Steven Taylor

Steven Taylor

Steven Taylor lives in London. His poems have appeared in a range of publications and he was one of the winners of this year's Culture Matters Bread and Roses Competition.

Cover by Martin Rowson
Wednesday, 24 January 2024 16:59

Labour, 2024

Published in Poetry

Labour, 2024

by Steven Taylor

We’re already killing Houthis

With lawful explanations
They needed showing
That we mean business

Labour is agreeable. Complicit

The shipping lanes are sacrosanct
Like pilgrim routes for Christians

Previously, we killed Syrians
Libyans, Iraqis, former
Yugoslavians, Afghans

Not the hounds, just the people

Irish

The list is partial
And does not include

Refugees
Asylum seekers

Those who drown off Dover
The cockle pickers in Morecambe

Tribes and revellers
A wedding party waving
From a rooftop

Civilians, accidentally

Palestinians under rubble
Being starved of food and water
Medicines. Warmth and shelter

We supplied the weapons
Lethal, indiscriminate

No excuses

Labour’s ready for government

 

The Fruits of Starmer's Labour: The Bread and Roses Anthology 2023,  is available here

Mandatory Compliance
Wednesday, 15 November 2023 09:20

Mandatory Compliance

Published in Poetry

Mandatory Compliance

by Steven Taylor

Everyone on television

Even weathermen and women
Football commentators
Comedians, and more serious folk

Naturalists and gardeners

The panels on the dancing shows
The people in the adverts
The winners of the Lottery

All the politicians, presenters

Wears a Poppy in Remembrance
Observes the minute silence. Shush

Gaza is too noisy, disrespectful

Outlook
Wednesday, 25 October 2023 16:04

Outlook

Published in Poetry

Outlook

by Steven Taylor

Mainly cloudy
A chance of rain
Dusty. Grubby
Rubble mostly
Death expected

Britain

Could send umbrellas
But they prefer
Providing weapons
To the killers

(with instructions
to be careful, obviously)

The sound of weeping
Wailing is distressing
For our viewers

With Apologies
Monday, 07 August 2023 12:29

With Apologies

Published in Poetry

This poem was inspired by a poem by a British/Syrian of Kurdish origin called Amir Darwish who came to Britain as a refugee in 2003. His poetry is direct, engaged and accessible, often propelled by his life and experience as an internationalist and (I think) outsider. I adopted his approach and repurposed it to explore its meanings through the more insular world of Hyde where I was born and raised. The poem by Amir Darwish on which this poem is based is called Sorry! An apology from Muslims (or those perceived to be Muslims) to humanity and is available to read here.

Hyde is a working-class industrial town on the eastern edge of Manchester, and the poem is part of a much larger series of poems built around the town. We had three large employers, initially. Coal, hatting, and cotton - all gone. My parents worked in cotton mills - Dad as a cutter, Mum as a machinist. Courtaulds (who owned their mill) used the profit from their labour to buy fine art.

We were taught to blame ourselves for our decline, our poverty and our oppression, and to pass on this sense of culpability to those around us. I wanted to compare and contrast this experience with Amir’s.

We should learn much from Amir. Not least, to value ourselves more highly. One of the defining characteristics of Arab poetry – which I first experienced through the Anglo/Arab magazine Banipal, and a fabulous anthology of poems edited by Margaret Obank and Samuel Shimon called A Crack In The Wall (Saqi Books) – is the ability to cross borders, both within the Arab world and beyond, metaphorically and literally, imaginatively and intellectually.

We can all profit from the experience of refugees. I’m greatly influenced by the narrative abstractions of Arab writing, but Amir is more direct, building a momentum to a clearly defined goal. I hope With Apologies works in a similar way. Peace.

