Wellbeing: Gratitude Practice

Wellbeing: Gratitude Practice

The pandemic has focused attention on our health in both mind and body. This is a good thing. Generally speaking in “advanced” capitalist society’s we tend to treat our mind/body as a resource to plunder rather than something to nurture and maintain. The result is seen in higher cancer rates and serious mental health conditions. The pandemic has further increased the latter.

We are in societies where profit is put before people therefore it should come as no surprise that during the pandemic we’ve seen political decisions that appear to put livelihoods before lives.  While it is important to challenge political decisions with action there are things we can do personally to weather the storm of this uncertain time and the fears and anxieties it has produced. Gratitude practice is one of those things. 

It might seem that in midwinter, at a time of Covid, with the NHS overstressed, loved ones ill or even dying there is little to have gratitude for but there always is and acknowledging these rather than lack is a healthier place to be and a better place to take action from when needed. It’s not about for instance denying anger or grief or embracing an end of the rainbow Boris Johnson style blustering optimism it’s about embracing your entire experience. 

Why is it necessary?

We tend to have a negative bias when it comes to evaluating our experience of the world. We are hardwired this way. We are more alert to threat than things that comfort and soothe. This was what kept cave people alive. In the modern world it might sound more like, 

“I just the interview today, it went down really bad,”

“Why do you say that?”

“I was terrible, I kept repeating myself. At one point one of the interviews yawned, I’ve had it.”

In reality the interviewers were smiling and nodding their heads but negative bias will remind the candidate of only this one moment. 

Something similar to this happened to me recently. I attended a zoom poetry event on the open mike and they put me on first. I was nervous and anxious my less than fully stable tripod might keel over. I read two short poems with a little chat and spent the entire rest of the evening tense thinking, “I was so wooden!” It was a great night and I felt I’d let everyone down. The next morning I looked at the recording and it was fine! Not brilliant but certainly not wooden. 

What is gratitude practice?

One recognised method is keeping a gratitude journal, or just writing in a regular journal and making a note of at least three things, or just one to begin with, for which we are thankful about during the day that has just passed. You can do this  before you go to bed or the following morning. 

Alternatively write on scraps of paper and put them in a jar.

Write on post it’s and pin them to a wall.

Share your experiences with family or friends around the kitchen table.

Create a private facebook group for your nearest and dearest and share your gratitude between you.

Ants perspective posted by Our Earth on Facebook

How can it help?

Many spiritual practices cite the value of gratitude practice and studies have demonstrated that it reduces stress, anxiety and depression and boosts feelings of optimism, happiness and ability to cope. 

“People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.”

From https://www.happify.com/hd/the-science-behind-gratitude/

Little things matter

We tend to focus on the negative particularly if we are stressed or anxious. Perhaps it’s been a good day until a neighbour blows up at you about your ivy growing over their porch. Now there’s a black cloud over everything. Instead of letting all the good be blocked out by this, take a deep breath consider what else happened? Reflect on the taste of your morning coffee, a kind message on a card from an aunt, the woman on the bus that complimented your bag, a great song you heard for the first time on the radio, and write it down. Be specific as possible. 

Basically the more we are grateful for the more we notice things around like the delicate white flowers springing from the hedgerow on the way to the shop or the scudding clouds in the deep red sunset you can see from the kitchen.

The sciencey bit 

Practicing gratitude is a form of positive psychology. It doesn’t mean denying any difficult feelings experienced or ignoring any abuse. It just means reducing the tendency to focus on the negative and rebalancing your perceptions. It won’t, on its own, tackle poverty or injustice or inequality but it can equip you to take on all or any challenges even if it’s just the rude and annoying neighbour. It moves your brain from vacillating between the drive and threat functions into soothe. More about that in another post. 

More info

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain

Seriously technical study on the subject here 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16045394/

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Happy New Year everyone, wishing you all health and happiness, hope, strength and joy in the struggles we will undoubtedly face together, let’s continue to bring beauty, respect, dignity, peace, justice, equality and sustainability to this world. Hope this new year is rich and rewarding for all.

Last year was a tough one, I appreciate many are grieving, in recovering, or financially challenged, we are all in a sense precarious now. I prefer to think also about what it has given us; a renewed respect for the often invisible yet essential workers, a chance to reevaluate what really matters, a chance to upskill, learn and grow, the reveal of the incompetence, uncaringness and mendacity of power.

This time has also seen the emergence of mutual aid on an unprecedented scale demonstrated dramatically during the lorry-park-with-no-toilets debacle at the end of the year. While the government callously described the unfolding events as a “stress test” for a no deal Brexit it was the Kent community that fed the thousands of stranded drivers not the council or the government.

Hope you had a reasonable time last night I had a quiet one. At least the flat is emerging from a year of dust, clutter and cobwebs (ok i exaggerate a little though it is curiously how dust and cobwebs seem to create small balls over time…)

Reflecting on the year personality feel immense gratitude for when it was possible to connect. The year began for me on a challenging note plunged into the dark in January, almost it seemed, overnight. How much of this was personal and how much was existential I don’t know. I was writing a ring of fire: a lament for Australia as it began. Spend a good part of the year crawling out of that place. It would be easy to look on the year as the sum total of that but on reflection  there was much more.

Some highlights; in March just before lockdown one hooked up with Poets for the Planet for a reading and conversation at Resonance fm link. In May and June joined the Black Lives Matter protests in Windrush Square while August saw a diminished but effective XR rebellion in London, my part in this was small but supported rebels camping in beautiful Brockwell Park, a stones throw from Cressingham.

Collectively the park became our playground, sanctuary, gym. Hard to put into words how valuable it has been for so many of us. I read in Brixton Buzz Lambeth Council want to hand over management to some company which aims to hold 50 commercial events annually, surely this must be opposed.

In September between lockdowns took a trip to Italy; discovered the wonder of Rome, attended a powerful yoga retreat at Casa Amrita in Teramo province and explored the delightful coastal town of Pineto before reluctantly returning.

The poetry world went all zoom and forced to face my reluctance to get in front of the camera head on joining Poetry from the Grassroots on a number of occasions. A supportive and increasingly international tribe of fellow wordsmiths. Joined the team at On Our Radar, who in collaboration with Groundswell, are collectively stories of homelessness in a peer led project.

Have been massively supported and assisted by group meditation on zoom with water and earth protector Urtema Dolphin. She has been holding a space almost every day since the start of lockdown one. A space to learn and grow, to be and let go.

Ended the year putting together a visual poem entitled The Last Swallow has Flown; a contemplation of autumn, love and transformation which is almost ready to share, watch this space

Feeling optimistic about the future; our struggles have gone truly global and becoming more inclusive. We are still in a fractured and polarised world, in my opinion the dark is not rising it was always there and the light is revealing it, so let the light shine!

Not much in the diary yet but starting a short course in Greek and Roman Mythology at Penn State Uni, I’ve found gods and goddess making an appearance in my poetry for a while now; the Indian goddess Kali came to me in Brockwell Park, Gaia on a beach in Pineto, while Venus, Zeus and Eros put in appearances from time to time and so I figured it was high time to learn a bit more about them.

Also will be joining Poetry from the Grassroots on the 10th January 2021

Writing prompt: The Three Line Poem

Writing prompt: The Three Line Poem

Three line poem prompt 

Choose a word from the dictionary at random then freewrite for five minutes. Take a break. Stretch or walk around then come back to what you have written. Underline the strongest words or expressions. Delete any unnecessary words – do you need for instance and, but, yet, so.

Extract the strongest words and expressions and create a new piece. How many lines do you have? If it’s three you have your poem, check again delete any unnecessary words. Consider if the words left behind sing together.

If not continue to extract again the strongest words and expressions until you have three lines that express one idea. Check again delete any unnecessary words. Consider if the words left behind sing together.

An example 

The three line poem is called a tercet, the term can also refer to poems with three line stanzas. 

This site takes submissions of three line poems https://threelinepoetry.com/


The classic three line poem is the haiku. It’s a traditional Japanese form with three lines with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. Though modern examples introduce variations. This is hotly contested but that’s another post.

Often focusing on images from nature, and usually makes reference to a season. It emphasises simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression. In addition the haiku tends to focus on a brief moment in time, juxtaposing two images, and creating a sudden sense of enlightenment.

An example 

From Matsuo Bashō, the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan.

Japanese

閑けさや 岩にしみいる 蝉の声

Shizukesa ya/ Iwa ni shimiiru/ Semi no koe

English

Oh, tranquility!

Penetrating the very rock,

A cicada’s voice.

Translated by Helen Craig Mccullough

See more examples here https://www.readpoetry.com/10-vivid-haikus-to-leave-you-breathless/



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Wellbeing: A Time to Transform

Wellbeing: A Time to Transform

In this “unprecedented” time; living against the backdrop of a virus that may or may not kill us, a growing precarity in jobs and housing in the west, while people in parts of the Global South are on the verge of starvation and the accelerating the climate emergency, I am aware that many people I know are going through big shifts or faced with big challenges, either making life altering decisions or facing circumstances that feel overwhelming. 

Sometimes it can manifest as inner shifts and challenges catalyzed by the circumstances, sometimes the feelings themselves can seem overwhelming. I’ve recently been through a big shift which was at times really painful, it manifested at times as deep grief, at other times experiencing ecstatic joy and sometimes self doubt, which I’m not entirely convinced was all “old stuff” it’s been hard to get back a healthy routine but is now playing out in new productive ways. 

If you are going through deep or strong fluctuations or this kind or feel affronted with emotional storms, perhaps feeling; anger, sorrow, shame, guilt, self doubt, or self loathing, know it’s ok it’s just growth. You are clearing the past to make the present and the future more fruitful. Everything needs to be recognized and integrated to clear. Spirtual teachers I know see this is happening to some people in fast forward. 

Nevertheless despite growth we can still fuck up, I know I do. That’s ok as long as no one gets really hurt or even if they do, it’s rarely intentional so if someone can’t forgive you can at least forgive yourself. Think of it as your self development. We are all damaged in some way. We carry the grief and trauma of our parents and grandparents and what they lived through and couldn’t express. And we in turn at times inherit their silences and can find it hard to express sometimes the most important things.

I found the quicker I could accept the feelings that were coming up for me rather than avoid them the quicker they passed. This is the essence of meditation and yoga. To watch what comes up and neither cling to it nor evade. It’s much easier in a group but with practice one can sit with the worst feeling alone. Covid brings up fear of death, fear of harm to loved ones in addition to anxieties about how to survive financially. In truth it would help us all to learn some of these techniques at this time as these are difficult things to accept and not to avoid with drink or drugs or any other form of dependency.

In morning meditation today it came to me we must hold on to hope, trust and faith. I appreciate the notion of faith may be a bit woo woo to many of you. If you have a faith I probably don’t need to say god has got your back. If you don’t hold with this think of it as faith and trust in your higher self or your inner wisdom and knowing of what you need and how to get it though you may not always be in touch with this. Few of us are, the spiritual path  to connect with our higher self in a lasting relationship is life long.

At this time I look back to the darkest days of humanity see the horrors and defeats and see how we, as humanity, overcame and persevered. Though we need to shift though from surviving to thriving, individually and collectively. Feel the foundations for this are being laid at this time and simultaneously this time is accelerating our change of attitudes to and our understanding of our relationship to the planet. As we transform ourselves so we transform the world and the opposite is true. This the left call dialectical.  

After the mediation this morning our wonderful teacher, talked about how animals adapt to the winter and how we are part of nature and nature is part of us. Those who visit parks or walk in nature may have a greater appreciation of this. Feel it’s worth embracing this idea, I’m not suggesting we all fly south or hibernate but as the days get shorter we can draw in, gather our strength. 

This “unprecedented” time I believe is asking us to adapt in our ways in a profound manner. To become more agile in body and mind, more discerning, confronted with the blizzard of untruths emanating from power, government and corporations. As we witness how society fails in the care of the most vulnerable we in turn understand what it is to become kinder, more empathetic. It’s time also to become more loving of ourselves, more forgiving. Learn to respond rather than react. This I fervently believe if practiced becomes second nature then it becomes evolutionary; literally there is evidence to show new synapses are created.

Despite the apparent polarization in the world at this time I do believe a new world is in the making. We have struggled so long, fought so hard for so long, for millennia. I see a new consciousness everywhere from XR to the COP 26 coalition to grassroots organizations in the USA and Global South. Self care is put front and centre and demands are made for respect and dignity indeed appear on the banners. Love has enters the struggle. And as Maureen, from Poets Know it, used to say way back,  “Nothing can defeat the power of our love.” 

#LoveIsTheWay #AnotherWorldIsPossible #AnotherWorldIsOnHerWay

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Diary: December 2020

Diary: December 2020

As what we used to call autumn approaches winter we come out of lockdown only to enter tiers. I get the impression few understand what it implies, I too am a little hazy though I understand we can still carry our tasks for On Our Radar who are collaborating with Groundswell, the homelessness team, gathering stories of those in precarious housing or with none at all. The vote in the Commons over tiers happens later today. Wouldn’t hold your breathe after all recently the government gave us the logic defying ruling over the Christmas Break

In other news Poets for the Planet have a new YouTube Channel and you have find the first offering here https://youtu.be/MB_8P3IyeUE a screening of FRESH: An EcoPoetry open mike. 

Sunday December 13th Joining Poetry From the Grassroots on the open mike This is a zoom event join at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3998944394?pwd=Smtzei9EeWpudU5weWoxTDQ2a2k0UT09 Drop a line to grassrootspoetry@outlook.com to sign up for the open mike. 

We are all virtual now, there are many other events that look interesting and can be joined from your sofa see more at https://poetrylondon.co.uk/listings/ here’s one that looks interesting 

December 6th 7.00pm to 8.30pm 

Poetry Lit! 

“Poetry Lit! is a monthly online reading series for international poets… and their fans. Each month Poetry Lit! hosts a Zoom event where folks share in poetry.

Each month there are two featured poets who’ll read a selection of their work. After that there’s an open mic where about 6 poets step into the limelight.

If you want to join our open mic, please send and e-mail to poetrylitonline@gmail.com. Open mic spots are 5 minutes max.

If you want to attend and listen to some great poetry…. welcome! Please register, so we know how many people are coming. We will send you a link to join nearer to the event.”

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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On writing: William Faulkner

On writing: William Faulkner

“Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”


–William Faulkner

Poems by others: Marty McConnel

Poems by others: Marty McConnel

I discovered this video after a trip to New York and a brief brush with the poetry scene there. The power of this performance and it’s message meant it stuck with me. At the time there was a thriving and dynamic scene around Bowery Poetry, between Bleecker Street and 2nd Avenue and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in the East Village which continues virtually to this day. In addition smaller venues such as the adorable Carlitos Cafe y Galeria on Lexington, which my good friend and travel companion discovered quite by accident, presently shut for the pandemic, which reminded us both of the Bonnington Square Cafe in Vauxhall. 

On her website Marty McConnell’s says, “I write and perform poems and lyric text around the U.S. and beyond, at schools and festivals and conferences and wherever people gather. I work with crowds of thousands and groups of 10 and one-on-one to dive deep and open wide in the brutal and glorious ways language allows.”

https://martyoutloud.com

 “Marty McConnell is the author of the book wine for a shotgun (EM Press) and many poems including “Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell.” These are widely published in journals, anthologies, and as citations in non-fiction as well. McConnell is a Chicago native who lived in New York for ten years, then returned to co-found Vox Ferus, an organization dedicated to empowering individuals and communities through poetry. She is a graduate of the Sarah Lawrence M.F.A. program, a co-curator of louderARTS Project’s flagship reading series, and two-time performer on H.B.O.’s Def Poetry Jam. McConnell has performed across the country and Europe—at schools and festivals, independently, with her one-woman show “vicebox,” and with the Morrigan performance poetry troupe.”

https://localwiki.org/chicago/Marty_McConnell

Diary: November 2020

Diary: November 2020

I’m late with this as since the first day of lockdown I feel I’ve been thru a storm at sea. Great winds pulled at my sales, waves repeatedly washed over the deck threatening to wash all provisions overboard while I and the crew struggled to keep our footing. In this metaphor the crew are all my selves I guess. By which I mean every self at every age I’ve ever been.

During the storm I visited some of my younger selves to heal the hurt made then. As the storm subsides finally I drop anchor and with the sky blue and gentle waves washing against this battered vessel I see she has held true though some sails will need repair. 

I find grief can be like this. At first devastating then after a while still ever there are the comforting ripples of remembrance yet at times even then a huge wave or even a tsunami that wipes away everything in its path, hits sometimes when you least expect it. 

I should know by now that November brings these storms though this year something like a tsunami came early. I cried for 10 days straight in October. I was ok with that. I felt cleansed of so much pain. I thought the rocking of the ship had settled down. Best to look to the horizon at these times I might have seen the new storm approaching. 

As a result half a month has slipped by already, I managed to get to the amazing Bridge of Fire/ Puente de Fuego, curated by Nathalie Teitler though missed the Siren Poets anthology book launch of What if we can’t save the Earth But if the Earth could save us? Edited by Liv Torc. I have the book and recommend. 

On the poetry scene also Louise Gluck, won the Nobel Prize for Literature, she is the first American woman to win the prize since Toni Morrison and only the 16th woman to receive this honour. I am not over familiar with her work but what I’ve read resonates with me, her poems of family life in particular, from: A Fable, “Suppose / you saw your mother / torn between two daughters: / what could you do / to save her but be / willing to destroy / yourself?” 

I like this review in which Fiona Sampson concludes quoting Gluck, 

“‘“The fundamental experience of the writer is helplessness,’ she tells us in the essay Education of a Poet; their life ‘is dignified, I think, by yearning, not made serene by sensations of achievement. In the actual work, a discipline, a service.’ Gluck’s poetry, for all its huge distinction, its vibrant intelligence and its beauty, has never lost the ability to serve society, or the reader.” 

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/oct/08/louise-gluck-where-to-start-with-an-extraordinary-nobel-winner

This looks worth checking out, the Poetry in Aldeburgh online festival, “The festival events (readings, talks, performances) do not overlap and there is an hour-long gap between them. Each event is of 60-minute duration with some leeway to overrun in the evenings. There are two daily slots for workshops at 10:00am and 1:15pm with two 90-minute sessions running in parallel. 

https://www.poetryinaldeburgh.org/festival-programme?fbclid=IwAR2PvQT02s8WaQefEbSYtKSNt_RTAzKSy3jCZ6YUcA_jc-Y2F5gIjvj1umE

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Comment: Dressing for the Occasion

Comment: Dressing for the Occasion

The dress code for us women-of-a-certain-age on my block in autumn is flip flops, slippers or sandles plus sweat pants or leggings and dressing gowns or long woollens. We stand on the block together like this swopping stories.

This is also where we decide how to take on the council in there latest oversight, like fixing the lighting on the block, agreeing tasks. It took three months to fix one over head light and now it’s blinking again at about five candle power. These chats are social and an act of solidarity when we still don’t know yet if our homes will face the wrecking ball. 

Such a palaver getting ready to go out at this time of year if going any further than the local shop. I go in sweat pants and sandals. Grab a shopping bag, keys, my bank card and a mask.

A few days ago during my afternoon meditation there’s a storm stirring, an actual storm not a metaphor. A wind that seemed to shake the foundations and the lashing of rain. When I get moving again I have to decide do I put my boots on?

It’s the first time since last winter I’ve pulled on my boots. Stomp off down to Brixton high street where I notice those who don’t have a home to return to. Alongside the buskers, evangelists, ticket touts, newspaper hawkers, bead and bangle, incense and flower sellers, “chuggers” and fragments of the left are the lost. People with no permanent home to go to or no home at all, people with addiction or seriously obvious mental health issues. 

The precarious within the precarious. And they are not lost, not yet, as there are amazing organisations like Groundswell and On Our Radar to support them. What beats me is how do people on the streets have the will to go on when a storm hits like it just did.

You can’t dress for the occasion if you are stuck in what you have. How do you keep dry? How do you keep warm? We are not all in it together whether we are talking about covid or climate change. The very poorest and the most vulnerable bear the brunt of these crises here and even more so in the global south. 

My micro dilemma, do I put my boots on? Is less than nothing.

I write this as I feel we all at times take for granted the we, on the whole, have fresh water, heating, a roof at least and if your lucky a home, and unfortunately that is getting rarer every year. We take for granted a warm bed and the safety than ensures beside comfort. We shouldn’t take anything for granted. We are all pretty much precarious now. Two pay checks away from the street for many and that as before covid. 

I figure we need to have a little gratitude for what we have, compassion for those that have lost our comforts and give if you can, recognise the person in front of you deserves dignity and respect, has desires, skills and experiences and stories; On Our Radar is about collecting those stories and I’m proud to be now be part of that.

Note well it was just two years ago the press reported widely a finding by Shelter that 55% of homeless people were in work. In this country, the 5th richest country in the world, a job is no guarantee of a safe secure home. 

https://onourradar.org/

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Comment: Forget about Guy Fawkes, pave the way for the Phoenix

Comment: Forget about Guy Fawkes, pave the way for the Phoenix

So it’s back into lockdown. Can’t help thinking beginning it on the 5th of November was a cruel cut. Given our traditions have turned away from burned the “Guy” to burning images of the latest oppressor perhaps there was more the one reason for the timing. Perhaps they fear marauding crowds with fire crackers and burning branches at the gates of power.

So what is to be done? Hang tight for now I guess. Gather our strength. Is anyone even listening to the government at the moment? Can’t help thinking we’ll know that when we see how many bonfiles burn on November 5th. Kind of ironic on so many levels. How are the police to know if folks breaking the law or is it like – oh I didn’t get the memo Gov. I wonder how things will go down in Lewes? 

Ironic also because the fire we need, and here I am speaking in metaphor, is to burn the whole rotting Houses down. The House of Commons is literally rotting, held up by scaffording but the real rot is inside. Seeking only to placate and reward big capital. They do not care about you and me. About our elders and vulnerable. I read the new lockdown guidance there is not one single word about the homeless or those with mental health conditions. Not one word. 

As lockdown looms seems the Tories are split on this. That said, who hasn’t thought – but will it be extended? I know I have. I’m inclined to say we are here because of an absolute failure of track, trace and isolate. For which so much tax payers money has gone into the pockets of private corporations.  Absolute failure at such a cost financially and personally. I had my temperature tested at least four times in Italy. Why arent we doing that? 

If I’m completely honest I’m split on this. Is it necessary? Is it too little too late or is there a better way. It is uncomfortable after a life time of “taking a position.” Sometimes I embrace uncertainly but over this feel I need to take a stand. I’m split because there is some evidence coming in of false positives and false negatives, in addition the Covid death rates as proportion of cases is declining.. I noticed this when tracking Covid figures in Spain for just over a month (when I was planning to go on retreat which fell thru) subsequent articles confirm this. 

The government don’t care about people flooded or burnt in this country, notewell, Grenfell or the fact the whole planet is subject to flood and fire, the Ecological and Climate Emergency Bill has been booted into the long grass while they talk about Brexit. Yeah what a great move during a pandemic and a climate emergency. 

It should all signify the death of the right, but they too are rising and we must have no illusions what that could mean. They have seized on the failures of governance and twisted it into a militant global populism. Close on 30 000 in Trafalgar Square in the summer, supported by the egoist David Icke who strutted like a rock star and in my opinion does not have a pure heart. I know for a fact not everyone attending there gatherings are on the right let alone “alt right” or fascist, but the British Union of Fascists rose from the dead and held there banner there. 

In a way Brexit doesn’t matter so much as our links are global. I think it will be a Pyrrhic victory for the right. We the people are not taking back control of anything and that will become apparent. We must not dismiss those temporarily caught in the illusions cast by the the mendacious, the tricksters that appear as clowns and fools while standing up to those who deny the Holocaust and would take us back to the darkest days of humanity. 

All the while we do not just wait for the fire next time, know it’s coming, though our movements have become more like the water, note the Gilet Jaunes, the Umbrella movement in Hong Kong, XR, countless groups across the USA see Reel News. We can prepare, network, build our bonds of solidarity, we have come so far already. And should it be fire, the Phoenix that arises can be our new democracy based in communities with no centre, no single point, no vanguard. 

Image saved from 
everydayzenrelaxationstudio.com

XR are calling for a peoples assembly. We need people’s assemblies plural. They exist in Catalonia. Don’t feel yet we have the bones. Or do we? We are on our way. There is the potential for that in mutual aid, community groups, campaigns, the voluntary sector and grass roots trade unionism. Akin perhaps to the European Social Forum, the World Social Forum. What happened to those? 

