Monthly Archives: March 2020

Misty Sleeps

Misty, the spooky comic for girls that sparked goth, often had a poem from a reader. This is from 7 July, 1979.

Misty Sleeps

Dear Misty, do you sleep at night
With slime-muck on your bed?
With bats flying above you
And slugs uppn your head.
With spiders crawling up your arms
And ear-wigs up your legs.
With something slithering down your neck
And termites on your teeth.
With gnats swarming on your hands
And crawling underneath.
It must be awful lying there
With something creeping in your hair,
But there’s no other place for you,
Though I wouldn’t like to sleep there, too.

Tanya Rhodes
Beckenham, Kent

I do assure you, Tanya, the Cavern of Dreams
is rather more comfortable than you imagine –
Misty

Pat Arrowsmith – Freedom

From the 1969 Corgi anthology Doves For the 70s. Written by the imprisoned Pat Arrowsmith, she was an active socialist and peace campaigner.

Freedom
(Holloway, Spring 1969)

Here at least, I thought,
I shall find freedom.
Here in prison all encumbrances
will be removed.
I shall be left without the burden of
possessions, responsibilities, relationships.
Alone and naked I shall feel
a fresh wind over my entire uncluttered body
blow each pore clear,
cooling and cleaning every crevice.

At last I shall know the relief of
simply obeying orders,
owning nothing,
caring for no-one,
being uncared for.

I shall sit content for hours on end
in a bare cell,
glad to be cut off from
things, people, commitments and the
confusing world outside.

But I was wrong.
There is no freedom here –
prison is the world in microcosm.

In my locker is a cache of valuables:
needle, cotton, nail-file, pencil.
My wages buy me fruit and biscuits which
I hoard and hide,
fearing they’ll get stolen.

Meticuously I arrange the flowers that
outside friends send in:
carefully decorate my cell with cut out pictures;
get flustered if I lose my mug or bucket.

I am no hermit from the outside world,
but strain through busy days to read
each item in the newspapers.
International problems follow me inside;
a prisoner is picked on – she is coloured.

Every evening I am forced to choose
between a range of recreations:
I may read or dance or take a bath,
go to class, play darts or
watch the news.

I am seldom on my own:
a geometry of love, hate, friendship
forms about me.
Someone calls my name,
enters my cell,
asks a favour,
makes some claim upon me.

And I marvel
as I lie alone at night
that this world is as complex as the other;
that even here in jail I am not free to
lose my freedom.

Pat Arrowsmith

The Harder They Come

The book reviewed by Vivien Goldman in NME, 25 October, 1980.

The Harder They Come
By Michael Thelwell
(Pluto press £2.95)

The movie that inspired this book refused to go away. It crept out, disappeared, then just when it seemed to have sunk without trace, it started turning up again, like that old war wound, nagging at the art houses and late-night fleapits of many nations. Perry Henzell’s film has true staying-power.
It defined Jamaica – and through the classic soundtrack album (barely audible in the film itself), reggae – to generation after generation; probably becasue of its uncanny accuracy.
Henzell may not have realised how acutely he pinpointed the runnings, in his adaption of True Story of ranki’ Rhygin, the country boy gone city who becomes enmeshed in the only available business, ganga. He’s a charismatic outlaw, toting his gun with as much aplomb as his snazzy thread, dodging cops and soldiers while his record rules the charts, women clinging to him intimately as sweat.
This incandescent transmutation of reality into wish-fulfilment into myth fired the spirit of Michael Thelwell, a teacher of Third World literature at the University of Massachusetts, as it affected many others. He wrote this big fat book to expunge the THTC germ that infected his blood, in the same way that Jean Rhys wrote her classic Wide Sargasso Sea when Bronte’s Jane Eyre stuck in her psyche. Like an oyster, she coated the irritant into a pearl. This is not, however, the book of the film.
Thelwell’s prose resembes a big bowl of Jamaican cornmeal porridge. With scholarly attention to minutiae, he fleshes out the film, laboriously explaining Jamaican cultural traditions, lifestyle and vocabulary as he goes; it seems as much for his own benefit as the reader’s. Until Thelwell shifts into fourth, two thirds of the way through, where he starts taking on the voice of character after character, his narrative voice is a Jamaican grandmother telling a fairy-tale, with relish, but slowly. Grown up, there’s nothing of the film’s – of Rankin’ Rhygin’s – slick flash aspirations embedded in this book. it’s heavy going to read, and feels like it was heavy going to write, too, though it’s informative. It took me a long time to read, but I kept on wanting to come back to it -perhaps I was even savouring it slowly, as a slow book should be tasted.
By the end, I understood why Niney the Observer, years ago, showed me excitedly around Bunny Lee’s Kingston bungalow, at the foot of the Hellshire Hills. Bunny sat solidly in an armchair, not exactly firing on all cylinders that afternnon. Jah Stitch lolled on the couch, eating bananas.
“We are cowboys, and this is our ranch!” Niney almost stammered in enthusiasm.
I was slightly bemused at his choice of words; this corral seemed just – OK. After reading this book, I have a greater socio-historical grasp of his vocabulary. But you can dance to the film.

