The Nightman

September 8, 2016

a-nightman

The Nightman comes when you most expect him to, in your dread of him.
Edgeless, shadowless, even when lights from late-up neighbours cast rays
across the yard, and no-one you can see is there, he creeps
around the outside walls.

You can hear him collecting your dirt through the air brick, smell him
if the wind is up enough. How the cat can sleep through this
is anyone’s guess. He’s piling the dirt high so it rises over

the floor line over the damp proof course and will rise higher yet,
and you will drown in your own damp sweat and then he’ll have what he wants –
the smell of you – warm and ripe – as it lays between
you and your covers.

Anna Robinson

Anna Robinson is a poet and historian who works for the University of East London. Her collections The Finders of London (2010) and Into The Woods (2014) were published by Enitharmon and she has a new pamphlet from Stonewood Press, The Night Library (2015). The Finders was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Poetry Prize in 2011.

Piano

September 8, 2016

a-piano

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

D H Lawrence

astronaut-by-peter-vidani

There often seems something crude or naïve about essentialist views of poetry. Anyone with an advanced degree in literary studies knows there is no professional future in trying to connect the art of poetry with its putative human purposes. There are too few hard facts and too many value judgments involved to make this a safe area of academic inquiry. That is probably why the poet-critics who have made the most persuasive claims on the primal aspects verse of have mostly been outsiders, such as Ezra Pound, Robert Graves, Edwin Muir, Kathleen Raine, William Everson, Robert Bly, Les Murray, Wendell Berry, and—to name one non-poet—Camille Paglia. To put it mildly, these poets have not written in the language of academic discourse. They relied mostly on experiential argument, mythic allusion, historical analogy, and personal narrative, often peppered with amateur anthropology or psychology. At their worst moments, as in Graves’s The White Goddess or Bly’s Iron John, they have claimed visionary authority. Private inspiration may be the stuff of poetry, but it is toxic to criticism. Nonetheless there is something interesting going on in the speculative work of these outsiders besides prophetic delusion or bard-envy. They share a conviction that poetry—both its creation and reception—has great human importance that needs to be not merely understood but periodically renewed as a spiritual capacity. They also view poetry as a foundational element of education. Often reckless by scholarly standards, their criticism attempts to open new conversations rather than annotate and negotiate old ones. A little recklessness goes a long way, but sometimes literary culture needs to go a long way, too.

Dana Gioia
Poetry As Enchantment
Which may be found HERE

a-red-flag

Some people give orders and the rest obey – wasn’t it Lenin who made that observation? In England, traditionally, we have a political class which forms our national government, and may consequently be termed a ‘ruling class’. The qualities required to join this ruling elite are as follows:

You’ll need to be able to speak reasonably grammatical English and to read from a tele-prompt screen (this last is essential). You must be happy spending your day lounging about in offices, restaurants, clubs or wine bars. Usually, you will be male ( although to be fair, out of 650 MP’s, we now have 191 female MP’s – which is a substantial increase over the 147 female MP’s in parliament pre the last general election! For many decades, remember boys and girls, female MP’s made up less than 5% of the total members of parliament). It used to be you would also have to be white, Anglo-Saxon, but since the 2001 general election when 12 black or ethnic minority members were elected to the house of Parliament, this has ceased to be the case; following the 2015 election we have a grand total of 41 BEM MPs, almost 6% of the total membership, but only a half-dozen or so of them female!

Anyhow, the above are simple base requirements. Having the ‘right’ parents will of course be a great asset. You don’t have to be a member of the nobility or gentry, but it will certainly help your case. Obviously, the ‘right’ education is essential – Eton remains by far the best bet! Although Harrow gave us, you’ll remember, Winston S Churchill, our most famous prime minister, painter and, slightly more controversially, warmonger and saviour.

Oxford or Cambridge are almost obligatory for a place in the ‘ruling class’. Other universities exist, of course, but their benefits are not so obvious, either to the electorate or, indeed, to other members of the ruling elite.

Of course, we live in a ‘democracy’. However, as others have pointed out before, in a true democracy the rulers would be chosen by lot for short stretches of time. Failing that, rather like current jury duty, ever single citizen would be eligible to serve in government for short periods, and would be selected at random for these duties. In England (or anywhere else come to that) this doesn’t happen. It doesn’t even happen in dear old Switzerland which is the one country in the world that comes closest to a true ‘democracy’!

Consequently, would be rulers everywhere must pass some ‘test’ beyond their personal greed, ambition or ability. Birth, class, wealth, colour, religion may each be one of the deciding factors in this selection depending on the society and those doing the selecting. This emerging minority will form the ‘power elite’ from which rulers will finally be selected. What we haphazardly and inaccurately call ‘democracy’ is simply a system whereby members of this power elite receive occasional popular endorsement from us, the people.

So, accepting the above. How does Jeremy Corbyn measure up to the criteria? Well, academically he’s put to shame by the two previous Labour party leaders and Prime Ministers: Tony Blair boarded at Fettes College, a prestigious independent school in Edinburgh, before studying jurisprudence at Oxford (St John’s college), while Gordon Brown was accepted at age sixteen by the university of Edinburgh, following ‘fast track’ education in Kirkcaldy High School. Mr Corbyn, on the other hand, attended Adam’s Grammar School in Shropshire, and later took a course in Trade Union Studies at North London Polytechnic but dropped out following arguments with his tutors.

