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

Hands Off Rosa Luxemburg
Sunday, 31 July 2016 19:56

Hands Off Rosa Luxemburg

Written by
in Poetry

Hands Off Rosa Luxemburg

by Peter Raynard

Red Rosa was carved from timber
in a Poland that was not her own.
She was not ‘mistaken, mistaken, mistaken’,
dear Lenin. Your eagle of the working classes
hawked a different path never landing
on another’s arm. She was Spartacus,
who kept moving to hear her chains,
advancement through struggle, the true manifesto.

She could smell the stinking corpse of Germany
when people held their nose. Called the workers
to revolt as gravediggers of the state, to lay down
their tools and take arms not against a common
class in some Great War they didn’t own.

Rising up she took the butt of a rifle to her head
followed by a bullet; her hands and ankles wired,
severed like her struggle but not her history.
Her country was a flag she never raised, her blood
without borders flowed into the river she was flung.

Freedom is the freedom of the dissenter; it does not rest,
not in peace, but within the, ‘I was, I am, I will be!’

After the Big Vote
Wednesday, 20 July 2016 09:56

After the Big Vote

Written by
in Poetry

After The Big Vote
Intellectual Begins To Decompose

by Kevin Higgins

You sit minding that cup
as if it contained, post-Brexit,
the last frothy coffee in all of Brighton.
You’ve the look of
a pretend Elvis Costello,
or the rejected fourth member
of Bananarama.

Your claim to notoriety
that one of the Sex Pistols
once failed to cross the road
to avoid you. Your opinions
what it said in all
yesterday’s editorials.

Your new secret hate
the ghastly Adidas tracksuits of Gateshead,
the sweatpants of Merthyr Tydfil,
for daring to go against your wishes.

Your sneer is a threatened Doberman
with the charming personality removed.
Scientists are currently trying
to bottle your lime-green bile
and make it available on the NHS
as a homeopathic remedy for psychotic
former Guardian columnists.

Your words are the gusts that come out
immediately before
a terrible bowel movement.

Even in the face of bitten
finger nails, the broken hinge
on the upstairs window, and my own
sack load of mistakes,

to be you would be
a fate worse than life.

Kevin Higgins is still under 'administrative suspension' from the Labour Party for writing satirical poems like this. He has also suffered the cruel and unusual punishment of being removed from the Labour International closed Facebook group.

A Regressive Centrist Speaks Electability
Wednesday, 13 July 2016 14:23

A Regressive Centrist Speaks Electability

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in Poetry

A Regressive Centrist Speaks Electability

by Kevin Higgins

“Imagine if a huge new influx of Labour members gave a mandate to a progressive, centrist leader who could win an election.”

- Caitlin Moran

Our plans for you
will be enthusiastically endorsed
by the popular musical group
Coldplay, and some comedian once considered
edgy. To make you like us even more

every August thirty first, we’ll re-enact
the crash that killed Diana, Princess of Wales.
Our leader’s reaction to camera
will be so perfect
it’ll bring a tear to your jerk.

We’ll employ a team of pale thin advisors
to ascertain what our opponents hate –
beggars, Latvians, adolescents… –
be against such things too
before the enemy get around to issuing
their bastard press release.

We will make sure
Police Special Branch shoot
no more Pakistanis
than absolutely necessary
in the circumstances
we hope, with your support,
to create.

 Kevin Higgins has just been suspended from the Labour Party, see http://mentioningthewar.blogspot.ie/2016/07/administrative-suspension-uk-labour.html

The White Queen claimed to belive six impossible things before breakfast
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Friday, 08 July 2016 20:23

Stabberjocky

in Poetry
Written by

Stabberjocky

by Steve Pottinger
(with apologies to Lewis Carroll)

‘Twas Brexit, and the slithy Gove
did frottercrutch in dwarfish glee;
he snicker-snacked the Camerove,
Machiavelliadastardly.

Beware the stabberjock, my son!
The empty eyes, the robo-glint!
who fellobrates the Murdocrone
the Ruperturtle übergimp!

He pallerised the BoJo cloon
they chummed upon their sunderbus
emblazoned it with fibberoons
and bambulluntruthoozled us.

The tousled toddler slaughterchopped,
his destiplans an Eton mess,
the slubbergubby gollumgove
a shadowhand of viciousness.

O gipperchund! And vomberblast!
The skitterchit of slick and sly
the snicker-snack of backstablades
the scrabblage to ruthlerise.

