The Poetic is Political

Wow!  What an amazing meeting of the People’s Arts Collective on Tuesday night!  It was a slow start going through the minutes of last meeting and a rather unfocussed discussion, but then during the second half Cliff gave us some of his poetry and all of a sudden the thing came alive.  He started by reading from the page and I asked if he could pause to give us time to digest; and then he started to speak the poems – and oh my god, what a difference!  He is a total natural; not quite a rapper but with something of that energy and feel for the voice and how it connects with people.

There’s something of this coming through in Sound Cafe, too – Paul, one of the regulars, has been inspired to write and presented me with a sheaf of poems.  He uses rhyme and assonance in a very rap-like way, too, and I tried to reflect that as I read them out.  Rapping is not easy!  It’s not my style at all and it gave me more respect for the way rappers make it sound so natural.

I have been a busy bee this week: first, the organising-group meetings for next year’s Clarendon Park Artbeat (we’re going to have a poetry breakfast called ‘Poetry on Toast’ as well as guerilla poetry in the streets) then the People’s Arts Collective on Tuesday and Sound Cafe on Wednesday after which I had to rush home, make pizza and then write my talk as it sizzled in the oven* before charging off on my velocopede (as my music teacher used to call it) to the Secular Hall for a very positive Left Unity meeting in which I gave a talk on the place of poetry in politics.  I may put some of that on this blog.

On Tuesday night I also did my poem ‘Spike’ about the anti-homeless spikes and the statue of Christ on a bench (see previous post)

and Andrea, who is new to the group, joined in with some drumming.  It was terrific and we’re going to do that again at the Twilight gig, coming up at Embrace Arts.

So that’s us up to date.  Tomorrow there will be another guest poem by Graham Gee Connolly, called ‘A Poem in Your Head Can Keep You From Your Bed’ – so stay tuned!

Kirk out

*the pizza, not the talk.  Although possibly the talk as well…


Today’s Guest Poem

Today we have another guest poem, written by a Sound Cafe poet and inspired by the countryside:]

In the Countryside

Rivers, tree’s, everything he sees

From leaping frogs, flowers that spring.

Daylight shines through many birds many skies

Flying across the blue ribbon clouds

What a glory of grass scattered

Covered in dew

River’s loads of them searching, finding their way

Trees branching out along every path, road and alley

Frogs croak among flowers petals bloom in growth

Inhale the air.

Colour, shade a surprise on stamens

butterflies settle is it time,

to brew with nettles new

A taste of tea, for you.

In the countryside

Written by mjb

Christ, Napping

I was wondering the other day about what happened to the Jesus Army.  Well, apparently nothing happened to them; they’re still around, at least according to their website, though they’re not so much in evidence on the streets.  I have seriously mixed feelings about the Jesus People: on the one hand, they do seem sincere and they do some good stuff; on the other hand they indulge in what is now called ‘Christ-napping’ – picking homeless people up off the streets and taking them to church, presumably with the sweetener of a meal or hot drink.

I really disapprove of these tactics: if you want to help homeless people then just help them.  Feed them, offer hot drinks, clothing, whatever – but don’t make going to church a condition of having this stuff.  Don’t make them tick a box (or a pew) before they can get the help; because that sucks.  Just offer the help; be the church – and then maybe they’ll want to join.  Maybe not, but at least you’ll have done something worthwhile.  Sound Cafe works on this principle, and so does Tomatoes.  It’s like St Francis said: ‘Talk about God all the time: use words if you must.’

So anyway – my thought for the day is this: that the sculpture of the homeless Jesus should be called ‘Christ, Napping’.

Not bad eh?

Kirk out

PS And here are the Jesus People, if you want to look them up:


Sound Cafe Poetry

I love this: it was written at Sound Cafe while a very talented harpist was playing her harp.

A little music to harp about

While she plays

While the string sings

And every voice quiet

While standing in everyday

Many a face can express

Taste many a cup of tea

And sound the string sings

A little music in a cloud

A little taste of sound

Cakes and crumbs found

On a journey homeward bound.

© Maxine Beesley

Comment please.

Kirk out

I’ve Got Good News and Bad News

It’s been a dismal sort of day here in blog-land; overcast and wet, and perhaps that accounts for me being drawn to the poetry of Philip Larkin and in particular his well-known ‘This Be The Verse.’  If the title doesn’t ring a bell, the first line surely will:

‘They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad’

Curiously, one of the people I met at Sound Cafe asked me whether I knew the poem and could perform it: I said yes to the first and a definite no to the second.  Four-letter words in St Martin’s House?  Whatever next?

