In Pathogens Love A Patsy, Rita Ann Higgins bears witness to a moment in Irish life unlike any seen in a century: the Covid-19 crisis. Many of these pandemic poems, broadcast on Brendan O’Connor’s RTÉ Radio 1 radio show, were composed weekly in direct response to the emerging crisis.
At the centre of the collection, a devastating sequence celebrates the memory of Hanna Greally, wrongfully incarcerated in an Irish psychiatric hospital for almost two decades. Then, completing an informal triptych, a selection of work written before the emergency marks the point when everything changed.
Rita Ann Higgins’s wry, conversational style serves a serious purpose: to tell it like it is. Together, the poems in Pathogens Love a Patsy form a narrative that spans eighty years, from a past that is still being addressed, to a present moment that is still unfolding.
“Art in extremis always has a special music that's tense with risk and innovation. I believe this wonderful collection will be a message in a bottle for Higgins’ future readers, a souvenir of the time when we laughed and cried for life and death.” Robert McCrum
“Higgins has a talent for tuning into our everyday lives, making the ordinary border on the epic…” Colette Sheridan
“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.” Moynagh Sullivan
RITA ANN HIGGINS was born in 1955 in Galway, Ireland, where she still lives. Her first five poetry 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), as well as a memoir Hurting God (2010). Bloodaxe Books published her next five collections: Sunny Side Plucked (1996); An Awful Racket (2001); Throw in the Vowels: New & Selected Poems in May 2005 to mark her 50th birthday; Ireland is Changing Mother (2011), and Tongulish (2016). 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. She is a member of Aosdána. Our Killer City, a book of essays with poems, appeared from Salmon in 2019. In 2018 she wrote Straois / The Smirk, an Irish-language screenplay. In 2020, during the Covid-19 crisis, Rita Ann became The People’s Pandemic Poet Laureate for the Brendan O’Connor Show on RTE Radio 1.