What about Bobby? by Saira Viola

stop and searchOne Sunday afternoon in 1980, on our way from Coventry to see Black Uhuru in Brighton, the Bedford police stopped us on the M1 due to the fact that clouds of collie weed filled the inside of the motor. I have only been ‘put’ in a police cell on this one occasion. I was locked up for four hours, with two mates who had done a bit of time so thought this was a stroll in the park. They decided to wind me up by shouting at the beasts, ‘you’ll never take us alive copper!’ as they kicked the mattresses and banged the door, before falling onto the floor in a heap of laughter.

As a young adult in the 70s & 80s, the coppers were quite democratic in their choice of who to stop and search. Of course, due to the SUS laws, people of colour still out performed us in being selected for examination by our finest men in blue, but compared to my own sons’ experience we were stopped many times. Odd occasion they would beat one of us up. So, we had little trust in them, and when Thatcher came aboard, our ire turned to the whole political establishment.

bobby sandsGrowing up in an Irish community, support for the Republican movement was strong. Regular volunteers would come to our pub collecting for the cause – ‘some money for our Troubles’. And at that age, we followed the war in Northern Ireland closely, especially at the start of the 1980s, when the hunger strike began, and people like Bobby Sands, took on an iconic status comparable to Ché Guevara. I’ve never been one for following leaders, but I did watch with fascination the events of the hunger strike unfold, with probably a little too much voyeuristic interest.

saira 202Saira Viola’s poem, ‘What about Bobby?’ evokes such memories very well, and what it really feels like to be locked up for a long period of time; both in the way the political prisoners were treated, ‘Bobby sat in a dun and fly infested hole/ With only a blood bitten thumbnail of hope’ and in how they responded, ‘Sewing together a daily excrement calendar/ Smuggling notes through his nose/ Inspired a traffic of dissension/ sprouting weeds of rebellion’. Incredibly, Sands became an MP whilst in prison, such was the support for him, as well as the disgust at the British army and authorities who had brutalised the Catholic community for decades. He died in prison less than a month later. There were a number of bombings that the I.R.A. did that I could not condone, but I can only imagine how you would act, if you saw your own community being abused on a daily basis, and the feeling of frustration and anger that builds up.

 

Saira Viola is a poet, fiction novelist, song lyricist and creator of sonic scatterscript. Applauded by booze bums, misfits, electric cool aid kids, old school hipsters, social pariahs, swanky pants literati and Hesperdrin, and a stray Siamese kitty. Viola’s work has appeared in lit journals like Literary Orphans, Push, Red Fez, Picaroon, Flatbush Review, Literary Heist, on bathroom walls in Vegas; and in counter culture magazines, International Times and Gonzo Today. Benjamin Zephaniah has praised her ‘ twisted  beautiful imagination’  and Heathcote Williams RIP  her: ‘hypnotic  explosive writing style,’ Twice nominated for Best Of The Net  (2017)  Pushcart Prize NomineeRascal Magazine (2017) Poetry: Year of The Propaganda Corrupted Plebiscites Poetry Year Book 2018  (The New River Press) Viola’s debut poetry collection premiered at the New York Poetry Festival : Flowers of War  (Underground Books) and her poem Flowers of War  features on the Stop The War Coalition  UK . Don’t Shoot The Messenger (Underground Books) Mini Rebel Chapbook (Underground Books), Fast Food and Gin on The Lawn Novel:Jukebox (Fahrenheit Press) Crack Apple and Pop (Fahrenheit Press).

 

What about Bobby?

Bobby sat in a dun and fly infested hole
With only a blood bitten thumbnail of hope
Sewing together a daily excrement calendar
Smuggling notes through his nose

Inspired a traffic of dissension
sprouting weeds of rebellion
Bobby never gave up
Sacrificed the beauty of youth
Fighting for the Maiden of Truth

Under a wailing blood clock
The guards
Played coffin tunes
A fist to the kidney!
A kick to the spine!
Tick Tock! Tick Tock!
Shit- can the needles of time
‘Bobby, we love you!’
Wrapped his loneliness in the sanctum of the stars
His shaking bones whisper behind iron bars

The morning light screams
‘Wake Up!’
Hot spangles of sun eclipse
black moon eyes
Clouds dressed as mourners, swirl across shriven skies
Bobby’s laughter lighting
the face of a new born Spring flower.

