Where is The Boy?

(For William Howard: 1818-1832)

Fifty thousand feet on cobblestones.
A chance to have their say, but never win.
The odds against them: twenty-six to one;
they had no right to vote, for all their sin!
Young William stood in awe. The crowd, in hope
of voice for suffrage, was bereft of one.
A chance to vote for what, he’d never know.
Was he a man or still his mother’s son?

Mrs Howard sits in Lambert Street,
displacing her concern with hearth and home.
A thud, more than a knock, an urgent fist
brings news there is much groaning in the town.
Conflicting desire to stoke the fire or save
remaining embers for his coming home,
she muses on her boy, the working man,
whose little hand she’d held before he roamed.

The vocal mob, angry as a dragon,
whose fire surpassed its legal right to jeer,
the ballot box to them, still missing lagan,
the targets of their gall did not appear.

Another knock, an echoed voice that said:
“there’s bin some shootin’ at the Tontine Inn!”
Her heart skipped, then the voice of fear and dread,
intractable pain, cried out across her skin.
Without a thought, and half way through the door,
she felt a strong hand on her arm, instead.
It turned her back against maternal will;
against the voices screaming in her head.

Each time they moved or dragged him from the fray
his screams, lost in the din, renewed his pain.
He felt the closeness of his mother’s breast
and then the shot behind his ribs again.
His weakening hand still clutched a blackened trace
of coal; the piece he’d found on Dixon Lane.
He’s drowning in the dark and bitter throng,
but no one heard his plaintive cry for Mam.

She’d saved the fire for him, in vain, be damned.
Where is the boy that she had lost … to man?

© 2014 John Anstie
All rights reserved

[This is a product of the “Voices in Conflict” Workshop, run as part of Sheffield’s Midsummer Poetry Festival on Saturday, 7th June 2014. The poem is set against the background of a burgeoning, city-dwelling population, poor housing, unemployment and deteriorating public health, in early industrial 19th Century England. It is a story of how discontent and anger at social and political injustice, led to the death of innocence.  A fourteen year-old boy in 1832, forced prematurely to be out – working and protesting – in the harsh world of men, might be compared to an 18 year old in The Great War … but he was still a mother’s son.

At 14 years old, this boy was one of six people, who tragically died of gunshot wounds in post-election rioting at the Tontine Inn, Sheffield. This occurred after troops were called in, following the [disputed] reading of the Riot Act on the fateful night of 14th December 1832. The riot followed a massive gathering of an estimated 25,000 working people, exercising their only right in law to gather and express their satisfaction or otherwise, by cheering or jeering, for the successful candidates of the election, who were staying inside the Tontine Inn at the time. At 14 years old, young William would still not be allowed a vote today. As a footnote, at 18 years old, every British citizen, both men and women, now has a vote – even though every 18-year old man, who served in the first world war, was old enough to die, but not, then, old enough to vote!

It is timely now to publish this, as we approach a crucial General Election for the United Kingdom, in May.  Those, who refuse to vote, whether through apathy, cynical or conscientious protest, should take note of this story and the many sacrifices made by our ancestors through recent history, over the past 200 years, for the sake of a vote for democracy and our freedom of speech.]

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New Year’s Inspiration from The Bardo / Beguine Again Group

The Monthly B-Zine, Volume 1 Issue 3, was published at the beginning of January. And a Happy New Year to you all!

This month’s theme is “The Divine Feminine”, but there are also a number of pieces of general interest too. You’ll find feature articles, flash fiction, photo stories and essays, book excerpts and, of course, poetry …

You’ll find it HERE

Happy reading

John

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A Bit of Singing from the Barbershop …

This may not be poetry … well actually, powerful and spine tingling vocal harmonies should be considered as poetry, when I think about it. It is most certainly art and when you add the words of some great songs, that’s poetry!

