Month: April 2016

On Ventriloquism by Fran Lock

4334544653_5f0fa8ce37_m“When I first heard some geezer called Martin Anus had written my life story I was chuffed. Weren’t surprised like cos I know I’m a top bloke and that. But then me mate told me it was what you would call an unauthorised biography and that he hadn’t painted a good picture of me. And I thought, how could some no mark write about my life without me knowing, or without even speaking to me? So before taking the time to find him and chop off his head off, I took to reading it. And what a load of old bollocks it is was as well. Okay, a lot of it is true, such as the beatings I dished out, and prison, and how me nephew is shagging my mum, but the rest is bullshit.”
(Review of Lionel Asbo by Martin Amis by Lionel Asbo)

There is a long history of cultural appropriation far worse than that done by the likes of Amis when usurping the voice of the working class. Most notable is racial theft that ranges from the Black and White Minstrels to people self-identifying as being of different heritage to that they were born into. In terms of art, it is like a venal plagiarism; passing your own work off as authentic is the height of disrespect to the heritage it was derived from. Just ask Chuck Berry.

Proletarian Poetry is about the poems, not the background of the poets. It doesn’t matter if the poet doesn’t play bingo or leave their kids in the car with pop and crisps while they get pissed in the pub. Of course, that might help if that’s what the poem is about and it doesn’t demonise. But a poem needs to be truthful and authentic, have imagination and resonance. Just read the poems on this site by Kim Moore (My People) and Dean Atta (I Come From) to see the diversity of the working classes.

meandbaby2A reader or listener can tell if the poem lacks these ingredients, which betrays, what Fran Lock, pointedly describes as ventriloquism. And as much as I try not to provoke class war on the site, there does come a time when you get angry at such false representation, especially when you read ‘On Ventriloquism‘, such a brilliant and unrelenting poetic diatribe in response to a recent experience at an open mic. So Martin Amis, fuck off will you! (more…)

Don’t Mention the Children by Michael Rosen

Collateral damage. Casualties of war. Seen but not heard. Neither seen nor heard. There are none. They don’t exist. They are the cradle of terrorists. Rubble is their toy. Ideas are their weapons. They are not children. They can’t be children. Let us not hear of such things.

stop killing the childrenPropaganda and censorship are the recognised tools of government; whether that government be the so called western liberal kind, or one more akin to North Korea. Of course, they use different methods in the use of these tools but essentially they serve the same purpose of maintaining power, done in the guise of protecting the values, ethos, or way of life of its citizens. Violent conflict is famously said to be an extension of such forms of politics, but by other means.

War is a different beast than it was a hundred years ago; the dead of the First World War were soldiers. Because of the aerial bombardments characteristic of the Second World War there were far more civilians killed. Today’s wars are said to be different than any other because the fight is now between states and non-state actors (aka terrorists/freedom fighters). But what is common in this new form of warfare to the WW2 is the amount of innocent civilians killed. Actors on both sides, whether through suicide bombs, drones, or barrel bombs are indiscriminate in trying to achieve their bloody aim.

michael rosenAnd it is children, who are the most vulnerable civilian casualty of them all. Michael Rosen highlights this tragedy chillingly in his poem Don’t Mention the Children. The poem refers to the banning by the Israeli Broadcasting Authority of an advertisement by the human rights organisation B’Tselem, where it listed the names of the children killed during the bombing in Gaza by Israel. Every country has its right to defend itself; however, it is an issue of proportionality, which lies at the heart of any response. (Bernie Sanders recently challenged Hilary Clinton over this matter, and she refused to condemn the bombing as being disproportionate). So Michael shows how ridiculous this ban was: “The names of the children must be hidden./The children must be nameless./The children must leave this world/having no names.” Only by erasing such acts from history, can they be kept from the world’s view allowing future actions to continue.

