writing

Category: politics (Page 1 of 3)

FOSSILS

The playgrounds were strewn with ash
Smoke still billowed from the underpass
Further out in the estuary steam rose
From the tanker now beached and rusting

Lights now only flickered around the estate
On every other day to conserve energy
Milk floats converted to run on steam
Carried bodies of those who froze

Up the icy streets to the crematorium
The one place left they still used gas
The old cylinder gas tanks long since
Deflated like punctured balloons

Horses and cattle roamed the empty fields
Looking for their owners and a bale of hay
But the engines that brought them
Had long since died and started to rust away

No-one now could remember how it started
One day there were fires everywhere
The pylons buzzed in the rain
Then it stopped, silent roads, empty skies

Hands scratching for fuel kept finding
Impressions of leaves and insects in the coal
For a while the neighbours chopped down trees
Built holes in their eco-house rooves

To let the newly built fire-places let out smoke
then the hard winter stopped that
By spring there was no firewood to be had
All the oil and gas had burnt out long ago

Slowly the bones started to appear
Bodies lying in the fields slowly
fading back into the chalky soil
Row upon row of chalky fossils.

GRASS CLOUDS : 20 years on the poetry bench.

Armitage has been run ragged at left back let’s see what the new boy can do…

I will be offering this as a free download from this evening as it Bastille day.
GRASS CLOUDS contains everything I have written as ‘poetry’ since I arrived in Nottingham in 2002 so about 20 years worth

Contains 80 poems and some illustrations. I will be reading from it on Tuesday August 2nd at the Organ Grinder Canning Circus with Neil Fulwood who celebrating his new Smokestack Press publication.

Includes the following pamphlets and projects:

Drifting Village Poems 2001-2011

Edwin Smith Commission 2014

Burning Books and Buying time 2017 – 2018

My Father’s Things (illustrated) 2019

At the Organ Grinder I shall also be reading from the new volume ‘Substitute’ which due in Fall 2022.





PRIVILEGE

Privilege

Is mine and always will be it is my birth-right
I am born to this and never shall let it slip
I am the world king and God’s chosen one
To let go of power is to betray you all

I will make the problems disappear
All it takes is character as my masters told me
Drilled with a sense of purpose and entitlement
From a young age to handle the reins of power

The ethos at Eton and Oxford is always to be right
even if found out never let the mask slip
For that is a sign of weakness and I am not weak
I am the firm hand, the strong voice, the liar

Who can not ever be found out to lie
The philanderer who can buy secrecy
The fool who cannot be judged wrong
For there is no other King

This morning the cloak of privilege
Is torn and stained but still wraps me round
With banker friends and people of high birth
who will take me in and bathe my wounds

I will return to the battle with my Excalibur
Smite my enemies and ride again into battle
This county needs me in its darkest hour
I watch re-runs of Churchill in a darkened room

This is my right my destiny
I am alone A King of no country

Collateral

COLLATERAL

(for D.D.)

Windows shake, tyres screech

Litter blows across the estate

Gunshots ricochet as sound

The Divis Flats, Brixton Market

Beirut, Jerusalem, Sarajevo

A baby cries, a baby cries

The broadcast stops, the helicopter hovers

There’s a smell of cordite, a cold wind

A face you have seen before on the news

Staring to dissolve in a pall of smoke

Gravestones, a line of mourners, a hearse

More tracking shots, more candles to light

The post-war peace has been noisy

All night the rain streaking the vans

As another round up begins

Difference is a slogan, tolerance fades

Hope drifts downstream like radium

Whitewashing concrete stained with blood

We can carry on, we can care even more

The trains will run, the tide will turn

The supremacists will make everything alright

The same arguments start again and again

Tube trains fill with dust and smoke

Collateral damage drips through the door

You choose what to believe, what to see

As another herd of innocents die in a cellar

The missing migrant is pushed into the sea

Sixty years of peace in Europe a lie

From the Balkans to Ukraine this is total war

An iron curtain swinging in the breeze

In the morning a cold silent light

A white horse streaked with blood and lame

Dragging itself to a poisoned stream

The crusaders horse is then shot full of holes

Its body carried away on a torrent of pain.

