Peter Raynard

Peter Raynard

Peter Raynard is a writer and editor of Proletarian Poetry: poems of working class lives. He has been widely published and his debut collection Precarious will be published by Smokestack Books in April 2018. His poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto will be published by Culture Matters in May, 2018. 

One of These Dead Places
Wednesday, 21 November 2018 13:55

One of These Dead Places

Published in Poetry

Peter Raynard introduces the new collection of poems by Jane Burn.

How much does history affect individual lives? How much of it is mere backdrop – a news item, a documentary, film, book, etc. you see or read after dinner or before you go to bed? If you are a middle-class white male, the shocks of change are rarely felt personally, and your story has well and truly been told. But if you are a working-class person who lived during the 1980s or who is experiencing austerity in the 2010s, your history is being repeated. It has rarely been told outside the smattering of kitchen sink, social realist dramas on TV – documentaries the middle class commission when an historical event is far enough away for a mainstream sensibility.

But who tells your story if you are not one of this privileged demographic? One of the voices rarely heard is that of working-class women, in terms of both the impact of major historical events as well as their day-to-day experience. There have been films and books such as Educating Rita, Made in Dagenham, or Brick Lane, and plays by the likes of Shelagh Delaney, but compared to the morass of other such stories, these are a drop in the ocean.

Society is designed for men and boys – just look across playing fields at weekends, in pubs, at sporting events, and you will see the majority of participants are men, there to enjoy themselves ‘after a hard week’s work’. But where are the facilities for girls and women? How did women live and enjoy themselves against the expectations of being a housewife during the latter half of the 20th century? How do they live now?

In a remarkable, powerful collection, Jane Burn has told her story and more, in a series of poems (as well as through her beautiful illustrations) which are both personal and political. Her story is of a love of horses (‘You ought not to be on their backs until you are in their hearts’), of drawing, writing, reading (even though told, ‘reading would just make me fatter’). Growing up working class in Yorkshire during the 1980s, the miners’ strike defined your experience and how you saw the world from then on. Like war, capitalism is cyclical, and political struggle, equality and poverty are again in the news – even though for many, it never went away.

Jane’s poems cover the last few decades in the portrayal not only of her own experience but of those around her – friends (‘My friend lives hand to mouth, down on the bones of her arse’), family, bosses, animals. But the poems also cover issues of female identity (‘I still dream of flying from it – of unzipping my skeleton, letting loose the bundle of bones, limbs shaken loose’), mental health, motherhood, work (‘Life is a tatty string of hours – of shifts, shops, driving, dusting, cooking, collecting the kids’), and ‘knick-knacks’ bought and turned into beautiful things (‘This clutter, in its corrosion was a shiny something once. The beauty is in how it changes.’). The language is razor sharp and fresh as a handpicked strawberry you eat before paying.

This is a vital collection for our time. Are things worse than the 80s? Have a read, then decide, you won’t be disappointed. As one of the titles says: these poems are ‘Sentences to Survive In’.

 One of These Dead Places is available here.

Social Mobility
Wednesday, 24 October 2018 18:41

Social Mobility

Published in Poetry

Social Mobility

by Peter Raynard

roll up roll up enter prize for enterprisers, why?
we will see you through our newly decorated
economic portals like a win on a fairground shy

no longer a museum piece of shame the historical
artefact uncovered by do-gooding just enoughs
to take away the talent let go by strictly come one and all

on-my-face dancers. come an' 'av a look at the market
place become an iceberg tip of extravagance, unscientific
evidence trophy scum, an end of the pier newspaper static

like the cat who pissed on his owner's face whilst dreaming
of a golden shower press conference lined with mics
and some trolled out policy beacon cake slice creaming

hang your head in shares of the pie where you'll find
the crumbs of your new-found existence amongst the shiny
shitty shoes of targeted investment. swagger like a mind

reading cloak no dagger swallower elocution blighter status quo
pawn in our economic blender. be our fucking drawbridge cock
puller muck spreader of legs across educated lawns that show

the arms of tick box junkies. You'll be a don't look downer
tongue dark browner baton keeper red carpet sweeper
one of our own (sort of) so smile like the killer you really are.

The Communist Manifesto: A Poetic Coupling
Tuesday, 17 April 2018 11:47

The Communist Manifesto: A Poetic Coupling

Published in Marx200

To mark the 170th anniversary of the publication of The Communist Manifesto, Peter Raynard presents his new poem, a 'poetic coupling' based on the text of the Manifesto.

Counting in at around 12,000 words, has there ever been a more influential book containing so few words, than the Communist Manifesto? The 21st February, 2018 is the 170th anniversary of its publication. Written in a six-week rush, after the Communist League imposed a deadline on Marx, its take up and influence has been phenomenal, and it is as relevant today as it ever has been. 

