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Poetry

Poetry

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care to act,
it starts when you do it again after they said no,
it starts when you say we and know who you mean,
and each day you mean one more.

Marge Piercy

Making Better Rhymes: Chartist Poetry and Working Class Struggle
Friday, 22 January 2016 22:44

Making Better Rhymes: Chartist Poetry and Working Class Struggle

Written by
in Poetry

In the first of a series of articles on Chartist poetry and working class struggle, Dr. Mike Sanders traces the background to its development.

Andy Croft in 'The Privatisation of Poetry' cites approvingly, Francis Combes's declaration that "Poetry belongs to everyone". As an aspiration, I couldn't agree more. In reality, the conditional seems more accurate - "Poetry ought to belong to everyone." Andy also suggests, correctly in my view, that poetry ought to be thought of in terms of common ownership. This set me thinking - can poetry be taken into public, or common, ownership? Should we be agitating for the nationalisation of the iambic pentameter?

At first sight, this might seem like a ridiculous question. However, given that poetry has effectively been 'privatised' for a number of centuries, perhaps the question is not so far-fetched. Indeed, the world's first working-class movement - Chartism - devoted a great deal of energy in its attempts to restore poetry to its proper status as the common property of all. In pursuit of this aim Chartist newspapers and journals printed articles such as 'The Politics of Poets' which ran for ten weeks in the Scottish Chartist Circular. This series explicitly sought to reclaim what we would now call 'elite' or 'canonical' poetry for the working-classes. Even more significantly, Chartist newspapers actively supported working-class poets by regularly publishing their poetry. The leading Chartist newspaper, the Northern Star, published almost 1,500 poems from at least 390 Chartist poets between 1838 and 1852.

The Northern Star's poetry column was not an attempt to impose ‘culture’ from above, rather it was a response to a popular demand that poetry could and should speak to working-class desires and needs. From the start, literally hundreds of Chartists sent in their poems and quite a few appear to have pestered the editor with enquiries as to when their work would appear. Occasionally, the editor lost patience with his correspondents. In March 1838 he wrote “We have received as much poetry as a donkey could draw; we shall select from it as occasion offers, so let none be jealous, or we will take it by lot”! Poets sending their poetry had to have a fairly thick skin as the editor could be brutal. ‘W.M.’ (a weaver) sent in a poem and gave the editor permission to make any alterations needed. The editor replied “The best thing we can suggest to him is, to alter all the words, or, what might be still better, take them all away, and leave the paper blank.”

Given the risk of such withering criticism what made so many Chartists put pen to paper to produce poetry? Some wrote to promote solidarity, others to celebrate or commemorate leaders and events. Some wrote to rouse their comrades to action, others to reflect on the aims, aspirations, tactics and strategy of the Chartist movement. We are used to this kind of ‘political poetry’ and I have no wish to deny its importance. However, for many Chartists the simple fact of writing poetry (irrespective of its content) was itself a political action. Composing poetry was an affirmation of working-class creativity in the face of the dehumanising grind of industrial capitalism – a reminder that the ‘hands’ who worked the machines themselves possessed hands capable of producing beauty as well as profit.

One example of this is a poem from a woman who signed herself ‘E.H., a Factory Girl of Stalybridge’. Technically speaking E.H.'s poem is not a good one, as she herself acknowledges. Yet for all its technical deficiencies it is, I feel, a particularly moving poem. E.H. dedicates her poem to the factory reformer, Joseph Rayner Stephens, and she compares her position as a ‘factory girl’ with that of the millowners’ wives and children:

Their children, too, to school must be sent,
Till all kinds of learning and music have learnt;
Their wives must have veils, silks dresses, and cloaks,
And some who support them can’t get linsey coats

E.H. not only points out that their advantages are bought at the cost of her class’s impoverishment, she also protests against her cultural as well as her material deprivation:

If they had sent us to school, better rhyme we could make
I think it is time we had some of their cake.

[...]

We factory lasses have but little time,
So I hope you will pardon my bad written rhyme.
God bless him for striving to get us our rights,
And I wish the world over were true Stephenites.