Here is Michael reading the poem:

But not only should we mention the children, let us hear what they have to say themselves. Let’s listen to the children. Here is one short account of a nine year old’s experience of the bombing in Gaza in 2014:

Even our apartment has been bombed. The aim is to make us displaced in UN schools and then be a target for tank shells. As you see we had our three shops completely destroyed, but I know fully in my heart that God will compensate us. Till the last day of the war, we remained in our apartment, but when the apartment next door sustained damages, we ran to seek shelter at my grandpa’s place in Shujayea, and there it was bombed again. We ended up going to relatives in the west. There is nowhere safe. Even al-Shifa hospital has been targeted.” (Osama Ejelah, aged 9)

 

Michael Rosen was born in North London in 1946. His parents were both teachers. After university he worked for the BBC on Play School and Schools TV. He currently presents Radio 4’s long-running Word of Mouth. His many awards include the Eleanor Farjeon Award for distinguished services to children’s literature. He is the Chevalier de l’ordre des artes et des lettres and was Children’s Laureate from 2007-9. He is Professor of Children’s Literature at Goldsmith’s, University of London. Don’t Mention the Children is taken from his collection of the same name published by Smokestack Books in 2015.

 

Don’t Mention the Children
‘Israel bans radio advert listing names of children killed in Gaza.’ Guardian, 24 July 2014

Don’t mention the children.
Don’t name the dead children.
The people must not know the names
of the dead children.
The names of the children must be hidden.
The children must be nameless.
The children must leave this world
having no names.
No one must know the names of
the dead children.
No one must say the names of
the dead children.
No one must even think that the children
have names.
People must understand that it would be dangerous
to know the names of the children.
The people must be protected from
knowing the names of the children.
The names of the children could spread
like wildfire.
The people would not be safe if they knew
the names of the children.
Don’t name the dead children.
Don’t remember the dead children.
Don’t think of the dead children.
Don’t say: ‘dead children’.

Published with kind permission of the author.

Abide the Bosses’ Law by Gemma June Howell

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Image by Ricardo Liberato*

At which point the butterfly of globalisation first flapped its wing has been the focus of historical debate for many years. Some suggest that it goes back to Roman times and the imposition of ‘foreign’ forms of economic and social development throughout Europe – hence ‘what did they ever do for us’! But I see modern globalisation being about scale and worldwide integration of all forms of capital, some of which are good (raising levels of empathy and understanding of different cultures), some of which are bad (where capitalism soaks the pores of every crevice).

In more recent times globalisation reached its potential through deregulation during the Thatcher/Reagan era that released the bats of profiteering we see today in the long tail of economic inequality. This followed the shock oil price controls by OPEC, in the early 70s; which was the beginning of non-Western hegemony with the spread of global assets by today’s new economic powers from Dubai to Dehli to Beijing. Capital flows as quickly as the oil through transcontinental pipes, so we now have Indian companies owning British-based manufacturing and deciding the fate of Welsh and English steel workers. The origin of ownership doesn’t matter per se. But global capitalism is run in the same way whatever the cultural heritage as we see with ‘communist’ China. Owners may be hedge funds or political dictators, they are all driven by profit and their managers are their enforcers.

DSC_0656GemmaJuneHowellB&WLR

Image by John Briggs

Gemma June Howell’s poignant ballad, ‘Abide the Bosses’ Law’, inspired by the Rhondda Riots (aka Tonypandy riots) over one hundred years ago, resonates to this day. Our women cradled flasks of tea/while we clasped wooden sticks. /The kids looked on with hungry eyes,/We miners had thrown down our picks!” An oligopoly of mine owners had set prices and wages to the obvious detriment of the workers. “Though starving half to death out there/our wills were strong as iron./We wouldn’t take this lying down,/each man with the heart of a lion.” (more…)

Proletarian Poetry at the Poetry Library

IMG_0279On Wednesday 6th April, Proletarian Poetry took over the Poetry Library as part of their Special Editions series. With the poets, Mona Arshi, Rishi Dastidar, Fran Lock, Clare Pollard, Richard Skinner, and Laila Sumpton, this was always going to attract a full house. For those unfortunate enough to miss the event, there is a link to a recording of all six poets readings below, and introductions from myself (I have included in the latter the time in the recording the poet started reading and a link to the original poem featured on the site). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The link to the whole recording of the evening is here: https://soundcloud.com/the-poetry-library/proletarian-poetry

Proletarian Poetry at the Poetry Library

Thank you everybody for coming this evening and to the library staff who have been so helpful in setting up the event. (more…)