Today in the winter light of Washington D.C. a billionaire septuagenarian woefully ill-equipped and ignorant is being inaugurated into the most important political office in the world.
This is not a joke.
This man, who claims to be successful in business and a great deal maker, yet has had many companies in bankruptcy and been sued for defrauding clients, thinks he knows what's best for America and thus the rest of us.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
He is dismantling healthcare from the most needy, denying climate change is even a thing, let alone the most pressing issue facing our planet, thinks NATO and the arts irrelevant, Brexit a good idea, and is rattling his sabres at China. He thinks he's smarter than the intelligence agencies, ignores security clearance processes, and is building a wall against Mexico.
Now he has the nuclear codes.
This man, who makes policy by tweet, knows not how to govern, the behaviours and protocols, nor the gravity of the role expected of him.
He is a self-confessed and accused sexual predator, and is on the record denigrating women, immigrants, Muslims, the LGBT community, gold star families, and the disabled. He is a sexist and a racist.
And, let's not pull our punches, he is a fascist, busy cozying up to Russia and trying to silence and control the free press. America is blessing its first dictator and that cannot bode well for the world.
The only ray of hope on this sad January day is that Congress moves to impeach him immediately. In the meantime we need to continue to call him out - this is not normal - and poke fun at him. He has such a thin skin and short temper that one Saturday night, perhaps tomorrow, he might actually explode.
Friday, 20 January 2017
Tuesday, 10 January 2017
In the first place, solidarity and sorority. Shocking though this is in 2017, I find myself once again in my life needing to make my voice heard for women's rights in an apparently developed country, the USA.
Let that sink in for a moment. 2017. The USA. Incredible isn't it?
And I do so from a sense of unity, and more, because what happens in America, tends to find its way to Europe sooner or later.
I have been surprised and truly dismayed by the creeping sexism that I have observed on these shores in recent years. Let me give just one example for now. My daughter regularly comes home in shock, upset from random street harassment. She is in her late teens and quietly going about her lawful business. Why is she subjected to gross vulgarity, propositions and threats to her person by men of all ages?
I witnessed and was subjected to it myself one evening as we were making our way home from the theatre. A car pulled over and its occupants leaned out, banged on the car doors and shouted "You slags!" at us before driving off laughing. We had done precisely nothing, yet these young men felt entitled to abuse and frighten us for their perverse entertainment.
In this context it is not unreasonable for me to wonder how long it is before a British politician and his supporters think it is entirely acceptable to denigrate women, our bodies, and our rights. How long before our contraception and sexual health are curtailed, hidden in an NHS budget cut? How long before some man decides to tinker with the abortion laws?
It's been a while since I got off my sofa and took to the street to protest about anything. That's shameful, but this is the one. When the soon-to-be leader of the free world holds such odious and dangerous views about half the human race and is brazenly espousing them, how can any of us keep quiet?
I am doing what I am able to do: lending my voice, making it heard, using my pen, making art and above all standing with everyone of good conscience to say NO to bigotry of all kinds. NO to turning the clock back to the 1950s. NO. NO. NO.
I was interested in the craziness of teaching birds to sing human compositions, and various scary bio-engineering experiments like the alcoholic rat and the living film. It certainly provoked a conversation on bio-ethics, again, perhaps the point, although not explicitly pedagogic in that sense.
Still, and for all, that I'd rather stay with the plumage of birds of paradise and the coloured soil paintings for their simplicity and wonder at the extant world.
Monday, 2 January 2017
Before the art, a word on the gallery: it's quite a pain to get to at present as Lambeth North tube is out of action, so we jumped off at Waterloo and then took a bus to Lambeth Palace, where I noted, en passant, that the Garden Museum is closed for renovation, mores the pity.
The war subjects apart, I think this is a question of originality. Nash was trying too hard and unsuccesfully, mid-career, to be a surrealist. It is also one of colour palette. There was just too much brown, grey, and sludgy green in this period of work. I like subtle. I like Fallow and Ball. But, I'd rather see paintings with more technicolour. The dreariness started to make me feel depressed and it was already a doldrum day at the slow turning of the year.
His poems are not up to much either, I'm afraid, and I quickly gave up bothering to read them, nicely calligraphied though they were.
Also, and this is not the first time I have noticed this, could someone in the Tate's maintenance department please oil the squeaky door that sounds like a spitfire going overhead every time it is opened?
Go if you are a fan, perhaps not otherwise. Disappointing.
Tuesday, 20 December 2016
Every September the Free Verse Poetry Fair rolls into town, or the Connaught Hall and environs, to regale its devotees with a day of book browsing and poem listening. It is an essential date on the calendar for all poetry aficionados within reach of the capital. Publishers, mainly small press, but also some of the largest, come from far and wide to sell their wares, and showcase their poets in a series of talks and readings that run all day. It is a marathon of poetic indulgence, time to catch up with friends, make new friends and revel in the well-ordered word; a full on versification, indeed.
My haul this year included the following books and pamphlets: from Seren’s three for two offer I selected Katrina Naomi’s The Way the Crocodile Taught me; from Eyewear, and at half price, no less, publisher Todd Swift’s Madness and Love in Maida Vale; from Happenstance, Paul Stephenson’s The Days After Paris; and from New Directions and famille Horovitz, Adam’s A Thousand Laurie Lees (The History Press), and Michael’s Midsummer Morning Jog Log.
As I work my way through them, some short notes and praise –
Katrina Naomi focuses on family, especially her relationship with her grandmother, mother and step-father. This is her second book and, as well as well-made sonnetish lyrics, she gives us the inventive Step-Father Graph poem, and a moving eulogy to her mother, Mantra, which is afforded its own final section in the book. She’s not one to shy away from violence and the Krays (Concrete Overcoat), or the sexy. I was taken by the crocodile with whom she swims ‘belly to belly’ in the title poem, and the almost Ballardian idea of pressing one’s body against an aeroplane wing in The Woman Who Married The Berlin Wall. Chapeau.
Todd Swift celebrated his 50th birthday this year. That’s hard to believe for someone so full of energy for writing and publishing. In this, his livre d’anniversaire, there are appreciations from friends and colleagues, along with 21 new poems. As author of a whole collection on the subject of tattoos, my ears always prick up when I see another such poem. Todd’s mini-series of Poems On Unoriginal Themes includes one on tattoo laser removal (‘I took my skin back to/ Being a baby, more or less. Spotless,/ Milky not a cast of sin.’), and others on twins and ghosts. I hope there are more of these to come another time on, say, the moon, shards, rainbows, mermaids, walking down the rue whatever, and other contemporary clichéd subject matter (mea culpa). There is much both serious and playful to enjoy here, along with Todd’s careful use of rhyme. His ability to use meter or not, and cast poems as they need to be, whether tightly packed, as in Great Malvern, or lose and disjointed, as in On the Growing Darkness in My Mind, depending on the subject matter, is well displayed. Similarly his invention is wide, such as in Christ, Swimming, where Jesus is breast stokes against the cross, and The Shit Show, which says what is says on the tin. There are well handled poems of love in its many forms too. Felicitations.
In the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks last November, Paul Stephenson focused his attention on the City of Light. His pamphlet gives a sense of the changes that took place on the streets and in the hearts of Parisians coming to terms with atrocity. There is a sense of rawness and immediacy. These are not poems of tranquil reflection and this makes the odd slip and clunk forgivable for all that. Bravo.