I’m writing this early in the week, and possibly not in the right mind for balanced thoughtfulness.This morning I read Anthony Wilson’s post, After Paris … just follow the link, and read it for yourselves http://anthonywilsonpoetry.com/ And then I read Bill Greenwell’s poem for this week. And then I had to write. Anthony Wilson writes about the responsibility on all writers to write in the cause of the reality and truth of how things are. Bill writes about the ways in which we are all being steadily imprisoned in the name of our freedoms. I’m writing out of anger. I am writing because meaning is being sucked out of language that’s used to justify the unjustifiable, and about the profoundly anti-social nature of the soi-disant ‘social media’. I am tired beyond belief of the 24/7 news reporting that is minimally concerned with informing and clarifying, and substitutes hypothesis and posturing for responsibly educating us all. I am angry at the universal and casual Bush-ism of a ‘war on terror’, and all the terrible errors that follow on the reification of an abstract word. A word. Words cause nothing. People with guns and bombs and emotional paralysis kill other people, and they do it in the name of more words. They do it in the name of democracy, without ever defining what that might be. They do it in the name of Islam, which is a short name for a splintered and internecine religion with as many warring factions as Christianity. A word used lazily and thoughtlessly without any reference to mutually exclusive and rhetorically inconvenient schisms, say between Sunnis and Shias. Like Christianity, and the sectarian rhetoric of the euphemistic Irish ‘Troubles’. Anthony Wilson is right to invoke Seamus Heaney in After Paris. Think of him and threats to his friends and his family because he wouldn’t let his language and his poetry be allied to the half truths of dogmatic opposition. I am writing because I’m tired of the easy and uncommitted emotionalism that can be loosed on the world at the touch of a Twitter ‘enter’ key, or on railings in all our towns and cities for the cost of a bunch of flowers. I am tired of the OMG of texting atheists and the post-Diana and post 9/11 righteousness that commits us to nothing at all.
On Saturday I was a Poetry Business Writing Day. One exercise grew out of a poem: Known to the guards. I should have made a note of the poet. Someone will tell me. It’s a poem about how a child might be frightened into an unshakeable belief in the omnisicience and omnipotence of the forces of law and order, even if it’s actually only a fat member of the Garda on a bicycle. Peter Sansom asked us to to reflect fast on early brushes with authority. Normally, this would have sent me into Stan Barstow/Dylan Thomas territory. But this happened instead. It has no title, and it’s not been tidied up.
I want no more nostalgia, for whatever reason;
how can I, in a week of hostage, sieges, men in black
with guns as big as wardrobes, Kevlar vests, black boots,
helmets like the eyes of flies, the chatter of static, the racketting
senselessness of helicopters, blue strobing convoys
barrelling through siling rain and spray
and the breathless wet-yourself excitement
of the newsmen endlessly recycling scraps of film and tape,
and sputtering phone-in answers and solutions
no one wants to hear, the bigotry the fury,
the fictitious facebook solidarities,
the cursor click that tells the world that now,
today Je Suis Charlie
and redfaced politicians photo-opping
their temporary indignation in between
their destruction of the welfare state
and growing fat with hedgefund managers and oligarchs,
how can I versify my childhood fears
when after all, our number’s up
and all of us are in the eye of millions of cameras
and all of us are known to the guards
who have the guns and the vans and the planes
and can guard none of us from anything?
Like I say. I’m not in the mood for balance, and I fear for truth, whatever that is, so long as it has no capital letter. Tony Harrison says it better. The last four lines of ‘On not being Milton’. The quotation is from a plea for clemency. Tidd was hanged.
Articulation is the tongue-tied’s fighting.
In the silence that surrounds all poetry we quote
Tidd, the Cato Street conspirator who wrote:
Sir, I Ham a very bad Hand at Righting.