One of Scotland’s finest drops a poem.
One of Scotland’s finest drops a poem.
Punk fanzine Scrobe, No. 5, 1984, from Whitehaven, Cumbria, came with a booklet of poems by Oggy.
Woman of the Eighties
Lace up boots and peroxide hair,
Woman of the eighties she don’t care.
Drugs and drink become her life,
She don’t want to be one wife.
All she wants is eternal youth
Behind her eyes she’ll hide the truth.
But cometh the day when all shall be told,
In the morgue lies the body stiff and cold.
The monsters have come to take the key.
To unlock the tale of the rhapsody.
The gate shall open, uninviting
While hollows open hot and stifling
A tear trickles from an onlooking eye,
A woman of the eighties screams
Her last goodbye.
Commended poem from the Write a Poem to Speak Competition as published in Speech & Drama, Vol 39, No 2, Autumn 1990. This was a Spoken Poetry issue.
Gretel Explains Feminism
Why should your name come first?
It’s not even alphabetical sense.
Yet here it is –
‘Big H and his sister
have adventures in the woods.’
Smacks of incest if you ask me.
‘Old woman offers sweets to a boy.’
Not even a mention this time.
Look at the anonymity of this one
‘Children bring house down.’
And this last really takes the biscuit.
How macho can you get?
‘Girl rescued by man with big chopper.’
John C. Desmond
Michael Horovitz in Sounds, 13 March 1982, puts in a watercolour of a letter after an article on that years Poetry Olympics.
Comrade Paul Butterfield gets a mention, who was often at the Orient with his dad.
Bushell’s rampage with Attila the Stockbroker (Sounds February 27) sabotages the credibility of its promotion of Attila by being so scornful of everything and everyone else spat on in passing. Just seven examples for the record:-
1: To kill a few myths before rumour becomes ‘fact’: by Attila’s own definition of the ‘gig-crash’ – “jumping on stage uninvited and having a go, invariably half-cut”, he and Seething Wells most certainly did not “crash the Poetry Olympics at the Young Vic ‘for a crack'”.
If you ask Attila I’m sure, being an honest lad, he’ll confirm that the two of them (hitherto completely unknown to me) came up and asked if they could do a short spot. As this would be cutting into the advertised poets’ time, but not wishing to reject two apparently serious young contenders out of hand, I in turn asked McGough, Paul Weller & the rest, each of whom was gracious enough to agree.
2: It wasn’t “the blubber mountain Nuttall” over whom comrade Butterfield hurled his booze, but me. Since this anorexic seizure of the stage was merely prolonging the delay before my introduction of Bushell’s hero & mine, Attila (else why would I be presenting him at prime-time on my show?), it’s hard to see how Butterfield’s veritable gig-crash can be blown up to the stature of “the prole v-sign to the whole farcical event” Bushell’s account suggests.
And the yells of “Shame! Stinker! Lout! Off! Off!” he correctly reports came from “the offended portion of the crowd” who disliked the look of Butterfield or felt his contribution to be a crashing bore much as Bushell himself did most of the others. I found Pierre’s little vision of the Thames full of shit quite a laugh myself. But the argument against unscheduled additions is they rob the punters of their due from the performers they’ve actually come to hear.
3: Attila’s notion of busting “the gates of the Poetry Establishment with a pen in one hand and an axe in the other” is unworthy of him, and the last thing that’s going to fan “the smouldering embers of a working class poetry explosion” in Britain. The image of embers implies there’s been something of a conflagration – which there has. But if the pen is to prove mightier than Maggie’s iron-thatched farm, let alone the international capitalist military-industrial complex, it’ll be because the entrenched bully-boy Divide-&-Rule policies of the guvnors and owners are overwhelmed by the enduring power of the living ideas & voices of its opponents.
You can bet your life if it comes down to a clash of brawn, the axes that prevail will be those ground by yer ruling classes & swung by their hirelings, the brainwashed mercenaries worldwide. if the giant steps taken against that continuing direction by the likes of Joan Littlewood (Mother Courage of Stratford East), Tom Pickard, McGough, Patten, Weller & the rest are themselves assailed as The Enemy or The Establishment by would-be new wavers, the net result is surely that all true poetry & revolutionary aspiration gets that much more easily wiped out by the Tory Philistinism & economic demoralisation virtually all the oral poets are continuing to fight.
4: I chose the Young Vic & Stratford theatres for these Poetry Olympics shows exactly because they’re two of the most working class & multiracial (& least sectarian or class-ridden) venues in London. So far from representing a “bourgeois, snobby, out of touch… alien world of dirty looks” the Theatre Royal’s a deliberately community orientated anti-racist youth centre, built up over the years with the bare hands & heads of Littlewood, Brendan Behan, Shelagh Delaney, Frank Norman & loads more. This tradition of a people’s theatre was extended the night your reporter looked in & left again with his Bushell of prejudices intact – extended by Attila, but also by the black/alternative/racial/rock communicators James Berry, Jeff Nuttall, Adrian Mitchell, Pete Brown, Patrik Fitzgerald & several others.
