Poetry

Poetry

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care to act,
it starts when you do it again after they said no,
it starts when you say we and know who you mean,
and each day you mean one more.

Marge Piercy

For the Many not the Few
Wednesday, 17 May 2017 17:44

For the Many not the Few

Written by
in Poetry

If All the People Voted for the Many Not the Few

by Zita Holbourne 
 
If all the people who didn't vote used their vote
They'd force politicians to sit up and take note 
The number of young people who didn't vote at all
Outnumbered those voting last election in total

If all the people who said "I don't do politics"
Joined the "all politicians are the same" cynics 
They could hold our political future in their hands
And influence on June 8th what happens in these lands 

If all those who said they like Jeremy Corbyn
But they don't think  he can win so they won't be voting 
Used their vote and voted for  Labour he would win 
If all who won't vote Labour 'cos they don't like him

Voted on policies not his personality 
We could make stopping cuts a reality 
We could save the NHS, reduce inequality 
Lift those struggling to survive out of poverty

End zero hour contracts and earn a living wage
Stop disadvantage based on gender, race and age 
Disability and sexual orientation 
Make a stand against exploitation

Or neglect of the most vulnerable people 
Build a society that's more just and equal 
Invest in social and affordable homes
Get paid a living wage, not turn to payday loans
 
Renationalise energy and Royal Mail 
End the privatisation of buses and rail 
Reverse welfare reforms like the bedroom tax 
And to University tuition fees give the axe

Make education free not a privilege for the rich 
Kick draconian Tory policies in the ditch 
Halt cuts to jobs, services and communities 
That are destroying lives, made with impunity

Stop austerity measures that are ideological 
Reject the myths and lies that they're economical 
If all the people who even though they know full well
These Tory cuts assign them to a living hell

But still in vox pops and polls, when asked will say 
"I'm voting Tory cos I like Theresa May" 
Would see that's just like turkeys voting for Christmas
It makes no sense at all, it's just ridiculous

If all those who say they're voting for May "because she's strong"
Would stop to realise you can be  strong and wrong 
That gentle and peaceful doesn't equal weak 
That being real and caring doesn't make you a freak

If all the people voting on how you look not what you do 
Looked at voting records rather than each leader's shoes 
They'd see that Corbyn's stood up for us from time 
That for decades of time he's had your back and mine

In communities not just in  Parliament
He's meant what he said, said what he meant
Joining rallies and vigils for justice and peace 
Stood on picket lines and protested on the streets 

If elected Labour will invest  in schools and  education 
- An old African proverb gives Corbyn inspiration
"It takes a village to raise a child" he says -
EMA and free school meals because it pays

To invest in the lives and  futures of   our children 
This is what it's all about, the next generation
If all the people who say they won't vote, voted Labour 
Encouraged their friend, colleague and neighbour

We could change the future life chances of  young people  
Build a society that's safe and is stable 
Protect our rights and defend communities 
Focus on building trust and hope and unity

If all the people who say "I don't really know"
Take the time to read the Labour manifesto 
The undecided could be the people who decide 
And together with those who "don't vote" turn the tide 

If all those who don't, decided now that they will 
We could move forward rather than standing still
Just imagine how empowered we could be 
If we stopped thinking I and thought of we
 
If the “don't vote” became the people who do
If we voted for the many not the few
If we acted as a majority
We could  finally see an end to austerity
We could rise up out of poverty
We could achieve true equality
 
If all the people voted for the many not the few.....
 
Theresa May spanks Donald Trump
Monday, 15 May 2017 18:58

The Great Repeal

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in Poetry

The Great Repeal

by Kevin Higgins

“As it happens, personally I have always
been in favour of fox hunting” - Theresa May

Furthermore,
when we abolish the political correctness gone mad
that is the Human Rights Act,
it will again be legal to strip and smear
Conservative parliamentary candidates
with animal fat and pursue them with hounds
through the Devon countryside on
bank holiday Mondays; legal

to remove from your property
with a horsewhip or, failing that, a crossbow
any Daily Mail journalists
you catch going through your bins;

legal to tie down and spread tuna fish oil all over
the Chairman (or Woman) of a FTSE 100 company
and leave the rest
to your expert team of feral cats;

legal to chase
with demented Alsatians
through Welwyn Garden City of a Wednesday
former rock journalists with nothing left
but their opinion of themselves;

legal in certain parts of East Sussex
to set starving greyhounds
on anyone you think resembles
a retired tennis player
or Mike Read of the BBC;

legal again to hunt, using properly licensed rifles,
decayed intellectuals
with nothing now going on under
their formerly magnificent hair
on the anniversary of Professor Norman Stone’s funeral;

legal once more to celebrate
St. George’s Day by following
Pippa Middleton around Herefordshire with bulldogs
and a temperamental shotgun;

when the British people rise,
put the B back into Britain
and she once again rules
the itsy-bitsy waves
around the Isle of Wight, mate.
The waves around the Isle of Wight.