If We Were Real Quiz – the answers

time for answersSo, here are the answers (poem below). Hope you did well.

ANSWERS

  1. TASTE OF HONEY
  2. LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER
  3. SATURDAY NIGHT SUNDAY MORNING
  4. A KIND OF LOVING
  5. FOOTBALL FACTORY
  6. NIL BY MOUTH
  7. THIS IS ENGLAND
  8. CONFESSIONS OF A WINDOW CLEANER
  9. RITA, SUE & BOB TOO
  10. EDUCATING RITA
  11. SHIRLEY VALENTINE
  12. BILLY ELLIOTT
  13. TRAINSPOTTING
  14. TOP BOY
  15. SHAMELESS
  16. LOCK, STOCK & TWO SMOKING BARRELS

 

If We Were Real by Peter Raynard

1. Jo’s mum Helen is a slag,
doesn’t stop her having a go
at Jo getting pregnant by a black man
and staying in a hole
with that pansified little creep though.

2. Colin’s mum is no better,
she’s just after his dead dad’s
insurance money, but Colin’s
a little toe rag running for his life,

who’ll let the whole fucking lot
of them down. 3. Arthur’s a proper
hard bastard, working his seed
into as many women as he can.

4. And guess what, Victor’s only gone
and got his missus up the ready rough,
so has to live with the mother-in-law,
and she’s had a leading role

in working men’s jokes for years.
5. Tommy’s off up the match, an away game
kick-the-shit out of any proper casual
who’ll have it. 6. Ray beats up his missus
when he gets home, stamps on her throat

like some rat he found in the bog. 7. Lol’s Dad
commits the horrors with her sister
and her mate any place he can, then tries
it on with her until Combo ends the cunt.

8. Young Timmy knows how to enjoy himself,
he cleans double breasted windows,
or checks under the sink for some
scantily clad plumbing, before delivering

a whipped cream double entendre
to bored housewives. 9. Rita likes a bit
of that an’ all, off shagging Bob,
with her mate Sue, 10. but her namesake

tries her hand at books instead of dotting
her luck on the bingo of a Saturday night.
11. Shirley’s fucked off to Greece, can’t stand
talking to the wall no more, cooking

egg ‘n chips for her husband,
who believes that’s a woman’s place.
12. Billy’s dad knows what a man should be,
and it’s not a fucking dancer.

13. Rent’s smacked off his boat, so goes swimming
for a pearl in the filth of the bog,
whilst 14. Dushane’s a boy at the top
of his game, on the estates round his way.

15. Like Frank’s kids, who surround him
like a wreath, this all may be true.
16. And Big Chris is right when he says,
‘It’s been emotional.’

But is that really all we are?
Do we not go by any other names?

If We Were Real – The Quiz

i daniel blake.jpegYesterday I hosted an event at the wonderful Swindon Poetry Festival. As part of the evening I read the following poem ‘If We Were Real’, which was published in the Rialto; I then used it as the basis for a quiz. The following sixteen points, reference a film/book/play/TV programme, which portray the working class from the 1960s to the 2010s. It seemed to go down well, and the winner got ten out of sixteen, which under time constraints and not able access the Internet, was very good (the cheats know who they are). So, if you are that way inclined, why not have a go. No prize, just the personal satisfaction that comes from any pointless test of our memory. Only clue I will give is that they are all British and I Daniel Blake isn’t one of them. Please don’t post your answers in the comments section, as they will give it away for others. I’ll post the answers at the weekend and you can tell me what score you got in the comments then. Best of luck!

If We Were Real by Peter Raynard

1. Jo’s mum Helen is a slag,
doesn’t stop her having a go
at Jo getting pregnant by a black man
and staying in a hole
with that pansified little creep though.