The bubberchut of charismissed
the turdletruck of banalbore
is patterfrondled on the head
a pawn upon a checkerboard.

Beware the stabberjock, my son!
The empty eyes, the robo-glint!
who fellobrates the Murdocrone
the Ruperturtle übergimp.

Exit
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Wednesday, 06 July 2016 19:32

Exit

in Poetry
Written by

Exit

by Kevin Higgins

for Darrell Kavanagh in his hour of need

There will be no more thunderstorms
sent across the Channel by the French,
no acid rain floating in from Belgium.
Pizza Hut will offer a choice of
Yorkshire Pudding or Yorkshire Pudding.

You’ll spend the next twenty seven bank holidays
dismantling everything you ever bought from IKEA.
The electric shower your plumber,
Pavel, put in last week will be taken out
and you’ll be given the number of a bloke
who’s pure Billericay. Those used to caviar
will have jellied eels forced
down their magnificent throats.
Every fish and chip shop
on the Costa del Sol will in time
be relocated to Ramsgate or Carlisle.

All paving stones laid by the Irish
will be torn up to make work
for blokes who’ve been on the sick
since nineteen seventy six.
Those alleged to be involved in secretly
making spaghetti bolognaise
will be arrested and held
in a detention centre near Dover. Sausage dogs
will be put in rubber dinghies
and pointed in the general direction
of the Fatherland. Neatly sliced
French sticks topped with Pâté
will make way for fried bread
lathered with Marmite.

There’ll be no more of those new
names for coffee your gran
can’t pronounce. The entire royal family
will be shipped back to Bavaria, with the exception
of the Duke of Edinburgh who’ll be given
a one way ticket to Athens. Curry
will no longer by compulsory
after every twelfth pint of Stella,
which itself will only be available
by special permission of the Foreign Office.

We’ll give India back its tea, sit around increasingly
bellicose campfires in our rusting iron helmets,
our tankards overflowing with traditional Norse mead.

NOTE this poem was written ten days before the referendum. It looks forward to the miniscule England of which Nigel Farage’s damper dreams are made, except for the bit about sending Lizzie back to Deutschland and putting Philip on the next flight to Athens.

Chilcot Report: George Bush laments his dogs
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Tuesday, 05 July 2016 00:06

Chilcot Report: George Bush laments his dogs

in Poetry
Written by

George Bush Laments his Dogs
i.m. Barney (30.9.2000 – 1.2.2013), and Miss Beazley (28.10.2004 – 17.5.2014)

I wish I could have been there when the golden statue fell
walking with Barney somewhere in Scotland was always a dream
team is what we were. Yo, Blair. What are you doing?
What they need to do is get Syria, to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit
on my shoe. I blame Koni. He’s bigger, faster, tougher,
meaner, I mean, what did I mean? O Barney. He never had the operation
Shock and Awe he was so cute, but that little Scottish Terrier could be a
terror. It was a war on terror. Wars on terror are justified.
I will not withdraw even if Laura and Barney are the only ones
supporting me was his only option. Categorically he was no lap
dogs like Barney should be honoured. And Miss Beazley, don’t forget
mission accomplished. Barney’s and Miss Beazley’s bronze
statues in my library remind us of what befell. Yo, Chilcot, do you get
the gist of our conversation? In pursuit of peace: we were dogged.

The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum has a bronze sculpture honouring his two dogs. Koni was Putin’s black Labrador. Some of the lines are from a transcript of Bush's and Blair’s unguarded talk when they didn’t realise the mic was on.

K2_PUBLISHED_ON Monday, 04 July 2016 20:00

Signs

in Poetry
Written by

Signs

by Peter Branson

Poems everywhere - no time to shape them all,
not birds and bees, dark stuff, more sinewy
than sunlight through high trees - of cities; there,
on dire estates, lined up like coffin boards,
abandoned dominoes, shop fronts expire
in rows. To make life bearable, food, drugs,
hard booze, most seize the day, back-burner, ‘Ye
are many – they …’ still simmering away.
I search bright eyes, young Jack-the-lads, the girls
(my time) beehives, coins dropped, like-minds aboard
entitlement express ; unstoppable,
alive, where whippet men, their wives with head-
scarf rollered hair, ignore the bollocks They
contrive, conceal tab ends behind clenched fists.

Cakes and Balloons: The Queen's Birthday Poem
Sunday, 19 June 2016 15:25

Cakes and Balloons: The Queen's Birthday Poem

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in Poetry

The Queen's Birthday Poem

Cake and balloons,
Cake and balloons,
Can’t you see they’re brainwashing you?
They want you to love the privileged few,
So they give you a flag
And cake and balloons.

