Author: Peter Raynard

Bread and Roses Songwriting and Spoken Word Award

HAPPY NEW YEAR FOLKS!

Bread and Roses Songwriting and Spoken Word Award

Culture Matters has launched the second Bread and Roses Songwriting and Spoken Word Award. It is sponsored by the Communication Workers’ Union, and the Musicians’ Union. There are five prizes of £100 each.

The purpose of the Award is to encourage grassroots music-making on themes relevant to working-class life, communities and culture.
Send your entries in the form of audio or live/pre-recorded video files (MP3/4 format or video) via email to entriesculturematters@gmail.com.
The deadline is March 2nd 2019 – so get writing and singing, and send them the results!

b&r 2019

Working Class Poetry Heroes of 2018 – Poets on the Picket Line

john mcdonnellIt’s been really hot at times this year – pushing into the 30s at times back in the summer. It’s been really cold at times this year – pushing into the minuses at times in the mornings. And yet, they are there, rain or shine, supporting the workers who are having to strike in order to either get proper working conditions or a living wage that they more than deserve. The heroes of Poetry on the Picket Line (PotPL) are the likes of Chip Hamer (Grim Chip), Nadia Drews, Mark Coverdale, and Tim Wells. And their support doesn’t stretch to reading poems, they have raised vital funds for the striking workers. Proper activist poetry, making a real difference to peoples’ lives when they most need it. So after little discussion with myself of the leading contenders, Poets on the Picket Line are Proletarian Poetry’s Working Class Heroes of 2018 (and 2017 & 2016 as well).

To further support their work, Grim Chip, and Mike Quille of Culture Matters, have brought the PotPL together between the sheets of a book, in the form of a poetry anthology, featuring the aforementioned people, plus the likes of Matt Abbott, Janine Booth, and David & Lizzy Turner (of Lunar Poetry Podcasts & a poem a week). So just in time for St Capitalism Day on the 25th of this month, and to help the workers in their continued struggle, go online and buy the anthology – you’ll be a hero yourself if you do. as all the profits go to the striking workers.

phill jupitasHere is the introduction to the book written by Porky the Poet, the ubiquitously funny, Phill Jupitus:

“I have always thought there’s an unrecognised grace and beauty in a picket line. Also, they are a huge embarrassment to the organisations being picketed. The fact that, for centuries, news organisations have portrayed the objectives of those who stand on them as avaricious, unreasonable or somehow evil is a testament to the strength of the image. A picket line is the simplest most direct manifestation of the will of people to be treated with some measure of fairness. Ordinary workers, forced to stand outside a place of work, because they simply won’t take shit any more.

The Poetry on the Picket Line crew have been pitching up at many and various sites of industrial action, and showing their support with impromptu alfresco performances, for a few years now and the scope of their activities has grown over that time. This collection encompasses the passion, empathy, wit and commitment of their work.

It is not merely the job of art to hold a mirror up to society from a distance, the best of it needs to engage with hearts and minds on the ground. Poetry on the Picket Line is a perfect manifestation of this. It’s odd to say that I wish there was no need for them. But the fact is that over the coming years they’re going to be getting busier if anything.

So thank you for buying the book and supporting them and their work – and by extension, everybody out on the line.

Don’t cross them!”

A Cold Soil Waiting by Reuben Woolley

headlineImage.adapt.1460.high.Syrian_deaths_092915.1443561481518There are so many deaths in Syria that the United Nations stopped counting in 2014 because it could no longer rely on its own data. According to the pro-opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights, 222,114 civilians had been killed between March 2011 and September 2018

I drew a sad child because my brother died. When I am sad I draw.” (11 year old girl, internally displaced in Iraq)

There have been an estimated 85,000 child deaths in Yemen over the past three years due to famine. ‘For children under the age of five this situation is proving a death sentence’ (Bhanu Bhatnagar, Save the Children) 

Child casualties for 2017 in Afghanistan stood at 3,179 (861 killed and 2,318 injured) – a 10% drop from 2016.

