Monthly Archives: July 2019

Fulton Street

This poem was in the premier issue of Steppingstones, ‘a literary anthology toward liberation’, summer, 1982. The anthology’s beginnings were readings given by many of the poets included for the editor, James B. Gwynne’s literature and composition classes at Malcom-King College in Harlem.
When in New York I used to visit the reggae shop Coxsone’s Music City at 3135 Fulton Street.

Fulton Street

I have walked these streets endlessly
The imprint of my heart lies
invisibly on its landmark

Fulton Street

Birdell’s screams funky Black music
Muhammad’s messengers hawk righteousness
Franklin’s men’s shop taunt brothers with

pink-pastel knits
orange-red corduroys
and green gators

the parasitic shopkeeper rushes out
collecting on our dreams

There are the smells:

Fish smells, rancid pork, and
yesterday’s stale vomit
Condoms float gently down crystal gutters

Pungent street incenses and peanut shops can’t
cover the putrid smell of oppression

The bothers dressed to kill

adorn the corners
beaver hats
cashmere coats
and not a dime

But that one gold tooth shines and flashes
‘I got soul’

Fulton Street

Idle beer-drinking men acknowledge me with
“Hey Fox,” “Queen,” or “Do it, baby,
dooooooooo it”

Fulton Street

$2 trick does a mean dangerous nod dance

further down graceful sistuh moves
sashaying hips
head elaborately constructed with a gele’
accenting her beauty

I look hard and long, both these women
are me

Fulton Street
and 16th check day
lines spilling out into the streets
“Mistuh please don’t run out of food stamps
before you get to me”

Fulton Street

Our laughter, our blues
Our ability to keep on keeping-on
saves us
through riot season
through hurt and horror
we conquer and somehow survive

If you listen, you will hear us:
through the howling moan of the wind
through our children’s laughter

You will see us:

in our dances, or cornrows, the
slick be-bop of our brothers

You will know us
You will know us

Fulton Street, my home!

Kim Jarvis

Ian Kennedy Martin

Titbits, number 4780, 3-9 November, 1977 has an article on the creator of The Sweeney and his writing.

It’s the Sweeney man – hot on the trail

When the creator of Britain’s most convincing television police series, The Sweeney, writes a novel you might expect it to be ultra-well researched for realism.
But Ian Kennedy Martin doesn’t like research because, he says, a writer can get bogged down in it. And he deliberately didn’t do much for his brilliant new thriller Re Kill.
And yet this story of a Viet Cong killer going to America to murder the men who wiped out his village, and then being chased to Albania by the CIA, is amazingly convincing.
“If you can make the characters real enough,” he told me, “it sounds as if they know what they’re talking about.”
Ian had to know a little about it too, but got his information painlessly. For data on the Feiseler Storch plane the CIA use to get behind the Ironworks (Military Intelligence slang, apparently, for the Iron Curtain) he simply went to his local library. He learned there that the aircraft can land within 80ft and that its engine can be heat-insulated to avoid the detection devices used to pick up the giveaway heat radiation from jets.

Train robber

An American who had worked in military intelligence supplied Ian with information to provide the book’s dramatic finale and guidebooks provided the layout of the 2,000-year-old Scutari fortress where Albanian partisans try to smoke out the Vietnamese fugitive from a mysterious underground factory built by Chinese workers masquerading as tourists.
Is any of the book – published by Heinemann at £4.50 – based on fact?
“It’s incredible but there are still 2,000 Chinese technicians in Albania,” said ian, “and I’ve a feeling they wouldn’t have been there for nothing.”
Has he been to any of the places he writes about so vividly?
“No,” he said. “I found that I write better about somewhere I haven’t been to.
“I’ve never been to America where Re Kill starts, but people have said that I’ve really captured the spirit of it.
“But the real truth is always more fascinating than fiction. There’s so much drama going on you don’t have to fabricate it.”
Ian had a good illustration of that when he paid a courtesy call to Scotland Yard at the start of the Sweeney.
“It seemed silly to be making a series about the Crime Squad without actually talking to the Flying Squad,” he said, “so an appointment was made.”
The senior detective Ian interviewed there was named Jack Slipper.
“I thought he was a little nervous,” Ian recalled. “The interview was quite short and he didn’t seem too sociable. Two days later I read that he’d left the meeting to go straight to Rio de Janeiro.”
Mr Slipper had another appointment – the abortive attempt to bring back runaway Great Train Robber Ronald Biggs.
Ian, 40, has left The Sweeney writing squad but, as he puts it, “laughs all the way to the bank”. He owns all the rights, including marketing, film and book deals.
Although he’s writing another thriller, he’s still got the television bug. He’s working on a new series – about a former Scotland Yard detective sacked for corruption who sets up a private detective agency with an American in London. Realism is guaranteed.

