A meeting of minds
You said you preferred Orwell’s essays.
The way they lulled you into a sense
of the plain, transcending any given ideology
often whilst condemning or praising it.
I said – I preferred his moustache.
You said your first memory was of screaming:
Yowling, uttering your brutal stages of advance
dazed from the drop, finding your voice, or not;
Images flocking like birds of Assisi…
I said – The Rockford Files
You said what moved you was a child’s pale face.
A garden at night after a party, a wine glass
blood-red with cigarette debris, and a guy
no-one knows stroking a dog.
I said – I was that guy.
Kris Thain lives in a seaside town that forgot to close down, and often takes advantage of that. The desolate shoreline is a great inspiration for knocking out a few poems. He web-designs by day, he web-designs by night and hopes one day to stop the night part and live a “normal” life. He is 40 odd. He has had poems published in Other Poetry, Snakeskin, Orbis and a few lesser known local publications.Read More
Since we’ve met
I think since we met I may have encouraged
a small amount of nothingness
It’s not your fault, it went through you like
invisible. You could be a mixture of girls
I’ve only known through friends or the
telly and even though you live in a shithole
You arrive at parties looking fabulous.
What is your secret, your mysterious other
life. Do you know so many that they are
just movies stills? I mean I roam around
at work with jumper marks in my face, all
because I slept on the couch again, If I slept
on the couch through childhood I would be
infernally bent legged by now and a serial
killer in training.
I know marriage
with you will
Be swerving the mundane traps that
Other couples fall into; that you plan
To keep things spontaneous only by
The way you see things but the pressure
Of you’re marvelous river filled brain
makes me distant because you can find
another person at a gallery opening.
but even the voice of the policeman
was soft and you knew not
much could be done, it
is not because I want it perfectly
it is because I want it clean,
even playing field so that the
time we seriously considered
buying tropical fish,
Sarah Chapman is twenty-four years old, started writing poetry two years ago and lives and works in the rough part of London. Her poems have appeared in Pomegranate, Spilt Milk, Clutching at straws, Fade Poetry Journal, Cadaverine, 3am magazine, Scrambler, Etcetera and Cake Magazine with forthcoming poems to appear in SSYK and a forthcoming chapbook published by Red Ceilings Press.Read More
Sizzle Reel CV
I am a woman possessed of the key skills to incentivise staff, validate client-facing compliance, inject vitality into volunteer experience, strategically assess critical outcomes with process excellence and granular costing increments.
As part of a senior management structure which is a likeness to a Director I handle large scale retail architecture where HR transformational deliverables facilitate leverage, rather than generic, competencies with dimensionalised KPI accruals pre-tested via brand aware customer bundles.
I have strong communicational skills.
Myfanwy Fox lives on a hillside. She blogs at Fox Tales <http://myfanwyfox.wordpress.com/> .Read More
Mice live in the London Tube.
A train leaves
and small pieces of sooty black
from the sooty black walls
and forage for crumbs
in the rubbish under the rails
that are death to man.
You can’t see their feet move.
They scurry like clockwork mice
and then they accelerate
faster than any clockwork mouse,
faster than the eye can follow.
Your eye jerks to keep up with them.
There are usually three.
You can tell when a commuter has spotted one;
he becomes alert, alive -
it makes you realize the half-world
the other passengers exist in.
Once, a mouse came onto the platform
and sat, cleaning his whiskers,
watched by a silent circle
of respectful giants,
tall as Nelson’s column.
Jean Cardy has had three collections and many poems published . She currently teaches Creative Writing for U3A.Read More
Rooted in Poetry
Kops Returns to Russia to Assassinate the Tsar
IN 1881, the St. Petersburg cell of the notorious anarchist organization Narodnaya Volya (The People’s Will) assassinates the tyrannical anti-Semite Tsar Alexander II of All Russia, the flames of murderous pogroms sweep through the abused Pale of Settlements and a Jewish boy from Muswell Hill in 21st century London is rescued by the banned Yiddish Jericho Players company of Latvia… What?
