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Various authors

Poetry reviews

Years ago I wrote admiringly (in NvA) of Pat Arrowsmith's poems and illustrations, Drawing to Extinction (Hearing Eye 2000), but now - with too little time and too few words to do them justice here's another clutch of books from Hearing Eye (hearing_eye@torriano.org). This is recommendation in itself and I envy the poets for being so chosen.

Miroslav Jancic (1935-2004), who was born in, exiled from, and returned to die, in Sarajevo, has something to say about being “chosen” in his poem National Decalogue:

You shall not wage wars

You shall not murder

You shall not loot other nations

Yours are only spiritual goods

You are not the chosen people

You shall naturally mix with others

You are not ends but means

Give way to individual freedom

You are not to evolve into

Absolute or

You shall be wiped out from the earth.

His wonderful poems - in turn warm, wretched and witty - are published side by side in Bosnian and English and adorn a beautiful little hardback, Dome Prokleti Dome / Home Bloody Home (#10).

Gerda Mayer, another exile, was born in Karlsbad and is a widely published poet with a deserved reputation. Prague Winter (#8.95) recalls her family and friends in the period between the Nazis' annexation of the Sudeten in 1938 and their invasion of the rest of Czechoslovakia in 1939. It is achingly told via poems, prose and photographs and that Home Bloody Home is, in effect, a continuation of the same same heartrending story is enough to make you weep. Her elegant paperback opens with a perfect poem called Unseen:

Present met Past,

Said: I am your future

But Past walked by

Without look or gesture.

Present then strained

To define Past's nature,

But his sight was too short

To catch every feature.

While present looked back

Absorbed in the creature

Future walked by;

Unseen; without gesture.

Pat Arrowsmith's pamphlet, Going On (#3), contains 16 poems - often united by their blunt confrontations with greater and lesser evils. Even Blackberrying involves “a price to pay” and she notes in Wind Farm that the turbines, though benign, “kindle engrained spider-fear”. Inevitably she writes of Aldermaston, Afghanistan and such but meditates too on flowers, sheep and “this current greed for speed”. Surviving a daylight (sexual?) assault she muses:

I'm armed now

When I go for walks alone.

Don't ponder much

On what occurred,

Just continue

On my way.
Do Wasps make Jam? (#6.25; available from http://tinyurl.com/9umjf, or via Peace News) a CD of 31 poems by Hazel Rennie with precise guitar interludes by Paul Ward, arrived with a sticker for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom; so I just had to mention it. The poems - for all ages - rhyme and scan with e'lan, are excellently performed, and carry a sting. The Old Woman in Hazel's modern nursery rhyme commands:

Young man young man

now run home to your tea

and then do your homework

to help you to see

not an atom is safe

in the land of your birth

if you keep hindering me

from saving the earth.

If you fancy live poetry, Poets for Peace (including me) will be performing (free) at Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX, at 6pm Wednesday 16 March.

Topics: Culture