A Stephenite I am from the ground of my heart,
And I hope from the same I shall never depart.
May God spare your life till the tyrants are ended,
So I bid you good bye, till my verses I’ve mended.

E.H. tells us that her poem is not a ‘good’ one, and traces its limitations to her limited education, which is in turn a product of her class position. E.H. wants better – better working conditions, better education, and the chance to write better poetry which she connects imaginatively with cake, that is with something more than the fundamental necessities of life. 'Culture' is the name we give to that desire for something better and, in future articles, I intend to explore some of the ways in which the role of poetry within the Chartist movement can illuminate many of the current challenges facing the working-class movement.

 

NB: Readers interested in reading all of E.H.'s poem will find it in the Northern Star for May 18th, 1839. The digitised version of the Northern Star can be found at the following website: http://www.ncse.ac.uk/index.html

Everything Must Go
Thursday, 14 January 2016 22:27

Everything Must Go

Written by
in Poetry

On Tuesday 15th December, 2015 Christie’s Auction House held a sale of property that had belonged to the late British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. The sale realised more than £4.5 million pounds. The Guardian dryly stated that ‘she was worth more dead than alive’. Thatcher presided over one of the most bitter industrial disputes of the 20th century; the 1984-85 Miner’s Strike. Two days after this sale the last deep coal mine in Britain, Kellingley Colliery in North Yorkshire, closed.

The Kaiser Biscuit American Bald Eagle
Realised almost half a million dollars;
More absurd and obscene lots soon followed;
A set of ten gilt miniature oil barrels...
Mencken’s Dictionary of Quotations,
Hammered down for only fourteen grand;
An Emes and Barnard George IV inkstand;
Cinderella flounce and ostentation.
But now the room’s abuzz, they look askance,
Blood drips from each hedgefund manager’s maw,
As ravenously they surge and push and paw,
For surely now, the pièce de résistance;
Kellingley Colliery and its miners renowned,
Who’ll start the bidding! Surely, come, a pound...?

Aylan Kurdi
Thursday, 14 January 2016 21:36

Two Poems for Aylan Kurdi

Written by
in Poetry

You'd Only Have To Do It Once

by Chris Amos

"You'd only have to do it once.

One burst of rapid fire - BRRRAAAPPP!
And stop the scum right then and there
And put Great Britain back on track.
They did it in Tiananamen Square - it worked for them.
'Course, they were Commie bastards mind,
But all the same it shut 'em up - fair's fair.
Dish out a similar kind of treatment here
And problem solved, mate!
You'd only have to do it once!"
So there he is - sat at the bar;
The voice of middle aged and Middle England
Spitting bile and half-chewed crisps out into empty air,
His words a red top tabloid blare that echo near and far.
His denims strain to hold his bloated beer gut in,
His Live Aid tee-shirt wearing thin,
His hairdo ageing Status Quo
And knowing all he needs to know
To judge on life and death.
And I'm sat thinking "Christ, shut up!"
But matey-boy's just warming up.

"How come his kids are dead and he's alive?
Eh? Eh?
If they was my kids I would DIE before I let 'em come to harm!
I'd keep 'em safe at home
Among the bombs, among the drones, among the bodies and the rats
And just a hint of mustard gas upon the burning air,
I am a caring parent more than he would ever be!
If that was me, them kids would be alive back home in Migrant Land-Istan!"
And so he talks, and so I hear,
His words a horde, a stinging swarm about my ears.
I've known his kind these thirty years and never liked them.
What he calls common sense I call obscene,
A Katie Hopkins hard wet-dream.
"You're fired - BRRRAAAPPP!"
The bull bars on his four-by-four for ramming shut that open door.
It's always Nineteen Eighty-Four for him;
The generation given everything give something back?
Why?
Back's for wimps!
Unless it's "Back to where you come from, Gunga Din!"
And on the screen
The little child lies cold,
Carried shoreward in the gentle fold of waves that make no judgements.
He can't talk.
Yet he tells more truth in one still, silent image than you'd ever hear
From those slurred, snarling lips fuelled by wilful ignorance and beer.
Be still.
Be silent.
Turn your gaze upon the revelation in those waves
And find the compassion your hatred stunts.
LOOK AT THE PICTURE.
YOU'D ONLY HAVE TO VIEW IT ONCE, I'D HOPE.
And "God?" I think; "We've talked before.
I'm not the best of men, but surely we can do a deal here?
Grant me, O Lord, by Thy great might a one-way helicopter flight
That I might shove him out the door into the Syrian Desert night
Abandoned, frightened, all alone and tell him;
"Make your own way home."
I'd only have to do it once and then I'd be a saint, I swear."
But God's not there.
Or if He is, He's keeping shtum.
The talk subsides.
And meanwhile with the waiting tides more children come.
And more.
And more.
But we're not looking anymore - the footy's on.
The child is gone.

