Pat Edwards reviews ‘The Healing Next Time’ by Roy McFarlane

 

 

Before I embarked upon writing this review, I had only read the words on the page. However, recently I had the very great privilege of hearing some of the work read by Roy himself at an event in Mid Wales. When I say read, what I really mean is delivered with the gusto of a spoken word artist and the passion of someone who clearly cares deeply about its content. Roy powered his way through the most convincing performance which actually helped me feel the poetry all the better.

The first part of this collection uses the device of listing significant world events from 1999 to more recent times, as a kind of annotated diary McFarlane calls New Millennium Journal, alongside the lives of real or imagined characters referred to as ‘the activist’ and ‘the family man’. The former is presented as a worthy, political type determined to fight prejudice and expose police brutality whilst being a force for change and radical new thinking. The latter is presented as a weak man unable to resist the sexual charms of an adventurous and willing lover. For this cheating husband, “only the gravitational pull of his children draws him away from the black hole of his guilt.” Between the two of them, we are escorted through a familiar backdrop, including the fears about the Millennium Bug in 1999, the horror of the attack on the twin towers in 2001, the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, various football World Cups and the earthquake closer to home in Dudley in 2002. In their different ways, these stand as metaphors for the extraordinary racism blighting our nation during this period. McFarlane unravels this social history in our faces, just as the marriage of ‘the family man’ unravels and ‘the activist’ spends “summers in the discomfort of whiteness.”

In the second part of the collection, McFarlane lists the names of eighteen black men and women who have died in custody. He uses the constriction of the sonnet form, maybe to echo the constraint used to hold down the detained. He utilises repetition such as “and nobody came” in Orville Blackwood 1999 and the visually graphic “whyyyyy?” as in Shiji Lapite 1994. McFarlane also experiments with the shape of the poem on the page, suggesting a bullet in Cherry Groce 2011 and a winged angel in Mark Duggan 2011. There is wonderfully chilling play on the word ‘tape’ in Joy Gardner 1993, where McFarlane throws sticky tape, mix tape, tape measure, red tape and even tapestry into the death by suffocation of this victim. The footballing imagery is obvious but still effective in Dailian Atkinson 2016 where “there’s no extra time” for the young man who dies. You cannot fail to be moved by this litany of gruesome death, so starkly laid out for us by McFarlane.

In the final section of the book we get the Gospel According to Rasta. Here McFarlane roots the reader in the city of Birmingham. He tells us “in a city of a hundred tongues we should always make room for another one” and he uses dialect to warn us “Dis Rasta rose from the oven-ash of holocaust.” McFarlane challenges us to question the cultural and religious elements we surround ourselves with and asks “Dis Rasta is he fiction or truth?” There is more than a suggestion that we need to speak out about all the injustice, “We are the disciples who beareth witness of these things so write, write it all.”

Throughout the work there are musical and religious references and the recognition that “every woman is somebody’s daughter”. McFarlane has clearly researched his material with great purpose and conviction. What emerges is a kind of rage that the new millennium did not bring with it change and justice, but rather hypocrisy and a dangerous, nasty under-current in society. McFarlane makes startlingly effective use of the idea that hands can be “outstretched to help refugees”, can be a woman’s “hands that worked hard” and a mother placing “her hand on his troubled heart”, just as much as hands “holding a rose in a clenched fist”.

I would be lying if I said there was much hope in this work, apart from in Gabay of hope which urges us to “breathe.” The work is bleak, challenging, angry and exposing. As a relatively privileged white woman living in a rural community, I like many am shielded from these experiences and able to observe them through the lens of the media. McFarlane does something important by using poetry as an unmistakably brutal tool to force me face down and hold me, maybe against my will for a while, where the reality of being black and marginalised is very visceral. I read and enjoyed McFarlane’s last book because it was full of humanity, a deeply emotional read. This latest work is wonderful for its change of pace, for coming from a very different but equally real place. I believe this is poetry shouting serious messages at a time of deep uncertainty. McFarlane shows his broad and remarkable technical skill, his passionate and convincing voice and is destined to disturb his way into our conscience. Go and hear him read from this book and you will feel it too.

The Healing Next Time is published by Nine Arches Press and can be ordered here: http://ninearchespress.com/

Pat Edwards is a writer, teacher and performer from Mid Wales. Her work has appeared in Prole, Magma, Atrium and others. She hosts Verbatim poetry open mic nights and curates Welshpool Poetry Festival.

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Adrian Salmon

 

 

 

Afternoon on the A658

The sun’s not to be seen but it’s diffusing
everywhere, the whole sky lamp lit,
the storm clouds glowing grey
like rainbows waiting to happen.
Stravinsky’s stabbing from the stereo,
and, right on cue, a corps de ballet
of birds enters stage left.
And even the wanker in the Ford
who cuts in front,
his car screaming ‘Clean me’,
can’t spoil the rightness
of this glimpse of spring.

 

 

Adrian Salmon’s poems have appeared on Algebra of Owls, Ink Sweat and Tears and iamnotasilentpoet. He lives in Bingley, West Yorkshire.

