Sunday, 14 October 2018

Unconventional Poet - Edward Estlin Cummings (14/10/1894 - 3/9/1962)

October 14th marks the birthday of unconventional American poet Edward Estlin Cummings, popularly known as e.e. cummings, born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1894.His father, Edward, was a professor at Harvard University and later the nationally known minister of Old South Church in Boston, Massachusetts. His mother, Rebecca, who loved to spend time with her children, played games with Cummings and his sister, Elizabeth. It was Cummings's mother who introduced him to the joys of writing.
Cummings began writing poetry at the age of 8, developing a signature style of using grammar and syntax to give his work a distinct physical and oral shape which broke with poetic conventions of the time. Cummings was educated at Cambridge High and Latin School, and from 1911 to 1916 he attended Harvard. Cummings became an aesthete, he began dress unconventionally, and dedicated himself to painting and literature. He graduated in 1915 with a major in classics.
When the United States entered the war in 1917, Cummings made the decision to avoid the draft and volunteered to serve with the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Service in France. He was excited by the prospect of adventure and felt this service would best match his pacifist nature and intellectual upbringing.  Perhaps because of his experimental artistic personality or his political beliefs, Cummings did not seem to fit in well with his unit and tension began to develop. Cummings freely spoke of his distaste for the other men in the unit, and wrote numerous letters of complaint to his family back in the US. French authorities censored the letters of both Brown and Cummings and they soon found themselves under the heavy scrutiny of authorities. After being interrogated and refusing to turn his back on Brown, Cummings was detained and eventually interred in a French Prison Camp at La Ferté-Macéfor three months.Later, he found out he had been accused of treason, but the charges were never proven.
He was glad to escape the regimentation of army life for the artists' playground of Greenwich Village, which he would call his home for the rest of his life, Never enamored of the moneyed class or celebrity or authority, here he threw himself into writing, painting, and sexual adventure. (Cummings would run through two marriages and many love affairs before settling down with the former model Marion Morehouse, his companion for the last 30 years of his life.)
His first major literary success came with the publication of his prose memoir, The Enormous Room (1922), an account of his imprisonment in France. This was followed by collections of verse, Tulips and Chimneys (1923), which contrasted the evils of war to the 'sweet spontaneous earth', and XLI Poems (1925).
In his poems Cummings often expressed his rebellious attitude towards politics, and conformity,He was sardonic about organized religion, but maintained an almost transcendentalizing faith in human beings. He championed individuals against the power of the state, as with "i sing of Olaf glad and big," and as a result was drawn to the radical Left early on, even translating Louis Aragon's poem "Red Front" from the French, but a visit to the Soviet Union turned him against communism, Eimi (1933), his experimental diary recounting his Soviet experience. By temperament, he was in some ways more an anarchist ( ironically with somewhat politically conservative leanings) but acertain irreverance remained fundamentally central to his character.
He had a somber side that craved privacy and what he called an "after breakfast" side that enjoyed running with the crowd. He never ran after the crowd. He could spend days isolated with his work, yet he loved travel. In the twenties Cummings made several trips to Europe and there met with Ezra Pound, Hart Crane, Ford Maddox Ford, Archibald MacLeish, and others. During visits to France, Spain, Tunisia, Mexico, Russia and Italy he enjoyed visiting the museums, attending concerts, viewing stage shows, or just watching the passing parade. his body of work includes almost 3,000 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays and several essays, as well as numerous drawings and paintings, and was the recipient of many literary awards, Cummings was awarded the Academy of American Poets fellowship, 1950; he received a Guggenheim fellowship, 1951-52; and he was the Charles Eliot Norton Lecturer at Harvard, 1953. as well as earning an honorary professorial seat at Harvard.
Throughout his career he paid a great deal of attention to the visual appearance of the poem on the page, probably due to his painters eye. But Cummings is perhaps best known for his unorthodox usage of both capitalisation, punctuation and typography. “Grammatical anarchism” was his way of protesting the conformity of mass society. He varied text alignments, spaced lines irregularly, and used nontraditional capitalization to emphasize particular words and phrases. In many instances his distinct typography mimicked the energy or tone of his subject matter. He also revised grammatical and linguistic rules to suit his own purposes and experimented with poetic form and language to create a distinct personal style.He frequently used  colloquial language and material from burlesque and the circus and ignored conventional punctuation and syntax in favor of a dynamic use of language, even inventing his own words by combining common words to create new meanings.
Yet despite the nontraditional form of his poems, Cummings gained widespread popularity. His style may have been avant-garde, but his themes were more traditional: love, childhood, nature, his moods were alternately satirical and tough or tender and whimsical, combining powerful appreciations of the individual soul.
Edward Estlin Cummings died Sep. 3, 1962 of a brain hemorrhage  His literary style marked him as one of the most revolutionary and innovative poets of the twentieth century.Cummings will be remembered as one of the more lasting poets America has produced.An extraordinary poet who simply rebelled in the act of noticing.The following is  a selection of  some of my favourite poems by him.

