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Hurting God - Part Essay Part Rhyme

Rita Ann Higgins

ISBN: 978-1-907056-51-2

Page Count: 90

Publication Date: Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cover Artwork: Bernadette Higgins

About this Book

God, pķcas, jiving factory girls, a crocodile-wielding father, long-lost lives and equally long-lost multinationals all form part of the brilliant world of Rita Ann Higgins's collection of essays and poems, Hurting God - Part Essay Part Rhyme. As well as highlighting Rita Ann's unique voice, this book gives a special insight into how closely prose and poetry can work together to bring a perspective that enables deep understanding.

For over two decades Rita Ann Higgins has been a poetic voice for the voiceless. This is as true in her plays as in her poetry.  Now, in these essays which form a poetic memoir, she shows yet again that she is one of the best contemporary Irish writers.

"Hurting God is an extraordinary statement bearing witness to a life fearlessly and fully lived." Des Kenny
'Higgins's work does not function to keep anyone out, but invites them to sit on the back wall with her, looking in all directions from this edge.'
from 'Watch your Language: Speculative Theory and the Poetry of Rita Ann Higgins' by Moynagh Sullivan, National University of Ireland, Maynooth

Author Biography

Rita Ann Higgins was born in 1955 in Galway, Ireland. She divides  her time between Galway City and Spiddal, County Galway. Her first five collections were published by Salmon: Goddess on the Mervue Bus (1986); Witch in the Bushes (1988); Goddess and Witch (1990); Philomena's Revenge (1992); and, Higher Purchase (1996). Bloodaxe Books published her next three collections: Sunny Side Plucked (1996); An Awful Racket (2001); and Throw in the Vowels: New & Selected Poems in May 2005 to mark her 50th birthday. Her plays include: Face Licker Come Home (Salmon 1991); God of the Hatch Man (1992), Colie Lally Doesn't Live in a Bucket (1993); and Down All the Roundabouts (1999). In 2004, she wrote a screenplay entitled The Big Break. In 2008 she wrote a play, The Empty Frame, inspired by Hanna Greally, and in 2008 a play for radio, The Plastic Bag. She has edited: Out the Clara Road: The Offaly Anthology in 1999; and Word and Image: a collection of poems from Sunderland Women's Centre and Washington Bridge Centre (2000).  She co-edited FIZZ: Poetry of resistance and challenge, an anthology written by young people, in 2004. She was Galway County's Writer-in-Residence in 1987, Writer-in-Residence at the National University of Ireland, Galway, in 1994-95, and Writer-in-Residence for Offaly County Council in 1998-99. She was Green Honors Professor at Texas Christian University in October 2000. She won the Peadar O'Donnell Award in 1989 and has received several Arts Council of Ireland bursaries. Her collection Sunny Side Plucked was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. She was made an honorary fellow at Hong Kong Baptist University in November 2006.

Read a sample from this book

This Was No Ithaca

The women of Baile Crua
never filled their heads
with yellow and pink rollers
letting on to be going somewhere
when there was no somewhere to go.

Somewhere was where other women went
women with magnolia vision
and pencil-shaped dreams
and always a jezebel cigarette
between those blood-red lips.

The women of Baile Crua
filled their heads
with a loving Godling
whom they duly served
every waking second.

They implored their loving Godling
to follow their vagabond sons
down the alleyways of Cricklewood
and Camden Town and further afield.
If the pencil shapers
turned the heads of the husbands
and if the husbands called out the wrong name
when they were claiming their God-given rights,
what harm was it for Godís sake.

It was fine with the women
who never filled their heads
with yellow and pink rollers
and never let on to be going somewhere
when there was no somewhere to go.

These women were busy imploring
their loving Godling
to keep their daughters in a state of grace
until the wedding night
and not allow shame to fall on the family
by letting any daughter of theirs
waddle down the aisle
with a belly full of baby.

For the favours sought from
their loving Godling
the women with no rollers
would wear their knuckles inside out,
making Godís altar shine.

And Godís marble was a sheet of ice
and the husbands whose heads were
pencil-shaped turned,
saw themselves in it when they went up
to receive the body of Christ.

