Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"Carol Ann Dunn was born and raised in Liverpool but has lived in Leeds for over 30 years, working as a teacher and trainer across West Yorkshire. A singer of both traditional and choral music, she began writing poetry and ballads on a course at Maddy Prior's Stones Barn and does so on subjects that are important to her, such as this one."

All the above and the following lifted from the Morning Star.

(Carol Ann Dunn)

The fans had come to Sheffield
To see their idols play,
Their chants were loud but happy
On that fatal April day.

The fans were all excited,
convinced their team would win;
Police had packed them tighter
And ever tighter in.

The crush grew suffocating
And fans soon realised
A tragedy was happening
Before their very eyes.

Though pressed against the railings
Like cattle in a pound,
Some fans were helping others
Climb out to safer ground;

Though they could hardly breathe,
They hoisted children high,
Passed them along to safety
Then stayed behind to die.

Police would blame them later:
‘The fans were drunk’ they lied;
That rag the Sun abused as scum
The innocent who died.

The inquest (well, the first one)
Claimed ‘Accidental Death’;
An insult on an injury
That took away our breath.

Now Merseyside united,
The red side with the blue;
As purple as a bruise,
One colour from the two.

Through all their bruising battles
They were bloodied but unbowed;
They brought us a new unity,
They did our city proud;

They showed us our true colours
These loved ones of the dead,
To find some kind of peace of mind,
To help put pain to bed.

Will we walk with these families,
Now that the end’s in sight
For justice for the ninety six?
Will we? Too fucking right.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

(Nizar Qabbani)

If I were promised safety,
if I could meet the Sultan
I would say to him: O my lord the Sultan!
my cloak has been torn by your ravenous dogs,
your spies are following me all the time.
Their eyes
their noses
their feet are chasing me
like destiny, like fate
They interrogate my wife
and write down all the names of my friends.
O Sultan!
Because I dare to approach your deaf walls,
because I tried to reveal my sadness and
I was beaten with my shoes.
O my lord the Sultan!
you have lost the war twice
because half our people
has no tongue.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"Burt's Letters from the North of Scotland" published 1754 though written 1726.
I'm reading a reprint of this work at the moment, and something I read had me puzzled -

"The Irish Tongue was, I may say lately, universal in many Parts of the Lowlands; and I have heard it from several in Edinburgh, that, before the Union, it was the Language of the Shire of Fife, although that County be separated from the Capital only by the Frith [sic] of Forth, an Arm of the Sea, which from thence is but seven Miles over; and as proof they told me, after that Event (the Union) it be became one Condition of an Indenture, when a Youth of either Sex was to be bound on the Edinburgh side of the Water, that the Apprentice should be taught the English Tongue."

The political Union of England and Scotland took place in 1707. I find it hard to believe that the population of the whole of Fife, or even much of Fife was Gaelic speaking at that time. There may have been some Gaelic speakers in remote districts, but that is all I'm willing to accept until presented with further evidence.

Monday, April 18, 2016

I lifted this from Chris H's blog, as I threatened to do. The search to identify the author goes on. My old grandad, Edward McGinn, was one of these men, usually getting passed over because he refused to buy a day's work with a "backhander". Many of the stevedores who hired the dockers had a pub or a shebeen where men had to go for a start, and were expected to cough up for a pint while they waited. At the end of the working day it was back to the boozer to collect the day's earnings, and, of course, sup a couple of pints to "slake the dust".
This poem is reckoned to be from c.1910.

(George Milligan)

Before the great world’s noises break
the stillness overhead,
For toiling life begins the strife –
The day’s grim fight for bread.
Where Mersey’s mighty greyhounds speak
The wealth or England’s stocks,
Stand, mute and meek, the men that seek
A Day’s Work at the Docks.

Behold them now – a motley throng,
Men drawn from every grade:
Pale, florid, puny – weak and strong,
All by one impulse swayed.
One impulse – bread; one impulse – work!
How hope at each heart knocks
As mute and meek, they crush to seek
A day’s work at the docks.

‘Stand back! Stand back!’ A hoarse voice storms,
With curses muttered lower,
The straining ring of human forms
But closes in the more.
Well fed, you foremen scarce can know
How want the judgement mocks,
When, mute and meek, men eager seek
A day’s work at the docks.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Idris Davies' poetry has featured onthese pages before, and, no doubt, will again.
Gwalia means 'Wales', Gwalia Deserta is the name of a collection of Davies' poems.

(Idris Davies)

Do you remember 1926? That summer of soups and speeches,
The sunlight on the idle wheels and the deserted crossings,
And the laughter and the cursing in the moonlight streets?
Do you remember 1926? The slogans and the penny concerts,
The jazz-bands and the moorland picnics,
And the slanderous tongues of famous cities?
Do you remember 1926? The great dream and the swift disaster,
The fanatic and the traitor, and more than all,
The bravery of the simple, faithful folk?
‘Ay, ay, we remember 1926,’ said Dai and Shinkin,
As they stood on the kerb in Charing Cross Road,
“And we shall remember 1926 until our blood is dry.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A friend posted this poem and it inspired me to initiate a poetry season. The poem was published in 1921.
Does Siegfried Sassoon need an introduction? Suffice to say that he was from a privileged background, but was radicalised by his experiences in World War 1. What he witnessed confirmed the German general's estimation of the British Army as "lions led by donkeys".

Siegfried Sassoon

Something goes wrong with my synthetic brain
When I defend the Strikers and explain
My reasons for not blackguarding the Miners.
" What do you know? " exclaim my fellow-diners
(Peeling their plovers' eggs or lifting glasses
Of mellowed Chateau Rentier from the table),
" What do you know about the working classes?"

I strive to hold my own; but I'm unable
To state the case succinctly. Indistinctly
I mumble about World-Emancipation,
Standards of Living, Nationalization
Of Industry; until they get me tangled
In superficial details; goad me on
To unconvincing vagueness. When we've wrangled
From soup to savoury, my temper's gone.

" Why should a miner earn six pounds a week?
Leisure! They'd only spend it in a bar!
Standard of life! You'll never teach them Greek,
Or make them more contented than they are!"
That's how my port-flushed friends discuss the Strike.
And that's the reason why I shout and splutter.
And that's the reason why I'd almost like
To see them hawking matches in the gutter.