 

Beachcombing

by Jim Aitken

1.
Mackay Brown once combed the beaches
of Orkney. Once he found a boot
of salty leather, throwing it
back into the white foaming waves.

And once, like Hamlet before him,
he brooded on a seaman’s skull
with sand rather than earth dripping
from the base. He threw that back too.

Usually it was just seaweed
strewn over the shore like mulched leaves
but he would always return here
to raise the profile of his place.

2.
Once we called it Mare Nostrum
and it was where the real action
took place. It was there, we were told,
that civilisation started.

And now the Greek beachcombers
would welcome salty leather boots
that had danced the waves from Orkney
rather than real human jetsam.

More troubling still than traffickers
are the voices further in land
proclaiming their Christian values
by telling them to go away.

3.
The universal brotherhood
of brine understands no borders
and would crash through all razor wire
smashing down all fences and walls.

For fragile is what we all are,
vulnerable our condition.
And what should flow, should surge from this
is nothing less than compassion.

We are all at sea, all at sea
in the same sea that soaks us all
and only by us reaching out
can we hope to keep our boots on.

K2_PUBLISHED_ON Monday, 11 January 2016 14:43

The Western Wall Plaza

in Poetry
Written by

THE WESTERN WALL PLAZA

Jerusalem is the dwelling place of the Shekinah

the Plaza rained out, no one at prayer, no one intoning under an umbrella, their
feet would be flooded if so

I take refuge in a wooden shack at the opposite end, wet seats, wet tables,
soldiers on duty, some armed, some unarmed, two teenage girls in green
uniforms, one of African descent, lurid Uzis cocking between their legs

soldiers and tourists smoke in rainy silence, another of the young females has
a raw blush of acne on her cheeks, a child, other soldiers pass a crisp packet
hungrily as dozens more shove in for shelter, the floor over-crowded with black
boots, the scene a makeshift barracks on the site of the ex-Moroccan Quarter

shekinah rains,
above the Herodian wall
deciduous green
grows darker

K2_PUBLISHED_ON Wednesday, 23 December 2015 21:11

Prickling the politics of permanent austerity with political-polemical poetry

in Poetry
Written by

Alan Morrison surveys the recent 'mushrooming depth-charge' of political poetry in various anthologies, welcomes the rise of radical publishers, and introduces his new website, Militant Thistles.

Since The Recusant/Caparison’s anti-austerity poetry anthologies, Emergency Verse – Poetry in Defence of the Welfare State (2010/11) and The Robin Hood Book – Verse Versus Austerity (2011/2012), there has been a sustained and mushrooming depth-charge of political-polemical poetry in the UK.

Fitting, since we are in a decade effectively twinned with the Depression-hit 1930s, a decade during which there was an explosion of political poetry (Auden, Spender, Day Lewis, MacNeice, Wintringham, Cornford, Lindsay, Caudwell etc.), and prose polemic through Victor Gollancz’ Left Book Club (recently resuscitated by Pluto Press, hot on the heels of the revival of that other Thirties-born polemical imprint, Pelican).

Surprising, since, in spite of today’s social and political upheavals we are, nevertheless, at the tail-end of an at least two-decade-long apolitical postmodernist hegemony in mainstream poetry.