2. Colin’s mum is no better,
she’s just after his dead dad’s
insurance money, but Colin’s
a little toe rag running for his life,

who’ll let the whole fucking lot
of them down. 3. Arthur’s a proper
hard bastard, working his seed
into as many women as he can.

4. And guess what, Victor’s only gone
and got his missus up the ready rough,
so has to live with the mother-in-law,
and she’s had a leading role

in working men’s jokes for years.
5. Tommy’s off up the match, an away game
kick-the-shit out of any proper casual
who’ll have it. 6. Ray beats up his missus
when he gets home, stamps on her throat

like some rat he found in the bog. 7. Lol’s Dad
commits the horrors with her sister
and her mate any place he can, then tries
it on with her until Combo ends the cunt.

8. Young Timmy knows how to enjoy himself,
he cleans double breasted windows,
or checks under the sink for some
scantily clad plumbing, before delivering

a whipped cream double entendre
to bored housewives. 9. Rita likes a bit
of that an’ all, off shagging Bob,
with her mate Sue, 10. but her namesake

tries her hand at books instead of dotting
her luck on the bingo of a Saturday night.
11. Shirley’s fucked off to Greece, can’t stand
talking to the wall no more, cooking

egg ‘n chips for her husband,
who believes that’s a woman’s place.
12. Billy’s dad knows what a man should be,
and it’s not a fucking dancer.

13. Rent’s smacked off his boat, so goes swimming
for a pearl in the filth of the bog,
whilst 14. Dushane’s a boy at the top
of his game, on the estates round his way.

15. Like Frank’s kids, who surround him
like a wreath, this all may be true.
16. And Big Chris is right when he says,
‘It’s been emotional.’

But is that really all we are?
Do we not go by any other names?

‘Persona Non Grata’ anthology edited by Isabelle Kenyon, with poem ‘The Refugees’ by Jennie E. Owen

HandsThe other week, I was helping out Culture Matters at the Poetry Book Fair, hosting a reading with the wonderful Fran Lock and Nadia Drews, both of whom have upcoming collections with the press. Mike Quille and I shared the space with Andy Croft of Smokestack Books, and Isabelle Kenyon of the relatively new press, ‘Fly on the Wall Poetry’. Isabelle has been a tour-de-force on the poetry scene recently, first of all editing the mental health anthology, ‘Please Hear What I am Not Saying’, in support of the charity MIND. It was awarded ‘Runner Up for Best Anthology’ at the prestigious Saboteur Awards this May and to date, it has raised £500.

Now Isabelle has turned her social and politically motivated energy to another anthology, ‘Persona Non-Grata’, highlighting two pressing issues, homelessness and the refugee crisis globally. All profits from the book will be donated to Shelter and Crisis Aid UK. Isabelle hopes that with the support of her readers, and the 45 poets involved in the anthology, she will raise an incredible amount for charity, providing support and advice for anyone who finds themselves homeless.

Below is a poem from the anthology, ‘The Refugees’ by Jennie jennie e owenE. Owen (pictured), and you can support this initiative by buying the anthology here.

Jennie E. Owen’s writing has won competitions and has been widely published online, in literary journals and anthologies.  She is a Lecturer of Creative Writing and lives in Mawdesley, Lancashire with her husband and three children @Jenola101

 

The Refugees
By Jennie E. Owen

The flood water rises steadily
and out they come. Sleeking grim
confused creatures from the tide, from the mire.
Eyes flicker copper wire, up at the black beach,
reflect the bottle of the seaside streetlights.
A flash of scale. Of ivory. Feather and fur
In flight. Closer they come. As much strangers
to freedom as they are to the peeking
audience; for fingers are twitching at the curtains now.
These refugees are unaware in their hoof and claw otherness,
that they have not left their obliterated cages,
their sunken ark,
for good, just yet.
Closer.
For the watchers are waiting now, steady handed,
all their ducks in a row.
The big game hunters, the children with spud
guns. Their mothers calling them out, hauling
rocks eye to hand at increasing speed.
Closer they come in biblical procession. Up the narrow streets,
past the cobbled stones, the chippie, pubs and churches. Past
shop fronts selling rock and candy floss in bloated bags.
Some take a darker route, the back roads and byways;
the sewers and sulphurous factories.
Closer.
When the bloody dawn breaks,
the mystery slackens, pop-pop-pop.
The invaders are too faded,
too exhausted, heavy-limbed from fighting the sea.
Eyes roll, pop-pop-pop.
Tongues loll, pop-pop-pop.
They fall, don’t surrender pop-pop-pop.
They cheer hollow and howl and clap
one another on the back.
Beat their chests in slow motion over the mud bogged,
water logged, sagging
shag skinned mess of parts.
It was us or them. Was it?
It was them or us.
Whilst somewhere distant, a lone pale tiger,
the black and white kick of tomorrow’s news,
purrs in a basement and licks its rusty paws.