Why do they do it?
They’re brainwashed too.
Newsreaders, teachers,
Royal dragoons,
When they were young
Got cake and balloons.

After the UK
Thursday, 16 June 2016 15:13

After the UK

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in Poetry

After the UK

Shreds of the UK
flapping in the downturn,
decayed Britain
broken into smithereens.
No Kingdom now,
no United State.
We are
citizens
with no obligation
to genuflect
in front of an overstuffed Queen.

Get the UK out of your system,
no going back.
We take the power
to rule ourselves,
make community,
build our own spaces.
Break
the hegemony
of dead parties,
lifeless institutions,
let debate flower,
conflicting views rage.

We want to breathe
and strip away
executive power,
share
the beauty and culture
of these islands
around.
Make good things,
good love.
Empower ourselves
with an autonomous freedom
in a new England,
in a new Europe,
in a New World
of real ownership
and delicate emotion.

Diptych of Drones: a Brechtian poem
Tuesday, 07 June 2016 21:32

Diptych of Drones: a Brechtian poem

Written by
in Poetry

Diptych of Drones

1. Convenience Killing

Over eight thousand miles away
from where the devastation was
a zap-happy, kapow-cowboy
yeehah'd from his computer screen.

A funeral party had died
in the same way as the deceased
they were assembled to honour –
zapped at the press of a button.

Pacman and Super Mario
and later Sonic, the Hedgehog
may have been the apprenticeships
for today’s Killer Drone cowboys

Who sit, as they have always sat
when playing games on their consoles,
enamoured by technology
and lost to life’s great mystery.

They sit somewhere in Nevada,
yeehahdists killing jihadists,
the new dialectic of rage
that fails to think of consequence.

2. New Medal

They award medals now for remote-controlled
killing. This has nothing to do with gaming
consoles and their stages or levels reached.
It is much cruder than that. Much cruder.

The Distinguished Warfare Medal for button-pressed
killing, thousands of miles away from the carnage
created by the pressed button, honours ‘the extraordinary
actions that make a true difference in combat operations.’

But there are no medals for the burnt funeral parties,
none for the burnt children – all are collateral damage.

Calgacus, referring to the Romans, said they created
a desert and called it peace. Now they seem to create
a high-tech hell and they call it freedom. Freedom!

Self Portrait/Cutting
Thursday, 02 June 2016 09:21

The Argonauts: Book Review

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in Poetry

Prue Chamberlain reviews Maggie Nelson's new book, available as a pdf at https://www.facebook.com/pdf2download/posts/358936340983173.

In the London Review Bookshop, Maggie Nelson reads from the opening pages of The Argonauts:

the words I love you come tumbling out of my mouth in an incantation the first time you fuck me in the ass, my face smashed against the cement floor of your dank and charming bachelor pad.

Her tone betrays nothing: through the description of anal sex and details of her newfound vulnerability while falling in love, there is an evenness that implies the considered structuring of her work. But her even tone, the performance of the writing, seems to speak to a wider risk within The Argonauts: to foreground the personal without a sense of shame.

Before I move onto the importance of this, I see the even tone and the revelation of self as inherently feminist. Nelson has unabashedly discussed her personal life, and while she might – in part – be performing a highly-crafted version of herself within the writing, there is still a sense of truth and reality that pervades the text. However, unlike Sylvia Plath (who Nelson attests to loving), there is no feeling of confession. The revelation of the personal is not like Plath’s tortuous strip tease in ‘Lady Lazarus’ but a matter-of-fact point of discussion, an interest that is propelled and perpetuated through her experience.

In The Argonauts, Nelson quotes Eileen Myles, a woman often described as the rock star of poetry. She writes:

When it comes to my own writing, if I insist that there is a persona or a performativity at work, I don’t mean to say that I’m not myself in the writing, or that my writing somehow isn’t me. I’m with Eileen Myles – “My dirty secret has always been that it’s of course about me”

The ‘dirty secret’ is one that is shared: its public nature is the very thing that makes it dirty or soiled, while the caveat that a secret is ‘dirty’ simultaneously makes it permissible in the public sphere. The dirtiness of the secret makes it less internalised, less confessional, and less prized: it perhaps, takes the sting of pride out of the hidden object. Dirty secrets allow the listener to root through, getting their hands muddied, and the nails blackened, in the process. The virtue of the mudiness, the mess, the potential frisson of the dirty secret, is that it will in some way reveal a thing that is both besmirched and private, something that in becoming public is consolidated in its status as being dirty.

