Writing by others: Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out by Richard Siken

Writing by others: Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out by Richard Siken

Found this poem when I was investigating line breaks. I find them one of the trickiest aspects of poetry to get my head around. Get to a point where I’m happy with the imagery, syntax and pace of the poem then run into this issue. My investigation led me to Siken’s astounding poem via a brilliant article by Rebecca Hazelton in Poetry Foundation. This poem, on so many levels, totally blew me away. When I tried to post here WordPress threw out the formatting which is is truly unfortunate and it would be a tradegy to share it all scrambled. Here is an except as a screen shot and do read on via the link below. Do read and enjoy. 

From “Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out” by Richard Siken. From Crush, © 2006 by Yale University, published by Yale University Press.


Richard Siken is a poet, painter, filmmaker, and an editor at Spork Press. In her profile of Siken, Nell Casey wrote, “he effectively juxtaposes holy wishes with mundane images—making them both seem beautiful by some strange lyrical alchemy.” His poems unwind on the page effortlessly, barely pausing for breath; the speaker’s voice wracked with sexual obsession.

His book Crush won the 2004 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, selected by Louise Glück. It was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Thom Gunn Award. His most recent book is War of the Foxes (Copper Canyon Press, 2015).

Siken is a recipient of a Pushcart Prize, two Arizona Commission on the Arts grants, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is also a full time social worker, and he lives in Tucson, Arizona.


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Diary: July 2021

Diary: July 2021

Still reeling somewhat from the death of a dear friend. And at times still feels life, thought, action somewhat on hold. That said have enrolled on Writing From The Soul of the Earth, a workshop created by Dom Bury and started some mentoring with Bethany Rivers, I find her gentle, playful approach to creativity suitable for me, a safe place to explore and create. 

Have planned an Escape to Margate with a good friend. The aim is to visit Botany Bay, which I thought was in Australia, but no, 20 minutes on a bus from the aforementioned so we might even check out Dreamland which I read inspired Banksy’s Dismaland but is not The Thing itself as I thought it might be, no, that is in Weston-Super-Mare, Geography is not my strong point it would seem. 

Botany Bay

In downtime have been watching a bunch of foreign movies. Netflix seems to think because I like Spanish cinema I might like Polish, Ukrainian, Italian, German titles. Their algorithms need sharpening up methinks. The most memorable was the biopic Roma from Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón. 

Also become enthralled with Adam Curtis’s Can’t Get You Out of My Head, BBC iplayer. I read this as a multidisciplinary essay presented in a poetic collage with a multi layered narrative. At its heart a thesis about or perhaps just an exploration of individualism versus collectivism with segues from obscure and sometimes bizarre examples of popular culture and an eclectic soundtrack. As such it is compelling. So much to say about that, another time! 

Received my copy of the MPK anthology the other day, featuring my poem This is a Prayer. Just love the feel of it in my hands! It was the first time I really felt that so-great-to-see-my-name-in-print feeling people talk about. I put this down to the huge amount of time I’ve spent in meditation paying off. It’s available to preorder here https://uk.bookshop.org/books/too-young-too-loud-too-different-twenty-years-of-british-poetry-from-malika-s-poetry-kitchen/9781472155061

Looking forward to the launch of Anna Robinson’s Whatsname Street on Sunday 1st August, live and direct from Lower Marsh, Waterloo, yeah! Not sure if the launch is public, if so details will appear here http://www.annarobinsonpoetry.co.uk/

#amwriting what is slowly dawning on me is ecopoetry 

#amreading American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, a novel exploring issues of migration and the threat posed by Mexican drug cartels, plus Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors: Overcoming Internal Self-Alienation by Janina Fisher.

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Writing prompt: The Crown Wand Orchid

Writing prompt: The Crown Wand Orchid

Play with this one; use the image as a prompt, or the name, what a name! Write from the point of view of the orchid. Set a timer for ten, fifteen or twenty minutes; whichever you feel comfortable with and freewrite in poetry or prose, whatever comes, see where it takes you. Have fun.

Rules of the freewrite after Natalie Goldberg, from Writing Down the Bones. Keep your hand moving, don’t stop or cross out, don’t self censor, go for the jugular, don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Don’t think, just write, follow the words, just see what comes. 

Image, Paphiopedilum fairrieanum in situ, Kengkhar, Mongar District, Bhutan. Oct. 2, 2019
© Dhan Gurung

Once you have a rough draft consider what you have just made. Is it just for fun or does it feel it desires development? Does it welcome a form? You may wish to refer to the notes below or research the subject further. Maybe take the writing in a different direction or choose a different point of view.

The Paphiopedilum fairrieanum, also known as the Crown Wand Orchid, is an epiphyte (a plant that grows on another plant (non parasitically. It is from the Indian Himalayas and Bhutan at elevations of 1300 to 2200 metres. It is also found on limestone cliffs in the oak forest near water and on grassy slopes. 

It is an area subject to seasonal monsoons. The wet season is very wet with heavy rains. When the dry monsoon comes the region still receives light rains and heavy dews as the temperatures drop every night.

In 2015 this orchid was recorded on The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of threatened species. The IUCN is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.

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Wellbeing: Writing as Healing

Wellbeing: Writing as Healing

In the previous post I quoted Lan Samantha Chang who wrote, “Hold onto that part of you that first compelled you to start writing.” It promoted me to think about how I started writing, how I came to recognise the healing power of words as both a writer and workshop facilitator.

Chang goes on to add, “A writing life and a writing career are two separate things, and it’s crucial to keep the first. The single essential survival skill for anybody interested in creating art is to learn to defend this inner life from the world.” I also consider how I used writing as a survival skill and the value and causes of wordlessness, sometimes referred to as writers block, and pauses in our writing process. Resources follow at the end of this post.

In my early 30’s, I left my job as a welfare rights adviser because I felt I could no longer work and bare the crippling and unexplained fatigue that had persisted for over five years. The aim was to “get well” and “do something creative.” I had a plan of sorts, the idea was to study video production but the course fell through. 

The result of this abrupt change with no destination or support was a sudden plunge into what I now understand would be diagnosed as anxiety and depression. I simply had no words for the agony I felt, though aspects were describable; insomnia, night sweats, panic attacks, indecision, inexplicable fear, an incredible physical weakness beyond even the fatigue I’d been accustomed to. 

I saw a doctor and asked for blood tests he told me to drink more water. Another suggested antidepressants but I was fearful of psychiatric drugs so declined. I spent a whole lot of time in bed. When I could, I read. It’s kind of ironic, as it’s hardly uplifting, but I found myself with Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, identifying with the mental anguish of the central character Rodion Raskolnikov. This baffled me ass I hardly identified with the character himself yet I recognised the physicality of his symptoms so vividly described by the author. 

It was possible it was this that led me to attempt to find words for what I was experiencing, to make sense of it or make it more manageable. I was writing for my life. At the beginning of this descent, as my world collapsed,  I’d wake with a cold sweat, devoid of feeling and meaning and repeat my name and age out loud in a bid to hang on to some sense of self.  It was a kind of hell. Folklore urges us not to name the devil lest he appear yet I’d heard somewhere if you say the name of a demon it is forced to relinquish its power over you. This was what I aimed to do; name every one of the demons that afflicted me. 

The words dripped out slowly, slipping past defences. Sometimes it felt like getting blood out of the proverbial stone. Occasionally I’d write something else and say, that is for the world. Prior to this I’d written a couple of short stories and a smattering of poetry addressing issues of inequality and injustice wrapping them in love, beauty and dreams of a better world.  Mostly at this time I wrote for myself. When I finally got my own computer I created a folder called My Dark Gods and other Demons and stored all this dark material there. 

Words eventually began to flow more freely and I’ve pretty much written ever since. Sporadically at times. Sometimes only in my journal. Though I’ve been hugely inconsistent in submitting work for publication, hounded by my inner critic who says, “it’s not enough…it’s no good…it will never be enough,” occasionally dodging this monster with encouragement from others. 

Hence I was surprised to find these words from Louise Glück, particularly as she has been so prolific and recently won, what can only be described as, the most prestigious writers prize; the 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature.

“I go through two, three years writing nothing. Zero. Not a sentence. Not bad poems I discard, not notes toward poems. Nothing. And you don’t know in those periods that the silence will end, that you will ever recover speech. It’s pretty much hell, and the fact that it’s always ended before doesn’t mean that any current silence isn’t the terminal silence beyond which you will not move.” 

It would seem this is not an isolated experience.  John McCullough, winner of the 2020 Hawthornden prize for Reckless Paper Birds, responded, “I recently had yalmost whole year of writing no poems too. No one can be constantly at their creative peak. Don’t follow the capitalist logic of productivity equalling self-worth. Sometimes you just have to look after yourself.”