POLEMICAL ERUPTION IN POETRY

But, just as the momentous triumph of left-wing outsider Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership race took even the most optimistic by surprise, so too has the sudden polemical eruption across the poetic spectrum in response to Tory ascendency. Both would have been thought highly fanciful prospects only months before, but, today, they are actually happening.

Emergency Verse’s direct response to Chancellor Osborne’s epoch-crushing ‘Emergency Budget’, back in June 2010, anticipated the steady rupture of more openly political poetry, contrapuntal to Jody Porter’s re-energising of the Well Versed columns in the Morning Star.

Throughout the past five years there have been a number of ‘big imprint’ collections at least ostensibly addressing socio-political topics; scores of more authentically political collections through presses such as Smokestack, International Times, Waterloo, Red Squirrel; many political poetry anthologies and campaigns, such as Poems for Freedom, Fit for Work: Poets Against Atos, The Stare’s Nest, Proletarian Poetry; and, more recently, the pre-election Campaign in Poetry, the post-election poetry blogsite, New Boots and Pantisocracies, and promptly ‘on-the-pulse’ Poets for Corbyn and 21 Poems for Jeremy Corbyn.

New Boots and Pantisocracies is worth particular mention for accomplishing the considerable feat of attracting contributions from scores of ‘high profile’ poets not normally known for composing polemical poems. It seems these poets were prompted to contribute to this vast project due to entering what the site terms the ‘new dispensation’ i.e. solo Tory rule.

That we have been under Tory rule for the past five years (due to the impotence of the Lib Dems’ much-trumpeted “restraining influence” of so-called “Coalition”), with much of the most devastating cuts and social culls already enacted (not least the 91,000+ Atos-hounded sick and disabled claimants who ‘died’ between 2011 and 2014!), is a moot point. But W.N. Herbert and Andy Jackson’s valiant initiative distinguishes itself for having managed to galvanise a sizeable portion of the hitherto politically inert poetry mainstream to finally assert itself against Tory austerity and associated narratives. It has also served to provide much-needed reinforcements to the veteran anti-austerity poetry alternative.

MILITANT THISTLES

Militant Thistles (strap-line: ‘prickling the politics of permanent austerity’) is The Recusant/Caparison’s latest venture, which is essentially an online continuation of the outpouring of polemical poetry that our two previous e- and print anthologies brought to a significant readership.

The Caparison anthologies were published at a period when speaking out politically in poetry was still perceived as outré –even reputationally perilous– in the mainstream, in spite of tokenistic attempts by such flagship journals as Poetry Review to catch up with the rupture of political poetry happening pretty much entirely outside its culturally-lagging pages (cue the solipsistic ‘Where is the New Political Poetry?’ issue under Fiona Sampson’s twilight editorship).

That it now appears to be de rigueur to write political poetry in opposition to Tory-imposed austerity, and the hitherto taboo of “welfare reform”, is to be greatly celebrated.

Militant Thistles’ title is taken from Cyril Connolly, who himself lifted the phrase from George Crabbe’s ‘covert pastoral’ (see William Empson) poem ‘The Heath’. Connolly employed the phrase, in his Enemies of Promise (1938), as a metaphor for ‘political writers’, and, in part, meant it thornily: he saw political writing as one of many potential pitfalls for authors and poets.

Our use of the phrase is a prickly riposte to Connolly’s cautionary take which, together with the truncated Auden trope ‘poetry makes nothing happen’ (which goes on, however: ‘…it survives/ In the valley of its making…/A way of happening, a mouth’), inadvertently let the postmodernist mainstream ‘off the political hook’.

Our use of the phrase is a little more optimistic with regards to today’s political poetry imperative. We aim to remain thistles in the consciences (if they have any!) of our current Tory rulers for the duration of what will undoubtedly prove a socially corrosive reign of the blue torch (or torched oak).