And while we prepare our self care must become revolutionary and be part of our evolution. We walk, run, yoga stretch, meditate, dance, whatever does it for you. And do all we can to build ourselves and others as we simultaneously build our communities and our future.

Solidarity.
j

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Poem: Communion and announcement of the new Malika’s Poetry Kitchen website

Poem: Communion and announcement of the new Malika’s Poetry Kitchen website

Communion 

We watch a movie together 

content in the recognition 

of the same codes.

Yet I can’t get into your skin

I can listen, 

touch.

But you have your

imaginings

and I have mine.

We can weave our visions though in the end, 

I will return to the labyrinth of my soul

and you to yours.

When we walk in the park I wonder 

if the green hues that wash my eyes 

are the same for you.

I hear a dog barking

You kick a stone, together

we point at a cloud and laugh.

Anne Enith Cooper

Published in Touched, Survivors’ Press, London (2006) ISBN-10: 1874595100 ISBN-13: 978-1874595106

You can find this poem on the DRUM ROLLLLLL….. newly designed website from Malika’s Poetry Kitchen. Many thanks to Jill Abhams for that and much more .Watch for news of the new anthology next year, to mark 20 years of this incredible collective, featuring many members of the MPK family. It’s hard for me to put into words what a honour it is to be part of all this. The camaraderie of the Kitchen sessions alone has been  uplifting, inspirational and so great for my craft. 

The founder members Malika Booker, Jacob Sam La Rose and Roger Robinson  express such warmth and good humour while absolutely committed to their own work and sharing their skills and have reached heights I had no idea existed in our poetry world and as such move me to be better and do better as a person and a writer. Check out the site and I’ll share news of the launch and other news when it comes.

We each have a poem on the site so do check it out for some great work. 

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Comment: I’m not racist but…

Comment: I’m not racist but…

On my last day in Rome this year after a trip that took me to a yoga retreat and the beach I was wandering around with half a plan, heading for the Piazza Barbarina via Repubblica, past the church Santa Maria of the Angels and Martyrs which seemed to be closed, a shame as I just wanted to sit somewhere in peace. Ended up in an area which seemed to have monuments on all sides. Totally mind blowing. I think it was Traiano. 

Just before I reached there I was accosted by a young guy who said he was from Senegal. There seem to be so many Africans eking out a precarious living, the Kenyan in Teramo at the market who said he wanted to get to London, the Nigerian in Teramo outside the supermarket who also said he just wanted to get to London. I didn’t want to say that’s gonna be tricky. I guess they know that. I didn’t want to say anything about the hostile environment and the treatment of refugees so I would just smile and say good luck. 

This guy was really cheerful and I think he just wanted to talk. I just wanted to sit down and be alone. He said where are you from and when I said, Londra/ London, he said, something like, “That’s great, your not racist!” And fist bumped. (I guess social distancing was not exactly being entirely observed.) I wondered whether to correct the assumption but let it go. 

He seemed overjoyed. At some point he may have said, “I want to meet you you are so happy,” in truth I was trying to process a difficult cocktail of emotion. Thought can’t you see? He pressed a little bracelet with an elephant motive into my hand. I love elephants, let’s just say they are significant to me. I have nine statues of elephants in my flat at home, perhaps I was an elephant in another life…. I think someone is watching over me. Yet I say I can’t take this. 

Then he pulled from somewhere a whole bunch of shining things and again tried to press them into my hand. At this point I wondered is this going to be like the young black guy dealing crack in Railton road who did this to a white friend of mine? it was late, we were on our way home from Mingles. My friend said, “No mate, I don’t do crack,” and tried to hand it back but the dealer wouldn’t have it kept saying, “You touched it, you touched it, it’s in your skin now, you gotta pay for it.” At that point a Dread we didn’t know turned up saying, “Wa guarn?” He clocked the situation, admonished the young guy and told us to, “Get up de road.” Or something like that.

Oblivious to my thoughts the Senegalese guy, whose name I forget, said, “I want to give them to you because your not racist.” I had to say please really I can’t. Then he gave me a tiny red turtle. I was kind of transfixed, I just love the story about the people who believed that the world was on the back of a turtle and when someone asked what is beneath the turtle they said, “Its turtles all the way down.”

I was dreaming of turtles in an afternoon siesta when a latter day nazi set off a nail bomb in Brixton on a Saturday afternoon in 1999.

So I said something like, “I’ll keep this and give you something, but I really have to go.” And gave him all my change, which was all the cash I had and apologised for it being so little and the fact I had to leave. He held his dark wrist against mine and pointed to his skin and mine and said, “The same” and I said, “Yes.” Because it was all I could manage. 

All I know is I don’t want to live in a world where someone feels they have to thank me for not being racist. Where my skin means I can go where the hell I like and there are so many people with a different skin that don’t have that right. That privilege. It should be a given. Someday. 

#AnotherWorldIsPossible

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Matter Poetry: On a Wing and a Prayer, plus thoughts on love and death

Matter Poetry: On a Wing and a Prayer, plus thoughts on love and death

Found object. Siena 1993. The text reads, “Andrea I love you always.” The thousand lire note at that time was worth about 50p. Italy converted to the Euro in 2002. I wondered about the story behind this. There are multiple possibilities. At the time I assumed it was written by a man or a woman to a women have since found out it’s primarily used as mans name meaning  “manly”, “masculine” and “brave” (from ancient Greek “andreios/ἀνδρεῖος.” The plot thickens. And since gender definitions and sexuality’s have become somewhat more complex. The gesture is timeless though. How to I love thee? How do I speak my truth? Do I cast my message to the winds of fortune? I hope it ended well.

A dear neighbour of ours at Cressingham an Italian called Andrea, his story did not end well. He was shy to the point of taciturn. Two years ago he committed suicide in his flat. Only after that I heard that he had mental health problems, that he had been sectioned on one occasion and at some point was working in the kitchen of the Maudsley Hospital that was treating him. I only started to see him when he broke a leg, not sure how. I’d see him on the way to or from the shop. We would always chat for a while and he seemed cheerful enough. I had no idea of the dark gods that rules him. Had I could have signposted him to services and told him I know the dark night too, call on me if your having a tough time.

When he died the council tried to contact his relatives, or so they say, it was months before the funeral. Thick snow lay on the ground, the sort of snow that silences. Only two of us made the funeral as there was a mix up of dates. With the administrator we put together a service. Some classical music, a prayer and Bella Ciao. I thought they might object to the latter but it was fine. I said a few words beginning with as god is my witness as I felt who is here to lament this life passing. There was no one to add their memories and celebrate the life of this quiet, sweet man. Dear Andrea rest in peace.

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Comment: I’m. Not. Even.Joking.

Comment: I’m. Not. Even.Joking.

So it’s back to the U.K. which is in my opinion becoming increasingly dystopic. As if the “Rule of six” wasn’t sinister sounding enough. I don’t sense much disquiet, but then I haven’t been scrolling. Maybe being away is giving me a different perspective but it all sounds very dark. What’s this I hear about a curfew?

As I prepare to return; I’ve been in Rome and Pineto on the Adriatic coast either side of a yoga retreat at the idyllic Casa Amrita. I can’t help thinking wa guarn? I mean it really- what is going on? Yesterday read in Brixton Buzz about panic buying of toilet roll due to the threat of another lockdown. Have we learnt nothing?

In a searing piece by John Crace in the Guardian he notes 47 regions are under strict lockdown measures at this time. 

Caught a pronouncement live from Bojo mid retreat but didn’t wanna engage with that at the time. Looked like he had got a memo to drop the clown act. Heard him wrap the words humanity and spiritual around the threat of £10 000 fines and if necessary the army on the streets like wrapping a semi automatic in cotton wool. And we’re still cracking jokes about it? Like this:

My concern is this:  Whatever your stance on the virus we cannot let this situation act as a cover for a descent into a surveilled, militarised “new normal” with a government issuing draconian powers. Oops that’s already happened. Above all we must not descent into fear. It feeds the darkness. Hold onto Love. 

The experience of the lockdowns and post lockdowns have given us the opportunity to come together in a new way, to build the foundations of a new world; in the recognition of the value of previously undervalued workers, a focus on health and wellbeing, on those we love, new skills, new habits, the extensive mutual aid. A reboot if you like or a refrag, I guess a reboot would be full system change. 

Im wondering what has been the reaction to this? What have Liberty had to say? What about trade unions? What about the Labour Party? What about communities? Really don’t wanna see a return to the lockdown semi Stasi attitudes and behaviour, rare but there nevertheless. 

I don’t know who said it, though it was repeated in Tahrir in the autumn of 2011, we either go backward or forward. We cannot stay here. Of course as “Nothing is constant except change.” So what will it be?

We are seeing how we will have to fight to see our way out of Covid to hold onto decent jobs, pay, dignity and justice. Nurses have been carved out of the public sector pay review. They have been on the streets.  While culture workers are taking on the might of the Southbank and the Tate. Workers in out cultural institutions need our support. Art is essential. You can donate to the strike fund for the latter here.  Poetry on the Picket line are all over this check their Facebook page for updateshttps://en-gb.facebook.com/PicketLinePoets/

And the beloved poetry library on the Southbank has been put on ice! National Poetry Library SOS #NPLSOS

“We, the International Poetry Community, have grave concerns about the future of the UK’s National Poetry Library in the wake of Southbank Centre’s ruthless redundancy programme. The imminent job cuts and operational plans will ensure the library’s physical collection remains inaccessible to the public until at least April 2021. There will be no remote enquiry service. This will seriously undermine its essential operations along with its mission to collect all poetry published in the UK…”

Please circulate and sign this Poetry library petition https://www.change.org/p/southbank-centre-national-poetry-library-sos-nplsos

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Diary: October 2020

Diary: October 2020

Thursday 1st October is National Poetry Day. The theme is vision. They’ll be a whole lot going on. Write, read or #ShareAPoem more info

Monday 5th October 7.30pm

Poets for the Planet meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88608358240

Sunday 11th October 7.30pm

Joining Poetry from the Grassroots: Spoken Word for social Justice this month with with special guest Mr Gee, hosted by Mark “Mr T” Thompson and Steve Tasane 

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3998944394?pwd=Smtzei9EeWpudU5weWoxTDQ2a2k0UT09

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Comment: There’s no Pret on a dead planet

Comment: There’s no Pret on a dead planet

The Standard reported a week ago, “Free train, Tube and bus rides considered to incentivise Londoners to return to shops and offices.” Seriously what is this obsession with getting people back to work in offices? I’m not knocking free public transport just the reason for introducing it. Clearly the workers have voted with their feet. Quite lit-er-al-ly. And who can blame them. My experience of commuting in London was pure hell. Especially the tube. No one wants to stand nose to armpit for 30-45 minutes everyday. The constant danger of being groped, the bad breath, the scrum to get on, the struggle to get off. 

Office culture – is that really something to crave? Ive worked in advice centres, which were offices of sorts but I hardly imagine large open plan offices with social life confined to the water dispenser are life enhancing. We keep hearing poor Pret – oh please! Is that what London is really about. If, when, it’s ever in ruins will the archeologists of the day whoop with glee – I think I’ve found the remains of a Costa Coffee, of a Starbucks or a Pret a Manger? No, I don’t think so. 

One great thing about the lockdown was it gave us pause for thought. A kinda ccreboot or perhaps it was just a refrag. We focused on what really mattered; those you love, health and wellbeing, a responsibility for self and others, a growing respect for key workers. Not to mention a (somewhat enforced) reduction in the compensatory, ego boosting, often pointless and sometimes puerile consumerism that arguably feeds and conceals the neoliberal nightmare we’ve been living in now for some 40 years. 

Let’s have more of that say the Tories, consume, consume, BUY YOUR MORNING COFFEE. Man are they panicking. They’re tried Eat to Help Out, (as a slogan that really sucks as a policy is questionable.) I’ve seen posters plugging the merits of office life, and now this. BUT why else the panic? Because they want us to be happy? Really? And who is gonna pay the transport workers? Don’t worry about them, Give them a pay cut! How about some redundancies! 

There’s a climate emergency and a) the government haven’t the time to debate The Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill immediately introduced by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas but they make time to discuss this piece of unnecessary social engineering and b) simultaneously introduce more carbon burning measures. People have to travel to the offices don’t they? 

The CEE Bill has been tabled for a second reading and a debate on the 12th March 2021. This is good though in my opinion no debate is needed. Let’s not forget how during lockdown we embraced the clean air, the silences, heard the birds sing again… THERES NO PRET ON A DEAD PLANET. Yeah that.

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Writing prompt: Darth Vader bugs as big as puppies

Writing prompt: Darth Vader bugs as big as puppies

This is a great one to play with! Bounce off that image or the headline, or make “skitter off the sea bottom” your first line. If you like write from the point of view of an isopod, what a great word!

Set a timer for fifteen minutes and freewrite and see where it takes you. Once you have a draft, consider what you have just made. Is it for just for fun?  Or does it feel it desires development, does it welcome a form?

Rules of the freewrite: Just write, don’t think. Keep your hand moving, don’t stop or cross out, don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Don’t think, just write, follow the words just see what comes.

Massive ‘Darth Vader’ sea bug pulled from waters near Indonesia

“Buglike marine creatures that skitter across the sea bottom can grow to be as big as puppies, and a newly described species is one of the largest ever seen.

These crustaceans are known as isopods; the order Isopoda includes around 10,000 species that live in diverse habitats on land and in the ocean, and they can range in size from just a few millimeters to nearly 20 inches (500 mm) long. Of the ocean-dwelling isopods, the genus Bathynomus contains the biggest species; the newfound isopod, which turned up in the Indian Ocean in 2018, is among the largest of the Bathynomus species ever seen in the wild.

Named Bathynomus raksasa (“rakasa” is the Indonesian word for “giant”), the sizable sea bug measures about 13 inches (330 mm) in length, on average. It is the first new giant isopod species to be described in more than a decade, and is the first of these isopod behemoths to be found in waters near Indonesia, scientists reported in a new study.”

anne-enith-cooper-poetry-writing-prompt-image-copyright-sjades-2018

Anterior view of Bathynomus raksasa, a new species of giant isopod.
(Image: © SJADES 2018)

https://www.livescience.com/supergiant-isopod-newfound-species.html

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Comment: Disruption? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

Comment: Disruption? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

As XR begin a new rebellion already I hear cries of let us just get on with it. If you feel XR are disruptive or even Covid has disrupted our lives, and sorry to lapse into cliche, you ain’t seen nothing yet! I don’t want be the harbinger of doom, gloom and disaster but we all really gotta get real. There’s gonna be no baking of banana bread to get us out of climate change gone unchecked. The disruption it can bring will make Covid disruption look like a walk in the park, which it kinda was for a lot of us, except of course the bereaved, the essential workers and many, so many in the global south. 

Recently I’ve been wondering what the wild temperature swings could be doing to crops. Like one day it’s 35 degrees next day it’s 19. Not too mention our bodies. This article, Cereal yields set to hit 30-year low as weather takes toll explores the effect of the extreme weather variations across the year and the results. Think a few days of supermarket stockpiling at the beginning of lockdown was bad? What if there’s nothing to fill the empty shelves? 

There is a solution and it’s simple. #ActNow. This is an emergency! 

The effects of the climate emergency are being felt right now all over the world. The last ice sheet in Canada was lost a few weeks ago. California is on fire, floods in India are of an unprecedented size. In the Amazon, the lungs of the world, more and more land is being lost to loggers every day. I won’t be surprised if the plagues of locusts swarming over at least three countries in East Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia) is done to the mad global weather. And in the midst of a pandemic do you think war has stopped? Look at Palestine. Look at Yemen.

Man it almost feels biblical. What makes the end of days a new beginning? Us! Just us! Justice. Social justice, equality, dignity, empathy, peace and a just transition to a low carbon, fossil fuel free world. We are the 99.99%. Mother Earth is screaming for help. Or we can just take the attitude fuck it all, our children are the last generation, so what! Or we can act.

Some days I wonder if we deserve this planet, y’know that scene in the Matrix I when Smith is torturing Morpheus??? We have a choice. It’s as simple as that. We are, potentially, all Neo. I know deep down everyone feels love in their heart, everyone loves someone, love is what we need now. And love is an action. Love is an action. Love is an action. Love is the way #ActNow #Unity #DemandAJustTransition

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Diary: September 2020

Diary: September 2020

Dates for the diary 

I was hoping August would be down time, but in a world where everything was on pause, in a funny kind of way though we were stopped it felt nothing stopped. I was plotting to escape next week to a wonderful retreat in the mountains in Andalucia, but the tutor got sick. So that was that. Perhaps for the best as am still experiencing significant fatigue and a bucket full of self doubt.

Stop press: Am off to Italy! It’s all been last min but going to a yoga retreat at Casa Stop press: Am off to Italy! It’s all been last min but going to a yoga retreat at Casa Amrita in Abruzzo. It looks amazing. 

September greets us with an XR rebellion in London, Cardiff and Manchester. All month long. Central to this is a call to Parliament to back the The Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (CEE Bill), with actions in  Parliament Square  1st September 12.00pm – 5th September 5.00pm. For a list of all events see https://extinctionrebellion.uk/act-now/events/ 

Sunday 6th September 4.00 – 5.30pm 

Live from the Butchery presents Sophie Herxheimer, Rishi Dastidar with Kevin Reid

Tis is a pay what you can event with live poetry.  Here’s the link: https://paypal.me/pools/c/8rZuZvDpqM Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82269359284?pwd=RE9TS2grbmhRYVVCU1NjeHdZbGI4QT09

14 – 21 September 2020

The 2020 Tell It Slant Poetry FestivalA new one on me but again with “slant” in the title gotta be worth check out. 

Hosted by The Emily Dickinson Museum  The schedule is out now and includes headliners Ada Limón, Jericho Brown, Kimaya Diggs, Franny Choi, Shayla Lawson, and as is tradition, the Emily Dickinson Marathon! 

Space is limited, so make sure to sign up for individual programs in advance: bit.ly/TellItSlant2020

#amwriting mostly about wellbeing 

#amreading The Craft: A Guide to Making Poetry Happen in the 21st Century Edited by Rishi Dastidar on sale at the mo for £9.99

https://www.ninearchespress.com/shop.html#!/The-Craft-A-Guide-to-Making-Poetry-Happen-in-the-21st-Century-Edited-by-Rishi-Dastidar/p/154027137/category=8486213

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The struggle continues: Report from Reel News on NHS action on public sector pay

The struggle continues: Report from Reel News on NHS action on public sector pay

The pandemic has thrown a light on inequality in the U.K. and worldwide. In the U.K. the government seem determined to entrench rather than ameliorate inequality with breathtakingly callous actions regarding the NHS. Not content to reinstate parking charges for hospital staff they have carved them out of a public sector pay rise see this report from Reel News

“Anger over NHS workers being left out of a public sector pay rise is spreading throughothe country. The Brighton demo seen here was one of forty demonstrations all over the UK, the biggest one being in London (photos at end of video).

This campaign is completely rank and file and nurses led, but huge respect to GMB Southern Region for supporting the call for a 15% pay rise and a ballots across all unions for strike action. As they say in the video: if your union is not preparing to ballot you, contact them en masse to demand that they do.

The next actions are on Wednesday August 26, a day for nationwide workplace rallies at NHS hospitals and community services. Keep up to date with the campaign using the links at the end of the video.” See https://www.facebook.com/ReelNews/

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Poems by others: Jericho Brown

Poems by others: Jericho Brown

The US poet Jericho Brown reads two his powerful Pulitzer Prize Winning Poems here https://youtu.be/r9LGIbG5o3Y

“Beauty abounds in Jericho Brown’s Pulitzer Prize winning collection, despite the evil that pollutes the everyday. The Tradition questions why and how we’ve become “accustomed to terror: in the bedroom, the classroom, the workplace, and the movie theater. From mass shootings to rape to the murder of unarmed people by police, Brown interrupts complacency by locating each emergency in the garden of the body, where living things grow and wither—or survive. In the urgency born of real danger, Brown’s work is at its most innovative. His invention of the duplex—a combination of the sonnet, the ghazal, and the blues—is an all-out exhibition of formal skill, and his lyrics move through elegy and memory with a breathless cadence. Jericho Brown is a poet of eros: here he wields this power as never before, touching the very heart of our cultural crisis.”https://www.jerichobrown.com/

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Hello Dad

Hello Dad

Today would have been my fathers 86 birthday. Almost 12 years ago Dad silently slipped away. Approx 1.00pm on the 6/9/2008. The death certificate says the ninth, we all knew that was wrong but does it matter? A bit of detective work on my part over the days immediately following his death  revealed he had his hair cut that morning so was in his best togs and cheerful according to the hairdresser that popped in that day at 11.00. Later he cooked, ate and washed up; evidence: one pan, one plate to the side of the draining board, one knife, one folk, a potato peeler and a serving spoon stood like soldiers next to them on this stainless steel draining board in the fitted kitchen he designed and installed. DIY must have been named after him, he did the lot, including the central heating.

Dad’s life by this time had become one long repetitive routine, up at 6.00am, drink tea and doze in his chair. A banana for breakfast at 9.00 and more tea. Radio 4 all morning, blaring out as he found it hard to hear above the tinnitus. At 11.30  he would start making dinner, a couple of slices of cooked meat, boiled potatoes and one veg; carrots, broccoli or peas. Then the TV would go on at midday and he would sit in front of that flickering screen and have a couple of beers, cheap Carlsberg, bought in bulk from Tesco’s, decanted into a pint mug and doze again. At 5.30 he would make himself a sandwich and a cup of tea. Have another beer at 6.00, one at 8.00, one at 10.00pm. We found a crate of 48 cans of lager in the larder, half a dozen of pale ales and a couple of bottles of Theakston Old Peculier, that pretty much took care of the wake.

His life had shrunk to this and it pained me to watch it. I’d notice how he’d glance at the clock, when the little hand reached the top at certain hours,  heave himself out of the chair and go and pour himself a beer. When I visited lunch times was adjusted to 1.00pm. I could see the strain, he would be on edge. I took what must have seemed strange fare to share with him; hummus, kiwi fruits and mango, peppered mackerel, cherry yogurt and tiramisu, courgettes and cherry tomatoes,  Brie and blue veined smelly cheeses, black beans, spaghetti and wild rice and wild mushrooms. It took a lot of encouragement but he would try them to give him credit.

I would also take a couple of bottles of craft beer, which I knew he likes, the more obscurely named the better. Trouble is he didn’t drink for the joy of it anymore. This was methodical self medication. A few beers used to pull humour from him, he’d say, to us kids, “Ohhhh, the moon is full tonight, I goes mad when the moon is full, I gets hairs on the back of my hands. Ask yer mum, she’ll tell you. Have you got hairs on the back of your hands? We’d look down at our baby hands and at each other. He’d imitate a howl, prowl round the room until mum chuckling said, “Oh, Tom stop it, you’ll scare them!” But I could tell she loved it. Loved him being like that, not work worn from overtime, swearing under his breath on every step of the steep stairs, doing what she called his, “Alf Garnets,” which we could never work out if he was serious about or not he was a Labour man at heart. 

Many times I’d say, “You really should drink water, you can’t just live on tea and beer, what about your kidneys….” His response was always the same, “This modern fad/ nonsense – they didn’t drink water in the middle ages, they all drank beer, even kids, the water killed them.” Why had I no response to this I don’t know. Why couldn’t I say, “ Yer and they dropped dead at 35, don’t be ridiculous. A joke was what was needed here. “Fresh air kills,” was another of his obscure comments that baffled me as he’d fling open the windows, summer or winter. I see that now, defying him was beyond me then. Unknown to me then, at the time of his death by heart failure, he was in stage 4 of what is known as Chronic Kidney Disease, diagnosed at some point earlier that year. His kidneys must have been like wrinkled raisins.

I figure he got the diagnosis about the time I was experiencing a bout of excruciating anxiety and depression. Torn and crushed by an intercontinental love thing gone in a labyrinth of misunderstanding, anger, fear and agony and the task of organising a book launch. I told Dad how wretched I felt.  It was the first time I’d ever done that. Why then I don’t know; I was worried sick about him. I went to bed pretty much every night those four years after Mum died imagining him stumbling on the stairs, laying in a crumpled heap at the bottom, perhaps still conscious, unable to move. I noticed a wobble in his gait as he shuffled across the living room making his way to go upstairs. The stairs would creak under his weight. Perhaps  I was hoping he too would open up, I could see his suffering but couldn’t find a way in to ask how do you really feel?