Corbyn's Banner
Sunday, 14 May 2017 06:50

Corbyn's Banner

Written by
in Poetry

Corbyn's Banner

by Alan Morrison

In corduroy cap and crumpled shirt, he came,
Not from outside Parliament as some expected
The new political prophet to usher from, as once old

AM poem1

Autodidact ex-coal miner Keir Hardie came shocking
Tories in his sailor's knotted scarf, tweed cap
And corduroy trousers – no, Corbyn came from
Within Parliament, although from the furthest flung
Rear green benches long neglected by New Labour
And the Blairites for the neoliberal lullaby,
Where a handful of true Labourites bit their tongues
For decades chomping at the bit as "New", "Blue"
And "One Nation" Labour-substitutes bowdlerised
Hard-fought-for ideals, sold them out to tabloids,
Private sector opportunists and City speculators,
All for a thumbs up from the Murdoch press
And the empty triumph of power at the expense
Of principles; but now it is True Labour bannered
By Corbyn through whom we can now see the only
True power: the power of hope, the power of compassion,
The power of openmindedness, the power of empathy
With historic late bloom of the blood-red Rose
Under the nurturing green fingers of this Socialist
Of Islington North, no gentrification but a genuine
Grassroots regrowing of a true-grit, reinvigorated,
Remobilised Labour Movement –for the first time in
Over thirty years the Party has returned to its roots,
Its' true foundations, foundations that are movable,
Were ever moving towards progressive evergetism,
Leftwards to the fundamentally Good Society
That Socialism had taken on the baton from practical
Christianity to bring about and build upon, the New

AM poem6

Jerusalem – and now is the hour, it comes with Corbyn,
A once-in-a-blue-moon blooming of Labour's Red Rose,
Who with a philanthropic soul and sympathetic heart
Could fail to have been profoundly moved and stirred
By the singing of 'Jerusalem' merged into 'The Red Flag'
As Corbyn's first Conference raised the scarlet standard?

Tories, Blue and Red, the red-top tabloids, even liberal
Papers label Corbyn "unelectable" because they're all
Terrified that he might be elected, pip opinion polls,
Disrupt the Establishment with a triumph for the People –
And, in spite of all, he could: We can make it possible!

But no celebration is permitted for triumphs
Of the Left, for now the fight is on to win hearts
And minds in spite of the neoliberal establishments'
Many arsenals, monopolies and weapons primed
To appear as prompt as Corbyn's victory speech,
To smear, defame and slur his name in the gutter press,
The Daily Nail and Daily Repress, for they will attempt
A coup de papier of elephantine headlines denouncing
"Crimson Corbyn", "Red Jeremy", this "threat to
Our national security", this 'Nationaliser Lenin',
This "scrounger"-loving, "anti-business" 'old Trot',
This 'one man tribute band to Nye Bevan', a Red
Republican who 'refuses to sing the national anthem',
Who doesn't "bow deeply enough" before the Cenotaph,
Who doesn't "kneel on a stool" before the Queen
In order to become a privy councellor, consorts

AM poem 7


With the Stop the War Coalition who published
A poem impeached for accusing the monarchy
Of Babylonian decadence (by Heathcote Williams),
A 'rabble-rousing no-good do-gooder' ingratiating
Himself with refugees and immigrants and all
The hoi polloi and lumpenproletariat –how dare he!–
(He even writes poetry! as Clement Attlee used to)
Anticipating his future feeding of five thousand
Foodbank users, they'll want to crucify him through
Public opprobrium brought on by hyperbolising
His democratic socialism as "Bolshevism", his
Commitment to peace in Palestine and Ireland
As 'Hamas-palming' and 'IRA-rallying', they even
Accuse this son of defenders of Cable Street against
The Blackshirts, who stood side by side behind barricades
In solidarity with the Jewish shopkeepers, of "anti-
Semitism" by association; yes, they will try to crucify him
With his own words by twisting them into rhetorical
Crowns of thorns, and then they'll try to nail him
To crosses of their scoops, and sundry Blairite grandees
Will be waiting eagerly in the wings to give him
The Judas Kiss before he's pilloried and figuratively
Flogged before the Murdoch press carrying his own cross;

