Month: November 2017

time comes counting / one two zero by reuben woolley

BalanceOfPower_(cropped)In talking with my wife the other day, we wondered which countries are doing well in the world today. Of course, ‘well’ is an abstraction and it was more easily answered in looking at those doing badly, or not so well. The world is unfurling, especially if we account for the use and impact of social media, exposing great instability. The whole European project is in question, not only in relation to Brexit, but also in terms of resolving proxy wars, as is the case in the Ukraine. Africa is on the whole improving in terms of headline indicators such as child mortality, although it is still high; however, within the individual countries, particularly those who are influential – South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, not to mention the fluid situation in Zimbabwe – there is instability. India quietly treads water, Pakistan is embroiled in the war in Afghanistan, as well with India through the proxy war in Kashmir. Brazil is also in a state of uncertainty over high level corruption charges. Both Russia and China are becoming increasingly authoritarian and emboldened by the lack of any countervailing powers, both internally, and with Trump, internationally. Pockets of hope come when looking at Scandinavian countries, with examples of Finland’s trial of universal basic income, maybe Canada will have some influence, and Australia has been immune to the international economic crisis – but the latter two examples feel like outposts beyond their geographic location.

Then we have the United States, which is not going quietly into the night. From this side of the Atlantic, it seems the country’s identity is riven with divisions that hark back to the civil war. And the biggest irony in all Trump’s hubris of making the United States isolationist again, is he loves playing draughts/checkers (he’s not clever enough for the chess metaphor) with international relations. In the case of those with North Korea he is being played by China, and to some extent Russia (although they are playing another game with the election interference). So today, we are in a situation where it’s like two children in the playground but both have nuclear weapons. Trump in questioning why Kim Jong Un would call him ‘old’ says, by not saying, that the North Korean despot is ‘short and fat’, to which he, the US president (I still find it hard to comprehend that he is) has been sentenced to death.

me-at-newcastle-stanzaIt is almost beyond cliché to say we have not learned the lessons of history; I say beyond, because of the hopelessness in feeling it could make any difference. But we have to; even if we feel we are repeating ourselves, because after all we are hoping not to repeat history. We see this need in poems such as Reuben Woolley’s ‘time comes counting / one two zero’, which is dedicated to the Coventry poet Antony Owen, who has written and campaigned for nuclear disarmament, in particular his work with the CND education programme and ties with Japan. In Reuben’s usual beautiful brevity and minimalist form, he captures the tragedy of nuclear war in Japan and the impact it still has for subsequent generations; certainly, a history lesson for us all.

Reuben Woolley has been published in Tears in the Fence, The Lighthouse Literary Journal, The Interpreter’s House, Domestic Cherry, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Stare’s Nest, And Other Poems, The Poetry Shed, The BeZine and Goose among others. He has a collection, the king is dead, 2014, Oneiros Books; a chapbook, dying notes, 2015, Erbacce Press; a short collection on the refugee crisis, skins, 2016, Hesterglock Press and a new collection, broken stories, just published by 20/20 Vision Media, 2017. Runner-up: Overton Poetry Pamphlet competition and the Erbacce Prize, both in 2015. He edits the online poetry magazines, I am not a silent poet and The Curly Mind.

time comes counting / one two zero
(for Antony Owen)

when the rain comes
in shadows

                    she said

i’ll see the worlds
like pages

                    the skins
they left
on walls / on

heroes / my
hiroshima angels

they’ll not see
                    she said
not yet / not ever

& the cherry trees still flower
tears for generations

Poetry on the Picket Line, news of upcoming fundraiser & poem by Grim Chip

hackneyritzyprotest460Poetry on the Picket Line (PotPL) grew out of the solidarity work carried out by the poets involved with supporting PCS members in the National Gallery dispute. Understanding the challenges of keeping spirits high on picket lines first hand, they saw an opportunity to punctuate the speeches and slogans with poetry to both entertain and agitate. The dispute was successful, as was the poetry, so with word getting round, PotPL poets have gone on to support strikers at the National Museum of Wales, Junior Doctors, Cleaners at the LSE and, most recently, the Picturehouse Cinema workers fighting for a living wage. They have performed poetry alongside Owen Jones and John McDonnell including sharing a platform at the May Day demonstration this year.