Bernard Kops, the doyen of European poetry, has issued a great new Holocaust novel steeped in rhythms and rhyme. It tells a fantastic and entirely believable tale with warmth, humour, empathy and depth reminiscent of the Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem. Its text pulsates like some pieces from the immortal pen of the Jewish-Soviet master Isaac Babel. But Kops gives us more even than his towering antecedents because he is also, quintessentially, a poet.
His story is about the present. Its characters are those among us whose forebears struggled through the great European migrations since the expulsion of Jews from Spain at the dawn modern European literature as well as the giants whose explosive imaginations came to formulate the self-image of much of the world in our own time.
Like a fateful refrain, the menacing sound of Holocaust cattle-trucks clanging through the frozen Russian terrain, and the crying of the people inside, are audible throughout the narrative. But it is also a very funny coming-of-age story.
Its hero Samuel Glass is probably the only lad in all literature who manages to shed his skateboard as well as his innocence several times in succession, because he does so in his poetic fantasy.. and then to lose a flesh-and-blood beauty next door to some lucky New Zealander.
Our adventurer turns up in 19th century Vitebsk, the town of his forebears, to confront his destiny but finds himself trapped in the wrong country and the wrong century of a confusing world. Yet the real world proves even more confusing when the sounds of the Holocaust horror follow him all the way back to the idyllic Thames Valley of London.
Kops’ universe, like that of Sholem Aleichem, the author of Fiddler on the Roof, is centred around wise, passionate and magnetic matriarchs at the peak of their power, surrounded by weaker men and whores and witches defending a place in their orbit.
One such matriarch is Lisa, Sam’s gorgeous widowed mother, who is about to embark on a love affair a year after the untimely death of her beloved husband, Sam’s father. Another is Sarah, Lisa’s equally young and desirable great-great-great grandmother who summonses our heartbroken hero back into history to assassinate the tsar. Which he does, in the company of a team of bombers.
Unsurprisingly, the tyrant is less initially loathsome to Sam than Lisa’s chosen David and Sarah’s new husband Akiva…
Many writers familiar to a budding North London poet pop up in the story unexpectedly and always on cue. Sam meets a best-selling author named Anne Frank who wonders why he had to run away from home, since “mine,” she recalls, “ran away from me.”
Lovers of freedom like Lorca and Shelly stroll through the brutalized Russian lands soon to come under the yoke of the Soviets. Sam, who has never experienced a single act of anti-Semitism on Muswell Hill Broadway, watches T. S. Eliot climb off his pedestal to seek out the Jews “underneath the piles”. Shakespeare even helps out when the protagonist must eventually sing (literally) for his supper.
The novel is Kops’ 10th. The 86-year old poet was first catapulted to world fame as an originator of Britain’s new wave, “kitchen-sink” theatre by his 1958 play The Hamlet of Stepney Green.
Kops hails from the now bygone, destitute European Jewish immigrant settlements of East London that sheltered there from the Holocaust during the Second World War. Sam’s Russian Odyssey is full of autobiographical turns.
This author is extraordinarily prolific and, at long last, commercially successful. The 2010 publication of his collected poetry This Room in the Sunlight (David Paul Publishing, London, £9.99p., Paperback, 132pp.) was a major event for English literature. He has also issued more than 40 plays, two autobiographies and six previous volumes of verse.
All of Kops’ writing is rooted in poetry, which may perhaps explain his ability to make his prose throb with passion, as famously done by the short story writer Isaac Babel in his classic 1920s Russian collection Red Calvary. How does Kops do that in English? Let us enter his workshop.
English poets know that in any copy prepared for public recital, the language demands a pause or at least one unstressed syllable, and does not tolerate more than two unstressed syllables, between two stressed ones.
