december - november 2009

December 30th
South African poet and activist Dennis Brutus has died on December 26th aged 85. He can be seen reading his poem "Sharpeville" in a clip from 1982 here.
December 27th
These photos were taken one year ago today, December 27th 2008, when 250 people were killed in the first day alone of the 22-days Israeli bombing of Gaza. In this first day many civil police at their inauguration ceremony were murdered by the bombing. The killing of civil police, let alone children, is a crime against the Geneva convention.
Needless to say on this anniversary our loyal Western journalists are to a man, and woman, concerned with other matters.
December 25th
My sons and their partners, with whom we are spending Christmas in London.
family    sonyatom
michael victoria Lucy  Stephen                                                      Sonya         Tom
December 24th 
Sonya and I married 38 years ago today. This photo from 1972.
December 20th
Henri Chopin was one of the poets from nine countries who took part in the Sound and Syntax festival in Glasgow at the Third Eye Centre in May 1978. A number of the poets are now dead including Henri himself. Tickets for the event thirty one years ago were £1 per session, £4 for a weekend season!  It was quite a line-up.
syntax a
syntax b
The photograph below was taken in the foyer of the Third Eye centre at the event in 1978. Henri Chopin on the left, myself on the right. Graphic poems on the wall at the back are by John Furnival.
chopn and me
December 19th
John Furnival's poster poem of yesterday was dedicated to Henri Chopin and first appeared in Chopin's episodic publication ou. Chopin ten years later in another edition of ou called "Chronique" had more than thirty of Chopin's own typewriter poems with translations into English at the back of the magazine. This was the seventh poem:
The translation of the French given reads
chopin english
December 18th
Third in a series of card poster-poem publications of the sixties.  Actual size 10" x 8".
December 17th
Event in Glasgow tonight organised by Scotitsh Jews for a Just Peace
Thursday 17 December - Jewish Fast for Gaza Glasgow Hanukkah Candlelit vigil

5-7pm - Meet at St Enoch’s Square – end near Argyle St, Glasgow 

Bring candles

The Jewish Fast for Gaza is an ad hoc group of rabbis, Jews, and people of conscience who have committed to undertake a monthly daytime fast in support of the following goals:
1. To call for a lifting of the blockade that prevents the entry of civilian goods and services into Gaza;
2. To provide humanitarian and developmental aid to the people of Gaza;
3. To call upon Israel, the US, and the international community to engage in negotiations without pre-conditions with all relevant Palestinian parties - including Hamas - in order to end the blockade;
4. To encourage the American government to vigorously engage both Israelis and Palestinians toward a just and peaceful settlement of the conflict.
The next monthly fast day of Ta’anit Tzedek - Jewish Fast for Gaza falls on December 17, the sixth day of Hanukkah. On Hanukkah last year, Israel launched “Operation Cast Lead” - a military assault that eventually killed over 1300 people,destroyed thousands of homes and devastated much of the infrastructure of Gaza. Since this attack, Gazans have been unable to rebuild as the continuing Israeli blockade prevents the import of building and other essential materials.

As Jewish tradition prohibits fasting during the festival of Hanukkah, supporters of Ta’anit Tzedek and all people of faith and conscience are invited devote December 17 to “Operation Not by Might and Not by Power,” a day of study, reflection and action.

Organised by Scottish Jews for a Just Peace
December 15th
The ongoing public erasure of the Tamils from official public consciousness provides as needy a time as any to welcome a new anthology of contemporary Tamil poetry. Wilting Laughter is an anthology of three poets—R Cheran, VIS Jayapalan, and Puthuvai Ratnathurai—whom the introduction describes as major figures in Tamil poetry today, with differing approaches to their culture and the Tamil situation.

Cheran now lives in Canada, as does the translator Chelva Kanagasnayakam. VIS Chapalan now lives in Norwary. Puthuvai Ratnathurai of the three is the one most closely identified in his work with the LTTE, the Tamil Tigers. Ominously, given the current situation, the bookjacket says “His present whereabouts are unknown.”