AM poem8


And Pharisee Blair, self-professing "Christian" issues
Staunchest insinuations and warnings against this
Beige-jacketed, plain-speaking, compassionate man
Who's performing a moral blood-transfusion on Labour
And saying many of the things that Blair's own Saviour
Would say if He were here today (yet so many so-called
'Christians', it seems, would be the first to pick apart
The policies of a Second Coming, as they so rapidly
Do those of His apparatchiks) –what kind of heart
Has Blair to snub Corbyn's mobilising numbers as
Having faulty hearts that need transplants –those
Passionate supporters patronised as 'Corbynistas'?
Is Blair's a Christian heart that cautions against the politics
Of Christianity? Blair, who gave Labour a faulty heart-
Transplant, cutting out Clause Four, prime chamber
Of its heart, left little intact of the Left in the Labour
Movement, then fibbed his way to carpet-bombing
Afghanistan and Iraq –the dossier-draped Crusader...
Christ would have one word for him: "Hypocrite!" Corbyn
Is seeking a 'change of heart', that Audenic thing,
A 'change of heart' in the body politic away from
Blaming the vulnerable, the poor, the unemployed
And disabled for our economic woes, and towards
A belated reckoning with the true culprits
Of the financial crisis, the City speculators, hedge-
Betters and bankers who, of course, bountifully bankroll
Our Conservative overlords in Government –he'd
Throw out their tables from the temple of Parliament...

AM poem9

Tories, Blue and Red, the red-top tabloids, even liberal
Papers label Corbyn "unelectable" because they're all
Terrified that he might be elected, pip opinion polls,
Disrupt the Establishment with a triumph for the People –
And, in spite of all, he could: We can make it possible!

O they'll try to launch 'a very British coup' against Corbyn,
Rogue generals hint already at "mutiny" should
He ever get to form a government, they'd oppose him
With armed force just as they'd plotted decades ago
To oust old mog Harold Wilson whom they'd suspected
Of being a Soviet double agent (more like Blofeld's
Purring pussy cat!), a mole for Moscow, thus prompting
His untimely resignation as prime minister –so much
For the English sense of democracy; we've seen this
All before, how many times, one loses count, but it's
Likely our neoliberal establishment will dish its worst
And dirtiest against this kindly "dinosaur" of all our cause,
Worse smears than "Red Ed", Neil 'ginger Welshman'
Kinnock or Michael 'scruffy duffle-coated professor'
Foot ever endured –the Party apparently 'RED AND
BURIED!' on the morning after the triumph of the night
Before –No, the Party is more alive than ever before,
Its numbers doubled under Corbyn's climb, gathering

AM poem 11

Momentum! So, comrades, we must be ready for
The fight of the Red Flag against the right-wing might
Of the red-tops, Blue Torch and jingoistic Jack –no more
John Bull but John Ball; O how many times have we
Witnessed this before, prophets hath no honour in
Their lands or among their kin, or party, but we must
Make sure this time the righteous will win over cynicism,
Cupidity, selfishness, greed and social cruelty
Of our Thatcheritic anti-culture – let this embryonic
Moral triumph mushroom, be no pyrrhic victory –
Let's not stand by as they try to crucify another 'J.C.'......

For Joe Skipsey: The Pitman Poet of Percy Main
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Friday, 05 May 2017 10:27

For Joe Skipsey: The Pitman Poet of Percy Main

in Poetry
Written by

For Joe Skipsey: The Pitman Poet of Percy Main (1832-1903)

by Keith Armstrong

'He'll tell his tale o'er a pint of ale,
And crack his joke, and bad
Must be the heart who loveth not
To hear the Collier Lad.' - Joe Skipsey

To be a pitman poet
you drag words
out of the seam of a dictionary,
write against the grain
all the time
feeling the pain
of a small education,
scribbling in the dark
for a bright spark
germ of a poem.
Hewing
for rhymes,
ducking
in case the roof
of the verse
caved in on you,
Joe
it was bloody hard
to learn,
to craft a line
from the black pit
when the whole world
weighed down on you.
A man was forced
to sing,
to render a ballad
like a lamp in the tunnel,
scraping an education
from coal,
crawling along bookshelves
to find daylight,
Shakespeare,
Shelley
and melody
in the stacks
of an underground library.