We cannot sleep day and night due to the frightening sounds of firing,’ an 11-year-old girl told Unama (The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan)

Delphine says that three of her four children, ages three, four and six – as well as her 28-year-old husband – were shot dead when rebels from the National Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (MNLC) attacked their village

‘If I close my eyes I think of my friends, the school and all my favourite places at home: everything there is better than here. They ruined everything for us. I just want to go to school, and learn a job and work! Here we have nothing, only this tent with no electricity.’ (Firas, 16 years old, internally displaced in Iraq)

A child soldier poses with a libyan helmAn estimated 2,000 to 3,000 children, sometimes as young as 9, are currently enlisted in the Somali armed forces. According to Unicef, the situation is currently getting worse because the militia have transformed schools into recruitment centres and forced teachers to turn their students into child soldiers’ 

My squad is my family, my gunis my provider, and protector, and my rule is to kill or be killed.”(Ishmael Beah, child soldier Sierra Leone)

‘Last week (in late October), over 250,000 children across Syria are sitting for their national Grade 9 exams, including students who have benefited from the UNICEF-supported remedial education programme in Tartous.’

“Aside from all the academic support I received at the centre, the teachers believed in me so much and lifted me up,” says Naya with a smile. “They became my friends and family,” (Naya, aged 16, internally displaced in Syria)

Me at Newcastle StanzaReuben Woolley has been published in quite a few magazines such as Tears in theFence, Lighthouse, The Interpreter’s House, the anthology: TheDizziness of Freedom, Ink Sweat & Tears, Proletarian Poetry, And Other Poems and The Poet’s Shed. He has five books to his name, the latest being ‘some time we are heroes’, published by The Corrupt Press (2018). He has a book forthcoming, this hall of several tortures, to be published by Knives Forks and Spoons Press (September 2019). He edits the online magazines, I am not a silent poet and The Curly Mind.

 

a cold soil waiting

not dead i say not
yet.they deal in cold
bodies / hope
for some
                 disaster

                 i will
not lie
in such dark
matter.it is
short a
way & not to move

i lose a wrinkled
face no means is
this not human
                          a possible / a
slight stretch of poor
accord.tell them where
a child sleeps in cold
ground / where they fuck
a lost mother still
there are no titles.these
pages blank they
tremble
               never
a peace

& rain falls dry.bring
a life / a sickness
in this black earth

We Drink for Them by Casey Bailey

In 1999, we used to live in Camberwell, South London in a top floor flat that overlooked the Camberwell Road and all of its ‘activities’. Besides watching Concorde fly over in the late afternoon with my newborn son, there would often be exchanges of different points of view on the street below. Then into the night, the club across the road would see the usual overspill of happy/violent drunks. However, maybe it was because I had already lived in London for seven years, or had known violence from living in Coventry, but I never felt threatened or in danger. Up the road in Loughborough Junction, there was a number of gang related murders, but otherwise it felt relatively peaceful. (more…)

Spirit of ’79 by Stanley Notte

cov 2021In 2021, Coventry will be the UK’s city of culture; the second city, after Hull in 2017. I am sure there is an air of excitement in the city, and the times I have gone back recently, there is certainly talk but as yet little knowledge of what it will entail. Us poets are hopeful of getting a chair at the table, but what will be the shoe-ins? Theatre, with the figurehead being the Belgrade Theatre, will be a hub of the arts, as no doubt will the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum; both in recent times mixing the contemporary with the nostalgic. And I think it is nostalgia, that music will take as its starting point. (more…)

‘Unwritten’ Caribbean Poems after the First World War. Edited by Karen McCarthy Woolf, with excerpt of poem ‘Her Silent Wake’ by Malika Booker

black soldiersHistory is nothing without memory, memorials, and remembrances. And on such a day as this, the marking of the end of the First World War, there is a particular resonance to what it means today. As Hobsbawm termed it, this was the beginning of the short 20th century, which started with horrific loss of lives due to the power hungry international alliances, and ended in what at the time seemed a somewhat relative peaceful transition with the fall of the Berlin Wall. You could call it the slow death of empires. (more…)

Carrion Song for Major Tom by Bob Beagrie

post modernPost-modernists are smug bastards. They sit on their upside down, inside out sofas opining about how terrible things still are, with that ‘I told you so. Now come here, put this bandage round your bloodied head and get in the car, I’ll take you to a therapist.’ Enlightenment chaps, such as the voluminously silver-haired Steven Pinker, all ivory-towered up to in his corduroy trousers and leather padded elbows, will say, ‘hold on a minute, we are a much less violent society than we were. Yes, there was the First World War, the Holocaust, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Cambodia, Rwanda, Syria, the Yemen, blah-di-blah, but in modern day developed countries, things have never been so peaceful.’ (more…)