 

 

Why Poetry? The Lunar Poetry Podcast Anthology, with poem ‘what’s in yours?’ by Lizzy Turner

lunar poetry pod

Just over three years ago I was sitting in the garden of a Kentish Town bar being interviewed by two special people, David and Lizzy Turner of Lunar Poetry Podcasts. Like myself with Proletarian Poetry (I was that night hosting an event at the Torriano Meeting House with Tim Wells and Anna Robinson), LPP had been going for less than a year, interviewing different poets about their poems and craft. David’s style of interviewing is one of the most laid back, yet incisive techniques I have come across; a great interviewer makes the interviewee feel they are just having a conversation, as opposed to a simple Q&A, and David does this with such aplomb.

Since their inception in October 2014, the LPP series has archived well over 200 poets spanning 116 episodes and 8 countries. It stands as the UK’s most definitive archive of current poetic voices. In 2017 LPP was shortlisted for a British Podcast Award – Represent Category, recognising the producers’ efforts to reach audiences often ignored by mainstream media.

screen-shot-2018-07-22-at-12-24-23To mark this great achievement, David and Lizzy have edited a selection of twenty-eight poets in the anthology, ‘Why Poetry?‘ published by Verve Poetry Press.

The full list of poets included, a number of whom have appeared on PP, are: Travis Alabanza, Sandra Alland, Khairani Barokka, Zeina Hashem Beck, Leo Boix, Mary Jean Chan, Donald Chegwin, Grim Chip, Rishi Dastidar, Susannah Dickey, Nadia Drews, Joe Dunthorne, Harry Josephine Giles, Melissa Lee-Houghton, Keith Jarrett, Anna Kahn, Luke Kennard, Sean Wai Keung, Nick Makoha, Roy McFarlane, Paul McMenemy, Kim Moore, Helen Mort, Abi Palmer, Amerah Saleh, Giles Turnbull, Lizzy Turner, Jane Yeh.

Released on September 27th, you can pre-order the anthology here.

To whet your appetite, here is the poem ‘And what’s in yours?’ by Lizzy Turner from the anthology. Lizzy hosts a podcast herself, called ‘a poem a week’, another great platform for poets to highlight their work.

Lizzy Turner is a poet living in Bristol, though her heart belongs to South London. She co-edits the Lunar Poetry Podcast, and produces its companion podcast A Poem A Week. She has co-edited ‘Why Poetry? The Lunar Poetry Podcasts Anthology’. Her work appears in various publications online and in print.

 

And what’s in yours?

What frightens me is
I can’t see exactly
what’s stuck on the
inside of my body,
what, alongside coffee staining,
bad thought never quite sloughed,
curdling on a raw wall,
what might interrupt my
blood at a later date,
something sitting in there,
a gristle rock,
no memory of mine
but with its own,
haunted little misery of a thing,

I’m scared to think
inside of my body,
feel from the surface
quiet bumps which don’t
reveal the features underneath,
what event made my
waist bend in like this?
pulled me together and
where did it go?
I think of how the
things get in and get
transported through the system,

I fear the poisons which
won’t leave the body fully,
clawmarks in the padding
round the exits, scars
of substance, abuse of the
flesh by the brain,
what damage, what consequences,
what strange becoming of my body
while I sleep?

