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POETRY

No Money in the Bank

Samantha Masi

Culture Matters | March 25, 2021

No Money in the Bank

No money in the bank.
But how will we pay our bills?

No money.
The computer algorithm
messed up again.

Why won’t it let us be?
They all sigh, they say
Why can’t you get a job?
I’m doing my childminding
course. I’m moving. I’ll apply
for care.
I have cats to feed

No money in the bank.
How will I pay for my car
insurance and tax?
How will we live another month?
Two rents to pay,
No help from the government.
They say call a helpline
They don’t care.

We will have to visit the food bank again.
It’s so embarrassing –
But we have no choice
If we want to survive.
We have no money in the bank.

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POETRY 

One Year On

David Erdos, with image by Paulette Parker

Culture Matters | March 24, 2021

One Year On

Birds wake me to sing a mutant song for us. Unusual for them,
This stung chorus catches wracked power as well as the pitch
That’s been rising even as we all fall far from shape. It has been
One year today in which zoom and zoo have reframed us,

And thus, we have prowled, part bewildered in some form
Of slow return to the ape. We need Sir David Attenborough
To live long and present or re-introduce our next habits,
For as in Brecht’s In the Jungle of Cities, the citizens survey

The fouled streets, which loll like slack mouths having been
Punched and made toothless as the bite of the economy loosened
And the limpest of licks dabbed at meat. So many juices run dry!
So many bodies stopped! So much anger! So many lost lions roaring

As they struggled to roam ruined plains. Both beast and burden
Aligned as we took on the glare of kept Leopards; with our motion
Blocked, amputation still stalled our progress even if each limb
From four was retained. Instead, we became those we cooked,

Or those whom we watched through Sir David; eyeing each detail
While forgetting the former shape of ourselves. We lost pride
And gained pot, over which we obsessed, spending for it.
Instead of pleasure, leisure and culture, the buying of food

Became hobby, as we exchanged stage and sportsground
For the Universe around kitchen shelves. How will we feel
Once released, about our homes shaped as Prisons?
Will those precious walls and shelves lose their meaning

As we strain for freedom and strive like our animal kind
For the wild? For, as has been seen, Mankind is unkind
To the figures and flesh of the forest. As we hunt and coat
Them in plastic their long hold on wisdom has made our grasping

At life like a child’s, who knows nothing and won’t without
The will to discover what has gone on: as for instance, for what
Reason has this particular time become war? And an Uncivil
One, too, come to that, alongside Trump’s tearing of the flag

To mop bloodstains, or, the numerous bastards of Brexit
And the bitches too, whose guffaw at the need to belong
To a clearly corrupt but nevertheless working system, kept us
At least bound together as this warp in the wind forged a split
Between the world we all want and the one we’ve created;
Two very different things, let’s be certain: Has the control
We’d exert truly slipped? For now so many people forget who
They were and have allowed the ignorant to form answers,

In which Remedial level instruction was quickly dishonoured
By the Hell headed evil of Dominic’s goings and comings
Alongside the despicable actions of the sow for whom seeds
Would wither, the disgusting, uncaring and regardless of feature,

Unpriti Patel. Who has brought shame on both creed and race
With a year of numbed statements, from her fouled fantasy
Of an immigrant’s island to the need to stop protest and crowds
Atttending Sarah Everard’s Funeral. I do not single her out,

As I have, from a sense of personal vindication, but simply
Because I cannot believe how such people are allowed to rise
And go on. With Trump’s fat fruit impeached twice, what point
Over there to impeachment? Would Nixon today have won

Through and wriggled, as Bill Clinton blew sex and Sax also
In order to re-sing love’s last song? Where The Devil are we?
I’m lost. Are you, as well, if you listen? Lost in Living rooms,
Kitchens, lounges and bedrooms too, as you read

About the dearth and the day getting worse, or the marks
On your loved one’s body. At least what has happened
On pillows has put a positive spin within sheets.
For we mustn’t forget that this Lockdown Year has brought

Babies in an almost Catholic style frenzy as each sad death
Was replaced. Yet still, domestic abuse burst like blooms
And colour stung bruises on victims, while others chased
Pastimes that their former working world would not lease.

