British poetess Judi Sutherland about blogging


Judi Sutherland

By Judi Sutherland in Britain:

Poetry that commits to the struggle

Thursday 23rd April 2015

The Stare’s Nest poetry portal has put paid to cynics like Jeremy Paxman and their disparaging views of poets. Judi Sutherland has the story

Poets know that creative ideas sometimes emerge from a collision of disparate events. This was the case with my poetry blog/zine, The Stare’s Nest.

It had two unlikely muses: Jeremy Paxman and Nigel Farage.

The European elections of May 2014 plunged me into despair. I watched the rise of Ukip, aided by Farage’s constant appearances on TV and in print. After the results were announced, the news programmes reported that 31 million people had not bothered to vote. Presumably they didn’t think it mattered.

I was reminded of the variously-attributed aphorism that “all that it takes for evil to triumph in the world is for good men to do nothing.” And the British electorate did nothing, in droves.

A few days later, during the annual hoopla of the Forward Prizes for Poetry, Jeremy Paxman — the profoundly underqualified chair of the judges — declared that poetry has “connived with its own irrelevance,” because, according to Paxo, poets have stopped talking to the public and are only addressing each other.

I wanted to create a space for poetry that is relevant to that apparently oblivious public. Poetry that deals with social and political issues in a clear and direct way.

I remembered Andrew Motion, who taught our MA class at Royal Holloway, exhorting us to “write about the big stuff,” and that’s what I wanted to draw out from poets.

I set up a website and called it The Stare’s Nest, after a poem by WB Yeats, “stare” being an Irish term for “starling.”

Yeats, writing in 1922 about the civil war in Ireland, wrote: “We had fed our hearts on fantasies / The heart’s gone brutal from the fare / More substance in our enmities / Than in our love; O honey bees / Come build in the empty house of the Stare.”

I recognised the syndrome. In Britain today, enmities have been whipped up towards religious believers, immigrant groups, the poor, the disabled, the unemployed. The way our media operates is based on engendering hatred and setting people against each other (see Benefits Street for example), to cause the kind of sensation that sells papers and raises TV ratings.

We are encouraged to feed our hearts on fantasies and they grow brutal on this diet of fear and suspicion.

So I asked for poems about righteous anger, poems which rail against bigotry and political guile, also asked for poems which illustrate the things that really matter: the relationships and encounters, the little celebrations of what we have in common.

Tell us how it is, I asked the poets, but also tell us how it could be.

The poems started flowing in and mostly they have been of incredibly high quality. We have had contributions from Brazil to Bengal, from Tunisia to Shetland. Some well-known poets have been kind enough to contribute — I won’t list them, but you can find them in our tag cloud — and to all of them I am deeply grateful.

We have also featured new poets, sometimes giving space to their very first published work.

Some poems are polished and beautiful, while others are less sophisticated, but were included because of the passion behind the lines or because of the poet’s unique life experience.

Through all of those, I feel able to trace a still, small voice speaking of hope in the face of the many counsels of despair that we are subjected to.

These poems build our understanding of what we share: our common humanity. You can find them at www.thestaresnest.com.

I promised to publish a new poem every day from the site’s inception last July to the general election. So far we have published about 270.

We have over a hundred hits every day, plus 679 followers who have the daily poem delivered to their inbox and a respectable presence on Twitter (@thestaresnest).

After the election, I’m not sure. It’s a lot of work, at the moment I also have a full-time job and my own writing is falling by the wayside. I’m wondering whether there should be a little book — The Best of the Nest, maybe — to sell in aid of a charity that shares the site’s ethos.

If that happens, I will do my best to get a relevant copy to Jeremy Paxman.

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah on British general election


This video from Britain says about itself:

21 February 2009

Benjamin Zephaniah reads his poem ‘Money’ on the hoof in Newcastle city centre, back in 1991. Now even more topical, this poem is from his 1992 Bloodaxe collection CITY PSALMS.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Benjamin Zephaniah

Wednesday 1 April 2015

If I were Prime Minister: I’d order a review of all deaths in custody and dismantle the honours system

Our series in the run-up to the General Election – 100 days, 100 contributors, but no politicians – continues with the poet, writer and musician

I’m an anarchist. So maybe I shouldn’t be here. After seeing what politicians of all persuasions have done to our country (and our world), there was no other way to go for me. People need to understand just how much they can do for themselves, so if I were forced to do the job I’d abolish the post of Prime Minister.

Before I put myself out of a job I’d get rid of every bit of privatisation in the NHS and have a radical shake up of health services. I’d introduce a new 999 service – for emergency mental health issues. Between 20 to 30 per cent of all police call outs relate to people with mental health problems, problems that the police are not trained to deal with.

I’d introduce new health awareness programmes for things like prostate cancer and HIV. There’s a lot of ignorance and fear and that can mean people die needlessly. Most black men, for instance, have no idea that prostate cancer is racist! 1 in 4 of them will get prostate cancer, compared to 1 in 8 men overall. Prostate Cancer UK’s Men United campaign aims to tackle that injustice through research and making sure men know their risk, and are informed about their own health. I’ve already written a comedy about prostate cancer, so I’d back Men United in research and in getting its messages out to people through football, music, comedy – any way they can.

With HIV there’s been huge advances in research and treatment since the eighties and nineties, when it was considered a death sentence. But attitudes haven’t changed. Like prostate cancer it’s still a taboo subject for some. So I’d aim to get families and communities talking about these things, understanding risks, and learning that early diagnosis can save lives. I’m currently heading an awareness campaign in the West Midlands that I would roll out all over the country. HIV, three letters, not a sentence.

