“His contribution to the development of Irish satire is indisputable… Higgins’ poems embody all of the cunning and deviousness of language as it has been manipulated by his many targets… it is clear that Kevin Higgins’ voice and the force of his poetic project are gaining in confidence and authority with each new collection.” – Philip Coleman
Milner Place: Born 25/1/30… First job timber faller before doing National Service 1948/50… Some time at Agricultural College but opted out… worked as barman… managed farm and estate… got involved in horse racin… 1953… sailed to South Africa… worked as undergound surveyor copper mines… managed fruit farm…1955 returned to England to manage another farm, left and entered journalism…1958… sailed to new York …1958/61… Bahamas, did some surveying work. Bought a dinghy and learned to sail. Then a sloop, freighting and fishing… skippered for Burl Ives… took over yacht in Miami… returned to England… left for Majorca…Dec 1961… smuggling run to Algiers during war, cargo one man… Supplemented income by smuggling money from England for Brit living abroad…1962… took over staysail schooner, working Balearics and wintered yacht in Ibiza…spent time in Bilboa and Madrid…Sailed to Italy, left Autumn 1963…wintered Madrid…1964…bought sloop and summered Burnham-on-Crouch…1965…took job as captain of ketch built in Holland and sailed her to Lisbon…met Count of Barcelona and his son (now King of Spain). Wintered in Gibraltar and Tangiers, then to Cadiz and Seville…back to Lisbon where did several ocean races with Count of Barcelona…quit job with ketch and sailed with Count for England…1966 Autumn…sailed own sloop to Bordeaux and via Canal du Midi to Toulouse…left for Denmark to convert a working trading schooner to a yacht… 1967…sailed same to Malta to effect conversion…did a delivery to Greece (minus keel)…August 1968 quit job and returned Spain…then France to pick up own sloop…lost it off Spanish coast, wandered round Andalucia, returned London courtesy of consular services…back to Malta to do honeymoon charter for couple, sailing to Tunisia via Lampedusa…1969…employed as consultant by Forte’s International Hotels on projects in Sardinia and Greece…left for Ecuador for job as consultant Tourist Investments S.A…9 months organizing marlin fishing fleet, Punta Carnero…left for Peru under threat of charge of Piracy, consultancy work on Manu River project, others in Brazil and Panama…1971… England and then Grand Canary, where scratched a living as a photographer…1973…took off for Mexico to write unsuccessful novel…1976…moved to Majorca now with partner, Dorothy and stepson Paul…1977 first poems published in Spanish…trip to Canada – hashish smugglers – didn’t…1979/82…Boroughbridge, N.Yorks… worked as petrol station attendant, filling shelves at supermarket, night-watchman and running a B&B…1982/87… ran hotel in Alston, Cumbria until bankrupt…Jan 1987…came to Huddersfield, went to workshops, became sort of poet.
The body is the ‘bad machine’ of George Szirtes’ latest book of poems. The sudden death of his elderly father and of his younger friend, the poet Michael Murphy, remind him how machines – sources of energy and delight in their prime – go so easily wrong; and that change in the body is a signal for moving on. But language too is a body. Here, politics, assimilation, desire, creatureliness and the pleasure and loss of the body, mingle in various attenuated forms such as lexicon, canzone, acrostics, mirror poems, postcards, and a series of ‘minimenta’ after Anselm Kiefer whose love of history as rubble and monument haunts this collection. George Szirtes is one of our most inventive – and constantly reinventing – poets, and Bad Machine shows him developing new themes and new ways of writing in poems which stretch the possibilities of form and question language and its mastery.
Eamonn Lynskey’s poems live on the edge of things – people’s ordinary lives as much as global concerns – and like all edges they can be razor-sharp. His is a voice unafraid to speak about political urgencies but also well sourced in everyday language and available form. A thought-provoking, unsettling collection of questions rather than answers.
John Hartley Williams’s Canada explores a country of the mind, where whatever mania comes to mind becomes its own reality, and writing happens automatically. In Canada, poems arrive out of the ether like the fabled, lantern-jawed Mountie coming to the rescue out of nowhere. Others are on their way back into the ether, transmissions from the brain of an uneasy redman. These are poems which make you feel like the hairs on a pony’s neck. Canada opens in the backwoods of autobiography and narrative, then reports crisply on the alarums of sex and desire. After crossing the frontier, a final coda blows innocence off the map for good and all. Shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize 1997.
Assembly Lines asks what it means to be here and now, in post-industrial towns and cities of the heartlands that are forever on the periphery. From schools and workplaces and lives lived in ‘a different town, just like this’, these poems take a historical perspective on the present day from the ground upwards – whether the geological strata that underpins a ‘dithering island’ or the ever-moving turf under a racehorses’ hooves. This is a new Midlands realism, precision-engineered, which seeks wonderment in unlikely places. By turns both fierce and tender, the poems in Jane Commane’s first book-length collection re-assemble the landscape, offer up an alternative national curriculum and find ghosts and strange magic in the machinery of the everyday. Between disappearances and reformations, the natural and the man-made, the lines are drawn; you might try to leave your hometown, but it will never leave you.