WITH APOLOGIES to Amir Darwish

 by Steven Taylor

We're sorry for being poor
And not listening. Our lack of coal
And unsold hats. We apologise
For the cost of cotton products
And our failure to win the Lottery

We're sorry we can't pay more
For the privilege of breathing

The popularity of cancer
Testicular and bowel

We're sorry

For our mortality and infirmities
The stupidity of our children. How
They sulk and stand on corners
Smoking, slouching. Answering back

We're sorry for not knowing

The answers to the questions
On quiz shows, preferring
Bingo to backgammon. Superstitions

Our reliance
On last year's fashions. Bargains

Slight seconds on the market

We're sorry for offending you (if we did)

Playing our records too loud. Shouting
Screaming, bawling

Running in school corridors. Yawning
Chasms of inequity. The unfairness of it
Being hungry (before the lunchbreak)

Asking for help, having jobs that pay a pittance
The rise in unemployment, the soaring cost of heating

The number of us becoming pensioners
It just happened (no one planned it)
Most of us are grandparents

Previously we were parents, children, babies

We're sorry

For the state of our streets. The uncollected rubbish
The smell of urine in the alleyways. Immigrants

How we lack the capacity to help ourselves
How market forces (over which we have no control)
Overwhelm us. What I said about the Queen

Being abolished and then decapitated (I was drunk)

My dependence on prescriptions for survival
My ignorance of issues

The difference between Capital and Labour
The interests of the ruling class
The disloyalty of workers

Did I mention immigrants?

We're sorry for the lack of parking space (we're trying)
The demolition of the Mechanics' Institute

It was something we were proud of

The closure of our workshops. The fights in pubs
On Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays. How we shame

Ourselves in newspapers

If it's not fighting, it's shoplifting
Offending public decency. I didn't know
You could still be prosecuted for swearing. Spitting

It dates back, historically
To tuberculosis

The transmission of diseases

We're sorry for being so needy
Often being ungodly. Jesus never visited

We're sorry for building Hattersley
The tower blocks, in particular

Being late for things. Not just work
But signing papers. Our own funerals
The appointment with the doctor (Shipman)

We're sorry for our diet. Obesity and diabetes
Respiratory problems. Our fingers, arthritis (agony)

Haemorrhoids (in Hyde) are ubiquitous
We should have eaten fibre, roughage

Helped ourselves by being thinner
Gone jogging in the evenings

I wish we weren't so hopeless (that)
Our racing pigeons raced more swiftly

Our ratting dogs were keener
Our factory cats were less like pets
And more like hunters. Meaner, crueller

When we went to war we should have won more medals
Been braver, marched more proudly
Used our bayonets saved on bullets. Not retreated

I remember in some battles Hyde men simply legged it

We're sorry we didn't do more to distinguish ourselves
Have longer lists of names chipped into our cenotaphs

Less than a thousand altogether
And some of those are dubious

We're sorry we had idiots
Who put detergent in our fountain
Broken glass into our paddling pool. Kicked a man to death

In Newton. Why can't we be more like Marple, Romiley

Compstall, with her window boxes
Red geraniums, copying the Germans. Prideful

Manicured gardens. Private (not communal)

Richer. Decent. Driving to work in convoys
Not dependent on the trains and buses

I know (before you answer)

If we were worth the effort they would pay us

Today
Saturday, 24 June 2023 16:35

Today

Published in Poetry

Today

by Steven Taylor                                                                                                           

The undersea community have been traumatised by the implosion
of the submersible that had been sightseeing the Titanic, the clownfish
in particular, who have a reciprocal relationship with sea anemones
who offer protection in exchange for cleaning services. The clownfish
have developed immunity to the toxic discharge of the sea anemones
which gives them shelter from their predators. A place to lay their eggs
in relative safety. The absence of women on board the Titan submersible
begs the question of who was responsible. Not just for hoovering floors
and mopping, but the washing up and dusting. Making beds. It wasn’t
clownfish (that’s for certain). There’ll need to be an inquiry, questions
asked and answered. Evidence of negligence and charges brought (where
appropriate). The dangers inherent in political correctness, feminism.

According to the media, migrants are already co-opting the agenda.

