Saturday 28 September 2013

Have you ever thanked the ground just for being there for your next steps?

If I write an ode to bicycle thieves,
the ones that stole my wheels in Shoreditch,
I will thank them for my slow walk home
and the ode I wrote to my feet.

Monday 23 September 2013

Elegy For The People Shot Dead In Kenya, Nairobi

The headline said 68 people murdered in Nairobi,
and I thought, no, they got it wrong, it’s not murder, this is war.

Bullets can buy anything in shopping malls.

Digital Cameras.

Kenya is a dropped shield
in the blood of Somalia.

The knees
of the Indian Ocean.

The red in that African
vein -

When sixty-eight people die
because a shopping mall
is built in the middle of a war

crossfire becomes
another word for innocence -

another way to say
He was just out
with his nephew having coffee
when he got his temple shot.

People that might’ve been poets
like Muhammad al-Ajami,
Lorca or Kofi Woonor -
      taken to darkness
with bullets and jail cells.

who believes in a God
that makes sense of a woman
chattered with an AK-47
across her child bearing womb?

Why is this happening in a country
where let us all pull together
is an anthem?

Sunday 15 September 2013

Hackney Kebab Shops & Questions For Gentrifers


Conversation With Ali

I bought this Kebab shop in the Sixties, back when Lenny was about, cockney fella, a seven-foot tower block with a face like a truck. I was losing teeth on his knuckles for holding my face too high when he demanded stocks in my business for protection money. Do I miss my home being a place where my nose gets bollocked to the back of my throat? No. What you call “gentrification” I call “sleeping without a gun”. There is less blood to mop off my floor, less graffiti to scrub off my walls in the restrooms. One time Lenny brought a man to the shop, hacked off his penis and made him chew it, right in front of me. The worst thing I see in Hackney now are the haircuts. What happened to Lenny? Some guy rammed a pole through his brain and sorted out my luck.



Questions For Gentrifiers

How many coffee shops do you need to open
to keep that entitled jitter in your walk?

Is it your business if people on council estates can’t afford
the air you breath?

Has the population of the towns you were born in increased or decreased?

Isn’t your fashion just an elitist attitude in uniform?

Does the term hipster offend you or is it a word that you claim?

Do you feel privileged or really cool in the presence of poverty?

Thursday 12 September 2013

Page Vs Stage Love Letters (Pablo Neruda Vs Jeanann Verlee

New York based poet Jeanann Verlee delivers 40 Love Letters.

If you know me, you know that Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is my favourite poet. Pablo wrote this letter to his wife when he left Chile during the Spanish Civil War. It is, in my opinion, one of the most un-ashamdedly sentimental but beautiful letter poems in existence. 

Letters on the Road
Farewell, but you will be
with me, you will go within
a drop of blood circulating in my veins
or Outside, a kiss that burns my Face
or a belt of fire at my waist.
My sweet, accept
the great love that came out of my life
and that in you found no territory
like the explorer lost
in the isles of bread and honey.
I found you after
the storm,
the rain washed the air
and in the water
your sweet feet gleamed like fishes.

Adored one, I am off to my fighting.

I shall scratch the earth to make you a cave
and there your Captain
will wait for you with flowers in the bed.
Think no more, my sweet,
about the anguish
that went on between us
like a bolt of phosphorous
leaving us perhaps its burning.
Peace arrived too because I return
to my land to fight,
and as I have a whole heart
with the share of blood that you gave me

and as
I have
my hands filled with your naked being,
look at me,
look at me,
look at me across the sea, for I go radiant,
look at me across the night through which I sail,
and sea and night are those eyes of yours.
I have not left you when I go away.
Now I am going to tell you:
my land will be yours,
I am going to conquer it,
not just to give it to you,
but for everyone,
for all my people.
The thief will come out of his tower some day.
And the invader will be expelled.
All the fruits of life
will grow in my hands
accustomed once to powder.
And I shall know how to touch the new flowers gently
because you taught me tenderness.
My sweet, adored one,
you will come with me to fight face to face
because your kisses live in my heart
like red banners,
and if I fall, not only
will earth cover me
but also this great love that you brought me
and that lived circulating in my blood.
You will come with me,
at that hour I wait for you,
at that hour and at every hour,
at every hour I wait for you.
And when the sadness that I hate comes
to knock at your door,
tell her that I am waiting for you
and when loneliness wants you to change
the ring in which my name is written,
tell loneliness to talk with me,
that I had to go away
because I am a soldier,
and that there where I am,
under rain or under
my love, I wait for you.
I wait for you in the harshest desert
and next to the flowering lemon tree,
in every place where there is life,
where spring is being born,
my love, I wait for you.
When they tell you: " That man
does not love you," remember
that my feet are alone in that night, and they seek
the sweet and tiny feet that I adore.
Love, when they tell you
that I have forgotten you, and even when
it is I who say it,
when I say it to you,
do not believe me,
who could and how could anyone
cut you from my heart
and who would receive
my blood
when I went bleeding toward you?
But still I can not
forget my people.
I am going to fight in each street,
behind each stone.
Your love also helps me:
it is a closed flower
that constantly fills me with its aroma
and that opens suddenly
within me like a great star.