But now by Stuart Charlesworth

I have thought quite a lot lately about jacking in poetry. Besides my dysfunctional health, the main reason is the frustration at poetry’s gated community who situate themselves far away in the wildlife of their own comfort; their liberal stance and inability to help us live a little bit better life by being the provocative fairground mirror to surrounding events. The somewhat disingenuous basis for the argument that, the reason most people hate poetry is because it doesn’t achieve what it sets out to do (i.e. be universal), means that its self-made pedestal is built on sand. I think a lot of poetry is an escape from life, not an engagement with it. By a lot, I mean that which is published in the magazines, whether online or in heavily over-submitted under-subscribed hard copy versions. There are glimmers of hope from across the Pond (Danez Smith, Eve Ewing, Terrance Hayes), but not a lot like that is prominent here in the UK poetry scene, and I would argue we are in the same shit pit as the US.

11015203525_62c7b63436_zThe actor Riz Ahmed, when asked where he saw the problem in the lack of diversity, answered ‘those who don’t believe there is a problem’. I would extend that to those who perceive it is a problem, but don’t feel it relates to them, and thus do nothing about it within their interests and responsibilities to the poetry world. Unconscious bias is thus the reality when confronted with the ‘why I did nothing’. Unfunnily enough, you often find answers to why this is so from the business world (know thy enemy, right?). In an article in Fast Company, the way business can better address bias in the recruitment process is being aware, self-conscious of our own biases – that is something we all have and must manage. “When we are aware of our biases and watch out for them, they are less likely to blindly dictate our decisions.

image1Stuart Charlesworth’s poem ‘But now’ reflects the dissatisfaction I have with this poetic disjuncture of bias and inaction very well. I will leave the poem to show this, but a quote from a V&A Director within it, neatly sums up the situation we are in, and therefore how poetry should be better at responding to it. ‘the terms and conditions have changed/ and we cannot continue the same’. The T&Cs are constantly changing, it is the nature of the social etc., dialectic. By not being aware of our bias, and how we therefore ‘opt out’ of acting, means that those who believe there isn’t a problem will one day see, “the little men come goose-stepping/ out of the palm of your hand and into your home.” I don’t think I’m going to give up poetry, at the moment, but I do wonder if efforts would be better placed in another area of writing, which is more receptive to change, and aware of its own bias.

  

Stuart Charlesworth was commended by Pascal Petit in the 2018 Brittle Star Competition. He is a nurse, and a committee member for Café Writers, Norwich. He has an MA in Creative Writing from UEA and his poems have appeared in Butcher’s Dog, Cake, Ink Sweat & Tears, Lighthouse, Poetry Review, The Rialto and Under the Radar. He is working on a first collection.

 

 

                  But now

Mr. Roth,
leaving his post
as the V&A director,
because of the European Union
referendum result,
is speaking on Radio 4:

the terms and conditions have changed
and we cannot continue the same

while the last gallant knights of Great Britain
                    — you know them, you’ve seen them on your phone:
the AlbionFirst,
the UKPatriots,
the #IAmProudToBeBritish —
the last gallant knights of Great Britain
                    — and for ‘Great Britain’ please read
a featureless,
spotless white sun —

the last gallants boldly meme crosses,
swastikas, bulldogs,
hijabs and poppies,
same as they do in France and Sweden,
America, Russia and anywhere with a signal

and honestly, I would much rather
draw my curtains shut on their thumbing
and privately conduct a careful study
of the accumulation of dust
in the grooves of my second hand vinyl

and ruck up the carpet,
strutting like Freddie Mercury,
try to swing the lowdown dirty
blues of Bessie Smith —

but now, when you can hear the packing
of bags through your Bluetooth connection;
and now the little men come goose-stepping
out of the palm of your hand and into your home.