i sing of Olaf glad and big - e.e.cummings

i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or

his wellbelovéd colonel (trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but-though an host of overjoyed
noncoms (first knocking on the head
him) do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindred intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments-
Olaf (being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds, without getting annoyed
"I will not kiss your **** flag"

straightaway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)

but-though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation's blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skillfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat-
Olaf (upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
"there is some **** I will not eat"

our president,being of which
assertions duly notified
threw the yellowsonofa****
into a dungeon,where he died

Christ (of His mercy infinite)
i pray to see;and Olaf,too

preponderatingly because
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me:more blond than you

i carry  your heart with me (i carry it in) - e.e cummings

carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Humanity I Love you - e. e cummings

Humanity i love you
because you would rather black the boots of
success than enquire whose soul dangles from his
watch-chain which would be embarrassing for both

parties and because you
unflinchingly applaud all
songs containing the words country home and
mother when sung at the old howard

Humanity i love you because
when you’re hard up you pawn your
life in your pants and forgetting
it’s there and sitting down

on it
and because you are
forever making poems in the lap
of death Humanity

i hate you

Seeker of Truth - e.e. cummings

 seeker of truth

follow no path
all paths lead where

truth is here

you said is -e.e.cummings 

 you said Is
there anything which
is dead or alive more beautiful
than my body,to have in your fingers
(trembling ever so little)?
                          Looking into
your eyes Nothing,i said,except the
air of spring smelling of never and forever.

....and through the lattice which moved as
if a hand is touched by a
moved as though
fingers touch a girl's
        Do you believe in always,the wind
said to the rain
I am too busy with
my flowers to believe,the rain answered

the mind is its own beautiful prisoner - e.e.cummings 

the mind is its own beautiful prisoner.
Mine looked long at the sticky moon
opening in dusk her new wings

then decently hanged himself, one afternoon.

The last thing he saw was you
naked amid unnaked things,

your flesh, a succinct wandlike animal,
a little strolling with the futile purr
of blood;your sex squeaked like a billiard-cue
chalking itself, as not to make an error,
with twists spontaneously methodical.
He suddenly tasted worms windows and roses

he laughed, and closed his eyes as a girl closes
her left hand upon a mirror.

i have loved let us see if that is all - e.e cummings

 i have loved, let us see if that’s all.
Bit into you as teeth, in the stone
of a musical fruit. My lips pleasantly groan
on your taste. Jumped the quick wall

of your smile into stupid gardens
if this were not enough (not really enough
pulled one before one the vague tough

exquisite flowers, whom hardens
richly, darkness. On the whole
possibly have i loved….you)
sheath before sheath

stripped to the Odour. (and here’s what WhoEver will know
Had you as bite teeth;
i stood with you as a foal

stands but as the trees, lay, which grow

o sweet sponaneous - e.e.cummings

 o sweet spontaneous
earth how often have

               fingers of
prurient philosophers pinched

, has the naughty thumb
of science prodded

          beauty     . how
often have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy knees
squeezing and

buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive

to the incomparable
couch of death thy

          thou answerest

them only with


Saturday, 13 October 2018

Kayne West is not Picasso - Leonard Cohen

The rapper Kayne West  dominated the news last Thursday due to his odd meeting  with President Donald Trump. But a few hours before the rapper arrived at the White House in a “Make America Great Again” cap and spouted off a 10-minute rant in which he explained why he supported Trump. a poem, composed in March 2015 titled “Kanye West Is Not Picasso," emerged by Leonard Cohen, the revered singer, songwriter, poet who died last year at the age of 82, in which he scathingly disses West from beyond the grave.
It comes from The Flame  a posthumous collection of poetry written in the months before his death, it showcases Cohen's full range of lyricism, combining poetry, illustrations and writings. Written in March 2015 in the poem mentioned he takes issue  with the Hip Hop stars boastful nature who once declared on stage in 2013, of being the famed Cubist painter from Spain. “I am Picasso!” adding for good measure: “I am Michelangelo! I am Basquiat! I am Walt Disney! I am Steve Jobs.
After Amanda Shires tweeted the Canadian songsmith’s 21-line poem it went viral receiving over 3,000 likes. “Kanye West is not Picasso/ I am Picasso,” the poem starts. “Kanye West is not Edison/ I am Edison.” It continued: “I am the Kanye West of Kanye West/ The Kanye West/ of the great bogus shift of bull— culture.” “I am the Kanye West Kanye West thinks he is/ When he shoves your ass off the stage/ I am the real Kanye West,” it reads.
He also seems to throw some shade at Jay-Z, writing, "Jay-Z is not the Dylan of anything / I am the Dylan of anything." Cohen's poem later switches focus back to West, alluding to his habit of crashing other people's stages — be it Taylor Swift's or Beck's when he writes, "I am the Kanye West Kanye West thinks he is / When he shoves your ass off the stage."
According to the foreword for The Flame, penned by Cohen's son Adam, it "contains my father's final efforts as a poet. It was what he was staying alive to do, his sole breathing purpose at the end."
As well as this new collection of lyrics and poetry, a posthumous Cohen album is also in the works. The news was confirmed by his son Adam last month, who said: “To make a long story short, I believe that there are some really beautiful new songs of Leonard Cohen that no one’s heard that are at some point going to come out.”
Read Cohens full ode to to "bullshit culture" below.