And so, the balances burn. Or so it seems to me as I write this.
Businesses fold. Friendship creases as misunderstandings,
Like money gain – or in terms of people – lose interest. Some
Have learnt new languages or become Olympic across their small

Gardens. Time is marked and made to discover the secret self.
Loss invests. People make time as time stops, and can catch
Their breath as its challenged. So much so that masks seal them,
Like the lid on a homemade jar of jam. Of which there must be

So many by now, so as to feed the sweet craving soured mouths
Of all nations, as we in turn ache for comfort, either through
The fuel and food of a lover, or the touch lost to many
Of their too soon departed and their still felt and dreamt

Ghosted hands. The former Rat Race has been run, so we must
Learn to walk once more, not as rodents. Or, as a puppet might,
Stretched, or limpid, and subject of course to dark strings,
Of which we glimpse less than a side of sleeve, or, long shadow.

For we do not know who’s still playing, or, moving us about
As fate stings. Perhaps this is just a vaccum of sorts, as the vaccine
Creates vortex. And just like Astronauts in the astral we now approach
The black hole, through which we chase Kubrick’s key twenty years on

From his title, and my own lifetime from filming as we try to chart
A further path for the soul. Where will we be one year on? Stuck inside
This constant parade of reprisals? Or already stacked and camped
Cleanly as a jackboot designs fashion’s shift? Or, will we all work

From homes as defined states and nations; from the county of David,
To the region you’re in, this word gift. My little street broadcasts out
As we all create our own station. Today, friends are filming, while others
Wait overseas. Shaifta smiles in her sleep, sweetly fixing on the good

That can happen. Roger rehearses a play and builds kitchens while
He waits for his business light to go green. The possible mirth
And mar mix in the still empty cities however. Why will Employers
Continue to pay for buildings if their employees can now work

From home? Those ransacked offices could well become rotten teeth
In a voiceless void of damned districts, which while they once hummed
Are now silenced as the sunk spaces jar like scraped bone? In the Ballardian
Scream the future symphony achieves structure. The jab makes us cyborgs

Servants of state: a world brand, in which the souls sold with the one
Percent’s shady dealings see us all steamed, as smoke rises in some
Frightening echo of those chaos chambers that Shickelfuckingruber
Once planned. Who knows? Who can say? Poetry asks certain questions.

And if the answers exist they do solely in a tongue and taint few can read.
And so we Winston away, wordsmiths like him in kept corners. Watchful
No doubt for O’Brien and for where Julia’s Judas kiss may yet lead.
George Orwell’s 1984 came and stayed. In 2021 there’s Fakenewspeak.

But in which and whose quarters will the lovers regroup to resist?
Perhaps in this year and across these double century pieces,
I have been looking for love in past places, and to try and involve you
In this: for my struggle is yours. As yours is mine, the world over.
The Peoples Prison is progress in terms of either capture and calm,
And cast bliss. The Covidian Age was not Bronze, or ice, or stone.
It was water. Passed in piss and tears of sweat, distress, effort
And if you wish to pray, those of joy. This David’s Covid’s untouched.

I have not been ill. I am grateful. And yet I cry and seek the cure
Of my Mother and even at this age now, am a boy,
Searching for home, even while caged within it. I sit staring out
Through this writing as the only effective means I employ.

To reach you, or teach in my own small way the main lesson.
But perhaps the best expression’s unwritten. Perhaps, if I’m honest,
The best lesson of all stays untaught. After one year of this, or,
At least in this country what have I learned? That life’s broken,

And that, if we’re mindful we can repair it all with a thought.
We just have to have the same one and say it at once altogether.
For only then, we’ll find freedom and only then, open doors.
This will not be my last word, I know. But in the scale of fame today

I am Limescale; something to be scraped from scrawl and discovered
Once the ruins are read years from now. At a time in which I may
Become Heiroglyphs, or, cyber print on tombed laptops, and where
A partly heard whisper across a miasmic air is allowed.

For it may distort, yet contain a brief whisp of tune, or splutter
Of algorhymed wisdom, in which the pains we have suffered will tell
The far future how it can finally heal the now. One year on.
Then one more. One Era on. Or one Aeon, stars glaze our surface

As what we were is won and wept across cloud. Should God hear
These words may that alien throne start to glisten. Across this space
And shape I reach for it. May such grace light our losses. I can only hope
In this writing that I have made my dead heroes and my passed parents too,

Duly proud. And yet man has handed ‘misery to man,’ as Larkin’s
‘coastal shelf’ seemed to deepen. So, may we all start to swim from it,
And may those stars as sea breed new life. This one has certainly been
Compromised, but we can prise promise for it. Play and read this, please.

