Students at Manchester University have painted over a mural of Kipling’s poem “If”. They say that they where not consulted regarding the murel, that Kipling was a “racist” and an “imperialist” and that it was not appropriate for the mural to have been painted.
I agree that the students should have been consulted (as the mural was in their student union building). However I am in agreement with the editor of the Kipling Society’s Journal when she says:
““Of course he was a racist. Of course he was an imperialist, but that’s not all he was and it seems to me a pity to say so,” she said. Montefiore argued that Kipling was “a magical story-teller” and that his perspective was part of history. “You don’t want to pretend that it all didn’t happen,” she said.
“Dickens said dreadful things about black people in the Jamaica rebellion. Does that mean you don’t read Dickens?” (https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/jul/19/manchester-university-students-paint-over-rudyard-kipling-mural).
I am not, as it happens, a fan of “If”. I feel that Kipling produced far better verse, including his “Danny Deever”, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46782/danny-deever, in which he describes the hanging of a soldier for killing a comrade “while sleeping”. However the tendency to project our own values onto the past is worrying and (if we are not careful) can end up with censorship.
In my poem “Rhodes” I deal with a not dissimilar issue, namely the demand by “The Rhodes Must Fall” campaign to have the statue of Cecil Rhodes removed from Oriel College Oxford, https://newauthoronline.com/2016/11/23/rhodes/. In the case of the Rhodes statue those campaigning for its removal have (thus far) been unsuccessful.
A little while back, a friend and I sat enjoying a curry and a bottle of wine. At some point during our conversation my friend remarked on how poetry is, in some sense “socialist” or “left-wing”. At the time I said that I didn’t agree with his perspective, and our conversation moved on to other topics.
Rather than entering into an exposition of my own views on the above question, I would be interested in hearing those of my readers. Is poetry in some sense “Socialist” or “left-wing”? If so why?
Obviously there have been (and remain) Conservative poets (for example Philip Larkin). Likewise men such as W. H. Auden where of the left. However, leaving aside the fact that poets hold different political perspectives, is there some sense in which poetry appeals more to those on the left of politics? Or is the art form, in some sense profoundly Conservative with a big or a small c?
The aim of Murky Books is to help young writers to get published in a variety of genres, fiction, sci-fi and poetry.
To find out more please visit this link, https://news.sky.com/story/stormzy-to-help-young-writers-become-published-authors-with-penguin-11427689
On 9 June, the author, Lionel Shriver, published an article in The Spectator, https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/06/when-diversity-means-uniformity/. To give a quote from that article which does, I think sum up Shriver’s argument:
“Second: dazzled by this very highest of social goods, many of our institutions have ceased to understand what they are for. Drunk on virtue, Penguin Random House no longer regards the company’s raison d’être as the acquisition and dissemination of good books. Rather, the organisation aims to mirror the percentages of minorities in the UK population with statistical precision. Thus from now until 2025, literary excellence will be secondary to ticking all those ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual preference and crap-education boxes. We can safely infer from that email that if an agent submits a manuscript written by a gay transgender Caribbean who dropped out of school at seven and powers around town on a mobility scooter, it will be published, whether or not said manuscript is an incoherent, tedious, meandering and insensible pile of mixed-paper recycling”.
Shriver has received a good deal of criticism. However, as a disabled (blind) poet I have some sympathy with the argument she makes (although I wouldn’t have expressed my views as Shriver does).
I wish to be judged on the merits of my poetry and not given preferencial treatment due to the fact that I am registered as being disabled. Having said that, I welcome initiatives to encourage the participation of under represented groups in the literary scene (provided that such initiatives are not prescriptive and do not entail the employment of quotas).
Amid the overreaction to Shriver’s article, one of the more balanced responses (with which I have considerable sympathy) can be found here, https://emmalee1.wordpress.com/2018/06/20/publishing-and-diversity/.
My thanks to Emily Roberts for her kind permission to reproduce her poem “Bingo Wings”. This poem is copyright and may not be reproduced without the explicit written permission of Emily Roberts:
People with Bingo Wings are of low birth.
Am I looking for a job or am I just looking for a safe space?
Is my coffee routine the only routine I’ve got left?
I want a new look, …I dream of a…re-style, or shall I just shave
My hair off, like I’m being pruned.
We pull our hair out in wads…but we cannot get divorced from our haircuts…
Unique haircuts… Unique heads.
Sideburns to die for.
Groomed to within an inch of our lives.
But we don’t get paid for our style, or lack of it.
And it’s better not to be trapped in a room chasing a carrot,
I’ve grown into a curtain twitcher because people annoy me so much…
I’d recycle my brain if I could.
But we don’t want implants…
We don’t have implants we have great looking hair.
Even if we’re having a bad hair day.
I’m too old to recognized by anyone now…
People learn to get out of my gaze.