                                    KAYNE WEST IS NOT PICASSO

Kanye West is not Picasso
I am Picasso
Kanye West is not Edison
I am Edison
I am Tesla
Jay-Z is not the Dylan of anything
I am the Dylan of anything
I am the Kanye West of Kanye West
The Kanye West
Of the great bogus shift of bullshit culture
From one boutique to another
I am Tesla
I am his coil
The coil that made electricity soft as a bed
I am the Kanye West Kanye West thinks he is
When he shoves your ass off the stage
I am the real Kanye West
I don’t get around much anymore
I never have
I only come alive after a war
And we have not had it yet

March 2015

Excerpted from The Flame:-
Poems Notebooks Lyrics Drawings by Leonard Cohen, edited by Robert Faggen and Alexandra Pleshoyano,  Copyright © 2018 by Leonard Cohen. All rights reserved.

Friday, 12 October 2018

The Life and Genius of Thelonius Monk (10/10/1917 - 17/2/1982)

Bebob legend and leader of the post war jazz revolution Thelonious Sphere Monk was born on the 10th of October 1917, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, the son of Thelonious and Barbara Monk, two years after his sister Marian. A brother, Thomas, was born a couple of years later. In his sixth year he was taken north from the racially oppressive Land of Cotton to relative freedom within the urban racism of the Big Apple settling on West 63rd Street in the “San Juan Hill” neighborhood of Manhattan, near the Hudson River. His father, Thelonious, Sr., joined the family three years later, but health considerations forced him to return to North Carolina. During his stay, however, he often played the harmonica, ‘Jew’s harp,” and piano, all of which probably influenced his son’s unyielding musical interests. Young Monk turned out to be a musical prodigy in addition to a good student and a fine athlete. He studied the trumpet briefly but began exploring the piano at age nine. Although he had some formal training and eavesdropped on his sister's piano lessons, he was essentially self-taught. By his early teens, he was playing rent parties, sitting in on organ and piano at a local Baptist church, and was reputed to have won several “amateur hour” competitions at the Apollo Theater. Monk attended Stuyvesant High School, but dropped out at the end of his sophomore year to pursue music and around 1935 took a job as a pianist for a traveling evangelist and faith healer.
Returning after two years, he formed his own quartet and played local bars and small clubs, until the spring of 1941, when drummer Kenny Clarke hired him as the house pianist at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem. Minton’s, legend has it, was where the “bebop revolution” began. The after-hours jam sessions at Minton’s, along with similar musical gatherings at Monroe’s Uptown House, Dan Wall’s Chili Shack, among others, attracted a new generation of musicians brimming with fresh ideas about harmony and rhythm, bringing Monk into close contact and collaboration with other leading exponents of bebop, including Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Christian, Kenny Clarke, Charlie Parker and later, Miles Davis, and Monk’s close friend and fellow pianist, Bud Powell.
 Monk's style at the time was described as "hard-swinging," with the addition of runs in the style of Art Tatum. Monk's stated influences include Duke Ellington, James P. Johnson, and other early stride pianists.His compositions “Round Midnight,” “Well, You Needn’t,” Straight, No Chaser,” and “Blue Monk” (among others) are considered  classics in modern jazz. "Round Midnight" incidentally is the most recorded jazz standard written by a jazz musician, appearing on more than 1,000 albums.
Eccentric, enigmatic, extraordinary, no one in jazz has really played like Monk. His  idiosyncratic style utilized unexpected melodic twists, dissonant harmonies (which are pleasing to jazz players), erratic percussive phrases punctuated by unexpected hesitations and silences. Despite these unorthodox qualities, Duke Ellington is the only jazz composer who has been recorded more often than Monk, which is particularly remarkable as Ellington composed over 1,000 songs while Monk wrote about 70. Monk is one of only five jazz musicians to have been on the cover of Time (along with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck and Wynton Marsalis).
 In 1944 Monk made his first studio recordings with the Coleman Hawkins Quartet. Hawkins was among the first prominent jazz musicians to promote Monk, and Monk later returned the favor by inviting Hawkins to join him on the 1957 session with John Coltrane. Monk made his first recordings as leader for Blue Note in 1947 (later anthologised on Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 1) which showcased his talents as a composer of original melodies for improvisation. Monk married Nellie Smith the same year, and in 1949 the couple had a son, T.S. Monk, who later became a jazz drummer. A daughter, Barbara (affectionately known as Boo-Boo), was born in 1953.
Harsh, ill-informed criticism limited Monk’s opportunities to work, opportunities he desperately needed especially after his marriage, and the birth of his son, Thelonious, Jr., in 1949. Monk found work where he could, but he never compromised his musical vision. His already precarious financial situation took a turn for the worse in August of 1951, when he was falsely arrested for narcotics possession, essentially taking the rap for his friend Bud Powell. Monk refused to testify against his friend, so the police confiscated his New York City Cabaret Card. Without the all-important cabaret card he was unable to play in any New York venue where liquor was served, and this severely restricted his ability to perform for several crucial years. Monk spent most of the early and mid-1950s composing, recording, and performing at theaters and out-of-town gigs, composed new music, and made several trio and ensemble records under the Prestige Label (1952-1954), cutting several under-recognized, but highly significant albums, including collaborations with saxophonist Sonny Rollins and drummer Art Blakey. In 1954, Monk participated in the famed Christmas Eve sessions which produced the albums Bags' Groove and Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants by Miles Davis. Davis found Monk's idiosyncratic accompaniment style difficult to improvise over and asked him to lay out (not accompany), which almost brought them to blows. However, in Miles Davis' autobiography Miles, Davis claims that the anger and tension between Monk and himself never took place and that the claims of blows being exchanged were "rumors" and a "misunderstanding."
In 1954, Monk paid his first visit to Europe, performing and recording in Paris. It was here that he first met Baroness Pannonica "Nica" de Koenigswarter, a member of the Rothschild banking family of England and a patroness of several New York City jazz musicians. She would be a close friend for the rest of Monk's life.
