Too Much Rope – Holocaust Memorial Day 2013

Landscape

Wedding rings removed from Holocaust victims. (commons.wikimedia.org)

I can’t deny having mixed feelings about being part of Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD). Not because I believe my opinion is neither valid nor sufficiently informed, but because, to my knowledge, I have no family of cultural connection to the Holocaust and that made me question my right to say anything at all about something I have no experience of. However, I am reminded of a line from a song called “Too Much Rope” by Roger Waters on his album “Amused To Death” (1992).

You don’t have to be a Jew to disapprove of murder.

The song is concludes quite coherently with the lines

Moslem or christian, mullah or pope,
Preacher or poet, who was it wrote,

Give any one species too much rope
And they’ll fuck it up

I was also reminded of what Adrian Mitchell said about his very famous poem “To Whom It May Concern” (often referred to as “Tell Me Lies”) that it was not about being in Vietnam but that it was about being in Britain during the war in Vietnam.
http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/poemsample15.asp

Waters is a heavyweight neurotic, and I don’t think of myself like that, or an activist, or a committed pacifist like Mitchell, but the horror, destruction and injustice of the world that I see, mostly at a distance, makes me very angry. But what can you do?

Well, you can do something, anything.

IMG_2977

My single-page giveaway leaflet of “World X – A Speculative History”.

I will be reading an extract from my prose-poem “World X – A Speculative History” at a HDM-inspired event at The Riverside in Sheffield, UK, organised by artist Trevor Tomlin. I wrote the first version in 2008 and it references Waters’ album directly when it mentions vultures and magpies. The work is an allegory on the dangers of implementing technology without resort to morality or ethics.
http://trevortomlincommunityart.tumblr.com/
http://www.riversidesheffield.co.uk/
http://hmd.org.uk/

Regular readers of this blog or Black Daffodil Press might know I am preparing a book of “World X”, but I have made a single-sheet giveaway of the entire text for the event. It’s free, so if you are in Sheffield come down to the excellent Riverside pub and have a drink and listen to a wide selection of poets and musicians. And remember, in the words of PIL from 1986:

Anger is an energy

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Ten ways to pay tribute to Adrian Mitchell

1. Write a blog post about him. Here it is.

I suspect like many people, I became aware of poet Adrian Mitchell’s work when I randomly heard a recording of Peter O’ Toole reading “To Whom It May Concern” (otherwise popularly known as “Tell me lies about Vietnam”) at some anti-war rally in Britain many years ago. Googling it I can’t find any references and wonder sometimes if I just imagined it, but it doesn’t matter, hearing that poem is what led me to discover Adrian Mitchell.

2. Tell a story about meeting him.

I met Adrian Mitchell once in 1992 when he was touring the country to promote his “Greatest Hits” book. I lived in Rotherham at the time and he and musician Pete Moser came to perform at the local Arts Centre. Because he was quite famous I made sure I got my tickets months in advance, expecting it to sell out. There were just five of us in the audience.

After the show he sold and signed copies of his new book and I took my copy of “For Beauty Douglas” to have it signed (see above). I apologized on behalf the people of Rotherham for the meager turnout. He was very gracious and friendly, and quite philosophical about the turnout, and I’m glad that I liked him in real life.

3. Quote him.

“Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people.”

4. Parody his work in a way you hope he would like.

Ten ways to avoid selling fish and chips to any artist

Tracey Emin walks into a chip shop and says “I’d like fish and chips, please”.
The owner says “Not everything is about you”.

Damien Hirst walks into a chip shop and says “What fish have you got?”.
The owner says “Shark’s off”.

Pablo Picasso walks into a chip shop and says “Fish and chips, please”.
The owner says “The wife’s busy”.

Renee Magritte walks into a chip shop and says “Fish and chips, please”.
The owner says “This is not a chip shop”.

David Mamet walks into a chip shop and says “Fish and chips, please”.
The owner says “Fish and chips, please?”.
David Mamet says “That’s what I’m asking”.
The owner says “That’s what you’re asking?”.

Ridley Scott walks into a chip shop and says “Fish and chips, please”.
The owner says “Stop shining that light in my eyes”.

Robert De Niro walks into a chip shop and says “Fish and chips, please”.
The owner says “Are you looking at my fish?”.

Laurie Anderson walks into a chip shop and says “This must be the plaice”.
The owner says “Outside.”

Richard Bolam walks into a chip shop and says “Fish and chips, please”.
The owner says “Who the fuck are you?”.

Adrian Mitchell walks into a chip shop and says “Fish and chips, please”.
The owner says “There’s no fish and no chips, but we do have mushy peace”.

5. Spread his message of peace.

Adrian Mitchell was a committed pacifist and social activist. All he wanted was for people to stop killing each other.

6. Repeat an anecdote about him.

Adrian Mitchell included instructions in several of his books that it was forbidden to use any of his work in connection with any examination. An exam board once used one of his poems, without permission, in their ‘O’ Level and CSE level papers. The Guardian newspaper arranged for him to take the same exam and had it independently marked. For the questions about his own work he scored 14 out of a possible 40 marks.

7. Introduce someone else to his work. That’s one of you lot.

8. Reproduce one of his poems without permission. He would approve.

I like that stuff

Lovers lie around in it
Broken glass is found in it
Grass
I like that stuff

Tuna fish get trapped in it
Legs come wrapped in it
Nylon
I like that stuff

Eskimos and tramps chew it
Madame Tussaud gave status to it
Wax
I like that stuff

Elephants get sprayed with it
Scotch is made with it
Water
I like that stuff

Clergy are dumbfounded by it
Bones are surrounded by it
Flesh
I like that stuff

Harps are strung with it
Mattresses are sprung with it
Wire
I like that stuff

Carpenters make cots of it
Undertakers use lots of it
Wood
I like that stuff

Cigarettes are lit by it
Pensioners are happy when they sit by it
Fire
I like that stuff

Dankworth’s alto is made of it, most of it,
Scoobeedo is composed of it
Plastic
I like that stuff

Apemen take it to make them hairier
I ate a ton of it in Bulgaria
Yoghurt
I like that stuff

Man-made fibres and raw materials
Old rolled gold and breakfast cereals
Platinum linoleum
I like that stuff

Skin on my hands
Hair on my head
Toenails on my feet
And linen on my bed

Well I like that stuff
Yes I like that stuff
The earth
Is made of earth
And I like that stuff

9. Write your own poem. He’d like that.

I could die here (extract)

A cough
And then another cough
Then another
And another
And another
In a loop of breath
That has no breath in it
I spoke to a friend without speaking
She said “Don’t die”
And so I didn’t
Even so I remember:

I could die here

10. Publish it. Here it is.

http://www.adrianmitchell.co.uk/
http://petemoser.com/
http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/