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Showing posts from January, 2020


Recently, a well-known literary journal in Canada, PRISM International , issued an apology for publishing a few poems by one Stephen Brown , after an editor of his was accused of insensitivity for supporting the ex-convict. It turns out, so said the apology, the magazine did not know, when they published his poetry, that he had been convicted of a vile murder years before; that he had done his time, and, released, started a new life, writing under a pseudonym, in Mexico. Once they had realised they had published a criminal, they apologised; and soon, the cancellers had Brown's poems removed from the national Parliamentary website set up to showcase Canadian poems. Stephen Brown was found guilty of having beaten a woman to death with another man - she was an Indigenous woman, Pamela George , and it was of course deeply painful to this decent community in Saskatchewan to know the killer was now free and apparently being feted by the great and good (the local university in Regi


Frankie Say Relaxit You'd have a hard time convincing many people that there's been a more momentous date in the UK (British) calendar than January 31, 2020, since the end of the Second World War 75 years ago. For, today is the day of Brexit - the official 11 pm leaving of the EU (year-long transition period to follow, natch). Cue: Archbishop calls for unity, freshly-minted Brexit coins without the Oxford comma, Farage parties, and champagne (yes, from France, ironically) being uncorked and splashed about like it was a famous sporting victory - which in a way, it is. 75 years is a long time, and a blink in the ocean. For all that people claim has changed since then, a few British facts remain as if frozen until today: Churchill is still the most-admired and famous British politician of the past 100 years; the BBC (for now) is still the world-respected broadcaster; the Queen is still the Queen; the British are still world-famous for comedy, actors, writers, poets, sci


prepared for February... Historians may be forgiven for finding January 2020 more stuffed with signs and wonders, horrors and events, portents and peril, than the entire Game of Thrones arc; not yet over, this month has given us, unbelievably: - a week of thinking there'd be a World War 3 triggered by an American strike on Iran's top military leader; - the tragic downing of the airplane flying from Iran; - the crisis of the British Monarchy triggered by 'Megxit' and lingering concerns over Prince Andrew's lack of testimony; - Brexit (see next post); - ongoing fires and environmental disaster in Australia; - The Trump impeachment and the Republican failure to be non-partisan in the Senate trial; - the novel and deadly Wuhan virus becoming a global emergency. I know I am missing more memes, meaningful deaths, earthquakes, and accidents. The trend is not an arc towards justice, but to chaos, ethical duplicity, corruption, war, and environmental destru


Despite, and because of, our debates and differences of opinion, I had great fondness and respect for Roddy Lumsden , the poetic genius, who has died. When I first moved to London, we worked on editing each other's poems for a few months; he several times read for the Oxfam series and other events I hosted, and I read with him on many occasions. One always could learn from Roddy, he knew more about everything than anyone else. I am very shocked and saddened by this sudden news, and all I have to say is here: You should seek out his poetry collections, and his poems online, you will discover one of the funniest, and most clever poets ever born in Scotland. His death is a sobering reminder that poets in this angry age need to remember to love and support one another, and seek less to divide, and more to join, the common enterprise of creating poems of long-lasting value to others.

Threatening Cultural Sites

It will not surprise readers of this blog to learn that we are not major benefactors of Trump's campaign for re-election, or that we hardly favour his usual tactics or rhetoric. Even by his own standards, however, the threats of the past few hours have marked an escalation into territory more usually occupied by the Taliban, or other notable war criminals. The threat to destroy 'cultural' targets of value to the Iranian people and their civilisation, aside from anything else, is repulsive. Its barbarism is, frankly, against the grain of any optimistic hopes left to the human race in the few decades left to us. Should such destruction be visited upon museums, ancient or sacred places, monuments, or other national treasures, the whole world will be impoverished, both morally and culturally. Trump's behaviour of the past few days - beyond Nixonian - is beginning to confirm the worst fears many had upon his election - that if threatened he would stoop to Nero-level


2020, one wit has already said, 'is cancelled'. The joke, which is only about as funny as a swallowed switchblade, stems from the fact that, less than a week old, someone thought Greta's name was Sharon, Trump triggered a potential WW3, and Australia is facing its worst-ever natural disaster, etc. There wasn't much of a 'Boris Bounce' to the fresh start of a new decade - human idiocy and cruelty seemed to continue, like a never-ending Netflix series. Trump's decision to execute, with extreme prejudice, the top-ranking Iranian general (a de facto second in command of that nation) in Iraq (with the usual barely-considered collateral damage) was shocking for two reasons - one, it is not usual Western military policy to (openly) assassinate top-level leaders and generals; and two, this is likely to escalate a simmering conflict into war. It was also, ethically, and anthropologically, a pretty depressing start to a new decade. This is because, we have mayb