A lot of this comes down to education and I would turn all schools back into good old-fashioned schools for all pupils. Forget academies, free schools, foundation schools and all those other fancy names, I’m talking about good schools, with well paid, creative teachers. There’d be excellent universal education for every student, paid for by all of us, for all of us. Everyone would have the same opportunities, and education would be wide-ranging.

I would order a review of all deaths in custody. That’s in police stations, prisons, hospitals, the lot. And that would be part of a comprehensive prison reform. My new prison system would be based on preparing prisoners for life beyond their sentence. Rehabilitation would be the top priority.

I might end up pushing up the prison population though, because I’d make it a criminal offence for employers to pay women less than men. The Equal Pay Act was introduced in 1970, but forty-five years later and men still earn 17% more than women on average per hour. I’d give mandatory prison sentences to bosses who discriminated against female staff.

I’d also put a value on the work done in the home. Housework and caring for family members would be factored into the Gross National Product. There are people working very long hours at home who get no recognition for their role in underpinning the economy – I’d have to change that.

I would stop sending young men and women to fight in foreign lands, and I would get them building hospitals and trains for a nationalised rail service instead.

I would abolish the House of Lords and make all them so called Baronesses and Lords apologise for thinking they were better than us, and then I would recognise the State of Palestine. I would also get all those police officers that beat me up in the seventies and eighties to apologise to my mother, and then stand in a truth and reconciliation commission to confess their sins.

I would get rid of that Trident nuclear war machine, tax banks appropriately, make sure that big companies don’t use loop holes and trickery to avoid paying their share of tax, stop wasting money paying for the monarchy and politicians’ privileges, and I would invest in the green economy. The green economy is the future no mater what anyone says, it really is just a matter of how long we delay it, and how many lives are lost before we wake up.

I would dismantle the honours system. That would include abolishing the post of Poet Laureate. Poets should be poets of the people and shouldn’t be paid to work for the monarchy, writing about living or dead tyrants, or for so called state occasions. Poets should be free spirits. They should spend their time seeking truth, beauty, and attending sex parties.

Benjamin Zephaniah is Professor of Creative writing at Brunel University. He latest novel for young adults is Terror Kid.

USA: Texas could cut $3 million from HIV prevention programs in favour of abstinence education: here.

Poem about British right-winger Katie Hopkins


This video from Britain says about itself:

Katie Hopkins Racial Stereotypes

11 July 2012

Radio Scotland interview with an English ‘business woman’ who also appears to be a self-appointed spokesperson for all that is English. In this part of the interview she lets fly at both Andy Murray and a caller who is Welsh and is living in England. You may remember this woman from the TV programme The Apprentice, where her right-wing outspoken views ruffled a few feathers. She is both quintessentially ‘English’ and outrageous in equal amounts – the very embodiment of imperialism that made England what it used to be.

Katie Hopkins from England, sometimes Rupert Murdoch tabloid employee, sometimes television personality, is famous ‘for being famous’ and infamous for racism.

This poem is by British poet Benjamin Myers:

Tuesday 31st March 2015

I Saw Katie Hopkins

I saw Katie Hopkins shoplift from Oxfam a porcelain figurine of a Newfoundland dog with a wooden barrel on its back in which you put brandy.

I saw Katie Hopkins asleep in a plate of chicken nuggets at a Little Chef; she was wearing a Cats tour jacket and one glove.

I saw Katie Hopkins urinate in a homeless war veteran’s begging cup from a distance of six feet.

I saw Katie Hopkins scratch a swastika onto a Mothercare billboard at the bus stop.

I saw Katie Hopkins shove a cork in a dolphin’s blowhole at SeaWorld.

I saw Katie Hopkins go berserk at a Ghurka for wearing a burka.

I saw Katie Hopkins getting a tattoo of a lethargic gryphon.

I saw Katie Hopkins selling used batteries at a carboot sale.

I saw Katie Hopkins buying Jethro DVDs from the garage.

I saw Katie Hopkins jogging with James Delingpole.

I saw Katie Hopkins eating worms at Kew Gardens.

I saw Katie Hopkins trying to set fire to Rochdale.

I saw Katie Hopkins force a child up her chimney.

I saw Katie Hopkins alone on a waltzer at 11am.

I saw Katie Hopkins grope Rod Liddle in Aldi.

I saw Katie Hopkins punch a newborn lamb.

I saw Katie Hopkins playing bass for UB40.

I saw Katie Hopkins smash a pint glass.

I saw Katie Hopkins snorting Bisto.

I saw Katie Hopkins’ rotten soul.

I saw Katie Hopkins laughing.

I saw Katie Hopkins sobbing.

I saw Katie Hopkins alone.

I saw Katie Hopkins.

Not that one.

Benjamin Myers is a novelist, poet and journalist. His novels include Beastings (2014), Pig Iron (2012) and Richard (2010). His most recent poetry collection is Heathcliff Adrift. His website is https://benmyersmanofletters.wordpress.com/.

Katie Hopkins accused by police chief over remarks about Pakistanis. Sun columnist under investigation over race hate claims accused by police commissioner of equating Pakistanis with child abusers: here.

Katie Hopkins calling migrants vermin recalls the darkest events of history: here.

NEWSPAPER columnist Katie Hopkins was yesterday blasted by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights for likening migrants to cockroaches: here.