The translations read well, often limpid and simple in their effect, as in this end of the poem “A Poet’s Fearless Death” by the last-mentioned poet:

when I am a corpse,

do not despair;

when my body lives at home;

sing my songs,

read my poems aloud,

be at peace;

I came


and left;

no, I did my best

and returned;

for me

that will suffice.



The book costs $28 Canadian, but during December it can be had postfree for a discount price of $20 here. That came out as £11.74 sterling.


December 11th
flag pencila
no media

December 8th 
our future poets
December 5th
Came on this typed page from about 20 years or more ago. Wrote it after I'd been to a reading, in Edinburgh I think, where I thought the reader was a bit of a new age tosser. The poem was published in a French magazine who asked me for a poem for a Scottish issue. They subsequently contacted me to ask, "What does fandabbydozy mean?"
November 26th

Celtic have been playing a lot of shite recently from what I hear, though I very rarely go to a game. Watching them on telly recently, half an hour had gone by and nobody had had a shot at goal. The forwards seemed to have a morbid fear of goalmouths.

Glasgow schools both primary and secondary when I was growing up used to have football teams for all the class years, and citywide leagues to go with them. Now the schools don’t have all the teams and leagues any more; and first the Tories under Thatcher then Labour under Blair flogged off as many school football pitches as they could find property developers to buy them.

The Celtic European Cupwinners of 1967, famously made up of players born no more than thirty miles from Glasgow, was probably the summit of the local culture that no longer exists. With the demise of that, the current free movement of labour in Europe, and the pouring of milliions of Murdoch money into the English league for TV rights, any outstanding Scottish player now ends up south of the border. And at the moment there’s not a lot of them. The top teams in Scotland are at least half-full of foreign players from Europe—and in a way that reminds me of Beecham’s remark, that he couldn’t understand why British orchestras insisted on hiring third-rate foreign conductors when Britain had so many second-rate conductors of its own.

As for Celtic: next week, Wednesday December 2nd, they are scheduled to play a football team from Tel Aviv. Anyone going to the game might like to consider this press release just issued from the Scottish Friends of Palestine.


One week today Brand Israel yet again visits Scotland, disgracing the City of Glasgow with the presence of Israel’s ambassadors, Hapoel Tel Aviv.

And Glasgow could not ask for better ambassadors of the state of Israel. Every player will have served in the Israeli military, will have served in the occupied Palestinian territories - where the humiliation, the terrorising, the maiming, the killing of members of a civilian population is now down to a fine, brutal art.

Ideal ambassadors, it has to be said, for the state of Israel.

The “luck” of the draw has determined that Glasgow Celtic has the misfortune to face a team which will indirectly seek to present this rogue state as a civilised member of the international community. The state of Israel has quite clearly branded itself as one of the “good guys” in the world, and the job of teams such as Hapoel Tel Aviv is to reinforce this fiction. Make no mistake about it, this match is all about politics, not just sport, no matter what Hapoel T A, the SFA, UEFA and FIFA might say.

While Celtic FC has little option other than to host the match, the fans do have choices and opportunities. As do the media.

At one level, they, along with all football fans in Scotland, can let the SFA, UEFA and FIFA know, in no uncertain terms, that their collusion in supporting the state of Israel’s efforts to brand itself as a civilised state must end.

The SFA, UEFA and FIFA know well the nature of the state of Israel. They cannot have been happy when they heard of the bombing to death of 3 Palestinian members of the Palestine national team - Wajih Mushtahi, , Khalil Jaber, Ayman Alkurd - in Gaza earlier this year by a fellow member of FIFA and EUEFA. In any other circumstances, the brutal death of three players of a national football squad at the hands of a fellow member state would attract publicity, even controversy - however the victims were only Palestinian, they were ignored.

UEFA and FIFA are also aware that member state, Israel, regularly interferes in the operation of the Palestine national team, whether it be refusing team members to attend training venues, qualifying matches (Singapore 2007, India 2008), play home matches, return home from abroad (Jordan 2007 - players initially refused entry to Gaza) or targeting and destroying their limited training facilities, as in Gaza.