Much is planned to mark the occasion, especially as it is also the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth on May 5th. I have read the Manifesto a number of times over the year. However, as a poet, I hadn’t given it much thought in my writing until I was introduced to a poetic form called ‘coupling’, devised by the poet Karen McCarthy Woolf. Coupling is a line by line poetic response (that includes rhyme, repetition, and assonance) to an existing text. It can be applied to any text but I think works very well with political writing, either as a way of making it relevant to today’s readers, or as a (satirical) polemic against it. In writing a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto I took the former approach but - in the spirit of Marxism - with a critical as well as creative eye.

I hope to complete the poem over the next few weeks, and the plan is that Culture Matters will then publish it in May in time for the 200th anniversary. Below is my coupling of the infamous ‘preface’ of the book, as well as Marx’s ten ‘commandments’ of communism.

The Communist Manifesto: A Poetic Coupling

by Peter Raynard (with Karl Marx)

“In accordance with my state of mind at the time lyrical poetry was bound to be my first subject, at least the most pleasant and immediate one….Poetry however, could be and had to be only an accompaniment; I had to study law and above all felt the urge to wrestle with philosophy.” [Marx’s letter to his Father, November 1837]

PREFACE

A spectre is haunting Europe
               innit though

 — the spectre of communism
               that loose blanket in need of tucking in

All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre
            this unholy spectre come to remove the opium and Xanax flow from the ennui of its existents

Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.
            Pope and President, Merkel Macron, autoimmune free radicals of capitalism, each playing I spy with my belittling eye

Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power?
               Karl saw a gap in the market before the market had been fully formed

Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism
               no-one likes us, no-one likes us, no-one likes us, we don’t care, we are commies, new-born commies, we are commies from over there

against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?
               we are coming with sickles and fists, hammers and molotovs, balaclavas and masks, & pen and paper (just in case)

Two things result from this fact:
I. Communism is already acknowledged by all European powers to be itself a power
               albeit a power with a crackly track record of misuse, one dictatored by substance abuse

II. It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world
               come out and tell it how it is FFS, it has been 170 years but it’s never too late!

publish their views, their aims, their tendencies,
               they tend to hang to the left, last I heard, but added ingredients can make it absurd

and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Communism with a manifesto of the party itself
               ring a ring a roses you pocketful of posers, atishoo, atishoo, we will knock off your crown

To this end, Communists of various nationalities have assembled in London
               to mark the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth, to honour his will, to update his worth

and sketched the following manifesto
               give him a deadline and he’ll give you a tract, the theory, the practice, revolutionary acts

to be published in the English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish languages
               & Bakunin translated it into Russian, and we all know how that turned out

PR Workers by Peter Kennard

Workers, by Peter Kennard

Marx’s Ten Commandments of Communism

            ………..in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable
                       behold, the secular ten commandments, scribed in the original Manifest der kommunistischen Partei   

  1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purpose
                 I suggest we begin with cutting the hedge funds, the casino capitalism, the prospecting close your eyes and pick a card path to prosperity

    2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax
                in the heated climate of today’s reprobates, they’ll not be much need for public debate

    3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance
                Can I keep my granddad’s watch, it’s broken, it’s worthless, it means a lot?

    4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels
                there’ll be no more capital flight, those runways closed at midnight

    5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly
                credit where credit is due, an economy not founded on a global debt of $233 trillion, phew!

    6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State
                yes traveller I’m just putting you through, can you believe it, no trains overdue

    7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State
                of factories, mere metal filings remain, big data now is the name of the game

    the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan
                I sat upon the shore/ Fishing, with the arid plain behind me/ Shall I at least set my lands in order (TSE)

    8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture
                you might need a little marketing advice, industrial armies doesn’t sound nice

    9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country
                the green with the grey, cosmopolitan hue, no borders, no hoarders, no get in the queue

    10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.
                with child labour/girls denied education/born into sex work we mustn’t forget this is not done-and-dusted, those wheels have not come off yet, though they may be a little rusted

Marx’s Final Words

The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            With links made of debt, disease, war, racism, sexism, capitalism, and more

They have a world to win
            and win it they will, for as Prometheus was Bound to say, ‘defy power which seems omnipotent’

Working Men of All Countries, Unite
            and women as well, and all those between

PR walterbenjamincopy

Portrait, by Peter Kennard

The Communist Manifesto: A Poetic Coupling
Tuesday, 20 February 2018 22:05

The Communist Manifesto: A Poetic Coupling

Published in Poetry

To mark the 170th anniversary of the publication of The Communist Manifesto, Peter Raynard presents his new poem, a 'poetic coupling' based on the text of the Manifesto.