Tisha Browne

Mae West: A Treatise On Decay

This essay was published in American magazine New Masses, 9 October, 1934.

Mae West: A Treatise On Decay

When you consider Madame Du Barry and Nell Gwynne, it is evident that Mae West has made a mistake in confining her immorality to stage and screen. Granted that a woman of her intelligence could be prevailed upon to favor, a Congressman or a Secretary of War, the spectacle of Miss West affecting state policy as well as private temperatures is something which no future historian could afford to overlook. It is plain that on any basis of comparison she belongs to the great line.

There are so many indications of the breakdown of capitalist civilization that we are inclined to become tender and sympathetic in the midst of the debacle, much in the manner of “don’t cheer, boys; the poor devils are dying,” but it is obvious that Miss West, more than any of her associates, symbolizes the end of an epoch. Her stage plays, Sex and The Drag, uncovered such a horrifying picture of homosexuals, lesbians and ordinary degenerates that Miss West was sentenced to the work house for ten days as a way of restoring the faith of the populace in the great city. Her motives in presenting the plays were undoubtedly mercenary, but her attorneys overlooked a great opportunity of establishing her as a sociologist and humanitarian, moved solely by her concern for reform.

The movies were more astute in their management of her films. They retained the spiciness, the lustiness and bawdiness, but they carefully confined them to the past. In a sense it may be said that the golden era of Chuck Conners and the Bowery was bourgeois vigor at its peak. With all its dirt and squalor the Bowery managed to maintain an Elizabethan rowdiness and crudity which could pass as strength. The Puritan was at last defeated; men were again honest animals. They killed, they whored and they flaunted the broken bits of Methodist morality in the faces of the nice people who came down to look with fascinated horror at these mad barbarians.

The Christian fathers are quite correct in worrying about Miss West. Whether the success of her bawdiness is a sign that we have conquered Puritanism and are a mature people at last or whether it represents a complete collapse of morality, it is evident that it reveals the lack of authority of religion. The Catholic campaign for clean films succeeded in changing the title of the latest West film from It Ain’t No Sin to Belle of the Nineties but it is still Mae West in It Ain’t No Sin.

But it is in her stage plays that her significance lies. If we judged alone from her screen comedies we should be tempted to say that she represented sexual honesty in a world given over much too completely to the antics of the fairy. I refer to the world of the theater and to the race of people known as perverts. Without seeking to alarm you with a sensational expose of vice conditions in the green room, I may say merely that the condition within the profession is notorious. The facts of the matter are plain enough, but I may not be able to convince you that they have historical importance, and I am not even going to attempt to prove that the bitterly reactionary character of the stage, with the few exceptions you recognize so well, are the result in some small part of this disease. We know quite well that the reasons for reaction are class reactions and if I make any point at all in this respect it would be to indicate that introversion is essentially a class ailment and the direct result of a sybaritic life which finally results in profound boredom for lack of any further possible stimulation or titillation. It is invariably associated with those twin elements of perversion, sadism and masochism, and generally reveals itself among the thinned-out representatives of a decaying class. The sadistic cruelty of Hitlerism is no accident. It is the unmistakable symptom of an incurable malady.

