Salmon Poetry launch Our Killer City by Rita Ann Higgins and Threads by Laurence McKeown.
Our Killer City: isms, chisms, chasms and schisms gathers together articles from Rita Ann Higgins’ Sunday Independent ‘This Woman’s Life’ column, as well as other select essays and poems, many of which are previously unpublished.
“Rita Ann Higgins has always been a poet with a distinctive stance, never shirking her responsibilities as a public voice speaking on behalf of those who do not possess such a platform. When she states that ‘Galway seagulls’ are ‘unfussy, / they go straight for the jugular’, (‘Shades of Truth’, Tongulish, Bloodaxe Books) she might well be referring to herself. ‘Unfussy’ is one of her characteristics. She is also both jocular and jugular, two traits that combine to make her a singular voice in Irish poetry. She has long been a tough-minded, waspish critic of the establishment, calling to mind the satiric tongue-lashings of Austin Clarke, a poet whose authoritative voice was one of the few in his day to point out the failures, smugness and hypocrisies of the new State he had witnessed coming into existence... The social and political commentary in Higgins’ work might be jocular in tone and language but this never overshadows the gravity of her sympathies and compassion... While she can be ‘entertaining’, nothing is packaged for easy consumption. Any impression of spontaneity in her ‘conversational tone’ is misleading; she is very precise in the words she chooses.”
Gerard Smyth, Poetry Ireland Review
Threads - Poems by Laurence McKeown
Laurence McKeown almost died in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh/Maze Prison in the North of Ireland following 70 days on hunger strike in 1981. In later years, he helped facilitate poetry workshops in the prison and co-founded a prisoners’ magazine. In this, his debut collection of poems, written both during his incarceration and in subsequent years, Laurence reflects upon his developing political consciousness, exploring themes of politics, family, comradeship, longing, desire, and love. They are not angry poems; unless anger at perceived injustice. They are observations on life, sometimes very humorous, and at other times, very tragic. But throughout, they express hope, a belief in a shared humanity, and the passing of time as seen through the eyes of one person who has lived through conflict and beyond.
“Powerful and accessible, the poems of Laurence McKeown that emerge from the deep shadows of his personal experience, take us to places that we think we understand, and then we realise we don’t. The poems are presented in two parts; the before and after, two realities, prison and after prison. But the later poems, despite their sensuality and ability to see the sky, don’t manage to shake off what’s gone before. The past clinging to his words, unable to let go; they continue to shape the present, taking the reader back and forth in a refusal of forgetting. There’s a modesty to the writing, carefully sculpted words, minimal descriptions without a morsel of pretention. You feel the work rather than read it — visceral honesty. The portrait of his relationship with his mother in ‘Margaret’, ‘Life has moved on since then
and there’s so much I’d like to tell you,’ he writes with a bleak longing – but a strength that acknowledges the loss. ‘“You know what you’ve to do and I know what I’ve to do,” you whispered at my bedside.’ And Laurence McKeown has to write. His words remind those of us who remember, and describes to those who don’t, a time and experience that cannot, nor should not, ever be forgotten.”
Trisha Ziff, Documentary filmmaker