ON POETRY, WRITING AND RANDOM CULTURAL MATTERS

Monday, 23 January 2017

Still I rise - London

Saturday, in my pussy hat, I marched with five women friends and more than a hundred thousand other women, men and children. From cities around the world our numbers were in their millions. 

Out from the social media echo chamber we came. Out onto the streets. The cry? There were many, but at their core: justice and equality. It was a celebration of diversity and the first mass resistance to the normalisation of the new world order, the new Nazism. Embarrassed Americans marched with us. We embraced them.

There are still so many issues, still so much to do as a second waver reminded us with her placard: I can't believe I am still protesting this fucking shit, and the same from the period dressed Suffragettes: same shit, different century.

Let me focus on just one issue that affects my country women in Northern Ireland and our sisters in the south. The whole island of Ireland is still an abortion free zone. The rosaries are still on their ovaries.

For me the most moving moment of the day was the vociferous reminder of this inequity. The Irish women shouting my body, my choice stopped the march. There was applause. There were tears and cheers.

If you want to do something real, practical and effective, go here. Help them have one thing we take for granted.

Then back to the streets. We are not going away anytime soon, and certainly not for the next four years.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Black Friday - Amercia loses the plot

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.






Poem for 20 January 2017

The fake beetle

always flounders and, limbs akimbo
falls from his ball of dung.


At night he tries navigation by the stars
but, fixed in their firmament, they do not
stoop, or aid, or grace his stage.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Women's March - Planning ahead

I am not American, so why am I bothering to go on the London sister march to the Washington one planned for 21 January? Good question. The answer is incredibly simple.

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 have knitted my pussy hat and will be wearing it with pride. And before anyone says its name is ironic, it isn't. Using the word pussy is to reclaim it from the mouths of those who seek to reduce us to our genitalia. Just ask those musicians in Russia. They'll tell you.

Seeing animals at the Wellcome Collection

An eclectic little show this one that tries to group things by theme, but ends up with too much of nothing particularly connected, although packed with plenty of curiosities. Perhaps that was its meta intention.

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

Gavin Turk at Newport Street Gallery


 The commendable raison d'etre of Damien Hirst's beautifully designed and appointed Newport Street Gallery is to show his own collections of work, currently Gavin Turk.

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 gallery is spacious, totally fit for purpose and free. Just as well, as I can't imagine folk wanting to enrich Mr. Hirst any further. So, thanks then to philanthropy and his willingness to open his doors on a collection that would no doubt otherwise be sitting in a warehouse somewhere awaiting the inevitable fire.

The works on show are themed by room: the first two on Turk's all important signature in a variety of guises, including Klein dipped sponges, which I loved for their resemblance to basalt, and au Pollock in huge canvases. Then it's the Warhol homages; various screen prints of himself, and as Sid as Elvis, and the car crashes, followed by the waxworks. Finally there is the skip, and bronze cast rubbish bags and rubbish. Cave, the plaque he made for his unsuccessful MA show, is afforded a room of its own, which is a gloriously witty hanging. It made us both smile and giggle.

Pharmacy 2 for a very strong and reasonably priced flat white at the end of a morning's highly enjoyable and seemingly private viewing. Hardly anyone was there except us given that it required determination and that the rest of London was probably at the Oxford Street sales. A bus ride to Piccadilly took us home over Lambeth bridge and through a city wrapped in fog, which the watery sun tried to illumine. Joy.

Paul Nash at Tate Britain

This is a major retrospective of Nash's work covering early to late pieces; war to surrealism to the English countryside. Whilst, yes, there are some stunning and groundbreaking, if you will pardon the pun, paintings of the First World War, and some of the stylised trees and landscapes are particularly appealing, I left underwhelmed.

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.