Indeed! Look after yourself! Something that is so hard in modern capitalist societies a whole industry of wellbeing and self care has arisen. It is an agony to be without voice. In my experience it was not so much a writers block but a malaise that went much deeper. We call it the black dog, the dark night, despondency. The Romantics called it melancholy. There are few words that really describe the ravaging pain of depression and anxiety wherein thought, feeling and words are blocked, a sense of self lost, all the while held hostage and tormented by a raging inner critic. A kind of uber stuckness, a numbness, now recognised as a symptom of personal trauma.

John Mc Cullough goes on to add, “In addition the pressure on professional artists, musicians and writers, especially if self employed, to produce works to the timetable of galleries, record labels and agents only serves to inhibit this space to use writing to play, heal, learn and grow.” It would seem to me if we focus too much on a writing career we risk abandoning our writing life and the wellbeing it can promote. 

When students ask me what to do about writers block I say; “Don’t think, just write, write anything, it doesn’t even have to make sense, just follow the words and enjoy it. Write just for yourself.” If someone feels blocked the suggestion “just write!” might seem counterintuitive or even perverse and yet it works. This is well documented here and here.

Writing, or arguably any creative act, can lead to a release of the stored unfelt feelings; ego fears, rational fears, anger, sorrow, shame and guilt. Our heart needs to heal and our soul needs to breathe. It doesn’t even have to be good art or good writing. The expression becomes part of the self care we need in a world of historical, collective trauma.

Writing alone is rarely enough if the “stuckness”is great, the body heavy. Besides writing I pulled myself out of those dark depths in my early 30’s by practicing Chi Gung at an NHS clinic in Clapham run by Jon Tindall, the first of its kind in the U.K. It was pretty hard core, standing meditation in an class that lasted a hour and a half. Yet there was a committed and supportive community around it which helped. I dragged myself there three times a week for six months in my numbness before I felt anything. 

One day towards the end of one of the strenuous sessions I dropped to the floor weeping. All I remember is, as the session ended, I felt an acute sense of embarrassment and shame until half a dozen people came over, helping me to my feet saying, “Well done…this is a breakthrough…now you are on your way… you’re on the path.” Of course at the time I thought that was it. Job done. You have to laugh at that. Little was I to know I’d inadvertently stumbled onto the endless road less travelled.

I wonder if creatives go through these “barren patches” because we have an acute sensitivity. Arguably without sensitivity there would be no works of art. Perhaps the lived experience of being in the world just becomes too painful. The world can seem too much and hence we close down. Or are closed down by others who are behave with insensitivity towards us with anything on a continuum from tactlessness or spite to abuse and cruelty. 

Therefore breaks could be seen as akin to a field laying fallow, a kind of gentle healing, which is fine for a while. If, however, the body feels heavy it is likely the paralysis is as a result of deep wounds, buried difficult feelings that need to be released.

Ten years ago I was co-facillitating a ten week creative writing workshop called Freeingh The Writer Within. It was part of The Word is Out Project in Lambeth, a coproduction between mental health service workers and service users. We held workshops in the community, at SHARP, the Social Hope and Recovery Project and on psychiatric wards at the Lambeth Hospital. 

This workshop took place at a ward for people under 35 who had experienced early onset of symptoms. The participants were in recovery from acute mental distress. It was a very diverse group; at different stages of their recovery, with different backgrounds and educational experience. 

It wasn’t clear at first if it would gel. Yet the participants became enthusiastic and engaged, though intermittently, supportive of each other, despite sometimes being restless or clouded by medication. As the weeks went on they were keen attend and to write and share their work. It was proof to me, if it were needed, of the healing power of words. 

I would suggest if you find yourself “stuck” in the process of producing some writing choose a random phrase from a book, any book and use that as your first line and just write what comes. The Way of Words workshops, which I founded in 2000, had a strong emphasis on free writing, using images, sound, objects and phrases as prompts and participants produced strong work. Bear in mind free writing of any kind can release painful feelings. If you want to go deeper I strongly suggest you find a course. 

Writing as healing enables blocked energy to flow again. It can be a key to unlock your heart and find a way back to your soul. Be prepared to cry, with joy or sorrow, write yourself free. This is best done in a group setting or with formal support from a therapist or counsellor. In addition to writing to truly heal, we have to move too. The body is built to move. It doesn’t have to be Chi gung. Yoga, walking, swimming, dancing or running any of these will serve you well.  

Find a course here

Heal Yourself with Writing


Writing As A Way Of Healing


Free Fall: Writing as Creative Therapy 

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Writers on Writing: Lan Samantha Chang

Writers on Writing: Lan Samantha Chang

“Hold onto that part of you that first compelled you to start writing. Hold onto that self through the vicissitudes of “career.” A writing life and a writing career are two separate things, and it’s crucial to keep the first. The single essential survival skill for anybody interested in creating art is to learn to defend this inner life from the world. Cherish yourself and wall off an interior room where you’re allowed to forget your published life as a writer. Breathe deeply. Inside this walled-off room, time is different—it is flexible, malleable. We’re allowed bend it, to speed it up, slow it down, to jump forwards and backwards, as our minds do. We can to circle back to our thoughts and memories picking and choosing the most meaningful to us. There’s a hushed, glowing sound, like the sound coming from the inside of a shell.”

From Writers Protect Your Inner Life

This is a quote that really speaks to me. I reflect on the fact that both my writing life and career have been interrupted, more times than I’d like to think, by health problems, in particular sometimes severe episodes with my mental health, though I’m inclined to think the physical, mental and emotional are inextricably linked. Indeed that is how I experience what I recognise as a sensitivity. Also I reflect that so often when considering these gaps I lamented the interruption to my “career” yet didn’t give much thought or value to my writing life or indeed see the two as separate.

Image: PhotoHelin at Shutterstock

In truth even in my retreats from the world rarely have I not written. In the “walled off room” I found such richness, profundity in the pain. In fact often it has been my way back to health, sociability and the world. And more and more I’m recognising if I think less of “problems,” gaps, loss of productivity, thoughts about not getting anywhere as more of challenges and take the attitude when challenged I’m just readjusting a temporary imbalance. I somehow consequently realise these are all part of a my life journey. An opportunity to learn and grow and literally a place I can do the healing I need to do. Balance is the key.

“Lan Samantha Chang is the author of a collection of short fiction, Hunger, and two novels, Inheritance, and All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost. Her work has been translated into nine languages and has been chosen twice for The Best American Short Stories. She has received creative writing fellowships from Stanford University, Princeton University, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.”


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Diary June 2021

Diary June 2021

There are times when it’s hard to put into words, even in poetry with its condensed form, the passing events that rage on. What can I say? Finally the clouds broke, the rains eased and the sun blessed us while I hear one of my oldest closest friends has died and a dear neighbour. 

In between all this the farce of the G7, a not funny farce, in its grandiose setting and quaint barbecue on the beach. Blame farming, blame the cows for carbon emissions not the jets they arrived in nor the abysmal and quite unnecessary patriotic display by the Red Arrows. Not to mention the postering and posing commitment to 1bn Covid vaccines when the WHO says the rest of the world needs 11bn. Never has inequality been so starkly clear. 

When words fail me I feel bereft. In my journal recently when trying to express my grief I found myself writing, “Years slip by as easy as weeks. Yet this last year stretches out. What a cruel time this has been.” I hadn’t seen my dear dear Shashi since Christmas 2019 as he was shielding during the pandemic. I’d not seen Leroy for too long. I’ve hardly seen anyone if the truth is told.

Recalling the names of those I know that passed this last 18 months I found myself writing, “it feels like a massacre,” and inwardly felt shame to be so hyperbolic and yet am I deliberately exaggerating? And is it any wonder I feel like this when daily Covid death figures make the headlines? 

All I can say is Bilal, Len, Ted, Shelia, Paul, Michael, Phil, Shashi, Leroy; rest in peace brothers and sister. I feel I must say their names at least. To honour them. (Little of this was directly Covid related. Loss is loss. I’m not about to get clinical here it feels uncouth.)

I’ve been asking myself why, despite daily meditation, almost daily yoga, bipolar meds and a decent diet and routine to be honest I’ve been struggling with my physical and mental health. Asking why my back feels like it’s given way. Erm why d’you think Anne? I could move more, I realise that, swim maybe, walk more at least. 

I swing between a calm acceptance of it all and I guess denial, between a sense of quiet existential hope and numbness, and, to be honest, some days there are notes of gloom and despair. I watch Fargo and The Hand Maids Tale and find comfort there. Which says it all.

I’ve also found solace working with images and composed a new visual poem. It’s a contemplation of Spring, renewal and transformation, using found and original images, based on the philosophy of the Tao where seasons have attributes, associated with one of the five elements. 

The element for Spring is wood and some of the correspondences are the direction east, sour taste, the colour green and wind.  In this philosophy the virtue that corresponds to Spring is gentleness and the emotion anger. In Chinese medicine, based on these ideas, the organs that correspond to the wood element are the liver and gallbladder.

