Thursday 14 December 2017

The Sunday Poem: Anthony Cronin's personal collection

Anthony Cronin. Photo: Tony Gavin
Anthony Cronin. Photo: Tony Gavin

Anthony Cronin

BRIAN Higgins was born in Batley, Yorkshire in 1930. In the early 60s he sent some poems to X, a quarterly review with which I was associated, and when they were accepted, he arrived in London himself.

What he lived on during the next few years I do not know, though he stayed with us both in Ireland and in Spain for fairly lengthy periods. He sometimes had a little money but never very much, nor for very long. And he certainly never had a job.

He had found, as he said, his 'muckers'. This word being defined by the OED as "informal", meaning "friends or companions". He also had found a publisher, the newly arrived and alas, soon departed, Abelard Schuman, eventually publishing three books – The Only Need, Notes While Travelling and The Northern Fiddler. His poems stay admirably close to patterns of ordinary speech and ordinary experience while at at the same time being often sardonically humorous and intelligent.

He died in 1965 of a heart disorder at only 35, which did not seem so astonishingly young then as it does now. The curious may find A Form of Elegy for the Poet Brian Higgins in my Collected Poems.

The Corrupt Man In the French Pub

Brian Higgins

'I'm corrupt' he said to me in the French,

'I think I live in corruption's stench.'

Did this mean something about pay

Or those he was about to betray?

Was he selling out for a screw with a wench

Or selling his wife six times a day?

'I'm corrupt' is a big thing to say

Though your chair is not a park bench.

I know that I am called corrupt myself

When seen around in good health

(By journalists usually)

And also because I get away

With 'not working' and such

Soi-disant words in inverted commas.

So in the common eye my form is

Perverted. An accusation to be ignored.

Only the mind can be corrupt with a word.

So I asked him what he meant by


He said he was drinking too much.

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