The Stoke Newington skasters in the NME 17 January, 1981.
Pat Arrowsmith was a pacifist and socialist. She was jailed 11 times for her non-violent direct action. She organised the first British protest against the nuclear weapons establishment in Aldermaston, Berkshire, in 1958. In 1961 she was the subject of parliamentary questions after she was force-fed while on hunger strike in Gateside prison.
Adrian Mitchell wrote of her: ‘Pat shows her love through her life and through her poetry. You can’t seperate the two of course. I’ve heard people say: “I’d like to write political poems.” The only answer is: “Then live a political life.”‘
She wrote several novels, political books, and poetry collections. This poem was written on 9th July, 1968 whilst she was on a peace mission to Cambodia. It was published in Help, Apple Road Review and in 1981 in the CND published collection of her poetry On The Brink.
Viewing a Cambodian Casualty
Are you real,
standing among the palms, surrounded by
fellow villagers, photographers
Your back is pencilled, crinkled, stretched
in a taut unnatural tissue.
You were burned, they say,
four years ago with
scalding jelly from a U.S. bomb.
But are they really scars on flesh
or just a map, a
diagram of human degradation?
Is it skin or paper so
tortured and disfigured?
My eyes glaze.
I merge with the cameras.
My eyes turn to lens.
I no longer see you but
merely a picture with a
You are viewed on the screen;
read about in papers;
observed at exhibitions.
Jellied petrol may have blistered you, but
I have been chilled by
white hot phosphorous;
my nerves iced;
my glands numbed;
my eyeballs frozen.
I too have been injured.
The Harlem Dancer
Applauding youths laughed with young prostitutes
And watched her perfect, half-clothed body sway ;
Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes
Blown by black players upon a picnic day.
She sang and danced on gracefully and calm,
The light gauze hanging loose about her form ;
To me she seemed a proudly-swaying palm,
Grown lovelier for passing through a storm.
Upon her swarthy neck black shiny curls
Luxuriant fell ; and tossing coins in praise,
The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the girls,
Devoured her shape with eager, passionate gaze ;
But looking at her falsely-smiling face,
I knew her self was not in that strange place.
Claude McKay (1889-1944) was a Jamaican poet and an important writer in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.
From Zig Zag,1981
“Yeah alright mate. ‘Ow yer doin?” Jimmy Pursey grinned down at me, patted the offended organ and pushed a pretty, but crumpled little girl at me. “This is Honey Bane, I’m ‘er producer and she’s gonna be a fuckin’ star.” If she survives this lot. The doors opened and changing into a surfboard
I was swept inside leaving Jim and his protege hopefully about to ride the next crest.
When I next met Honey she had just signed a five year contract with Zonophone records, She looked completely different. Taller than I remembered with a Marilyn Monroe body. She assured me she was the same person, “But I was only sixteen then.” Of course, the ravages of time.
With Honey was her glamorous mother who could easily have been mistaken for another of Zonophone’s bright hopes for ’81. (After all Debbie Harry is old enough to be Honey’s mother). Or a croupier, I thought. “My mum lives in Cornwall (obviously not a croupier), and it’s taken about five hours to get here, so I’m very tired and I must look a mess.” She didn’t. In fact British Rail grime ought to be marketed. “I haven’t had more than about
six hours sleep in three nights. But we’re staying at Jimmy’s (Pursey) this week-end.”
Oh that’s alright then. The last time I went to Jimmy’s, the swimming pool was still full at 5.00 a.m., Sham could be heard in Guildford and the only person sleeping was some bird pissed out of her brain in the back of Dave Parsons sound proofed Roller.
And what were the plans following their quiet weekend in the country? Honey: “We go straight into the studio and start laying down tracks for the first single and possibly an album. It was so exciting today signing the contract. We all sat around this table in the lawyers office, it was like Knights of the Round Table.”
Did you drink mead then? Or was it just boring old champagne?
Zonophone’s A&R man jumped in quickly. “We like to put it into effort instead.” He then added limply “But if you like I’ll go and get you some champagne.” Oh god, decision time. Champagne or effort Honey? Orange juice in cracked cup seemed to be the compromise, the buck without the fizz. Record companies heady days are over — and that’s not a bad thing. An awful lot of bubbly has flowed into parasitic and talentless guts. Nevertheless, orange juice in a cracked cup . . .