Only now I recognise he too was ravaged by the two headed monster we merely call anxiety and depression. And that even then I still really needed his approval and acceptance. Needed him to understand why I was struggling, why it had taken me so long to get so not very far. One time when I mentioned my writing he said, gruffly  “Stop playing at it,” I was devastated, I had been published for the first time, submitting  regular film reviews to Creative Week., a monthly publication now defunct.  This seemed to count for nothing because I was only paid expenses. Now I see I was learning my craft not failing. When the editor offered me a paid job I turned it down, took a teaching position instead. I was too ill to do both. Mum was dying and, and what? I guess I wanted to show her, before she left, I had a “proper job” and not prove her wrong, because although she supported my writing by then the message from my teenage years still had a hold on me – people like us… 

When I surveyed that empty room after he’d gone, after swiftly packing a bag and racing for a train it echoed of emptiness. I asked myself, “Where is his beer mug?” It puzzled me for years. Why the rush I don’t know, he was already dead, of course yes I do know; I had to get there before anyone removed the evidence, vital clues. I packed irrationally taking along with meds and toothbrush, my camera, Wellington boots for the garden, post it notes, the latter why?  He had asked me at some point to label the filing cabinet in large print as his sight was going with the cataracts.

I realised yesterday his beer mug would have been on the round table next to him, the one he made for his mum and dad that now sits at my bedside. I guess my brother had moved it when he found my dad. It would have been the sort of thing he would have done; pour away the stale beer before the undertaker arrived. I meant to ask him last night but it hardly seemed timely after seeing Romeo and Juliette top themselves. Or perhaps it was. For my part I disposed of the packs of paracetamol I found in the bedroom and bathroom, the empty packs in the waist paper basket upstairs and down. Evidence that his last weeks were spend in pain. The sciatica I assume. That was just too much to bear or share with siblings that couldn’t cope with too much reality.

How did I know the precise time? Besides the routine, there next to him was the Radio Times. In his own peculiar bordering-on-obsessive way he’d circle the shows he wanted to listen to or see. It was open at the TV page, which I have somewhere with the trinkets, coins and some of the sweet little gifts he’d give us. Never at birthdays or Christmas just as and when. A silvered bottle opener in the shape of a dolphin keeps company with the concave breadboard scoured with age in my kitchen.

In those last years so lonely and so alone. So unable to speak his grief he softened. One time we were watching the football, a women’s league or perhaps the final. One of the players; lanky with dreads that reached half way down her back, hammered the ball into the back of the net from way outside the 18 yard box. For a moment I froze. Expectant. Preparing a response to something like, “Bloody wogs, a wonder when she got off the banana boat?” I glanced at him and he said, “Good goal!” Nodding with genuine approval. That father had died a long time before.

He endured Lara Croft with me and joked about it. A good bad film. Sometimes I could get him to step into the garden with me. I knew it was pointless to ask him so I’d go out and pull at endless streams of ivy and bind wind that was smothering the evergreens. Eventually he would come out and watch, standing their silent,  smoking. He’d smoke, incidentally, the day long. Any comment on this fell on deaf ears. Fell on excuses, the patches itch he’d say, I guess when you smoke and where a patch that’s quite likely!

He wasn’t entirely alone he would tell me about the visits from his sister, my sister, he rarely had a good word for either of them. He’d tell me about visits from Emma and the twins from next door whom he adored, a feeling which was obviously mutual. At ten years old I guess it may have been the first funeral for the twins; identical like his brothers, but blonde with apple skin. Emma had dressed them impeccably, I don’t know how she could afford it, and they each carried a red rose to place on the coffin.

At the wake the girls wriggled together in his armchair giggling. One of them said to me, “I can see him, he’s there” and pointed to the ceiling, I had no idea what she really meant. I imagine now, he must have been pulling faces, relishing in making them laugh. Someone put on Charlie Parker, maybe me. I can remember the times he’d said, “Have you heard of Charlie Parker? The Bird they called him. Now he was great.”  (It is entirely possible he didn’t realise The Bird was black….)  When he said this I would look at him blankly with no context for this comment. I might say, “Oh.” With the advent of the internet I googled it and bought a three CD set for him one Christmas. It was unopened until the wake.

Despite all the shit from siblings the family expect Christian funeral, (he was a committed atheist) he got the send off he wanted in the end. I looked around the room and saw so much laughter and colour; the funeral dress code was wear what you like.  Kinda New Orleans style, like the movie, what was the movie, one of the Bond movies. He’d say, “When I go, I wanna go like that,” At first I’d cring, not wanting to know about that, or say, “Da-ad, don’t!” Eventually I could manage a weak smile.

Truth is he never really left I reckon til last year. Not being a believer guess he probably wondered what the hell was going on. Emma told me that night, when his body woulda still be turning cold, one of the pencils he gave the girls, engraved with their names, flew across the room and landed at her feet.

A year ago in Andalusia, I decided to do something about this. One night I met him at the foot of the mountain I could see from bedroom window at the writing retreat. Slowly we made our way to the top. He grumbled all the way. It took a very long time believe me. At the summit I said, “Look can’t you see they are all waiting for you?” Mum and his parents stood together reaching out. I’m not sure how he got up there because, though he grew lighter as we ascended, I could hardly have lifted him, he had a build like John Wayne, and no angels came down shimmering, but somehow in the end he reached up and he was gone. Incidentally since that time the heavy fatigue I’ve experienced for 30 odd years has almost entirely left me.i guess I’d carried him all those years. Before mum died she said, “Look after your Dad, keep an eye on Michael and be gentle with Sue.”  Who was looking after me?

He comes here sometimes, I can smell him. We rarely talk. Well, there is some kind of soundless exchange that makes meaning and sometimes words.  If we did would it still be one sided? He used to berate what he called “the talkers,” These were the experts, novelists, Nobel prize winners, appearing on radio 4. “Never done a proper job like me what do they know! They just talk, They know nothing!” And I cant help wondering what he thinks when he sees me now; talking or performing, to audiences or on radio. Am I now just another “talker” to him. Something tells me not if he has continued to soften, to lighten.

To those who couldn’t or wouldn’t see him. Refused to cross the threshold of that smoky room. It is your loss. I feel sorry for you. I forgive you. Sometimes I can’t, its a process. When it is particularly hard, I fall back on, as Tara Brach says, “though I cannot forgive you now it is my intention to forgive.”

I made my peace with Dad sometime ago, the moon was full as it is now. I heard myself say, “It’s ok, I understand now, there’s is nothing to forgive.” He looked down, a slight frown on his face. He floated maybe a few feet from the floor, I had to look up to see his face, the rest of his form in distinct. “Dad,” I said, “You almost look like the Cheshire Cat!”

He smiled and said, “Well then, you must be Alice.”

“No Enith,” I replied. “ Sometimes I feel like Alice…”

“They’re all maaad you know, all maaaaad!” He said with a wicked grin. And with that he faded away. I knew he would be back.

I’m pretty sure he’s here right now.

Excerpt from Conversations with my Father, a work in progress.

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Diary: August 2020

Diary: August 2020

And so it goes on we stare at an uncertain future. Life goes on but it’s not life as we have known it before. Following months of government intransigence, incompetence, we now see sudden and what I can only call back of the envelope decisions with little evidence base and absolutely no regard for the chaos it causes people regarding local lockdowns and travel corridors.

Meanwhile I take much joy in seeing the fruits of my labour in the garden, not that my labours have been that arduous. In fact I take little credit for what I see emerge. The growth I witness seems little short of miraculous to see the effect of water, fresh air, soil and sunshine. I’m responsible only for the watering, the rest is I guess is divine influence and science, yes of course. Gardening is the gift that just keeps on giving.

Some dates for the diary

Tuesday 4th August, 6.30pm

Poets for the Planet meeting see https://www.facebook.com/groups/poets4theplanet/? ref=share

Thursday 13th August, 7.30pm

Gonna check out Talks from an Empty Bookshop with Booker prize winner DBC Pierre at the Bookseller Crow on the Hill Crow https://youtu.be/PmfTZu98cqk

Friday 16th August 8pm

Joining Poetry from the Grass Roots again on the open mike. The format is five open mikes either side of a special guest. On this occasion the special guest is the talented ShortMAN see https://facebook.com/events/s/poetry-from-the-grassroots-fea/739610353274864/?ti=icl for the zoom link nearer the time

At a recent meeting for Poets for the Planet we discussed promoting diversity and our #BeginAfresh campaign. I have been slow to come to this as I’ve been having a Twitter break for the sake of my mental health which is still a bit shaky but much improved. We’re writing and sharing poems about how we change our lives to combat the climate crisis. You are welcome to join us. It’s also a place to share nature poems, eco poetry by yourself or others.

More info poetsfortheplanet.org/begin-afresh/

I recommend reading this eloquent and inspiring Q&A with poet John McCullough and Extinction Rebellion  https://writersrebel.com/johnmccullough/

 

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Corona and philosophy

Corona and philosophy

Recently I read Corona Becomes First Major Beer Company to Adopt Edible 6-Pack Rings that Feed, Rather than Kill, Fish

Well done you guys! Though it’s better in a bottle to be fair.

Reading this brought back memories of Zipoliti, Mejico, 1987. Sitting at Casa Teofila one night with two fishermen and Carlito, a mystic who makes jewellery from found objects on the beach and a guy who travels back and forth from the US for a reason he is reluctant to disclose.  “Import – export,” is all he would say.

We had been hanging out a while when a large rumbling rumbling vehicle drives by, it transpires it’s spraying the wilting crops. It’s been three years without significant rainfall, but they are spraying, I’m told, pesticides. No one mentions this instead everyone puts his thumb in the top of his bottle of Corona and gestures to me to do the same. I’m like, “Porque, que pasa?” Then the explanation comes.

I’m thinking what the hell are we breathing in then? Attempt to ask; I don’t know the conditional tense but it’s understood in any case. “Eh, no pasa nada Anita.” Roughly this translates as, “Nothing to worry about.” Shrugs all round. So Mexican. Hate to generalise.

Perhaps so Zipoliti, where the rubbish was not collected because of an oversight by the government according to some. Instead it’s just dumped in the bushes, the place where many would have a shit, where the travellers were directed to have a shit, where the few pigs ate the shit. One time I was startled by an inquisitive pig.

Zipoliti where garlic is a cure all. Have a cut; wash with seawater and wipe with a clove. Have a fever, take garlic soup with a raw egg broken and stirred. Eat a clove a day, come what may.

Ziploliti where there was so much intrigue, love and magic. On the wall of Teofilas was a representation of the yin yang sign – two lizards each chasing the tail of the other. The mystery of the import – exporter was revealed when Teofila had to go to the bank in Puetro Angel, the next village, and white lines appeared on the table. I heard one of them say, “Que precioso, el rosa!”

Many of my questions to local people would be followed by a shrug. Followed by my childlike, “ But why?” The answer was always the same, “Asi es,” it is what it is. I found this mildly frustrating the acceptance of so much poverty, unsanitary conditions and neglect. One afternoon Carlito took me to a meal on the beach. I appeared to be the guest of honour. A pretty grand affair. Fresh fish, fresh lobster and crab and salads and of course tequila.

Small children, hard to say their ages, ran around the table but didn’t join us. I couldn’t help noticing some of them had bald patches on the head. I asked our host why. “They don’t get enough vitamins… asi es.” Suddenly I didn’t feel very hungry. All this show for the gringita, I was the only woman at the table, why? It was often hard to know who to trust, to know their motivation.

In general I found the locals hard to read. Teofila was sometimes gruff with me but as a single parent with four children and a restaurant to maintain that is not surprising. Our arrangement was washing up a few hours a day for a hammock. Travellers came and went. Some Europeans settled there were the Swiss guys who only seemed to have one interest which was to buy weed, smoke weed and sell weed.  Their main man, Guru, the others told me lived on a rock for a month, they pointed it out to me. This perplexed me how do you live on a rock? How?

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Image by  Paula McInerney from https://www.contentedtraveller.com/zipolite-mexico-outside-front-door/


Of those I met only Carlito I truly trusted so one night when the moon was full, the tides were high and a storm approaching he asked me had I tried peyote, would I like to try it? Of course I said yes. As we sat on the beach he said, “Are you ready to meet the little man?” I imagined it would look like a mandrake but inside he pulled from one of his many pockets something which looked like a dried button mushroom.

In 1953 Aldous Huxley first tried mescaline under the supervision of the psychiatrist Humphry Osmond. He described the experience in The Doors of Perception published the following year. He documents it showed him “for a few timeless hours the outer and the inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large … an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual.”

I had yet to read this and had no idea I was about to enter another reality, another realm I still have access to. It opened doors of perception that have never really closed, I understood asi es on a whole other level, but that is another story recorded in my poem Que Onda in the unfinished mini collection Violent Beauty.

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Star Trek quotes for our time

Star Trek quotes for our time

I had no idea Star Trek quotes were a thing! Some of them seem to suggest time travel is indeed (possibly) I found the following

On the 45th

“Believing oneself to be perfect is often the sign of a delusional mind.”

Data, to Borg Queen, Star Trek: First Contact

On by BoJo

“If I can have honesty, it’s easier to overlook mistakes.”

Kirk, “Space Seed”


On climate change

“Curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want.”

Spock, Star Trek

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Poem: Ode to Earth

Poem: Ode to Earth

My garden is not much bigger

than a cats toilet and all too often

used as one. Locked down,

growing is our therapy. Pots, planters,

any patch of ground will do.

It’s the warmest April on record

but no ones talking about that.

I have seeds to sow,  first sigh deeply,

bow my head, dutifully

shovel up the cat shit and notice

a migrant strawberry plant that has mysteriously

taken root is already in flower.


Wrote this some time during lockdown when, like so many of us, I found the gift that is growing things. I’ve begun to appreciate the healing it brings especially in the circumstances of so much death and suffering. I planted wildflowers, jasmine, lavender and a sunflower. The sunflower was a gift from a neighbour, the lavender, a cutting from another neighbour, has not fared well but the rest is a riot and a daily sense of wonder. I’m blessed to live in a place with such generous neighbours.

anne-enith-cooper-poetry-photography-wellbeing-time-happy-alive

A poem and blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Diary: July 2020

Diary: July 2020

As lockdown eases I reflect on lockdown achievements which pretty much boil down to getting an even tan, growing a sunflower to the heady height of three foot (so far) and mastering the yoga headstand. Ok there has been a few poems, a couple of open mics, a couple of black lives matter protests. I must not forget I entered lockdown with a considerable amount of anxiety, depression, IBS, insomnia and fatigue, before I get all judgey on myself.

Much of this has abated due to a cocktail of daily meditation and yoga, bit of walking, smoothies and supplements. Going anywhere is still an achievement given my current energy levels, the fatigue is the last symptom of my recent malaise to shift entirely. Nevertheless this month sees me returning to Groundswell  working from home on their citizen journalism project with https://onourradar.org/

While pubs and restaurants are due to reopen we are urged by the clown that  masquerades as our premiere to show restraint, his actual words being, “Let’s not blow it now,”  So just when you thought government advise could not get anymore fuzzy than the lamentable, “Stay alert,” here you have it. And of course if it all goes horribly wrong it’s all our fault for getting carried away. That message is coming over loud and clear.

anne-enith-cooper-poetry-photography-lockdown-ease-july-2020

Though pubs comes only second only to hugs (and perhaps the hairdresser) as things I missed during lockdown can’t see myself in a pub anytime soon but am boosted by the announcement that international travel is due to open up and I allow myself the luxury of contemplating a return to Cortijo Romero Andalusia, Spain, due to reopen this month, for some spiritual sustenance. Perhaps in the autumn…..

Dates for the diary

Hope to get along to the Poets for the planet meeting taking place Tuesday 7th July, waiting for a link. Recently found this link to our Poets for the Planet visit to Resonance FM on international women’s day about a week before lockdown https://m.mixcloud.com/Resonance/poets-for-the-planet-8th-march-2020/ 

anne-enith-cooper-poetry-photography-poets-for-the-planet-2020Image Henry Beaumont

Taking some poetic wisdom to Brixton Bookjam at the Virtual Lambeth Country show in the Literature Village https://lambethcountryshow.co.uk/ Sunday July 19th from 6-7pm alongside Ashley Hickson Lovence, Bryan Beadyman, Elizabeth Okoh, Zelda Rhiando and others. More info http://www.brixtonbookjam.com/ To join go to http://tinyurl.com/bookjam use password ‘hello’ or Facebook Live #brixtonbookjam

anne-enith-cooper-poetry-photography-brixton-bookjam-july-2020

#amreading Nine Gates: Essays by Jane Hirshfield

#amwriting a bit more about wellbeing, watch this space

Writing prompt: Lost lizard found after 10-day, 4-kilometre hike through Winnipeg

Writing prompt: Lost lizard found after 10-day, 4-kilometre hike through Winnipeg

Play with this one; use the headline or image as a prompt. Set a timer for ten, fifteen or twenty minutes and freewrite and see where it takes you. Then consider what you have just made. Is it for just for fun, or does it feel it needs development, does it welcome a form?

Rules of the freewrite. Keep your hand moving, don’t stop or cross out, don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Don’t think, just write, follow the words just see what comes.

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https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/bearded-dragon-lost-winnipeg-st-boniface-wayward-1.5624792

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Photography: Let’s go fly a kite

Photography: Let’s go fly a kite

anne-enith-cooper-photography-summer-kite-flying-01-2015

Strikes me the kite is a metaphor for our existence;  the sight of a kite fills one with a joyous buoyancy, a moment to pause, to escape. Yet it is an illusion of freedom, the kite like us earthbound during, as some would call it, this earth walk, this life.

This image was created with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20 in 2015 with x20 zoom fully extended. Shot in Brockwell Park. This is a great little pocket camera, very light and  versatile.  It has since died and been replaced.

Diary: June 2020

Diary: June 2020

May slams into June in a blaze of protest originating in Minneapolis, Minnesota  as a black man called George Floyd dies after being held with a knee against his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.  Black Lives Matter protests sweep across the USA, through Europe to Hong Kong and Australia. They are large, they are young and they are racially mixed. More than solidarity the protests respond to their national and local issues. We meet in Windrush Square Brixton to take a knee. Statues fall and a million conversations blossom.

Health still not great and as the sunshine that had been sustaining me gives way to bleak grey skies my mood drops. I hear the air ambulance less often of a night. I plant a herb garden and feel abnormally proud of it. I’m given a tomato plant and find myself on trend if the number of tomato memes are anything to go by. Watching the miracle of growth is an antidote in the presence of so much death. Only the USA and Brazil exceeds the U.K. in coronavirus deaths at the time of writing.

anne-enith-cooper-poetry-photography-tomato-power

The lockdown appears to be easing but are we ready? Non essential shops open 14th June because the shopping experience is so vital, like air, like water, like what? Like non- essential items one assumes. We are all so easily seduced it would seem. I include myself in this. On the way home from a blood test I buy a day glow pink football in Poundland because it’s pretty along with knickers and hand sanitiser.

On this date it is reported the UK coronavirus death toll rises by 36– the smallest daily increase since lockdown began however four days later  it’s back up to 135, taking the total to 42,288

The UK strategy is under scrutiny yet still the blustering and blathering prevails. Our test and trace, which barely exists, is world beating we are told. Yeah right.

Some articles of interest

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2237475-covid-19-death-rates-twice-as-high-in-englands-most-deprived-areas/

https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/bame-covid-19-deaths-what-do-we-know-rapid-data-evidence-review/

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2020/06/how-uk-has-been-left-worst-all-worlds-over-covid-19

And of course it is the 36 month anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire on the 14th June. Still so many in temporary accommodation, still so many homes with unsafe cladding, still no arrests, no prosecutions.

anne-enith-cooper-poetry-photography-grenfell

Some dates for the diary

On the solstice weekend we have We Love the Betsey 20th June 6-10pm https://youtu.be/4sHxUi7Day0

and Poetry from the Grassroots 21st June 7.30 – 10pm https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3998944394?pwd=Smtzei9EeWpudU5weWoxTDQ2a2k0UT09

#amreading The Temple of My Familar by Alice Walker and Natives by Akala

#amwriting about the breathe, about liberty and justice, but if I’m honest it’s not exactly flowing.

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Wellbeing and mental health: Gratitude practice

Wellbeing and mental health: Gratitude practice

The pandemic has focused attention on our health in both mind and body. This is a good thing. Generally speaking in “advanced” capitalist society’s we tend to treat our mind/body as a resource to plunder rather than something to nurture and maintain. The result is seen in higher and higher cancer ratesandmental health conditions, both serious and common. It is widely documented that the pandemic has furtherIncreased the latter.

We are in societies where profit is put before people therefore it should come as no surprise that during the pandemic we’ve seen political decisions that appear to put livelihoods before lives.  While it is important to challenge political decisions with action there are things we can do personally to weather the storm of this uncertain time and the fears and anxieties it has produced.

What is gratitude practice?

One recognised method is keeping a gratitude journal, or just writing in a regular journal and making a note of at least three things, or just one to begin with, for which we are thankful about during the day that has just passed before you go to bed or the following morning.

Alternatively write on scraps of paper and put it in a jar.

Write on post it’s and pin them to a wall.

Share your experiences with family or friends around the kitchen table.

Create and share in a private facebook group for your nearest and dearest.

How can it help?

Many studies have demonstrated that a gratitude practice reduces stress, anxiety and depression and boosts feelings of optimism, happiness and ability to cope.

“People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.”

From https://www.happify.com/hd/the-science-behind-gratitude/

Little things matter

We tend to focus on the negative particularly if we are stressed or anxious. Perhaps it’s been a good day until a neighbour blows up at you about your ivy growing over their porch. Instead of letting all the good be blocked out by this black cloud, take a deep breath consider what else happened? Reflect on the taste of your morning coffee, a kind message on a card from an aunt, the woman on the bus that complimented your bag, a great song you heard for the first time on the radio, and write it down. Be specific as possible.

Basically the more we are grateful for the more we notice things around like the delicate white flowers springing from the hedgerow on the way to the shop or the scudding clouds in the deep red sunset you can see from the kitchen.

The sciencey bit

Practicing gratitude is a form of positive psychology. It doesn’t mean denying any difficult feelings experienced or ignoring any abuse. It just means reducing the tendency to focus on the negative and rebalancing your perceptions. It won’t, on its own, tackle poverty or injustice or inequality but it can equip you to take on all or any challenges even if it’s just the rude and annoying neighbour. It moves your brain from vacillating between the drive and threat functions into soothe. More about that in another post.

More info https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain

Seriously technical study on the subject here

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16045394/

 

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Wellbeing and good mental health during the Covid-19 lockdown: Applying the Five Ways of Wellbeing

Wellbeing and good mental health during the Covid-19 lockdown: Applying the Five Ways of Wellbeing

We’ve all seen the movies where a virus sweeps the world and a geeky looking kid from a single parent family in a trailer park has the antidote in his blood and when he’s rescued from the bad guys, who plan to profiteer from it, by a band of eccentrics it’s all over in a couple of days, the kids parents get back together and everyone is saved.

 Yet this is the real thing; the UK has been on lockdown a month and some of us face being at home for many more. How can we look after ourselves at this time? We are social beings, not used to anything like this. It’s not just our physical health at risk in this unprecedented situation. Fears for our health and isolation can impact very badly on mental health. Health professionals are predicting a mental health crisis if this goes on. The advice from the Lambeth Living Well Network Alliance for good mental health is called the Five Ways to Wellbeing: Connect, Take Notice, Give, Be Active, Keep Learning.  Let’s have a look at how these can apply at this time.

Connect

This may be our biggest challenge for those at home. On the upside all you need is a mobile phone to video chat with friends and family using WhatsApp or Messenger free, download with one click from the App Store. Get creative, hold a pizza party, turn your living room into a night club or hold a quiz night. Meanwhile djs, poets and musicians are taking their shows online see social media for live shows and new multiplayer games are coming out all the time see BBC Click.