For some reason gave it the the immoderate and perhaps excessive title, In This Almost Time, This A Time of All Seasons A Fusillade of Buds and New Bloom Refresh the Senses as We Reawaken. I think now the title would better conclude –as we continue to awaken. After all awakening is a process. You can find this in my insta whether you are on or off this platform at https://www.instagram.com/anne_enith/

Besides that tInkering/ tweaking ideas for and structuring my new workshop series Into the Light: writing with an Open Heart (working title). Mulling over whether to take part in the Brixton Urban Art show, if I’m not too late with that already, keeping one foot in the door with the On Our Radar project. 

There was refreshing relief from it all and fun with a beautiful though belated birthday picnic in the park with lovely friends, some of whom dared try the Cava and Kahlua concoction, just over a week ago. A rare outing. It was strange that it felt not strange to be with people again. A time out of time. Life in the midst of so much death. Mostly life is still on zoom. 

This weekend just gone got to the mind stretching, thought provoking  Lipstick Intellectuals; a conversation between poetry family members Jacqueline Saphra and Sophie Herxheimer a virtual offering as part of this years Winchester Poetry Festival. 

Coming up this Saturday 19th June is our Poets from the Planet Fresh Summer Thunder while the following weekend is Saturday 26th June is a movie night combined with a poetry open mike from The Word is Write.

#amreading Taking the Arrow out of the Heart, a new collection of Poetry from Alice Walker, a gift from my blood brother, and The Storyteller, a novel by Jodi Picoult, found in a charity shop. While this was interesting too despite its bizarrely completely useless inclusion of Katy Perry! https://faroutmagazine.co.uk/6-lyrics-quote-literature-patti-smith-bob-dylan/

#amwriting or more accurately editing, which is to my mind where the real writing happens, a bunch of poems for submission, not something I’m very good at, submission that is, we’ll see.

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Matter poem: Caged

Matter poem: Caged

Much of the world seems to me absurd and obscene, yet there is wonder and fascination within and beyond. Sometimes words only do not convey this complexity. With these objects I attempt to create objects as narrative surprise, breaking down distinctions between the plastic, the digital and the written word. Caged is a meditation on modernity.

Caged 2018

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Quote: Banksy

Quote: Banksy

“People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.

You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.”

– Banksy

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Diary: May 2021

Diary: May 2021

Life recently has consisted of not much more than yoga and mediation, acquiring or repurposing pots for herbs and vegetables seedlings, some home improvements which, in the context of the continuing threat of estate demolition, I find empowering and an act of rebellion on my part.

Beside that little more than lamenting the inclement weather (not very zen) and watching Line of Duty. I came late to the party on that one, in the end my curiosity peeked by the numerous references from friends in social media. I’m not so sure it’s compatible with achieving an uplifted state of mind but I was hooked five minutes into the first episode of series one. 

Got along to a Lambeth XR planning picnic, Poetry from the Grassroots on the 9th May and the Poets for the Planet meeting on the 16th. Have been fiddling around with images for my Spring insta visual poem about based on the philosophy of the Tao. The last instalment for Winter entitled, Under a Wan Sun we Draw in, proved popular, here’s a screen shot. Come over to https://www.instagram.com/anne_enith/ to see it clearer or comment. 

Looking forward to Writing, Rights and Literature organised by Birkbeck University as part of their Arts Week 2021 Tuesday 18th May 6pm, register here https://eu.bbcollab.com/guest/b15effd71c974df7a6da94f96c9bf398 

and hearing Roger Robinson talk about gentrification at the Cities Imaginaries Lecture 2021 Thursday 20th May at 6pm, register here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/x/roger-robinson-cities-imaginaries-lecture-2021-registration-148901948737?

The following week hope to attend Living Net-Zero in Herne Hill Thursday 27th May at 7pm, and would urge anyone who wants to reduce their carbon footprint, but like me not quite sure how, to attend, register here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/x/living-net-zero-in-herne-hill-tickets-149456158393?

Herne Hill resident, Jeremy, gives a free talk with Q&A. He says by way of introduction

“Two years ago I was shocked to discover the true environmental impact of my ordinary life in Herne Hill. Motivated to turn this around, I went on a journey of discovery. Analysing scientific data, I measured the environmental impact of every single aspect of my life, and what I found was astonishing. 

I now have a new way of living, where consideration for the environment and future generations is built in to all that I do. This has had a profoundly positive impact on my happiness, finances and wellbeing. 

Join me for this friendly evening talk where I’ll share my journey and some essential truths about living net-zero in Herne Hill, and you can ask me your questions.”

#amreading Waking The Tiger by Peter A Levine, Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro and The Craft edited by Rishi Dastidar

#amwriting the odd poem sporadically and an outline and session plans for a series of workshops Into the Light: writing with an Open Heart (working title). What this space for updates about the latter.

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A poem from me: Don’t You Know about the Match Girls?

A poem from me: Don’t You Know about the Match Girls?

Don’t You Know about the Match Girls?

Aunty Lucy comes into the kitchen, tight blue grey

curls and faded pinny. I’m chewing a match stick.

-Children shouldn’t play with matches, she scolds,

snatching it away -and you never

put them in your mouth!

Don’t you norr ‘bout the match girls?

Lickle girls they wor, no’ much bigga ‘en you,

marched all the way to Fleet Street they did

Y’norr, where they make the papers…

                                    – Why

-To make tuppence into tuppence ‘apney,

in old money mind. See this? 

She holds up a three pence coin

-Earnt less than this they did, that’s

when they weren’t dropping down dead,

so think yourself lucky.  

They’re always saying that to me, I think,

I’ll be lucky if she gives me that

thruppenny bit.

Aunty Lucy sees the plea in my eyes, says

-‘Ere you are then. I clasp it in my palm.

As she speaks I see the firefly in The Lady and

The Tramp. I see a pale girl in a black bonnet, another

with a with a burning jaw. I hear words I barely understand;

lockjaw, lockout, phosphorus,

-they did it for us.

In the garden the sky is a clear blue pool, I skip in circles

picking daises, reciting

 – girls’ strike, strike a match, match girls, girls’ strike, 

strike a match, match girls

Aunty Lucy pulls an apple from the tree, gives it to me,

tells me not to swallow the pips or a tree will grow inside.

 -Eve ate the apple, she says frowning,

and now look!  

I ask mum about that later. – Don’t fret,

 your Aunt Luce can be a bit funny at times.

Mum stares towards the window. She’s trying to light

the fire, holding a newspaper up at the hearth,

– Get me that box of Swan Vesta and bring it ‘ere,

puts the red tipped match between her teeth, purses her lips

lifts the little yellow box with her free hand.

-Mum don’t!

She shoots a looks that says

This better be good! Slowly I begin,

-Don’t you know about the match girls?

As I speak I see the firefly in The Lady and

The Tramp. I see a pale girl in a black bonnet, another

with a with a burning jaw, the words tumble out;

lockjaw, lockout, phosphorus,

-they did it for us, to make tuppence into tuppence ‘apney!

-Ai ‘appen they did, she replies, balling up

the newspaper and flinging it on the fire.

I’m going to af  to ‘ave a word with our Luce

‘bout puttin’  fear of God into you.

-No not God. Just phosfrus. God is Love, she said.

Published on The Matchgirls Memorial website. This campaign aims to get a statue to commemorate the important role the Matchgirls played in working class, indeed British history. 

In 1888 at the Bryant and May factory in East London 1400 girls and young women walked out on strike against appalling pay and conditions, their victory was swift and laid the foundations for the modern trade union movement. 

I first heard the story of the Match Girls strike from an elderly aunt. I feel in hindsight that I was the depository for the stories and secrets, from the women in my family including my mother and grandmothers, a form of oral history. That said I often couldn’t make much sense of it at the time, I wrote this poem to reflect the way I heard the story. 

Last month the Matchgirls Memorial Campaign held its #StartsWithASpark socially distanced action on Twitter and Instagram

Find more Matchgirls themed poetry and flash fiction, including Spark Catchers by Lemn Sissay, and more information on how to support the Matchgirls Memorial Campaign here https://www.matchgirls1888.org/ 

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Wellbeing and Mental Health: Coming out of Lockdown, Keep Calm and Breathe

Wellbeing and Mental Health: Coming out of Lockdown, Keep Calm and Breathe

As we move towards coming out of lockdown, again, maybe, maybe not, whilst it can be a relief and reason for joy at the same time there can be many ways this time can also be a source of stress. There are so many uncertainties; will it last? Are we really safe? Are the vaccines safe for me? Will they work? Especially given the high profile reporting of virus variants. 

These times are likely to be very anxiety inducing for many. If you haven’t experienced clinical anxiety before it can be a frightening experience. 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 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. Its not designed to respond to most modern stresses and won’t help with the threat of catching a virus therefore tends to be experienced as anxiety as the trapped energy if not dispersed by physical action. This is a powerful way to soothe and overcome anxiety.

