David is not primarily a “poet”. This is important. Born in Halifax, he is a dramatist and has been creative writing tutor at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg, Burgtheater Wien and the University of Arts in Berlin. His numerous plays were staged at the Royal Court Theatre in London, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg, Volksbühne Berlin. The first time I heard him read was at The Albert Poets in Huddersfield, and he didn’t so much read as perform. His poems are more often than not, I think, soliloquies, and are written, consciously or not, as you would write for performance. They are like a score or a script, waiting for a performer who who understands who the narrator is and what motivates him or her.
Jim Caruth called his Poetry Business winning Pamphlet The death of narrative because another poet told him that narrative was dead. I was told pretty well, by another famous poet, that narrative isn’t the real deal. Except she characterised it as “the anecdote, the conversation at the bus-stop” which was all very well in its place but that place was probably not ‘poetry’. And I thought well, if it’s true, that’s me stuffed. But it isn’t true. One of the most essential things we did after we invented language was to invent stories. I cannot imagine that we ever thought of using it to make lies. Not at first. We told stories to remember, to make sense of the world. It seems to me right now that people in power are doing the exact opposite., and it’s a crime that goes beyond denunciation or any possibility of forgiveness.
This poem is a narrative; it is set in Germany and one that David performs with rare passion. A poem of useful anger.
We Came to Lay Flowers
with the written permission of the Berlin police,
three hundred of us, here for comrade Mathilde
as she was there for comrade Rosa. We are to the left
and we are in the right, as comrade Jakob was
in the Altnazizeit.
just three of us may enter the Tiergarten town hall.
And now, a delegation, the cops say a delegation;
We say: “All of us or none of us, we came to lay flowers.”
Negotiators negotiate. We crank the lautie louder
“Fuck, fuck, fuck the police! Fuck, fuck, fuck the police!”
We are AntiFa, we are Black Block; we are Green Partei, PDS,
we are SPD, members of the Jewish community; my Germany.
Riot squads down visors, hammer shields, “Fuck, fuck, fuck
the police!” deploy CS gas, water cannon, elite Hessische
snatch bulls; I have seen this shit before:
Belfast, South Africa House, the Miners’ Strike, G8 summit.
With their telescopic whips, their tonfas, they will hurt us.
We are afraid but we are AntiFa: “Fuck, fuck, fuck the police!”
Five to our one, they kettle in; we are AntiFa, we do not run;
we came to lay flowers.
For comrade Mathilde Jacob, Rosa Luxemburg’s secretary and friend; (born, 8 of March 1873 and murdered 14 of April 1943, Theresienstadt.)
I was thinking before I wrote this piece that there is so much to be rightly angered about, from mindless validations of racist violence by powerful men, the brutal separation of children from parents, the needless and pointless deaths of disabled people by the withholding of benefits, the genocides of Palestine and Yemen, the sustained attacks on truth in the MSM…on and on. I have never known a time of so much hate, and we need people who can confront it with controlled anger and empathy for the wronged. We need poets who can write it.
Keep on insisting that we will lay flowers even if we have to fight to do it.