Anyway, I’ve been inspired to write a response to Larkin’s work about raising a teenager: I’ve called it ‘Larkin’s Guide to Parenting’ and it begins:

‘You have to let your kids fuck up

you may not want to but they will…’

I may do it at the next Pinggk.

So the poem took up most of the morning and then after a quick lunch I whizzed into town to look at Steve’s pictures.  He has works in two exhibitions, one at Bishop St Methodist Church cafe and the other at Cank St Gallery:

and they are both well worth a look.  So after looking I chugged up the road to St Martin’s House for the third week of Sound Cafe.  It seems to be doing really well: they must have had about 30 punters today and many of them joined in the singing with gusto.  We practised doing ‘Lean on Me’ by Bill Withers, to perform in a couple of weeks when Helen comes back; then there was a very talented harpist who did a few numbers before I went on to do ‘There’s a War on’.  After I’d read this poem about the Bedroom Tax I talked to one of the guys who had actually been made homeless by it.*  He’d had a terrible time; not only had he been on the streets but he’d had a zero hours contract in Melton and had sometimes travelled all the way there (at his own expense) only to be told there was no work for him.  Zero hours should be made illegal – or else MP’s should be made to work zero hours contracts.  They’d outlaw them double quick if that happened.

After tea and cake a couple of people performed poems, and then a Rumanian guy sang a couple of songs.  He had a terrific voice and could have passed for professional.  It made me wonder about his history.  The good thing about Sound Cafe is you never know who you’re going to meet.

So then home: and on the doormat were two envelopes, one containing good news and the other bad.  The bad news was a rejection – a story I’d completely forgotten about: I wasn’t too upset as I hadn’t had high hopes for that one.  But in the other envelope was a cheque for my ‘Everybody’s Reading’ work.  So that was very welcome.  And so to work: I find the afternoons quite hard at the moment: I have loads of motivation in the mornings and get to my desk by 9 or 9.30, but after lunch my mojo disappears and I find it hard to keep going.  As for the evenings, unless I’m going out I tend to collapse in front of the TV and stay there till bedtime.  But I managed to read Dostoevsky for an hour (as preparation for NaNoWriMo) and now I’m here writing my blog.

Which is where we came in…

Kirk out

* by the tax, not by my poem!

The Progress-bar of Sisyphus

Well, I found something out yesterday: you can’t blog in the library.  Who knew?  There was I, imagining myself to be broadcasting to my people from the reading-room, when not only did it fail to publish, it didn’t save the draft either!  I clicked on ‘publish post’ and the progress bar ground slowly across the screen and halted a millimetre from the end where it stayed until my time was up.  It’s like those things you install that have progress bars which, when complete, give way to more and more progress bars.  What’s the point of a progress bar if it doesn’t tell you how you’re progressing?  You can just imagine Basil Fawlty jumping up and down in rage at that one: and it made me think of Sisyphus, the guy in the Greek myth who was condemned to push a heavy rock up a mountain.  As soon as he got to the top the rock tumbled all the way down to the bottom again.  I guess you could call that a bar to progress…

So what I was going to tell you yesterday was that, further to my post on people I see every day (and Steve’s response) I actually met one of the guys in person!  I was at the Sound Cafe (see last Wednesday’s post) when Chopper Guy turned up!  He proved to be very cheerful and personable, and he told me that he used to have a motorbike but had to give it up, so now he has his chopper instead.  Look out for him in town and say hello: he’s got gingerish dreads and a huge green chopper.*  Sound Cafe was great this week: it seemed to gel a bit more and we did some communal singing (the aim is to get a homeless choir going) before I went up to do my homeless poem about the anti-homeless spikes.  It’s called ‘Spike’ and it got a great reception: one bloke said it made him cry.  Afterwards we had a poetry table and several people came along to write: one or two even read their poems out!
So after that I had two hours in town before the Left Unity meeting: hence the library visit.  On parking my bike in Humberstone Gate I got caught in a ridiculously fierce shower and got soaked because I couldn’t get my bike-lock out fast enough.  Earlier I put my bike in the bike-park: I’m pleased they’ve opened this up again.
And so to bed…
Kirk out.
*Please refrain from sniggering…