British anti-World War I Sassoon poem was censored

This video from Britain is called Suicide in the Trenches by Siegfried Sassoon: Read by Stephen Graham | Remembering World War 1.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Unpublished Siegfried Sassoon poems get first reading – and show anti-war sentiment was toned down before publication

Phrases like ‘you’re great at murder’ were later scratched from ‘Atrocities

Claudia Pritchard

Sunday 06 July 2014

Two unpublished poems by Siegfried Sassoon will be given a public reading for the first time today by the actor Samuel West, among them the first draft of “Atrocities”, in which Sassoon is much more direct about the visceral act of killing the enemy than in the later, published version.

Phrases that were later scratched include “you’re great at murder”. And the final lines, which the owner of the original manuscript, Annette Campbell-White, says finish “quite limply” with “still talking big and boozing in a bar”, contain the phrase “gulp their blood in ghoulish dreams”. Where Sassoon originally wrote “How did you kill them?”, he later revised this to “How did you do them in?”

Ms Campbell-White, a Sassoon specialist and collector, bought the poems at auction last year. “The war department or publishers thought that ‘Atrocities’ was a little too harsh, and so when it was published it was modified,” she said. At the time of the Bonhams sale she also acquired a large exercise book, Sassoon’s “daybook” from the 1920s, containing two dozen or so poems illustrated by the poet himself. Among them is a homage to Beethoven – “hail him heroic, honour him as great” – which West will also read at a music and poetry event in Buckinghamshire.

“The poems are very good. I am amazed they have never been published,” said Ms Campbell-White. “They are about all aspects of life, nature … a sort of poetic diary.”

Today’s event, called “Peace in Our Time?” forms part of the Garsington Opera summer season in a theatre in the grounds of the home of millionaire art collector Mark Getty, heir to John Paul Getty, at Wormsley, near High Wycombe. Garsington has an association with Sassoon through the socialite Lady Ottoline Morrell, owner of Garsington Manor from 1914 to 1928. It was at the manor that the operas were staged, from 1989 to 2011, before moving to Wormsley.

At Garsington Hall, which he visited regularly, Sassoon was encouraged by Lady Ottoline to take a stand against the way in which the First World War was proceeding. He had served with distinction until openly questioning the purpose of the war in 1917. He had received the Military Cross, but threw his medal into the Mersey. Only admission to the psychiatric hospital at Craiglockhart near Edinburgh spared him a court martial. He died in 1967.

Garsington was a haven for artists, intellectuals and conscientious objectors, including D H Lawrence and Lytton Strachey. Conscientious objectors, including members of the Bloomsbury circle, escaped prosecution by working on the farm there.

In 1917, Sassoon wrote a letter called “Finished With the War: A Soldier’s Declaration”. In it he said: “I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that the war upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them and that had this been done the objects… would now be attainable by negotiation.”

“Sassoon’s best poetry was written at the time of the war,” said Ms Campbell-White. “It was something to do with the stress, adrenaline and terror of that time that made the writing of the First World War poets so extraordinary. Sassoon remained a fine poet, but if Rupert Brooke, for example, had come back, what would he have become?”

Dave Sherry tells Tomáš Tengely-Evans he wants his new book Empire and Revolution to take on the elite’s attempt to whitewash the First World War: here.

English poem on Hillsborough football disaster

This video from Britain is called Orgreave/Hillsborough: South Yorkshire Police Cover-Up?

By Carroll Ann Dunn in England:

They’ll Never Walk Alone

Wednesday 18th June 2014

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.

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.

Well Versed is edited by Jody Porter.

UK: Hillsborough disaster inquest reveals safety violations by stadium operator: here.

Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela

This video from the USA is called His Day is Done – A Tribute Poem for Nelson Mandela by Dr. Maya Angelou.

The text is here.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Paying tribute to Maya Angelou, a civil rights heroine

Saturday 31st May 2014

Maya Angelou, one of the foremost African-American writers, thinkers and activists of our time, has died in her North Carolina home aged 86. Peter Frost pays tribute.

The respectable Establishment will mark her passing as a poet, writer and broadcaster but will be less keen to celebrate her record as an early and fierce civil rights champion.

Let us celebrate Dr Angelou — she always liked to be called by the title, probably because she never went to any university — as a true global renaissance woman.