I am not a psychologist and what I have to say about the coincidences of history in this regard are not to be taken as gospel from the scientific archangels, but three widely separated incidents prior to the World War have always struck me as being significant. There was first the Oscar Wilde case in England The divorce suit of Sir Charles Dilke with its resultant exposure of the hypocrisy and moral laxness of the aristocracy had been the first break in the dike of British class superiority. It showed that not only were the nobles human but they were something less than admirably human. Even this; however, was outshadowed by the revelations of the Wilde affair. The wave of indignation swept Wilde to jail, but it also revealed the fact that sexual debauchery was so common among the nobility that Frank Harris could report, without legal action being taken against him, that seventy-five members of the House of Lords were notorious perverts.

Not long after Germany was stirred by the revelations that Prince Philip Eulenberg, intimate friend of the Kaiser, had been accused by Maximilian Harden of indulging in unnatural vice. Harden had attacked Eulenberg publicly in his paper Zukunft, trying to force a charge of libel. Eulenberg refused and was disgraced. Evidence later produced in another trial at Munich proved conclusively that he was guilty. What was even more damning was the knowledge that others besides Eulenberg of the Imperial court were involved and that conditions were generally bad in high circles. The war came along several years later to place the world’s attention on other forms of perversion such as mass slaughter and it was only with the advent of the Fuehrer that homosexuality was raised to the rank of statesman ship.

There was a third case in Russia which practically coincided with the outbreak of the war. By a coincidence France at the same time was so stirred by the sensational trial arising out of the killing of Calmette, editor of Figaro, by Madame Caillaux that the death of the Archduke at Sarajevo was almost overlooked by the smartly gowned crowds who gathered in court each day for the details. In the same way the nobility of Russia could scarcely take their fascinated gazes away from the St. Petersburg scandal long enough to watch the troops marching to the front.

What Mae West did in the plays I have mentioned and what she does in her motion pictures is to show in her frank cynical way the depths to which capitalistic morality has come. There is an honesty in her playing which is even more devastating. It is not the bouncing lechery of Ben Jonson but the mean piddling lewdness of the middle classes getting their little hour of sin before the end. Miss West has a marvelous capacity for the theater and she acts in what might be termed the grand manner, but I can never hear her “C’m up and see me some time” without thinking of Ruth Snyder carrying on her cheap pathetic romance with Judd Gray. Because she epitomizes so completely the middle-class matron in her hour of license I feel that Miss West has never been properly appreciated as the First Artist of the Republic. It is palpable nonsense to be concerned about such children as Katherine Hepburn, who will he as forgotten as Mary Miles Minter in a few years’ time, when we possess a lady who could assume her position now as the Statue of Liberty and who so obviously represents bourgeois culture at its apex that she will enter history as a complete treatise on decay.

Robert Forsythe

A Sheffield Woman Looks At Hough McDiarmid

This poem appeared in Voices, the magazine of working class stories and poems that was based in Manchester. It was also in Writing, the 1978 anthology of work published by the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers.

A Sheffield Woman Looks At Hough McDiarmid

Bonny bragging babbling hard
over apt to talk too hard,
in amongst the straw and chaff
corn falls out that pays the draff.

Garrulity’s so much the mode
let’s be thankful yours is good;
but, lumme lad, tha’s o’er brash
wi’ a’ this swaggering male man trash.

Well I may, as poet, mock
this sort of little woman talk,
who as a woman knows the chore
that keeps such fellow on the floor
(while feeding, servicing my man
producing poetry where I can).

Frances Moore

Housing Committee

This poem from the transcript of The Poetry Gig, 1981

Housing Committee

If we put them there
They’ll be out of the way
No problem to anyone –
Except themselves
and each other

The bright and gaudy wallpaper
will conceal the greyness of their lives
And if they start to complain
we’ll put them higher in the sky
‘Til they just can’t be heard any more

The options are quite simple
Only I can’t find them on the files at the moment
Give us some time
and we’ll give you some pills
To keep you calm, keep you quiet

But don’t worry, they won’t go away
They’ll just linger on as you tear them apart
Hoping one day the sun will shine on them
If it can get past the slabs
You offer as homes.

Anne Clark

A Slice Of English Toast

Dub producer the Mad Professor is a national treasure these days. From the early 80s he was putting out reggae on his Ariwa label. The Dub Me Crazy series of dub albums were crucial and there’s a ranting link with the Anti Social Workers.
This review of a fine DJ album comes from Black Echoes, 4 December, 1982.

