December - November 2010
The wrath of the offended religious over satirical cartoons is not a new phenomenon. GW Foote, was editor of The Secularist to which the poet James Thomson (“B.V.”) contributed in 1876, and from 1881 Foote as editor of the Freethinker published some cartoons of his own satirising Biblical episodes including the raising of Lazarus. For this he was charged with blasphemy, or as the indicting prosecution put it, scandal to the Christian religion, “the high displeasure of Almighty God” and injury to “the peace of our Lady the Queen, her Crown, and dignity.” The first trial resulted in a hung jury, but at a retrial Foote was jailed for a year, which sentence he served between 1883 and 1884.
In an 1893 selection of essays Flowers of Freethought Foote recalls the Christmas 1883 that he spent in Holloway.
The University of Pennslyvania website PennSound has added recordings of some of my own work to their online audio collection of poets reading their own poetry. You’ll find the link under my name in the full list of poets here.
A small company is planning to make another CD of my work in 2011 recorded at public readings. There will probably be two readings where there this is done, the first recording is planned to take place on April 29th when we will all be in festive mood for the Royal Wedding. Should add a bit of grit to the occasion. More news of this in the new year when plans are firmer.
So Obama Yes-We-Can has decided No-He-Can’t ask Israel any more to halt the ethnic cleansing and ongoing colonisation process that goes under the euphemism “building settlements”. Our trans-national western “defence” industry and control of essential Middle East resources, for both of which Israel is indispensable armed-to-the-teeth Nato guarantee, is a lot more important than a bunch of Arab natives. Those natives didn’t count in 1948 and are even less likely to count in 2010. Then it was a racist West anxious to show itself free of its anti-Jewish racism, which it was happy to demonstrate by helping homeless European Jews settle somewhere else where “only” native Arabs were on the ground. The aim of the Zionist faction of Judaism to claim the lands of Palestine as their supposed Biblical right was handy excuse for that help to be put in place. This masked the fact that a further implicit anti-Semitic racism—against Arab as distinct from Jew—was thereby now being deployed, and that Jew as well as Gentile were now complicit in it.
The louder the breastbeat of “Never Again” to the Holocaust—making such a colonisation deemed necessary—the more emphatic had to be the suppression of the fact that an Arab native population was being wiped, as is the current phrase, off the map. And with that suppression of fact, the more the myth had to be promulgated that there had been “nobody there”. There wasn’t, in the sense that within the European racist mindset and that of militant Zionists energising their campaign by claiming their backs as a race were now to the wall, native Palestinian Arabs were indeed “nobodies”. Racist policies of Europe in the Thirties—of which Nazism and the Holocaust were its apogee—were finally “solved” by an international Jewish-Gentile act of racism that bodied itself as a virtuous act of public cleansing and exoneration from racism itself. This is what actually lies beneath claims that the “War on Terror” is no more than a fight to protect an embattled Judeo-Christian heritage. The relevant shared heritage is in fact the heritage of a historic act of racism.
No-one is more lucid on this, and more able to convey the integrity of moral seriousness grounded in research, knowledge of history and the sense of the responsibilities that come with knowing one is a member of the universal human, than the Jewish Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, whose The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine was published four years ago. On November 27th he was guest speaker at a Palestinian Solidarity conference in Stuttgart, and you can watch his half hour address on a website here.
Another website shows film of his subsequent answers to questions in Stuttgart. His answers, given in English, can be seen by moving the counter at the bottom of the video firstly to eight minutes 30 seconds, then later to approximately 28 minutes. This video can be seen here.
Snowing heavily outside. This is how my stained glass with the maritime flag message “all livin language is sacred” looks this morning.
I previously showed how it looked in sunshine on February 10th this year.
The Orkney artist photographer Alastair Peebles has taken a suite of photographs of mainly Orkney landscapes each which landscape contains an isolated single mound of rubble, bric-a-brac, or archaelogical mound etc He’s aiming to publish a selection of these photographs with facing writings, and he asked me to contribute a piece. I’ve sent him the following:
The 50 photographs currently making up “Heaps and an Altar” can be seen here. Also worth a look is his ongoing sequence of 200 photographs of mainly rural landscapes which can be seen as a slideshow here. When up reading in Orkney I’ve always been struck by the singularity of its wide treeless landscapes bordering on a sea that can be studded with attolls and islets to the horizon. It’s a unique place.
My collection outside the narrative is almost out of print now, WordPower bookshop in Edinburgh have only a few left.
WordPower, who co-published it with Etruscan Books, have expressed their desire to reprint it. Etruscan meanwhile are waiting on news about a grant applied for in order to continue publishing. WordPower intend to go ahead on their own if Etruscan can’t come in.
The new reprint would correct the lineage that went wrong in the last two poems for which I put in a correction slip. I’d also like to adjust one or two things regarding poems that ended too far down the page without a decent sized space (esp end of “nora’s place”) but there’s some difficulties regarding that. Am glad a reprint is planned anyhow, WordPower say they would like always to keep it in print. Good on them.
Am reading this Thursday 2nd in Street Level Gallery in Glasgow. Evening to begin at 7pm with readings from writing students at Nautical College.