She was a celebrated poet, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actor, historian, filmmaker, broadcaster as well as a leading political activist.

Above all this amazing woman was a courageous freedom fighter. Her greatest achievements were in the civil rights movement.

She was close to two giants, both martyrs of that struggle, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.

Prior to his assassination, she and Malcolm X had plans to start a new movement to advance African-American rights. Together they planned to found the Organisation of African-American Unity.

They both intended to speak out on issues plaguing black people in the US to the United Nations. UN support, they believed, would cause the US real political embarrassment. In 1965 Malcolm was cut down by assassins. One dream ended.

For a number of years Angelou was a key leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). This organisation, founded by Martin Luther King, was an important body in the early struggle for civil rights in the US.

The SCLC preached non-violence and organised protests, boycotts, marches and voter registration drives. Again King’s political assassination hit hard but couldn’t kill that dream.

Angelou offered her support to Cuban leader Fidel Castro, writing sympathetic articles when he was most hated by the US Establishment. This had the predictable result that she was branded a communist. Her response was truly poetic.

“Wasn’t no communist country that put my grandpappa in slavery,” she declared. “Wasn’t no communist lynched my poppa or raped my mamma.”

Angelou was born into typical black poverty as Marguerite Ann Johnson in St Louis, Missouri, on April 4 1928. At just eight, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend.

When the rapist was beaten to death after Angelou testified against him, she cruelly blamed herself for his death. She thought her voice, her testimony, had killed him and she didn’t speak again for almost six years.

In 1941 Angelou, aged just 13, won a scholarship to study dance and drama at San Francisco’s Labour School. The school was close to the Communist Party (CPUSA) and was blacklisted as subversive by various state and federal bodies.

The school gave the young Maya a good grounding, not just in music and dance but also in radical politics.

By the age of 14 lack of money forced her to drop out of school and take a job as a conductor on San Francisco’s famous cable cars. She was the first African-American woman to hold such a job.

Later, and by now pregnant, she returned to finish high school, giving birth to her son Guy just a few weeks after graduation. As a young single mother, she supported herself and her child by working as a waitress and cook.

In her late teens continuing poverty forced her into dancing in strip clubs and even into prostitution to augment the earnings from the career she was beginning to build as an actor, singer and dancer.

Slowly recognition came and by 1954 she was touring 22 countries in Europe with a production of the opera Porgy and Bess.

She studied modern dance with Martha Graham, danced on TV and, in 1957, wrote and recorded her first album Miss Calypso.

In 1958 she moved to New York, where she acted in the historic off-Broadway production of Jean Genet’s The Blacks and wrote and performed Cabaret for Freedom to raise funds and awareness for the civil rights movement.

James Baldwin and the Harlem Writers Guild helped her to develop her literary talents and her poems, novels, plays and — best known — her autobiographical books, which would make her famous and give her the voice and authority to speak out against injustice and inequality.

In the early ’60s, Angelou, always an internationalist, supported the young anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. While working in Egypt and Ghana as a journalist and editor she met and became lifelong friends with Nelson Mandela.

Mandela read aloud Angelou’s poem Still I Rise at his 1994 presidential inauguration. In January this year after Mandela’s death she published His Day Is Done, a poetic tribute to her great hero.

Angelou gained respect and fame for her writing. She produced seven books of semi-autobiography — most famously, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings in 1969. It became an instant bestseller despite attempts to ban it from some reactionary quarters.

In 1993 president Bill Clinton asked Angelou to compose an original poem, titled On The Pulse Of The Morning, which she read at his inauguration.

In 1994 the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) presented the writer and filmmaker with the prestigious Spingarn Medal — the African-American Nobel Prize. It meant more to her than her Pulitzer Prize nomination, three Grammys and her many other awards.

In 2011 President Barack Obama awarded her with the Medal of Freedom, the US’s highest civilian honour. However neither respectability nor getting older silenced her strident voice in support of valuable causes.

Last summer Angelou spoke out about the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a white man who had shot and killed a black Florida teenager named Trayvon Martin. She told the media that “the jury verdict showed how far we still have to go as a nation.”

She was a staunch advocate for marriage equality and was always ready to speak out against homophobia and religious bigotry.

