Poem on British monarchy

This video is called Royal Babylon by Heathcote Williams (rough cut).

By Niall McDevitt from Ireland:

Well Versed: The bejewelled mafia

Wednesday 04 July 2012

If 2012 is the year that divides British subjects (or citizens) into Olympian royalists or apocalyptic revolutionaries, then Heathcote Williams‘s Royal Babylon is the poem of the year.

Serialised online by International Times and now available as an digital paperback, it is the single most subversive poem I can think of by a contemporary writer.

Is it a poem? Some say polemic doesn’t count as poetry. Others say Heathcote Williams’ style is more prose than poetry. I see it as a stellar example of what Rimbaud called objective poetry.

The author is quasi-invisible. The text is a taboo-shattering, information-rich, anti-monarchist onslaught.

Williams wittily subtitles it “the Criminal Record of the British Monarchy: An Investigative Poem.” A parody, perhaps, of the public inquiry, this Williams Report reaches damning conclusions.

It is not iambic, nor rhyming, but written in natural speech rhythms lyrically intensified by being arranged into quatrains. Each quatrain is a republican “zen koan,” a gem of wisdom; but the 70-plus pages of quatrains build up mesmerically to a monolithic statement.

A researched poem, it is specifically indebted to Karl Shaw’s Royal Babylon: The Alarming History of European Royalty, but hones in on the Windsors. Its starting point is the Sex Pistols’ historic antidote to the national anthem God Save the Queen, also in quatrains, for example:

At the time it was thought the Pistols’ accusations of fascism
Were outrageous and totally off-target
Yet fascism, defined as corporate elitism plus violence,
Can shape-shift and adopt user-friendly devices.

Then, writing of Prince Charles‘ Duchy of Cornwall rents and how farmers struggled to pay them during the foot and mouth epidemic:

With two farmers a week committing suicide in a rural crisis
Publicly the Prince wrung his hands in anguish –
But his tenants were quick to mistrust his crocodile tears,
“The Duchy is sympathetic as long as you pay the rent.”

It is not just the verses but the phraseology that makes it poetic. It is deadly satire, belly-laughingly eloquent, but also very scary, as sobering as it is intoxicating.

His royals are not Spitting Image puppets. They are evil incarnate.

Britain’s military monarchy complex is laid bare – the omnilocation-by-media, the racist wars fought for resources, the royal shares in depleted uranium, the grooming of soldiers as human sacrifices.

This Blakean work also itemises the abbatoir levels of fish-flesh-fowl that are ritually slaughtered by the Windsors. The book is populated with the ghosts of their victims, ibises, stags, pheasants, elephants.

This is not the reptillian fantasy of David Icke. The marshalling of facts is marvellous and woven into a tapestry by a rare anarchic wit.

On how uranium was found to have poisoned soil at a MoD weapons range in Dumfries, Williams is scathing:

Worms are a pillar of ecosystems through aerating the soil
And aiding the nutrient uptake of plants,
Whom Charles reputedly likes to talk to, though he may now need a Geiger counter
Before addressing his radioactive triffids in Scotland.

This is Anglo-Samizdat at its best. It puts us in touch with the great manifestos of bygone ages, the dissenting tradition of Coppe, Paine and Shelley, not by use of archaic thought and language or pastiche, but by being stunningly up to date and forcefully engaged.

There is pathos in realising the author would have been executed for this in former times. It is not precious poetry – anyone can get it.

The writing and publishing of it is all about raising awareness and calling for an overthrow of bejewelled parasites.

It is objective poetry in the fullest sense because it refuses to be a “subject,” and argues for citizenry rather than subjection.

Like Holocaust by the objectivist poet Charles Reznikoff, it condenses colossal horrors into a read-in-one-sitting text. It too is an essential antidote to the propagandous delerium of Diamond Jubilee, and is a Koh-i-Noor sized diamond of dissent.

An elusive writer, Williams has re-emerged with a major polemical poem.

Irish poet Niall McDevitt was resident Pidgin poet/translator on John Peel’s Home Truths, and has featured in Bespoken Word, The Robert Elms Show and BBC Radio 3’s The Verb.

6 thoughts on “Poem on British monarchy

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