Category Archives: Ranters

Yen Li

Yen Li is a punk rocking poet from Vancouver. Her poetry is usually angry, confident, and often takes a traditional Chinese poem as its base.
She worked in a Mah Jong parlour and went to a lot of gigs.
This poem was first published in 1993.

Why I Won’t Eat Chinese Food
In Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Mistaken for a waitress!
Will not wear
white blouse
to Chinese restaurant again.

I deal Mah Jong,
don’t sling dishes.
Poker-faced across plates,
not tipping.

Too cold!
for cantonese hyphenated canadian.
Noodles lacked vigour.
This girl does not respect limpness.

No squid.
No pigface.
Just beef.
Beef, beef, beef.

In diners I ask white guys
to pass the syrup.
Never expect them
to cook me pancakes too.

Yen Li


To The Anarchists

This poem Anarkhistam in the original Russian appeared in Burevestnik, 5 March, 1918.

To The Anarchists

The time has come
To throw off the yoke
Of capitalism.
All fetters,
And priests.
For order
And science
And laws –
What are they?
From boredom
By great men
In cabinets!
The old world
We’ll destroy
And wreck
And burn!
Not ‘order’.
We’ll build,
Without it
We’ll live!
But the great
To bayonets
Cannot fall!
Before it
On their knees
All will bend,
Even authority!
So quickly
My brothers
Let’s raise
The black flag!
And grasp
The hand
Off all
The oppressed!

Viktor Triuk

The Last Poem

In Paris, behind Notre Dame Cathedral, on a wall at the memorial to the 200,000 French deportees to Nazi death camps, visitors find lines once known as “The Last Poem” by surrealist poet Robert Desnos:

I have dreamt so very much of you,
I have walked so much,
Loved your shadow so much,
That nothing more is left to me of you.
All that remains to me is to be the shadow among shadows
To be a hundred times more of a shadow than the shadow
To be the shadow that will come and come again into
your sunny life.

Purportedly, the manuscript was found in the poet’s pocket following his death from typhoid, after the Red Army liberated Terezin, a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.
A newspaper obituary for the famous Parisian writer, whom someone on the nursing staff had recognized, included lines in Czech translated from a love poem Desnos had published back in 1930, which was – as literary scholars found – subsequently mistranslated back into French as the poem inscribed on the wall of the memorial President Charles de Gaulle inaugurated in 1962.
Whilst Desnos never exactly wrote it, this text acquired an honoured place in the Holocaust canon.

Last known photo of Robert Desnos, Theresienstadt concentration camp, 1945.

Tales Of Ordinary Madness

The film version of Charles Bukowski’s book reviewed in Soundmaker, 21 May, 1983.

Tales Of Ordinary Madness

Displaying a suicidal recklessness totally compatibable with its central character ‘Tales Of Ordinary Madness’ is an unbalanced and immature film which convinces us of its ‘Beat era’ authenticity but fails to portray this most poetic and alluring of eras in anything but the most unimpressive, almost comical light. Its attempts at profundity are crass and overstated, and all impact is lost in a mass of ridiculously cliched and gross scenes.
Based on the autobiography of anarchistic poet Charles Bukowski, Marco Ferreri’s film focuses on the self-imposed trials and tortures of a wanton slob whose appetite for art (which he calls ‘style’) does not match his appetites for alcohol and sex. We meet his former wife, his dsperate lovers and his vagabond associates, as we follow his quest for fulfillment through the random lust and excessive indulgence of his self-destructive urges.
Each of his lovers supposedly symbolises some vast platitude – his Oedipus complex is repulsively depicted, his animal instincts are parodied and abused, and his one pure love, for the sultry and pathetic Cass (enigmatically played by Ornella Muti), is inconsistent and patchy, ending in pathos rather than tragedy.
As the saga of his conquests and failures winds on, he seems to lose interest completely and falls asleep on the part, lapsing into a coma so convincing that one wonders if his rate of wine consumption was played for real.
Ferreri’s direction aims, nobly enough, for the realism and painful passion of “Last Tango in Paris”, but Gazzara cannot catch Brando’s shadow.

Chris Roberts

The Woman I Was Supposed To Be

This poem was in Cheryl B’s 1998 collection, Motor Oil Queen. The much missed Cheryl was born in 1972 and was a favourite on New York’s spoken word scene. She was working class and wrote about class, sexuality, feminism and swore a lot. She had a fierce sense of humour which characterised her poetry.
Her revolt was language and in spelling and using words correctly.
She read many times in the UK and influenced Salena Godden and Roddy Lumsden, amongst others.

The Woman I Was Supposed To Be

The woman I was suposed to be has long highlighted hair and fake green contact lenses.

The woman I was suposed to be has had liposuction to remove the tiny packets of fat and other indecencies from her body.

The woman I was suposed to be cries during Hallmark commercials.

The woman I was suposed to be loves tasti-d-lite, tanning salons and precious moments statues.

The woman I was suposed to be has a successful career in a professional field and/or a rich husband.

The woman I was suposed to be wears a gold pendant around her neck that says “spoiled rotten”, “princess”, or spells her name out in diamonds.

The woman I was suposed to be enjoys shopping at Pier 1 imports wth her mother.

The woman I was suposed to be doesn’t sleep around, but gives blow jobs because if there’s no intercourse then it isn’t sex.

The woman I was suposed to be represses her lesbian desires.

As I sit here writing this, I think of the many ways my life falls short of these expectations and sometimes I question my choices. How I have missed out on this woman’s life sugar highs and valium lows where dreams are kept safely locked in a bedside journal and not a hair falls out of place.

I imagine that she is still a part of me, she lives in the fat on the back of my arm and when I feel that uncontrollable urge to match my socks with my t-shirt she is asserting her prowess over me. When my cheap panties cost more than my weekly food budget it is she who has purchased them.

As a matter of fact I could blame all the ills of my life on her, but that wouldn’t be fair.

Maybe I’m more like her than I let on
maybe we are just two peas stuck in the same pod
two potheads stuck in front of the same t.v.
except that I have control of the remote.

Cheryl B

October 1936

From Stepney Words II, 1971.

October 1936

We stood at Gardiner’s Corner,
We stood and watched the crowds,
We stood at Gardiner’s Corner,
Firm, solid, voices loud.

Came the marching of the blackshirts,
Came the pounding of their feet,
Came the sound of ruffians marching,
Where the five roads meet.

We thought of many refugees
fleeing from the fascist hordes,
The maimed, the sick,
The young, the old,
Those who had fought the fascist lords.

So we stopped them there at Gardiner’s,
We fought and won our way.
We fought the baton charges,
No fascist passed that day!

Milly Harris
Age 65