Militant Thistles welcomes political poems or polemics. Please send submissions in the body of the email together with a brief biography to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please put ‘Militant Thistles’ in the header.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015 10:10

Two Poems by Lisa Kelly

Written by
in Poetry

Last Man to Leave the Ice Factory

Ice was no chin-chin thing to keep a drink cold;
ice was business, titanic big, tonnes crushed
for the trawlers to keep fish fresh in the hold
tides away from land. Now machines are hushed;
then, up at four we were, 20 waggons waiting
for 20 tonnes of ice each. You’d eat off the floor
it was so polished. Pans of water chilled in a freezing
pool of brine, sliding out in slabs. No more;
now there’s pigeon shit on machines, copper wiring
ripped. Can you fathom this was progress?
No hacking ice from frozen ponds, nor importing
ice from Norway. Ammonia compressed
in the machines meant man-made ice on demand
for the biggest fishing fleet afloat. Cod wars, and fishing
was dying. I stayed on as gallons of water drained.
No shame in admitting to a grown man crying.

The Great Grimsby Ice Factory Trust was unsuccessful in its recent bid for funding to the Heritage Lottery Fund, despite being on the 2014 World Monuments Watch, a worldwide list of cultural sites at risk of being lost forever. The Ice Factory was built in 1901, and closed its doors in 1990. Mike Sonley, former chief rigger, was the last man to work there.

Celebrities

Workers’ photos are erected on posts around the local pond in Asserac, France

Valérie Touya, Coiffeuse
A big silver hoop dangles from one ear,
her T-shirt says, come from the moon.
To the man in the chair,
steel blades grazing his neck hair,
she is a luminary: a goddess in her sphere.

Claude Lelecque, Paludier
He is fierce in the face of the lens – caught
with a stash of the finest white substance
in a basket by his bare feet: harvested salt.
Behind him, his wooden hut is a treasure vault
for shovel; bucket; wooden rake, the long-handled sort.

Chantal Caba, Boulangère
From the interior of her stretch white
van, she smiles at her queuing fans.
‘Let them eat bread, baked on-site
and delivered first thing for their delight.’
Every inch a diva, after being up half the night.

Olivier Bertho, Charpentier
Not a cigar rolled for a star clamped in his teeth –
but a pencil. He will use it to mark his place,
of which he is sure, but now his focus is on the lathe
and the wood. His work will bequeath
craftsmanship for generations: a kind of belief.

Jean-Marc Lecam, Plombier
His rolled up sleeves, deadpan
stare straight to camera as if he means business.
He does. A hero, a leading man
who prevents floods, makes a plan.
A man of few words, whose catchphrase is I can.

Patrick Lecarff, Pompier
His uniform is not a costume. It is no act,
entering a burning building as the camera rolls.
Saving lives is not a drama; but matter-of-fact –
what he does for his community, backed
by a crew of solidarity: a fireproof pact.

Maxime Pierlo, Monteur de Kitesurf
This is his beach, his turf.
He is half man, half Poseidon,
half in his wetsuit, half out. King of the surf,
he harnesses the wind, cuts up the sky, can morph
from man to immortal. The title of his biopic: Sail Forth.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015 10:50

November Paris Blue

Written by
in Poetry

Written after the Paris attacks, November 2015

It is a blue November dawn
I imagine a day without conflict
It looks like a globe of light
With an absence of shadow
A world filled with wonder and colour and joy
I close my eyes to soar and fly above the cities we grieve

I don't trust any politicians anymore
I don't believe in our Prime Minister
Or any of our world leaders, presidents and kings
It stinks the way they continue to lie and conspire
To make money, to trade arms, enslave and murder people.

One bomb does not a country kill
But the missile aims to kill the faith in peace and love
One attack will not burn all the flags and castles
But intends to incinerate hope and burn bridges
And fuel the media propaganda trading in fear
Giving the war-mongers ammunition to wage war
Avenge the revenge, that was revenge for the revenge...
And an eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind.

We are nothing without each other
We are our reflections and our differences
We are ants on a hot blue marble in space
We have one planet and one chance to be good to each other
Or be smashed and scattered as ash and dust.

