karl marx

‘Precarious’ & ‘The Combination: a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto’ (please scroll down to exit via the gift shop)

PRECARIOUS

Precarious CoverPrecarious 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.

Night Watchman

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.

CM book Peter Raynard cover (1)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 Precarious directly from me for £8 (incl P&P UK only), or £10 (incl P&P worldwide).

You can buy The Combination from Culture Matters for £6 (plus £1.50 P&P) here.

OR OR OR OR OR

You can buy both directly from me for £12 (incl P&P – UK only), or £15 (incl P&P worldwide)

 

The Communist Manifesto: a poetic coupling by Peter Raynard

The following appeared on the brilliant Culture Matters site, edited by Mike Quille. The site is a great source and resource of working class and socialist culture.

A Poetic Coupling of the Communist Manifesto by Peter Raynard (with Karl Marx)

Counting in at around 12,000 words, can there be a more influential book with so relatively few words, than the Communist Manifesto? Today (21st February, 2018) is said to be the 170th anniversary of its publication. Written in a six-week rush, after the Communist League imposed a deadline on Marx, its take up has been phenomenal and its relevance remains today, if not more so.

Much is planned to mark the occasion, especially as it is also the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth on May 5th. I have read the Manifesto a number of times over the years. However, as a poet, I hadn’t given it much thought in my writing until I was introduced to a poetic form ‘coupling’, devised by the poet Karen McCarthy Woolf. Coupling is a line by line poetic response (that includes rhyme, repetition, and assonance) to an existing text; it can be applied to any text but I think works very well with political writing, either as a way of making it relevant to today’s readers, or as a (satirical) polemic against it. In writing a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto I took the former approach but with a critical eye. The book will be published in May in time for the 200th anniversary. Below is my coupling of the infamous ‘preface’ of the book, as well as Marx’s ten ‘commandments’ of communism.

“In accordance with my state of mind at the time lyrical poetry was bound to be my first subject, at least the most pleasant and immediate one….Poetry however, could be and had to be only an accompaniment; I had to study law and above all felt the urge to wrestle with philosophy.” [Marx’s letter to his Father, November 1837]

karl marx ting

image by Sam Raynard

PREFACE

A spectre is haunting Europe
innit though

— the spectre of communism
that loose blanket in need of tucking in

All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre
this unholy spectre come to remove the opium and Xanax flow from the ennui of its existents

Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.
Pope and President, Merkel Macron, autoimmune free radicals of capitalism, each playing I spy with my belittling eye

Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power?
Karl saw a gap in the market before the market had been fully formed

Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism
no-one likes us, no-one likes us, no-one likes us, we don’t care, we are commies, new-born commies, we are commies from over there

against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?
we are coming with sickles and fists, hammers and molotovs, balaclavas and masks, & pen and paper (just in case)

Two things result from this fact:
I. Communism is already acknowledged by all European powers to be itself a power
albeit a power with a crackly track record of misuse, one dictatored by substance abuse

II. It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world
come out and tell it how it is FFS, it has been 170 years but it’s never too late!

publish their views, their aims, their tendencies,
they tend to hang to the left, last I heard, but added ingredients can make it absurd

and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Communism with a manifesto of the party itself
ring a ring a roses you pocketful of posers, atishoo, atishoo, we will knock off your crown

To this end, Communists of various nationalities have assembled in London
to mark the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth, to honour his will, to update his worth

and sketched the following manifesto
give him a deadline and he’ll give you a tract, the theory, the practice, revolutionary acts

to be published in the English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish languages
& Bakunin translated it into Russian, and we all know how that turned out

Marx’s Ten Commandments of Communism

…………..in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable
behold, the secular ten commandments, scribed in the original Manifest der kommunistischen Partei

  1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purpose
    I suggest we begin with cutting the hedge funds, the casino capitalism, the prospecting close your eyes and pick a card path to prosperity

    2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax
    in the heated climate of today’s reprobates, they’ll not be much need for public debate

    3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance
    can I keep my granddad’s watch, it’s broken, it’s worthless, it means a lot?

    4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels
    there’ll be no more capital flight, those runways closed at midnight

    5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly
    credit where credit is due, an economy not founded on a global debt of $233 trillion, phew!

    6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State
    yes traveller I’m just putting you through, can you believe it, no trains overdue

    7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State
    of factories, mere metal filings remain, big data now is the name of the game

    the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan
    I sat upon the shore/ Fishing, with the arid plain behind me/ Shall I at least set my lands in order (TSE)

    8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture
    you might need a little marketing advice, industrial armies doesn’t sound nice

    9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country
    the green with the grey, cosmopolitan hue, no borders, no hoarders, no get in the queue

    10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.
    with child labour/girls denied education/born into sex work we mustn’t forget this is not done-and-dusted, those wheels have not come off yet, though they may be a little rusted

Marx’s Final Words

The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains
With links made of debt, disease, war, racism, sexism, capitalism, and more

They have a world to win
and win it they will, for as Prometheus was Bound to say, ‘defy power which seems omnipotent’

Working Men of All Countries, Unite
and women as well, and all those between

__________________

 

Peter Raynard is the editor of Proletarian Poetry: poems of working class lives (www.proletarianpoetry.com), which has featured over 130 poems. He has been widely published and his debut collection Precarious will be published by Smokestack Books in April 2018. His poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto will be published by Culture Matters in May, 2018. He is also a member of Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, a poetry collective set up by the poet Malika Booker.

 

The Poetry of Working Class Lives: Opening a Door to a More Inclusive Poetics

The Poetry of Working Class Lives: Opening a Door to a More Inclusive Poetics. By Peter Raynard for New Generation to Next Generation 2014: Three Decades of British and Irish Poetry, conference at the Institute of English Studies, London. March 13th 2015

Introduction

Poetry is not the inconsolable wail of the only child. It can be the hum of the neighbourly voices in the meeting hall. To be welcomed in, all you need to do is open the door.”

These are the closing words from Fiona Sampson’s book on contemporary poetry: Beyond the Lyric. But the challenge facing any poetics of inclusion, is how to get people to open the door in the first place. However, as the Warwick commission report on the Arts recently showed, it is not only a problem for poetry.

Poetry and Working Class Lives

I came to focus on the poetry of the working class lives in two ways. Firstly, when I started writing poetry as a dare by taking a module run by Malika Booker as part of an MA in Creative Writing; she showed us poems from William Blake, to Martin Espada, Jacob Sam-La Rose, Inua Ellams, and Karen McCarthy Woolf.

trainspottingThe second entry point was a dissatisfaction in the way in which the working classes were portrayed in the media and arts: in novels, plays, TV programmes and films, stories involving working class people are portrayed as ‘horror stories’ or ‘fairy tales’; The most billy eliottcommon depictions are the lumpen, feckless, racist and criminal underclass of ‘Shameless’, ‘This is England’ ‘Trainspotting’ and ‘Lionel Asbo’, complemented by the narratives of escape via the salvation of a supposed middle-class life such as with ‘Educating Rita’ and ‘Billy Elliot’. (more…)

Diagnosis: ‘Londonism’ by Rishi Dastidar

“Capitalism has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities. Capitalism has agglomerated population, centralised means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands.”

karl marx london

marxwalks.com

Karl Marx was 195 on May 5th last year, and wrote these words albeit using the word ‘bourgeoisie’ instead of capitalism. John Lanchester used this trick when quoting Marx’s to show how prescient he was in describing the structure of capitalism and the way in which it changes the landscape (I sometimes think that capitalists understand Marx better than Marxists). (more…)