Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

Leicester – a smarter city

June 13, 2018

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To create a smarter city:
Signs are installed,
to attract exhaust fumes
and be daubed with graffiti.

In this smarter city,
the address points forlornly
to Page Not Found.
Your search did not find any results.

To create a smarter city:
The council chops down trees,
holding them responsible
for ‘anti-social behaviour’.

Create a smarter city.
Protect our few wild sanctuaries.
Don’t try to improve on Nature.
Living things should be left
to flourish in peace.

In this smarter city,
we will build cycle paths, not link roads.
We will take our buses back.
We will re-open closed libraries,
use empty offices for housing.

In this smarter city,
people will no longer sleep on streets;
ordinary people will regain their voice
and demand what should be theirs.
We can provide for all.

 

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Divine Interference

May 29, 2018

To our so-called Superiors, and their “god-given” right,
To abuse power and profit, while hidden from sight.
To those who would question how we live our life,
To pass judgement on doctors for using the knife.

Their medieval morality no longer holds sway.
Their perseverance and courage at last won the day.
Their banner said ROSA, and true was their cause;
Their vision: freedom, end to outdated laws.

The women of Ireland, no longer enslaved;
The millions of people, who battled and paved
The way forward to victory in historic vote,
The thousands returning by plane and by boat.

Who abolished dark memories of Magdalene Laundries,
Who cleansed those captive, communal memories.
Who were determined the world must at last hear their voice,
Who campaigned for a new, generational choice.

As we sing, voices carry cross ocean’s blue swell,
As our demands for equality will one day surely tell.
As we challenge authority’s hypocritical boast,
As it is always the poor, who suffer the most.

Attempt at communication

May 19, 2018

Connection lost. Background static,
Footprints of big bang. Space-time:
Expansive, easy to lose ourselves.
The random hiss speaks volumes
Of long-vanished nebulae,
Impressions of bare-footed runners,
Distant smoke signals,
Hooves of stagecoach thundering,
Telegram’s staccato flourishes.
Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower
Sparked with potential.
Wireless, an invisible tight-rope walker
Tries to bridge the gap . . . but falls.

Fragile signal is drowned in white noise.

A World Where News Travelled Slowly

April 15, 2018

I have just been reading Lavinia Greenlaw’s collection  A World Where News Travelled Slowly – and must recommend her poetry wholeheartedly. Her poems are an overheard conversation, conspiratory and private. She beckons us into a private, old-school world of Greek myths, apothecaries, alchemy and subtle eroticism.

The title poem is probably her most famous. A World Where News Travels Slowly harks back to the stagecoach and calligraphy, the human connection with the message, the act of delivery. We travel forward in time to “the clattering mechanics of the six-shutter telegraph”, beautifully mirrored in the rhythm of the line, to the present day. Now we take for granted the ability to connect with each other – but “we’re almost talking in each other’s arms” – the contemporaneous nature of news makes everything immediate – “nets tighten across the sky” – we are too close, trapped by proximity.

“Acquisitions” explores origins and the appropriation of artefacts, in relation to marriage, traditionally the possession of a spouse. “Is marriage by capture, exchange or purchase?” It alludes to American imperialism, Fordism and a denial of history.

One thing that stands out in this collection is Greenlaw’s shatteringly confident ability to make us see things afresh. “Reading Akhmatova in Midwinter” is an incredibly precise, measured description of the cold. Nature hangs in a cryogenic state, “each leaf carries itself in glass / each stem is a fuse in a transparent flex”. Always she harks back to the specific – in Last Summer, she reminisces of “the housemartins that flew semicircles / over the garage eaves, building or feeding”, while in a broken-down car with her daughter; “the thing’s running on fresh air!”. A snapshot of a commonplace incident, becomes a rhapsody on the freedom of nature vs. mechanism, her daughter’s childish exuberance trapped inside the car, “her fables, her wolf-dance”.

If there is a common theme to these poems, it is that humanity triumphs. In What We Can See of the Sky Has Fallen, a paean to Luke Howard, a Quaker who came up with the names we use for clouds, “somewhere between Income Tax and the Battle of Trafalgar”. He finds himself “skybound, abstracted”, striving to classify the unclassifiable. We impose our way of seeing on the world, it is interpreted through our eyes.

