Jeff Cloves

1 December 2018Comment

'I've never worn a red poppy in my life'

Maybe there are other PN readers who, like me, are throughly glad the inescapable 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War is finally over. I’ve had it up to the oxters with all that hand-wringing about The Sorrow and The Pity on TV programme after radio programme without, as far as I’m aware, anybody being allowed/invited to put the case for pacifism.

However, all this hoopla did make me consider my own family’s involvement in The Great War and also the part music…

1 October 2018Comment

'as one war ends, another one begins / look at the children, look at them'

Via my friend the pianist, composer and singer Bill Fay, I’ve learned of the US project, ‘1,000 Days, 1,000 Songs’* with which he’s become associated. In my last column, I mentioned that I’d been challenged by a friend (not Bill) to write a poem a week for a year and I self-published the result in a little book of 52 poems titled once weekly (Ourside, Stroud, 2018.)

Compared with 1,000 songs, it was a modest undertaking, but there is a serendipitous connection. The US project was…

1 August 2018Comment

'If a cat and bird can co-exist / on such a day he thought / then why not us humans'

I’ve been writing songs and poems (often the same thing) since the mid-’60s but have never been prolific. Nearly two years ago, I told a friend that once I’d only written five or six in an entire year. The friend immediately set me a target: write a poem a week for a year.

I was apprehensive as I set to, but the first arrived on 15 November 2016 and I never missed in 52 weeks.

I found it challenging at first but as the year wore on I began to look forward to writing the next…

1 June 2018Comment

Jeff Cloves reflects on the work of a natural anarchist and pacifist

Dear readers, I’ve belatedly made the acquaintance of a remarkable US writer who died a month after I was born. I wish I’d encountered him years back but here’s a quote and you’ll see why he immediately endeared himself to me: ‘When a man tells you that he got rich through hard work, ask him: “Whose?”’

Don Marquis, novelist, poet, newspaper columnist, playwright and (I insist) philosopher, was born in 1878 and in 1916 he began a famous column in New York’s The Evening Sun…

1 April 2018Comment

Jeff Cloves looks in the window of his new local record shop

Is it some kind of sign of the times, or merely a candle in the wind, that a record shop has opened in Stroud selling nothing but vinyl? Sound Records opened in March and it stocks second-hand records and maybe new vinyl too for all I know. I wasn’t at its opening gala but James and David – front man and guitarist respectively of the poetic punkish political rockanroll band, ‘The Red Propellers’, which I’ve often mentioned here – performed in the neat and compact (well tiny) shop which I’m…

1 December 2017Comment

Jeff Cloves finds contemporary resonances in a recent stage adaptation of An American in Paris

When I was 15 or 16 I saw a film which has remained a favourite with me – and millions of others I suspect. An American in Paris (1951) starred Gene Kelly, the debuting Leslie Caron, and Hollywood’s fantasy version of Paris. A couple of years ago, I wrote a poem, ‘Confessions of a teenage narcissus’, and it contains these lines:

I wanted to look like Gene Kelly
I wanted to be
that American in Paree (Paris)
I wanted Gene Kelly’…

1 October 2017Comment

A chance encounter prompts Jeff Cloves to ruminate on Brexit, lithium-mining in Cornwall and the arms trade

Like many who work from home, I have the radio on for most of the day. So Radio 4 or 5 is a chattering background while I pretend to get on with it. Now and again I deliberately listen to something but mostly it just keeps me company – as do my cats. Thus it was recently that my attention was suddenly caught by a woman saying on air that she was one of many who regarded Cornwall ‘as a country not a county’.

My ears pricked up at this for I’d recently been to Cornwall for the Charles…

1 August 2017Comment

Jeff Cloves reflects on the intertwined histories of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and the US labour movement

In November 1962 – by chance and good fortune –

I heard the African-American singer/actress/songwriter/ civil-rights-activist, Odetta (1930–2008), and a new up-and-coming folk singer, Bob Dylan, sing live in London.

They appeared at the Singers Club – I was a member – which met at a Kings Cross pub, The Pindar of Wakefield. Also present was their somewhat controversial manager, Albert Grossman, and the event celebrated, I think, the club’s birthday.

It was an…

1 June 2017Comment

Jeff Cloves finds repose in Bill Evans' celebrated piano classic

Throughout a long association with Peace News I’ve known that PN readers are not necessarily pacifists – though I’d hazard most are. Maybe some are internally debating whether they are or not.

I’ve known gay men and women personally and also read their thoughts variously and they commonly assert that they knew as children that they were gay.
In my own life, there’s a parallel. I think age 7 – 8 I knew I was a pacifist and I’ve never had any doubts since.

1 April 2017Comment

When it comes to militarism, language matters, says Jeff Cloves

There are a couple of vehicles regularly parked down our street which always raise my eyebrows. Firstly, because they park with their kerbside wheels wholly on the pavement and I have to walk in the road because I can’t squeeze past, and secondly, because of their names.

The Land Rover model is a ‘Defender’ and the camper-van is a ‘Trident’. There are other less offensive Land Rover model names such as ‘Discovery’ and ‘Freelander’ and even the mysterious ‘Evoque’ but these two…

1 February 2017Comment

Our global future is uncertain but also full of possibilities

It has slowly dawned on me – readers may have spotted it sooner – that this column has often been a diary of life in Stroud. But what else could/should it be? ‘Think global, act local.’

Turns out this phrase is attributed to several people, but it seems its earliest approximation appears, appropriately, in a 1905 treatise on town planning.

This set me thinking. The converse – ‘Act global, think local’ – should also be heeded.

The champions of global…

1 December 2016Comment

Jeff Cloves celebrates the music of Mike Adcock

It’s a pleasure to write a column printed next to that of Penny Stone. Her commentary and recognition of the power of music, if not to effect change directly but to inspire and energise those working for change, is a welcome relief from bad-news stories.

Anyone who goes to a WOMAD festival cannot help but respond to the ability of its musicians to transcend cultural and national difference. Music really is an international language and so it is a means to achieve peace and…

1 October 2016Comment

Jeff Cloves reflects on Stroud's global peace party

A few weeks ago, I was surprised to see my local paper, the Stroud News and Journal, had run a decent feature headlined ‘Global peace party to be held in Stroud’s Bankside gardens.... to celebrate peace around the world and to collectively call for an end to war’. The party (held on Sunday 18 September) was followed by evening events and the paper gave a detailed listing.

World Peace Day followed on 21 September and I guess it was observed throughout the world during that…

1 August 2016Comment

Jeff Cloves revels in the discomfort of the political class in the wake of the EU referendum

I’ve just been watching a TV programme (3 July) about trench photographs in the First World War, taken not by officers but by privates.

It showed the work of a 17-year-old German soldier and a 23-year-old English soldier; both volunteers and both initially thinking war – as Peter Pan said of death – ‘an awfully big adventure’.

The German boy’s early photos are posed poised and romantic – even excited: his comrades draped on their ugly big guns, relaxing with a pre-battle swim…

1 June 2016Comment

Jeff Cloves thrills to the EU referendum campaign

As I write this, the case for and against leaving the EU has raised the nauseating stench of this non-debate to hysterical levels. So far, it’s been a combat between dread and fear. Far from shedding light or sharpening a vision of what Europe could/should be, the exchanges have barely risen above the level of insult and derision.

The leavers’ Little Englanders bind is deeply unappealing and barely conceals a dread of immigrants and foreigners in general and refugees in particular…