Vivien Goldman

The Bad Thing

John Wain (1925-1994) was an English writer associated with the ‘Angry Young Men’ and ‘The Movement’.
This is from his 1956 collection, A Word Carved on a Sill.

The Bad Thing

Sometimes just being alone seems the bad thing
Solitude can swell until it blocks the sun,
It hurts so much, even fear, even worrying
Over the past and future, get stifled. It has won,
You think; this is the bad thing, it is here.
Then sense comes; you go to sleep, or have
Some food, write a letter or work, get something clear.
Solitude shrinks; you are not all its slave.

Then you think: the bad thing inhabits yourself.
Just being alone is nothing; not pain, not balm.
Escape, into poem, into pub, wanting a friend
Is not avoiding the bad thing. The high shelf
Where you stacked the bad thing, hoping for calm,
Broke. It rolled down. It follows you to the end.

John Wain

Coronavirias

Coronavirias

I met a traveller from a Poundland,
Who said—“Two vast and discount toilet rolls
Stand in the Sainsburys. . . . Near them, on the stand,
Half sunk a shattered hand sanitizer lies, worn down,
And wrinkled tip, and nearby a coal tar multipack,
Tell that its panic buyer well those passions read
Which yet survive, price stamped on these lifeless things,
Hands washed to National Anthem, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Coronavirus, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal shop, boundless and bare
The lone and level stands stretch far away.”

Tim Wells

Kissing Asses

Patti Smith in the 1970 production Femme Fatale: The Three Faces of Gloria. The show was described as “A Religious Entertainment,” and was written by Jackie Curtis, a drag artist who first performed in Tom Eyen’s “Miss Nefertiti Regrets” at La MaMa in 1965. The show combined familiar religious and movie scenes with “bizarre contemporary situations,” according to the rave review published in the newspaper Show Business by Frank Lee Wilde.
Also in the clip are Wayne County and Penny Arcade.

The 2-Tone Story

George Marshall’s history of 2 Tone in the NME, 16 June, 1990.

The 2-Tone Story
George Marshall (Zoot £5.95)