Ballade upon 'Warts and All'
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Wednesday, 03 May 2017 21:17

Ballade upon 'Warts and All'

in Poetry
Written by

Ballade upon ‘Warts and all’

by Rip Bulkeley

Only the old world could provide
the means by which to reach the new,
wreck timbers soiled by the tide
of history which a stumbling crew
have cobbled for a rough canoe,
then launched with hope for all our sakes
despite the fact, which they well knew,
that politicians make mistakes.

It need not, surely, be denied
that Jeremy has blundered too.
How could he not, when vilified
by hacks from here to Timbuctoo
who yearn to cage him in their zoo,
then smear across their mental jakes
the headline revelation: ‘Ooh!
This politician makes mistakes!’?

Our man pays no one else to hide
his defects from the public view.
He’s neither schooled nor prettified;
his faults and merits are all true
and benefits from this accrue.
A voter from the balance makes
an informed choice: this much virtue;
this politician; some mistakes.

Envoi
Let none of this bewilder you,
divert you from the greater stakes
which some would have you misconstrue:
Which politicians? Which mistakes?

Parcel of Masochists
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Wednesday, 03 May 2017 20:52

Parcel of Masochists

in Poetry
Written by

Parcel of Masochists
after 'Parcel of Rogues' by Robert Burns

by Kevin Higgins

What we’re fashioning for you is muscular and wobbly
as the pornographic ghost of something that can never be. We stand
for the crucial few against the barbarous shrieks of the many;
strong and stable as the Blenheim Palace walls.

Your granny, a supporter of ours since at least
thirteen eighty one, will be recycled to make
a bag-for-life that’ll go on to be forgotten
in one of the finer antique cabinets in Belgravia,
and be ecstatic at our forgetting.

When we make you prove the third baby,
you couldn’t quite bring yourself to kill,
is progeny of the maniac who imposed
himself on you in a November alleyway – and so
tax deductible under section five c– you’ll know
you brought the question on yourself. Stable
and strong we stand as the Blenheim Palace walls
against the barbarous shrieks of the many.

Your other two children, they’ll want to kiss
our tanned cattle skin pants, when the schools we envisage
for them ensure they overcome their potential, become
to stupid what Kenya is to long distance running,
what the late Felix Unger is to sinus infections.
Strong and stable as the Blenheim Palace walls
stand we for the crucial few.

Even the birdsong in your summer garden
will be disembodied and sold as a ringtone
on custom-built mobile phones only available
particular days of the week from a forward
looking outlet at Zurich Airport.

Once we’ve the contract for that
signed, we come for what
remains of you. And secretly glad
to see us burst
your door, we both know
you’ll wetly be.

Poem for Jeremy Corbyn
K2_PUBLISHED_ON Tuesday, 25 April 2017 21:30

Poem for Jeremy Corbyn

in Poetry
Written by

Poem for Jeremy Corbyn
(parable of the signpost and the weathercock)

by Merryn Williams

The weathercock is varnished gilt,
rotates in every wind.
The signpost marks the road that mounts,
the miles you left behind.

You’ve walked so far, your breath is short;
with jaded eyes you scan
a universe of spin and spite
to find an honest man.

A paper storm invades your street;
the words return to air.
You pause, undress some walking suit
and find there’s nothing there.

Without a storm, the puppets sag,
the paper turns to dust.
Yet still you’ll walk a thousand miles
to find a man you trust.

This poem first appeared in the book POEMS FOR JEREMY CORBYN, edited by the author, published by Shoestring last year.

Graffiti art, Herne Hill
Tuesday, 25 April 2017 21:10

May in Dolgellau

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in Poetry

May in Dolgellau

by Mike Jenkins

Croeso i Gymru!
Come to Wales
if you want to make decisions,
ramble on Yr Eryri
just like the PM Theresa May.

Not only between lovespoons
with two balls in cages
and a slate plaque
inscribed in inspiring Welsh –
‘Crach wedi codi o’r cachu’.

Come to Dolgellau,
new capital of ‘penderfyniadau’ –
let the Mawddach soothe
and the crags enlighten
before you bring down the country.

Let the giant of poetry Idris
sit you down in his chair
before you unleash chaos
and the howling of Cwn Annwn
take us who knows where.

