Category Archives: Ranters

Pat Arrowsmith

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
and us?

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
horrifying caption.
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.

Pat Arrowsmith


The Harlem Dancer

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

Claude McKay (1889-1944) was a Jamaican poet and an important writer in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.

Poetry International ’84

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.

Nico/JCC/Jock Scott

From the NME, 2 February, 1985

Nico/John Cooper Clarke
Jock Scott/Rythmic Itch

Nico – desperate, soporific, croaky old Nico – is, basically, the Salford of Johnny Clarke’s sickest fantasies: she drains you, nags you, relentlessly bores you, makes you redundant. The best you can do is try not to notice. Occupy your mind with something else. Watch people watching her, watch them being mesmerised by lack of purpose, movement, anything. Queueing up as a state of mind.
And the songs? What are they like? Come on, you tell me. I asked Lemmy, who was wandering about, to tell me. He said the songs were like Auschwitz set to music. Me, I think that’s going a bit far. Music? Get out, this is more than music, more than the lack of it, more than the support act, Rythmic Itch, could cobble together in a lifetime of neat little melodies and sweet little hair-dos.
In contrast, John Cooper Clarke’s sharpened up on his Jimmy Savile impersonations to the point of eeriness (and what a contrast – imagine Nico pretending to be Jimmy Savile). Between non-well-worn oldies he gives us the even more familiar guys-and-gals banter, one point for the year, two points if you can remember the title of the song, and hows about that?
Cut the cack, jack. Better-oiled than I’ve seen him, he unravels the usual scabrous verses – ‘Beesley St’, ‘Nothing’, ‘Twat’, ‘The Pest’ and so on – at such a rate that you’re always struggling to catch up, to make sense. Focus on a phrase, grasp its meaning, and others will ricochet around you, hit you in the face, make you laugh.
Basically: salford’s a dump; dull, daft, rotting, full of damaged, deranged people who have no understanding of the technology which shapes their world. Also, a woman goes to the doc, says she has a farting problm, not that they smell, you understand, but the noise is so embarrassing and the doc says do one then and she does and he says I’m going to have to operate and she says what on my arse and he says no on your nose
And so to the evening’s pinnacle, a poem by Jock Scott at his laconic best; pointless, rubbishy, hilarious: ‘The Wag Club’. “Last night I went to the Wag/I took a bird home for a shag/and afterwards I had a fag.” nasty one, Jock. So why laugh? BUT WE DO.

William Leith


Don Drummond

This poem by Anthony McNeill (1941-1996) mourns Skatalites trombonist Don Drummond.


for the D
‘To John Coltrane: the heaviest spirit’
from Black Music, LeRoi Jones

may I learn the shape of that hurt
which captured you nightly into
dread city, discovering through
streets steep with the sufferer’s beat:

teach me to walk through jukeboxes
and shadow that broken music
whose irradiant stop is light,
guide through those mournfullest journeys

I back into harbour Spirit
in heavens remember we now
and show we a way into praise,
all seekers together, one-heart:

and let we lock conscious when wrong
and Babylon rock back again:
in the evil season sustain
o heaviest spirit of sound.

Anthony McNeill