ONE OF the most direct and immediate responses to the Covid crisis from any Irish artist, has come from the pen of Galway poet, Rita Ann Higgins.
Those poems, composed weekly, and originally broadcast on Brendan O’Connor’s RTÉ Radio 1 radio show, have now been gathered together in Rita's new collection, Pathogens Love A Patsy, published by Salmon Poetry.
The poems are raw, direct, like snippets of everyday speech, but are all the more powerful for that. One of the most striking is 'I Must Wash Down the Banister', which captures the deep sense of unease, bordering on paranoia, and obsessive behaviour living during this pandemic is causing.
"We watch the news./You don’t know how I can watch/four news channels at the same time.I don’t know either, I can’t stop./Can we go for a walk?...not the prom,/not the beach, there will be too many there./We may as well stay in and watch Netflix or the news./How many cases today?/It seems a lot./I think it’s in the air./I must wash down that banister./I know I’ve never done it before/but something is telling me to do it now."
The collection is divided into three sections. While the first deals with Covid19, the second is a cycle of poems about Hanna Greally, wrongfully incarcerated in an Irish psychiatric hospital for almost two decades. Completing the collection are works written before the pandemic.
That section, and the book itself, concludes with 'Oughterard-ery', which uses irony and dark humour as a way to confront statements made by Galway West TD Noel Grealish and those who protested against a direct provision centre for refugees in Oughterard:
"Ye are not the persecuted Christians we were half expecting/Ye are only the economic refugees coming over from Africa./Ye lied bare-faced, we want the persecuted Christians,/ye have mobile phones/and ye look healthy."
Pathogens Love a Patsy is Rita Ann Higgins 11th book of poetry. For more see www.salmonpoetry.com