Precarious was published by Smokestack on April 1st this year, and I have been on a Precarious Tour around the country, with the novelist and poet Richard Skinner (whose book The Malvern Aviator is also published by Smokestack) . So far we have read in Oxford, Huddersfield, Newcastle, and London – with Bristol and Swindon to come later in the year. I have also read in Derby, St Albans, and London (at the launch of Jane Commane‘s book launch of Assembly Lines), and later at Ledbury Poetry Festival, Cork, and Merthyr Tydfill.
Here is a poem from Precarious about a night when my son was changing his anti-depression medication, which caused suicidal ideation.
Bed by midnight, I set my alarm for two a.m.
At its sound I pad to my son’s room. The floor
is a rubble of clothes, guitar leads, a trophy cabinet
of sticky bowls residue in a corner.
In bed, he holds the glow of his screen,
perched in fear of the grave hymns that sing
in his dreams. He says he’s okay, without shifting.
I fail by saying ‘try to get some sleep’.
I retreat to my bed, risk an hour.
At three he’s still glowing. Says he tried.
I know. Best rise for a time.
I wipe last night’s words from the kitchen table.
We eat cereal to silence, see if that works.
It’s being tested with everything else outside
the covers of a book. Back in bed,
he turns to the wall. Now I stay, see him to sleep.
At the inhale of day, the sun cracks its knuckles
behind the curtains. ‘Come on then,’ I say.
The COMBINATION: a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto.
In January this year, with prompting by a workshop run by Karen McCarthy Woolf, I began to write a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto. Coupling is a line by line poetic response (that includes rhyme, repetition, and assonance) to an existing text. To my surprise and delight, Mike Quille of Culture Matters offered to publish it, and the resulting book; The Combination came out on June 1st.
I think the form devised by Karen is a great way to respond to political speeches, policies, or books. Breaking the line of the original text is great fun of itself, but this then turns each line into a writing prompt. The book took me three months to write and I had so much fun going back to read Marx’s classic text.
I am now working on a fifteen minute multi-media version for public performance.
Here is an excerpt from The Combination.
The “dangerous class”, [lumpenproletariat] the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society,
steady on, this suit is clean on, Sunday’s best, they’ll be no rat catching on this day of rest.
may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution
there is much sweeping to be done, until we form a Vanguard and become all for one
its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue
does this less than ‘precariat’ class lack the luxury of refusal?
In the conditions of the proletariat, those of old society at large are already virtually swamped.
just to be clear, this is a premonition – not yet a reality, it is just a welcome fear
The proletarian is without property; his relation to his wife and children has no longer anything in common with the bourgeois family relations;
any chance of the sex tonight love? Reproduction or pleasure? Er, pleasure? Ooh, come here you sexy bourgeois bastard!
modern industry labour, modern subjection to capital, the same in England as in France, in America as in Germany, has stripped him of every trace of national character.
yet stereotypes remain, just ask any stand-up comedian of old
Law, morality, religion, are to him so many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests
coming ready or not, we seek him here, we seek him there
All the preceding classes that got the upper hand sought to fortify their already acquired status by subjecting society at large to their conditions of appropriation.
and you can’t exactly fortify something that is nothing – nought plus nought still equals nowt
The proletarians cannot become masters of the productive forces of society, except by abolishing their own previous mode of appropriation
which be the doffing of the cap, and mucking of the hands
and thereby also every other previous mode of appropriation
that’ll be the thieving and gambling, womanising and fighting, at least that’s what the tabloids say
They have nothing of their own to secure and to fortify
for you may be prisoners, but there is no dilemma
their mission is to destroy all previous securities for, and insurances of, individual property
and don’t be giving us any of your French, La propriété, c’est le vol! – Karl thinks it’s self-refuting
All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities
shall we ask the Diggers & Levellers, ask Gandhi and the 400 million Indians in 1947, ask Nelson Mandela, ask the Suffragettes, ask ourselves, is that not now in our past?
The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.
Now you’re sucking diesel. Yes, let’s give it to the Rees Moggs and all those weasels.
Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle.
If you ’bout this revolution, please stand up/ We ain’t got no one to trust/ Time is running up, feel the burn in my gut/ And if you got the guts, scream, “Fuck Donald Trump” (JB$$)
THE GIFT SHOP
You can buy The Combination from Culture Matters for £6 (plus £1.50 P&P) here.
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