 

Notes 

Croeso i Gymru – welcome to Wales
Yr Eryri - Snowdon
Crach wedi codi o’r cachu – wealth comes out of shit
Penderfyniadau – decisions
Cwn Annwn – the howling of these mythical hounds foretold death

 

Wat Tomson MP: A Heroic Ode
Wednesday, 19 April 2017 20:39

Wat Tomson MP: A Heroic Ode

Written by
in Poetry

Wat Tomson MP: A Heroic Ode

by Kevin Higgins

Less a man than flesh materialised
around a pair of black rimmed spectacles
stolen from the still warm corpse
of a discredited French intellectual.

Beloved of moderate trade unionists who aspire
to cross picket lines to attend
all-expenses-paid conferences on the fight
for income unhappiness held
in the mini-bars and bathrooms
of top hotels in Bromsgrove;

and future failed parliamentary
candidates for Birmingham Ladygarden
with no detectable personality
who dare dream of firing intercontinental
penis enlargements manufactured
in their own constituencies
at goats up mountains in Somalia
from warships floating
in their kitchen sinks,

though even they prefer the sight of you
pleasuring your glasses
first softly with your left
then with your preferred
hard right hand

to the dread thought of what your gut’s
doing to all the pies and ice cream the tax-
payer keeps shovelling
down the blathering hatch
in the bottom half of your face,

because when that blows
we all go up with it, and the world’s
pebble-dashed the worst
shade of brown.

Hidden Culture, Forgotten History
Thursday, 13 April 2017 15:38

Hidden Culture, Forgotten History

Written by
in Poetry

Bruce Wilkinson introduces his new book on the 1960s Northern countercultural underground of avant-garde poetry.

Hidden Culture, Forgotten History covers East Lancashire radicalism which sprang from the 1960s ‘little poetry magazines’ of working-class writers and editors Jim Burns, Dave Cunliffe and Tina Morris.

Although the poetry scene’s influence on the beginnings of British counterculture is recorded in the work of Jeff Nuttall, Jonathon Green and Barry Miles there have been few attempts to follow-up this impact, particularly away from the capital. Geraldine Monk’s collection CUSP (Shearsman, 2012), about industrial England’s poetic network hints at this connection but my study explicitly links it with the development of alternative bookshops and newspapers, collectives, communes and activists. This 1960s and 70s underground is placed within a broader, regional history of militancy (Chartism, the Suffragettes and the beginnings of the Labour movement), outlining ties with the more recent rave scene and anti-road building protests. The small press publishing of Morris, Cunliffe and Burns is analysed using Pierre Bourdieu’s sociological approach while the later anti-establishment activity is assessed both through Situationist theory and via more recent ideas about countercultural commodification and its part in neo-liberalism.

Usually consisting of just twenty or thirty pages of experimental verse little poetry magazines are cheaply made by one or two people, avoiding the pressure to turn a profit and enabling editors to take risks when choosing work. Although subscription lists of only two or three hundred people are common, these are often made up of other writers, editors and critics, creating a virtuous loop of influence far greater than would normally be the case with such a small publication. In the early 1960s, exciting new forms of verse appeared on both sides of the Atlantic but these were largely invisible in the UK’s mainstream literary press then controlled by traditionalists. The little poetry magazines were often the first and sometimes the only place you could read this new avant-garde poetry; demand subsequently increasing alongside a rapid expansion in the number of periodicals.

In the US verse was transformed by Charles Olson and Allen Ginsberg freeing its form, content and use of language from previous restrictions; sparking poets at the Black Mountain College, in New York and on the west coast to further develop this freedom, eventually infecting the wider literary canon and other art forms beyond that. Influenced by European art movements, the British avant-garde investigated new forms of verse (sound, text, cut-up) under the term Concrete poetry; Ian Hamilton Finlay and Dom Sylvester Houédard at the forefront of this UK scene which was almost exclusively limited to a network of small presses, readings and a handful of specialist bookshops. The little poetry magazines of the period were by definition countercultural in that they were set up in deliberate opposition to or as an attempt to bypass mainstream publishing houses, the mass media and the traditional poetry system. Although less obviously revolutionary in tone than the later underground press their very creation was a political act, an attempt to bring about change or at the very least to set up a resistance to an establishment which supressed experimentalism.