My love, it is night.

The black water, the sleeping
world surround me.
Soon dawn will come,
and meanwhile I write you
to tell you: " I love you."
To tell you " I love you," care for,
clean, lift up,
our love, my darling.
I leave it with you as if I left
a handful of earth with seeds.
From our love lives will be born.
In our love they will drink water.
Perhaps a day will come
when a man and a woman, like
will touch this love and it will still have the strength
to burn the hands that touch it.
Who were we? What does it matter?
They will touch this fire and the fire,
my sweet, will say your simple name
and mine, the name
that only you knew, because you alone
upon earth know
who I am, and because nobody knew me like one,
like just one hand of yours,
because nobody
knew how or when
my heart was burning:
only your great dark eyes knew,
your wide mouth,
your skin, your breasts,
your belly, your insides,
and your soul that I awoke
so that it would go on
singing until the end of life.

Love, I am waiting for you.
Farewell, love, I am waiting for you.
Love, love, I am waiting for you.

And so this letter ends
with no sadness:
my feet are firm upon the earth,
my hand writes this letter on the road,
and in the midst of life I shall be
beside the friend, facing the enemy,
with your name on my mouth
and a kiss that never
broke away from yours.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Upcoming Shows With Hollie McNish, Anthony Anaxagorou, Sophia Walker and more...

19th September
The Ruby Kid
Joelle Taylor
Spoken Word from
Hollie McNish
Adam Kammerling & Raymond Antrobus
Pete The Temp and more

Spoken Word from 1pm
Anthony Anaxagorou
Tshaka Campbell
Bridget Minamore
Sarah Perry
Rosie Marx
Raymond Antrobus

Sunday 8 September 2013

Page Meets Stage (Alden Nowlan Vs Shane Koyczan)

It's a battle of Canadian literary poet Alden Nowlan and another favourite Spoken Word poet, also Canadian, Shane Koyczan.

The Crickets Have Arthritis by Shane Koyczan

He Sits Down on the Floor of a School for the Retarded by Alden Nowlan

I sit down on the floor of a school for the retarded,
a writer of magazine articles accompanying a band
that was met at the door by a child in a man's body
who asked them, "Are you the surprise they promised us?"

It's Ryan's Fancy, Dermot on guitar,
Fergus on banjo, Denis on penny-whistle.
In the eyes of this audience, they're everybody
who has ever appeared on TV. I've been telling lies
to a boy who cried because his favorite detective
hadn't come with us; I said he had sent his love
and, no, I didn't think he'd mind if I signed his name

to a scrap of paper: when the boy took it, he said,
"Nobody will ever get this away from me,"
in the voice, more hopeless than defiant,
of one accustomed to finding that his hiding places
have been discovered, used to having objects snatched
out of his hands. Weeks from now I'll send him
another autograph, this one genuine
in the sense of having been signed by somebody
on the same payroll as the star.
Then I'll feel less ashamed. Now everyone is singing,
"Old MacDonald had a farm," and I don't know what to do
about the young woman (I call her a woman
because she's twenty-five at least, but think of her
as a little girl, she plays the part so well,
having known no other), about the young woman who
sits down beside me and, as if it were the most natural
thing in the world, rests her head on my shoulder.

It's nine o'clock in the morning, not an hour for music.
And, at the best of times, I'm uncomfortable
in situations where I'm ignorant
of the accepted etiquette: it's one thing
to jump a fence, quite another thing to blunder
into one in the dark. I look around me
for a teacher to whom to smile out my distress.
They're all busy elsewhere, "Hold me," she whispers. "Hold me."

I put my arm around her. "Hold me tighter."
I do, and she snuggles closer. I half-expect
someone in authority to grab her
off me: I can imagine this being remembered
for ever as the time the sex-crazed writer
publicly fondled the poor retarded girl.
"Hold me," she says again. What does it matter
what anybody thinks? I put my arm around her,
rest my chin in her hair, thinking of children,
real children, and of how they say it, "Hold me,"
and of a patient in a geriatric ward
I once heard crying out to his mother, dead
for half a century, "I'm frightened! Hold me!"
and of a boy-soldier screaming it on the beach
at Dieppe, of Nelson in Hardy's arms,
of Frieda gripping Lawrence's ankle
until he sailed off in his Ship of Death.