Then make music. As you start to speak from your silence, the birds
May receive us and the joint chorale we’re all part of will learn
To sing once more.

Let’s dream, loud.

Read More »

SCIENCE AND ART

How to Shape a Productive Scientist–Artist Collaboration

Virginia Gewin

The Nature | February 17, 2021

Yunchul assembling the Chroma at the studio.
Seoul artist Yunchul Kim assembles his latest work, Chroma, a 15-metre-long structure of laminated polymer in the form of a torus knot.Credit: Yeongho Kim, courtesy of the artist.

Art can be a powerful medium for exploring the deeper meaning of scientific endeavours. Collaborations between scientists and artists are under way around the world, and daily postings to social media with the #SciArt hashtag suggest that the often-disparate domains are merging in fresh and exciting ways. Although many such collaborations aim mainly to engage and educate the general public about science, scientists and artists are recognizing that creative partnerships can turn science into captivating art.Read More »

POET

John Keats: Revolutionary Romantic

Jenny Farrell

Culture Matters | February 11, 2021

John Keats: Revolutionary Romantic
Jenny Farrell marks the 200th anniversary of Keats’s death. The image above is of Keats on his deathbed, by his friend Joseph Severn

G. B. Shaw stated that “Keats achieved the very curious feat of writing a poem of which it may be said that if Karl Marx can be imagined writing a poem instead of a treatise on Capital, he would have written Isabella.” Shaw’s view clashes with that of most mainstream critics, who deny Keats any political thought and declare him a worshipper of some unspecified ‘Beauty’. This month marks the 200th anniversary of Keats’s death and is an opportunity to spend a moment reclaiming this revolutionary romantic.Read More »

POETRY

Baked Alaska

Alan Morrison

Culture Matters | January 09, 2021

Baked Alaska

Emperor Trump’s mob took him at his word,
Stormed the Capitol, seat of American democracy,
Vandals sacking Rome, Spartans spilling into Athens,
Barbarians at the gates in red baseball caps branded
With the legend: MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
Barbarians from within, chanting empty mantras
And chauvinistic rhetoric – “Stop the Steal!”
Amongst the gold-braided Vikings and buffalo-horned
Visigoths, one key agitator known by the moniker
Of ‘Baked Alaska’, an Alt Right conspiracy theorist,
Real name Anthime “Tim” Gionet, who set about
Trying to prove how fragile American democracy
Actually is when push comes to shove and there’s
A lot of shoving, punching, shooting – that the Capitol
Could be, at least symbolically, crushed like meringue,
Shattered glass and debris litter the east steps
It was simply too good an opportunity to miss
For White Supremacists and shadowy Far Right groups
To gather together in broad Washington daylight
And march on that impertinent neoclassical building
Whose wedding-cake dome overpowered its own
Porticos, as it did their rust-belt hopes – how dare
That building pay host to the temerity of representative
Democracy when it didn’t represent them,
The Sunburnt White Privileged, Rednecks, Confederates –
A president coaxing his supporters into insurrection,
We’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Ave – I love
Pennsylvania Avenue – and we’re going to the Capitol –
Only no we’re about it: the perma-tanned rabble-rouser
Would be safely tucked behind his Oval Office desk,
Orange thumb poised on Twitter – it would be They,
His underlings, Myrmidons, remote-controlled thugs
Who in one brief afternoon would storm the Capitol,
Overpower the seemingly powerless police, and attempt
To smash up American democracy as easily
As crushing a meringue, too tempting an opportunity
To pass up, too much of a coup, a scoop – that Capitol
Dome sat there impertinently like a Baked Alaska
Seemed in need of some caramelising,
Just long enough to tan and tarnish its exterior
Without completely melting its ice-cream insides…

Read More »

POETRY 

The Case of George Nkencho

Kevin Higgins

The Case of George Nkencho

If this boy had been more prudently
dropped into life on, say, a street
with trees that throw out their annual yellow
to make a welcome parade for the sun;
had as childhood neighbours a Circuit Court judge
whose front door had no letterbox,
a Garda Chief Inspector with an opinionated
and over-confident dog;
kicked a ball up and down summer evenings,
dead apart from the occasional well-behaved bee,
with the boy next door (but one) who blossomed
into a political correspondent
and now gets to make up truth,
another way would’ve been found.