BW

Jim Burns

Jim Burns, Dave Cunliffe and Tina Morris were introduced to the avant-garde by modern jazz and the experimental verse they found in little poetry magazines to which they submitted work from the early 1960s. In 1963 Cunliffe began editing Poetmeat, a quarterly published through his own BB Books small press from Blackburn. Morris contributed to this, quickly becoming co-editor; a romance soon leading to their marriage. From nearby Preston, Burns picked up on their literary activity, submitting his poetry and reviews to their edition and, using their equipment, they helped him bring out his own Move poetry journal. In Little Magazine Profiles (University of Salzburg, 1993) Austrian academic Wolfgang Görtschacher gives both magazines particular credit for their emphasis on American verse and willingness to accept a diverse range of poetry while stressing how Burns was one of the first to contextualise the importance of the publications in his regular Tribune column.

Focused on US writers, the Lancastrians connected with poets from San Francisco, Detroit and New York long before most in Britain were aware of a counterculture then forming in the States. Already politically aware, Burns was active as a trade union steward in the engineering plant where he worked while radical vegans Cunliffe and Morris picketed butchers stalls and abattoirs and smashed up shooting lodges on the moors surrounding Blackburn. All three were thus receptive to the messages of a new liberalism arriving through the American verse they printed, delivering these ideas to a wider UK audience. The BB Books press produced anti-war, ecological and self-sufficiency leaflets and their literary information sheet PM Newsletter gave contact details for communes, collectives and activists, encouraging others to become involved. Their magazines carried many poets who would, only later in the decade, become better-known as the instigators of the US underground. These included lesbian Black Panther and co-founder of the Women’s Revolutionary Council Pat Parker; John Sinclair who managed revolutionary rock group MC5 and helped found the White Panthers; activist and co-editor of the anarchist Black Mask newspaper Dan Georgakas and Julian Beck, co-founder of the radical Living Theatre group.

This activity wasn’t going unnoticed. Jim Burns had his mail returned, stamped ‘undesirable’ by the US State Department while Cunliffe became convinced that their correspondence was being opened and telephone tapped. The Blackburn couple stood out, often receiving uninvited visits from beatnik or proto-hippie subscribers in a town where short hair and the traditional suit and tie were still very much the norm. In the summer of 1965 their house was twice raided by the police; Cunliffe charged under Obscene Publications legislation for putting out the boundary-pushing, sex-themed Golden Convolvulus, and facing a possible lengthy prison sentence. Pleading ‘not guilty’ but refused legal aid, his case quickly became a cause célèbre, politicians (including Michael Foot MP) and literary figures seeing it as an attack on freedom of speech and an attempt to set a legal precedent away from the limelight of London with fundraisers organised on both sides of the Atlantic and a poster campaign paid for by Housmans bookshop.

In December Granada TV and several national newspapers descended on the town, reporting the trial’s proceedings. After three days the jury found Cunliffe not guilty on the obscenity charge but guilty of posting lewd pamphlets which left him with a £50 fine and £500 legal costs, then a considerable sum which effectively put an end to Poetmeat and suspended BB Books. In his Tribune report at the time, Ray Gosling questioned why Golden Convolvulus had not merely been referred to local magistrates who regularly deal with obscene material; the Nottingham writer suggesting that the affair was part of a wider anti-liberal conspiracy.

In Offensive Literature (Junction, 1982), John Sutherland proposes that it was the first of the political trials of the 1960s (which later included the OZ action), brought more because of the editors’ lifestyles than any great offence caused by the book’s contents. Morris was subsequently sacked from her Blackburn Library job due to the publicity and they both suffered police harassment for some time afterwards. However, if the prosecution was an attempt by the authorities to halt subversive activity, the widespread coverage the trial gained had the opposite effect. For the first time other writers, bohemians and radicals became aware that they were not alone. Outside the court they swapped addresses and sold each other copies of their publications and, although at this point small in number, later in the decade their influence would begin to be felt, particularly within Blackburn.

BW Amamus radical bookshop

Inside of Amamus bookshop

One of those inspired was Oxford University drop-out Ian Ross who set-up an alternative bookshop which he named Amamus (Greek for ‘we love’). It sold a mixture of political tracts, literary works and hippie posters downstairs while a room above doubled as a performance space for poetry, music and theatre and an office for a number of radical groups. The shop was the base for much of the town’s growing underground activity and Dave Cunliffe was often there, at the centre of things. From Amamus Blackburn Women’s Group gave free contraception and abortion advice; a gay-rights advisory service opened and Cunliffe and Ross published the Blackburn Barker alternative newspaper. Peter Good sold his prankster magazine Anarchism Lancastrium from the outlet; a Transport Action Group organised against the building of the M65 motorway; a soup kitchen for the destitute was arranged; benefits and legal advice were given and Blackburn Against Racism formed in response to the election of two neo-fascist National Party councillors. Those utilising Amamus also coordinated communes and collectives organising building, woodworking and market vegetable cooperatives.