There is a tension between the abstract and the specific throughout this collection, the snapshot and the timeless, hot and cold, romantic and scientific. It does not provide you with easy answers, as in the ironically titled poem, “Guidebook to the Alhambra”, but it will introduce you to unfamiliar ideas, make you think anew and reconsider our position in the world. Isn’t that what poetry should be about?

 

How to make yourself cross this Thursday

June 7, 2017

Cross at cuts to the NHS;
cross at duplicitous career politicians;
cross at millionaire MPs freezing our wages;
cross at working till 67;
cross at we’re all in this together;
cross at zero hour contracts;
cross at “strong and stable” government;
cross at Blairite betrayals;
cross at tragic foreign interventions;
cross at terrorism;
cross at delayed trains and extortionate fares;
cross at 20,000 fewer police officers;
cross at election expenses scandal;
cross at tuition fees;
cross at austerity.

Cross the road to the polling station.

Cross for Corbyn;
cross for socialism;
cross for change;
cross for solidarity;
cross for leadership;
cross for the 99.9%;
cross for hope;
cross for equality.

Cross the box.

Cross your fingers.

mayends2

 

Priorities

November 23, 2016

Three hundred and sixty million? Cough, splutter.
For a fraction of that, I’d fix the gutter.
How many council houses could we buy?
Buckingham Palace, a modern Versailles.

Let Queenie herself pay for the job:
The Cullinan, that should fetch a few bob,
Empress of India, and all that palaver.
Empire long gone; old, stuffy cadaver.

In austerity Britain, we’re under the cosh.
While Royals claim yet more of our dosh,
Food bank queues only grow longer,
Working-class anger only grows stronger.

Adrift

October 29, 2016

They came – a few hundred, not thousands as claimed
Fleeing fear and persecution – they should not be blamed.
Desperate people, not a swarm, horde or flood
The same as you and me, made of flesh and blood.

Ils sont arrivés – quelques centaines, ce n’est son pas des milliers  selon
Qui fuyaient la peur et la persécution – ils ne devraient pas être blâmés
Des gens désespérés pas un essaim, une horde, ou une inondation
La même chose que vous et moi, de chair et de sang.

The Express and Daily Mail bleat unsparing, vile attacks
Some people sadly taken in by lies of right-wing hacks.
You might think World War III was on its way
If you read the tabloid press – so we need to sway

 «Aujourd’hui en France>> avec des attaques viles, impitoyables
Malheureusement certains croisent les mensonges de la droite.
Vous pourriez penser que la troisième guerre mondiale était sur son chemin
Si vous lisez la presse tabloïd donc nous aurons besoin de tangeur

the balance back – fight for the oppressed and the poor.
Unify against bosses, politicians who waged war
which created refugees; dispossessed, homeless –
It was not poor people who got us into this mess.

lutter pour les opprimés et les pauvres.
S’unifier contre les boss, les politiciens qui font la guerre
Qui a créé des réfugiés; dépossédés, sans-abri:
Ce ne fut pas de pauvres gens qui nous ont mis dans ce pétrin.

Immigrants were not responsible for the financial crisis
While bankers rake in billions, the media divides us.
We need solidarity, not racism against fictitious “angry mobs”
Who are no threat in reality, just want the chance to get jobs.

Les migrants ne sont pas responsables de la crise financière
Alors que les banquiers râtissent des milliards, les médias nous divisent.
Solidarité, contre le racisme fictif «des foules en colère»
Qui sont pas une menace en réalité , ils veulent une chance de trouver un emploi.

But they cannot work, just get by on an Azure card
Not welcome in certain places. Bureaucracy gone mad.
The system treats the asylum seeker like a criminal
No independence, singled out – the message is subliminal.

Mais ils ne peuvent pas travailler, juste obtenir une carte Azure
Seulement accepté dans certains magasins. Bureaucratie devenue folle.
Le système traite le demandeur d’asile comme un criminel
Pas d’indépendance, persecuté – le message est subliminal.

And the police respond with Operation Stack
COBRA is convened: we are under attack.
The refugee is dehumanised, feared by all and sundry
But millionaires are fêted, when they come to the country.

Et les flics réagissent avec l’Opération Stack
Le comité d’urgence est convoqué: nous sommes sous la menace.
Le réfugié est déshumanisé, craint par toute l’humanité
Mais les millionnaires sont acclamés, quand ils viennent au pays.