His parents weren’t of the nobility or very wealthy, either. His mother was a maths teacher, his father an electrical engineer. However, what’s even worse, Mr Corbyn is teetotal; he will have to lounge about in bars with a glass of water in his hand! Unheard of for a politician in our parliamentary democracy! (In fact in a Daily Mirror interview, Mr Corbyn admitted that he does on occasion imbibe a little alcohol, ‘very, very little’).

The cabinet for 2014 / 15 comprised 60% Oxford graduates. And it’s not just the Conservative party; the Labour party, too, have a number of front rank people who have graduated from either Oxford or Cambridge. In fact Labour’s Yvette Cooper went to Balliol college Oxford, where she received a first class honours degree, went on to Harvard in the States, then finished off with a MSc at the London school of economics. Ed Milliband, of course, attended Corpus Christi College, Oxford. But the sobriquet “Red Ed” destroyed any possibility of him ever becoming prime minister.

Mr Corbyn stands now (or will do eventually) before the power elite demanding entrance and waving his two E-grade A-Levels in the air. Could it be any worse? Well, yes it could. Mr Corbyn might have been born an agricultural worker, in which case he’d have had to pack up any thought of politics as a career at the outset. Just poke that pair of A-Levels where the sun don’t shine, and get on and plough a field or two. As it is our elitist media have turned on him like a pack of ravenous hounds. He is not the ‘right kind’ of person!

Neil Kinnock, too, was a known left-winger within the Labour party. He did attend university, mind – the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire – unfortunately not Oxford! Undeterred by this obvious handicap, Mr Kinnock went on to replace Mr Foot as leader of the Labour party. He became the longest serving leader of the opposition in Britain’s history, and, of course, the longest never to have been prime minister. Following Labour’s fourth consecutive defeat in the 1992 general election, Mr Kinnock resigned as leader and resigned from the House of Commons three years later to become the European Union’s Transport Commissioner…this a sort of reward from the political elite after Mr Kinnock’s attempts to move the Labour party to the centre ground, moving away from absurd ideas and ideals, which included the nationalisation of failing industries, and his single-handedly defeating the extremists in Militant Tendency after their attempts to hijack the Labour brand!

Mr Kinnock, too, was not the right sort of person. But, for the ruling elite, he had a saving grace: he tried to move his party away from blatant Trotskyism towards the centre, towards policies that became known, ultimately, as Blairite.

Mr Corbyn, performing on that old, old hurdy-gurdy of left-wing theories, of nineteenth century solutions to twenty-first century problems, confidently waits for the swing of the pendulum that will carry him to greatness. He waits, not realising the grandfather clock has stopped ticking at one minute to midnight.

Yes, he will probably win the vote confirming him (again) as leader of the Labour party. But what will it gain him? He’s sixty-seven years of age. At the next general election he’ll have attained the grand age of seventy-one. Will he follow the template of Neil Kinnock, fighting and losing four general elections? In which case his final defeat will occur following his eighty-sixth birthday! By which time he’ll be older than William Ewart Gladstone who took office for the final time aged eighty-two. Why, even Palmerston when he assumed the office of prime minister for the first time was only seventy years of age!

Certainly Mr Corbyn will receive the enhanced salary of leader of the official opposition which will more or less double his MP’s salary of £74,000 pa! An amount not to be sniffed at, for sure. But his aims go beyond personal enrichment, of course they do. He wants his friends and supporters on the extreme left to gain control of the Labour brand. They want the kudos; they want, more importantly, the money that goes with it. To get this they must have the party.

Mr Corbyn, appreciating he will never win a general election, uses his position to carve the heart out of the existing parliamentary Labour party, filling it with the successors of Militant and returning the party to a time pre Neil Kinnock, where he can sing The Red Flag with the lads to his heart’s content. The purge of Militant left Mr Corbyn as one of the most left-wing members of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and he routinely found himself voting in opposition to official party policy during the Blair/Brown government. In fact, he defied the Labour whip a total of 428 times during the thirteen years between 1997 and 2010.

His personal objectives are indistinguishable from those of Militant. Re-nationalization of the railways and energy companies, confiscatory taxation, price and rent controls, maximum wage, unilateral disarmament; his agenda is about a huge shift of power away from individuals and the private sector and back to the state. His choice of Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell wants to nationalize the banks. Militant’s current-day guise, The Socialist Party, supported his bid for the leadership and raised the prospect of them rejoining Labour to “form a new party”.

“Because you are from the people, because you are of the people, because you live with the same realities as everybody else lives with, implausible promises don’t win victories. I’ll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far-fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, out-dated, misplaced, irrelevant to the real needs…”

Words of Mr Kinnock that Mr Corbyn and his party would do well to remember. But no, Mr Corbyn will not win a general election. He is not the right sort of person. Not part of the smart boys club. He is a man of nineteenth century ideas, floundering in a world of technology and globalisation. He’s unacceptable to the political elite, to the media, and to the majority of the British people.