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 for about 10 minutes every day.

If you can’t get all the way to the floor there are variations of this that work just as well see https://www.yogaoutlet.com/blogs/guides/how-to-do-child_s-pose-in-yoga

This is a powerful way to soothe and overcome any anxieties at this time. It 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 the breathing exercise in a position that is comfortable 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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Diary: April 2021

Diary: April 2021

Diary April 2021

Am taking some time out for a period of reflection, contemplation and meditation. Recent events have compelled me to consider presence and purpose and more on a deeper level than previously.

I say this as if it were a decision when really it has been more of an unfolding process. I figure I am going inwards for a while ironically at the same time the U.K. at least is opening up partially. 

Call it a retreat if you like. To return renewed, I hope, and reinvigorated. 

I’ll leave you with a recommendation, check out Katie Griffiths launch of The Attitudes with special guests Arji Manuelpillai, Mary Mulholland, Matthew Paul and Michelle Penn Thursday 22 April 2021, 7.30pm (BST)

This event will be streamed live through the Nine Arches Press YouTube channel. Tickets from Eventbrite https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/katie-griffiths-online-launch-of-the-attitudes-tickets-148028361815

“Katie Griffiths’ debut solo poetry collection The Attitudes is a search for trust and faith – in the body, in the mind, in all those things we seek to hold on to but cannot. 

Here we encounter mortality and tread the balance between visceral wisdom and the intellect, between fragile, fallible bodies, and the mind’s hold over them, between the bright spaces and the haunted ones. 

In poems that are bold, effervescent, frequently playful, Katie Griffiths approaches serious subjects – eating disorders, ageing, grieving – with a precise and inventive lyricism. An astute and accomplished book which transforms.”

Image Katie Griffiths

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Photography: Spring Equinox

Photography: Spring Equinox

I created this image Saturday 20th March this year, on the spring equinox. This is the fence at the end of our block on Cressingham Gardens housing estate over looking Brockwell Park.

It spoke to me of balance and also the way the natural world and the human environment in cities entwine and coexist, though both are threatened by so-called regeneration.

Ironic really, I guess, as balance and coexistence is arguably lacking on a world wide basis. It doesn’t have to be that way.

While recently we have been hearing many stories about the challenges to biodiversity and the ice sheets, communities threatened by fire and rising sea levels as a result of the climate emergency there is still time, I believe.

There are so many acting to bring the truth to light, so many knowledgeable making change, so many with new ideas and technologies, I remain hopeful.

Image taken with iPhone. Cropped. Contrast, light and black point adjusted, no filter.

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Poems by others: Amanda Gorman reads The Hill We Climb

Poems by others: Amanda Gorman reads The Hill We Climb

The reading by Amanda Gordon, National Youth Poet Laureate, at the Biden inauguration signified for me hope and vision with realism.

At 22 years she old made history as the youngest poet to read at the presidential inauguration in the U.S. Predecessors include Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, Richard Blanco and Elizabeth Alexander.

The brief was to write a poem about American unity, a difficult task for anyone in the circumstances of the past four years which were about to reach their zenith. Amanda Gorman finished the poem, The Hill We Climb, the night after pro-Trump rioters lay seize to the Capitol building on the sixth of January. 

This suggests to me courage and and maturity as a writer, to respond to the moment weaving past, present and future, the personal and political in a beguiling lyricism and does so with grace. 

She told the New York Times, “In my poem, I’m not going to in any way gloss over what we’ve seen over the past few weeks and, dare I say, the past few years. But what I really aspire to do in the poem is to be able to use my words to envision a way in which our country can still come together and can still heal,” she told the New York Times. “It’s doing that in a way that is not erasing or neglecting the harsh truths I think America needs to reconcile with.”

The poem has a circular form, with the lines towards the end, “When day comes we step out of the shade/ aflame and unafraid,/ the new dawn blooms as we free it./ For there is always light,” serving as an answer answer to the question posed at the beginning, “When day comes we ask ourselves,/where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” Ending with the last two profound and resounding lines,  “if only we’re brave enough to see it./ If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Watch here 

Full transcript of The Hill We Climb below.

When day comes we ask ourselves,

where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry,

a sea we must wade.

We’ve braved the belly of the beast,

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace,

and the norms and notions

of what just is

isn’t always just-ice.

And yet the dawn is ours

before we knew it.

Somehow we do it.

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed

a nation that isn’t broken,

but simply unfinished.

We the successors of a country and a time

where a skinny Black girl

descended from slaves and raised by a single mother

can dream of becoming president

only to find herself reciting for one.

And yes we are far from polished.

Far from pristine.

But that doesn’t mean we are

striving to form a union that is perfect.

We are striving to forge a union with purpose,

to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and

conditions of man.

And so we lift our gaze not to what stands between us,

but what stands before us.

We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,

we must first put our differences aside.

We lay down our arms

so we can reach out our arms

to one another.

We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true,

that even as we grieved, we grew,

that even as we hurt, we hoped,

that even as we tired, we tried,

that we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.

Not because we will never again know defeat,

but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision

that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree

and no one shall make them afraid.

If we’re to live up to our own time,

then victory won’t lie in the blade.

But in all the bridges we’ve made,

that is the promise to glade,

the hill we climb.

If only we dare.

It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,

it’s the past we step into

and how we repair it.

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation

rather than share it.

Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.

And this effort very nearly succeeded.

But while democracy can be periodically delayed,

it can never be permanently defeated.

In this truth,

in this faith we trust.

For while we have our eyes on the future,

history has its eyes on us.

This is the era of just redemption

we feared at its inception.

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs

of such a terrifying hour

but within it we found the power

to author a new chapter.

To offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

So while once we asked,

how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?

Now we assert,

How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

We will not march back to what was,

but move to what shall be.

A country that is bruised but whole,

benevolent but bold,

fierce and free.

We will not be turned around

or interrupted by intimidation,

because we know our inaction and inertia

will be the inheritance of the next generation.

Our blunders become their burdens.

But one thing is certain,

If we merge mercy with might,

and might with right,

then love becomes our legacy,

and change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country

better than the one we were left with.

Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,

we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.

We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west.

We will rise from the windswept northeast,

where our forefathers first realized revolution.

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states.

We will rise from the sunbaked south.

We will rebuild, reconcile and recover.

And every known nook of our nation and

every corner called our country,

our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,

battered and beautiful.

When day comes we step out of the shade,

aflame and unafraid,

the new dawn blooms as we free it.

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

More about Amanda Gorman here

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Comment: Let’s get back to “Normal.” Really? Revisiting Maslow.

Comment: Let’s get back to “Normal.” Really? Revisiting Maslow.

As I was scrolling through my Facebook memories recently I noticed posts from that day, over a the series of years, referring to; a protest at Lambeth town hall to defend children’s services, university’s taking strike action to secure their pensions, women resisting the DAPL pipeline at Standing Rock, a general strike in Barcelona where people simply want the right to a referendum over their future and one about a woman appealing to prospective buyers at an auction urging bidders not to buy up social housing. 

It is fantastic to see memories of the courage, determination and collective action of people for children’s services, pensions, access to water, democracy and housing 


Why do we have to fight for what are basic needs? Why do we have to fight for what are our rights? 

I know recently I’ve been banging a drum about this, repeating various versions of let’s not return to “normal.” The truth is to do so would be a return to a ceaseless struggle for what should be our birthright, our basic needs met.

Let’s not return to “normal.” Ever. “Normal” was hell. Let’s remember what “normal” was likening the U.K.

4.2m children in poverty 2019

rising homelessness with rough sleeping up 21% and

        55%of homeless people in work in 2018

                        rents noone under 30 in London could afford

people “lucky” if they got the paltry minimum wage, in 2020 amounts are

25 years and over £8.72, 21-24 £8.20, 18-20 6.45, under 18 £4.55, 

apprentices ( working up to 30 hours a week  and expected to study) £4.15 an hour

309 deaths in custody 2019/2020 8% black and brown people/ people of colour compared to a population of 3%

                 3m in the U.K. in the gig economy with no sick leave, paid holidays or contracts of unemployment 2019

            an estimated 2.4 million aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year (1.6 million women and 786,000 men) year ending 2019 

                    Only 3% of reported rape cases prosecuted in 2019

Sick and disabled people put through harrowing interviews to “prove” they were sick despite gp and hospital letters and

                 17 000 sick and disabled people dying while waiting for an appeal when benefits were withdrawn 2019

The U.K. pension for single person now in 2020/21 £134.25 is a week, £6,981 a year. For a married couple £268.50 a week forcing many to rely on the means tested housing benefit

Sorry to go on. Sorry to throw so much out.

We are talking about the U.K., the fifth biggest economy in the world. I haven’t even got started on the abuse faced by the Windrush generation and the loops European’s have to jump through post brexit to get healthcare or the global picture where many have such limited access to clean water, electricity and safe homes. 