 

Image (top right) ‘Fiddling While Rome Burns’ by Shena Tschofan

 

 

 

 

Mum’s Spicy Chicken by Nafeesa Hamid

Hegel infamously said that history was a process of thesis (the current paradigm) bumping up against antithesis, which then (through war, debate, demographics) becomes a synthesis, a resolve, whether it be chaos or calm. The rite of passage of a child is similar. The typical model is the young child being totally dependent on the carer, living by the values of their parents; they are helped, to walk, to speak, to read, etc.. Then, when reaching their teenage years, they become independent, at least in their eyes; wanting to go out more, liking different things, rebelling even. Eventually, in this theoretical scenario, the synthesis is interdependence, or rapprochement or mutual relationship of empathy; the young adult, gets a job, a family and realises what the other side of the coin looks like.

handsup-300x292Well that’s the theory, and in more traditional times, it appeared to work well. But what lies behind that, is many children became adults before their time. How many of our parents who are elderly now, left school when they were fourteen or fifteen? My own father left school on a Friday aged fourteen, started work on the Monday and never stopped for the next fifty years. Today, as we know, our pathway is far from clear – no job for life, a multitude of distractions, consumer items, but also a greater variety of people. We are in the seventieth year since Windrush, and people from the Caribbean coming to work and live here (we thought safely until recent events). Similarly, people from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh came here at a similar time.

It is the children of these immigrants, who have had to take on an added challenge when growing up. For not only will they face racism, and discrimination, they have to deal with being part of two cultures – ones that can be at odds with each other. And they have to do this at their most vulnerable time; that time when they move into the independence stage of their life, where they want to discover things for themselves. Let’s not forget also, they are British.

IMG_0360[1]bcVertSQNafeesa Hamid’s poem Mum’s Spicy Chicken, from her blistering debut collection ‘Besharam‘ published by the exciting new Verve Poetry Press, sums up this clash and how for a female in particular this is very difficult, even beyond any hope of interdependence. “I’m picked out, well-browned; just how they like me./ Brown on the outside, pink on the inside./ A cultural mish-mash.” The use of meat in the poem, as a metaphor is so powerful, especially when looked at as a woman. “The boys like me;/ their eyes all bright and empty like hers.// They tear off my crackling coat/ and dig teeth into my flesh/ which falls off with ease.” A previous poem on Proletarian Poetry by Aisha K Gill (Life of Thorka) gave a similar account of her having to escape violence, and where getting an education as a woman was considered a crime. When cultures are so set, especially by an intractable religion that categorises women in a subservient role, the model of development is either broken, or at best meets a sort of standoff resolution. Either way, it is characterized by conflict and far from reaching any type of interdependence.

 

Nafeesa Hamid is a British Pakistani poet and playwright based in Birmingham. She has featured at Outspoken (London), Poetry is Dead Good (Nottingham), Find the Right Words (Leicester) and Hit The Ode (Birmingham). Nafeesa has also performed at Cheltenham and Manchester Literature Festivals as part of The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write, a recent (2017) anthology publication by Saqi Books, edited by Sabrina Mahfouz. Besharam, published on Sep 20 2018 by Verve Poetry Press, is her first collection.

Besharam is an outstanding collection from Nafeesa… I think her poems are very special.’ – Imtiaz Dharker.

https://vervepoetrypress.com/2018/05/10/nafeesa-hamid/

 

 

Mum’s Spicy Chicken

Rumble. Grumble. Rumble.
Splash, stroke, thrust
and rest.
I’m thinking she probably doesn’t want to touch me;
she looks at me with blank eyes,
too full with other thoughts
for me to be seen.
She’s bored of this lifetime routine.
Chop, cut, chop, chop, cut –
I don’t bleed.
Spark – it doesn’t light up so she tries again.

Spark.
Flame. Thump, sizzle.
My skin tightens around my body,
anemic legs burn in the heat.
My insides loosen up.
She swings me on to my back,
prods her finger down my spine;
grunts.
I’m picked out, well-browned; just how they like me.
Brown on the outside, pink on the inside.
A cultural mish-mash.

The boys rush to greet me,
grab me by my leg and slap me
on their plates;
my sweat already congealing their fingers.
The boys like me;
their eyes all bright and empty like hers.

They tear off my crackling coat
and dig teeth into my flesh
which falls off with ease.
The boys like me
when I’m well-browned
and have stopped sizzling
and am silent.