In 1958, Monk and de Koenigswarter were detained by police in Wilmington, Delaware. When Monk refused to answer the policemen's questions or cooperate with them, they beat him with a blackjack. Though the police were authorized to search the vehicle and found narcotics in suitcases held in the trunk of the Baroness's car, Judge Christie of the Delaware Superior Court ruled that the unlawful detention of the pair, and the beating of Monk, rendered the consent to the search void as given under duress. State v. De Koenigswarter, 177 A.2d 344 (Del. Super. 1962). Monk was represented by Theophilus Nix, the second African-American member of the Delaware Bar Association.
In 1955, Monk signed with a new label, Riverside, and recorded several outstanding LP’s which garnered critical attention, notably Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington, The Unique Thelonious Monk, Brilliant Corners, Monk’s Music and his second solo album, Thelonious Monk Alone.Monk turned a page with his 1956 album, Brilliant Corners, which is usually considered to be his first true masterpiece. The album's title track made a splash with its innovative, technically demanding, and extremely complex sound, which had to be edited together from many separate takes. With the release of two more Riverside masterworks, Thelonious Himself and Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane, Monk finally received the acclaim he deserved, and his career began to soar.
In 1957, the Thelonious Monk Quartet, which included John Coltrane, began performing regularly at the Five Spot in New York. Enjoying huge success, they went on to tour the United States and even make some appearances in Europe. By 1962, Monk was so popular that he was given a contract with Columbia Records, a decidedly more mainstream label than Riverside. During the 1960s, Monk scored notable successes with albums such as Criss- Cross, Monk’s Dream, It’s Monk Time, Straight No Chaser, and Underground. But as Columbia/CBS records pursued a younger, rock-oriented audience, Monk and other jazz musicians ceased to be a priority for the label. Monk’s final recording with Columbia was a big band session with Oliver Nelson’s Orchestra in November of 1968, which turned out to be both an artistic and commercial failure. Columbia’s disinterest and Monk’s deteriorating health kept the pianist out of the studio.The years that followed included several overseas tours, but by the early 1970s, Monk was ready to retire from the limelight.
His style  was not universally appreciated poet with the poet and jazz critic Philip Larkin dismissing Monk as 'the elephant on the keyboard'. Monk's manner was idiosyncratic and eccentric. Visually, he was renowned for his distinctive style in suits, hats and sunglasses, plus his goatee beard. He was also noted for the fact that at times, while the other musicians in the band continued playing, he would stop, stand up from the keyboard and dance for a few moments before returning to the piano. Monk's style was so different that he didn't have many imitators; but he had many musicians that were influenced by him, and were interpreters of his music.
The documentary film Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988) attributes Monk's quirky behaviour to mental illness. In the film, Monk's son, T.S. Monk, says that his father sometimes did not recognize him, and he reports that Monk was hospitalized on several occasions due to an unspecified mental illness that worsened in the late 1960s. No reports or diagnoses were ever publicized, but Monk would often become excited for two or three days, pace for days after that, after which he would withdraw and stop speaking. Physicians recommended electro convulsive therapy as a treatment option for Monk's illness, but his family would not allow it; antipsychotics and lithium were prescribed instead. Other theories abound: Leslie Gourse, author of the book Straight, No Chaser: The Life and Genius of Thelonious Monk (1997), reports that at least one of Monk's psychiatrists failed to find evidence of manic depression or schizophrenia. Others blamed Monk's behavior on intentional and inadvertent drug use: Monk was also unknowingly administered LSD, and may have taken peyote with Timothy Leary. Another physician maintains that Monk was misdiagnosed and given drugs during his hospital stay that may have caused brain damage.Jazz musicians have always been vulnerable, depending, as so many of them do, on drink and drugs to make their ordeals temporarily bearable. Monk was mo exception. However, it is often the case with creative people that along with some level of madness comes genius and wisdom.
Like his music, Monk’s views on religion were also unorthodox. As a teenager, as mentioned earlier he played the organ for a traveling evangelist, but it appears he was an agnostic who held no religious beliefs of his own. Biographer Robin D. G. Kelly writes that “Monk clearly was not a true believer,” and that “most people who knew Monk remember that he rarely attended church and did not speak about religion in the most flattering terms.” His niece Charlotte said “he was never into religion. Religion was not his thing. . . . He never went to church or any of that. And his kids, he never took them to church. He said they had to have their own mind about things.” When the journalist Valerie Wilmer asked him, “Do you believe in God?”, Monk replied, “I don’t know nothing. Do you?” But Monk was tolerant of religion, and although ambivalent himself, he sometimes accompanied his mother on the piano as she sang her beloved hymns while dying of cancer.
Monk also had long periods of not talking to anybody. He spent the final seven years of his life, until his death in 1982 in near total silence, not speaking or playing a note to anyone  in Baroness de Koenigswarter's apartment in Weehawken. On February 5, 1982, he suffered a stroke and never regained consciousness; twelve days later, on February 17th, he died. He is buried in Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Since his death, his music has been rediscovered by a wider audience and he is now counted alongside the likes of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and others as a major figure in the history of jazz. Whatever Thelonious was to the media, it's clear what his legacy will be to jazz music: that of a true originator.Today Thelonious Monk is widely accepted as a genuine master of American music. His compositions constitute the core of jazz repertory and are performed by artists from many different genres. His recordings both live and in the studio continue to inspire jazz musicians, and many of his albums, remain essential listening, that have bought me great comfort over the years, transcendental and beautiful. He has since  been the subject of award winning documentaries, biographies and scholarly studies, prime time television tributes, and he even has an Institute created in his name.A true original there's only one Monk, he  probably said it best when he insisted that a "genius is one who is most like himself."  In 1993, he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2006, Monk was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation. His place in the jazz pantheon is secure. A link to this wonderful artist can be found here:-
And below are some personal favourites from him.