We could do so much better than this because we know what people need and what they can do. We the people. A new democracy based on “from each accordingly to their ability, to each accordingly to their needs,” Marx.

Surely our democracies and the extractive, neoliberal economy are just moment a in world history. Greek democracy had slaves. Women have only had the vote for a century. Democracy can change. But our limited democracy is only part of the problem. Can the system change? When the Eastern Bloc fell someone said, at the end of 1989, I forget who, a left intellectual, and I paraphrase “two things came together, the system couldn’t go on in the old way and the people didn’t want it to go on,”

It’s time for us to evolve a better version. It is that or fast forward to an unimaginable dystopia. The seeds of this, I believe, exist globally, rooted locally in our communities and workplaces in a myriad of campaigns.

What could a better world look like? What are our basic human needs?

Joking aside, this is a representation of what Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, called the hierarchy of human needs, however you look at it, much of humanity is really are still at the very bottom, if we have to struggle for food, water, shelter, rest, employment and security. At the top is self actualisation. 

How can humanity sustain itself let alone self actualise under these conditions? The conditions of vast economic inequality and as yet unabated climate change? 

How can we be the most we can be? We can begin for sure. Struggle, meditate, do yoga, study it will take you a long way on that path, if you have the time and privilege. It’s dialectical of course, as we we learn and grow, we change and in turn change the world.

Yet I can’t see, without system change, until all are free to follow their destiny, free to thrive not just survive, none are free as we are all part of each other. Yet I’m still not sure exactly how we get from here to there, to a new earth, where we can all self actualise, 

  “… The struggle will continue until all we have to contend with is the elements and our egos, the true meaning of jihad, And that my friends has already begun. 

The way ahead is still not clear to me, or whether there will be more fire, trumpets of woe, more blood shed, already ochre bellied locusts swarm over Africa, there is an exodus from the holy lands where writing began but it is clear to me there will be no single point, nor second coming or single movement led by a vanguard.

Witness the armies of love that hang dignity and empathy from their banners in the Lebanon, Hong Kong, Belarus and Thailand where the age old struggle for democracy returns and now it seems we are more like the water, many rivers flowing down into the seas, into the oceans and the oceans are rising while wild fires circle the globe,  

Perhaps it is Gaia calling to us be the fire, be the water, put down deep roots and like the forests reach up. As I sit before the mountain if I close my eyes I see the new world blooming in a millions of lotus flowers opening…”

from a poem in progress The Centre Cannot Hold”

Further reading

A Theory of Human Motivation by Abraham Maslow, first published in the journal Psychological Review 1943

Toward a Psychology of Being by Abraham Maslow, first published 1954


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Diary: March 2021

Diary: March 2021

As we take a step close to Spring, I feel, often at this time of year, time itself speeds up at an alarming rate. Its as if January limps, February shuffles while March is limbering up for a sprint, next thing I know I’ll be shaking by head seeing nauseating Christmas ads, which incidentally I’ve found one can avoid successfully with steaming services. Events are moving fast and as such it’s hard to post a coming up diary, as I have previously, as a this went down one. 

A lot of cool stuff happened in one week. Started a five week mini course led by poet Bethany Rivers called Mindful Words in which we read, write and discuss poetry. 

Poets for the Planet presented FRESH: Spring Bloom on YouTube: https://youtu.be/UThp7vu3pvAHi

My experimental voyage into insta can be seen here https://www.instagram.com/anne_enith/ The Last Swallow has Flown is a visual poem exploring/ contemplating autumn, love and transformation, based on the philosophy of the Tao. 

Annnnd The new anthology from Malika’s Poetry Kitchen has a cover now and can be  preordered here https://t.co/vNXRgl8yYa More to follow on this

I have a recent, well not that recent, contribution to the On Our Radar, a project reporting homelessness stories here I looking into what happened to the government’s Everyone In scheme. https://microsites.onourradar.org/covid19/?p=1699

Saturday 13th, saw a tremendous outpouring of collective sorrow, grief, rage and solidarity across upwards of 30 cities and towns in the U.K. (the actual number unsure as it was rising by the hour) as people attended vigils of beauty, poetry, prayer and silence over the death of Sarah Everard, and so many others we never hear about.

Yet in Clapham police choose to attack a peaceful protest! As an organiser said on BBC news last night had the organised vigil been not been ruled against there would have been stewards to ensure Covid safety. Had the Met not obstructed the thing in the first place and not lost the plot on the night there would have been no need for arrests, actually scratch that there was no need in my opinion.

In a highly publicised case Patsy Stevenson, pictured above, was forcibly removed from the vigil. She subsequently told reporters that after being thrown to the ground she was dragged into a van, fined £200 only to be released back into the park where this interview took place! So we can all sleep sound in our beds now. 

Beyond irony when two days later Parliament was set to debate the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 which offers no protection to women and includes broad powers for the police to curtail rights to peaceful protest and restrict assemblies, with tougher sentences for those charged, and even limitations on one-person acts of peaceful protest.

So let’s get this straight under this new legislation- If I attack a statue of Churchill I can get up to ten years inside. If someone attacks and rapes me they can get up to five years inside. If they are even prosecuted. In 2019/20 only 3% of reported rapes were prosecuted. 

In a society like this WE NEED TO PROTEST!

For a joint statement in opposition see here https://extinctionrebellion.uk/2021/03/15/killthebill-joint-statement-on-the-police-crime-sentencing-and-courts-bill-from-xr-blm-local-groups-raah-and-more/?

Sunday 14th joined Poetry from the Grassroots to deliver a poem The Truth About Hats, which skips over the centuries touching on women’s history and struggles here’s a link to the recording https://www.facebook.com/MarkMrTeeThompson/videos/10158618361077217/ Unsure if this link works outside Facebook but it it does see great poetry from fellow Poets for the Planet member Sue John’s at 10 mins in and my piece is at 35mins in,  it was a great night, it’s all worth checking out.

#amreading The Occillations by Kate Fox, Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver and Healing the Tiger by Peter A Levine

#amwriting poems referencing Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses and throwing around some ideas for a piece of dystopian fiction….

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Writing prompt: Matka stick sculpture by Olga Ziemska

Writing prompt: Matka stick sculpture by Olga Ziemska

A caveat to the suggestions in this exercise. Writing can release painful feelings and energy in the process, if you can stay with those feeling the process becomes also one of healing. 

We are in a triggering time where issues about women, the earth, our future can lead to discomfort so go easy with this exercise. Take a break anytime if necessary. 

Engage your self care if necessary and/or the support of trusted others if the writing brings up feelings you find too difficult. Also allow yourself to experience joy of being and becoming


Get a pen and paper ready, glance at the image below then respond to the following questions. Write one or two words for each, a couple of sentences or more. There are no wrong answers. Take no more than five minutes for each question, set a timer. 

Where did your journey begin?

Where is it taking you? 

What is your ground of being? 

Take a break, walk around. How do you feel? Perhaps make a note of that if you like. Then if you want go back to your notes. Look at what you’ve made.

Do you want to develop it? If so you can, add, delete, combine, cut and paste, revise, play with it. Give yourself another 15 minutes. Come back to it a few days later if you want and repeat this. 

Matka stick sculpture by Olga Ziemska 

“Cleveland-based sculptor Olga Ziemska works with natural materials like wood and bamboo to create mysteriously figurative installations for her series titled Stillness in motion: The Matka Series.

“Matka” means “mother” in Polish and essentially defines the figure that Ziemska recreates. Through this mold of a maternally inclined female, the artist symbolizes a place of origin, further hinting at “our first physical environment—the womb.”

“The artist says, “Through the repetition of the human form, the subtle characteristics of each environment will emerge naturally and visually. This body of work is ultimately a celebration of the diversity of place and also a homage to the similarities that underlie all things at their core.””

From Haunting Figure of a Woman Made with Wood and Bamboo by Pinar Noorata on April 13, 2013


If you want to take this further consider what is your relationship to the earth? When was the last time you walked in bare feet or touched the earth? Or what is your relationship to your mother? When did you last speak to her, touch her? And write about that. 

More about Olga Ziemska here https://www.olgaziemska.com/

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Writers on writing: Charles Baudelaire

Writers on writing: Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire, the French poet, essayist and art critic, 9 April 1821 – 31 August 1867, is perhaps best known for his Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil). First published 1857, it dealt with themes such as sacred and profane love, melancholy, sickness and death, the corruption of the city, lost innocence and the oppressiveness of living, it was considered scandalous. 

It was arguably a contemplation on modernity, he is credited with coining the term, a highly influential work, not just on other French poets but cited frequently in All That is Solid Melts into Air by Marshall Bergman, a book I return to time and again. 

The title of this work, exploring modernity, is taken from Karl Marx who wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848 following the French Revolution in the same year. 

Baudelaire took part in the revolution and wrote for a revolutionary newspaper. While Marx examined the social forces and developed the idea of historical materialism, Baudelaire gives us portraits of the decadent and debauchery of modern French capitalism, the first volume of Capital published in 1867. 