The women of Baile Crua
made many sacrifices,
and the deity was always the same,
their own Godling.

He kept them on their toes
they praised him often
at doorsteps with arms folded
at bus stops and at the solemn novena
and any place that resembled a cross,
ditch, bůithrŪn or bog.

Except for Missus-All-Over-Hurt
who had no deity that wasnít
in a small brown bottle
that brought instant rapture
when she tossed three or four
of them beauties onto her palm.
They took away the rasping pain
of the day the other womenís God
let her only son kiss the face of a raging truck.

This was no Ithaca,
no sweat was ever broken
trying to reach here.
You could get here by taking
a bus from Eyre Square
and collecting your parked bike
from a friendís garden
and cycle the last mile.

There was no Poseidon here
to blow a hole in your dreams,
this was a place you didnít need
rollers in your hair for,
letting on to be going somewhere
where there was no somewhere to go.

This was Baile Crua
all you needed was a loving Godling
to polish and die for.

Copyright © Rita Ann Higgins 2010


Review: by Des Kenny, The Galway Advertiser, 7th October 2010

TAKING US from the harsh realities of Baile Crua to the cautious serenity of the Spiddal bogs, Rita Ann Higgins' new book Hurting God - part essay, part rhyme (Salmon) is a short but intense spiritual autobiography.

Starting with the sentence: "The changes are going to be great in Baile Crua," Rita Ann immediately, and without apology, sets out her stall in her normal uncompromising fashion and if Mary Coughlan's 'Delaney Is Back On The Wine' was our introduction to the Shantalla Blues, Rita Annís Goddess on the bus to Eyre Square could well be the anthem of the Mervue Blues.

The structure of this 70 odd page memoir is unusual, not to say novel, in that a short essay precedes the 10 poems therein. The essays contain most of the autobiographical material while the poems mark the inner reaction of the now mature poet. In their own way, the essays are yet another description of a frightened and confused girl seeking her own identity and who, through the strength of her own personality and the love of people close to her, comes to terms with her childhood and rebellion, finding a sense of personal fulfilment through her art. However, the real power of the book is in the poems. In them we witness the poetís spiritual growth (which occurs almost despite herself). Initially imbued by Catholic guilt, the first poems in the collection are redolent of helplessness, fear, uncertainty and darkness.

Despite this sense of hopelessness, a familial warmth emerges, especially in one of the finest poems in the collection written surprisingly first in Irish, 'An Teanga Eile', and then translated into English. The sheer simplicity and music of this poem, along with the driving beat of the lines, give it a power that leaves the reader breathless. So much so that the authorís English translation, while good in itself, goes nowhere near having the same effect.

The next two poems demonstrate the Rita Anne spikiness we have come to love as the teenager and young adult struggle to find their place in the world. 'Be Someone' has the same wonderful energy of 'An Teanga Eile' as the teenager recoils under the ceaseless admonitions of her elders. In 'When The Big Boys Pulled Out', the young adult becomes more independent finding her way in a brash new society that is as artificial as it is promising, The unsure freedom of rebellion and independence is soon compromised by personal illness and the loss of a sibling. The short poem 'Unadorned', describing the arrival of her brother's corpse in Shannon Airport is deeply moving:

In a room in Shannon Airport
where no one lived,
we looped the box
he came home in
a box with a number
none of us knew.

Recovery is at hand however through love as symbolised by the power of the hug and poetic creation, a serious spiritual self emerges that finally finds that cautious serenity in Spiddal, cautious because the Higgins aesthetic is always waiting for what is around the corner. The essays and poems were written at night after the visits to ďHimselfĒ who was being treated for cancer add to their poignancy. The book is a courageous testament as Higgins lays her heart and soul bare and she does so with a wonderful inner strength and a total honesty.

Hurting God is an extraordinary statement bearing witness to a life fearlessly and fully lived. It is a volume of poetry with a serious Galway accent and, to coin the phrase of an erstwhile Woodquay shopkeeper is "mighty, on'y mighty".

Rita Ann Higgins, along with poets Aideen Henry and Glenn Shea, will read at Charlie Byrneís Bookshop, this Saturday 9th October (2010) at 6pm. Refreshments will be served and all are welcome

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