Following is the first informal performance of a couple of new songs from Hallmark of Harmony (aka the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club), whom I joined for a course they were running on barbershop singing, in August and September. During the six sessions of this course held over as many weeks, the chorus learnt the two songs from scratch to sing (of necessity, without the music). Since then, I have sung with them a couple more times, and have been invited to join them when they do a guest set at the Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers (LABBS) National Convention in Harrogate in a week’s time. Scary! Whether or not I do join them on stage, depends on my progress in learning the five songs (and choreography!) that they will be singing on that Saturday night, 1st November … In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these fairly rudimentary recordings of that first informal performance …

~~~~~~~~~~~~~ There follows a video of Hallmark of Harmony performing their set at the National Convention of the British Association of Barbershop Singers in Harrogate last May, at which, out of forty-eight choruses they won the Gold Medal. They are therefore the British champions and, in consequence, will be travelling to Pittsburgh, USA in June next year to perform as Britain’s representative barbershop chorus at the International Convention. Lots of work to do (and funds to raise) in the meantime. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsvaS_MX9sc Watch this space for more to come …

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READY, SET, GO … The backstory on 100,000 Poets for Change …

A cause worthy of support, particularly if you are a writer, artist, musician or just someone with something to say about the state of the world, in this 100th year since the start of WW1 …

The BeZine

100_Thousand_Poets_for_Change_logoThe Bardo Group “100,000 Poets for Change” event page is HERE. Beginning 27 September (tomorrow), we’ll post work on Peace and Justice for one week as our participation. We invite others to link their own work to ours and, although the title is “poets” everyone (artists, activists, writers, musicians, bloggers) is welcome. Shortly after the event, we’ll collect your links into a page to create a commemorative collection like we did last year for Poets Against War.

More details are on The Bardo Group event page. Instruction on how to add your link will be provided on this blog within the text of each day’s post. We have designed our participation as a virtual event to accommodate bloggers and those who are homebound or otherwise unable to take to the streets. At least one core team member will visit your site if you link in and we hope that you will…

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… Chalice

Haven’t put much out there lately, not that I haven’t been writing, just that I’m becoming more critical of my own work. This is the result of some more serious thought on a subject that is at the roots of my philosophical outlook and observations of human behaviour … and a bit of fun really.

The BeZine

Dear Earth, you are a sacred aqueous Isle
in a dark and endless sea of universe.
You may never reveal your strategy.
We may be  bound  by  genetic code
to the presupposing chemical destiny
of one great astrophysical master plan
for living things and we, who represent
your malaise,  your chronic infestation;
we,  like a fleeting itch in your long life,
will never comprehend it.  But, in truth
you know too well  that  we can never
understand more  than one percent
of all there is to know. You contain
the knowledge that is beyond us.
We are like a rash on your skin.

One day, we know you will
raze all of our delusions,
prepare us for the day
when a blinding light
will  inoculate  you
and inform us  of
a moment when
extant humans
will, at last be
prepared to
distinguish
the truth
f r o m
l i e s;
a n d

if…

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Womb With a View Redux — Part 2

And this is another in depth article (in two parts) on a landmark decision in the US, which concerns the rights of so-called ‘closely held’ corporations to be exempt from a law, if there is a less restrictive way in which it can be upheld … be prepared to engage your brains and deductive thinking …

… in a day or two, I’m going to get back to some of my own poetry here. So, if you are interested, watch this space 🙂

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Letting Schroedinger’s Cat Out of the Bag

This is mind blowing and magnificent!

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Editing poems: John Glenday and Don Paterson

This is worth a read …

isabelrogers.org

There’s a lot of talk about editing prose: a writer can employ a professional editor for a novel before querying an agent, then it may be edited again by their agent before it lands on a publishing house editor’s desk for another go.

I was recently asked if there is a similar process for poetry. The road between laptop and published page is often shorter and straighter with a poem. You don’t need an agent, to start with. I’ve had poet friends suggest changes as a poem evolved. My work has been published in magazines, the majority with no tweaks at all from the final draft I sent.

Publishing an entire poetry collection is different. Because I haven’t yet reached that stage, I questioned two far more experienced people (ok, a bit older) to illuminate the process:

Don pic

Don Paterson is head honcho of the Picador poetry list, as well as…

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Are There Any Other Civilisations … Out There?

The universe is simply awesome …

The BeZine

I have held a universal and, it seems probably a pantheistic view of our life on earth for many years now. It is this: that there are probably other intelligent civilisations out there in the cosmos, but, in spite of our continued quest to find some and because of the humungous scale and mind boggling span of time that is represented in the life of the universe, we will never discover one. We may not even exist simultaneously. I would add a small warning to those, who like my mother-in-law, God rest her soul, are mind-bogglephobics, or who simply cannot cope with the scale of it all, that this may be a challenging concept to grasp. Nonetheless, it does require a calculator with a large scale, should you wish to do some proportions!

The following is a track from his album, “Letters from a Flying Machine” by a very fine…

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Myra Schneider asks, “Who is poetry for?”

This is not just a thought (and action) provoking essay, by Myra Schneider, but it is filled with useful links, suggestions for action and lateral thinking. Ever since I started writing poetry, primarily as part of my personal story for my family and future generations of it, I have been increasingly struck by a feeling that I need to do something more than I do, at present, to promote its value more widely in the community.

Myra’s statement: “… there is often no more potent a way of expressing and communicating vital aspects of life and thought” is also a crucial description of poetry.

This piece gives a much needed insight into its value and a boost to the cause of poetry.

The BeZine

1815_coversNote: This full-length feature article is presented as an appropriate wrap after celebrating interNational Poetry Month (April). The feature was originally published by ARTEMISpoetry (13 November 2013) and is delivered here with the permission of the publisher (Second Light Live) and the author, Myra Schneider. Although Myra discusses poetry in Britain, we feel her observations apply to other countries as well. Jamaica only just appointed a poet laureate for the first time in fifty years. This month in the U.S. King Features Syndicate partnered with the American Academy of Poets to present poetry to the general public along with the news, which hasn’t been done in the U.S. for more than a generation.

Some months ago at one of the twice-yearly poetry readings, which I help organize for Poetry in Palmers Green, a woman I didn’t know, turned to me as she was leaving and said apologetically: ‘I’m afraid I don’t write poetry.’…

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