We must protect our borders against incursion. There is no comparison
to be made between billionaires and refugees, stop muddying the water.

When you look out of the porthole at the shipwreck, you’re a hero.

Image above: RAF plane takes off from Lossiemouth to help rescue 5 people in the Titan submersible, June 2023

Image below: Iraqi and Syrian refugees trying to reach land, August 2022

20151030 Syrians and Iraq refugees arrive at Skala Sykamias Lesvos Greece 2 1 rev

Coronation poem: Local News
Friday, 05 May 2023 08:23

Coronation poem: Local News

Published in Poetry

Local News

by Steven Taylor, with image by Martin Gollan

Where I live in Kilburn, London, is a street
With a couple of hundred houses either side,
Tall and Victorian, a few more modern,
Each divided into three or four apartments,
So that's a lot of windows
And yet only one decked out for the Coronation,

Home to an elderly couple, who I know
Have serious mental health issues, depression
The woman in particular, often found wandering
In slippers and her dressing gown,
God Save the King and Queen Camilla

They've put Union flags
In their window box
And closed the curtains
Against intrusion

I could be cruel but it feels unnecessary

The Starmer Epigram
Friday, 06 January 2023 16:36

The Starmer Epigram

Published in Poetry

The Starmer Epigram

 by Steven Taylor

Our lives no longer feel ground under them.
At ten paces you can't hear our words.

But whenever there's a snatch of talk
it turns to the Holborn mountaineer,

the ten thick worms of his fingers,
his words like measures of weight,

the florid suffocation of his presence,
the blueness of his politics.

Ringed with a scum of chicken-necked acolytes
he toys with the tributes of his half-creatures.

One whistles, one meows, a third snivels.
He pokes out his finger and he alone goes boom.

He forges decrees in a line like horseshoes.
One for the groin, one for the forehead, temple, eye.

He rolls the expulsions on his tongue like berries.
He wishes he could hug them even closer to his bosom.

They give him meaning.

This is adapted from Osip Mandelstam's 1934 poem The Stalin Epigram, which led to him being arrested. Mandelstam was last seen scavenging for food on a rubbish dump just outside Vladivostok.

Rwanda
Tuesday, 19 April 2022 13:17

Rwanda

Published in Poetry

Rwanda

by Steven Taylor 

One of the most egregious charges
Is that we're sending you
To save money. It's ridiculous.

It's going to cost a fortune.

We're sending you to Rwanda

Because we despise you. Not
Just your poverty and background
But your awful desperation.

It's ugly. Unseemly.
Drowning yourselves
Solves nothing. Go to Russia

They might have you

A Jolly Good Show
Friday, 11 March 2022 08:31

A Jolly Good Show

Published in Poetry

A Jolly Good Show

by Steven Taylor

The British response is a note in English
Pinned to a door in Calais explaining to Ukrainians
That they need to go to Paris or Brussels
For the necessary forms to be completed before
Forward travel can be considered. We have
Oligarchs to think about. Our entire system
Relies on laundering their dirty money, allowing
Gangsters to own property and make donations
To the Conservative Party. Some of them bid
In auctions to play tennis with our Prime Minister
Boris Johnson, you may have heard of him. He
Cares deeply about Ukrainians. When you arrive
In Paris or Brussels, mention him. Perhaps
It would be better for everyone if you tried
To make a go of things in Belgium. Walloon
Sounds a little bit Ukrainian if mumbled blithely.

Red Alert
Friday, 18 February 2022 12:47

Red Alert

Published in Poetry

Red Alert

by Steven Taylor

I’ve been anxious since the warning
My partner has brought in the window boxes
We don’t want them to kill someone
If we had a cat we’d have told him
Anything can happen now it’s gone to red
I’ve just seen a pigeon struggling, fluttering
In the wrong direction. Imagine what
It would be like if the trees were weighted
With abundance, if it was summer instead
Of winter. If Eunice was a communist
If Jeremy Corbyn was Prime Minister

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