You must have special skills to face ‘us’
I cry on my own shoulder…armpit tears…slow release…
Maybe we’re only safe in the Bingo Hall.
Work was my place of worship, I could go home and be important if I was on a payroll…
And it’s nice to be conscious of being paid.
But now I’m looking for a new sort of confinement…
I want to be recognised as a rat in my own rat race…
I’m a product of the locker-room..
But the hairdryers there aren’t built for humans.
And running yourself ragged is not a therapeutic space
IT is not friendly to me,
I can’t keep up with my diary, or appointments.
I’m victimised by voluntary organisations
There are paid heads and unpaid heads
I’ll lose mine looking for the phone.
Vanished by social media.
Living or emailing, that is the question?
I’m better off staying in my own community…Anything to make me feel less upside-down.
After we’ve been sick we get to fill in a questionnaire.
I walk on the sick side…always.
I am more suited to knitting than work.
Knitting is a rebirthing project.
It also ties me up in knots.
Too jerky to work.
Too jerky to live.
Unfit to knit.
Knitting patterns give me the flight or fight syndrome.
And I’ll lose my head looking for the phone…
I’m unfit for that as well.
An unfit phone holder.
We are brutalised people.
We need support in the Wilderness.
We’re not good at shoes…
No, we’re on our hooves….
Our feet are on shifting sands and
Broken horses can’t sing or play ukuleles.
We’re too loud, we put people off.
We’re going to stay loud until the end…
We can raise our status by being sick.
Let’s do a Sick Walk
It helps to throw things out.
But then again, we can all have muscle imbalances.
And dodgy knees.
And the coffee shop can be an office too.
We are all in the desert.
There are very few safe spaces for us to be.
I’m a shadow of my former self, a male silhouette.
I’ve learnt not to look to closely at people or they run away.
I walk on the sick side.
I need a break from the toilet…
And dealing with my derrier…
I’m a strong purveyor of trapped wind and
I’d recycle my arse if I could.
But It’s bigger than a recycling box.
I’ve a cleaner like a cattle prodd and sitting is not a pleasure,
A page cannot be faced unless it’s in fright.
I spend a lot of time being head shy.
But now I’ve found support in the wilderness with ‘People Like Us’
I just dust the sick from my Bingo Wings and smile.
I cannot move jobs or gyms because I’ll leave a bad odour.
But I’ve got allies, and I can choose which allies I want…
O.C.D rings lots of bells with me.
I work out too much but I don’t deserve the dirty looks,
At least I’m not locked in the locker room.
Though it feels like I m wearing a ‘do not disturb sign.
Though I like the décor, it makes it feel more like an office.
And I’m not going to be sick in it today.
The doctor has disowned me.
Disowned my cauliflower ears..
I only go I want to play a health lottery.
It’s a waste of my energy going to a social groups…
On the other hand, I live my life for groups,
Groups of baked potatoes.
Because I heave around detritus like carrying my office on my back.
I can chart my life with detritus.
I live most of my life in exile or madness, but I’m funny, not angry and it’s not a good idea to open the windows round here.
Being heard encourages me a lot and it’s nice to know that I’ve got rid of the curry I had yesterday.
Proximity to the toilet encourages me to make new plans.
I’ve got news pants that can cover a lot of bases,
I can even wear them straight to the gym for a life of fixation and being sick…
I won’t question you about why you’re here on the Bank Holiday, if you don’t question me…
It’s just good that another person is here, to keep the place open…
Shall we go to the recovery café next
And learn to be a meaningful fly on the wall…
Summer is not good for my brain,
It gets furred up like a kettle..
Just call me ‘FurryKettleFace
And all kinds of people have made a contribution to my head.
What’s goose for the gander is goose for the head.
And I’m not alone,
I have allies,
But still my life is sewn up by the locker-room.
I’m only fit for elementary occupations.
And the cleaner is my ‘Overlord’.
All my leave is unpaid.
But I’m funny, not angry,
As I carry my tattiness around in this Dogtown
A friend has drawn the below event to my attention:
“Great Minds Think Different – Celebrating neurodiverse creativity
Come along to an evening of poetry, live music and art celebrating neurodiversity!
Exceptional Individuals in association with Crouch End Arts Festival are hosting an evening of entertainment at the Tap Room at the Harringay Arms on Saturday 16th June, 7 – 9pm.
It will feature performances and exhibits from neurodiverse poets, singers and artists.
Drinks available to buy at the bar.
Exceptional Individuals is an organisation that supports people with dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism, ADHD and other forms of neurodiversity into employment, and helps them to thrive. (https://www.exceptionalindividuals.com/”).
For the event’s webpage please visit https://www.crouchendfestival.org/events/great-minds-think-different-celebrating-neurodiverse-creativity/