I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Deadly Precision

Amanda Bell
Our Killer City: isms, chasms and schisms: essays and poems, by Rita Ann Higgins, Salmon Poetry, 122 pp, €12, ISBN:  978-1912561094 At the core of this miscellany is the title poem, commissioned to celebrate Galway’s bid to be European Capital of Culture 2020; and the accompanying essay, “Manifesto for Poetry”, commissioned for The Poetry Review by editor Emily Berry in 2017, which gives the background to this poem, and also functions as a type of ars poetica. Writing a poem for commission is notoriously tricky, and like many before her Higgins took a circuitous route to her subject: “Letting the title ‘Capital of Culture’ and the theme ‘making waves’ invade my thoughts did eventually trigger something in me – albeit perhaps not quite what the committee had in mind.” Peter Reading’s “Marfan” comes irresistibly to mind here – written during his Lannan Fellowship in Texas, it includes the line: “When this gets published I shall have to be / beyond the City Limits in a Greyhound.” But Higgins isn’t going anywhere. The six-page poem, which – unsurprisingly – was not read for the judges of the Capital of Culture bid, was published in Galway’s City Tribune in 2017; it takes a flying kick at the failure of successive ministers to tackle the healthcare crisis, homelessness, misogyny in NUI Galway, sewage in the river Corrib, violent crime, and public policy which marginalises and discriminates against artists while trotting them out to fly the flag for tourism. “To hell with local artists / what do they bring to the city? / Nothing but ripped jeans, / hippies with hobbies the lot of them.” The envoi is: “We have a great little city here, / a pity little city, a shitty little city.” Although Higgins describes her piece as an “over the top satirical poem”, all the accusations levelled at her native city are amply reinforced in the other essays and poems included here; they add up to an excoriating critique. “There is no poetic language, no euphemisms or no metaphors needed to describe the ongoing homelessness crisis on the streets of Galway … This is the so-called arty city which will be lauded with the Capital of Culture crown in 2020.” Elsewhere, in relation to Macnas artistic director Noeline Kavanagh, she indicates the type of culture she does approve of: “the all-inclusive kind”. The collection stems from Higgins’s “This Woman’s Life” column in the Sunday Independent, and was put together…

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