Take Notice

This means really being aware of things around you. It’s sometimes called mindfulness. Notice what you can see, hear, smell, touch and taste. Notice your thoughts, emotions and any sensations in your body and accept whatever you feel, don’t judge or avoid. This is the basis of meditation for free guided mediation check out Tara Brach https://www.tarabrach.com/guided-meditations/

Give

This can be as simple as smiling at a stranger or helping out a friend (within a safe distance or on the phone.) You can join the Lambeth mutual aid group or the WhatsApp group in your area to give or receive. If you are generally fit and healthy volunteer to help out in the NHS. Giving gratitude or counting your blessings every day is proven to soothe the nervous system. We can come to our doors, balconies and windows every Thursday at 8pm to applaud and give thanks to all NHS workers.

Be Active

This is another tough one but we can still walk, run or cycle within government guidelines. There’s plenty of free stuff in YouTube for all ages; check out Zumba kids dance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymigWt5TOV8 or Flash Mob for seniors for seated exercise. https://youtu.be/E4gVSKpLxz8 My favourite is yoga with Adriene https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene see what you can find or make house work or gardening your workout.

Keep Learning

There may be times when you feel like you are climbing the walls and this would be a good time to try something new. Learn a language using Babble, Duolingo or Mondly or learn to play an instrument or almost anything in YouTube. There are also many vocational online courses around and many are free at the moment.  You could also exchange tips from anything from baking to bike maintenance over the phone or garden fence with a friend or neighbour.

There are tough times ahead but we can get through this together. Across the country people are have joined mutual aid and solidarity groups while literally hundreds of thousands have volunteered to help the NHS; 600 000 within the first 24 hours. We are seeing a surge of generosity, creativity and ingenuity. We can all do our bit and there will be a vaccine, but this is not a movie it will take time, in the meantime let’s look after ourselves and others as best we can. #stayathome as much as possible and stay safe with #socialdistancing

Lambeth Living Well Network Alliance Guidance 20th March 2020.

Lambeth Mental health services will only be operating a crisis and urgent only service until further notice.

If you or someone you know needs urgent support call 0800 731 2864 to speak to the mental health crisis line. Available 27/4 including weekends.

If you are with someone who has attempted suicide call 999 and stay with them until the ambulance arrives.

Useful contacts

Lambeth Living Well Network Alliance

https://lambethtogether.net/adult-mental-health-coronavirus/

For advice and guidance in the absence of non-urgent services go to Good Thinking website https://www.good-thinking.uk

Further advice from NHS Every Mind Matters

https:/www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-staying-at-home-tips/

Practical tips and Advice https://www.lambethandsouthwarkmind.org.uk/coronavirus-and-your-wellbeing/

Solidarity in a Crisis – an out-of-hours peer support service, co-designed and co-delivered by people who use mental health services in Lambeth, providing crisis support over the phone. Freephone 0300 123 1922 text 07889 756 087 or 07889 756 083 Monday to Friday 6pm to midnight, Saturday and Sunday 12 noon to midnight.

A version of this is published in Brixton Buzz http://www.brixtonbuzz.com/2020/04/a-guide-to-wellbeing-and-good-mental-health-during-the-coronavirus-lockdown/ 

 

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Poem: Colour Blind by Lemn Sissay

Poem: Colour Blind by Lemn Sissay

Colour Blind – A poem

Posted on October 9, 2011 by Lemn Sissay

http://blog.lemnsissay.com/2011/10/09/colour-blind-a-poem/#sthash.ARQJI1dH.dpbs

If you can see the sepia in the sun
Shades of grey in fading streets
The radiating bloodshot in a child’s eye
The dark stains on her linen sheets
If you can see oil separate on water
The turquoise of leaves on trees
The reddened flush of your lover’s cheeks
The violet peace of calmed seas

If you can see the bluest eye
The purple in petals of the rose
The blue anger, the venom, of the volcano
The creeping orange of the lava flows
If you can see the red dust of the famished road
The white air tight strike of nike’s sign
the skin tone of a Lucien Freud
The colours of his frozen subjects in mime

If you can see the white mist of the oasis
The red, white and blue that you defended
If you can see it all through the blackest pupil
The colours stretching the rainbow suspended
If you can see the breached blue dusk
And the caramel curls in  swirls of tea
Why do you say you are colour blind when you see me?

 

 

 

Wellbeing and good mental health: Zen Things

Wellbeing and good mental health: Zen Things

This time of forced isolation for many of us and a distancing for all of us is prompting many of us to contemplate our role here on this earth, our purpose and direction, to consider not just why we are here but how.

I have been attracted to zen, since returning  from the Camino de Santiago in 2000 to find a beautifully bound book entitled Zen among the pile of post that had accumulated in my absence. To this day I’m not sure where it came from.

I’ve had occasion to describe myself as a zen Marxist, an expression that made Alexei Sayle guffaw when I introduced myself,  soz for the name drop it was just a book signing.

Zen is much misunderstood neither quite religion nor philosophy rather it is akin to a state of mind that has been described as “mind without mind” while The Urban Dictionary describes it as “a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind “ a state that is both peaceful and relaxed.

This below is the best summary I’ve seen of how to attain that state explained with simplicity and it strikes me as a good guide to achieving wellbeing generally and good mental health particularly at this uncertain and anxious prone time.

anne-enith-cooper-poetry-photography-wellbeing-mental-health

Further reading

https://www.flowperformancepsych.com/post/2018/09/16/a-mind-without-mind

https://www.alwayswellwithin.com/blog/2010/09/30/the-true-meaning-of-zen-hint-its-not-a-habit

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Diary: May 2020

Diary: May 2020

A month of bad hair enters another, health is on the mend finally after the lifting of excruciating abdominal pain which has plagued me since February though the mood lift I anticipated with this still eludes me. Time is no longer measured in minutes and hours but a daily death count, one that is disputed daily though to my knowledge no one has yet used the expression cover up.

The sentiment, “Isn’t it strange” long gave way to “isn’t is awful” as figures of the deaths of key workers emerge. Those that risked their lives and did not give the ultimate sacrifice, no, whose lives were taken cruelly by a combination of a deficit of PPE and bad planning. Easy to see how the figure of death as a ten foot black clad, bent backed, androgyne swinging a scythe emerged in popular culture.

anne-enith-cooper-poetry-photography-death-grim-reaper

Zoom seems a poor substitute for the emotional support and physical connection we all need at this time but it’s pretty much all we have. Looking forward, as XR put in in a recent newsletter, “if there is one thing that this crisis has made clear, it is that there is no going back. No going back to business as usual that pushes us further and further into the abyss of a climate and ecological loss.” And, as laid bare by this crisis, the huge inequalities and injustices. This outcome will be, imo, not automatic but something we must fight for.

Wednesday 6th May

Attending our first virtual poets from the planet meeting see Facebook for details.

Sunday 10th May

Joining Poetry from the Grassroots 7.30pm – 10.00pm for an evening of poetry that bites back.

anne-enith-cooper-poetry-photography-live-zoom-may-2020

Worth mentioning Lambeth Libraries have an online quiz every Wednesday at 5.00pm https://zoom.us/j/92888207892 and Lambeth XR have an online Poetry cafe every Tuesday at 1-2pmhttps://zoom.us/j/519122466

BREAKING: Roger Robinson has won the RSLOndaatje Prize 2020 for his collection A Portable Paradise that picked up the TS Eliot prize earlier this year when we were all able to get out and about. Love Roger for his earthy wisdom and generosity. I have turned to his Think Like an Artist, a free series of tips and advice, many times.

The Royal society of Literature said in their facebook post, “Only the second time in the Prize’s history that a poetry collection has won! A big thank you to this year’s #RSLOndaatje Prize judges: Peter Frankopan, Pascale Petit and Evie Wyld and to the Prize’s sponsor Sir Christopher Ondaatje.  bit.ly/RSLOndaatje”

You can buy ‘A Portable Paradise’ directly from @peepaltreepress https://www.peepaltreepress.com/books/portable-paradise

 

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Poem: The Way of Hope, a prophecy and an appeal for solidarity

Poem: The Way of Hope, a prophecy and an appeal for solidarity

The Way of Hope

After Warriors of the Rainbow attributed to Eyes of Fire, Cree Nation circa 19th century


And a time came when the devastated earth lay fallow

And a time came when the air and waters became clear

And a time came when streets and cities fell still

And a time came when birdsong burst from trees and hedgerows

And a time came when windows bore pictures of the rainbow

And a time came when respect was earned by action not words

And a time came when the Elders were revered

And a time came when the children led the way

And a time came when the old wisdom was remembered

And a time came when there was peace

And a time came when there was harmony

And a time came when there was love

And a time came when there was unity

And a time came when there was justice


I received the gift of this poem this morning during meditation with Earth Custodian and Standing Rock Water Protector Urtema Dolphin.

The prophesy of the Warriors of the Rainbow while usually attributed to Eyes of Fire, an old wise woman of the Cree Nation. The Cree are one of the largest American Indian groups or First Nations in North America. There are 200,000 Cree people today living in communities throughout Canada and in parts of the northern United States (North Dakota and Montana). There has been some dispute over whether the prophesy originated with the indigenous peoples or in a 1962 book of the same name by William Willoya and Vinson Brown.

This book appears to serve as an attempt to evangelise the Native American community. The book is claimed to have influenced the group Greenpeace, and there is evidence to that, and as such the argument goes undermines the claims as to the origin of the story and arguably those seeking environmental justice. This critique fails to explain why versions of the story exist among the Navajo, Cherokee and Dakota Nations and versions can be found from Greek to Norse mythology as well as in the Bible.

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In this vision of the future Eyes of Fire prophesied that one day, because of the white mans’ or Yo-ne-gis’ greed, there would come a time, when the earth becomes ravaged and polluted;  the forests destroyed, birds would fall from the air, the waters become blackened, the fish poisoned in the streams, and the trees would no longer be, and humans would all but cease to exist.  There would come a time when the “keepers of the legend, stories, culture rituals, and myths, and all the Ancient Tribal Customs” would be needed to restore us to health, making the earth green again. They would be the key to survival, they were the “Warriors of the Rainbow”. There would come a day of awakening when all the peoples of all the tribes would form a New World of Justice, Peace, Freedom and recognition of the Great Spirit.

Whether myth, legend or prophecy it would seem much of what is cited has come to pass. An era of inequality and violence has existed throughout the world since the advent of class society. In late capitalism corruption, poverty, consumerism, power to the few and injustice are characteristics of our so called civilisation while technological advancement has gone hand in hand with the production of weapons for mass destruction and the degradation of the planet and a climate crisis. While highly powerful information technologies can become tools for suppressing resistance. It is finally becoming apparent that this situation is not sustainable.

As a young adult in the 80’s I experienced a melting pot of ideas, cultures and lifestyles including those who dabbled with mystical and magical beliefs. Hopi Indian beliefs were popular, yet those of us on the left had a less than generous attitude towards those we rubbed shoulders with who embraced the rainbow. I remember a guy who went on to form the Norwich Direct Action Movement chuckling saying “Mel goes around putting up rainbows and when she’s not looking we take them down.” And we laughed. Nevertheless we lived together, slept together, protested together and influenced each other. 

Back then you were either “fluffy” or “spiky.” It was a tough and brutal time. The miners strike 84-85 had been defeated by a combination of he brute force of the state, lies of the press and the use of prejudicial legislation. Riots ripped through the country. At Greenham Common there was what has been euphemistically referred to as “a fractious relationship” with the police. At Wapping weekly battles took place between pickets and police on Saturday nights from 86-87. In Wiltshire the battle of the beanfield took place and the memory of which entered folk history. In June 1985 police attacked The Peace Convoy on the way to Stonehenge clubbing women and children with truncheons, smashing up vehicles and arresting over 500 people in one afternoon showing us the police made no such distinctions.

At the height of the Miners Strike a friend of mine brought our attention to an article in the Guardian that claimed MI5 had a list of 10 000 radicals, militants and subversives. We found this highly entertaining, as Chris put it laughing, “Well we’re ok then they’ll never get round to us.” I would hazard a guess that today there must be anything between 10 000 and 100 000 campaigns across the country borne from the brutality of austerity, inequality and injustice. This is our army of love. This and legions of healers, coaches, spiritual teachers and light workers who recognise the struggle for the earth and for justice means confronting the very real inequalities in the world. I am grateful to have met many of these people and no longer mock the rainbow! I am convinced our time is now and another world is not only possible but on her way. 

Full version of the prophesy

 https://www.manataka.org/page2237.html

Further references

http://www.ancientpages.com/2018/08/29/the-prophecy-of-the-rainbow-warriors-and-future-of-planet-earth/

Postscript and appeal

Now the largest of these First Nations is appealing for our help. The Coronavirus has hit the Navajo nation hard due to the lack of running water, overcrowding in homes and poor access to health care. There are only 12 health care facilities across 27,000 square miles. President Jonathan Nez, in a tearful appeal broadcast recently on Channel Four explained the difficulties accessing funding and health care facilities. Nez went on to explain no one could work and no money was coming in and he feared for the future of his people.

ABC news confirmed on the 21st March, ““A federal funding package in response to the virus included $40 million for tribes for epidemiology, public health preparedness, infection control, education and other things. But the money hasn’t reached tribes because there’s no mechanism for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to get it to the Indian Health Service, the agency responsible for providing primary medical care to Native Americans. Tribes and tribal organizations run some hospitals and clinics under federal contract.”

Measures have been introduced to stop the spread of the virus but the scale of the challenge, described here, is immense, “The measures are part of a scramble to protect more than 150,000 people … As of Wednesday night, the virus had killed 20 people on the reservation, compared with 16 in the entire state of New Mexico, which has a population 13 times larger.” Reported in the New York Times on the 9th April. 

Since the presidents emotional appeal for help a group of doctors has travelled from California and a crowd funded has been set up. It’s an opportunity for us to support the wisdom keepers who have survived genocide to bring their stories to us and kept hope alive see https://www.gofundme.com/f/NHFC19Relief

 

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Writing prompt: Mass influx of flamingos turn Navi Mumbai into a pink playground

Writing prompt: Mass influx of flamingos turn Navi Mumbai into a pink playground

“Mass influx of flamingos turn Navi Mumbai into a pink playground”


Play with this one; use the headline or video as a prompt, that sound! Set a timer for ten, fifteen or twenty minutes and freewrite and see where it takes you. Then consider what you have just made. Is it for just for fun, or does it feel it needs development, does it welcome a form?

Rules of the freewrite. Keep your hand moving, don’t stop or cross out, don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Don’t think, just write, follow the words just see what comes.

https://www.euronews.com/2020/04/23/mass-influx-of-flamingos-turn-navi-mumbai-into-a-pink-playground


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Wellbeing and good mental health: Free talking therapies and mental health hardship funds during the lockdown – UK – from NSUN

Wellbeing and good mental health: Free talking therapies and mental health hardship funds during the lockdown – UK – from NSUN

From the NSUN (National Survivor User Network) monthly bulletin, a mental health resource

– to subscribe or view previous NSUN weekly bulletinsdirectly to your mailbox click here.


FREE PROGRAMME IN TALKING FOR WELLBEING 

Talk for Health

 WHAT’S THE IDEA?

It’s important to take care of our emotional wellbeing, just as it is to take care of our bodies. One way of doing this is to connect in a truthful and empathic way with others.

 WHO IS IT FOR?

Anyone who wants to take care of their wellbeing and support others.

 WHAT ARE YOUR NEXT STEPS?

Join us ONLINE for a Taster. Then you can:

· Join a TALK FOR HEALTH CAFE; continue talking for wellbeing and gain communication skills.

· Sign up for our in-depth 4-day Talk for Health Programme, online.

· Follow these with ongoing groups for strong peer networks.

 It’s all FREE and is commissioned by the NHS. You will learn and have space for:

· Honest talking – being the real you

· Empathic listening

· Basic counselling skills

· How to set up and be part of an ongoing group to talk for wellbeing.

 Sign up to a Taster here or for more information about who we are and what we do, you can subscribe to our newsletter by sending us an email at info@talkforhealth.co.uk

NSUN News 

 We will be creating a page on our website about hardship funds for individuals, but wanted to highlight the Hardship Solidarity Fund by Mad Covid which has already raised over £6000. It is giving out small pots of money up to £200, for things like taxi fares to and from essential mental health appointments, kitchen appliances which will help with food storage and cooking, or increased household bills such as internet data and fuel.

 We have also compiled a list of emergency Covid-19 related funding available to organisations. 

 Some of you will have seen that the Government has released a £5 million grant for mental health. The fund, which will be administered by Mind, will be used by the charity sector to support people struggling with their mental health, including telephone and online support services. NSUN is working with Mind to ensure that User-Led Organisations and unconstituted groups will also be able to access some of this funding – we will keep you posted. The fund will open very soon- please keep an eye on our website or twitter for more information.

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Diary: April 2020

Diary: April 2020

Three months since what felt like a head first plunge into the void, was just seeing glimpse of the light again around the time the WHO declared the virus a pandemic. I wake that day aching all over, which is nothing new, and with a mild sore throat though after a coffee that’s gone. Head into Brixton to see Amina, my mental health support worker. She asks if I’d like to co-facilitate a poetry workshop and takes some notes to refer me to a psychologist. So it’s all good. I notice as I leave there is hand sanitizer in the waiting room. This is the first real world sign that the virus that originated In China is getting closer. Will there be the will here to deal with it so systematically? 

Hardly notice March slip into April in the stream of corona updates. At the mo am okish, I guess. Bolstered by daily mediation, yoga and conscious breathing. See my post https://seedsandfuses.wordpress.com/2020/03/14/covid-19-a-time-to-breathe-well/ how you can soothe your nervous system and boost your immune system with the breath. Though energy, motivation and concentration are severely limited. This would be so much harder if it weren’t for my neighbours and friends. Keeping in touch with nearest and dearest. My brother and I had a virtual cafe “date” recently which was fun.

Tech rules! Seems everything has gone Zoom, a couple I hope to attend are

Monday 13th April 8-9pm

Brixton Bookjam 

“Feed your brain with our congenial, intelligent, unpredictable event for readers and writers” featuring8Stuart Maconie, Daniel Ruiz-Tizon, Anna Maconochie, Morton Valence, Andrew Mueller and Venetia Welby”

@brixtonbookjam

http://www.brixtonbookjam.com 

Friday 17th April 8.00pm

Cath Drake’s launch of The Shaking City

With guest poets Kate Potts (currently shortlisted for The Moth Prize) & Karen McCarthy Woolf

Join the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/209088623708461

#amreading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and The Dalai Lama’s Cat and #amwriting a bit, now and then…

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Immune boosting recipes from www.onhealth.com

Immune boosting recipes from www.onhealth.com

Have been reading up a lot on diet, gut health and immunity. This struck me as a very creative response. 

Reach for Elderberries

Modern Day Folk Medicine

Elderberrry is a shrub that has been used medicinally for centuries. Sambucus nigra, or black elderberry bush, is the version most commonly used to make syrup and lozenges. Extracts of elderberry have antiviral, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory properties. Elderberry is also high in flavonoids. People take elderberry syrup as a remedy for colds, flus, and bacterial sinus infections. The plant medicine works by reducing swelling in mucus membranes. Some studies suggest elderberry extract reduces the duration of the flu. If it works for flu infections, it may help your immune system against coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

Elderberry Interactions

Elderberry benefits are numerous, however, the remedy may interact with certain prescription medications. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist prior to adding any new remedy to your regimen. Elderberry may interact with the following medications.

  • Diurectics: Elderberry is a diuretic so taking it with a prescription diuretic will increase the effects.
  • Laxatives: Elderberry has laxative effects, so it should not be taking with other laxative mediations.
  • Steroids: Elderberry stimulates the immune system so it should not be taken with steroids and other medications designed to suppress the immune system. People who are on immunosuppressive drugs after having undergone organ transplantation should not take elderberry.
  • Chemotherapy: Elderberry may interfere with chemotherapy and should not be taken with it.
  • Diabetes medications: Elderberry lowers blood sugar so it should not be taken with medications that treat diabetes.
  • Theophylline: Elderberry may reduce blood levels of this medication prescribed to treat asthma and respiratory conditions.

Have More Mushrooms

Immune System Boosters

Wondering how to boost your immune system? Eat more button mushrooms. Mushrooms are high in selenium and B vitamins like riboflavin and niacin. These minerals and vitamins are necessary for the immune system to work in tip top form. Mushrooms are also high in polysaccharides, sugar-like molecules that boost immune function.

Flavorful Fungus

Mushrooms have a savory quality that can enhance the flavor of many dishes. Not quite sure how to eat mushrooms? Try the following mouth-watering ways to serve up these tasty fungi.

  • Sautéing, grilling, and roasting will help bring out the rich, savory flavor of mushrooms.
  • Mushrooms make a great addition to scrambled eggs and omelets.
  • Toss sliced mushrooms into soups, salads, or lasagna.
  • Enjoy Portobello mushroom tops in veggie burgers.
  • Stuffed mushrooms make tasty hors d’oeuvres.

Acai Berry Benefits

Antioxidant-Rich Berry

Acai berry is a black-purple fruit that is derived from the acai palm tree in Brazil, Trinidad, and certain parts of South America. The fruit is high in anthocyanins. These flavonoid molecules are very potent antioxidants. They combat oxidative stress in the body by mopping up free radicals. Antioxidants are credited with boosting immunity and lowering inflammation in the body. There’s never been a better time to enjoy an acai bowl!

Immune-Boosting Fruit

Acai berry is such a potent antioxidant and stimulator of the immune system, researchers are studying it as a potential treatment for all kinds of conditions. Areas of study include acai use in people with

  • increasing prostate specific antigen (PSA);
  • cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome;
  • lower rectum cancer;
  • constipation, and
  • Other potential for studies could include other conditions (for example, yeast infections, Flu, COVID-19).

Pumped About Watermelon

Watermelon Nutrition

Watermelon is an immune-boosting fruit. One 2-cup serving of watermelon has 270 mg of potassium, 30% of the daily value of vitamin A, and 25% of the value of vitamin C. Calories in watermelon aren’t much at all. One 2-cup serving of watermelon has just 80 calories. Watermelon also provides vitamin B6 and glutathione. The body needs these vitamins, nutrients, and compounds like glutathione for proper immune function.

5 Ways to Eat Watermelon

Watermelon slices are the most common way to enjoy this fruit. Here are a few creative ways to eat watermelon.

  • Make a fruit salad with watermelon and top it with a lemon, honey, and mint dressing.
  • Have a tall glass of watermelon strawberry lemonade.
  • Snack on arugula watermelon salad topped with feta cheese.
  • Enjoy frozen watermelon sorbet.
  • Cool off with watermelon, ginger, lime pops.

Try Some Wheat Germ

Wheat Germ Nutrition

Wheat germ is the innermost part of the wheat kernel. It is the most nutrient rich part of the grain. The germ is rich in B vitamins, zinc, and vitamin E. Sprinkle wheat germ on top of yogurt or cereal or add it to a shake. Wheat germ makes an easy addition to bump up the nutrition in baked goods. Substitute wheat germ for a bit of white flour in recipes to get some extra vitamins and minerals.

What Do You Do with Wheat Germ?

Most people know wheat germ makes a tasty topping sprinkled on fruit, yogurt, or cereal, but what else can you do with it? Wheat germ is a versatile food that can be used in a variety of recipes.

  • Combine wheat germ, herbs, and spices to make a breaded coating for baked chicken and fish.
  • Use wheat germ instead of breadcrumbs in meatloaf and meatballs.
  • Sprinkle wheat germ on top of baked apple crumble and similar desserts.

Super Spinach

Leafy Green Superfood

Spinach gets top billing as a superfood thanks to its high content of folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber, magnesium, and iron. The nutrients in spinach boost immune function and provide the body with necessary nutrients for cell division and DNA repair. Reap maximum benefits from spinach by eating it raw or lightly cooked to preserve nutrients.

Think Beyond Spinach Salad

Most people are familiar with spinach salad, but how else can you prepare spinach? Surprisingly, there are a lot of ways to enjoy this nutritious, leafy green veggie including

  • spinach-artichoke dip,
  • creamed spinach,
  • spinach lasagna,
  • garlic sautéed spinach, and
  • spinach and cheese stuffed pasta shells.

Say Yes to Sweet Potatoes

Orange Spuds Are Better

One medium sweet potato packs a whopping 120% of the daily value of vitamin A and 30% of the daily value of vitamin C, all for just 100 calories. These vitamins are crucial for immune function and great for your skin. Sweet potatoes are a cholesterol-free and fat-free food, so you get all the helpful, immune-boosting vitamins without the guilt. Sweet potatoes serve up a healthy portion of fiber, too.