PotPL have always believed in putting their money where their mouths are and use the power of poetry to move people to build funds to support workers in struggle. For this reason, Poetry on the Picket Line are holding their first fundraiser “Cellarful of Solidarity” on Sat Nov 18th at The Betsey Trotwood in Farringdon, London. They will present some of the many poets who have supported or performed as a part of Poetry on the Picket Line including: Janine Booth, Tim Wells and Grim Chip, as well as Matt Abbott, Sophie Cameron, Dan Cockrill and Peter Raynard, with others to be announced. Solidarity messages and poems from Billy Bragg, Phill Jupitus, Tim Turnbull, Joolz Denby, and many more will be read and raffled on the night, which will end with a special Rocksteady DJ set from Tim Wells and live music from singer/songwriter Maddy Carty.

chip picket lineToday’s poem is by Grim Chip who has featured on the PP before. Grim is a poet and trade union activist, a founder member of Poetry on the Picket line.


The Prime Minister is being kept informed,
It is very much business as usual,
We can prove the doom-mongers wrong,
In the event of an incident,
There is no reason to panic,
Casualties are inevitable,
The Prime Minister is being kept informed,
Casualties are inevitable,
There is no reason to panic,
In the event of an incident,
We can prove the doom-mongers wrong,
It is very much business as usual,
The Prime Minister is being kept informed.



Myth Men and Lone Man Stories by Sarah Sibley

he's hiding somethingOne of my many favourite Tom Waits’ songs is ‘What’s He Building in There?’, about a very ‘private’ man, someone who keeps to himself. ‘He has subscriptions to those magazines. He never waves when he goes by. He’s hiding something from the rest of us He’s all to himself I think I know why.’ Waits says the song is the ‘rat theory’; as there are more and more of us, we turn on each other, with a kind of malevolent curiosity, especially if someone is ‘different’ to what we perceive is the norm. The song is very prescient given it was written in 1999, before the Internet took off.

Back home, we had a ‘strange’ man who lived on the corner. He was a recluse and lived in a big dark house with an overgrown garden that had a pond in it – the handed-down story was that he buried his wife underneath the pond. He was known as Wet Foot, because he once painted his front door and wrote Wet Paint on the glass, that he never took off and it faded away until it looked like the words ‘Wet Foot’. Lots of kids would ‘rat-a-tat ginger’ his door and run away, but sometimes he would come out and chase them. He was an archetype of Waits’ song with all the rumours of what people heard or saw, almost all of which are not true: ‘Now what’s that sound from under the door? He’s pounding nails into a hardwood floor and I swear to god I heard someone moaning low.’

20170716_201556_resizedToday’s dark poems ‘Myth Men’ and ‘Lone Man Stories’ by Sarah Sibley, are similar childhood tales of rumours, with fleeting sights and sounds of scary men. “Have you been down the cellar at The Dog?/ Seen the drayman covered in cobwebs,/ fading in and out of sight/ with the flickering light bulb;’ Such stories are drawn from the ‘outsiders’ of village life where Sarah grew up, which excited the imagination of children in an area full of country shadows. “Up at High Winds farm by the slurry pit/ we’d hide and seek in a thicket/ ripped every night by storms -/ the kind we don’t get in these parts anymore.’ And there always has to be a dark side in order for the stories to hold our curiosity. ‘For a time, stories of a lone man/ wiped us out from the copse.’ And it is always a glimpse, it can never be a clear sighting: ‘Shrimp’s sister saw him once in her rear-view mirror, disappearing down Baby Lane,/ feeling hunted again.’ Happy Samhain everyone – welcome to the darkness.


Sarah Sibley was born in 1985 and grew up in the Suffolk countryside where she currently lives and works. Her pamphlet The Withering Room was published in 2015 by Green Bottle Press and was the London Review Bookshop’s pamphlet of the year. Her work has featured in Agenda, Orbis, Iota, Obsessed with Pipework, Ink, Sweat & Tears, and And Other Poems. She is currently working on a first full collection.



Myth Men

Have you been down the cellar at The Dog?
Seen the drayman covered in cobwebs,
fading in and out of sight
with the flickering light bulb;
seen the man whose head
is as big as a car steering wheel,
driving fast out of Stowmarket.
Or the man whose hand is a pig’s trotter;
Shrimp’s sister saw him once in her rear-view mirror,
disappearing down Baby Lane,
feeling hunted again.

Lone Man Stories

Up at High Winds farm by the slurry pit
we’d hide and seek in a thicket
ripped every night by storms –
the kind we don’t get in these parts anymore.
For a time, stories of a lone man
wiped us out from the copse.
Rik Loader said he’d crossed back in,
showed us his souvenir – a knife,
its blade the width of my thigh.
At night I dreamt of the thicket;
in my hiding place a dead fox,
the lone man lost in a cloud of gnats.
Other times the startled pigs
and spooked horses tipped his mind
and he went staggering into the pit;
at the farm a single light kept vigil –
no stir from the brush,
a campfire burned to dust.