She told New York state Senator Shirley Huntley: “To love someone takes a lot of courage. So how much more when the love is of the same sex and the law forbids it.” Her argument convinced Huntley to vote for the same-sex marriage bill before the legislature.

Just a few days before her death she made a strong case for action to recover the kidnapped Nigerian school girls. She tweeted: “Our future is threatened by the robbing of these young women’s future. We must have our darlings back so that we can help them to heal.”

The struggle for freedom and equality in the US, and indeed the rest of the world, has yet to be won. Recent advances by the forces of racism and reaction on this side of the Atlantic mean the world needs voices like Maya Angelou’s more than ever.

She may be dead, but her writings, her poems, her powerful ideas and principles live on. The bird may have flown the cage, but we can all still hear her song.

Maya Angelou’s voice gave life to the struggle for equality and gave many people the confidence to confront sexism and racism, says Moyra Samuels: here.

Writer, singer, dancer and actor Maya Angelou died on the morning of May 28 at the age of 86 in her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. While the exact cause of her death has not been announced, Angelou had been in poor health for some time: here.

Enhanced by Zemanta

African American author Maya Angelou dies

This video from the USA says about itself:

Maya Angelou – I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (part 1).

And this video is part 2.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Maya Angelou, celebrated US poet and author, dies aged 86

Angelou, who was also prominent in the civil rights movement, died at home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Interview: ‘I’m as fine as wine in the summertime’
Book extract: my terrible, wonderful mother

Jessica Glenza in New York

Wednesday 28 May 2014 18.06 BST

Maya Angelou, the American poet and author, died at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on Wednesday. She was 86.

Her son, Guy B Johnson, confirmed the news in a statement. He said: “Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension.

“She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”

Johnson said Angelou “passed quietly in her home” sometime before 8am on Wednesday.

Bill Clinton, at whose inauguration Angelou read her On the Pulse of the Morning, said in a statement: “America has lost a national treasure, and Hillary and I a beloved friend.”

Angelou’s failing health was reported as recently as Tuesday, when she canceled an appearance honoring her with a Beacon of Life Award because of “health reasons”. The ceremony was part of the 2014 MLB Beacon Award Luncheon, in Houston, Texas, part of Major League Baseball’s Civil Rights Games.

Last month, forced to cancel an appearance at a library in Arkansas, she wrote: “An unexpected ailment put me into the hospital. I will be getting better and the time will come when I can receive another invitation from my state and you will recognize me for I shall be the tall Black lady smiling. I ask you to please keep me in your thoughts, in your conversation and in your prayers.”

Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson, in St Louis, Missouri, in 1928. She described in an NPR interview how her brother’s lisp turned Marguerite into Maya.

She survived several personal trials: she was a child of the depression, grew up in the segregated south, survived a childhood rape, gave birth as a teenager, and was, at one time, a prostitute.

She wrote wrote seven autobiographies, including the 1969 memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and was a playwright, director, actor, singer, songwriter and novelist.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was an indictment of the racial discrimination she experienced during her childhood. “If growing up is painful for the southern black girl,” she wrote, “being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult.”

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has had a wide appeal, particularly to younger female readers and continues to appear on school and university reading lists in the US and the UK.

Actors, writers, directors, activists and politicians shared thankful and mournful notes in response to Angelou’s death.

JK Rowling called her “utterly amazing”; Lena Dunham thanked Angelou for “your power, your politics, your poetry. We need you more than ever.”

Angelou had lived in North Carolina since the early 1980s, when she became a professor at Wake Forest University, a private liberal arts college. A statement from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem called Angelou “a national treasure whose life and teachings inspired millions around the world”.

The mayor of Winston-Salem, Allen Joines, said the town would probably remember Angelou best for her commitment to health and theatre.

She supported the founder of the National Black Theater Festival in Winston-Salem, and eventually became its first chairperson in 1989. In 2012, the Maya Angelou Women’s Health and Wellness Center opened in the city. A street in Winston-Salem is named after Angelou.

Despite her many accomplishments, the mayor said small moments seemed to touch the poet.

In April 2008, the town threw Angelou an 80th birthday party. Despite entertainers and speakers present at the party, the mayor said, “The thing that seemed to touch her the most was a group of little kids.”

Enhanced by Zemanta

New poetry books reviewed

This video from Britain says about itself:

13 January 2014

Dannie Abse reads from Speak, Old Parrot at the T S Eliot Prize Readings, held at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall.