Honey Bane was discovered by Jimmy Pursey about a year and half ago, although discovered is disputable. “He wouldn’t like that” said Honey giggling. “When I was about fourteen I started writing songs. I’d written a couple and I went to the Marquee and I saw this bloke and thought that’s Jimmy Pursey. I used to follow Sham at the time and I walked up to him and said ‘excuse me are you Jimmy Pursey? He sort of looked at me and went ‘yeah’, and I gave him these two songs. Then it was kind of ‘hello’ and that was it at a couple of gigs. Then about a year and a half ago I went to Hersham and he was playing football with some kids on the Green, and he came over. I started going to studios and things with him. He helped me a lot with things. Like getting myself together in the first place. Become a better me. Present myself in a better way than what I was. At one time I walked around thinking I looked fantastic with (giggle, giggle) great black eyes and different coloured spiky hair and everything. Swearing, carrying on and causing trouble and he said you can still be outrageous but you don’t need to make such a thing out of it. I wasn’t being myself, I was being what I thought people wanted me to be.
He helped me with the predicament I was in at the time. He’s a wonderful bloke, he really is.”
Honey’s ‘predicament’ was picked up by the media, naturally, and she doesn’t care to talk about it much now. “It’s not important anymore. I ran away from home at fourteen and was put in care. I wrote this song called ‘Girl On The Run’ which I recorded and a small label put it out. Nothing happened except that the press picked it up and did a big thing on it. Then that’s when I met Jimmy.”
Honey’s mother smiled carefully, obviously delighted to have her daughter back and temporarily helping run the small, but exotic, hotel she looked as though she might have. Honey mooted that if, and when things started to happen, they would have to move, but not to London. “I don’t like London to live in. It’s too kind of rushed. You can’t think straight you know. But then again I don’t like to be too secluded. I enjoy being at home but at the same time I don’t like being out of the way too much. So ideally for me, if I have to be in London, I’d like to be sort of outside of London.”
Hershamish? Why not? Everyone else seems to live there, Jimmy, the Upstarts, the Rejects, Kidz Next Door, Jimmy Edwards, Sham, er . . . Mike Read.
Honey agreed. “Yeah, I really like Surrey. I could also live in Birmingham. That’s a lovely place.” I would have thought Brixton was just as lovely — and nearer. We sipped our orange juice and swopped cigarettes. I noticed Honey’s mother’s beautiful nails. She had to be a manicurist. I wondered if there was more calling for that sort of thing in Birmingham.
Honey — real name Donna — is practical about her career, she is aware of the pit-falls and false values, thanks no doubt to Mr. Pursey, and is certain she will never change, however successful she may become. “I couldn’t just drop my friends ‘cos I was famous. Most of my friends are in the business anyway. I can’t seem to relate to other people, they want to know all about what you’re doin’, then knock you.”
Did your school friends envy you?
“Yeah really. I was always writing poetry even when I was very young and I suppose they didn’t understand.”
Do you find these experiences have helped your writing or can you write to order?
Honey was emphatic. “I have to be inspired by something. My music’s changing, getting better. I’m learning how to get across my ideas more. I’m not as punk as I used to be.”
Simon wanted to take pictures, Honey stood up, tightened her belt and said she didn’t want anything too sexy as that wasn’t her image. Perhaps he should photograph just her shoes in that case. Actually even they were quite sexy. Red suede affairs on thin heels, clinging seductively to her black stockinged curvaceous foot. Oh fuck it, photograph her spot. She must have a spot, everyone has a spot haven’t they?
“You can come to the Studio if you like on Monday I’ve invited all my friends.” Honey said to me before going out into the square to find a suitable tree for her spot. (Juxtaposition is a keyword in photography). It might be fun. Jimmy’s sessions are always tres amusant. We spend a good deal of the time throwing toilet rolls at each other and spilling coffee over the engineer and desk. The Tape Op. brings in fish and chips, a few of us drink Guiness and Pursey impervious to it all churns out the hits.
The tape ground to a clanging halt and Honey’s mother looked visibly relieved, reminding me of an air hostess whose plan had safely landed and who could now tell the passengers that a wing had dropped off earlier and it had been touch and go.
Oi fans might be interested that she also sang on the Angelic Upstarts Two Million Voices album and was going out with Cockney Rejects guitarist Micky Geggus for a while.
There’s a lot of talk about how mainstream poetry is nowadays, but back in the 80s we were covered in national music papers, to a predominantly non-poetry audience. It seems to me, that whilst we are in a healthy place with spoken word, we’re still reaching to niche audiences. Who’s to blame? I leave that for you to decide.
The NME, 5 May, 1984 reviews that years Poetry International.