Thelonius Monk - This is my story , This is my song

Thelonious Monk - Epistrophy

 Thelonious Monk -  Hackensack, `1965 

Thelonious Monk - Body and Soul

Thelonious Monk - Monk's Dream 

Thelonious Monk - Misterioso

Thelonious Monk - Everything happens to me

 Thelonious Monk Quartet - Round Midnight

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

On World Mental Health Day 2018 :End the stigmatisation, Stop and scrap Universal Credit

Today marks World Mental Health Day, a day that provides campaigners with the opportunity to raise awareness and advocacy against social stigma that people with mental health issues daily experience.
Mental illness is now recognised as one of the biggest causes of individual distress and misery in our society, comparable to poverty and unemployment. One in four adults in the UK today has been diagnosed with a mental illness, that can have a profound impact on the lives of tens of millions of people in the UK, and thus affect their ability to sustain relationships, work, or just get through the day. What greater indictment of a system could there be.
The issues of mental health and mental illness are complicated. Yes  there is persuasive evidence that human biology plays an important role in determining each person’s likelihood of contending with particular mental health conditions, but experiences of social isolation, inequality, feelings of alienation and dissociation, and even the basic assumptions and ideology of materialism and neoliberalism itself are seen today to be significant drivers too.
Sadly despite the efforts of many, the subject of mental illness remains a taboo subject, the fact is that many in our communities suffer from a wide of different problems like clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADHD, schizophrenia, anxiety, mania and drug and alcohol problems. Many of us are left to face our problems in silence and isolation, while experiencing daily life as a battle, having  to choose  between societies consensus ways of dealing with things, medication, psychotherapy, counselling etc etc, or simply learning to forget.
Emotionally, our heads are only just above water. I personally have a black dog that  calls regularly, that  I unfortunately  have no control  over, it just happens. Combined with anxiety, can suddenly feel  fear, and all those turbulent  unexplained feelings that drives one to self destruction,.In extreme circumstance  can also  get so angst ridden that I cannot leave my house, let alone phone a GP to seek help, because I fear I will be judged and blamed somehow, embarrassed and ashamed for something I have no control over. With a tendency to affix blame and leave me  feeling even more unworthy. I'm getting there but still have a long way to go. I have learnt techniques to  help, but realize  using liquid courage, certainly does not help, though that does not stop me ,especially when out and about in public.
Enough about me, among the most menacing barriers to the social progress we need around mental health. are the profound levels of guilt, shame and stigma that surround these issues.Those who suffer are often, like me, ashamed to speak of it. Those who are lucky enough to be free of mental illness are terrified of it. When it comes to mental illness, we still don't quite get how it all works. Our treatments, while sometimes effective, often are not. And the symptoms, involving a fundamental breakdown of our perceived reality, are existentially terrifying. There is something almost random about physical illness, in how it comes upon us, a physical illness can strike anyone. But  mental illness  that could also strike any of us, without warning should be equally recognised.
Combined  with  simple fear, mental illness brings out a judgmental streak that would be unthinkably grotesque when applied to physical illness. Imagine telling someone with a broken leg to "snap out of it." Imagine that a death by cancer was accompanied by the same smug head shaking. Mental illness is so qualitatively different that we feel it permissible to be judgmental. We might even go so far as to blame the sufferer. Because of the  stigma involved  it often leaves people much sicker. 
We live under a system of blame that somehow makes the emotional and psychological difficulties we encounter seem to be our own fault. People left feeling ashamed that they need medication, seeing this as revealing some constitutional weakness. Afraid about needing therapy, thinking that they should be able to solve their problems on their own.  Individuals actually fail to seek any treatment, because mental health care is seen as something that only the most dramatically unstable person would turn to. It is estimated that only about a quarter of people with a mental health problem in the UK receive ongoing treatment, leaving the majority of people grappling with mental health issues on their own, seeking help or information, and dependent on the informal support of family, friends or colleagues.
Those who live with mental illness are among the most stigmatised groups in society. We are challenged doubly. On one hand with the struggle of our symptoms that result from our illnesses and then by the stereotypes and prejudice that results from peoples misconceptions about mental illness. Many  are robbed of opportunities that help define  a quality life,  jobs, safe housing, health care and affiliation with a diverse group of people, and are left feeling almost invisible and on our own. Prejudice leads to discrimination and so on.