BW Dave Cunliffe and Tina Morris seated together at a reading

Tina Morris and Dave Cunliffe

Although by the 1970s the marriage of Morris and Cunliffe had ended, they worked together on various projects including a ‘potlatch’ meeting arranged through Peace News magazine and designed to bring together the disparate elements of the counterculture. Burns’ poetry became well-known, featuring on TV and in the national press but he also contributed to the newspaper of the revolutionary Industrial Workers of the World and read widely at political benefits. Cunliffe was connected to the Windsor Free Festival and, despite Lancashire’s notoriously bad weather, several festivals were organised locally, though strangely it was Jeremy Beadle who arranged the first in the region; Bickershaw attracting around 60,000 people despite the predictably monsoon-like conditions. In August 1976 North Country Fair took place near Chorley, organised by several people connected with the Blackburn underground. Although enjoyed by a few hundred revellers, perhaps its biggest cultural contribution was by inspiring a group of Rochdale friends to start their own event in Greater Manchester’s Deeply Vale.

The book goes on to develop how the influence of this activism spread and continued through the next couple of decades and is still felt through some of the above instigators’ involvement in local pressure groups and community associations. Beyond that it is the story of how three working-class autodidacts wrote poetry, edited magazines and reviewed verse to a renowned level, publishing important poets for the first time and helping to bring new US experimental verse and revolutionary ideals to the UK. It seems particularly important that Tina Morris not only defeated class barriers but also patriarchal dominance in a period when women often struggled to gain an equal voice. Although the connection between poetry and the beginnings of the 1960s counterculture in London is well-documented, my research emphasises how this influence also occurred in non-metropolitan areas, away from the traditional big city purveyors of culture and highlights how the avant-garde has a broader impact than is immediately obvious.

Hidden Culture, Forgotten History: A Northern Poetic Underground and its Countercultural Impact is available at pennilesspress.co.uk

Tax: an extract from Michael Noonan's next budget speech
Thursday, 06 April 2017 14:45

Tax: an extract from Michael Noonan's next budget speech

Written by
in Poetry

from Tax
after Michael Noonan.

In the income tax arena
I am introducing a scheme:

whereby a fifty year old man
living in, for example,
Galway, will still be able to claim
for his increasingly rickety right knee
here in Ireland, but allowed register,
for tax purposes,
his far more profitable left leg in Jersey.

He’ll be able to claim relief here on his wonky eye
but will only have to pay tax on the good one
at whatever the rate is in Luxembourg.

His three sets of dentures, all twenty six
fillings and those two root canals
will continue to be deductible here,
though he’ll now pay tax
on what’s left of his actual
teeth in Bermuda.

The good fifty percent of his lungs
he’ll be allowed set up
as an independent company
in the British Virgin Islands,
while the useless half will legally
continue to be Irish.

His nausea will remain ours,
though his enormous appetite
will now officially live on the more
glutton-friendly Isle of Man.

His beleaguered liver will continue
to be officially resident here,
while his still superefficient
bowels will spend enough time in Switzerland
to pay (hardly any) tax there.

The scar above his left buttock,
acquired when he toppled through a glass door
backwards, circa nineteen seventy three,
will continue to be deductible here,
while the balance of his bum –
in surprisingly good condition for a man his age,
though he says so himself – declares
its vast income at an office
in Wilmington, Delaware.

Elsewhere, I am extending the relief on brown leather
trousers and industrial strength lawnmowers
for fat couples with Anglo-Norman sounding names
in the better bits of Kildare for another five years.
There is agreement across the political consensus
it’s essential such people are given sufficient incentives
to keep doing
whatever it is they supposedly do.

In this poem the author has a premonition of Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan's next budget speech. The philosophy behind this budget speech has been a great success all around the western world and is, for example, essential to Richard Branson's ability to buy an island so he can invite Barack Obama and his wife Michelle there on holiday and then share the photos on Twitter to show what a cool guy Richard is, despite the awful service Virgin Trains provide.

It should also be noted that the author lives in Galway and was fifty recently. Happy birthday Kevin!

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