Friday, 19 January 2018 13:34

Mayday 2016

Published in Round-up

Welcome to the Mayday issue of Culture Matters, as we march protesting through cyberspace with a long and vigorous procession of diverse material. 

A Protest March is in fact the title of our first poem, by Catherine Graham. 

Then, to go with the poems by schoolchildren in London written during Refugee Week, and as a protest against the recent intensification of bombing in Syria, there's a poem from an Irish poet, Sarah Clancy. Sarah's poem, What a Bomb Hits, is accompanied by an image specially sent to us by Peter Kennard, the 'Unofficial War Artist' at the Imperial War Museum.

Next on the march comes David Betteridge's poem, In Brecht's Bar, Glasgow. It's also illustrated, with a cartoon by Bob Starrett, who was the official artist for the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Work-In in 1972. We're very grateful to Bob for it. The piece also contains the Brecht poem which it references, 'Questions from A Worker Who Reads'. We'd like to invite poets (and would-be poets) to have a go at writing a poem in Brecht's deceptively simple style, and send it to us. 

After another fine poem for Mayday from Alexis Lykiard, there are two articles on poetry and politics. One is about the American poet Fred Voss, who works in a machine shop, and has done so for 30 years. The article includes several very fine poems by Voss - Poetry From A Writer Who Works, maybe? They show just how insightful a poet can be on the precarious conditions of working class life in America – conditions which we are in danger of sliding into in this country. Next month you can look forward to reading an interview with Fred, who answered our questions in wonderful, Whitmanesque prosepoetry.

The other article on poetry is by Alain Badiou, which he says offers 'a proof of communism by way of the poem'. It's about the links between communism and poetry, with a particular focus on poetry arising from the Spanish Civil War. We're publishing it because of the way it complements existing articles on Culture Matters by Andy Croft and Alan Morrison. Thanks to M. Badiou and to Verso Books for permission to republish that article, and while we're at it, thanks to all our contributors for sending in such first class material, for no remuneration.

In the theatre section of the arts hub, Gabriel Egan continues his series on Shakespeare. In the film section, there's a review of Guzman's new film Pearl Button, the second film in his trilogy which like Nostalgia for the Light, is about the politics and culture of Chile, in particular the people who 'disappeared' under Pinochet's dictatorship.

In the fiction section, there's a short story by Ted Parry. In the music section, we start a four part series on music and Marxism, by Mark Abel. We hope it stimulates other contributions which take a broadly historical materialist perspective on music – and indeed the other arts.

Over on the culture hub, Roland Boer presents the next article in his series on Marxism and religion. And finally, there is an interview with Thangam Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West and Shadow Minister for Arts and Culture. Perhaps we can build on her contribution by inviting articles from other political parties on the left, about their ideas for arts and culture policies?

We hope you enjoy your visit to our Mayday cultural march of the labour movement, and we hope you come back again. Please join in by making a contribution, and send it to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

And we hope you enjoy Mayday, and the rest of the month of May.

Mike Quille
Ben Stevenson
Co-Managing Editors
Culture Matters

Friday, 19 January 2018 13:34

from Coventry Blue

Published 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.