As contemporaries, in my opinion, they both leave us with work that help us to understand the modern world. Capital predicting the rise of the transnational corporation, Le Fleurs du mal suggests the fleeting, impermanent nature of urban life.

A concern relevant, perhaps now more than ever, as an underclass of cleaners, Uber drivers and Amazon delivery workers move from Bangladesh to Birmingham, Colombia to London, Portugal to Paris, eking out a living, sleeping in cramp accommodation or on the streets. 

“By modernity I mean the transitory, the fugitive, the contingent which make up one half of art, the other being the eternal and the immutable.” 

Charles Baudelaire, “The Painter of Modern Life” in The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, edited and translated by Jonathan Mayne. London: Phaidon Press. 

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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 nourish and nurture. 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, it is easy to focus on what we lack. There is always something to be thankful for and acknowledging this rather is a healthier place to be as it encourages the soothe mechanism in the brain rather than the threat mechanism. It’s a better place to take action from when needed. It’s not about, for instance, denying anger or grief or sitting toxic positivity, for instance the apparent attitude of Boris Johnson with his blustering style 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 repeated 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, was leaning precariously, thinking it might keel over. I read two short poems with a humorous segway 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, that I’d let myself 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


Seriously technical study on the subject here 


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Diary: February 2021

Diary: February 2021

I’m late with this, so late! Wa Gwarn? As they say round here. What’s going on indeed. Been feeling decidedly ropey, trying to find an appropriate metaphor…Feels like; climbing a sand dune in a desert in a wet suit, crawling up a mountain backward, swimming against the tide in a storm. All of these imply struggle. 

No doubt a struggle within. As I write this I think – rather than struggle why not just surrender? Something, honestly, I find hard. I veer between the two attitudes. The latter might sound like, if you can’t do, just be.

Poet and mindfulness tutor Cath Drake puts it like this, “Many of us spend most of our time in ‘doing’ mode: organising, thinking, ticking off tasks, often in autopilot. It’s important for our wellbeing to balance this with the ‘just being’ mode, just being alive to where you are and what is around us, accepting things as they are without trying to change them.”

Cath has been running writing workshops with this in mind. If you’re struggling too why not check it out. Cath says, “What if you write without a goal in mind? Experiment?

Tuesday mornings 8am, short sessions of Mindfulness, Poetry and writing. A new theme each week – sign up and drop in when you can.” Go to https://cathdrake.com/mindfulness-poetry-uplift/ 

During the low energy time I’ve been playing with my images. This, I find, I can do in a meditative way, achieving what is known in the Tao as wu wei, or effortless activity. Ideally we would all do everything like this. 

The result of this was what I call a visual poem called The Last Swallow Has Flown – created using 12 images, found and original. It’s a contemplation of autumn, love and transformation based on the philosophy of the Tao.

According to the Tao the universal energies yin Qi and yang Qi produce the Five Elements, which in turn, give birth to the “ten-thousand things,” ie: the manifestation of all things. The Five Elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Each of the five elements have attributes. The element associated with autumn is metal and some of the other attributes are the direction west, spicy taste, the colour white and dryness. 

This was an experiment, it’s been fun and useful to find that contemplative space. Finally I posted the images in my insta, you can see it here https://www.instagram.com/anne_enith/ whether you have an Instagram account or not. It’s designed to be best viewed in the grid.

Accordingly to my insta analytics the posts have reached 21.5 K accounts in seven days. A bit wow, I have no clue what “reached” means but it makes me feel good anyway. 

Elsewhere the zoom poetry community is blooming drawing poets from Australia, Europe to the United States. I recommend Poetry in the Brew, Speakeasy, Ooo Beehive, Say it Louder and Like a Blot from the Blue. I’m yet to dive in to appear, most have floor spots. 

My fave so far was the St Valentines Mascara, a curated event held Sunday 14th February, which was particularly spectacular. A collaboration between Like a Blot from the Blue, Eye Publish Ewe and Poetry in the Brew, see it here for just over two hours of audacious wordplay and performance. 

Meanwhile Poets for the Planet had our AGM also on the14th and will be holding Spring Bloom: An eco-poetry open mike night on Saturday 6th March at 7.00pm which will be broadcast on YouTube. Poets will be responding to the themes #beginafresh #noplanetb #springbloom 

Finally, it’s not been a great time recently for residents on the six regen estates facing demolition, Homes for Lambeth are on the offensive, during lockdown, yep. However there’s great news for Cressingham Gardens and for children’s fiction and black writers; my friend and neighbour, Sandra Moodie, launches her first book, Aminata and the Bag of Seeds on Saturday 20th February. 

Sandra took her first dabble into creative writing with the Cressingham Voices project I ran on the Cressingham Gardens estate in 2017 in my role as writer-in-residence and contributed to the book we produced. More about Sandra, founder of Pass the Baton Raise the Next Generation, and the book here https://inspirationalenterprise.com/latest-news

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Matter Poetry: Roots

Matter Poetry: Roots

The image is a matter poem I called Roots

A tribute to and attempt to illustrate my origins. I find it hard to identify with “English” though I love the language. I don’t even know what English means beyond empire and oppression. After all before they turned the map pink there was the Welsh, the Scots and the Irish to contend with and suppress. Culturally “English” and “British” seem to merge and elide, something I struggle with. I would like not to have this attitude if someone wants to have a go at convincing me. 

Watching The Barrier recently on Netflix, a near future dystopian fiction situated in Spain, reminded me of my grandmothers tales of acts of disobedience and defiance, which I’m sure must have inspired and influenced me, though I didn’t recall the details of memories until practicing freewriting on the subjects. 

Honoured they choose me to pass on their stories and proud to be by blood half Lancashire, half Yorkshire. That is an origin or identity I am happy to embrace. (Though according to DNA I am one third Greek, a bit Bosnian, a bit Finnish, by which I read Viking, and the rest English/Irish.) All our bloods are mixed let’s face it.

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Poems by me: Let’s Talk About Our Salvation

Poems by me: Let’s Talk About Our Salvation

Let’s Talk About Our Salvation

We heard so many slurs, so many monosyllables as money 

and mendacity hit the campaign trail. Reeled with the 

superlatives; ears bleeding, eyes blinded, hearts broken, 

shuddered with the ugly vile-nasty-ism. We watched 

in dismay, the ceremony of shame, as the old law breaker, 

became the new law maker. A smokescreen of tweets bleated

and abused concealing policy, the links with Breitbart,

flooding our platforms and screens, turning our blood cold. Yet

still we utter, still we declaim, filling the streets of cities 

and towns, with our bodies and breath. Our banners rock with mirth, 

we are so not done yet. Hell no! A new generation joins us on the

sidewalks, the boulevards, the squares – across the world, their legs 

strong, love on their lips. Swinging hips holding the Mexican, 

the Muslim, the other, locked in an embrace, birthing new possibilities 

in the republic born in genocide and slavery; reshaped and exulted 

by the dream factory. Remember the Alamo! That was Mexican, 

by the way, kinda in the name, isn’t it? The so-called manifest 

destiny, pushing westicons and tropes still haunt the movie theatre

today. La la la la land, we are awakening. John Wayne wasn’t always

the good guy. Good guys, let me tell you about them, they’re up at Standing

Rock, right now, facing guns and water cannon, ice on the ground, 

with only smartphones, prayers and the spirits of the ancestors 

to protect them. And while I’m at it, I’ll tell you another thing 

for nothing; the forgotten were never forgotten by Alice Paul, 

Kathleen Cleaver, Lucy Stone, Olive Morris and bell hooks. 

We move together, memory in our arms, bones of dignity, courage  

in our bellies, compassion on our shoulders, the future in our hands; 

we rise, still we rise, and we will rise again and again and again.

Anne Enith Cooper 2017

I wrote this poem after the tremendous global women’s marches, open to all genders, which took place immediately after the inauguration of the 45th.

Looking back at this poem a few weeks before the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamilla Harris I’m asking myself if, with hindsight, it was hopelessly idealistic having seen the apparently inexorable rise and consolidation of the right in the USA culminating in the armed attack on the Washington Capitol building yesterday, January 6th 2021, by supporters of the 45th and far right extremists in which five people died.

At the time the women’s marches were reported as the largest protest on a single day in the USA.  “Women’s March against Donald Trump is the largest day of protests in US history, say political scientists” Matt Brookfield, The Independent. Protests took place in 550 cities and towns in the USA and 100 globally. It was estimated over 6-7 million participated in the USA and worldwide with 4.6 million within the USA. In London it was difficult to get anywhere near Trafalgar Square, let alone in it, the crowds were so large.

