Author: Peter Raynard

Guest Post by Steve Pottinger, with his poem ‘Desaparecida’

sofaOn January 8th this year, a friend of mine was kidnapped by a Mexican drugs cartel. John Sevigny is a photographer, a US national who spends a lot of time in Central America; he was visiting Cordoba, in Veracruz state in Mexico, when he and a woman he was working with were abducted by a large number of heavily armed men.

Abduction in Mexico isn’t uncommon. Over 30,000 people have disappeared, and while I knew of los desaparecidos I guess it’s human nature to believe this ongoing tragedy – like all tragedies – is something which happens to others, and never to anyone you know or care about. Maybe that’s a necessary disconnect which allows us to live free from anxiety and constant fear. Perhaps that explains the shock when it turns out not to be true. (more…)

‘Mine is Not a Holocaust Tale’ and ‘Leaving Odessa’ by Rachael Clyne

15535288254_766cf5cdc4_zI don’t know my paternal great grandfather’s ethnicity, but the trail of his history has all the hallmarks of him being Jewish. Across the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, he traded leather and shoes from Russia to England. Between the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, when violent anti-Semitism rose, and the first revolution of 1905, he sensed the change that would eventually shake the world and left for England.

Arriving at Southampton with my great grandmother and two young children, they settled in the East End of London, where my grandfather was born in 1900. My great grandmother died there and is buried in Bow Cemetery. My grandfather moved to Glasgow, but his father and brother stayed and eventually went back to what is now Ukraine, and although kept in touch were not heard from again after the Germans swept through in 1941. Whether he was Jewish or not will remain a mystery, but I know from my Jewish father-in-law, and of course from reading the history, that such migrations were very common. (more…)

On Alan Morrison’s Shabbigentile (with poem, ¡Viva Barista!)

shabbigentileIn novels and films, plays even, there are state-of-the-nation portrayals aplenty; from Dickens to Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem the rich and the poor are double acts of a political stage that is the United Kingdom. In poetry? Not so much. The Waste Land comes to mind of course, and the writing of such poets as Fran Lock, and performances by Luke Wright, tell of the political scene in different forms (historic & contemporary). So, in reading Alan Morrison’s brilliantly titled ‘Shabbigentile’ you will be bowled over by the constant stream of anger-flecked images, which properly reflect the ill-state-of-the-nation we find ourselves in today. (more…)

Heap Street by Hannah Linden

corrie

Image by MEN Media

Coronation Street is no more. Not the show itself but the original set, which was dismantled last year – bulldozers ripped through the Rovers Return and Jack and Vera’s pad sharper than Hilda’s Ogden’s tongue. Gone also has the quotidian mundanity so exciting back in the day; when Corrie’s own Raquel Welch, Pat Phoenix went through men like fags and we were regaled by the regality of the ever-so-well-spoken Annie Walker. It is gone, but only to reappear in its new form; it reminds me of the China Miéville short story ‘Reports of Certain Events in London’ about, ‘autonomous streets which phase in and out of existence, living complex and mysterious lives of their own, and even having romances and violent feuds amongst their alley selves.’ Although, categorised as ‘weird’, it is not such a stretch of the imagination to see streets humanised in that way. (more…)

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!

(more…)

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). (more…)

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