I wrote this poem not long after the first day of Freshers’ Fair 2017, at which I had a stall promoting The Rumour Quill. However, it’s a mix of my experiences of being a fresher (2016) and looking at new freshers coming in (2017).
Under the marquee’s roof,
a child turns into an adult –
well sixthformers turning into
freshers – pounding the
waterlogged ground like horses
hooves making an imprint.
Ten o’clock, the first batch
meander in, using rucksacks
like loot crates picking up freebies
like food, pins and bracelets and
signing up for societies they
have no intention going to.
And free food and cocktails has made
adults of children. Ready to join
every cult and society: feminism, rugby,
Harry Potter, Rumour Quill.
One o’clock. Peak time, with the shrill of
rhythm and rhyme from loud music as
shrouds of crowds hover like billows of smoke.
Rabbles of students everywhere.
That’s Freshers’ Fair and how every stall
except the niche ones are mobbed with
lost students and smiles.
And how wide aisles are made thin
due to the onslaught of bodies.
A person’s skin meets table.
They touch, a crutch for the arm
and that’s when it’s time to go home.
Much alike to my task of writing response poems to those on Channel 4, I did the same thing with ‘Voices: Nationwide’, including Building a Building Society (about the founding of Nationwide) by Jo Bell. I wrote this poem not long after I had exited a confrontation with an internet troll on Twitter but it’s about more than just my hurt pride.
The Nomads of Culture is about not only the Millennial Generation but also how the next world conflict will not only be fought with guns, but also via the internet by people as skilled as Edward Snowden.
The Millennial story side of the poem is inspired from a book edited by Malorie Blackman. Unheard Voices is an anthology book of short stories, extracts and poetry on the theme of slavery, including works from Alex Haley, Benjamin Zephaniah, John Agard and Olaudah Equiano to name a few.
Other influences for this poem come from Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke, Disney-Pixar’s WALL-E and my own observations of contemporary culture.
A digital world, Planet Earth 2017 –
an archive of facts, stacked together, coveted
like sentimental candyfloss.
We’d rather vex text than move our
mouths – the battlefield is online, like slaves
confined to a screen and
t’have a home, you gotta be suited and booted
with change polluted pockets, if you’re lucky,
but nine t’five shifts at Kentucky will do. Fortune favours the fortunate –
wading through Twitter’s trenches, allied
with a 140-character shield-wall, sailing down
rivers of tweets duelling with social spiders –
those eight-fingered button beaters, who have boxing
gloves for thumbs, pummelling their As to zeds
until the ring of the knockout bell.
I wrote this poem a few months after watching the unnecessary but still excellent sequel to Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, T2 Trainspotting, and I ended up enjoying it more than the original film.
This poem is based on the ‘Choose Life’ monologue that Renton delivers in a restaurant to Veronika after she says “what’s choose life?”
Choose social media: YouTube, Skype,
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp.
Choose books, I mean actual books.
Not that crap, you know Nooks, E-Readers, Kindles.
They’re shams of literature, like Instagram
for pretend photographers.
And I’d hate for my enjoyment of a good novel
to be reliant on a finite battery life.
That’s the strife of being a traditionalist, progression
is always snapping at my heels like the Devil.
And then there’s Little Lord Fontelroy looking dishevelled,
Donald Trump. Choose him. Actually, bad idea.
Don’t even go there. He thrives on fear and the
sound of his own voice. His happy hands
dropping bombs on lands I can’t even pronounce, but
I can renounce his ways – his racism, his treatment of women
and his use of Agent Orange – no this isn’t Vietnam,
it’s his suntan lotion creating media
commotion like Mrs May and her will to throwaway
human rights to catch maybe-terrorists.
It’s all a joke you know? Like the daily Politics Show,
everyone’s acting, on this “strong and stable” stage
performing magic tricks like a mage in World of Warcraft.
Choose the future, or what’s left of it after this deficit,
and I’m not just talking about the economy.
Choose the NHS. Choose the Public Services.
Choose government. Choose a zero hour contract,
choose student loans, choose halls of residence
despite those very accurate horror story tomes.
Choose reality TV; choose the Kardashians and their antics.
And the undecipherable semantics of the Big Brother house,
or the: mind-numbing, IQ-depleting, logic-defeating Love Island
that has taken the populous by storm, reality TV is now the norm.
And this is what society wants us to be. Stupid, docile – infatuated,
shot by one of those cupids with their mini bows and arrows.
Choose slut shaming. Too skinny, too fat, too tall, too short.
Not pretty enough. Choose 13 Reasons Why, Choose Edge of Seventeen. Choose depression, choose suicidal thoughts,
choose social anxiety. Choose made-up piety, as society goes
to pray then lays waste to streets. Day in, day out on repeat.
And then takes a seat as they tuck into a nice, tasty dinner.
And then choose the same for your children,
your mothers, fathers, sisters, younger brothers.
And then smother the pain with denial.
Take a breath; now you’re an addict, so be addicted.
Not conflicted. Just be addicted to something else.
Choose your loved ones.
Choose your future, just choose life.
I mentioned in my bio that popular culture plays an important role in my life. However, it’s found its way into my poetry too, as some of my poems are inspired from films and television shows. This poem is inspired from I, Daniel Blake, a film about the working class living under the welfare state and how bad things can happen to good people.
I named this poem Maggie: A Girl of the Streets after the Crane novella of the same name. I enjoyed reading that during my American Literature module last year and it holds similar themes to I, Daniel Blake.
In 2014, to commemorate a century since the beginning of World War I, Channel 4 hired British actors to read a number of British war poems. This included Christopher Eccleston who read Testimony (Seamus Heaney) which I posted on The People v. Michigan State.
During the summer of 2017, I tasked myself to write a response poem to each of the war poems on Channel 4’s line up. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets is in response to The Arms and the Boy by Wilfred Owen and it’s read by Gemma Arterton.
Wilfred Owen was an English poet and soldier during The First World War. Whilst in a hospital in Scotland in 1917, he met one of his literary heroes Siegfried Sassoon (I’ll talk about him later) who provided him with the help and the encouragement to write his war stories through poetry.
Owen was awarded The Military Cross in acknowledgement of his bravery but he was killed on November 4 1918 during the battle to cross Sambre-Oise canal at Ors.
Let Mr Rich dart down Maggie’s trench to see
what reality is, and pursue with hunger for loose
change. Eyes rancid with purpose like a dog salivating
at the mouth – thickly dripping like a leaking car battery.
Allow him to caress the blind, broke people under the line
who long to work to feed their families – or give the street
sleepers some food to warm their bellies and a bed for the
night– not left to die and claw for the white light.
For Rich’s life seems to be laughing around the needy.
Conscienceless in his neck’s snake, glittering gold.
Whilst politicians make speeches on human rights,
livelihoods sold – pavements crack and the alleys hiss.