We’ve endured four years of an administration headed by a premier who actively encouraged the “alt right/ libertarian right; replete with reactionary attitudes towards women’s rights and the alt right is really a euphemism for those who wave the Confederate flag alongside the swastika, don tee shirts celebrating the holocaust, brandish (Walmart) Tiki torches in a gesture that evokes Ku Klux Klan rallies and mob lynchings and drive vehicles into crowds of peaceful protestors.

Despite all this it seems to me there has been no cease in our struggles from Black Lives Matter, to Standing Rock and Extinction Rebellion, to mention but a few, even during the pandemic, across the world, with women playing a part front and centre. And it is not just a struggle of resistance but oney that envisions a new world free from all oppression, violence and inequality, living in harmony with our planet.

We are so not done yet!

Image taken at the London Women’s March 21st January 2017

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Diary: January 2021

Diary: January 2021

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

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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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.


閑けさや 岩にしみいる 蝉の声

Shizukesa ya/ Iwa ni shimiiru/ Semi no koe


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/

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Wellbeing and Mental Health: A Time to Transform

Wellbeing and Mental Health: 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 devastation from 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 heal it, to make the present and the future more fruitful. Everything needs to be recognized and integrated to clear. Spirtual teachers I know report see this is happening to some people in fast forward. Bear in mind big change is almost always the result baby steps, lots of them.

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 can inherit their silences and can find it hard to express sometimes the most important things. I have found, over the years, the quicker I can accept the feelings that were coming up for me, by which I mean being with them, having curiosity about them, neither avoiding or attaching, the quicker they pass.

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 the idea of a higher power think of it as faith and trust in your higher self or your inner wisdom. To look at it another way, the part of you that knows deep down 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 to consider horror passed with the Holocaust and Hiroshima and Nagasaki is perhaps a bit Eurocentric.

Figure we need to shift 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 is what is meant by 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. Despite the fears in can induce it gives us opportunities. To become more flexible and agile in body and mind, more discerning, confronted with the blizzard of untruths emanating from power; the government and corporations. Fear is the mind killer and behind so much distrust, violence and atrocities in the world.

Perhaps the greatest gift of this time is the opportunity and indeed recognition of the need to transform fear into love. It sounds kind of abstract until you think; well, can I change, “I’m afraid of getting/my loved ones getting Covid,” into “I will look after myself/my loved ones as best as I can at this time.” In any interaction or situation where there is fear, that means you care or love about yourself or the other. Find a positive solution to situations that seem so fearful. Gently.

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. Again baby steps, if you falter, fall down, that’s ok, get up carry on. Every now and then glance back you will see how far you have come. I fervently believe if practiced these things becomes second nature then it becomes revolutionary and 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. Every new movement goes global, struggles for democracy around the world bring millions to the streets. I see a new consciousness from XR to the COP 26 coalition to grassroots organizations in the USA and Global South. In these new movements 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

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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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… I believe that the purpose of poetry is to lead us deeper into ourselves, and from there, further out into the world with a keener understanding of our place in it.”


 “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.”


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.” 


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. 


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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 

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.


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Poem by me: Communion and DRUM ROLL… the new Malika’s Poetry Kitchen website

Poem by me: Communion and DRUM ROLL… the new Malika’s Poetry Kitchen website


We watch a movie together 

content in the recognition 

of the same codes.

Yet I can’t get into your skin

I can listen, 


But you have your


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 also. find this poem on the 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.

During lockdown one and since our togetherness, our being together was re- wired and perhaps created a new reverence for what we took for granted. I found it hard to meet friends without sharing a hug. And while it’s useful and often necessary zoom is a poor substitute for the real. 

I wrote this poem many moons ago. And now have queries about the line breaks and feel communion works a much deeper level, that our souls join in an infinite labyrinthine manner so complex it is hard to comprehend but am leaving it as it stands. 

It was inspired by the work of Octavio Paz to whom I also dedicated it. Now I dedicate it to you all in this strange time. In El larerinto de la soledad (The Labyrinth of Solitude) Paz argued that communion was the complimentary opposite to solitude, “glimpsed in love and found in God.”

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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 and back again, 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, somewhere I think I took a wrong turn and ended up in an area with monuments on all sides. Totally mind blowing. I think it was Traiano. 

Just as I reached there I was accosted by a young guy who introduced himself, said he was from Senegal. There seem to be so many Africans eking out a precarious living, the Kenyan in the market at Teramo who said he wanted to get to London, the Nigerian outside the supermarket who too said he just wanted to get to London. I didn’t want to say that’s gonna be tricky. I didn’t want to say anything about the hostile environment or the disgraceful treatment of asylum seekers so I would just smile, wish them luck as we parted.

This guy was really cheerful, I think he just wanted to talk. In truth I just wanted to sit down and be alone. When he said, “Where are you from?” I replied, “Londra/ London,” he broke into English and burst out with, “That’s great, you’re not racist!” And fist bumped. (I guess social distancing was not exactly being entirely observed.) I wondered whether to correct the assumption that everyone in London was not racist, but let it go. 

We chatted for a while, at some point he said, “I want to meet you you are so happy,” in truth I was trying to process a difficult cocktail of emotion and thought, can’t you see? I explained I was leaving later. 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, thinking someone is watching over me…Yet I say, “I can’t take this.” I have little to no cash.

Then, like a magician, he pulled out a whole bunch of shining things and again tried to press them into my hand. At this point momentarily I wondered – is this going to be like the incident with the young black guy dealing crack in Railton road who did something similar to a (white male) friend of mine? It was late, gone midnight, we were on our way home from Mingles.

I remember my friend saying, “No mate, I don’t do crack,” trying 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 an elder turned up, dreadlocks swinging saying, “Wa guarn?” He clocked the situation, admonished the young guy and told us to, “Get up de road.” Or something like that. Excuse if my rendition of the dialect is off.

Oblivious to my thoughts the Senegalese guy, whose name I forget, said, “I want to give them to you because your not racist.” I said, “Please, really I can’t, “ and could feel the tears that needed to be shed welling up. He took them back and gave me a tiny red turtle. I was 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 climbing my living room wall, in an afternoon siesta, when a latter day nazi set off a nail bomb outside Iceland in Brixton on a Saturday afternoon in April 1999 injuring 48 people.

Breaking out of my reverie, I said something like, “I’d love to keep this and I’ll give you something, but I really have to go.” And gave him all the cash I had, apologised for it being so little and the fact I had to leave. He held his dark wrist against mine, pointed to his skin then mine and said, “The same” and I replied, “Yes.” It was all I could manage, so overcome with a new cocktail of conflicting emotion.

I wondered as I walked away if I should have been more straight up about the reality of life in London, the reality for asylum seekers, the housing crisis. I almost said, at least here you have the sun, despite La Lega, the “populist” party of the right, who demonise refugees. Now I think perhaps its just don’t ever want to be the one to fail to, the words of WB Yeats come back to me, “tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

I’m not racist but I live in a world where someone feels they have to thank me for not being racist. That is just wrong. With a flight booked for just under four hours time keenly feeling what is just procedure for me, getting a boarding pass, is a distance dream to so many. Where my skin, my nationality, means I can go where the hell I like and there are people with a different skin and nationality that don’t have that right. That privilege. It should be a given. Someday. 

I came across an argument sometime ago that suggested the forced movement of refugees, estimated elsewhere at 70 million each year into Europe, one half children, are the frontline in a war against the atrocity of the division and inequality conferred by imperialism and colonialism.

It suggested that with their bodies they are challenging the borders, carved out less than a century ago, the lines drawn on maps at the end of the Second World War by the leaders of the U.K., the U. S. and Russia, meeting in a hotel in Marrakesh. Borders that have resulted in such conflict.

I feel somehow this argument is ignoring the difficulty, putting the burden of necessary change on the shoulders of those most precarious while we sit comfortably in our privilege. Yet the Berlin Wall didn’t come down with a treaty. I wonder can fortress Europe hold against the tides of time. I hope not.

#NoBorders #AnotherWorldIsPossible

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Matter Poetry: On a Wing and a Prayer

Matter Poetry: On a Wing and a Prayer

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

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Diary: October 2020

Diary: October 2020

Today, 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

I’m in the quaint coastal town of Pineto heading off later to the beach. Pineto, and all the coastal towns near here, were rebuilt after the Nazis dropped their payload off bombs as they fled in defeat at the end of the Second World War.

Italian building of new towns beats that in the U.K. if my home town is anything to go by. Here shops and restaurants are open though quite I’m told this is because it’s the end of the season as much as Covid. Masks are required inside buildings, it’s the only sign really of this global calamity as I’ve ignored newspapers and the TV in my room.

I was due to return yesterday but unready to leave the sun, the ease, the feeling of well being behind. Here I can swim, walk and cycle with ease. I sleep well though the full moon has left me feeling a bit unsteady. Time stretches out. I am content in my solitude.


Stop press: Return from my travels late at night. The retreat exceeded my expectations, Pineto was refreshing and relaxing and Rome overwhelming in a good way. Return to a ghost town. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the High Street so empty except at four in the morning. Return in much better shape.