 It should not  be the case that some of us have to suffer in silence from anxiety and depression, we should be ok to say we don't feel ok. When some of us actually seek some assistance, we get doubted and pushed away. All this plays a part in making us feeling worse and keep us down. There is growing concern that our Governments policies are actually fuelling the current  mental health crisis. Budget cuts to mental health services combined with no genuine support are driving  many people to the edge. As a result many people  are currently left isolated, facing long waiting lists for mental health therapies and diagnostic assessments
Prime Minister Maggie May herself  once described the shortfalls in mental health services on her first day in Downing Street  "as one of the burning injustices in our country" Despite these gestures she and the Tories have not delivered on their promise to give mental health the same priority as physical health. They have  offered  no extra funding whilst systematically raiding mental health budgets over the last eight years. There are now over 6,000 fewer mental health nurses than in 2010. The number of psychiatrists employed by the NHS has fallen by  four percent since 2014 , with a 10 percent drop in those who specialise in children's mental health and a similar drop in those working with older adults. Eight years of Tory Government have left those with mental health problems without the support they need.
Currently people with mental health problems are becoming “tangled up” in the bureaucracy and flaws of the government’s new universal credit benefit system,claimants facing considerable hardship and considerable deterioration in their mental health because of universal credit. Sophie Corlett, director of external relations for the mental health charity Mind, has said “They struggle with the process, but they end up tangled in the process and unable to dig their way out of it."“They struggle with the online application, they struggle with the conditionality that comes while you wait for your work capability assessment (WCA), they struggle with waiting for their first payment and if they are able to get an advance payment they struggle to pay that back.”A key concern, she has also said , was the period between the start of a universal credit claim and the WCA, during which claimants can be forced to carry out the usual 30-plus hours of jobsearch activity while waiting to be assessed for their “fitness for work”
Carrying out this jobsearch activity is a huge barrier for many people with mental health problems, who are often not even well enough to visit their own jobcentre. Under the sanctions system, benefit recipients have part of their payments temporarily stopped if they fail to meet strict work-related conditions, such as failing to attend a work placement, or being a few minutes late for a jobcentre appointment. People with complex needs are thus forced into a process which is long, complicated and cruel, which does not recognise their personal abilities, vulnerabilities and difficult circumstances.
With the upcoming roll out of Universal Credit, this will only make matters worse. especially for those of us living with mental health issues. Universal Credit is not fit for purpose, it needs  to be stopped and scrapped now, We  simply can't trust May and co on mental health.Their toxic policies helping to exasperate the mental health crisis in our country. If this does not actually make you angry then you have  become conditioned and devoid of feeling, and they simply have you under control.
We need to break the silence around mental health.Too often mental health is swept under the carpet and ignored , because of the stigma and taboo surrounding it, so we have to keep battling to destroy the negative attitudes and stereotypes that is directed towards people with mental health issues, and to keep challenging policies that heed  individuals recovery.
On World Mental Health Day I think its important to stress that the proportion of the population that will  experience  episodes of acute emotional distress is extremely high. It  should not be shameful to say that one is suffering from mental illness, no less than to announce that one is asthmatic or has breast cancer.Talking about these issues, breaking the silence, can also be a source of liberation, so we should keep fighting for the best mental health care to be the  natural right of all, because engaging in the struggle toward such a society can be a source of hope for many. In the meantime I will  personally try to keep  surviving, and hope that one day mental health  becomes  a genuine Government priority that  really helps reduce peoples pain and suffering.
I will end this post by saying, that I believe today should  act like a catalyst for Work and Pensions secretary Esther McVey to scrap the controversial Universal Credit Welfare system and replace it with something that takes into account peoples needs and strengths.
Meanwhile If you need to talk to someone, the NHS mental health helpline page includes organisations you can call for help, such as Anxiety UK and Bipolar UK. or call The Samaritans on 116 123.And if you need help with your application for Universal Credit contact your local CAB