Today, France is dropping bombs on Syria
Who knows what retaliation tomorrow brings
Who knows which city gets bombed next?
We can presume the politician holding the receipts for the latest arms deal will know.

But we all know that more bombs means... more bombs
More revenge, more retaliation, more casualties, more death
More refugees, more displacement, more ignorance, more intolerance, more tension
More blood in the gutters and broken bodies tangled in concrete, rubble and glass
More refugees suffocating in abandoned lorries and washed up on beaches
More rape and violence to vulnerable women and children
More shock-stained faces staring down the news camera lens pleading
"Why? Why do you treat us like animals?"
More mouths; bloody mouths, screaming mouths, hungry mouths, angry mouths, lying mouths
Politicians mouths like piranha mouths with razor teeth to bite any truth in half.
Stop people killing people for killing people who are killing people to kill people...

Media, click bait, hot takes, turn us inside out
Guts spilled and wrung like chip paper laundry
We are being spun in a washing machine on a negative cycle
I want to stop the spin
Switch the machine off and press restart
We need soap to wash out these lying mouths
We soak our world in salt water to remove blood stains
But all our tears are never enough.

We slap and split the lip of the present
Bloody our shared history
And leave scars on the future
A black eye for a black eye.

We must be the change we want to see
I won't give up, I won't stop being idealistic
Idealistically we must break the chain:
Stop people killing people for killing people who are killing people...
Stop people killing people for killing people who are killing people...
Stop using death as the whole sentence
When talking was not listening
When listening wasn't hearing.

It is a blue November dawn
I imagine a day without conflict
It looks like a globe of light
With an absence of shadow
A world filled with wonder and colour and joy
I close my eyes to soar and fly above the cities we grieve

Feel the sorrow of the ghosts of all the lost
And the hearts of the souls beating
The universal rhythm of a new day
Fresh coffee, umbrellas and pigeons
And Paris, wine and poetry and
Beirut and music and Syria and spirit and
London and spice and tea and books
And as this blue November dawn breaks
I remember that is who we all are
That there is a breath inside us we share
Together we live through this moment in time
This brand new morning
With one long slow exhale.

Monday, 14 December 2015 23:23

from Coventry Blue

Written by
in Poetry

from 1.

They say that true blue means to stay fast and true
However antediluvian the view –
It’s those who don’t waver: Covenanters,
Conservatives, and all other Naysayers;

The phrase was rinsed from another phrase,
As many are, wrung through human gaze,
Then pressed in the mangle of the rolling tongue:
“As true as Coventry Blue” – and John Ray’s

Compleat English Proverbs traced its root
To a cloth whose fibres were so resolute
That it lost none of its colour when washed,
As stubborn as obstructed blood going bruit…

from 3.

The rich sup ripe apples while the pipped peasants
Are chucked sour cores of antidepressants
To sharpen up penury-depleted spirits –
Or prodded with shocks of Protestant Ethics…

from 5.

We’re hurtling back to the Thirties today
In our Eton Blue Twenty-First Century –
Our leaders once more cut from public school cloths,
Abetted by Liberal buff-coloured moths;

Those shop steward days of woodbines and roses,
Of scholarship Harolds, Teds, Jameses –oases
Of opportunity for more life-shaped opinions
Cropped amid landscapes of palmed nepotisms;

Empirical pools slowly emptied to glimmerings
Of once-greening gains, while privileged springs
Gush back with blue vengeance –in hindsight, a mirage,
That gentler interregnum of grammar and marge

And lowering rungs, when Meritocracy’s rise
Was more than just a glint in Michael Young’s eyes,
But already rooting, up until it was nipped
In its proleptic bud when the Milk Snatcher quipped

She’d “banish the dark, divisive clouds of Marxist
Socialism” –as she did, promptly replacing it
With the dark, divisive clouds of private avarice,
Of property-worship and acquisitiveness,

Pub-emptying pulls for blue collars, carrots
And sticks: Right-to-Buys and Buy-to-Lets;
(Young Junior mapped –while his father was napping–
Playgrounds that trapped the sound of no hands clapping)…

from 8.

