Olivier Assayas's film on the aftermath of May 1968 is infantile ultra-leftism
JOE GLENTON explains his need to respond to a world that is unsustainably divided
Alan Morrison’s Emergency Verse: Poetry In Defence Of The Welfare State was one of the paradoxical successes of last year. Admired in some of the “quality” press it was, of course, almost completely ignored by the poetry world.
The Robin Hood Book: Poets In Support Of The Robin Hood Tax (Caparison, £10) is a kind of brave sequel. It is a huge — and hugely important — book with over 500 pages of poetry and polemics, including poems by 132 poets from all over Britain and and beyond, from David Amery to Ken Worpole.
Provoking, entertaining, moving and heartening, it is an extraordinary rich selection of funny, angry, polemical, satirical, sad and wise poetry, a “gallimaufry of established, upcoming and novice practitioners,” which includes Alistair Findlay, Mike Horowitz, Judith Kazantzis, Heathcote Williams, Rupert Loydell, Jeremy Reed, Angela Readman, Alexis Lykiard, John Gibbins, Tom Kelly, Owen Gallagher, Mike Jenkins, Ian Parks, Alan Dent, Chris McCabe, Jo Bell, Jody Porter and Valerie Laws, who writes: “Those who occupy, brave pepper spray and worse,/know that liberty is a marathon, not a sprint. It hurts./It walks on water, but hasn’t quite landed here/On Manhattan, or in England, or anywhere.’
The Robin Hood Book calls specifically for a tax on “casino” financial transactions such as stocks, bonds, foreign currency exchanges and derivatives.
Such a tax could raise a global £250 billion a year for government spending programmes and the book opens with a statement by the Robin Hood Tax Campaign as well as a foreword by PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka in support of the campaign. It concludes with Ripe Time for A British Spring, a long essay by Morrison.
But the book has a larger agenda than this. It represents the literary expression of a popular common sense about taxation and public services, corruption in the corporate media, police, parliament and the banking system.
As Judith Kazantzis puts it: “On the news, off again,/Leviathan writhes, but won’t die,/Our long social coils are thrown away,/evicted, slashed. Leviathan trapped: banks offshore all mud in your face,/they’re stuffed with stolen dosh,/leaving whole countries bare and rubbished.”
Of course this kind of political common sense is almost wholly excluded from the narrow discourse of Parliament, press and British political parties in exactly the same way that most of the poets in the book are excluded from the glittering prizes. These are not, on the whole, the sort of poets who turn up on shortlists for the Forward and TS Eliot awards.
But above all The Robin Hood Book is about poetry and its relationship to politics and society. As Morrison argues, the anthology is designed to raise the stakes by challenging the contemporary British poetry scene to take sides, particularly those poets who “at the moment remain deafeningly silent, seemingly indifferent, or even plain evasive” regarding the most urgent issues of our times. “None of us, poets included,” he writes, “are islands or else they would not be poets in the first place. Poetry is ultimately about people, it is fundamentally a political art form.”
Like all anthologies it is uneven in places, but it is definitely worth buying just for poems like Alistair Findlay’s Poverty, Nigel Thompson’s They Shall Have Music, Labour and Capital by Mike Quille, David Seddon’s A Hundred
Years Ago, Paul Francis’s Real Crisis, Nicholas Murray’s Get Real!, Morrison’s Not Paternoster Square and Terry Jones’s wonderful A Letter To Wat Tyler: “most of the world is unchanged ... the self-entitled swan the planet,/and the same men who put you in place,/preened in rank and gold esteem,/are still in charge ... You see, everything has changed, but this:/the contemptible poor still die in their ditch/and god remains utterly loyal,/without question, on the side of the rich.”
To order the book visit www.therecusant.co.uk. The launch takes place at 6.30pm on Tuesday July 24 at Centerprise, 136-138 Kingsland High Street, London E8.
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