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Paul Robeson - Joe Hill

Joel Emmanuel Hagglund (Joe Hill)  born October 7, 1879 Gavle, Sweden,he emigrated to the United States in 1902, where he changed his name to Joseph Hillstrom. After several years as an itinerant worker - a 'hobo' he joined the IWW (the Industrial Workers of the World).A wobbly organiser, balladeer, he was also a man of pride, the flag that he proudly  followed was one of international solidarity. 
Union organiser, songwriter and member of the Industrial Workers of the World. He was murdered at the age of 36  by a US Government  firing squad framed for a murder that may believed he did not commit. An innocent man  condemned to death for his passion. Many historians have  come to recognise it as one of the worst travesties of justice in American history. After a trial riddled with biased rulings and suppression of important defense evidence and other violations of judicial procedure, which was characteristic of many cases involving labour radicals.
 Just prior to his execution. Hill had written to  fellow International Worker of the World Bill Haywood saying. "Goodbye Bill. I die like a true rebel.Don't waste any time in mourning. Organise.
An estimated 30,000 people attended  his funeral in an impressive singing demonstration under the banner ' In Memorium-Joe Hill - Murdered by the Capitalist Class. A rebel to the core, his voice still rings out loud, rightfully  venerated and celebrated as a hero and martyr.He started the struggle that many  continue to fight today.

Music and the IWW: the creation of working class counterculture

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Remember the Battle of Cable Street : No pasaran !

                                Detail from Cable Street Mural
I have made a point of annually remembering that on 4th October, 1936, the people of the East End inflicted a massive defeat on Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.

During this time Britain was facing very serious economic problems. Throughout the mid 1930s, the BUF moved closer towards Hitler’s form of fascism with Mosley himself saying that “fascism can and will win in Britain”. The British fascists took on a more vehemently anti-Semitic stance, describing Jews as “rats and vermin from whitechapel” and tried to blame Jews for the cause of the country's problems. Mosley’s blackshirts had been harassing the sizeable Jewish population in the East End all through the 1930s. By 1936 anti-semitic assaults by fascists were growing and windows of Jewish-owned businesses were routinely smashed. Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’  The notorious Daily Mail headline is just one chilling indication of the very real threat Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists posed in the mid 1930s.
On Sunday Oct. 4, 1936, Mosley planned to lead his Blackshirt supporters on a march through the East End, following months of BUF meetings and leafleting in the area designed to intimidate Jewish people and break up the East End’s community solidarity. Despite a petition signed by 100,000 people, the British government permitted the march to go ahead and designated 7,000 members of the police force to accompany it.
They were not to be welcomed, instead they were met by over 250,000 protestors, waving banners with slogans such as 'They shall not Pass'( no pasaron, famous republican slogan from the Spanish Civil War) , 'No Nazis here' and 'East End Unite.' 
A mighty force had assembled prepared to defend their streets and neighbourhoods and their right to live in them.
As the fascists assembled in Royal Mint Street, near the Tower, they were attacked by large groups of workers. When the Metropolitan Police tried to clear a path through Gardiner’s Corner, a blockade of tens of thousands of people stood firm.
Anti-fascists blocked the route by barricading the street with rows of domestic furniture and the fascists and the police who were defending them were attacked with eggs, rotten fruit and the contents of chamber pots. Local kids rolled marbles under police horses hooves. A mighty battle ensued, leaving many injured and others arrested.
Many years later it is remembered because it saw thousands of people, from many walks of life, women, children, local jews, Irish groups, communists, socialists, anarchists standing firm as one in an incredible display of unity who worked together to prevent Mosley's fascists from marching through a Jewish area in London.Together, they won a famous victory and put the skids under Britain’s first fascist mass movement.The  fascists did not get to march and they did not pass, and were left in humiliation so today we look back on this living history in celebration and pride.
Significantly, for some people that were involved in the protest, Cable Street was the road to Spain, and many would go on to volunteer as soldiers for the Republicans there.The legend that was Cable Street became the lasting inspiration for the continuing British fight against the fascism that was spreading all across Europe and would eventually engulf the planet in a terrible world war.
We might like to think those days are behind us, but anti-semitism, racism and intolerance  is on the rise. The far right is growing throughout Europe, on 13th October the far-right racist Democratic Football Lads Alliance have organised a demonstration for bigots and Islamaphobes in London. In July 2018, 10,000 of them took to the streets, uniting racists from UKIP to Generation Identity, where nazi salutes were casually raised . No longer a fringe group, the far right are given airtime by the mainstream media, well funded and supported by many in the political establishment. Across Europe racist and fascist organisations are receiving growing support at a level not seen since the 1930s. Tommy Robinson, ex EDL leader and notorious fascist, who is being courted by UKIP, is a firm favourite of the DFLA. Thugs linked to the group attacked RMT union members and others, after a recent anti fascist march, in London. The far right, at street level and electorally, use Islamophobia as a way of rebuilding in Britain.
The DFLA and their supporters want to come to London to spread their racism and Islamophobia. Stand Up To Racism, supported by Unite Against Fascism and Love Music Hate Racism will be resisting their race hate. We are at a crucial moment in our time and cannot simply allow such forces to grow. We must continue to  regenerate a broad based mass resistance to division and hate, to turn the tide on the rise of hate, oppose racism, Islamophobic scapegoating and Antisemitism. A national demonstration against these forces has been called for Noveber 1th , details for event can be found here.
The winds that blew across Cable Street still exist today , we must remain vigilant to this. We should never forget the Battle of Cable Street. Teach your childrem about it. Today and tomorrow we must still rally around the cry of No Pasaran- They shall not pass. Everyone, who cares about the future of our society, should come together, for the politics of unity not division