Now was ushered in an age of sky-blue grace
When, for three decades, that purple trace
Rinsed fainter and fainter, and pale blue
Pelicans occupied polemical space,

Richly instructive but cheaply priced
At sixpence a pinch, pocket-sized
Portable paperbacks: reimbursement
In trickledown tri-band bouleversement;

Blue-and-white titles to the put-upon
Proletariat, now lifted up on
Pinions of social philosophy
Purchased and trousered philanthropy –

Ripe pickings for black-nailed autodidacts,
The real life Jude Fawleys, Frank Owens, bracts
Of the artisan class whose sepals support
The mortarboard petals of the middling sort,

But whose own thirst for didactic succour,
So long neglected as wrinkle and pucker
In cloth cut for donkey work, multiplied
To corduroyed ridges that couldn’t be dyed

In the usual adulterated yellow-rinse
Of sports colours, gossip, prurience
Scooped up by Grub Street’s bowdlerising hacks
With racing tips feathering their bowler-hats;

This corduroy was no newfangled fabric,
It was an ancient cloth of an authentic
Shade gained with age, and its’ furrowed textures
Demanded nourishment, a cut of ploughshares –

So it fell to red hearts of the better-heeled
To redistribute to them belated bond yields:
Books in sky-blue for workers downed tools
To browse as they put up their feet slipped in mules;

Each in its striped livery, colour-coded
By subject: dark blue for biographies, red
For drama, sky-blue for social sciences,
Cerise for travel, purple for belles-lettres,

And those sea-green intrigues (less encouraged),
Crime fiction a cut above colportage
Potboilers –common folk’s cultural cures,
Wholesome brown stouts of yeasty literatures…

from 9.

Coventry Blue – so resolute, so true
‘To itself and always the same’, through and through,
Impermeable, inscrutable blue,
Ineluctable Baron of British rubes;

Our island race prizes above anything
The right to self-determination,
The right to be told to “do the right thing”,
The right to take flight on just the right wing;

The right to be ruled by those who know best
What is and is not “in the national interest”;
The right to have opinions spoon fed to us
By red-top parrots with blue-torch crests;

The right to worship at the planted feet
Of the elephant god of property –
Ganesha of buy-to-letting agencies;
The right to fleece tenants through legalese;

The right to buy up unlimited empties;
The right to deny others’ rights to tenancies:
‘No smokers. No children. No Chavs. No pets.
No unemployed mothers. No benefits’;

The right to earn livings to cover the rent
For castles which we’ve no entitlement
To enter; the right to elective enslavement,
Grey subservience we revel in: employment;

Britons may ‘never, never, never… be slaves’
But will ever be servants; reives of grey waves;
Our green island salvage is a gem of mildew
In a sea not of silver but Coventry Blue….. 

The full text of the poem ‘Coventry Blue’ will be included in Alan Morrison’s poetry collection, 'Tan Raptures', which will be published by Smokestack Books in February 2017.

Monday, 14 December 2015 23:08

Two Poems by Owen Gallagher

Written by
in Poetry

The Accumulation of Capital

Marx and Engels almost drained this bar in Soho,
finishing ‘The Manifesto of the Communist Party’.
Thirsting for another round, I consider pickpockets,
not the ones working streets and malls,
or those in pulpits pilfering what’s left in minds,
but the one kitted out like a toff,
currently lifting my friend’s wallet. I ram
the full force of justice behind his knees
and haul him to his feet, lecture him, mercilessly,
on the nature of Capitalism, how it encourages thieves.

First published in the Morning Star

I Saw A New World Being Assembled

 
In the tenements
    there were workers
who built dreams for others,

singers who got drunk
    on rebel songs,
fighters who fought

for themselves
    in the workplace
and lost every round.

All were in revolt
    against their masters
one way or another.

I saw a new world
    being assembled
in a sweatshop, dreamers,

singers, fighters, unfurled
    a union flag, voices
were bolted and welded into one.

From Militant Thistles, militantthistles.moonfruit.com

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