Counting in at around 12,000 words, has there ever been a more influential book containing so few words, than the Communist Manifesto? The 21st February, 2018 is the 170th anniversary of its publication. Written in a six-week rush, after the Communist League imposed a deadline on Marx, its take up and influence has been phenomenal, and it is as relevant today as it ever has been. 

Much is planned to mark the occasion, especially as it is also the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth on May 5th. I have read the Manifesto a number of times over the year. However, as a poet, I hadn’t given it much thought in my writing until I was introduced to a poetic form called ‘coupling’, devised by the poet Karen McCarthy Woolf. Coupling is a line by line poetic response (that includes rhyme, repetition, and assonance) to an existing text. It can be applied to any text but I think works very well with political writing, either as a way of making it relevant to today’s readers, or as a (satirical) polemic against it. In writing a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto I took the former approach but - in the spirit of Marxism - with a critical as well as creative eye.

I hope to complete the poem over the next few weeks, and the plan is that Culture Matters will then publish it in May in time for the 200th anniversary. Below is my coupling of the infamous ‘preface’ of the book, as well as Marx’s ten ‘commandments’ of communism.

The Communist Manifesto: A Poetic Coupling

by Peter Raynard (with Karl Marx)

“In accordance with my state of mind at the time lyrical poetry was bound to be my first subject, at least the most pleasant and immediate one….Poetry however, could be and had to be only an accompaniment; I had to study law and above all felt the urge to wrestle with philosophy.” [Marx’s letter to his Father, November 1837]

PREFACE

A spectre is haunting Europe
               innit though

 — the spectre of communism
               that loose blanket in need of tucking in

All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre
            this unholy spectre come to remove the opium and Xanax flow from the ennui of its existents

Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.
            Pope and President, Merkel Macron, autoimmune free radicals of capitalism, each playing I spy with my belittling eye

Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power?
               Karl saw a gap in the market before the market had been fully formed

Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism
               no-one likes us, no-one likes us, no-one likes us, we don’t care, we are commies, new-born commies, we are commies from over there

against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?
               we are coming with sickles and fists, hammers and molotovs, balaclavas and masks, & pen and paper (just in case)

Two things result from this fact:
I. Communism is already acknowledged by all European powers to be itself a power
               albeit a power with a crackly track record of misuse, one dictatored by substance abuse

II. It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world
               come out and tell it how it is FFS, it has been 170 years but it’s never too late!

publish their views, their aims, their tendencies,
               they tend to hang to the left, last I heard, but added ingredients can make it absurd

and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Communism with a manifesto of the party itself
               ring a ring a roses you pocketful of posers, atishoo, atishoo, we will knock off your crown

To this end, Communists of various nationalities have assembled in London
               to mark the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth, to honour his will, to update his worth

and sketched the following manifesto
               give him a deadline and he’ll give you a tract, the theory, the practice, revolutionary acts

to be published in the English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish languages
               & Bakunin translated it into Russian, and we all know how that turned out

PR Workers by Peter Kennard

Workers, by Peter Kennard

Marx’s Ten Commandments of Communism

            ………..in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable
                       behold, the secular ten commandments, scribed in the original Manifest der kommunistischen Partei   

  1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purpose
                 I suggest we begin with cutting the hedge funds, the casino capitalism, the prospecting close your eyes and pick a card path to prosperity

    2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax
                in the heated climate of today’s reprobates, they’ll not be much need for public debate

    3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance
                Can I keep my granddad’s watch, it’s broken, it’s worthless, it means a lot?

    4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels
                there’ll be no more capital flight, those runways closed at midnight

    5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly
                credit where credit is due, an economy not founded on a global debt of $233 trillion, phew!

    6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State
                yes traveller I’m just putting you through, can you believe it, no trains overdue

    7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State
                of factories, mere metal filings remain, big data now is the name of the game

    the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan
                I sat upon the shore/ Fishing, with the arid plain behind me/ Shall I at least set my lands in order (TSE)

    8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture
                you might need a little marketing advice, industrial armies doesn’t sound nice

    9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country
                the green with the grey, cosmopolitan hue, no borders, no hoarders, no get in the queue

    10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.
                with child labour/girls denied education/born into sex work we mustn’t forget this is not done-and-dusted, those wheels have not come off yet, though they may be a little rusted

Marx’s Final Words

The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            With links made of debt, disease, war, racism, sexism, capitalism, and more

They have a world to win
            and win it they will, for as Prometheus was Bound to say, ‘defy power which seems omnipotent’

Working Men of All Countries, Unite
            and women as well, and all those between

PR walterbenjamincopy

Portrait, by Peter Kennard

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

Hands Off Rosa Luxemburg

Published 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!’