It's what we all want, in the end,
to be held, merely to be held,
to be kissed (not necessarily with the lips,
for every touching is a kind of kiss.)

Yet, it's what we all want, in the end,
not to be worshipped, not to be admired,
not to be famous, not to be feared,
not even to be loved, but simply to be held.

She hugs me now, this retarded woman, and I hug her.
We are brother and sister, father and daughter,
mother and son, husband and wife.
We are lovers. We are two human beings
huddled together for a little while by the fire
in the Ice Age, two thousand years ago. 

Friday 6 September 2013

Page Meets Stage (Adrienne Rich Vs Rafeef Ziadah)

This is a series of my favourite literary poets going back to back with my favourite stage poets. The season kicks off with American poet Adrienne Rich and Palestinian poet Rafeef Ziadah.

We Teach Life Sir by Rafeef Ziadah

Hunger by Adrienne Rich

--for Audre Lorde


A fogged hill-scene on an enormous continent,
intimacy rigged with terrors,
a sequence of blurs the Chinese painter's ink-stick planned,
a scene of desolation comforted
by two human figures recklessly exposed,
leaning together in a sticklike boat
in the foreground. Maybe we look like this,
I don't know. I'm wondering
whether we even have what we think we have--
lighted windows signifying shelter,
a film of domesticity
over fragile roofs. I know I'm partly somewhere else--
huts strung across a drought-stretched land
not mine, dried breasts, mine and not mine, a mother
watching my children shrink with hunger.
I live in my Western skin,
my Western vision, torn
and flung to what I can't control or even fathom.
Quantify suffering, you could rule the world.


They *can* rule the world while they can persuade us
our pain belongs in some order.
Is death by famine worse than death by suicide,
than a life of famine and suicide, if a black lesbian dies,
if a white prostitute dies, if a woman genius
starves herself to feed others,
self-hatred battening on her body?
Something that kills us or leaves us half-alive
is raging under the name of an "act of god"
in Chad, in Niger, in teh Upper Volta--
yes, that male god that acts on us and on our children,
that male State that acts on us and on our children
till our brains are blunted by malnutritiou,
yet sharpened by the passion for survival,
our powers expended daily on the struggle
to hand a kind of life on to our children,
to change reality for our lovers
even in a single trembling drop of water.


We can look at each other through both our lifetimes
like those two figures in the sticklike boat
flung together in the Chinese ink-scene;
even our intimacies are rigged with terror.
Quantify suffering? My guilt at least is open,
I stand convicted by all my convictions--
you, too. We shrink from touching
our power, we shrink away, we starve ourselves
and each otehr, we're scared shitless
of what it could be to take and use our love,
hose it on a city, on a world,
to wield and guide its spray, destroying
poisons, parasites, rats, viruses--
like the terrible mothers we long and dread to be.


The decision to feed the world
is the real decision. No revolution
has chosen it. For that choice requires
that women shall be free.
I choke on the taste of bread in North America
but the taste of hunger in North America
is poisoning me. Yes, I'm alive to write these words,
to leaf through Kollwitz's women
huddling the stricken children into their stricken arms
the "mothers" drained of milk, the "survivors" driven
to self-abortion, self-starvation, to a vision
bitter, concrete, and wordless.
I'm alive to want more than life,
want it for others starving and unborn,
to name the deprivations boring
into my will, my affections, into the brains
of daughters, sisters, lovers caught in the crossfire
of terrorists of the mind.
In the black mirror of the subway window
hangs my own face, hollow with anger and desire.
Swathed in exhaustion, on the trampled newsprint,
a woman shields a dead child from the camera.
The passion to be inscribes her body.
Until we find each other, we are alone.

Sunday 1 September 2013

Festive Thanks

Poet-ing Summer Festivals
Hey, just to say thanks to Camp Bestival, Latitude, Boom Town, Shambala and In The Woods for having my poetry on your stages this summer. Crowded tents confirmed for me that Spoken Word is growing, more people seem to be looking out for it. There were 1,600 audience members for the Shambala stage alone. It is growing because there is genuinely a wealth of talent on the scene and a developed understanding of what Spoken Word is aesthetically.

I'm also rather pleased that my book Shapes & Disfigurements Of Raymond Antrobus has been picked up by so many of you, so thanks. Still more in stock at Burning Eye Books -

My next adventure is starting my role as Spoken Word Educator at Cardinal Pole in the new term and setting up youth showcases with Chill Pill. HOLDTIGHT!