Sweet Potato Recipes to Savor

The deep, rich color of sweet potatoes reflects the high vitamin A content. These bright, orange root veggies can be whipped up in a variety of ways. Try these sweet potato dishes on for size.

  • savory sweet potato fries
  • sweet potato casserole
  • twice baked sweet potatoes
  • sweet potato pie
  • sweet potato beet chips

Bring on the Broccoli

Broccoli to the Rescue

Broccoli is a nutrient-packed powerhouse to support your immune system. One cup of broccoli provides as much vitamin C as an orange. The veggie is also high in beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. Broccoli supplies an array of B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, and B6). Together, these vitamins and minerals help the immune system to run in top form. Another healthy compound offered up by broccoli: glutathione, the master antioxidant in the body.

5 Ways to Enjoy Broccoli

Not a fan of broccoli? Some people love it, some hate it, but broccoli is such a nutritious vegetable, it makes sense to find a way to eat more of it. Broccoli can be prepared in ways that are so tasty, you’ll crave it! Try the following broccoli dishes on for size.

  • creamy broccoli and cheese soup
  • broccoli casserole
  • broccoli salad
  • lemon braised broccoli
  • roasted broccoli rabe

Harness the Power of Garlic Cloves

Bring on the Bulbs

People have praised garlic for ages for its immune boosting properties. Garlic has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties. The bulbs are rich in antioxidants that quench free radicals that play a role in Alzheimer’sdisease, heart disease, cancers, and other conditions. The antiviral properties may be helpful in reducing the severity of colds, flu or COVID-19 infections. In one study, people who took garlic supplements during cold season caught fewer colds than those who took placebo pills. If you do catch a cold, garlic can shorten the duration of it. If you do try garlic supplements, be mindful that the one you choose contains the active ingredients contained in real garlic.

Garlic and Cancer

Garlic boosts the portion of the immune system that is tasked with fighting viruses and cancer. Several studies have documented a link between garlic use and reduced rates of many different types of cancers. People who regularly consume lots of raw or cooked garlic have 30% to 35% fewer colorectal cancers than those who do not eat the allum. In one small study of people who had inoperable pancreatic, colorectal, or liver cancers, immune function was improved when participants took aged garlic extract for 6 months.

Miso Soup to the Rescue

Fermented Foods and Immunity

Miso soup has been a staple in Japanese cuisine for centuries. Miso is a salty paste made from fermented soybeans. It is rich in probiotics that are beneficial for gastrointestinal health and boosting the immune system. A lack of beneficial bacteria or an imbalance of bacteria in the GI tract is associated with a variety of medical conditions including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), food allergies, gastroenteritis, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease), and even certain kinds of cancers. Sipping a cup of miso soup is a great way to introduce beneficial food-based probiotics into the GI tract.

Busy Little Bugs

Beneficial microorganisms found in miso soup and other fermented foods perform a variety of necessary functions in the GI tract. They synthesize vitamins and amino acids. They produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that the cells lining the GI tract use for fuel. The probiotics establish a healthy balance of flora in the gastrointestinal tract, protecting against pathogenic strains that try to take hold. About 70% of the immune system lies in the gut. Healthy, balanced gut flora makes for a strong immune system.

Chicken Soup for the Cold

Serving Up a Bowl of Relief

Mom was right to make a pot of homemade chicken soup when you got sick. It turns out there are very real, scientific reasons chicken soup helps you get over a cold more quickly. When cold viruses invade tissues of the upper respiratory tract, the body responds by triggering inflammation. This inflammation signals white blood cells to move to the area and stimulates the production of mucus. Ingredients in chicken soup appear to halt the movement of white blood cells, thereby decreasing mucus associated with colds. Too sick to cook from scratch? Canned chicken soup can ease cold symptoms, too.

More Cold-Fighting Remedies

To get over a cold more quickly, sip lots of warm liquids like chicken soup, ginger tea, and warm water with lemon. Staying hydrated helps thin mucus secretions and flushes the virus out of your body. Taking zinc lozenges, syrup, or tablets within 24 hours of exhibiting cold symptoms can help reduce the duration of a cold. Taking vitamin C supplements throughout cold season may not keep you from catching a cold, but it may help ease symptoms if you do catch one. It may ease symptoms of the flu and coronavirus infections, too.

Reap the Rewards from Pomegranate Juice

Harness Purple Power

Beneficial compounds in pomegranate extract have been found in lab studies to inhibit the growth of harmful types of bacteria including E coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Yersinia, Shigella, Listeria, Clostridium, Staphylococcus aureus, and other organisms. There’s also evidence pomegranate compounds inhibit the growth of bacteria in the mouth that contribute to periodontal disease, plaque buildup, and gingivitis. Pomegranate extracts have antiviral properties against the flu, herpes, and other viruses. In addition to fighting bad viruses and bacteria, there is evidence that pomegranate extracts promote the growth of beneficial gut flora that boosts the immune system including Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.

5 Ways to Enjoy Pomegranate

Most people enjoy pomegranate by eating the jewel-colored seeds after cutting open the fruit. There are many other ways to indulge in pomegranate.

  • Add tart, colorful pomegranate seeds to fruit salad.
  • Cool down with pomegranate lemonade on hot summer days.
  • Make a lovely salad with watercress, endive, blood oranges, and pomegranate seeds.
  • Mix pomegranate seeds into wild rice pilaf.
  • Use pomegranate seeds to make a tasty relish to top meats.

Make Friends with Ginger

Anti-inflammatory Root

Antioxidant compounds in ginger root have potent anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Normal metabolic processes in the body, infections, and toxins all contribute to the production of free radicals resulting in oxidative stress. Antioxidants in foods like ginger quench free radicals and help guard against arthritis, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, and may other conditions. Grate some fresh ginger and steep it in hot water to make tea. Fresh grated ginger also makes a great addition to healthy stir fried veggies. Ginger has proven antibacterial and antiviral properties.

5 Ways to Eat Ginger

What can you do with ginger root? A lot! Here are a few ideas to add more ginger to your menu.

  • Add ginger to hot chocolate for an unexpected kick.
  • Grated ginger makes a lovely addition to carrot cake or spice muffins.
  • Make a ginger orange glaze to enjoy over salmon filets.
  • Add ginger to marinades for meats.
  • Enjoy honey ginger chicken wings.

Maximizing the health of your immune system is easy when you know which foods to eat. Eat these 16 immune-boosting foods to keep your immune system in the topmost form.

https://www.onhealth.com/content/1/immune_system_boosting_foods

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A psalm for these times

A psalm for these times

Today the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus a pandemic. The full impact of this has not hit home because all of a sudden I’m in the kind of movie I’ve seen so often. You know where a virus sweeps the world and a geeky looking kid from a trailer park has the antidote in his blood and when he’s rescued from the bad guys who plan to profiteer from this it’s all over in a couple of days, the kids parents get back together and everyone is saved. For a few weeks now I’ve been asking myself would our government have the will or the means to respond as the Chinese have. I guess that remains to be seen.

Ironically I wake today aching all over, which is nothing new, but with a mild sore throat though after a coffee that’s gone. I head into Brixton to see Amina, my mental health support worker. She asks if I’d like to co-facilitate a poetry workshop and takes some notes to refer me to a psychologist. So it’s all good. Notice there is hand sanitizer in the waiting room.

As I make my way back home through Brixton the high street looks to me like we are already in the throes of a dystopia there are so many vulnerable people; some ragged, dirty, all desperate, begging meekly or aggressively,  many with so obvious poor mental health. No doubt oblivious to the pronouncement. It feels overwhelming. I just want to go home and this feels like a privilege rather than a right. It’s already clear if this hits homelessness and poverty will be co-mordities. 

 

Psalm 23 King James Version 

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

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Diary: March 2020

Diary: March 2020

It is now two months since I was ambushed by a shocking and sudden deterioration in my mental health. Until recently there were still periods of meaninglessness and times when my gut stiffens, thought becomes frozen and only absence and lack appear to remain. This ebbs and flows and for a few hours a day I function. I feel stronger though motivation is a rare visitor. My inner critic, Cruella is quieter, less like an aggressive stranger, more like a poisonous passive aggressive acquaintance you wish you’d never met. Besides a new meds regime have been dealing this with daily yoga and meditation, walking, shiatsu and movies and as the earth edged into more light there was a shift.

Sunday 8th March

On international women’s day join fellow wordsmiths Andrea Robinson, Caroline M Davies, Sue Johns, Kate Noakes, and Emma Roper-Evans from Poets for the Planet for a show on Resonance FM chaired by Carys Hannah chairs a discussion about this new collective of poets and eco-activists. 6.15pm-7.15pm https://www.resonancefm.com/

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Am pleased to announce the launch of the website The Matchgirls Memorial https://www.matchgirls1888.org with a poem by yours truly here https://www.matchgirls1888.org/don-t-you-know-about-the-matchgirls The website aims to bring attention to an often overlooked history of the tremendous victory with historic repercussions and to campaign for recognition for the strike leaders.

On 5th July 1888, 1400 girls and women walked out of the Bryant and May match factory in Bow, London and the next day some 200 of them marched from Mile End to Bouverie Street, Annie Besant’s office, to ask for her support. A Strike Committee was formed and rallied support from the Press, a few MPs, the London Trades Council. The A Strike Committee of eight Matchgirls, met with the Bryant & May Directors to put their case. By 17th July, the demands were met and terms agreed in principle so the Strike Committee put the proposals to the rest of the girls and they enthusiastically approved and returned to work.

The action led to a change in legislation. In 1908 the House of Commons passed an Act prohibiting the use of white phosphorus in matches. The action by the match girls led to an increased militancy across the working class, as Lyn Brown notes,  ”The received wisdom is that the heroic London dockers of 1889 led the way towards social justice, greater equality and spurred the foundation of the Labour movement. In fact it was London’s working class women, a year earlier, who were the vital spark that lit the blaze that showed the way to trade unionism. The men learned how it was done from their mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and neighbours.”

https://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2013/nov/04/women-who-sparked-labour-movement

Tuesday 17th March 

Another opportunity to catch a screening of the film We The People by Virginia Nimarkoh & Fan Sissoko which features activists in Lambeth included myself and Helen Carr from Save Cressingham. Taking place 6.30- 8.00pm at

Museum of London, 150 London Wall, London, EC2Y 5HN

RSVP to CuratingLDN@museumoflondon.org.uk or 020 7814 5587

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Wellbeing and mental health: a time to breathe

Wellbeing and mental health: a time to breathe

These times are likely to be very anxiety inducing for many. As we face the approach of a global pandemic. If you haven’t experienced anxiety before it can be a frightening experience whether mild or extreme. As the sympathetic nervous system kicks in your heart starts racing, you might start sweating or shaking, feel tense or a sensation like an electric shock in the solar plexus or heart in the case of a full-blown panic attack.

This is the body’s fight, flight or freeze response taking over. This is an ancient response designed to help you if facing a sabre-toothed tiger or in modern times a mugger. Breathing well is a highly effective way to reduce the symptoms and return to calm. It won’t stop you catching the virus but can help with fears associated with that.

The nhs recommend a technique called 7/11 breathing. I prefer this, a method that works for me: breathe out as fully as you can then breathe in through the nose and count to five. Breathe out through the mouth and count to ten. If you are very tense this might be difficult start with three in and six out and gradually lengthen the breaths and if you want introduce a pause at the end of each breath. You can do this standing up, sitting or laying down. I do it in the yoga position the child’s pose.

This is a powerful way to soothe and overcome any anxieties at this time. This will stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system and calm you down. If you are just a little anxious doing this for a few minutes will probably be enough. If you are experiencing severe anxiety set a timer and do it for 20-30 minutes once or twice a day.

It also serves as a detoxing method which will boost your immune system giving your body a better chance to fight off he virus and other infections. Breathe your way to well being.

Here’s the sciencey bit https://www.anxieties.com/57/panic-step4

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On writing: Toni Morrison

On writing: Toni Morrison

“Make up a story. For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.”

Toni Morrison. A great spirit who taught us so much about love and life. 

February 18th 1931- August 5th 2019

 

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Poems by others: 25 Notes on Becoming by Boluwatife Afolabi from addastories.org

Poems by others: 25 Notes on Becoming by Boluwatife Afolabi from addastories.org

25 NOTES ON BECOMING

by Boluwatife Afolabi

‘I confess, like a true poet, that I am only broken by the sources of things’

– Peter Akinlabi


I

I write to tell you that
the walls of my bones
are made of contention and
I am always situated between desires
that threaten to break
or mould me.

 

II
I write to tell you that
I am not the cartographer of memory
and that sometimes,
I forget my way home and
stumble into women who offer
to teach me the ways of water:
How to be soft,
how healing comes in waves,
how to open my body into the sea and
drown all the things that hurt.

 

III
I write to tell you that
my love is a nomad and
while wandering here in Ibadan
it fell into the hands of a woman
wearing your face.

 

IV
I write to tell you that
the second name for movement
is uncertainty.

 

V
I write to tell you about hope.
How it is a dream
where children grow into the belly
of a barren woman,
how she wakes in the morning
smelling of loss and longing.

 

VI
I write to tell you that
scars are a lot like borders.
How my body is a map filled with
dirt and death and
there is a sea in my eyes that takes
and takes and on moonless nights
how I ache and ache beneath my hills
and valleys and call all the names of
god painted on my tongue for the touch
of mother and fullness,
how my prayers come back to me
dressed in a void.

 

VII
I write to tell you that
while writing this,
language betrayed me and my mind
assumed the form of a tabula rasa.

 

VIII
I write to tell you that
silence is the name
for protest and prison.

 

IX
I write to tell you that
a river once came to life in the
road between my palms
(some people say it is also a form of worship)
so I closed my eyes,
named all my fears
and gifted them to the deep.
They came flowing back singing my name.

 

X
I write to tell you that
I carry all your names in my mouth
now and my tongue don’t fit into this
small space anymore and mother said
new songs don’t float out of mouths
heavy with names and children here
don’t dance to night songs because
all the birds have drowned in silence and
the night is longer here in Ojoo and
I still melt into fear when your name escapes
from the gap between my teeth and
dissolves into the wind.

 

XI
I write to tell you
that old words don’t have to die
for new words to live.

 

XII
I write to tell you that
all the children are going or have gone
and our dreams have now run out of colour.

 

XIII
I write to tell you about unknown languages.
How they fold themselves under tongues
that have grown weary of seeking god,
how grown men trapped in a well of glossolalia,
are screaming
and dancing
and singing
and drowning under the weight of heavy tongues.

 

XIV
I write to tell you that
I am a poem in exile,
hiding my grief in metaphors
breaking the weight of my loss
into syllables and rhymes,
because a man must not cry
this is how I have learnt to hide my body
from water, cover my wounds with
Cauliflower to stop my softness from
spilling into mud,
because a man must not cry.

 

XV
I write to tell you that
I wrote a song for all the
boys we used to dance with
that didn’t come back home,
they say songs are voices that didn’t die.
I tried to sing lost boys back home,
but I lost my voice singing.

 

XVI
I write to tell you that
I wrote another love song
for all my old lovers
and poured it into
the beak of a bird
but the bird died of grief.

 

XVII
I write to tell you that
I have built many rooms in people
that won’t stay
and called them home.

 

XVIII
I write to tell you
about the way bodies open up to love
vulnerable
unguarded
like flower petals waiting
for sunlight or water,
the way I left my body open for god
waiting,
waiting
waiting.

 

XIX
I write to tell you
about my sin
how it is cheap.
How I sometimes wear it like a hat
for everyone to see
or paint it black and call it guilt,
tuck it safely under my shiny clothes
watch it stick to my black skin and
dissolve into my bones
till,
till my body
becomes too heavy for ablution.

 

XX
I write to tell you that
in Ondo,
a boy embraced the softness of another boy
and men, carrying the name of god on
their lips rushed to kiss him
with kisses of fire.
They said
his body looked like sin,
they said
fire purifies everything.

 

XXI
I write to tell you
to battle forgetfulness this way:
Trap a shred of memory in a fist
swallow it whole and
call it a requiem
or a dirge
or an elegy
tell them it’s for the children we forgot to name
in Baga and Damboa and Kummabza and Garkin Fulani
because our tongues grew weary of naming names,
tell them how we bought dolls for the girls
and asked them to paint where it hurt the most,
tell them our girls painted everywhere.

 

XXII
I write to tell you, lover
that my body is an endless sea of desire
and by god,
when you laugh
my body caves into itself
and my heart seems to melt into water.

 

XXIII
I write to tell you that
I have wandered and wondered
and called salvation many names—
Eros
Ninkasi
Yeshua.

 

XXIV
I write to tell you about bodies
that have forgotten the way home because
home is a bird in the mouth of a coffin
or a child in the face of a gun
or a boat in the embrace of a storm
or an empty room smelling of
stale prayers and dying songs
because home is another name for loss
and to remember is to betray a body
and gift it to grief again.

 

XXV
Finally,
I write to tell you
about how I roused my body to life
after it fell into Nadir.
How I sat it under dripping honey and
called it sweet names,
beautiful, bonny, beloved
gathered my reflection with affection
everywhere I found it,
sang slow songs into the teeth
of all the tired boys inside my bones
and told them:
you are enough
you are enough
you were always enough.

 

https://www.addastories.org/25-notes/

Boluwatife Afolabi is the author of ‘The Cartographer of Memory’ an electronic poetry chapbook published by the Sankofa Initiative. His works have appeared in Saraba Magazine, Arts and Africa, Expound magazine, African Writers etc. He is also the poetry editor at agbowo.org. He lives and writes from Ibadan, Nigeria.

Twitter: @oluafolabi


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Diary: February 2020

Diary: February 2020

A new month brought a new and disturbing phase of the malady that commenced in January. it  become embodied in my gut which is frequently tense and painfully distended. Each mean utterance of the inner critic, whom I have named Cruella, feels like a small electric shock. She comes to me at dawn after a broken nights sleeps and refuses to leave until I drag myself out of bed to face the grey day shattered. My shrink describes this as mild to moderate depression. Uh-huh!  I am unlikely to get out much for some time so I offer my recommendations. 

Before I get to that last summer I had the honour and privilege to be interviewed by Naomi Woddis on her show The Two of Us on reel rebels radio. It’s a show that explores creativity and well being. Our conversation covers spirituality, activism, community, poetry and much more and is available here.

https://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/id/12661418


Thursday 6th February

Reel News present the Premiere of Catalonia is is Anti-Fascist at 7.30pm

Effra Social, Brixton, 89 Effra Road, London, SW2 1DF

Reel News spent two weeks in Barcelona last autumn in the wake of an explosion of protests over the draconian prison sentences handed down to Catalan politicians and civil society leaders. What we found was a very young, very angry movement that has radicalised dramatically since the astonishing scenes around the referendum for independence two years ago – with the anger being directed as much at the Catalan government as it is at the Spanish state.

The 40 minute film shows the occupation of Barcelona airport by 20,000 people immediately after the sentences, an unprecedented general strike called by just two small rank and file unions supported by 1.5 million people in Barcelona alone, and continued daily protests by a people who, with their entire government either jailed or exiled and with violent repression of peaceful protests, see no alternative but direct action and civil disobedience.

 

anne-e-cooper-reel-news-poetry

More info https://reelnews.co.uk/2020/01/29/events/reel-news-premiere-feb-6-catalonia-is-anti-fascist/

Saturday February 8th

The launch of Poets for the Planet Verse Aid: Poems for the Earth, an all day event with performances and workshops at

The Society of Authors, 24 Bedford Row, London WC1R 4EH

(Nearest tube stations: Holborn and Chancery Lane)

Join the group on Facebook and share on Twitter using the hashtag #Poets4thePlanet @poets4theplanet.

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Illustration © Henny Beaumont

More info https://poetsfortheplanet.org/events/

Poem: a ring of fire

Poem: a ring of fire

a ring of fire

– a lament for Australia January 2020

red skies

red sands

red seas 

people flee to the beaches

huddle in boats

roads are closed and power lines fail 

fuel tanks run dry

the blood red blaze rips through homes and forest

while contracts and denial ensure 

the rape of the rich red earth 

continues 

in Sydney cricket players don black arm bands

as high winds threaten to close the ring

animals die in silence

not knowing

this is what hell looks like

 

anne_enith_cooper_poetry

Image: Greece November 2019 by George Natsioulis. Instagram george_natsioulis

 

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Diary: January 2020

Diary: January 2020

With no apparent trigger, my mood has plummeted into a place of darkness where meaning, purpose, emotion and motivation absented themselves. Needlessly to say the anxiety that often accompanies bleak moods kicked in immediately, my energy has dissipated and sleep is broken on this unbidden journey. Alternatively I stand outside and within this void. In the former state I can ask – am I becoming? In the latter – am I broken? I wrote the poem a ring of fire as I descended, perhaps to cling onto some sense of being in the face of this mental torture.

Photography: Painting the Sky

Photography: Painting the Sky

anne-enith-cooper-photography-winter-painting-the-sky-2019

Herne Hill, looking across Brockwell Park at dusk. Shot using iPhone. Only when I looked at it in the edit did I notice both the trees and traffic lights seemed to be sweeping the sky with colour. The image was cropped and upped the contrast by 50 points. No colour filter.

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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On being British

On being British

What it is to be British? I honestly don’t know. This may in part by result of an aversion to the history of the British empire with its attendant; arrogance, violence and wilful blindness. Am thinking maybe I should take a citizen test to enlighten myself but instead I came up with this list, (subtitled the mother of all cliches) this list is bound to be prejudice by my south of England upbringing

Polite queuing

Brussels spouts

Saying, “it could be worse” or, “Can’t complain”

Chicken tandoori

Thinking Chicken Tandoori is from India

Cricket

Fair play ( ha ha ha ha ha)

Believing the best man (sic) wins

Upholding anachronistic practices – ie the monarchy

Watching the manoeuvres of the monarchy as if it were a soap, ah bless,

on screens that were designed and produced in the Far East.

Driving on the left

An inability and pride in that inability to speak a second or third language

Tea and scones

A full English

Lager and lime

Saying, “Oooo that’s a bit deja vu,”without even realising that’s a French expression

Mocking cockneys, scoucers, geordies, brummies, the Cornish, East Anglicans, the welsh, the Irish and the Scots,

Saying “it’s grim up north,” even I do that,  but hey northern power house, here’s two refurbished 1950s trains there you go….

On the plus side there’s Cable Street, Nye Bevan and the NHS

Ok over to you guys- what does British mean?

Spies, secret sanctuaries and my mother

Spies, secret sanctuaries and my mother

I’m watching the Odette, it’s the story of the French woman Odette Churchill who served as a spy for Britain, working with the French resistance during WW2. Mum told me about this and urged me to watch the film Carve Her Name With Pride, which was her favourite, another true story; that of Violette Szabo who also assisted the French resistance.

Some time before my mum died, perhaps a few years before, she told me she had heard on Radio 4’s Womens Hour that women like this who were injured were treated in secret by the Sacred Heart Convent where she went to school. She was so excited and so proud. She introduced me to Code Poem for the French Resistance by Leo Marx which was broadcast on the show and recited in Carve Her Name With Pride. She asked from her hospital bed when she was dying that the poem be read at her funeral.

Prior to this discovery her only memories of that school were not happy ones.She would tell me only of the cruelty of the nuns, one in particular who would walk around the class room with a ruler and wrap anyone over the knuckles if they got the sums wrong. As a result mum developed a blind spot about maths though she could handle the housekeeping well enough it was only when she did a GCSE in maths to apply for teacher training she could do anything more complex. I remember cutting up an orange to teach her fractions.

I remember another conversation, I was in my mid or late 30’s and had gone back for the weekend. These visits would have a typical pattern. We’d have a few drinks on the Friday night and talk, argue, discuss current affairs. The rest of the weekend we might have a little trip out to a park, garden or stately home.

I’m not sure how we got there on this night but I remember mum saying something like, “I don’t know how anyone does that.” And dad said, “What are you talking about if the Nazis had invaded here you be the one planting bombs and blowing up train tracks.” Or words to that effect. We had had a few if the truth be told. I was just looking on with amazement at this turn in the conversation. It was probably followed with something like, “Well I think it’s time we all went to bed now.”

Mum disliked war films generally, when we were little kids, if something came on, “Up periscope, down periscope!” Us kids would crow, Mum would shake her head, retreat to the kitchen and say something like, “Awful, just awful, war is a terrible thing.” She wasn’t keen on Cowboys and Indians either except Last of The Mohicans.