At this point, FIFA could be excused for being unaware of recent events on the West Bank where a purpose built, FIFA, German and French financed football pitch and 8000 seater stadium has just been completed within the boundaries of al Bireh municipality - and which now faces demolition. Building permission was received over 30 years ago from the occupation authorities, yet on November 1 this year, the municipality was told to raze the facility to the ground.

What is inexcusable is the absence of reaction from the SFA, FIFA and UEFA to the killing and maiming of young children, many while playing football on a piece of wasteground oblivious to the nearby sniper watchtowers or the unmanned drones flying overhead, by the state whose ambassadors will disgrace Celtic Park this Wednesday. The list continues to grow

?11-year-old Khalil al-Mughrabi was shot dead in Rafah by the Israeli army in 2007 as he played football with a group of friends near Gaza’s razor wire fence.

·At the end of January 2007, 16 year old Taha Aljawi bled to death from a sniper's bullet while playing football near the fence of an abandoned airfield.

?14 year old Jamil Jabaji, from the Askar refugee camp in Nablus, had been throwing stones at an IDF Hummer. The vehicle was moving slowly, according to the children's testimony, stopping every once in a while, in what the youngsters thought was a type of provocation, as though trying to lure them closer, until it stopped and two soldiers stepped out, aiming their weapons at them. A death sentence for stone-throwing.

Jamal was the goalie of the children's soccer team in the camp, and a member of the Boy Scouts. The one bullet that entered the forehead and exited at the back of the neck, spelled instant death. (2006)

?15 year old friends - Hassan Abu Zeid, Ashraf Mousa and Khaled Ghanem were shot while playing football, near the border zone in Gaza (9 April 2005)

·Omar Za'ran, 9 years old killed by tank fire 1 July 2004 when playing football. .

·Three teenagers and an eight-year-old, Yousef Abu Jaza, hit in the knee when soldiers shot at a group of children playing football in Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip ( July 28, 2003)

·Adel Muqanen (17 years) and 11 year old Ali killed by a M16 machine gun on 18 June 2001 when playing football

Remember, as Hapoel’s players run around the pitch on Wednesday evening, you are looking at killers, supporters of a brutal military occupation now in its fifth decade. They, and their mates, have specialised skills rarely seen in a state which considers itself sporting, democratic and civilised.

These skills include the humiliation of the young and the elderly at checkpoints - forcing them to wait, without shelter, in all extremes of weather and temperature. Refusing to allow a civilian population access to their farmland - to plant, water or pick their crops. Flinging the old, the young out into the street when settlers demand their houses. Demolishing the houses of Palestinians. Allowing violent settlers to attack the Palestinian population, including young school children, at random. Killing and injuring non-violent protestors protesting Israel’s Wall of annexation, a structure which rips local Palestinian communities apart. Enforcing a vicious siege on Gaza where families are facing another freezing wet winter in tents - a result of the carnage inflicted on Gaza earlier this year and the refusal to allow essential supplies to enter what is now the world’s largest ghetto or concentration camp.

At the risk of repetition, Scottish Friends of Palestine reminds the media that they have a role in questioning FIFA with regard to the membership of a state which occupies the land of others, which prevents a fellow member state, Palestine, from participating equally in the sport FIFA seeks to promote. Crucially it has a role in questioning why a state, which has no qualms in killing and maiming young children as they relax playing the time honoured “footie”, is given membership of FIFA. and UEFA.

On Wednesday many eyes will be focused on the game. Not least those in the state of Israel where any televised propaganda, which this game represents, is an opportunity to project Brand Israel to a wider audience.

However it does give the opportunity for fans to show their support for the Palestinian people and help get the message through that Israel’s ambassadors are not welcome in Glasgow. Scottish Friends of Palestine would urge the fans to do just that. What better than a massive show of black, green, red and white - the Palestinian colours - to show solidarity with the Palestinian people? Flags, balloons, T shirts are all effective.