Collateral: The ghost in the Western dream.

The Function of Criticism

I have spent the afternoon reading the beginning of Yvor Winters ‘The Function of Criticism’ which I acquired about 30 years ago.

I also read a couple of interesting articles online.

The first by the poet David Yezzi is interesting and makes a case for his continuing relevance. The second is a wider career over-view from the now defunct Contemporary Poetry Review.

I also mused upon the slow demise of the ‘Poet-Critic’ a sad reflection of the sorry state of contemporary poetry where popularity and social media profiles count for more than intellectual rigor. Even with Larkin, Heaney and Hughes there were solid publications of other writing. Can one imagine a serious book of Simon Armitage or Helen Mort criticism ..no because it too dangerous an occupation in the ‘blow-back’ noughties where any -expression of opinion is frowned upon. Books are reviewed but mostly to further mediocre careerist blogs but serious criticism that gone the way of decent classical music radio i.e. popularised out of existence.

So reading the opinionated Winters is refreshing. He was wrong as much as right but at least he expressed an opinion.

https://newcriterion.com/issues/1997/6/the-seriousness-of-yvor-winters

https://www.cprw.com/the-absolutist-the-poetry-and-criticism-of-yvor-winters

Talking of opinionated tody I also picked up this Further Requirements book by Larkin to add to Required Writing which again I had for over thirty years. I wonder how long before Larkin is ‘Decolonized’ from the local university stacks which considering his lifetime devotion to maintaining library collections is beyond sad.

New Poems: Knowing my place

Doff your cap,
Toe the line,
Do a good job,
Know your place,
Speak when spoken to,
Don’t talk back, keep mum,
Be reliable
Hold your knife properly,
Don’t leave the table until told to,
Watch your step,
March in time,
Defer to your betters,
Salute the flag,
Be punctual,
Do a good job,
Never argue,
Be polite,
Bow,
Scrape,

Be invisible.

If you do not do as you are told you have…

A chip on your shoulder,
Are bitter,
Difficult
A maverick
A born troublemaker
An outsider
A thief

Or worse
Political

Working Class

A writer

2010 – White Van Town – Didcot Council Estate
Each van a different worker living on this road it a Sunday.. the Thatcherite Dream made reality.


My Back Pages: Diving for Change

DIVING FOR CHANGE

Below and to my right from this window a Volvo lorry crunches gear
shredded leaf, dust and gravel trickles from bumper and wheel-arch.
The digging of the new pool has been going on now for two weeks.
Yellow digger-buckets mouth the park’s soil and turf into lorries
that rumble off, indicators flashing, down dusty A-roads
to tip their loads as land-fill or as embankment on the new trunk road.

I used to swim badly across the old pool that’s been demolished
splashing a clumsy trail from three to six-foot but no further.
Now a JCB arm is swinging deeper than the best then could dive
clanking engines and carbon fumes replacing yells and splutters.
Pale teenagers, we swarmed round a tin and hardboard kiosk
where we’d buy ice-cream speared with flakes every summer.

Now sub-contractors, mis-managers and bankrupts delay completion.
Keep us waiting for a false vision of the sea in middle England.
Meanwhile every other council-painted door has a fresh veneer
and satellite-dishes mark the newly affluent from the newly poor.
Communal flats have been knocked down, replaced by home ownership
whilst the council chambers echoed to private sector linkage.

Down the road kids clutch change that grows sweaty and sticky
as the division between white and blue collars frays at the edges.
The water is milky like a disinfectant bath, ice-cream melting.
Every Friday my school class fizzed in that copper sulphate pool.
Some from that class dived into the eighties, came out with coins
but others still stumble round the wire slaked in mud and urine.

From Landmine Poems 1992-1996

This is an old poem that was never published it was too political, too edgy, too working class in the early 1990’s. To fit into a poetry world dominated by the white middle-class in those days took a certain amount of camouflaging.. some blended in well like Armitage always cloaking their politics ( after all he was a probation officer when I met him hardly a radical occupation).