Dannie Abse is a poet, author, doctor and playwright. He has written and edited more than sixteen books of poetry, as well as fiction and a range of other publications, in a long and varied writing life. His most recent novel, The Strange Case of Dr Simmonds & Dr Glas (Robson Books, 2002), was long-listed for the Booker Prize and his diaries, The Presence (Vintage, 2008), won the Wales Book of the Year Award. He is president of the Welsh Academy of Letters and was awarded a CBE in 2012.

By Andy Croft in Britain:

Words of wisdom as old parrot speaks out

Thursday 27th February 2014

Andy Croft reviews some of the latest poetry

Dannie Abse has published over 30 books but few as satisfying or as enjoyable as Speak Old Parrot (Hutchinson, £15).

Now in his 90th year, Abse is naturally concerned with the passage of time: “profligate, I wasted time/- those yawning postponements on rainy days,/those paperhat hours of benign frivolity./Now time wastes me.”

There are some great poems here about the comedy of ageing, like The Old Gods – Trident has lost his trident, Saturn has time on his hands and Bacchus has cirrhosis of the liver – and some fine poems about youth and memory like Cricket Bat, Moonbright and Sunbright.

But best of all is the brilliant Winged Back, in which Abse recalls the “recurring decimal of calamity” of our age: “Famine. Murder. Pollinating fires./When they stubbed one out another flared./Statesmen lit their cigars from the embers./They still do. With every enrichment/an injury. They bicker and banquet,/confer and dally, pull on cigars that glow/with blood-light. And all my years,/like the arson of Troy, are elsewhere. Ashes.”

Rob Hindle’s Yoke And Arrows (Smokestack, £8.95) takes its title from “el yugo y las flechas,” the emblem of the 15th-century Catholic monarchs who expelled the Moors and Jews from Spain.

It was also the symbol of the falange militia who murdered the radical poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca in the first weeks of the Spanish civil war. Here is one of these Black Squads listening to the singing of the prisoners about to be executed: “The night goes quietly./In the stove’s red cowl the fire collapses/a little: a brief yellow light jumps into the room,/shocking the men’s faces, glistening teeth/and tongues. Through the floorboards come/voices like the voices of the damned, singing/lullabies and songs of the country.”

Kevin Powers served in the US army in Iraq. At the heart of his first book of poems, Letter Composed During A Lull In The Fighting (Sceptre, £12.99), is a series of meditations on the loneliness of the soldier in a strange landscape – “the unending sun, the bite of sweat in eyes” – and in a meaningless conflict: “war is just us/making little pieces of metal/pass through each other.”

There are no issues on a battlefield except survival: “for one day at least I don’t have to decide/between dying and shooting a little boy.” And Powers knows that there can be no survivors: “how scared I am still, alone/in bars these three years later.”

The strongest poems in the book, like Death Mother And Child and the Extraordinary Improvised Explosive Device are about the necessity – and the impossibility – of writing about the experience: “If this poem had fragments/of metal coming out of it, if these words were your best friend’s leg,/dangling… If this poem had wires for words,/you would want someone to pay./If this poem had wires coming out of it,/you wouldn’t read it./If these words were made of metal/they could kill us all. But these/are only words. Go on,/they are safe to fold and put into your pocket./Even better, they are safe/to be forgotten.”

The New York-Puerto Rican poet Martin Espada has worked as a bouncer, a door-to-door encyclopaedia salesman, a petrol attendant and a tenant lawyer. His new collection, The Meaning Of The Shovel (Smokestack, £8.95), is a celebration of work, of the emotional and often invisible landscape of labour, “the rude Mechanicals: the tailor, the weaver, the tinker, the bellows-mender.”

It is by turns grim, cynical, funny – and revolutionary. Here is Espada digging latrines in Nicaragua: “I dig because yesterday/I saw four walls of photographs:/the faces of volunteers/in high school uniforms/who taught campesinos to read,/bringing an alphabet/sandwiched in notebooks/to places where the mist never rises/from the trees… I dig because I have hauled garbage/and pumped gas and cut paper/and sold encyclopaedias door to door./I dig, digging until the passport in my back pocket saturates with dirt,/because here I work for nothing/and for everything.”

Enhanced by Zemanta