Leaves turn red

September 9, 2016

Tired of working for cruel, intransigent boss;
Leaves turn red. It is not their loss
Of profit, sucking their lives dry
In the service of corpulent, bloated guy
For in this world, its nearly always men
Who profit from cheap labour, then
Swan off to convenient tax haven
Suck up souls of those who slave in
Modern day workhouses, pump and sweat
Leaves gather sunlight, yet
Get no reward for their toil
Our labour earns his profitable spoil.
Learn from leaves. In protest, cut
Gordian knot that binds us shut.
Join a union, organise and fight
For what should be ours by right.
Let the broken stump of capitalism wither
We cannot afford to dither.
Let us build and spring anew,
Let this autumn be our last,
Let the working class hold fast
Consign slavery to the past.
We cannot baulk at radical change
Socialist ideas, no longer strange.

 

little red little green

If you have enjoyed my poetry on this blog, my new collection, “Little Green Poetry” is now available from Lulu – – £4+P&P (paperback) or £2.50 (for e-book readers)

You can still order copies of my first collection, “Little Red Poetry” from http://www.leftbooks.co.uk or http://www.lulu.com – again for £4 (pb) or £2.50 (as a pdf for e-readers).

I hope you enjoy reading my poems, and, as always, all proceeds will go to help build the fightback against corporate political parties, to build a voice for the millions, not the millionaires.

To find out more about my politics, visit the website of the Committee For A Workers’ International, which is engaged in struggle in around 50 countries worldwide.

Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, while playing Pokemon Go and trying to catch Quilladin on August 2, 2016

August 2, 2016

 

A score of years have passed since your release
Childish nostalgia; games we once enjoyed.
Gameboy, Dreamcast, Nintendo 64
Amidst the console scrap-heap in the sky
Clouds scud across, sweet summer's zephyr.
Yet I care not. I'm in pursuit mode – hot
On heels of rare Quilladin green and brown;
Chestnut bred with hedgehog, strange beast indeed.
If only I could find reception in midst
Of landscape serene, these green hills and crags
These beauteous plots, hedgerows, fields – Nature
All around - why focus on tiny screen?
At this wide wilderness, I barely glance
Entranced by tiny pixels as they dance
Enticingly away from futile tries
To entrap Snorlax in my virtual grasp.
Whilst I leap to find elusive signal,
I lose my footing, tumble into tarn
My precious iphone dowsed in mountain stream
Screen smashed, game irretrievably lost.
My eyes open then to Nature's beauty,
Not augmentations of reality.
I fix my gaze on real, not Google Earth;
Take in each second, value every breath.

If Wordsworth were around to see this day,
Playing Pokemon would ruin his poetry.

Hands off our precious libraries

July 18, 2016

Hands off our precious libraries!
Hands off our treasured books!
Free computers boot up;
Any query we can look up.

Let’s defend our jobs and services
From all you neo-liberal crooks
So hands off our precious libraries
Hands off our treasured books!

Let stressed commuters rush about,
Inside there’s hush, no need to shout.
Community space, for every race,
Sanctuary in the centre of our city.

We must save our precious libraries,
Books enrich our vocabularies;
Fire imaginations off to far-distant realms.
A world of words inspires, overwhelms.

Tories preach austerity, all we ask is parity:
A chance for all to share and have a look.
Keep our libraries open, they’re a place where we can pop in
To savour the pleasure of a good book.

Keep our precious libraries,
Keep our treasured books.
Part of a collective history,
Not a puzzle or a mystery

If you take away our library
Society will much poorer be.
So let’s all strike back and organise
Shelves into Dewey decimals.

It may sound quite contrarian
But we need to keep our local librarian,
A guide to all the crannies and the nooks –
Hands off our precious libraries and books!

 

Sign the online petition to save Coventry’s libraries.

Thanks to Vicky Cowell, staunch defender of Coventry’s libraries and avid bookworm, for kicking this off with the first verse, and for much inspiration. For more information – see this report from the Coventry Telegraph and a recent Coventry Against The Cuts protest.

Libraries and council services are under threat across the country. We need to fight back. Get involved in a local anti-cuts group, or if there isn’t one where you live, set one up yourself!