But for coming at Gardaí
with a chemical imbalance,
what some people are calling
a machete
and a totally inappropriate
postcode,
the only sentence
was that ethically administered,
democratically accountable,
bolt-action firing squad.

The eminent and learned
bottoms we employ to sit
on the inquiry into this
need not fret the task ahead of them.
For their report is already written.

Read More »

POETRY

Christmas 2020. It’s all about the loved ones

Annie McCrae

Culture Matters | December 20, 2020

Christmas 2020. It’s all about the loved ones

but what about the sick ones
the bullied ones
the just about surviving ones
the unemployed ones
the struggling ones
the can’t cope any longer ones?

And what about the lonely ones
the grieving ones
the drowning ones
the exploited ones
the abused ones
the trapped can’t leave ones?

What about the homeless ones
the left out ones
the voiceless ones
the ignored ones
the selfless ones
not in it for themselves ones?

And what about the honest ones
the starving ones
the care home ones
the stranded ones
the shielding ones
the not a Tory crony ones?

The dead ones
the unloved ones
What about them?

Annie McCrae

Annie McCrae is a retired English teacher and trade union activist, including a stint as a national organiser for the EIS teaching union.

SOURCE: https://www.culturematters.org.uk/index.php/arts/poetry/item/3596-christmas-2020-it-s-all-about-the-loved-ones

LITERATURE ON CLASS STRUGGLE  

The Sword and the Sickle: William Blake and Class Struggle

David Betteridge

Culture Matters | December 04, 2020

The Sword and the Sickle: William Blake and class struggle

To celebrate his 79th birthday, David Betteridge writes about swords, sickles and class struggle

I

Have a slow look at the drawing shown above. Is it not an image that captures our eye, engages our intelligence, and feeds our imagination, springing as it does from the artist’s own eye and intelligence and imagination? By means of his long-practised craft, the artist transports us into a Tale of Two Fields, of Two Bladed Implements, of Two Adversaries representing Two Classes, and of Two Ways of Life and Death. We see more than an illustrative drawing. We see an emblem, transcending the historic past in which it is set, and speaking of and to all times. This emblem is, I would claim, a gift to be treasured, likely to stick in our memories. It is beautifully stark in its overall impact, and subtle in its detail. Look, for example, at which blade overlaps which; and look at the two hands holding them. One is gauntleted, implying rank. The other is bare, implying the opposite.

The artist who drew our “Sword & Sickle” emblem above is Bob Starrett, best known as a political cartoonist. He is a latter-day “Eccles” or “Gabriel” of Clydeside and beyond, as readers of his Rattling the Cage know, and readers of the Culture Matters site, as also the many activists who have gone to him asking for campaign designs for leaflets or posters, and invariably got them, sometimes within a turnaround time of a day or a night.Read More »

POETRY

2020

Tom Hubbard

Culture Matters | December 03, 2020

2020

Cardboard covers the flesh in a smitten street,
While, immunised from sudden empathy,
Flesh covers pasteboard as high chancers greet
Dank festivals of mediocrity.
Their very bodies crust into a mask,
And those who hark at them are marionettes
Of paper that absorbs, who scarce will ask,
And take no thought for future raged regrets.
With giant flapping banners of their creed
Rank gigglers march the unwoke to the abyss,
Brake at the edge; their followers proceed
To rising tides. Their masters smile at this,
Self-halted by their adolescent crazes,
Fiddling with their privates while the planet blazes.

The image is Evening on Karl Johan Street, by Edvard Munch

Read More »

DISCUSSIN ON POETRY

What is Present: History, by John Berger

David Betteridge

Culture Matters | November 17, 2020

What is Present: History, by John Berger

What interests me about the existence of archives is that you enter the past which is as it were in the present tense. And so it’s another way of people who lived in the past who perhaps are still living or perhaps are dead; a way of them being present….
– JOHN BERGER

“History” is a poem which packs a lot of meaning into its eight lines:

History

by John Berger

The pulse of the dead
as interminably
constant as the silence
which pockets the thrush.

The eyes of the dead
inscribed on our palms
as we walk on this earth
which pockets the thrush.Read More »

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