Ranking Ann: ‘A Slice of English Toast (Ariwa ARI 002 LP)
A Slice of English Toast: Black Rock Possee: Problem Lady: Moonlight Lover: Liberated Woman: Love on a Mountain Top

Ranking Ann is one Anne Swinton, who is presently studying sociology in Birmingham and this is her first album, presenting six interpretations of Ariwa rhythms. Sister Nancy and Ranking Ann provide a refreshing female insight into the male-dominated toasting world of reggae. They reveal the other side of the coin where it’s the woman with the brew and the spliff whilst the men are just another accessory.
Some of these rhythms will be familiar, ‘Problem Lady’ is a new out-cut from sessions when Horsemouth was in town. Otthers are ‘A Slice of English Toast’, (Audrey Donegan’s ‘English Girl’), ‘Black Rock Possee’ – the strongest track by far, (Tony Benjamin’s ‘Psychological Pen’), ‘Moonlight Lover’ (‘Drum Song’), ‘Liberated Woman’ ( Aquizim’s ‘Concrete Slave Ship’) and ‘Love on a Mountain Top’ (Davina Stone’s ‘Lonely’).
The rhythms are all syphoned through the Mad Professor’s mixing desk and dressed with plenty of echo and reverb. Their fault is their similarity. Each rhtyhm falls in line with the one before and the one after., played with identical intensity and at the same tempo.
Ultimately it’s up to Ann to liven the pace, a task that she tackles head on.
Women DJs are a new phenomenon and that alone will create interest in this record.

Jon Futrell

An Accidental Jailer

Mod favourite Colin MacInnes was an author and anarchist. This article is from Anarchy, number 10, December, 1961.

Notes of an Accidental Jailer

COLIN MACINNES is the author of three remarkable novels of London life in the fifties, City of Spades, Absolute Beginners, and Mr. Love and Justice. His recent book of essays England, Half English gave him the reputation of “England’s most sensitive recorder of the contemporary scene.”

THE LEAST EXPERIENCE OF PRISONS teaches you that they’re criminal universities for prisoners; they morally corrupt all law-enforcement officers; they make criminal the societies they’re intended to ‘protect’.
Like every human creature I have ever met or heard of, I am in part evil. Between the convicted and the unconvicted, the only differences I can see are those of fact, or of degree, not that of essence. Morally, we’re all in the nick; but most of us are lucky, prudent, or our private evil’s licensed by our laws.
Criminal law, in any society, is a haphazard approximation – usually with a time-lag of at least 50 years – to whatever this society supposes absolute law to be: the law of God, of Marx, or of a terrified Caribbean general. The varieties of crime – and therefore ‘criminal’ – in the world today are eccentric, extensive, totally irrational.
But even when the rules are understood, their application fluctuates from man to man. I was once accused of a crime in company with fourteen others. Two of us only were acquitted, since we could both pay for lawyers.

Unless a man is rich or of strong nerve, the real trial happens before he ever sees a court. The first 24 hours after arrest – especially the first hour – determine subsequent police procedure. If he’s alone, frightened, friendless, he’ll convict himself – whether guilty, innocent, or ‘guilty in fact but not by evidence’.
Are coppers monsters, then? Do they use violence, perjury, can they be corrupted? And if they do and can, who is “to blame” for this?
Direct knowledge – let alone common-sense – must tell us violence is used. You’re one, they’re six, it’s 3 a.m., you ‘don’t want to co-operate’ … what on earth must happen? When your ‘case’ comes up (one of hundreds they’ve handled – perjury ceases to be a ‘problem’), are they going to ‘tell the whole truth’ against their profoundest professional instincts? In the criminal world, if a discreet man with fivers falling out of his ears offers money to a man much poorer, yet momentarily powerful, how likely will the poorer man be to refuse it?