The post-punk ska and mod revivals were not just transient trends to George Marshall, they were “a way of life … thurning the world of bubble gum pop upside down and giving it a good kick up the arse”. It’s tempting to dismiss the editor of Zoot! magazine and Skinhead Times as yet another living museum trapped by the blinkered tastes of his youth, but this volume is too well written and researched to qualify as fanzine froth.
Taking his cue from the music he adores, Marshall attempts a straightforward, black-and-white (ho ho) dissection of the 2-Tone label’s chequered (hee hee) history. Which means Jerry Dammers and The Specials story, right from their days supporting The Damned, fruitless flirtation with Clash manager Bernie Rhodes (about whom they penned ‘Gangsters’) to their eventual co-opting by Chrysalis.
Famous names punctuate their travels – Madness, Dexy’s, a recurring Costello connection – and despite his hardcore attitude, Marshall enthuses about changes in direction like ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ and the polished ‘In The Studio’ album. Underneath his just-the-facts style lies a deadpan wit, mocking pundits who read too much into the movement and the tabloids’ racism smears.
Not that he glosses over the NF and BM links – “The Specials on Top Of The Pops did more to promote racial harmony than a thousamd RAR badges” – even though the 4 Skins-inspired Southall riot is described fairly ambiguously.
But the overall message is a celebration of good-time music and the power of political pop, despite Dammers’ assertion that “it’s all capitalism.” Marshall writes with authority and enthusiasm while never getting ideas above his station: “If the only thing this book achieves is the correct spelling of The Selecter, I’ll die a happy man.
(Zoot Publishing Ltd. PO Box 202, Glasgow G12 8EQ).

Stephen Dalton

Letter From A Man In Solitary

Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet was sentenced to 35 years prison in 1938, the year he wrote this poem.

Letter From a Man in Solitary

I carved your name on my watchband
with my fingernail.
Where I am, you know,
I don’t have a pearl-handled jackknife
(they won’t give me anything sharp)
or a plane tree with its head in the clouds.
Trees may grow in the yard,
but I’m not allowed
to see the sky overhead…..
How many others are in this place?
I don’t know.
I’m alone far from them,
they’re all together far from me.
To talk anyone besides myself
is forbidden.
So I talk to myself.
But I find my conversation so boring,
my dear wife, that I sing songs.
And what do you know,
that awful, always off-key voice of mine
touches me so
that my heart breaks.
And just like the barefoot orphan
lost in the snow
in those old sad stories, my heart
– with moist blue eyes
and a little red runny rose-
wants to snuggle up in your arms.
It doesn’t make me blush
that right now
I’m this weak,
this selfish,
this human simply.
No doubt my state can be explained
physiologically, psychologically, etc.
Or maybe it’s
this barred window,
this earthen jug,
these four walls,
which for months have kept me from hearing
another human voice.
It’s five o’clock, my dear.
Outside,
with its dryness,
eerie whispers,
mud roof,
and lame, skinny horse
standing motionless in infinity
-I mean, it’s enough to drive the man inside crazy with grief-
outside, with all its machinery and all its art,
a plains night comes down red on treeless space.
Again today, night will fall in no time.
A light will circle the lame, skinny horse.
And the treeless space, in this hopeless landscape
stretched out before me like the body of a hard man,
will suddenly be filled with stars.
We’ll reach the inevitable end once more,
which is to say the stage is set
again today for an elaborate nostalgia.
Me,
the man inside,
once more I’ll exhibit my customary talent,
and singing an old-fashioned lament
in the reedy voice of my childhood,
once more, by God, it will crush my unhappy heart
to hear you inside my head,
so far
away, as if I were watching you
in a smoky, broken mirror…

2

It’s spring outside, my dear wife, spring.
Outside on the plain, suddenly the smell
of fresh earth, birds singing, etc.
It’s spring, my dear wife,
the plain outside sparkles…
And inside the bed comes alive with bugs,
the water jug no longer freezes,
and in the morning sun floods the concrete…
The sun-
every day till noon now
it comes and goes
from me, flashing off
and on…
And as the day turns to afternoon, shadows climb the walls,
the glass of the barred window catches fire,
and it’s night outside,
a cloudless spring night…
And inside this is spring’s darkest hour.
In short, the demon called freedom,
with its glittering scales and fiery eyes,
possesses the man inside
especially in spring…
I know this from experience, my dear wife,
from experience…

3

Sunday today.
Today they took me out in the sun for the first time.
And I just stood there, struck for the first time in my life
by how far away the sky is,
how blue
and how wide.

Then I respectfully sat down on the earth.
I leaned back against the wall.
For a moment no trap to fall into,
no struggle, no freedom, no wife.
Only earth, sun, and me…
I am happy.

Nazim Hikmet
1938