Men they couldn't hang - Ghosts of Cable Street

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

On the edge of reason ( for Theresa May)

The Tory's gathering again, leaving desperate voices forgotten
with empty gestures,  waving their promises and lies,
clanking their chains, bringing their daily curses
soundbites of shame, in these mad days of Brexit,
continuing to misgovern, no sign of being strong and stable
people sad for this country, as they manage to wreck it,
homeless people dying on our streets, poor people starving
food banks  growing,  benefit claimants living in fear,
May robotically dances on stage, malfunctioning once again
no dancing queen, just a self depreciating clown,
after the laughter has died down, their creepy and scary
Theresa, and chums, it's time for them to be gone.

Monday, 1 October 2018

From despair to hope

There's so much conditioning, making us hate
that we become our own enemies at the gate,
beams of reason disappearing before us
colors of hope melting in the earth,
politicians burying consciousness
join in the revel, play with the devil,
bitter and biting, silently gloating
releasing fathomless depths of despair,
punishing people for simply being ill
with policies of cruelty that actually kill,
the ghosts of Grenfell still haunting the land
yet they continue building walls to divide,
louder and louder, the wind is raging
the air not yet full of resignation,
strong, courageous and resilient
we can overcome the monsters,
gentler aspects of humanity will reveal
to not allow ourselves to be draped in pain,
hopelessness will only hang around, if we feed it
blazing embers of defiance burn brightly too,
we can be saved, greet  tomorrow's epiphany
the future unwritten, can cancel  negativity.

The above poem can also be found here :-

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Divided and out of control, time to kick the Tories out.

The Tory conference  has started today in  Birmingham , running till Wednesday 3 October,as they continue to  sprout their message of a stronger, fairer United Kingdom,  and their leader refuses to apologise for her hostile policies,displaying a clear lack of care for anyone, lets not forget that all Tory's are the same. Whatever period in time,  they always leave us with a diabolical legacy, while at the same time  trying to convince  people that they have been doing a decent job.
Aided and abetted by their friends  in the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Express,the Times,  the BBC and the Scum etc all  misleading and parroting  the Tory's narratives and soundbites. Should we simply forget their ruthless, toxic and unjust policies. Their constant assaults  on the N.H.S,  people on welfare, the disadvantaged, the poor, people forced to use food banks, rising homelessness, benefit cuts, universal credit, combined with low pay, zero hour contracts, benefit cuts, the lack of affordable housing, not forgetting the windrush scandal and  our public services cut to the bone and the ongoing mess that is Brexit, the list is endless, their  cruel conscious  ideological policies that have caused so many unnecessary deaths  should not be simply forgotten.
We have to get rid of them by any means necessary,  because the devil comes in many shapes and sizes, and I believe it is truly at home in the Conservative Party, a demonic party, if there ever was one  As Theresa May continues to  blister on in her usual fashion of delusion , laughing at us all, we simply cannot afford to tolerate her or her Government anymore , we would all be better served with a government that actually supports peoples needs, based on ideas of social justice and fairness, mutual aid and sustainability. Theresa May and co are so divided and out of control they are no longer fit to govern, we need a general election now, their time is up , they have to go as soon as possible.

Newtown Neurotics - Kick out the Tories

Friday, 28 September 2018

For Charlie Sharp, poet, musician, artist, R.I.P

Autumn is waking
as a friend drifts to sleep
and trees shed their tears
in the distance the sound of a harmonica
soaring in the sky
by the side of a silvery moon
another star is born
all flames become light
blazing, burning bright.