I resigned myself to being an outlier in poetry then and frankly little changed…This poem was about the slow spread of corruption that started with the council house sell-off…..land-owning became a badge of the new right. It mattered not that many got left behind or that the environment was trashed as long as the showers of gold trickled down to.. well the gutter.

I stole Mr Parr’s photo he will not mind he owes me one for a favour I did later and it the perfect image of a country on brink of selling its soul.

We all went diving for change in broken fountains….

The last great White Elephant

In 1986 or thereabout I bought the Carver stories above from a shop in Plymouth whilst visiting my sister. It was the start of my obsession with all things ‘Americana’. I moved on via Granta’s Dirty Realism collection to a whole series of American authors including Lorrie Moore, Bobbie Anne Mason and then backwards towards the Deep South ( a title of a Paul Binding book I still own). Along the way stopping off in a whole number of places revealed to me by these authors. My mental map of USA is formed by them as I have only actually been there once for three days for a conference in New York City.

The subject in a lot of cases were outsiders, renegades..working class trailer trash. The characters who in the last few days have stepped out of ‘wilderness’ America and into all our front rooms as led on by the new Barnum they tried to occupy the centre-ground. The warriors of the marginalised wilds.

Trump’s misguided revolution is a drive-by shooting or a mall massacre on a huge scale. Every misfit and shamen of the dispossessed risen up like a biblical flood not forgetting the Jim Crow preachers and snake oil hucksters and medicin men waiting to profit from the carnage.

Watching this unfold like a sequal to a new series of Justified complete with guns, white supremacists and jingoistic cops leaves a hollow feeling…..

Art imitating life or the other way round?

The American Dream seems somehow tawdry and washed out right now….the idolisation of small town freaks and clowns somehow deeply compromised by their depiction.

There are many predictions of further unrest but frankly a United States Marine against spear carrying shaman is fanciful…..armed highly organised militia with military background far more realistic. Hopefully the above the sideshow to Barnum T’s assault on democracy but who knows what tigers he has in his circus cages or skeletons in the Pentagon…..the next few days will tell.

Hopefully it will be Trump’s Skeleton history stands in line to see not democracy’s….

My Back Pages: The Empty Stair

For my sins I have been watching ‘The Crown’ and it reminded me of a poem I wrote back in the 1990s before the death of Diana…..

As you can see I was always a staunch Royalist…

The Empty Stair


A fleur-de-lys fissured by sulphuric rain crumbles
but still hangs, paint-peeling, above an entrance
that is being scored with wire-brushes and repainted.
A gang of workmen and a beat-box blasting out Bangra.
A century of soot and grime from the Thames basin
flecks their hands as the cavalcade of Daimlers shoots by.

Across the Goldhawk Road a ringed hand adjusts saris
as ice melts on prawns and swordfish in the market.
Tube-trains coil round the tower-blocks, necklaces
flickering above the stalls of bric-a-brac and fake cds.
Sirens wail and a Range Rover’s blue lights glint
as it U-turns outside Clifton House, Hammersmith, W6.


At the turn of the century Prince Edward gilded this cage
for the pleasuring of Lilly Langtry so the neighbours say.
Now the tabloids bark out the latest royal adultery
on hoardings between kebabs and Kentucky Fried Chicken
as thieves grab Rolex and Vodaphones from execs in Mercs.
Clifton House has been rehabbed into council bedsits.

At night kids clamber up its abandoned spiral stair
and leave graffiti on the scalloped plasterwork.
Between rooms crammed with flickering TV’s and clothes horses
they flick torches on the dusty steps, mahogany handrail.
The rebuild left the stairs hanging like an empty net
where corks popping and loud laughter no longer echoes.


Meanwhile a figure on a staircase in Kensington Palace
watching rain splash across the Serpentine and
the Edwardian facades of Knightsbridge darkening
under clouds like calamares en su tinta on silver plate.
He returns to his watercolour of a house that is falling
as rioters in Hyde Park fall under all the King’s horses.

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