More of my Mother Courage. One of the fascinating things about this great play is the way the characters aren’t simple and straightforward. They’re real characters, which is to say there’s contradictions in them. The Chaplain I was enjoying writing as a slightly verbose phoney always looking after himself before principle—then in translating his song about Jesus Christ’s suffering before death, I found his words coming as moving and sincere. So when he boasted later about being able to move soldiers with his rhetoric—maybe he was right.
And Mother Courage herself: it can be tempting no doubt to see her as at root a mother just prepared to do anything for her children: but that isn’t the way the words in the play go all the time at all. The thing about real people as distinct from “victims” who can be digested easily as “heroic”, is that real people have the dignity to be wrong. How much is Mother Courage herself a sell-out, and how sustainedly is she aware of this? Remonstrating with a soldier that he hasn’t the guts to stand up to the system as distinct from just shouting about it, her “The Song of the Great Capitulation” tells of her own awareness of having abandoned her stand against the powers that be, and just falling into the marching band of subservient automatons with all the rest.
Words set as to be sung by Paul Deslau music. Words in italic spoken.
It has now been finally established that whichever version of Mother Courage and her Children goes on in the spring in Glasgow. it will not be mine. The company who planned to put on my version of the play wanted to make substantial cuts from the original German and stage with the actors and director a series of generative “script development” sessions to which I could not agree. The commissioned script has not finally been sold and remains my property.
I’ve had a deal of enthusiastic responses from fellow writers and others in the theatre world who have read my text, so I’m fairly confident it will be staged in Scotland at some point in the future.
Reading a critical essay on Tom Raworth have come on this sentence having a sideswipe at some mainstream English poets.
Where the fantasy, the art, is weak, it dodges the kinds of discursive collision that make up the evolving world, entering instead into collusion with its audience so as to festishise the pursuit of certain comforts.
Nice one. I think it’s meant to be “fetishise”, though “festishise” is almost good enough to suck.
I am booked to read at Cambridge University Judith Wilson Drama facility Friday Nov 26th 7.30, with Keston Sutherland.
This is a sound setting of Shakespeare's 18th sonnet I made about thirty years ago at home on a four-track tape recorder. I have embedded it here from YouTube. Click to hear the audio.
The Nice Impartial English Judge and the Fanatical Extremist Religious Terrorist
The airwaves and the newspaper columns are presently awash with reports on the case of 21 year old Roshonara Choudhry, who stabbed Labour MP Stephen Timms in the stomach as an act of revenge because he had voted for the bombing and invasion of Iraq.
Mr Justice Cooke sentenced her to a minimum of 15 years. The tabloids are full with the to-be-expected wordstock about her being “warped”, “brainwashed” “evil” and so forth. And the judge wasn’t slow with the “evil” word himself. He told her "I hope that you will come to understand the distorted nature of your thinking, the evil that you have done and planned to do, and repent of it. You do not suffer from any mental disease. You have simply committed evil acts coolly and deliberately."
It wasn’t that word “evil” that struck me as a little odd, rather the word “repent”. Even more somewhat pointed it struck me, that in the trial of a Muslim, the judge should also say ‘I understand that he (Mr Timms) brings to bear his own faith, which upholds very different values from those which appear to have driven this defendant. Those values are those upon which the common law of this country was founded and include respect and love for one’s neighbour, for the foreigner in the land, and for those who consider themselves enemies, all as part of one’s love of God. These values were the basis of our system of law and justice and I trust that they will remain so as well as motivating those, like Mr Timms, who hold public office.’
Could this judge possibly be telling this young woman to remember that this country of ours is a Christian country, and she ought perhaps to repent of her infidel ways? Surely not! But my curiosity had been aroused enough to start doing a bit of Googling on Mr Justice Cooke, who turns out to be Jeremy Cooke, who was a rugby blue at Oxford before becoming a solicitor in 1973, eventually being appointed a High Court judge in 2001.
But that wasn’t the only lofty position he was to attain. Just two years later in 2003 Jeremy was appointed vice-president of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, whose website exhorts lawyers “ to think about joining LCF as an act of commitment that as a Christian lawyer you share in our mission to influence lawyers and the law for Christ... We believe that every Christian involved in the practice, administration, teaching or study of law in Britain, should become a member of LCF so that we can work with you and for you in your calling as a Christian lawyer.... we will work with you and support you in the exciting challenge of being a lawyer for Christ.”
The stated “vision” of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship in which Mr Justice Cooke holds such high office, is unambigous, on the home page of the website:
God has exalted Jesus and given him all authority in heaven and on earth. He has inherited the rule of God‘s kingdom by which all of creation will be brought back under God’s rule. Every area of the universe and sphere of human society belongs to our great Saviour, and as He is Creator, it all derives from him. This includes the nations and their laws, lawyers and their lives, justice and business! The LCF exists to bear witness to this truth by bringing the good news of Christ within the legal world.
As a fellowship of Christian lawyers in the UK, our members encourage one another together to speak, live, apply, and promote the gospel in every aspect of our profession, at home and abroad.
The Daily Mail, that bastion of decent rightwing Christianity and excoriator of all things Muslim, showed photographs of supporters of Roshonara Choudhry standing outside the court holding posters saying that the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were “Crusader Wars”. What rascals, or should that be infidels. A nice impartial English judge like Mr Justice Cooke just trying to bring the good news of Christ's gospel from the judicial bench!