November 15th
I said a couple of weeks ago I had agreed to do a reading as a favour to help out a cafe event organiser on November 26th. I won't now be reading, a full programme of people including slam poets standup etc has come about so I don't feel my participation is needed.
November 9th
berlinwallanniversary Berlin, Germany 1969                                                                                 West Bank, Palestine 2009
November  4th

I have re-written my footnote for GCSE students about the news poem here after the BBC amended their GCSE site when I wrote to them. I don't like trying to "explain" my poems at all, but since various GCSE guides are suggesting to schools what the poem is "about" I might at least put in some of my own views on that. They might be useful to some students I hope, and I do not necessarily mean to pass their exams.

I discovered that the contact link for emailing me on the website has been missing for a while. It was inadvertently wiped out when the application that runs this website was updated about a month ago. I have now put a contact link for email in the main menu column at the left of each page.


November 2nd

Looking through some old stuff in an envelope I came on a Glasgow University student cyclostyled poetry magazine called Nik dated May 1969. This is a scan of a poem I have in it. I was a student at the time.




November 1st

That Hillary Clinton should be heard yesterday “praising” Netanyahu for his “unprecedented concessions” is hardly a surprise. With 60,000 Palestinians presently officially under threat of ethnic cleansing in occupied East Jerusalem, and families this week, as usual, first evicted by (probably American fanatic fundamentalist) settlers, then in turn evicted by the Israeli army from the tents into which they had moved: there is no reason to expect any words on behalf of such people from Clinton or Obama, from Blair (whom Netanyahu has boasted in the Jerusalem Post he has met frequently and with whom he sees eye to eye on most issues) from Brown, or from any of the Western media, least of all CNN or the BBC.

Clinton was in the past wont to outBush Bush in her bellicose rhetoric for military action against Iran. And for example her preposterous wearing of a bulletproof vest (supposedly against Palestinian “terrorists”) on past visits to Jerusalem showed her readiness to participate in neoconservative pro- Israeli propaganda. Brtain under Brown has been no less obsequious. Who but Gordon Brown could appoint as minister with special concern for Middle East affairs none other than Ivan Lewis, outspoken member of parliament in support of Israel’s invasion and bombing of Gaza? That Israeli colonial adventure left 1400 Palestinians dead, 5000 wounded, and 50,000 homeless. Nothing wrong there, according to Ivan Lewis, now official representative of Her Majesty’s Government. One can in the near future be assured of daily media coverage remembering the siege of Sarajevo in the forthcoming trial of Karadzik in the Hague. And one can with equal confidence be assured of continuing total media silence about the three-year-old siege of Gaza’s million and a half Palestinians.

There is no “peace process” in the Middle East. The phrase is part of the linguistic placatory game run for, and maintained by, Western media as supposedly-distanced arm of their respective governments. A pacification process is what is occurring: that old colonial venture, the pacification of the natives. Pouring money from America and the EU one-sidely into Fatah’s Abbas-Fayyad-Dahlan clique is to establish, as per the known policy actions of America’s General Dayton and Elliot Abrams, a rich Palestinian “government” and police caste whose wealth depends on their maintaining the interests of their financial providers in suppressing, jailing and containing any resistance. This is a precise mirror of the situation in Mubarak’s Egypt, whose comfortably-off army and police benefit from the second largest annual donation to Egypt of American “security” funds, second only to Israel. The only difference between the Egyptian and Palestinian situation is that Egypt is presently a client police state. The Palestinians are being ushered into a police state-without-a-state.

These facts are not buried. Anyone can find a wealth of such with a limited amount of time and mere internet access. There are so many horrific details about what is going on in Gaza at this moment; 359 people now dead from the refusal of Israelis to allow the sick access to hospitals outside Gaza, “most of the children” according to a medical spokesman now bedwetting from trauma—etc, etc, etc. And total silence from the British Broadcasting Corporation, CNN, and our loyal fourth estate. Like Abbas and Mubarak and Clinton and Ivan Lewis and Brown and Blair, they are simply fulfilling their loyal duties: to do exactly what they are paid for—which in some important matters means doing, and saying, precisely nothing.


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