A writer ignoring this may expose the text to awkward stresses of pronunciation or unintended pauses in the performance. But properly used, this formula gives us something like blank verse, the most versatile metre in the language favoured by Shakespeare and many others. Its commonly employed five-footed line easily lends itself, depending on the mood of the text, to the expression of anything from light musings to cutting satire or pulsating tension.
In the following example chosen almost at random, I have edited only very slightly a passage of Kops’ prose about the spread of panic at Vitebsk railway station to turn it into vibrant descriptive poetry:
A long queue of ragged, silent and lifeless humans
were shuffling forward, one shoe at a time,
everyone trying to get away from Vitebsk.
The Red Rabbi sniffed… checking the atmosphere:
“I fear there is pogrom in the air.”
“There is always a pogrom in the air and more often
a pogrom on the ground,” Akiva retorted.
The creatures in the queue seemed barely able
to rub two kopeks together. Where were they off to,
and why? As they approached the ticket hatch
some urgent whispers started to circulate.
The voices of the lumpen stragglers were
morose and suddenly fearful. “Did someone say pogrom?”
An old hag cackled: “I see it with my own ears…”
A toothless man muttered: “I’ve heard it with my own eyes…”
“When, WHEN?…” “Anytime you like… Tonight! Tomorrow
or yesterday!…” But, “It is all a tall story,”
uttered a heavily pregnant Jewish dwarf.
Now consider Kops’ unedited prose below, describing a real pogrom raging amidst a theatrical performance: Chaos was smiling on his rostrum, conducting the scene. The hall was alight and the crowds from outside rushed in with burning torches. The cast huddled together on stage. The audience was a tangled, screaming, unbelieving crowd.
And the mob went in amongst them. “Death to the Yids. Pogrom! Pogrom! You bastard Jews. Christ murderers. You’re finished in this country.” And daggers and breadknives were doing their job, a flashing flood; and blood was fountaining, pouring down and hammers were crashing, and smashing and nightmare was king.
The hall ignited and the slavering flames licked at the bundle of actors upon the stage…
And down in the hall, peasants cried and fought each other and tore at each other desperate to get outside.
“Death to the Yids! Death to the Yids.” The chorus continued outside.
“We’re finished. We’re finished. God help us. They are burning us. They are turning us into smoke.”
They cried and a vacuum of silence rushed in from the world; and the woman with her baby was sliding in the blood where the dead lay, gushing their innards; the baby still sucking the breast, and as she sang softly a lullaby. “Sleep my baby sleep. Roshinkers mit mundelan, almonds and raisons, sweet and bitter, sleep my baby sleep.”
As a boy, Sam had slipped into the past to get away from home; as a man, he must seek his future on board an immigrant ship with the touring Jericho Players dreaming of their own, permanent Yiddish theatre on the old Commercial Road of London. In real life, several Jewish theatrical companies from the Pale of Settlements were badly received in19th century England, but they travelled on to set up the American film industry in Hollywood. The British film industry was created only during Kops’ childhood by the poets, actors and directors brought together by the famous Jewish-Hungarian Korda brothers.
Before he is allowed to return to his prosperous, modern reality, Sam must still experience the poverty of Kops’ native East End of London. Despite the squalor and degradation, Sam feels almost comfortable there. In a moving nod to his own, deprived childhood, Kops observes that “compassion and caring was still alive in the shtetl (a Yiddish-speaking East European village) that was the old East End”.
THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND is a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent writing from London and his native Budapest. His next book will be The Survivors: Holocaust Poetry for Our Time (Smokestack/England) to be published in 2014.
The Odyssey of Samuel Glass by Bernard Kops is published by David Paul books. Order your copy here
Hymn to the Ones kept Secret
Oh legion to whose births I was not invited
I will sit me down and wait with patience
by the outflow of the sewage pipes.
I will sit me down and wait
where baffles and grids catch collectibles.