On afternoons like this or at Christmas we would watch over and over The Great Escape, Spartacus and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. When the latter ended, repressing and hiding tears. Emotion was not something that was easily shown in our family.

I think mum was the only one who really understood me and what I was doing with poetry and politics even though even as late as 2002 she was still overly protective and was furious when she discovered after when a group of us went to the European Social conference in Florence we joined the million on the peace march at the end. I had told her about the conference, no one knew the March would be so big and broadcast across the world.

Later she apologised about flipping out and said I’m not worried what you would do I was worried about the police, which is fair enough they had killed Carlo Giuliani, a year before at the G8 summit, his parents led the march and was so big the police didn’t come anywhere near it.

Next Saturday I’m performing with a group call Things that Make for Peace on the 70th anniversary of NATO. I don’t know if she would get why we oppose nato because that’s not a conversation we ever had but I think she would be proud. It’s times like this I miss my mum but I feel her closeness at the same time.

Only when she was dying she finally stopped saying, “Just be careful” when I went on a protest. I guess that’s what mums have to do and know when to stop doing it. I’m glad we reached that understanding. In the end. If it wasn’t for her I feel my life would have been very different. I believe it was her that planted in me these seeds for peace, justice and equality, it wasn’t just what she said, the stories she told, it the passion with which she did it.

https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_171571.htm

Extinction Rebellion, London Occupation, a poem by Leslie Stuart Tate

Extinction Rebellion, London Occupation, a poem by Leslie Stuart Tate

Beautiful poem from Leslie Stuart Tate, capturing moments in action and the dialectical notion of how as we seek to make change we too change, learn and grow in the struggle; “How we made tarmac into garden,/seeding ourselves in the night/and easing up next morning/through drains and cracks/to release soft balsamic fragrance/and love-repeat blooms/ unlocking who we are.”

I love the sense that this is not just a cerebral process but an uncovering, a discovering of our potential. The potential born in us set free by love and action, a beautiful process. Replete in reference, it evokes for me Oliver Tambos “flowers, of the revolution,” Oscar Wilde’s “we are all in the gutter…” and Rumi’s ““Be crumbled. So wild flowers come up where you are. You have been stony for too many years. Try something different.” Yet while doing so entirely original, expressing the essence of XR. This distillation the very definition of poetry.

Extinction Rebellion, London Occupation

(With acknowledgments to Adlestrop, Edward Thomas)

I remember

where we nested on trucks

with our talons drilled into metal

as we sent up wild cries calling to our children,

and they gathered,

rising from their bedrooms

and playgrounds and schoolrooms

to fold their wings around the wounds

and consecrated body of Earth our host.

How we made tarmac into garden,

seeding ourselves in the night

and easing up next morning

through drains and cracks

to release soft balsamic fragrance

and love-repeat blooms

unlocking who we are.

Yes, I remember how we offered ourselves,

sitting cross-legged on stony ground

held together by our songbooks and testimonies

and the rising tide of quiet

on the bridge and in the Square,

and in the silent wait at the Circus for leaf-boat rescue.

And in that minute, as I watched, the air became an Arch,

the sun told the truth; the traffic stopped

and the trees and protestors stood tall

raising a dream-song space with their bodies,

while all the birds

of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire

sang emergency.

Leslie Tate https://leslietate.com/ who adds

This poem is about the April XR occupation of London. It took a long time to write, so I didn’t read it until I was MC-ing a stage during the July and October uprisings. Here’s a link to Blythe Pepino’s song ‘Emergency’, referred to at the end https://soundcloud.com/blythehart/emergency.

#PoetryReadathon

 

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Poem: Bloodlines

Poem: Bloodlines

Bloodlines – new version for performance, updated 2019

Dedicated to Heba Farouk Mahfouz and Ahmed Harara

I’m pulling on my jacket when I notice your status.

Urgent Qasr al Ainy need blood donors immediately. Spread this #Tahrir 21 Nov 22.22

Almost 12 hours ago then, and I am almost 12 hours away

from the makeshift hospitals in churches and mosques,

where doctors and nurses attend to the wounded on their hand and knees,

and even if I could cross the miles in an instant…

 

look down, blood is smeared all over my screen,

the blood of the hopeful, the dreamers in Oakland,

Denver, Daara and Homs and now in my beloved al Qahira.

Is blood the currency of our liberation?

Scroll, the bodies of Syrian children twist, crumple and fall,

and that blood too wells up and drips onto by desk,

absentmindedly I push the keyboard aside,

hearing the slogan of the revolutions roar from my speakers

ashaab urid isqaat annism, the people demand the fall of the regime.

Move the mouse, click you tell us that Ahmed Harara gave one eye in January

and the other on Saturday

If I could cross the miles in an instant…


I would love to touch again that earth,

where I sat in the summer, in the lull,

under the moonlight and an imperfect victory

with new families, singing rebel songs.

We come here all the time now, not just on Fridays

a woman told me, her son asleep in her arms,

we can come here when we want now, this is our now.

Shame creeps up behind my neck no amount of my reminiscence

with return to Ahmed his eyes. Scroll, he sits in the studio,

a fresh bandage over his eye and he smiles. He is smiling, smiling!

The dentist, son, brother who may never see again. He is smiling

and he has the voice and vision of angels

#dignity #honour #courage. If only

I could cross the miles in an instant…

 

What was I doing? What am I now, Egyptian, Syrian, American?

What am I now but blood, consciousness and pain.

Time to leave now, to wrestle with the tube where I might usually conjugate Arabic

verbs, but not today, knowing … that even if I could cross the miles in an instant


there is not enough blood in my body for the fallen #powerless.

Later I sink back into the smile of the blind man I’ve never met,our brother, this time he

is in the arms of the mother of Khalid Said, the boy in whose name so many stood up and

I know now, that while there is blood in my body,

I have my voice, I have hope

I still have dreams of freedom

while there is blood in our bodies,

always we have our voice and hope

still we have our dreams of freedom…

 

I began writing the poem below as news of a massacre in Cairo came thru from my facebook friends in Egypt. One in particular was ceaseless in her reporting which was vital to the struggle was Heba, who now works for the Washington Times. This version below was updated for performance and for today.

The courage, passion, compassion, dignity and love of those in the struggle inspired me to begin the poem a version of which was eventually published in one of the Loose Muse Anthologies. Forget which one, which anthology. I was actually really depressed when I put my pen to the page. Not coz of this, just in general. Not sure what crashed me now. Perhaps the combination of a heartbreak at the end of a relationship lost in translation and clearing out our family home after our Dad died.

I remember feeling so impotent, being so far away. My heart tearing. Thinking I can’t write, can’t do anything, my writing is crap anyway, then thru the tears that opened my heart came words.

The 21st November 2011 was a dark day in Cairo. So many shot, beaten, wounded, killed. Many shot in the eyes, including Ahmed Harara, a dentist who took to the streets in January, gave one eye to the struggle then another on this day. Under orders from SCAF, the military council. He eventually became a citizen journalist.

Things aren’t much better now under Al Sisi, which is why I feel this is still relevant. Lets never forget the power we have united, the courage that we saw in Tahrir. Will never forget those I met in the square in that mellow summer when things coulda gone either way and many knew that.

Heba and Ahmed helped me live again when I was drowning in my sorrows, worse in the visible darkness of a deep depression. My message to them today; I feel the tide is turning again across the world. Good luck with your writing. Never let go of hope, let the light shine even if all it can do is reveal the darkness. Tadamun, Ohabty, Ohaby.

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Rant post: the housing crisis

Rant post: the housing crisis

Every day a new story emerges about council estates left empty after their residents have been evicted and scattered to the four winds, of luxury apartments left empty, of the growing number of rough sleepers, the hidden homeless; young people “sofa surfing”, growing numbers of families in temporary accommodation or in overcrowded accommodation, of the residents from Grenfell tower STILL waiting to be offered suitable accommodation.

This is the reality of the housing crisis, the majority of property being built is for the rich and privileged and it would seem even that market is now saturated. While an exodus grips the capital. When will the government realise we need HOMES for teachers, bus drivers, nurses, baristas, cleaners, shop workers, artists, tube workers, I could go on; the people that keep this city functioning not luxury apartments for oligarchs and their friends. The “market” in”housing” is an insanity. Those that continue to propose it as a solution are deluded. The facts are screaming out that neoliberalism ISNT WORKING.

In the conclusion to the Introduction to 306:Living Under the Shadow of Regeneration I wrote,

“The combination of a short-sighted housing policies, changes to welfare; inadequate social care, invisible and unaccountable decisions which replace pubs and bingo halls with supermarkets, seem to be stripping the soul out of our cities and changing the landscape and demography.

Who will sweep our streets, teach our children, tend to the sick, drive our buses and tubes if these processes of regeneration and gentrification are allowed to continue unabated? What do we want for the future of our cities? Soulless spheres of glass and steel; bereft of pubs, night clubs, gay clubs, market places, the damned working class, public spaces free to wander, sit and talk or organically growing, changing, diversifying, supporting, thriving communities?”

More info https://cressinghamvoices.wordpress.com/


A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Diary November 2019

Diary November 2019

Saturday 9th November

Joining a strong line up of wordsmiths I pulled together at a weeks notice to open the Musicians Against Homelessness gig at the Fox and Firkin, Lewisham High Street, SE13 6JZ

Poetry and Spoken Word from 5.00-7.00 pm. Bands and DJ’s from 7.30- the midnight hour. Words and wisdom from

Beady Man is a spoken word artist and political activist from Brixton. He is the resident poet at Reel News. He has written and recorded three videos over two election campaigns for the Labour Party group Momentum. https://www.facebook.com/groups/127866140666115/?ref=share

The Rev Be Atwell of Alabama 3 sure knows the score, he was homeless for 20 years while cutting his creative teeth at open mike nights along side dearly departed Errol Thompson. Be will be performing material new from the Road Man album. Rev. Be. Atwell https://www.alabama3.co.uk/en/coYntainers/profile/known_associates

Dennis Just Dennis loves life and sharing it in lyrics. Dennis featured on The Duel‘s new Album Waging Waralong with Angie Bowie and Segs Jennings  of The Ruts and recorded England’s Dream, written with Pete Ardron, aired at the South Africa World Cup.  http://dennisjustdennis.com/

Hilaire is a writer of poetry and prose, originally from Melbourne.She is one half of London Undercurrents, a project with Joolz Sparkes which led to the publication in March this year of London Undercurrents: the hidden histories of London’s unsung heroines north and south of the river https://www.hollandparkpress.co.uk/books/london-undercurrents/

Samantha Love trained as a method actor. She is a poet, dancer, cabaret artist and compère and contributor to the Pavement magazine, a homeless magazine. She writes deep, dark and meaningful with a twist of irony and a touch of welsh wicked. Host at https://www.widgeontheatreboat.com/

Somaye is a poet, percussionist and singer from London of Iranian origin. Described as “Nina Simone meets Bertolt Brecht set to a Middle Eastern beat” she enchants audiences with her voice, music and socially conscious poetry. https://somayeartiste.wixsite.com/somaye

Tunes and visionary lyrics from

Attawalpa, MeU = MeU, Sonic Eyes, The Four Fathers, Children of the Pope

Hosted by  resident Mc’s ph7  and Mc Gavin Mysterion/ poet

DJ Decks Ray Spex and Photographer Odette Mysterion

Performances take place on both the main stage with poetry in the garden chalet, weather permitting. Suggested donation of £3 before 9pm/ £5 after

To join, share invite, get involved in the discussion and see full  details here https://facebook.com/events/1417146248434198/?ti=icl

Following the successful launch last month further screenings of We The People in Lambeth, see dates and venues below 

We The People is a short film by Virginia Nimarkoh and Fan Sissoko, made in partnership with The Advocacy Academy, the UK’s first campus for young activists, based in Brixton, one of London’s most socially active communities.

Filmed over summer 2019, We The People explores themes of activism and community, past and present. It follows six inspiring conversations between activists and grassroots organisers, young and less young, making positive change at a local level. For many people, these are dire times. Meet some who dare to resist.

Original soundtrack by Dubmorphology.

We The People is a Museum of London commission.

Helen Carr and I from Save Cressingham took part in this fascinating project. We haven’t seen the edits but hoping to get to a screening or two. It was really great to meet the film makers and activists from the Advocacy Academy. I like the expression, “young and less young”. Either way you put it I feel we have so much to learn from each other. It was thought provoking and inspiring. Also featuring

Davida Afriye, Ibtisam Ahmed, Martins Banjo, Ajuub Faraji, Angie Lorena Gomez, Leila Hassan Howe, Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre, Betty Pearl Mayo, Semi Orekoya, Becky Payne, Jemmar Samuels, Heather Seal, Shiden Tekle, Clare Truscott and Malcolm Watson.

You can find more info about Virginia Nimarkoh here, and about Fan Sissoko here.

If you couldn’t make the launch of We The People  on the 31st of October, there are alternative screenings taking place across Lambeth see below and RSVP on eventbrite.

7 November 7pm – The Advocacy Academy, 7 Vining Street, SW9 8QA

14 November 7.30pm – Cressingham Gardens Estate SW2 2NJ

26 November 6.30pm Brixton Library Windrush Square, SW2 1JQ

28 November 7pm – Brixton Housing Co-operative, SE24 0LD

Follow @WeThePeople on Twitter to stay updated of further screenings. Share this invitation to anyone who you think may be interested.

Writing prompt: A plant called Pete has taken a selfie

Writing prompt: A plant called Pete has taken a selfie

“A plant called Pete has taken a selfie”

Play with this one; use the headline or image as a prompt and freewrite for twenty minutes and see where it takes you. Then consider what you have just made. Is it for just for fun, or does it feel it needs development, does it welcome a form?

Take it further if you like; what does Pete make of the climate emergency?

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Reported16th October 2019

More info https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-50056665

 

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Reflections on World Mental Health Day 2019

Reflections on World Mental Health Day 2019

Happy mental health day – I can’t help thinking, how can we be healthy right now? If health is balance it is so hard to achieve in a world that feels so out of balance. The toxic mix of the incredible uncertainty that we are living through in The U.K. right now, across the world, the absurdity and insanity, not just of our economic system – for profit not need, but the farce of what passes for governance, the ever present wars and threat of war are taking there toll.

A programme last night called How Did I Get Mad, revealed higher incidences of psychosis among people that have migrated, whether voluntarily or forced by war, poverty or the threat of persecution. In addition the levels of mental health problems among young people are at there highest levels ever recorded in Britain and the simply is enough services to treat these people near their families and friends.

The dominant economic and political systems of this world are not just unequal and unjust they are making us sick quite literally. We must heal ourselves and this planet. The two are dialectical but if you are really vulnerable at this time, put yourself first, find ways to become more stable and achieve the balance in yourself first before taking on the instability and imbalance and in this world. Reach out for help if you need it, spend time in nature, trust the earth to love you and hold you. Trust the universe to deliver what you need.

It’s all connected. We are all matter and energy. We are all human. Even members of Parliament last night in response to the persecution by the far right were saying, we are human, we are afraid for our own life’s and those of our families. I’ve gone off at a tangent I realise yet if that is not evidence of consciousness changing what is. Marx said conscious would change in struggle, he was right and time and time again we have witnessed this over the centuries, in revolutions. But they did not, as Trotsky urged they must, become permanent.

Now we face the biggest struggle ever, to save the planet and save ourselves. It effects everyone of us. If the 1% only care about their wealth, property and investments fuck them. We don’t need them, we already run things already on a day to day basis while they cream off the profits. I’m not saying class doesn’t matter, or other differences we may have don’t matter, we all have different experiences and they are all valuable. Collectively we can turn things around. It’s already started.

Humans appear to be so destructive, but they can also be astoundingly creative when not tied to a profit motive, when not warring for profit;  warring over oil, fossil fuels and minerals. When we look for solutions. When we used compassion and empathy rather than statistics and financial risk to make decisions. The beginning is nigh, the time is now for action for some, healing for others, a new dawn is on the horizon, our spring will come, love is the way and love begets love. And has no limit.

 

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No borders, no crime?

No borders, no crime?

Response to

‘We’re not being given a viable future’: how Brexit will hurt British music by Michael Hann @michaelahann

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/apr/03/brexit-effects-on-british-pop-classical-music?CMP=share_btn_fb

Who said, “Because I am a woman I have no country?” I forget but I say, Because I am a writer; I have no country. Because I am a refugee; I have no country. Because I have a disability; I have no country. Because I am precarious; I have no country. Because I am an artist; I have no country. Because I am a minority; I have no country unless it pleases them, look out. Because I have special educational needs; I have no country. Because I’m a trade unionist; I have no country. Because I have a mental health problem; I have no country. Because I am a migrant worker; I have no country. Because I am a musician….

Some might say

Because I invest in an offshore tax free account I have no country, and there’s plenty of advice out there how to do it….

“Despite what you may hear, offshore banking is completely legal. It’s not about tax evasion or other illegal activities. It’s simply about legally diversifying your political risk by putting your liquid savings in sound, well-capitalized institutions where they are treated best.”

https://internationalman.com/articles/offshore-banking/

“Where you normally pay tax

If you’re not resident in the UK for tax purposes you won’t usually be liable to pay tax in the UK on your offshore incomes and gains but it’s important to check your residency status and what’s taxable from offshore income.” HMRC Guidance.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/ten-things-about-offshore-assets-and-income/ten-things-about-offshore-assets-and-income

“Offshore investment bonds can be a tax efficient investment wrapper often provided by global life insurance firms with the aim to enable investors to grow capital often without attracting any tax.”

https://www.expertsforexpats.com/expat-financial-advice/offshore-investment-bonds/

 

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Matter poetry: The Little that is Left

Matter poetry: The Little that is Left

The Little that is Left is a series of meditations on absence.  This is the first. They imply the end of relating and the detritus of exchange, the fondness of longing and a nostalgia for something lost. Each a narrative poem. The objects invite the reader to write the story that is hinted at.

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Diary October 2019

Diary October 2019

The main event for me this month is the October Extinction Rebellion event  in London. Events listings and reports can be found here https://rebellion.earth/

The essence of XR is to TELL THE TRUTH about the reality and urgency of the climate emergency we are experiencing and to ACT NOW.

I understand the aim in London is to establish and hold 12 sites. Each has a different theme. Many different groups are holding actions and events at each site.

I hope to be mcing a poetry event at the Love and Rebellion site, Sunday 13th October 2.00-4.00pm @Stage 4, 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A 2HQ, by the Treasury, on the edge of St James’s Park.

It’s likely to be a fluid situation so arrangements may change, expect a stellar line up of poets, some music and watch this space for any updates…

Here’s a map:  https://www.bing.com/maps?&ty=18&q=HM%20Treasury&ss=ypid.YN1029x4555753862839045164&ppois=51.50231170654297_-0.1297300010919571_HM%20Treasury_YN1029x4555753862839045164~&cp=51.502312~-0.12973&v=2&sV=1

Heads Up October is also Lambeth Libraries Black History Month. Lambeth Libraries hosts a series of events with authors, films, music, dance, theatre;  a month long opportunity to learn about and celebrate African Caribbean Heritage and Culture.

The events are being held in partnership with the Black Cultural Archives and many local organisations: expect a selection of brilliant writers and artists, to deliver 2019’s Black History Month programme all over Lambeth through October and into November.

More info https://love.lambeth.gov.uk>black_history-month

Thursday 31st October

We The People – Launch and Screening

Thursday 31st October Doors open at 6.30pm Screening at 7pm Q&A at 7.35pm at the Ragged Canteen at Beaconsfield, 22 Newport Street, London SE11 6AY

RSVP

We The People is a short film by Virginia Nimarkoh and Fan Sissoko, made in partnership with The AdvocacyAcademy, the UK’s first campus for young activists, based in Brixton, one of London’s most socially active communities.

Filmed over summer 2019, ‘We The People’ explores themes of activism and community, past and present. We follow six inspiring conversations between activists and grassroots organisers, young and less young, making positive change at a local level. For many people, these are dire times. Meet some who dare to resist.

Original soundtrack by Dubmorphology.

We The People is a Museum of London commission.

Helen Carr and I from Save Cressingham took part in this fascinating project. We haven’t seen the edits but hoping to get to a screening or two. It was really great to meet the film makers and activists from the Advocacy Academy. I like the expression, “young and less young”. Either way you put it I feel we have so much to learn from each other. It was thought provoking and inspiring. Also featuring

Davida Afriye, Ibtisam Ahmed, Martins Banjo, Ajuub Faraji, Angie Lorena Gomez, Leila Hassan Howe, Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre, Betty Pearl Mayo, Semi Orekoya, Becky Payne, Jemmar Samuels, Heather Seal, Shiden Tekle, Clare Truscott and Malcolm Watson.

You can find more info about Virginia Nimarkoh here, and about Fan Sissoko here.

 

Quote: Spencer Reece

Quote: Spencer Reece

Possibly my favourite four sentences of all time;

“Hours clot. Birds flap like passports. Fields explode with temper tantrums. Here comes trouble.”

From Ghazals for Spring in The Clerk’s Tale, Foreward by Louise Gluck

Houghton Mifflin, Boston, New York 2004

 

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Brexit – the art of distraction.

Brexit – the art of distraction.

I’m coming to the conclusion that Brexit with its almost 50/50 split is the best distraction the ruling class and their political representatives have ever accidentally fallen upon. I don’t think it was the conscious will to be such but now stands as a real threat to progressive or working class unity and any meaningful and absolutely necessary action needed right now on climate, housing, fair pay, the nhs, social care, welfare, education and the rise of the right.

That is why proroguing for me is such a crime and so dangerous. I know I’ve contributed to that noise in my satirical series of breaking down the Brexit lexicon but suddenly I realised every time we buy in to their agenda, or even mention the issue we are getting lost in the absurdity and risk losing the little that remains of hard fought rights. We need nothing less than a paradigm shift in the narrative; a new agenda with people first, in priorities, debate, action and above all as decision makers.

That might sound contradictory given the outcome of the last referendum has arguably led to the insane chaotic mess we find ourself in. But has it? Is the referendum to blame? I say no. The referendum was advisory. That fact has been ignored not only by Cameron, May, Johnson and Gove but the Labour Party leadership and the Libdems.

All these issues being currently ignored are linked; the climate emergency, racism, inequality in all its forms, precarity and austerity. Brexit is just a distraction one lot of UK neoliberals against the EU neoliberals. Corbyn and McDonald do set out a different path but are yet to be tested.

Where do we begin, right here right now with a divided resistance. I suggest in our workplaces and communities. Humans are almost limitless in the power we have, the skills, the experiences, talents and knowledge. But most people just don’t know there own power. How do we change that? Get people involved in action, any action that builds and grows.

On Cressingham today we have a party, a bbq picnic with an orchestra. We have done our best to spread the word and people have come forward with help, sometimes for the first time. It’s a small thing when the globe is encircled by fire and sea levels are rising. Yet an important thing. On Cressingham we have won the right to manage and the right to transfer; subject to a ballot. Hence we come out of local authority control once the process of the latter is complete. These are not small things.

In our communities I believe we need to connect, get to know each other, get to know each other’s skills, experience and talents. In my experience of 20 odd years of creative writing workshops, 15 in mental health settings, people can and do change and grow. Not because I tell them your great, that’s great, but because in the practice of doing, doing anything, people learn to see and experience their own greatness.

In the last flew days I’ve seen calls for a an election, that is not in our power, a general strike called by a Labour MP, that is not likely even if called by the TUC. I, at an unguarded moment, called occupy parliament. That’s not gonna happen. We need to start at the grassroots imo and welcome new perspectives, new ideas, new ways. The old ways have not served us well. Britain went to the IMF in 1975, resulting in a wage cap during galloping inflation that led to the winter of discontent and despite the courage and tenacity of the 84/85 Miners strike, its been pretty much downhill since then.

I raise an old slogan from my uni days – think global and act local. Empower ourselves and others. Though humanity needs to take a great leap, perhaps we can begin with baby steps. Consciousness is I believe shifting. One could say we are in the storm before the calm. Action is urgently needed but we have to keep a clear head, the noise of Brexit debate does not help. I have more questions than answers because we are in an unprecedented time, globally and nationally.

