Monthly Archives: May 2018

Marie Osmond Goes Dada

Marie Osmond was co-host, with Jack Palance, of the American TV show Ripley’s Believe It Or Not from 1984 to 86. In the show, little topic clusters (like “weird language”) were introduced by one of the hosts. In this case, the frame was Cabaret Voltaire. Marie was required to read Hugo Ball’s 1916 sound poem ‘Karawane’ and a few script lines. Much to everybody’s surprise, as they started filming she looked away from the cue cards directly to camera and recited, by memory, ‘Karawane’.

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Kronstadt 1917

This poem by an anarchist sailor appeared in Vol’nyi Kronshtadt, October 1917.

Appeal

Come gather beneath the black banner
Men of honour, of struggle and toil,
Come ignite the fires of rebellion
In the hearts of the chained and oppressed.

Awaken your slumbering Russia
Call the people to enter the fight
To strike down the sated bloodsuckers
And cast off the tyrannous yoke.

Go down into the damp cellars
Where the slaves of poverty die
Where echo the moans of the injured
And darkness reigns unopposed.

Go down if your hearts are atremble
If your spirits with goodness are full
Where blood flows like rivers in springtime
And the earth shakes from groans of the poor.

We are tired of this evil tragedy
Of the eternal torments of fate
So advance to the world of Anarchism
To the world of the scared Commune.

Seaman Stepan Stepanov

80s Poetry By James Berry

The Winter 1989/90 issue of Poetry Review, the Poetry Society’s august organ, Vol. 79 No. 4, looked back over the 1980s with a number of poets looking back over the decade. This was when the Poetry Society was based in Earl’s Court and had little but sneers for spoken word. Most of the poets penning their opinions on the decade don’t get further than academia and the establishment but James Berry brings some welcome observations.

The ’80s expanded our vision a little. Fear, prejudice and injustice under attack, a little fresh consciousness seemed to emerge in the vision of our society’s institutions. They seem to have come round to looking at some cruelly excluded people’s situation. This means that protests, ongoing battles, struggles and clamours of past decades finally broke down some traditional race, sex, academic and general elite-barriers in the ’80s. Black people and women express increased participation in public life as in the arts, poetry writing reflects this.
For black writers who draw on a Caribbean culture, their participation on the British scene has meant that the narrow trail they ignited in the ’70s exploded widely in the ’80s. With their cultural distinctiveness, the Caribbean-background poets broke through and launched a poetry performance revolution. Best known as the main contributor to that enlivening of things is Linton Kwesi Johnson. In his role of both performer and recording artist Johnson’s voice rang from the ’70s to the 80’s. In his impact and influence, and with the poetry scene appearing to obviously need a fresh distinctive Black-British poet’s voice, Benjamin Zephaniah emerged.
Personally, as one of those writers whose poem was picked anonymously from thousands of entries – being the 1981 winner of the National Poetry Competition – when I was told I burst out with shocked laughter with the thrill and surprise of it. Then, later on, another pleasurable poetry involvement happened: being editor of News for Babylon working with Andrew Motion, then the Chatto Poetry Editor. To see that book arrive in print in 1984, all ready, with the work of 40 poets whose voices and experiences shared a book that had never come together before under the heading of Black-British poetry, I could hardly believe it. And still, the book makes me feel that getting it into print was a unique opportunity for me. But, also, Paula Burnett’s scholarly treatment of Penguin Caribbean Verses in 1986 amassed the overall wealth of Caribbean poetry from ‘oral’ to the ‘literary traditions’. It was good to see that self-imposed undertaking that got people’s voices together so wall as they trekked through a painful history. And now, also as editor, adding to his own prolific output, E.A. Markham works to let 1989 deliver Hinterland, the Bloodaxe Books Caribbean Verse. Significantly too, the year 1988 gave us Right of Way, some prose and poetry from the Asian Women Writers’ Workshop. Can we now look forward to a comprehensive anthology of Asian poets in Britain in the coming decade?
Released from a Russian labour camp in 1986, Irina Ratushinskaya cam to Britain and brought the opportunity to hear her readings and feel the unusual spirit that appears from he work.
While poetry on TV has stayed with the comic stuff and the non-appearance of serious or simply straight contemporary writing – not given space like, say, music is – those exceptions of Derek Walcott on the South bank Show, filmed in the Caribbean, and Tony Harrison’s BBC programme ‘The Blasphemer’s Banquet’ for salmon Rushdie exposed samples of the word art that the public was denied ordinarily, and also showed the success a wholehearted commitment to poetry can achieve. And, with radio, giving the format and space it has come to allow ‘Time for Verse’. Radio 4 has made popular radio look as if it wants to stop being condescending with the poetry it offers its listeners.
Of all the poetry books of the decade I have looked at, bought and read, none has won my admiration as much as Voices Within the Ark. Edited by Howard Schwartz and Anthony Rudolf and published by Avon Books, New York, 1980, this amazing international anthology received that kind of unflinching commitment which brought 350 modern Jewish poets together from over 40 nations and coped with translations from more than 20 languages.

James Berry

Exiles

This anonymous poem was in Banshee, No 7, February, 1975. This was the journal of Irish Women United

Exiles

We
have no part
in this world,
they made it
not us.

The rules are
theirs,
The power is
theirs
The monuments
and the wars,
Even the Gods,
are theirs.

We do not live
in their world.
We survive
in occupied territory
They offer us reservations,
We want a revolution

And it depends
on us, my love
only we and
our sisters,
can reclaim our heritage,
recreate our past
and forge the future

So when we fight
and split ourselves
over their hairs,
I tremble
for our dreams

For we are all
we can discover
of that age
of women,
and our fragile dreams
are all we can imagine
of the times to come.