There is a chill in the air and a fine drizzle that clings to my clothes, the pavements gleam. A few people scurry past heads down. Buses pull in and pull away. Hardly anyone gets on and off. There are too many going nowhere, people I recognise as vulnerable and homeless. Feel I’ve nothing to give, no energy to listen, no cash, can’t even break a smile.


Some events of interest coming up

Monday 5th October 7.30pm

Poets for the Planet meeting


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 


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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.”


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


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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

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 Amrita in Abruzzo. It looks amazing and the trajectory of Covid figures suggest it’s safer than Spain in any case. It’s been a frantic scramble booking flights and hotels, as I plan to go via Rome on the outward journey and return via Pineto coming back. Plus investigating the bus services as Casa Amrita is somewhat off the beaten track. I considered the train to Rome but don’t fancy that under these conditions.


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/ 

Dates for the diary

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


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Writing exercise: Rabbit out of a hat

Writing exercise: Rabbit out of a hat

This is a simple exercise just to get the pen moving or to break through a block. I often use step one as a warm up but it can be taken further.

Step one

Without thinking too much pick a colour, a place, a game, a fruit, an animal and write a sentence or two that includes some or all of the five elements, take no more than five minutes.

Step two

Take a phrase from one of your sentences and bounce off that or take it in another direction and write for 10 minutes.

Step three

Read back what you have written and cross out any unnecessary words take no more than five minutes.

Consider what you have created, you have just pulled a rabbit out of a hat! It might be a draft of something, or the beginning of a draft. Or it can just be the workout you do before a run. Keep it either way, you may not know yet what it could become.

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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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Autobio: Hello Dad

Autobio: 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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Autobio: Corona and philosophy

Autobio: 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 made jewellery from found objects on the beach to sell to the travellers and a guy who told me he traveled 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 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 their thumb in the top of their 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, pants down, 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 of garlic each 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 lines of powder 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 here including three 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. A long way down the beach with no shelter. This perplexed me how do you live on a rock? How?


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

Of those I met t was only Carlito I truly trusted, one day when the sun was high and sea calm he asked me had I heard of peyote? I said yes. He asked, would II like to try it? Of course I said yes. “Now?” I added. “No, not now, at a better time,” with a smile that seemed to find amusing and forgive my assumption. One night when the moon was full, the tides were high and a storm approaching as we sat on the beach he said, “Are you ready to meet the little man?” Hearing this 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, broke off a small portion and handed it to me. Broke off a larger portion for himself, we washed it down with Corona. 

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 book, though I’d heard of it, 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 work in progress. 

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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‘S funny: Star Trek quotes for our time

‘S funny: 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 possible. 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.


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.


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


#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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Photography: Let’s go fly a kite

Photography: Let’s go fly a kite


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.


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




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.


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



A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Wellbeing and Mental Health: Applying the Five Ways of Wellbeing in the Covid Lockdown

Wellbeing and Mental Health: Applying the Five Ways of Wellbeing in the Covid Lockdown

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.


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/


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


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


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


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 Mental Health: Zen Things

Wellbeing and Mental Health: Zen Things

This time of forced isolation for many of us and a distancing for all of us can cause anxiety yet I believe it is prompting many of us to consider what really matters, to contemplate our role here on this earth, our purpose and direction, to consider not just why we are here but how we live our lives.

Regarding the latter there are things we can learn from Zen. I’ve have been attracted to these ideas since returning  from the Camino de Santiago in 2000. I covered a third of the route, walking sometimes mindfully when alone, for fourteen days, 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, though he never took me up on invite to speak at my workshop The Way of Words. I believe an agent was involved. 

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 is the best summary I’ve seen of how to attain that state, explained with simplicity and  practicality. I interpret “sitting” as meditation practice. It strikes me as a good guide to achieving wellbeing generally and good mental health particularly at this uncertain and anxious prone time.

Further reading



A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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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.


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.


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 after the prophecy Warriors of the Rainbow

Poem: The Way of Hope after the prophecy Warriors of the Rainbow

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.


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


Further references


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.


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Wellbeing and Mental Health: Free talking therapies and hardship funds during the lockdown – UK – from NSUN

Wellbeing and Mental Health: Free talking therapies and 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.


Talk for Health


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.


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


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”



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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Wellbeing and Mental Health: Immune boosting recipes

Wellbeing and Mental Health: Immune boosting recipes

Have been reading up on diet, gut health and wellbeing. Last summer following a slightly stressful time I noticed a direct correlation between my gut health and my mental health. It’s was basically a flare up of IBS. It’s happened before but only on this occasion I became so aware of the effect on my mental capacity.

I went through a period when every morning waking with fatigue and my head in groggsville, I’d reach for a cup of coffee only to find my stomach swell til the point that I’d look about seven months pregnant, very tight and painful while meanwhile I’d  find my meagre thoughts lost in swamp of brain fog for hours. Reluctant to give up the morning coffee  I didn’t immediately make the association.

I’ve known for sometime the alcohol, coffee, sugar, chocolate, wheat and dairy (and occasionally citrus) me stomach no like. As a result they are only “allowed” at weekends. It’s possible this had lapsed, as feeling under pressure I’d been comfort eating. Deadline hit reward self with a glass of red wine and a chocolate eclair, that kind of thing. Oops. 

Over the years I’ve tried a macrobiotic diet, which resulted in greater vitality but a dramatic and unwanted weight loss, toyed with an Ayurvedic diet and found guidance from food groups defined by Chinese medicine. All of these are useful to some degree but involves considerable discipline. The latter is, in my opinion, the most valuable as it doesn’t talk about good or bad foods so much as the energy, route and effect of the food.

This from http://www.onhealth.com struck me as a useful and informative resource. Bear in mind not all of these foods will necessarily suit you. Your body will teach you what you need if you watch and listen to it carefully.

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.


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Wellbeing and Mental Health: Move that body

Wellbeing and Mental Health: Move that body

Today I managed to do a yoga headstand, legs stretched out full with no support. I started doing daily yoga again in January and most days attempt this pose and have gradually been getting closer, this is the first time I’ve managed it and it feels great! Yoga isn’t just about the pose it’s about moving into it gently. Accepting where you’re at and that might change from one day to the next. A good principle for life. There’s no guarantee I’ll be able to do this tomorrow, but that’s ok.

Yoga, in fact any kind of exercise, is known to be good for boosting immunity. Any kind of exercise can reduce stress and anxiety which impact badly on immunity. These are testing and troubling times. Just last week the World Health Organisation declared the Coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. If you are self isolating or social distancing it’s hard sometimes to find the motivation without a group. I’m really hoping my yoga classes will continue if it can be done safely. Motivate yourself with this thought – if you are unlucky enough to contract the Coronavirus if you do some kind of exercise your body will be in a better place to fight it.

The foundations for good mental health according to Lambeth Mental Health services (in fact good health in general in my opinion) are To connect and Do, Be Present; that is be aware of your surroundings, thoughts, feelings and emotions, that is to develop insight about your inner world. Be Active, To Give and Keep Learning. I would add to that to have gratitude for what you have, reach out when you are struggling, and find time for stillness and silence. We face a challenge, we need to find new ways to connect and do and to be active. But we have the technology…. We can get thru this!

As I imagine Yoga point in Brixton will close soon I recommend https://m.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene/videos

A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Writing by others: A psalm for these times

Writing by others: 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 of the Bible

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/


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.”


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


Wellbeing and Mental Health: Soothe that body

Wellbeing and Mental Health: Soothe that body

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 for about 10 minutes most days.

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 the breathing exercise for 20-30 minutes once or twice a day in any position that is comfortable. 

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


by Boluwatife Afolabi

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

– Peter Akinlabi


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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 my body
becomes too heavy for ablution.


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.


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.


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.


I write to tell you that
I have wandered and wondered
and called salvation many names—


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.


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.



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.


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.



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.


Illustration © Henny Beaumont

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

Poem by me: a ring of fire

Poem by me: 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 


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



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


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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Humour: On being British

Humour: 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


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 Anglians, 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 The Matchgirls, Suffragettes, The Battle of Cable Street, Nye Bevan and the NHS…

Ok over to you guys- what does British mean?


A blog post by Anne Enith Cooper contact me here

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Autobio: Spies, secret sanctuaries and my mother

Autobio: 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.


Writing by others: Extinction Rebellion, London Occupation, a poem by Leslie Stuart Tate

Writing by others: 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.


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Poems by me: Bloodlines

Poems by me: 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?


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


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.”


“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.


“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.”



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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.


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


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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Comment: Brexit – the art of distraction?

Comment: 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 this 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!



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


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.




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)


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


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.”


Diary July 2019

Diary July 2019

12th July 2019

Presenting my paper at this


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.

Comment: The Times Are A-changin’ (indeed)

Comment: 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 not a drop in the ocean but a part of the ocean.

Perhaps 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.


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.