The little bloated ones will come bobbing.
no one in attendance
come to me, where shit blooms in the briney.
I will neither weep over nor cradle you
small people, born in the dead of night.
I will cry for your mothers, the terrified.
Infants you will not be forgotten,
you are freight that will come in a dream,
something to long for, someone to name.
Anna-May Laugher, born 1959 A prize winning poet, published online and in several magazines. She has just completed a two year project writing poems about Paula Rego’s mural in the National Gallery’s Sainsbury Wing restaurant, entitled Crivelli’s Garden or The Visitation.Read More
By the rivers of Babylon he sat and wept
By the rivers of Babylon he sat and wept,
He packed his bags, combed his hair, shined his shoes,
He shielded his eyes from the blinding of the coming light,
Said his goodbyes, scratched ‘Tom, Dick & Harry was here’ on the walls, within which he had become recluse,
He wrote his famous last words, saying that he couldn’t live in a world that wasn’t his own,
Planted his feet in the virgin sand, and walked,
Through Babylon, through Sodom, through Gomorrah, through London
Where he walked until his bloodied footprints were cemented into the thoughts of those whose thoughts had yet to be unlocked,
And he cried so they all would hear:
‘Breathe the air that is my home, feel the words that I live in,
The vowels wrapped in consonants, the metaphors that grow into reality,
if you allow it,
If it’s not too much to ask, die; and be born again elbow deep in your own abnormality,
But be sure that you are under no illusion,
Be sure that you know that you and I are not the same,
While we all cry unanswered prayers, my fingertips cry muted tears as they paint the only self-portrait they know,
My heart dances to the music of Chaucerian iambic pentameter, seeking shelter in its fame.’
And as no-one seemed to hear, he continued to walk,
Bellowing his blasphemous words, labelled filthy,
Feeding off of decrepit cigarette butts,
In the shadow of all that was significant in the eyes of the worthy,
Thinking of his first love: angel-headed hipsters and Mohammedan angels,
The love that grew into a sickness that burnt into the shits of the night time, which burned
‘Neath his bloodshot eyes, where tears fell for his family and friends,
Who, a long time ago, lost a little boy who never returned,
The man, now broken, hid in the wake of the sun’s onanistic promises,
Seeing, with deluded, closing eyes, his own face, amidst mind-born clouds,
Dragging himself past the stations of London, questioning the validity of his dreams,
All the while, he remained unimportant to the ever-apathetic crowds,
Until, again he cried, so they all would hear:
‘Understand! Understand what I am saying,
I am addressing you, undressing you, so that you might feel how I do,
Understand that I just want God to love me,
That if you deeply, truly want to see my point of view,
You must submit and become subservient to the arts,
You must drink ink and shit gold, take a shot for us all and don the blindfold,
If truly’, he said, ‘You want to believe,
You must live – live the words untold,
The bollocks, the if onlys, the I probably shouldn’ts
And as he sat on the steps of the circus, where he had found himself, with requited love in the naked sky,
Surrounded by faces tattooed on paper, one last time he rose, and said, so they all would hear,
For in his mind, at least, the silence didn’t belie:
‘Silence, where the radicals are born,
I meet you all in silence,
I greet you all in silence,
Silence, where we die,
Where I tear the veil, so that you may see my face,
Where I may confess to you, from the sincerities of my soul,
That I am a poet,
I stand here, not as a demagogue, or to preach stories told,
But to tell you that I am a poet,
The sun may lose its fight, and the moon may grow negro and insipid,
But for as long as hearts beat and life inspires, I will remain a poet.’
And from the bow of the whole-hearted cupid,
Having said all that needed to be said,
The man tied a noose, to rest his weary head.
Olugboyega ‘Bo’ Abayomi – Odubanjo is a 17-year old boy, currently studying his A-Levels at a sixth form college in Kent. He lives in Dagenham and hopes to study English at university on his way to becoming a university professor of English.