I still believe ultimately in unity, solidarity, that we should plaster dignity and equality on our banners, but slogans are just that. Here’s another Deeds not words. And from or often attributed to Goethe,

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back — concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:

that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

Poem: How to Break a Curse by Danielle Boodoo-Fortune

Poem: How to Break a Curse by Danielle Boodoo-Fortune

How to Break a Curse

Lemon balm is for forgiveness.
Pull up from the root, steep
in boiling water. Add locusts’ wings,
salt, the dried bones of hummingbirds.
Drink when you feel ready.
Drink even if you do not.
Pepper seeds are for courage.
Sprinkle them on your tongue.
Sprinkle in the doorway and along
the windowsill. Mix pepper and water
to a thick paste. Spackle the cracks
in the concrete, anoint the part
in your hair. You need as much
courage as you can get.
Water is for healing.
Leave a jar open beneath the full moon.
Let it rest. Water your plants.
Wash your face. Drink.
The sharpened blade is for memory.
Metal lives long, never grows weary
of our comings and goings. Wrap this blade
in newspaper. Keep beneath your bed.
Be patient, daughter.
Be patient.

 


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Diary September 2019

Diary September 2019

Monday 9th September

Heading up to the launch of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments at Waterstones Picadilly. Looks like it’s going to be emotional. Readings, embroidery, placard making, cocktails and speed mentoring no less. A drop in and ticketed events, 400 tickets in total, I believe, for this baby so snap one up. I’m lucky a well organised friend sorted this out for me.

More info: http://margaretatwood.ca/

Had a chat with Reuter’s! I kinda wondered why the made a beeline for me, maybe thinking who’s that old bird, was it the hat? Or the unseasonal coat? Ticked some box somewhere. Man the camera adds pounds don’t it! Told them ima poet, that fell on deaf ears!

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https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-britain-women-atwood-interview-idUKKCN1VV1R

Saturday 14th September

Featured on Wandsworth Radio, a community radio show hosted by Colin Crilly and Andy Bungay, a monthly round up of activism with music. Will taking about new developments on Cressingham Gardens, throwing in some poetry and and no doubt we’ll touch on resistance generally. It’ll be pre recorded as this show goes on LATE!

Watch this space for a link

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Friday 20th September

Will be joining Poets for the Planet in Parliament Square in solidarity with the #GlobalClimateStrike Meeting up midday at the Millicent statue if you want to join us.

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Poem: Love times love equals infinity

Poem: Love times love equals infinity

Love times love equals infinity (commissioned by Gabbi Lopez, Release/Sustain for Love Squared)

Prelude

We are in a time when people keep the banks afloat, when beauty can be bought, when talking about the weatherhas become political. The time of hope and change,of permanent war, when even monks have taken up arms,And in parts of arabia the cross and crescent merge as one…

The echo of now sounds in the future

This time is the melody of opening,

This time is the harmony of sharing,

These beats,           a break

The rhythm, for our times

Between being and becoming

     

Reaching for a new operating system

for the world, with no limits

and upgrading our love

Love begets love

Love is an action,

love is motive

We will occupy your minds,

occupy your heart

And give you love squared

2012

Diary August 2019

Diary August 2019

Monday 5th August

In conversation with the amazing photographer, writer and radio host  Naomi Woddis on her show The Two of Us at Reel Rebels Radio exploring poetry,  mental health, spirituality and more.

You can listen in here https://m.mixcloud.com/The_Two_of_Us/the-two-of-us-featuring-anne-enith-cooper

The rest of the month I think I’ll kick back, top up my tan, sort out my tech while the world appears to spin on hysteria and bad political appointments and I will pray we be delivered out of chaos. And if I start to lose hope I’ll listen to B movie by Gil Scott Heron coz, I keep thinking – not my prime minister! 0.13% of the population?  “Mandate my ass! Ain’t really a life, ain’t really a life, ain’t nothing but a movie…” And if you know what that movie is called – and you ain’t taken the blue pill, now it’s time to unclip. We can all be Neo, go back to the source and let your light shine!

Saturday 31st August

A late addition to the schedule- join us to celebrate winning the Right to Transfer on Cressingham, we have received approval from the Secretary of State to go ahead, subject to a ballot and some legal work. We are holding a bbq picnic, back yard cookout. All welcome, bring a bottle, a blanket, bring the family, there’s a bouncy castle.  Food from Clavia Plan and music from the Brixton Chamber Orchestra.w

Anything is possible, if you get your ducks in a row…really?

Anything is possible, if you get your ducks in a row…really?

Excuse me for resorting to cliche but that seems to be the level of what passes as rhetorical argument in what passes for governance right about now. That and  optimism as policy, slogans as debate.

I’ll examine one of the features of the BoJo methodology: optimism. There is an optimism and confidence born of a “heightened state”, a feature of a bipolar disorder, known as hypermania, its one step down from an (often delusion) full blown mania. In this state of mind it can feel like anything is possible.

Those that have experienced this will know what I’m talking about. And sometimes one can move mountains for a while. Say it’s a book launch, well in this example a limited edition pamphlet launch, due to take place in two days time; the room is booked, as are the Dj’s and acts and you’ve been up best part of three nights straight setting up the copy when the fan falls off the pc at about 4am. Meanwhile somewhere else an insomniac musician you just met, after an after party, on the way home, is hand painting 100 individual covers. This aspect you have little control over.

Yet by sheer force of will you push thru, with the help of an on call IT tech friend, get to the printers, the covers arrive an hour before the launch, we are stapling them as folk arrive. The only impediment was lack of faith and dwindling sanity, ( mine). Everyone was on my side. We made it happen. The crash after was almighty. My time management has improved somewhat since 2000.

The impediment here today in the BoJo world view seems to be the representatives of 27 states who have consistently stated they will not reopen the withdrawal agreement, which has been passed by Parliament in any case. I don’t see how any amount of positive thinking, bluff and bluster, will change the minds of people in the EU parliament who – even if they colloquially give a flying fuck about the blind uberconviction of the prime minister elect – he doesn’t even seem prepared to meet them, he’s pulled out our representatives in Europe and instead makes an announcement in Truro of all places. Well that will do it. Get them on side!

Is there a historical precedent for this I wonder? That seems to be the fashion of the age. It’s like the war! Up and at em! Not sine Suez and the like. And now I hear that song we learnt as a child – The Grand old Duke of York/ he had 10 000 men/ he marched them up/ to the top of the hill/ and he marched them down again.

Candidates for the origin of the rhyme according to wiki, which I just checked, not the greatest of  sources, include:

Richard, Duke of York (1411–1460), who was defeated at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December 1460. By the Lancastrians.

James II (1633–1701), formerly Duke of York, who in 1688 marched his troops to Salisbury Plain to resist the invasion from his son-in-law William of Orange, only to retreat and disperse them as his support began to evaporate.

Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827), Commander-in-Chief of the British Army during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. His one field command of significance was the Flanders Campaign of 1793–4, which resulted in the heavy defeat at the Battle of Tourcoing (1794), followed by his recall to England.

The rhyme is mean to imply futility but the histories appear to show bad tactics, over optimism and defeat. Where are the bards and songsters that can aptly describe the absurdity of our times? Bring out the horns and strings, play us a song of hope. Who was it that fiddled as room burned? Ah yes Nero. Which brings full circle back to one of Boris Johnson’s much cited quotes:

“They voted for Anthony Charles Lynton Blair to serve as their leader. They were at no stage invited to vote on whether Gordon Brown should be PM… They voted for Tony, and yet they now get Gordon, and a transition about as democratically proper as the transition from Claudius to Nero. It is a scandal. Why are we all conniving in this stitch-up? This is nothing less than a palace coup… with North Korean servility, the Labour Party has handed power over to the brooding Scottish power-maniac.”

https://amp.theguardian.com/politics/live/2019/aug/19/brexit-latest-news-jeremy-corbyn-speech-labour-could-be-officially-neutral-in-any-second-referendum-campaign-john-mcdonnell-suggests-live-news

Diary July 2019

Diary July 2019

12th July 2019

Presenting my paper at this

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Monday 15th July

Taking part in an inter generational conversation organised by We The People and commissioned by the Museum of London. The conversation will be filmed and  the resulting film by We The People will consist of a series of conversations about ​activism, community​ ​and legacy​. The film aims to celebrate Lambeth’s rich history of community action and look forward with hope to the future.

Myself and another activist from Cressingham Gardens will meet with members of the Advocacy Academy and see where the conversation goes.

We The People expect the film to be edited and ready to screen by the end of the summer, and will host a series of screenings around Lambeth. The aim is for the film become part of the Museum of London’s collection, as well as that of Lambeth Archives. There are plans to also make the film accessible to everyone online under a Creative Commons License. It will also be shown and shared online.

Saturday 27th July 2019

Will be joining the Lambeth estate regeneration conference 2.30pm-5.00pm at Cressingham Gardens Rotunda Tulse Hill. I will have copies of the book 306: Living Under the Shadow of Regeneration. We are looking to the future with hope as Cressingham Gardens application for a Right to Transfer has been approved by Kit Malthouse, the Secretary of State. This is not the end of the road but I believe I can say that end is in sight.

The Times Are A-changin’ (indeed)

The Times Are A-changin’ (indeed)

Yesterday the Evening Standard reported on its front page that an Ipsos MORI poll shows “85% of adults are concerned about global warming.” And “Three-quarters believe the country is already feeling the effects of climate change.” Good.

But don’t be afraid, be a warrior, be part of the army of love. Call me a hippy if you like but fear ain’t gonna get us no where, hate only burns. Be the river, be the stream, be part of a mighty ocean wave, every drop is a part of the ocean.

They’re ain’t gonna be no Fire Next Time, it will be the flood, be part of the flood that will wash away all violence, all oppression, all inequality and  injustice and restore dignity,  respect, compassion, peace and freedom.

We need an upgrade for the world and now is the time. The time is now to put away old things, old ways, old ideas;  to become ( after Marx) fully human. As we create a new world we recreate ourselves. The dialectic still stands.

Be the Phoenix if you like, burn down the darkness within, we all have it and the best of us only have hate for ourselves but that helps no one, know your own light. Shine. Let the light shine. Love is the light. Love is the way. Love is an action. Love is solidarity. Love is unity.

It looks dark outside, it sure does, but the darkest hour is just before dawn, before the peace of the new morning. A new dawn.

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/climate-change-fears-gripping-britain-poll-reveals-85-are-worried-about-warming-the-highest-figure-a4218251.html

Diary June 2019

Diary June 2019

This month sees me with my head in books preparing a paper to be named Voices, Power and Space (with a subtitle to be confirmed) to present at the Literary London Society’s Annual Conference for 2019 ,'”Neighbours of Ours”: Cities, Communities, Networks’. I’ll be taking some time out on the delightful island of Gozo, taking my notes with me and hoping to pull them into some sort of shape.

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Cressingham Life: The shopping trolley v the drone

Cressingham Life: The shopping trolley v the drone

Earlier I was out the back of my flat on the patio with a coffee, trying to alay the morning brain fog. Four children appear with a shopping trolley. Having negotiated the slope down out of the next block, they lift the smallest and most vocal child into the basket at the front, “Let’s go to the park,” he shouts.

At this point I’m torn between – ahh kids, who needs to spend a fortune on toys and going over and saying, “This could end in tears.” The small boy crawls out and a girl climbs in. As soon as the pushing towards the park begins she starts crying, “I’m scared, I’m scared,” but submits to being pulled back into the block. They are out of sight now but I can still hear the squeals and an adults voice.

Half an hour later,  still have a large degree of brain fog, it’s as if my head has been in a bucket of goo. I don’t know why but this is always worse on a Monday. The kids are back, now they are five, they still have the trolley and now they have a drone. The trolley is briefly abandoned. In its first flight the drone crashes into a tree and falling this side of the fence rather than in the park. They stand around it, like a stone circle, accessing the damage I presume, then it’s back to their block leaving one girl to drag the trolley back behind them.

Trolley – two hours of fun. Drone – two minutes. (No far so injuries, except to the drone.) 

Poem in translation: Nichita Stănescu (1933 – 1983)

Poem in translation: Nichita Stănescu (1933 – 1983)

The Keys

The chain with keys has fallen from the stars in my brain,
my mind clanged with pain and with sound.
My entire body became an iron key,
Lord, for a gigantic door
whose lock I cannot reach,
unless you raise me in your arms.
Come on, as big as you are,
come on, as indifferent as you are,
turn me and break me
and open that door at once!
Come on, open it at once!

Cheile

Lanţul cu chei mi-a căzut din stele în creier,
mi-au zornăit minţile de durere şi de sunet.
Trupul meu tot deveni o cheie de fier,
Doamne, pentru o uşă uriaşă
la al cărei lacăt nu am cum să ajung,
decât numai dacă mă ridici în braţe.
Haide, cât eşti de mare, tu,
haide, cât eşti tu de indiferent,
răsuceşte-mă şi rupe-mă
şi deschide odată uşa aia!
Haide, deschide-o odată!

SHORT BIO: Ploieşti-born Nichita Hristea Stănescu (March 31, 1933 – December 13, 1983) was a Romanian poet and essayist. After finishing the local high school, he went on to study Romanian language and literature at the University of Bucharest, graduating in 1957. Nichita Stănescu made his literary debut in the Tribuna literary magazine. His editorial debut, in 1960, was the volume of poetry Sensul iubirii (“The Aim of Love”), He was the recipient of numerous literary awards, the most important being the Herder Prize, in 1975 and a nomination for the Nobel Prize in 1980. The last volume of poetry published in his lifetime, in 1982, was Noduri şi semne (“Knots and Signs”). After consuming three marriages and excess drink, he died in 1983.

Poetry in Translation (CCCL), Nichita STĂNESCU (1933-1983) ROMANIA: “De dragoste ”, “About love”

Remembering Blair Peach and Gurdip Singh Chaggar

Remembering Blair Peach and Gurdip Singh Chaggar

It is 40 years since Blair Peach was murdered by the police Special Patrol Group on a demonstration in Southall. The community turned out in large numbers to confront the National Front. The police, predictably for that time, not only defended the far right but virtually rioted against the community. 

The brutal events are recounted in a detailed personal account today in the Morning star https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/day-blair-peach-died-%E2%80%93-personal-account 

Though unaware of these events at the time I was involved in CND and would eventually attend Rock against Racism gigs in Hitchin. These events became well known in the punk community. 

Blair Peach and will be remembered in a march in Southall at the weekend. It is also worth remembering it took 30 years for the state to admit responsibility for the actions of the police that day.

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Image John Sturrock Instagram @johnnysturrock

 

Diary April 2019

Diary April 2019

Saturday 6 April 2019 7.30 pm – 10.00 pm

Bringing anti-war poems to an event organised by The Things That Make For Peace, who are working to provide unity around an anti-war perspective on the 70th Anniversary of Nato , at the Poetry Cafe there will be a talk and poetry, music and song anne-e-cooper-poetry-the-things-that-make-for-peace-april-2019-nato JPEGhttps://poetrysociety.org.uk/event/70th-anniversary-of-nato-an-anti-war-perspective-by-the-ad-hoc-committee-for-the-things-that-make-for-peace/

Saturday, 20 April 2019 at 19:00

Joining a stellar line up at Water into Beer in Brockley, 209-211 Mantle Road, SE4 2EW London. A night of poetry and spoken word featuring Tim Holehouse, taking a break from his european tour with Brady Palermo, giving us tales from his 13 years as a nomadic musician,  punk poetry from The Uptown Portrayer Punk Poet and Thomas Vincent and feral feminist vibes from Glittasphyxia. While I hope to deliver poems of love and transformation.

anne-e-cooper-poetry-water-into-beer-april-20th-2019.jpg

More info https://www.facebook.com/events/407286220075088/?active_tab=about

Groundswell women and homelessness project launch

Groundswell women and homelessness project launch

We had a great launch of our Women and Homeless project yesterday, on the eve of  international women’s day at Roots and Shoots in Kennington. I gave an introduction and reflection on the From the Ground Up training programme run by The Pavement and Groundswell and delivered my poem The Truth about Hats, a discourse on women’s history and struggles.

This highly instructive event including a presentations from and discussion and Q&A with Jane and Diana Rosenthal (Magpie Project) Connie Cullen and Amelia Grant (Shelter) and  Katie Smith (Women’s Aid) with music from  a Sarah Hough (Groundswell) accompanied by Bene Charles and Hugo Darino. And after a break further presentations and discussion about Good Practice with Gill Herd (Solace) Rosa Heimer (Latin American Women’s Aid) and Caroline Bernard (Homeless Link)

We were treated to the personal journey in and out of homelessness and beautiful music from Shirley Smith and finally presented a brief talk from Shadow Housing Minister Melanie Onn MP before the closing remarks and Suzy Solley and Sharron Clint (Groundswell). And miraculously almost finished on time. This multi disciplinary approach, including the lived homeless experience of people is essentially for tackling a subject so complex.

 

 

On writing: Robert Frost

On writing: Robert Frost

“Poetry is when our emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”

Robert Lee Frost March 26th 1874 – January 29th 1963 was a US poet first published in the U.K. since his death questions have been raised about his character. 

A winner of four Pulitzer Prizes, he remains a great poet in terms of output and influence. I just love this quote.

 

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Diary March 2019

Diary March 2019

Will be joining Groundswell and The Pavement for the launch of our Women’s and homelessness project, on the eve of  international women’s day, please RSVP to attend. I will be saying a few words about the From the Ground Up training programme run by The Pavement and Groundswell and delivering some poems on women’s history and struggles. It is a great event including a discussion and Q&A with Jane and Diana Rosenthal (Magpie Project) Connie Cullen and Amelia Grant (Shelter) and  Katie Smith (Women’s Aid) with music from  Sarah Hough (Groundswell) accompanied by Bene Charles and Hugo Darino.

There will be further presentations and discussion about Good practice with Gill Herd (Solace) Rosa Heimer (Latin American Women’s Aid) and Caroline Bernard (Homeless Link) and finally Closing remarks from an MP (yet to be named) and Suzy Solley and Sharron Clint (Groundswell). If you are working in the homelessness or related sector do try and get to this event

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Friday 8th March

I have the great honour to be reading poems about women’s history and struggles including my poem Don’t You Know About the Match Girls? At the opening to a fascinating exhibition: Sarah Chapman, Matchgirl – Story of a Strike Leader taking place Friday 8th- Friday 29th March at the Idea Store Whitechapel, 321 Whitechapel Road, London E1

I will be joining match girl descendent Sam Johnson, Sarah’s great-grand-daughter and Toynbee Hall’s resident storyteller Sinead O’Brien. All are welcome to join us the preview of this exhibition.

The poem is based on my hearing of the story through the oral history conveyed by my family. Since writing the poem I discovered at the Matchgirls memorial walk organised by Sam that the story of the match girls victory was spread far and wide at the time, including reaching the Lancashire cotton mills where my grandmother worked, solving the mystery of how the women on that side of my family knew the story.

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The exhibition, on the first floor landing, brings a personal slant to the famous Match Girls’ Strike of 1888, from the perspective of local, working class girl Sarah Chapman of Mile End.

Sarah was among the factory workers who met with the Directors of Bryant and May and courageously argued for better terms and working conditions. Sarah’s legacy continues today, but her role has been largely unnoticed until now.

Local History Library and Archives
Exhibition Launch
Friday 8 March, 6:00 – 7:30pm

 

email localhistory@towerhamlets.gov.uk if you intend to come or join the facebook event https://www.facebook.com/events/535503313603875/

 

 

Poems by others: Karma by Dominique Christina Ashaheed

Poems by others: Karma by Dominique Christina Ashaheed

Simply the most powerful poetry performance I’ve ever witness and the poem itself is so crafted, crossing continents and epochs smashing the faux debate between page poetry v spoken word into touch.

 

Great interview here https://rebelgrrrl.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/art-matters-an-interview-with-dominique-ashaheed/


A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Poem: The Way of the Water

Poem: The Way of the Water

 

It’s ten in the morning, already tear gas fogs

the Avenue des the Champs-Élysées

it hugs the tarmac, rises and twists in the air.

The yellow vests dodge and duck, they have not learnt

yet, as they did in Tahrir, to throw these grenades of poison back.

With masks and banners the protesters briefly face up

to riot police who form a line, their backs to armoured vehicles

with blackened windows, behind them, ominously,

the tanks before the Arc de Triumph.

A water cannon shoots indiscriminately missing its targets

the reflection of traffic lights swin in the water below as the yellow vests

fall back slowly, trickle down a side street, manifest in another Avenue

leaving the armed police glancing sideways at each other. Some of the

protesters appear to have their names and phone numbers

on the back of their yellow vests.

As night falls the Christmas lights along the Champs-Élysées

are a waterfall in red. A group of young men, one in a Santa hat, still

roam. They hug, chest bump and high five each before

another line of riot police who stand like statues

They take up a chant – Allez! Allez!

nous ne sommes pas encore fatigués

nous ne sommes pas encore fatigués!*

*Go! Go! We are still not tired.

Anne Enith Cooper

Note


The Gilet Jaunes began their protests in France against fuel taxes on 17th November 2018. It is estimated 300,000 people across the country with protesters constructing barricades and blocking roads. Their demands swiftly grew and diversified. In a statement entitled Enough is Enough Act IV 8th December 2018, was described as insurrectionary, “The situation is simple: the people want the system to fall.”

A phrasing reminiscence slogan of the Arab Spring, “The people demand the fall of the regime.” Both statements curiously and powerfully made in the third person. Other spokespersons are more reticent Chalencon for instance states,  “We need the government reshuffle to have ministers who will be much closer, more connected to people…,”

This is to be expected in a movement horizontally organised and as young and fluid as this one, a fluidity echoed in the street tactics. From the little I have seen it would appear that while some of the gilet jaunes fraternise with the riot police, the police themselves are at a loss how to proceed. Frequently the police form a lines, the protesters mill around them the move away and form elsewhere.

My French isn’t great, I don’t understand much of the slogans especially in the cacophony of sound though I recognise bursts of the chorus to La Marseillaise between intermittent bursts of what sounds like gunfire. Some of the protesters appear to have their names and phone numbers on the back of their yellow vests which reminds me of the firefighters who scrawled their names on there helmets before going into the Grenfell Tower.

 

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Quote: What does it mean to love?

Quote: What does it mean to love?

What does it mean to love?

Lifting torment with a smile. Wanting to fill a book with it, a book so big there aren’t enough pages in the world to hold it while caught in a web of inexpressibility.  Kindly challenging, fiercely defending. Offering patience and reassurance as a cup to drink from. Accepting the agony of separation, letting the other be free, accepting everything.

 

Author unknown. I found this in a tiny little file on my desktop, I was looking for something else, Of course I was. I’ve googled it relentlessly and nothing came up. Perhaps I wrote it in a moment of enlightenment, who knows?

 

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Diary February 2019

Diary February 2019

Friday February 15th 7-10pm

Residents of Cressingham Gardens and friends will be getting together for Love Cressingham, because we love our estate, we love our homes, we love our community and we are still here after seven years of fighting regen! Regen = demolition of 306 homes. It’s far from over. I’ll be the go to on the night I guess, head cook and bottle washer without the cooking. Hope you like our flyer.

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Saturday February 16th 2-6pm

Bringing poetic energy to the 15th RECLAIM LOVE. I will be joining drummers, singers, rappers, beat boxers and dj’s, a host of loving souls. Reclaim Love is an awesome, annual free pavement street party to celebrate love , to share love and to have a whole lot of fun doing it.

Meet at 2pm at Eros, Piccadilly Circus, around the fountain, to arrive by 3.15pm to take part in the Universal Peace Meditation as we beam love, light, joy and peace all across the Earth. The aim is to we can make this a phenomenal, unforgettable, love- fuelled day in which we light up London with LOVE.

anne-e-cooper-poetry-reclaim-love-16-february-2019

Call out for face painters, stilt walkers, huggers, anything to spread the love Contact  Urtema Dolphin  via the facebook event, see below

Full details https://www.facebook.com/events/2005913162862672/

 

Diary January 2019

Diary January 2019

Suddenly springing back to live, I blame the blood moon, after a time briefly touching the dark night and so to action…

Tuesday January 22nd 

Joining Poets on the Picket Line bringing verse and solidarity at the Ministry of Justice where receptionists, security guards and cleaners at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), represented by United Voices of the World (UVW) and support staff at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), represented by Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, will walk out together on strike demanding the London Living Wage of £10.55 per hour, plus parity of sick pay and annual leave allowance with civil servants.

This is the first co-ordinated strike between a TUC and a non-TUC union and the first coordinated strike between outsourced workers in government departments.