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James Knight

 

 

 

Cockroach

I began when the cockroach fell
the cockroach was on the ceiling
the ceiling was in a hospital
the hospital was in a city
and the cockroach on the ceiling fell

underneath the ceiling and the cockroach
were my mother
and her belly
and
inside her belly
me

when the cockroach fell from the ceiling
it landed on the things underneath
my mother
and her belly

the midwife looked from the belly
to my mother’s face
and back to the belly again

and then I was out of the belly
and I was in the room
and the midwife and my mother looked at me
and at the cockroach
and then at me again

under a ceiling
in a hospital
in a city

 

 

 

James Knight is an experimental writer and digital artist. Void Voices, a re-imagining of Dante’s Inferno, was published by Hesterglock Press in 2018. Website: thebirdking.com. Twitter: @badbadpoet

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Gerry Stewart

 

 

 

After the Work is Done

Wood-warm tools muddied,
scraped and set aside,
a pleasant ache lingers in my joints.

I lounge on my shed’s tilted porch,
waiting for the first flickers of life.
Sun on my belly
slick as a rain-battered tulip.

I am scrapes, nettle stings,
fingers cracking with dirt,
expectant.

Time can drip in measured thoughts
from the water spout,
meander by
like a hibernation-drowsy bee.

A haze of unworried weeds
creeps over the beds.

 

 

Gerry Stewart is a poet, creative writing tutor and editor based in Finland. Her poetry collection Post-Holiday Blues was published by Flambard Press, UK. Her writing blog can be found at http://thistlewren.blogspot.fi/.

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Cat Wright

 

 

 

Emily Says

Mornings in Haworth begin with church bells
Emily appears again while the tourists are still finding the schoolhouse,
Finding the tea rooms and gift shops
Finding the chapel and grave.
“There are always dogs barking here,” she says
“Always wedding parties here,
Playing children here,
Old women on day trips here.”
I’ve never met anyone as dead as her
She carries her cough on her shoulders
Wears her last words like a shawl.
She spends eternity wandering through the village
Always turning her nose up at the Wiccan bookshop.

“Charlotte won’t leave the church”
She tells me.
“Says I’m not to go near them,
Says I’m too contagious
And I’ll make the baby ill.”
I know this already
I’ve seen Charlotte’s shadow from time to time
Pacing through the pews
Like she’s waiting for something.
She needs to wash
Or at least take off her wedding dress
You can smell it from outside.

“And Anne, oh Anne.”
Oh Anne indeed.
The yummy mummies
In the pottery painting café
Say they see her by the window
Looking in at the children.
“She wants to join in,” Emily says
“But she doesn’t want to scare them.
She says we don’t belong here anymore.

“I see Bramwell at night.
It’s hard to tell under the moonlight
But I think his skin is growing mildew.
Yes, I think that’s heather in his hair
I chase him until the sun comes up,
Call his name until the birds start singing
But I think he’s lost to me.”
I’m about to ask her why
She’s the go-between them all
She answers like she heard my thoughts.
“Charlotte won’t leave what God gave her
Though he left us a long time ago,
Anne’s too afraid of herself to appear half the time,
So I only catch her briefly.”
And Bramwell?
Emily says nothing
So I watch her
as she watches the hills that claimed him
and I wonder just who she’s more jealous of.

 

 

 

 

 

Cat Wright is a herbalist and recent literature graduate from Burnley. In her spare time  runs a culture and writing blog: catiswriting.blogspot.com.

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David Calcutt

 

 

 

from Wintering

1

Things are hunkering down. Roots
burrow deep, nosing among the winter
nests, the curled fur and trembling
antennae. The seed lie snug in the
earth’s closed fist. Complete darkness.
And a heat that’s miserly, generating
just enough to keep the heart ticking,
to keep the blood chugging through
thickening veins, sluggish as sap
shrinking back to the centre, where
a sullen fire has buried its embers,
a treasure stored against the hard times.
Such as now, when day is drawing
to its end, when evening descends
like a grey bird roosting, and the
creaturely minds have all shut down.
Nothing’s getting through, no word
of comfort. Except perhaps for the fall
of that last leaf, its dying touch an old
heartbreak, thunder on a distant planet,
the slow, funereal booming of the wind.

 

 

 

 

David Calcutt is a playwright, poet and fiction writer from the West Midlands. His most recent publication is the poetry collection, The last of the light is not the last of the light from Fair Acre Press. He is currently working on two theatre projects with Midland Actors Theatre. Website: http://davidcalcutt.com/about/

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Nick Browne

 

 

 

Things you must know

The Boiler is in the cupboard.
Instructions are in the drawer
The pilot light of my heart is off.
Relighting is not possible.

Broad band, TV and telephone
are paid by direct debit.
Do not call my mobile phone.
I will answer emails weekly.

Your car will need its MOT
in April: it takes unleaded fuel.
Check the user manual for details.
I never found yours.

The bin men come on Tuesdays
Recycling boxes are colour coded.
You must empty the food caddy daily
Left unattended all things rot.

 

 

Nick Browne is an established  novelist  and nearly novice poet. Website: http://nmbrowne.com/  Blog: https://www.nmbrowne.com/blog

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