But let us consider the policeman’s problem. In countries where it’s realised what coppers are and must be (i.e. in every one, it seems, except our own), he’s not subjected, as he is in England, to the contradictory public pressures of both ‘getting his man’, and being a knight in shining armour. Further, because of his perilous power, he’s exposed, throughout his professional life, to terrible moral dangers. To be a good copper, and a good man is, in these conditions, almost to be a saint. In addition, he’s lonely: for despite archaic (largely bourgeois) legends of the public’s trust in him, he’s really a soldier of an occupation army. Also, his job’s bloody dangerous, come to think of it.

What is detestable in England isn’t coppers, isn’t criminals, but the wilful dishonesty of the right-thinking public that expects an idiot like Dixon of Dock Green to get results … and thinks of the ‘criminal classes’ as if such a ‘class’ were hereditary and permanent. What we should feel for coppers, and for criminals, is positive pity: if only for this reason – the intense sadness of their lives. (And may I add a current example of this high-minded obliqueness – which my gentle readers will like less, I imagine – and that is the shocked indignation of those who sat down in Trafalgar Square, at their subsequent treatment by the police. What sort of world do they think they live in? Don’t they know ‘civil disobedience’ is militant – or meaningless? Didn’t Gandhi’s followers get their way in the end precisely because they understood what they were doing? Aren’t there hundreds of thousands of Continental Europeans who’ve suffered, often anonymously, for their ideas? Can’t they realize the honour, and effectiveness, of a political prisoner is that he’s treated worse? Of course they’re right to protest! But the tone of injured amazement – ‘they can’t do this to me’ – is immodest, unrealistic, and ‘respectable’).

And what of the Courts? First, it has always seemed to me bizarre that men (barristers – not even solicitors) who spend half their lives pleading cases this way or that for fees, should suddenly be deemed objective underneath a judge’s wig. Any experience of their conduct and pronouncements must give them top marks for knowledge of the rules (the Law), often for ‘impartiality’ (within the limitations of these laws) – and no marks at all for any direct knowledge of the ‘criminal world’. It is as if there were a kind of doctor called a Diagnostician, who’d never been inside a hospital, not even lanced a boil – but who could decide, simply by hearing others, what fatal operation was best for you and me.

I cannot take any judge – or magistrate – seriously for a second who has learned of crime only at second hand, like a voyeur peering at a brothel. Nor anyone who judges yet who has not seen, himself feeling it in the flesh, the physical and moral consequences of his sentences – including hanging.
So what, clever boy, do you propose? As usual, a totally impractical idea, that better men than I have long known before, and which no doubt will – in several hundred years or so – become a commonplace. Namely, that the responsibility for criminals is society’s. We now accept that children, or the sick (but not yet the mentally sick, or the very old), should be cared for, and protected by those of us who are adults in good health. In any society I’d not be ashamed of, a criminal act by one of us should immediately be the intense, prior preoccupation of at least half-a-dozen of his fellows. The ‘prison’ I envisage is one where every malefactor would find at once surrounding him a dozen who, recognizing their own evil in him, would try to help him out as a voluntary human duty (and a f–g nuisance it would be, admittedly).
This means, of course, a reform not of prisons, but of ourselves: since ‘prison reform’ is an illusion, or at best a palliative. So long as we are inwardly attracted by crime, as we are – just look at any of the mass media if you’re doubtful about this – we will have prisons, and remain criminals outside them. Until we face our own, we shall project it onto others; and crime and criminals will attract us as deeply as they repel us. Criminal law, and law-enforcement officers, make crime: if you don’t believe me, consult the shades of Beria or of Himmler … though they, of course, were foreigners.
In spring 1945, by an extraordinary series of accidents, I found myself ad hoc ‘governor’ of a German prison containing 1,200 (approximately – no one knew the exact number) prisoners, some Allied, some German, some political, some criminal. My ‘duty’ was to let out only the Allied politicals; but by the time I was superseded, everyone was out except for a hundred or so (‘or so’!) German murderers, rapists, bludgeoners and so forth. My only regret now is at my timorous prejudice against letting everybody out while I still could– against letting these demons out into a safe, pure world where 15 million Europeans had just recently been murdered legally.
So one of those released murderers might have killed you?’ I hope I am true to myself in saying I’d rather he did, than be responsible for what I saw inside that prison.