It is my intention to move away for a while from my most recent brief dalliance with political poetry, and I shall do so just as soon as I have given oxygen to two relatively recent publications which placed my work, and the two individual poems which fall into that category.
One poem is certainly political in the narrow sense, dealing as it does with the very divisive former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. The other is political in the broader sense of the evil irrationality of racism.
It may be argued quite reasonably that you can’t avoid some element of politics in writing in the sense that everything affecting people, animals and the planet is broadly influenced by personal politics or the politics of nations. However you will readily identify that the two anthologies I am going to speak of here fall more obviously into political categorisation.
In November 2020, one of my poems was published in Black Lives Matter – Poems for a New World, edited by Ambrose Musiyiwa. It was a poem with a previous life in cyberspace in respect that it had appeared in 2018 in I am not a silent poet, the online magazine of the late and sadly missed Reuben Woolley. In the Introduction to the anthology Ambrose reports that the call for poems, triggered by George Floyd’s murder, resulted in 500 submissions from more than 300 writers from around the world. In those circumstances I feel honoured that my piece is one of the 107 poems (from 95 poets) which found a home in this substantial volume. It contains many poets whose names are familiar to me and whose work I admire.
In December 2020 The Angry Manifesto’s Thatcher Issue, edited by Matt Duggan and Des Mannay, heralded the return of a literary magazine which previously produced seven issues in the years 2017-18. Its stated aim is to ‘focus on politics and issues that count’. My poem in this issue was written many years ago but had never been submitted to any publication due to its very specific topic. I was surprised when The Angry Manifesto made a call for poems about Margaret Thatcher, and delighted they placed my work alongside other poets I admire including Harry Gallagher and DJ Beaney, whose debut pamphlet Honeydew (a collection of twenty-one love poems) was released by The Hedgehog Poetry Press on 14 December 2020.
I shall reproduce both of my poems as a conclusion to this post, and thereafter look forward to our next meeting, probably somewhere within the quite different politics of life, love and death.
I’ll mention here that I had composed, or partly written, a number of posts which were intended to appear during the dates 1-24 December as a kind of Advent Blog. A few did appear, most did not (life, eh?). Between now and the end of January I shall post daily and include the Advent Blogposts which did not appear, so do not be surprised by their strange out-of-time titles. What is time after all but a human construct?
Thereafter, from February 2021, I shall confine my randomness to just one Blogpost per week.
Regarding the two poems which follow, the Thatcher piece from The Angry Manifesto’s Thatcher Issue, which ends this post is self-explanatory, certainly for any reader who was alive during her premiership.
But the first poem, published in Black Lives Matter – Poems for a New World, certainly requires reference to the two footnotes in the book, as follows :-
It is recorded that, in 1946, Albert Einstein stood in front of students at Lincoln University, the oldest historically black college in the United States, and during a commencement speech declared, “There is separation of coloured people from white people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of coloured people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.”
Cheddar Man, Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton, was excavated in 1903 at Gough’s Cave in the Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, England. The remains date from the Mesolithic period (circa 7100 BC). DNA analysis indicates that he was a typical member of the Western European population of the time. Although he had light coloured eyes his hair was dark brown or black and his skin was dark or black.
Species of Reply/Einstein Wasn’t Wrong
To witness the wordspill I could hardly wait.
Would he accept that Denial’s Not Appropriate?
And for a moment he acknowledges the reality
seeming to experience nanoseconds of clarity
confirming a partial apparent acceptance
of solid scientific evidence that the
first modern Briton was black, black.
But then makes sure his interpretation
of the incontrovertible revelation pleases
those affected by jingoistic diseases
(finding these words)
I belong here, this is twenty eighteen
Nothing to fear from a Mesolithic fossil
(Nothing against him but nothing in common)
Struggling a bit with the DNA findings though,
Cheddar Man sounds more light than dark to me
However, for the sake of discussion let’s say
this minor blip occurred way back, back
in a time so distant
that it’s almost irrelevant
Luckily during ten thousand years
of British history this glitch was erased
from our proud ancestry
but if it had not
a nightmarish tragedy
which doesn’t bear thinking about
Imagine me and my people, still proudly
patriotic but dark of colour, having to yell at
paler people (nothing against them but nothing
in common) that they should go back, back
to where they came from, to where they
belong, not upon this sceptred isle,
this green and pleasant land
Once upon a time in Britain
the very idea of a woman doing the job
would have drawn derision
Now I am neither misogynist nor Nostradamus sir
but all those years ago when the doorstep canvasser
presumed – We can surely depend upon your support
We are the party for the upwardly mobile you sir –
I do not know what made me say –
Not with That Woman in charge, she’ll lead us to war –
but I did
The canvasser shook his head, smiled and said –
The old enemies have gone, with whom should we pick a fight? –
but she did
You can call it a Conflict if you like – a killing by any other name
still stinks of blood
She really made us travel for that battle
Bent and broke the rules to make it happen
Argie-bargie, mano a mano?
Ask the ghosts of the Belgrano?
The greatest PM of the century?
I think not.
Performing minor miracles?
The miners would disagree –
though she did black-magic all sorts of unexpected
from her blue handbag
Not just war in time of peace
Investors caught on bullish horns
Disappearing roofs in property booms
The loss of everything in pursuit of gain
Division of brothers on an industrial scale
Dominatrix seeks reward for sadomasochistic pain
No to milk and education
should have signalled things to fear
Weeks after a friend’s assassination
mention of that friend felt insincere
amid a wild-eyed selective rendition
of part of Saint Francis’ prayer
All these before are symptoms of an incurable condition –
Maggielomania or the delusion that you are a female God –
which made her go further than any male politician
to prove she was at least as flawed