In spite of the trappings of the dirty secret, Nelson most importantly positions this moment as a refusal of shame. She refuses to feel shame for her desire, and she refuses to be ashamed of writing about herself, as if foregrounding the self in some way negates cultural or social commentary. This speaks – importantly – to both feminist and queer histories, in which the former needs more women to vocalise experience, and the latter is bound to feelings of both pride and shame. By refusing shame, Nelson is not necessarily a proud speaker. In fact, she is too flawed and honest within The Argonauts to ever be accused of pride, but it is similarly important that she refuses to experience shame about identity, relationships, or sex. And at no point will she be shamed with the accusations of “well, it’s just a book about you, isn’t it?” – she has already told us.

Nelson began as a poet, but moved into prose writing The Bluets, where she says verse just lost its lyricism. When the line breaks were removed the writing took on a necessary complexity. It was this difficulty of prose that she chose to use in The Argonauts to discuss her relationship with Harry Dodge, transitioning, motherhood, and starting a family as a queer couple within an increasingly conservative country. That Nelson left poetry because it could not say enough is a concept that pervades The Argonauts. In spite of its realisation in prose, the book opens with Nelson saying that she ‘had spent a lifetime devoted to Wittgenstein’s idea that the inexpressible is contained – inexpressibly! – in the expressed.’ (2015: 1). After she falls in love; after she is challenged by someone who finds themselves marginalised by the language we use; Nelson no longer believes that words are enough. Where poetry has failed her, language itself begins to, with its strictures and its silences, limitations and capacious absences.

In spite of language’s continual failure throughout the book, which is foregrounded explicitly as opposed to enacted through elisions, fragmentation, and obfuscation, Nelson’s relationship with revelation feels like a full one. Her opening paragraph of The Argonauts describes the accidental omission of love, while being fucked in the arse by her love object. As Nelson’s face repeatedly hits the concrete floor, she finds this incantation of love, an emotion that changes and develops.

In a sense, The Argonauts is a text of becoming: much like the love declared within the opening paragraph, anything that seems fixed or certain in the opening, is subject to processes of becoming. Nelson writes ‘a becoming in which one never becomes, a becoming whose rule is neither evolution nor asymptote but a certain turning’ (2015: 53). Nothing and no-one finds a resting point, which resonates – perhaps – with language’s own failure; its attempts to define is a form of stasis, whereas life is continual transition. As Nelson’s love changes, moving from incantation to the reality of everyday life with someone, she becomes pregnant, her partner, Harry Dodge, begins to transition, and Dodge’s mother dies. Bodies, their engagement with the world, and interaction with one another, are forced to re-orientate: as language is not enough, bodies are also inadequate, they can only be understood in relation to one another.

While the book seems to span the human experience, as well as critical theory, art, literature and philosophy, it is also about devotion and freedom, cruelty and tenderness. These ideas might also sit somewhere between the tensions of prose and poetry, where the devotion to failing words needs the freedom of the expansive line, and the cruelty of inexpressibility requires the tenderness of time and labour. Throughout The Argonauts, Nelson plays ‘Fallen Soldier’ with Dodge’s first son, cares for Dodge after his mastectomy, plays witness to Dodge nursing his mother through to death, has her child Iggy with whom she is discovers love has been entirely renewed. None of these instances are burdens of care, but acts of devotions, and ones that don’t impinge upon Nelson’s freedom. Similarly, the love that she expresses for Dodge is incredibly tender, but played out against the backdrop of an increasingly homophobic and heteronormative USA. The tenderness with which she approaches Iggy is only mitigated by the cruelty of IVF, the number of failed attempts, and the slow disappearance of hope that pregnancy will ever happen.

The Argonauts is not didactic, nor is it a call to arms: Nelson expresses a real resistance to comrade:

I’ve never been able to answer to comrade, nor share in this fantasy of attack. In fact I have come to understand revolutionary language as a sort of fetish – in which case, one response to the above might be, Our diagnoses is similar, but our perversities are not compatible.

It might be, then, that the book hinges on compatible perversities. In the first sex scene with Dodge, he asks Nelson her pleasure, and sticks around to hear the answer. While her words are not enough, what this establishes is a space somewhere between devotion and freedom, cruelty and tenderness, in which language can be adequate within the moment.
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