5: OK, none of us is getting any younger, but for Bushell to assume that because a few of the above may be around their middle years, we’re necessarily also “middle-class, smug, self-satisfied, & stiflingly self-congratulatory” when he admits he only started to listen the fourth time he left the bar for the auditorium, to Butterfield and Attila, leaves him hoist by his own petard his presumed ‘radicalism’ too is gonna be ’emasculated’ if he pays attention to no-one but his mates. At risk to their self-approbation, he & his might pause to consider the possibility that to be a poet or revolutionary at 20 is to be 20, to be them at 40 is to be a poet & revolutionary – as Mitchell, Nuttall, Heathcote Williams (who didn’t get a hearing at Stratford cos of the time waste of all the aggro & interruptions) still turn out to be.
6: Bushell applauds Attila for standing at the mike “in leather jacket, football scarf & DMs, spouting forth about there here and now. If he’d been in the theatre for the others, as distinct from reacting against their clothes, he’d have been able to tell your paper what each of them read & sang about present day realities too. Why should a conformist of one kind mean more than any other – more than that it’s wearer’s mentality or desired public might be uniform – propaganda for proper geese? I wear cords cos they cost £2 on Portobello Road, whereas leather gear’s pricey these days, being chic, I’ve also written quite a lot of soccer poetry, but that doesn’t mean I wear soccer clothes to perform it in, or want to spout it to soccer fans only.
7: The Stockbroker’s claim that JCC made his forerunners “redundant in ’77” by showing that “poetry should be for the people and could be put across to anyone” is unhistorical to say the least. Coops drew on the spadework of the Beats & Dylan & Henri & all of us concerned (like Attila) with “making the audience part of it” – just as we ourselves had benefited from the pathfinding inroads of blues shouters & Dylan Thomas & the Russian revolutionary bards. No real poet is ever made redundant by any other – it’s what makes poetry more like music than say, machine-part assembly. Lennon’s Working Class Hero didn’t replace Ginsberg’s Howl any more than Elvis Costello does Presley. What’s real in art is always contemporary – though the mass of what’s contemporary is not, alas, always real.
Michael Horovitz, Poetry Olympics, Piedmont, Bisley, Stroud, Glos.
Poem from Rising Tide. This was a 1984 anthology of poetry and prose from the London Voices Poetry Workshop.
Quality of Shepherds – Pope John Paul
Here are the shepherds.
Where are the sheep?
Herded in ghettos, hiding from Juntas,
Tortured in prisons.
The quality of shepherds is redundant
In a world overrun by wolves.
Poem by Shmerke Kaczerginski recited and sung by Yelena Shmulenson. Shmerke was a poet and member of the United Partisan Organisation. April 19th marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943.
Po Chu-I poem from 832AD. This is the Arthur Waley 1919 translation.
On His Baldness
At dawn I sighed to see my hairs fall;
At dusk I sighed to see my hairs fall.
For I dreaded the time when the last lock should go…
They are all gone and I do not mind at all!
I have done with that cumbrous washing and getting dry;
My tiresome comb for ever is laid aside.
Best of all, when the weather is hot and wet,
To have no top-knot weighing down on one’s head!
I put aside my dusty conical cap;
And loose my collar-fringe.
In a silver jar I have stored a cold stream;
On my bald pate I trickle a ladle-full.
Like one baptized with the Water of Buddha’s Law,
I sit and receive this cool, cleansing joy.
Now I know why the priest who seeks Repose
Frees his heart by first shaving his head.
From Jamming!, number 16, 1983.
Morning sweeps into view, light punches
into my eyes, an underground train,
traversing crowds and escalators, gliding
upwards to face the rainswept streets,
pacing onwards in desperation, frost in the
air, traffic roaring past, clinging, congested
pavements, monolith corporation offices
pierce the sky … standing here alone in
perfect isolation, the hot tears scalding my
face … gazing all around, subways,
underground stations, the Post Office
Tower, mud, slush, thawing snow,
tumbling rain, and Oxford Street …
see those pretty girls in Oxford Street, all
dressed up with somewhere to go, speaking
volumes for my loneliness … those half-
opened doors and tentative glances, the
hands I grasped that slipped
away … buses and taxis in Oxford Street,
sophisticated window displays, ear-
catching music, video and hi-fi, fast food
chains, newspaper vendors, sex shops, and
January sales … drifting with the ebb and
flow of the crowd, I lose myself, my mind
disappears … but no, standing here on an
underground escalator amidst the
billboards selling newspapers and lingerie
I feel alive, the blood coursing in my veins,
aware of every new sensation, every last
drop of pain and desolation.
John Cooper Clarke’s set from Glastonbury, 2015.