea if I’ll be here this time next year – I find myself laughing at the Irish poetry world.

The phenomenon is not unique to contemporary Ireland, though its Irish branch has particular characteristics, usually involving a special relationship with NATO and the sacred 12.5% corporate tax rate. But such tendencies are spreading like an international fungus. Every part of the English-speaking world has a local variant of concern.


after Zbigniew Herbert

A few will be obliterated
but in an nice way.
We don’t like the word censorship,
abolished it yonks ago.
Certain word combinations must be
nudged to the bottom of the basket
until after we’ve all safely
choked to death in our dressing gowns.
Though, worryingly,
they always find their way back out again.

Others, we can leave optional.
You know the drift:
the suffering of academics, their divorces
after the regrettable entanglement with the student;
how it felt to phone the crematorium
to book a spot for their ninety five year old father.

But for having so successfully helped it
deny its own existence
the regime has made you

Your personage will be strapped
into an airplane seat, exported
to Asia and beyond,
like a Bangladeshi made t-shirt in reverse.

Your metaphors and similes will be at the service
of the International Happiness Corporation –
Diversity Department –
currently headquartering here for tax purposes.
You will walk through all the right doors
secretly wearing their logo.

Life will be mostly festivals
of enforced grinning,
during which you’ll pass the hours
counting each others’ teeth.


About Author

Kevin Higgins’s poems have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4, RTE Radio One, and Lyric FM; and quoted in The Daily Telegraph, The Times (UK), Hot Press, The Daily Mirror and on Tonight with Vincent Browne. He had published six collections of poetry with Salmon Poetry, the most recent being ‘Sex and Death at Merlin Park Hospital’ (2019). His books can be purchased at www.salmonpoetry.com.

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