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8.00am-2.00pm 102 Petty France, Westminster, London SW1H 9AJ Full details   https://www.facebook.com/events/374959459944404/

Sunday 27th January

Checkin’ in with Poetic Justice, which means going north of the river but then how bad can that be in the days of a night tube

Kicking off 2019 returning to The Others in Stoke Newington for a night full of the powerful, thought provoking and expansive spoken word, hip hop and live music performed by some very talented wordsmiths.

Material expressed through the night is usually a mixture of activism, spirituality, awareness raising, philosophy, conspiracy “theories”, positive and profound, self/society development and all that stuff.

Poetic Justice events are a drop off point for donations of unwanted clothes and food parcels that will find their way to the homeless via Streets Kitchen.

anne-e-cooper-poetry-poetic-justice-27-jan-2019

The Others

Top Floor, 6 Manor Road London, N16 5SA 5.00-11pm Full details https://www.facebook.com/events/2005512962875979/

Diary December 2018

Diary December 2018

Well, I read a lot, not all of it about the end of worlds. Wrote a bit, what you might call satire, as it occurred to me this is a challenged genre with the word “unicorn” entering political discourse, courtesy of the director of the Open Europe think tank. Aaaand I substituted armageddon movies for my usual fare of dystopian sci fi, the latter not being comforting enough it such uncertain times. What else? There was some midwinter cheer, not the least the news that our estate Cressingham Gardens has won the right to manage the estate. This the result of two and a half tireless years of work by the Cressingham Co-op. This wont stop the regen but can stop the managed decline.  We celebrated. We’re good at that.

Michael Rosen on Brexit

Michael Rosen on Brexit

New ‘Alice in Wonderland’ manuscript discovered: ‘Alice in the House’.

Alice walked into the house and it was very noisy. People were standing up and sitting down and nearly everyone was shouting things like ‘Here!’ and ‘No!’. That’s funny, thought Alice, where I come from it’s ‘here and now’. Maybe they don’t know what they’re doing, she thought.

Some people started talking about a motion. She had heard the doctor talking about that when her mother had had digestion difficulties and that’s what it seemed like when a lot of the people started shouting about passing the motion which was, sad to say, proving to be very difficult. Never put off till tomorrow, what you can do today, thought Alice to herself, remembering what her mother said.

Everyone was getting very cross and and shouting in particular at the Queen of the May.

‘She’s called that,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘because she may. Then again, she may not.’

‘I don’t understand,’ said Alice.

‘Neither do I,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘why should I understand everything I say? I certainly don’t say everything I understand.’

‘Order!’ shouted the man everyone was calling Mr Squeaker.

‘Is he called Mr Squeaker because he squeaks?’ said Alice.

‘No,’ said a particularly angry, sneery creature called the Gibblet, ‘he’s Mr Squeaker because he’s a little pip squeak and we hate him.’

‘Oh,’ said Alice, ‘I think we’ll all get on much better if we don’t hate each other quite so much.’

‘Rubbish,’ said the Gibblet, ‘I hate teachers and it’s never done me any harm.’

‘Has it done the teachers any harm?’ said Alice.

‘Who cares about them?’ said the Gibblet looking happier for a moment than he had looked ever since he first met his little friends the Phonics.

Just then, one of the people who had been shouting ‘Here!’ and ‘No!’ got up to speak.

‘What we need now is impagination…’

At least that’s what Alice thought he said.

‘…otherwise we’ll never get out of this hole,’ he went on.

Oh, thought Alice, he knows about the rabbit hole I fell down, but why does he think we’ll get out with…what was it? …impagination?

‘We need to get off this page,’ he want on.

‘Ah, I see,’ said Alice, realising what this impagination meant. They need more pages.

Rather hoping she could make the Gibblet less angry and less sneery, Alice turned to him and said, ‘That’s nice,they need more impagination.’

For some reason this annoyed the Gibblet even more.

‘Impagination! Impagination!’ he snorted. ‘What sort of lily-livered, antsy-fancy, snowflakey stuff is that?’

He didn’t wait for an answer.

‘We need Norwich and Phonics,’ he shouted, ‘we need a Norwich-led Funiculum and more and more and more Phonics.’

This seemed to be a signal because about a hundred little Phonics rushed up to the Gibblet like a host of puppies and started licking him and making funny noises: ber, ber, ber and ker, ker, ker.

The Gibblet stood up and the Squeaker called out in his very loud voice: ‘The Gibblet!’

And then the Gibblet said, ‘I love you, Queen of the May. Your deal is wonderful. It’s the nicest deal I’ve ever seen. I want to take it home and clutch it to me like a long lost friend. I wish everyone else thought your deal was as nice as I think it is.’

At this a very large lugubrious-looking cat, the Rees Mog, gathered together an enormous amount of cat mucus in the back of its throat, swirled it round its mouth and gobbed it on the floor.

‘Fie on thee,’ it said in a tired, languid, mournful way, ‘I will awhile uphold the unyoked humour of your idleness. Herein do I imitate the sun who doth allow the base, contagious clouds cover up his beauty from – ‘

‘We need impagination!’ shouted someone behind him.

‘I abolished impagination!’ shouted the Gibblet back at him.

The whole house went very quiet.

‘Yes,’ said the Gibblet, his eyes gleaming while the little Phonics nuzzled his knees, ‘when the Mimsy Borogove brought in the Norwich-led Funiculum, we abolished impagination. How can you have impagination if you haven’t got Norwich?’ he said looking at the people around him as if they might just possibly be the kind of idiot who did think you could have impagination without Norwich.

He sat down.

Strangely no one in the house congratulated him for making this speech, for the only people who loved him were the little Phonics.

‘When you’re a big boy like me,’ said the Rees Mog, purring at himself in a large mirror he carried with him, ‘you’ll get subordinate claws like mine.’

This only enraged the Gibblet even more, because he remembered that time when an irritating woman called Mirther Kernel asked him whether he knew what subordinate claws were. And he didn’t. And Mirther Kernel laughed.

Alice walked on.

Up Town

Up Town

Recently read this poem at an event curated by poet Molly Rowan at Tate South Lambeth Library with the aim of exploring and addressing the theme of Shared Spaces which is ironic as 80% of the time I think we are in the Matrix and about 68% of that time I wish Id taken took the blue pill. This is a poem about a journey thru one of the spaces that we share unequally

Up Town

The club was fairly dull

so I leave early though it has long gone midnight.

I walk past darkened offices

Past a bus stop, there’s an old man sitting with

dirty coat, grey hair, slicked with grease

his life a carrier bags at his feet,

He is smoking a cigar,

Not so dead to have forgotten pleasure then

but dead to me, to us.

Round the corner a white gleaming roller glides by.

On Charing Cross Road a guy supports a girl

who staggers and throws up on her shoes.

Near the square, in cafes smartly dressed couples

talk intensely, while outside

others fall about the pavement tables.

A young lad sleeps through it all in a doorway.

Three Turkish students search for a club

I give them a page from Time Out and

their gratitude almost overwhelms me.

At the bus stop beneath the square I take a light

from a French guy who looks bored.

We stand in silence and smoke in the rain.

A woman next to us mutters in Patois

about cleaning, kids and the rent.

Refuse workers clear up the streets already.

I wonder, if, or when

they go out to play…

Published in Touched 

Dreaming, love and rage

Dreaming, love and rage

Wake at the civilised hour of 7am,  the very best time to get up, feeling quite refreshed, look at the clock, close my eyes and next time I open them it’s 8am. I’m not sure if I slept. My eyes are heavy, close them again and next time I look it’s 10am. Now I know I’ve been asleep or rather in a half sleep, aware of my bed, my room. Curiously my sleep seems to follow the clock as if I have an internal unbidden snooze button.

While in and out of this peculiar state I’m reaching for a story; I’m not sure if it’s one I’ve read, one I’ve been told, or a recurring dream. It is elaborate and has many parts, a succession of unveiling, yet it is a haze. The tentacles of the story are there whenever I’m near sleep.

Something about the unknown being told, perhaps a wisdom tale, something about – then they realised. The story has a narrative voice which I can almost hear. Sometimes I see scenes, but I cannot grasp it or know it. It’s like recalling the feeling in a dream without the dream details, so I guess I should surmise this is just a dream.

I only sense that the people, who may be villagers, it appears to be a rural scene, perhaps from another time, realise they are not what they thought they were, that they realise they were not what they thought each other were. Is my mind tapping into some great universal awakening? Is there indeed an awakening? Well that would be cool.

Am just soooooo frustrated with the meagre grasp of something which has shadowed yet evaded me for some weeks now. And I have a sense that the images were much clearer a few weeks ago, that I neglected to write them down, but am uncertain even about this.

Meanwhile it’s XR rebellion day 2. I’ve had mixed feelings about this campaign: the way they don’t appear to want a mass movement but rather a few committed individuals to do it for us but given almost the entire media and parliament is failing to respond to the IPCC (international panel on climate change) report that suggested unless we keep global warming below 1.5 deg we risk crossing the tipping point into uncontrollable climate chaos. Given the the IPCC have calculated that at the rate of present emission that will happen in 2030…

                   and given actually all of us can’t be there, I for one am still in bed today, in a state of mild mind fog….

                                                               and given we have so many other fronts to fight on, these seem to be the ONLY people drawing attention to this. 2030. 12 years. It sounds like sci fi. But it’s not.

I hear the super rich are building bunkers and buying up land in high areas away from the risk of sea level rises. This is as foolish as it is selfish. It underlines the fact that there is no doubt already the most vulnerable communities face greater risk and the poorest will be disproportionately affected, if truth be told, they are already. And that is the slogan brandished in a sea of hope TELL THE TRUTH.

So concluding, I reckon we should all get behind this even if it’s just a click or a share. Also I hear the One Million Climate Jobs campaign, promoting a transition to renewable have a motion for trade unions here

https://www.campaigncc.org/unions.shtml

Dystopia and it’s discontents

Dystopia and it’s discontents

If I had said say 20 years ago, no let’s say after the miners were defeated in ‘85, that dark time, if I said, “Think this is bad, in 2018, in 33 years time, 60% of working families will be on benefit coz their pay is too low, 55% of homeless people will be in work coz rents too high, only 8% of people will have council housing, our council housing will be a fire risk or falling down or sold of to the higher bidder, the nhs will have been cut so bad it’s barely functioning, and social services barely able to cope, while hundreds of homeless people die on the streets and hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people have died due to an unfair welfare system, with an 80% target for refusals that forces those with fatal illnesses to appeal, the prisons will be bursting at the seams and privatised. All this because we balled out the banks 10 years ago and have been paying for it ever since, yet our rulers still bow down to the god they call “the market” as Hayek pours himself a glass of champagne, and Britain in this state, wants to leave Europe, all this is happening in the fifth richest country in the world but that wealth is held in the hands of an elite few, there are pockets of war and refugee camps all over the globe, the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War and the earth is screaming with forest fires, psychotic weather events, tsunamis and floods, the icecaps are melting and the the oceans are rising and whole of humanity faces 11 years to the Climate change tipping point.”

Would you have believed me? No I think you would have said “Anne, that’s sci fi, that would make a great movie.” But what is missing from this picture? The resistance. The global resistance. I have no sense how or if it is linked up yet but it is there. We can connect at least with Extinction Rebellion, we can join our trade unions, community and campaign groups. There are people planting forests, organising for a Just transition, see Reel News. The most successful and militant workers in the country are the most exploited, on minimum wages or less, on zero hour contracts, they are fighting back and winning. We are no longer fighting for the future, we are fighting for the now. Another world IS possible: Liberty, equality, dignity, peace, respect, hang this on our banners, hold it in our hearts, unity, solidarity and love is the way, adelante! #ThinkGloballyActLocally #11MoreYears #NowIsTheTime 💜

Nae Paseran, documentary film.

Nae Paseran, documentary film.

Emma Thompson, has described the documentary film #NaePasaran as, “An incredible testament to solidarity…”  this film documents the struggle of the Scottish workers who defied, Thatcher’s friend, Pinochet and serves to inspire us to fight the new forms of fascism we see in the world today http://bit.ly/2ONVAi1 Out in Cinemas 2nd November http://naepasaran.com/upcoming-screenings/

Go see the light shine; the action, solidarity, unity and connection! It is on these pillars we can remake the world for all of us, yes every one of us, the fallen angels, the decadent, the dispossessed. The fifth element of course is love.

Marx understood this, suggested that a revolution would liberate all humanity, and he was right but imo that revolution will not be some great “moment” of sudden change. I believe already we see the growth of the new within the old, within the chaos, within the despair, within the desperation are so many seeds of hope. So many. Look around.

Change aint a coming, change is here; in Andalucia, in Ecuador, in forest planting in Bangladesh, community organising in Jackson Mississippi and Richmond California. i am sure there is more, research, see what you can find. Spread that news. Make it where you are.

I know times seem darker and more dangerous than ever but, as my mum used to say to me, the darkest hour is just before dawn. Be ready. Get organised. Trotsky argued we have to make the revolution permanent, so that it could not be rolled back, permanently evolving. We need so many fronts that our struggle becomes relentless like the waves on a beach.

Join the precarious workers demo on tuesday, join the extinction rebellion launch on wednesday. Join your trade union, community group or campaign. Together we are unstoppable, no one can turn back this tide. Yes it feels we are going backwards but that is just an illusion.

The truth is people make history and people will make a new world and around the pillars of our struggle we will wrap the banners of respect, equality, dignity, justice, compassion, peace, and love, and the greatest of these is love

#NewEarth #AnotherWorldIsPossible #WeCanStopClimateChange #Evolution #ThinkGloballyActLocally

A trip to the passport office: a cautionary tale

A trip to the passport office: a cautionary tale

So this is how it went at the passport office – i was already somewhat flustered when a five minutes walk took half an hour despite printed google map in one hand google map on the phone in the other.

Me: Hi, sorry i’m late i got a bit lost.

Official/ young/ female/ possibly North African or Middle Eastern:  Judging silence

Me: Here’s my application let me know if i did anything wrong (putting old passport, photos, form on the counter)

Her: Where are you going?

Me: Spain.

Her: What are you doing there?

Me: Oh a kinda a course, kinda holiday.

Her: What happened to your passport? (She sweaked!)

Me: (Perplexed) Oh nothing, it just went thru the washing machine…

Her: So it’s damaged.

Me: No it’s fine, you can still see my photo and signature…

Her: No, it’s damaged, officially. 

Me: Oh (thinking what that’s a thing?)

Her: Look the pages are stuck together.

Me: Oh, i didn’t notice that, just like that it was a bit crumpled. You can see my photo…

Her: So we can’t renew it today. 

Me: What? urr, umm…

Her: It will take a week, there’s a security risk.

Me: It’s just been thru the washing machine adding (only to regret later) it could have been worse I lost it and found it the pocket of some combat trousers due to go to Care for Calais, it could have ended up in the Jungle….

Her: A look that said, I didn’t hear that and you are a very foolish girl (she must have been like half my age.)

Me: I still don’t get it, really. i go away on Friday, is there any way we can speed this up?

Her: No.

Me: Big silence

Her: Not unless you are going to a funeral and you need proof. 

Me: I’m really not going away to do anything sinister, (regretting that i’m wearing a Palestinian scarf) is there anything else i can provide that might help?

Her: No. We just need to check if there is a pattern of this kind of kind of thing. It’s a security issue. It’s the routine. You might get it back by Wednesday, if you are lucky.

Me: Let’s hope so. Thank you. Thinking if i get arsy now there is NO WAY i’ll get it back in time

Her: Weak smile

So that was that. I cannot believe it! Every time i have renewed it i’ve gone thru this process, make an appointment about a week before, turn up with documents, job done… She did some telling off too, like why didn’t i renew it before, i shouldn’t book stuff before blah blah blah, I’ve been ill i said, which is true, she looked at me scaptically. Oh mercy. So left all kinda stunned and dazed and confused. Left? Right? 

Fortunately the homeless guy sitting with a blanket wrapped around him, i’d seen earlier waved to me. I went over and we had a little chat, gave him some money and a copy of the Pavement Magazine, he didn’t have much english, said he was Italian. I paused a moment trying to beckon that vocabulary, it was only partially successful. Half came out in Spanish, plenty gestures, but managed to indicate what was in The Pavement. 

He said he’d been on the street a year. i can’t even begin to imagine, said all he wanted now was to go back to his home in Italy. Didn’t even manage to say “Da dove en Italia?” But showed him where he could get some free food, some place to stay. Couldn’t remember “good luck” settled for, “Buena suerte!” (Spanish,) with my hands in the prayer position, “A casa,” i added. 

When i left he had cheered up a lot and said beaming, “Mille grazie, mille grazie.” It’s so cold out there already. This is so wrong – folk on the street, wherever the are from, whatever their story. And figured my little problems are just a hill of beans. So the way i see it; if it comes i’m meant to be there, if it doesn’t i’m meant to be here, (though i know which i prefer,) its up to a higher power now and i don’t mean the passport office.

Diary November 2018

Diary November 2018

Myself and Sara Adem and Angie Hill, contributors to the book 306, will feature on Art Speak hosted by John Flannery. We will be reading from the book and in conversation about the varients and value of stories. The show will be broadcast on Soho Radio, KTO and Idenity Radio see below for dates and times.

Soho Radio: www.sohoradiolondon.com – Saturday 11th 8.00am + a repeat sometime next week tbc

Kilburn to Kensal Radio: ktokradio.com –  Saturday 6.00pm  11th & 18th November

Identify Radio: www.identifyradio.com – Wednesday 15th November at 7.00pm & Thursday 16th November at noon

 

It’s also on Mixcloud available from Sunday 12th November 2018

anne-e-cooper-306-book cover

Diary November 2018

Diary November 2018

Belatedly autumn makes its appearance and I have a late break to look forward to I will be on a writing retreat Opening Doors to Invisible Worlds at the beautiful Cortijo Romero in Andalucia. More than writing the package includes yoga or tai chi to start the day, Spanish lessons, mountain walks and access to a pool which overlooks mountains and valleys. The venue is mostly off the grid, a challenge and a blessing…

Cortijo Romero Pool With Mountains

 

Sunday 11th November

Or shortly after will see the release of Requiem: A Reply  to The Soldier by Rupert Brooke, a poem presented in a short film and dedicated to Veterans for Peace. Brooke wrote his idealist poem and somewhat imperialist work The Soldier before he was deployed to fight in the First World War. It is 100 years since the end of that bitter conflict which took so many lives on all sides. Dubbed the war to end all wars, sadly this has not been the case. The British Army has been deployed to or engaged in 48 conflicts since 1918.

unnamed_large

Tuesday 20th November

Poetry from Myself And Brian “Beady Man” Wilson of transformation hope and defiance at the Reel News  film show at the Effra Social, Brixton 8.00-11pm

Films

Save Appledore Shipyard North Devon – campaign to save the only merchant shipyard in the country from closure with the loss of 200 jobs – when the highly skilled workforce could be building the infrastructure for renewables.

BiFab Occupation – workers in Fife, Scotland, occupying their plant that produces wind turbine platforms and successfully stopping it from closing.

Our Power! Just Transition in Richmond – A “movement of movements” in a California city dominated by oil giant Chevron a just transition framework which demands a proper living wage for all, rent controls and curbing police violence.

Cooperation Jackson – Building a social and solidarity economy in Mississippi: moving to a zero waste, zero carbon economy through a plan based on people’s assemblies to create a “solidarity economy” of workers cooperatives.

full details here

anne-e-cooper-reel-news-poetry

 

 

Reflections on World Mental Health Day 2018

Reflections on World Mental Health Day 2018

Today is World Mental Health day. It seems there is a day for everything however I would like to say why I feel this one matters more than most. For a start it is not something we are very comfortable talking about, but we must. Not only is mental dis-ease, mental distress widespread, given austerity, it is increasing, and still much misunderstood. Our mental health is the foundation for a productive and enjoyable life and confronting the difficulties life throws at us.

When I speak to people about my diagnosis of bipolar, without exception, the response is, words to the effect, that someone in their family or a close friend, or indeed the person I’m speaking to has or is suffered some kind of mental illness. It is that widespread. If you are reading this probably you or someone you know is affected. You may not know it as given the stigma and shame attached to disclosing, you or they may be suffering in silence.

Many people are afraid of the services provided, they may fear being locked up or that disclosure will result in them losing their job or being shunned by friends. or family. They may be afraid of medication, or the stigma of being medicated, afraid of being misdiagnosed. Afraid of the shame of the label. They may feel the diagnosis itself is evidence of failure.

It’s true in the past many people were damaged by mental health services, and some still are. I have worked with people in rehab from services had been reduced to mere shells of human beings by the prolonged inadequate or inappropriate treatment; leaving them shuffling, their heads bowed, one unable to speak, another so wired he could barely listen. Yet after six weeks of writing poetry together these people were coming back to a semblance of life. Making jokes, complimenting each other’s writing, creating beautiful metaphors.

It is incredibly hard to get adequate, appropriate and timely support from services. Even if a person is “sectionable”; defined as a danger to others or themselves, there simply are not the beds. Often people who are sectioned are sent hundreds of miles away. Often services are not joined up. Finding the right service let alone appropriate treatment can be like going thru a maze blindfolded.

That said, my experience of services was on the whole good. Why? I’m not sure. Perhaps because I am literate and articulate. I had read RD Laing et al and worked in a service for users of the mental health service prior to “the episode,” as it is called, that led to my diagnosis. I experienced a six month careering journey into bliss then doubt, fear and confusion about what was real, followed by a sharp and sudden drop from heaven to hell; do not stop at purgatory, do not collect £200… I knew what was happening to me, and though I couldn’t stop it, I had the vocabulary to describe it.

My diagnosis was a relief, I was mad not bad. Medication was a live saver, literally. I was at the point of suicide when I was diagnosed. Medication is not however a magic wand. Getting on the right meds at the right doses takes time, it took me years, and constant vigilance in my case as in the beginning my mood continued to fluctuate widely especially when confronted with a severe stress; a death of a loved one or trauma such as bullying or unexpected adhominine attack. Medication will not help without healthy living; a good diet, exercise, and in my case that has involved years of therapy, and regular yoga and meditation.

Mental health symptoms are very physical. This further confounds the problem for someone or their nearest and dearest, of recognising what is wrong. There can be fatigue and lethargy, excruciating pains that may move around the body or an inability to rest, be still or focused, crippling panic attacks that feel like an electric shock. There may be accompanying negative thoughts but when the body is in so much pain the thoughts can seem not the real issue.

My perspective is the pain we suffer is a message from our body and mind that some ancient wounds need to be heard and healed and the best place to do that is with mindfulness, yoga or meditation. But that’s a big step and a lifelong journey. What do you do if yourself or you suspect someone you know is becoming ill?

Do not be afraid. Reach out. Recognise the signs. If for instance you notice or your friend tells you they haven’t spoken to anyone or been out for weeks, and just feel like they don’t see the point in anything any more chances are they are depressed. Possibly suicidal. Go and see them, take something nice, hug them, don’t try and “chivvy them up” though doing things together is good, and gently and kindly tell them you are worried they are ill, ask them if they have felt like hurting themselves and gently kindly suggest they need help.

If your neighbour suddenly starts playing loud music in the early hours and appears unkempt or strangely dressed for them and begins to talk to you intensely about things that have never interested them before; conspiracies, an alien invasion, the end of the world. That person has probably become very unwell. This happened to me recently some I knew was manic, paranoid and delusional, confessed to feeling lonely but  didn’t believe he needed help, however I was able to put him in touch with his community mental health team and long story short he is now well again.

If you are the sufferer the most valuable thing you can do is develop insight. You are not your emotions, you have emotions. You are not your body, you have a body. You are not your thoughts, you are having the thoughts. Recognise when thoughts become negative. Write them down. Ask is this true? Put on someone else’s shoes, would you say to them the awful things you are telling yourself? Above all be kind, be gentle with yourself. If you are hurting you need love not criticism.

Reach out; to family and friends, if they are not support find people that are, a support group or community mental health service. Contact your GP, voluntary section support groups, crisis lines. Do something physical; walk, swim or jog if you can. Make something; a cake, plant a flower, sew, build. If you have a faith, prayer helps.

Above all know what you are going thru is temporary and there may be a gift in it to heal an old wound. Know you are more than your suffering. If you can accept your suffering is your friend, your teacher, your guidance that something is wrong – but it’s not you. You are not wrong. You are a shining spirit dimmed only by the dark night that you must walk thru, and always comes the dawn. Love yourself and know beneath the pain you are love embodied.