Poet Adrian Mitchell dies, aged 76

A poet of the left, attacked by people of the right for politicising poetry (as if Shakespeare was not political!) but in my book a brilliant poet who combined sincere passion with great technique. At the legendary poetry gig at the Royal Albert Hall, London ('68 I believe) with Allen Ginsberg and many others, it was Adrian Mitchell who stole the show. Deployed imagery, rhyme, devastating observation and a control of dramatic impact in the service of (his) truth.
Here for your delectation & delight is his anti-Vietnam war poem. Employing repetition and banal rhyme to devastating effect, the first 2 lines still encapsulate in a nutshell something I'd felt for years and not been able to express. Brillant observation.

'To Whom It May Concern' by Adrian Mitchell

I was run over by the truth one day.
Ever since the accident I've walked this way
So stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Heard the alarm clock screaming with pain,
Couldn't find myself so I went back to sleep again
So fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Every time I shut my eyes all I see is flames.
Made a marble phone book and I carved out all the names
So coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

I smell something burning, hope it's just my brains.
They're only dropping peppermints and daisy-chains
So stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Where were you at the time of the crime?
Down by the Cenotaph drinking slime
So chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

You put your bombers in, you put your conscience out,
You take the human being and you twist it all about
So scrub my skin with women
Chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Guardian obit:

Report from 15th Dec... "Animals"

We nearly had a brawl. It would've been over fast though. A room full of angry poets vs three drunk/stoned guys who were amusing themselves by trying to ruin it for everyone else. Animals, indeed. Jaco persuaded 'em to leave and then Dominique (older French guy, regular at the Cabaret Pop.) addressed what had gone on and restored the atmosphere. Before this tense near-fight, and after it, the night was good. Mirabelle and Martin brought us folk music on violin and cello. Michael chased 2 seals that leapt into a shipping container. Marianella enchanted us with her Dog Tale - a love affair with a dog, the tragedy of a dog-napping. Saskia spoke of eyes as good as the soul and practiced her Dutch and French accents. Thérèse took a Crabe avec les yeux tristes back to the seaside and a raconté l'histoire d'un chat qui s'appele Squirrel. Xander, wounded & half free, parted the tall dense weeds. Giéno dit que les oiseaux chantent dans son court. Elena was a Eudina girl living in Paris, where beauty trumps convenience every time. She aksed what was the proper attire for a punctured foot? a zombie by Monday morning. Leemore says you taste of sea salt, of the spray and splash of breaking rocks. Gave us a forgotten image of a girl, fingernails coated with soil.
Thanks for the photo and poems Christopher! and thanks to all others who came and read or supported us by being part of the night, not least Maxx, back in from Old London Town and Jaime with the faux-zebra skin bag in honour of the theme.

Rufo sends greetings & says:
In case you're interested my "everything I had to eat or drink in a week" piece has been published by an online journal in the US. Along with another food poem inspired by the Spoken Word evening.
You can find it at
then go under "New" then it's under my name.

Joan Brady sent us her Mouse Story from San Francisco:

I knew this woman once. She had a boa constrictor. I remember how she kept these live mice that she would feed it. Not every day though. Boa constrictors don't eat every day. At least that's what she said...Last time I saw her, it was maybe a year ago...I was with these people at her house and we were all drinking wine and smoking and talking and somehow she decided it was time to feet the boa so she went and she put this mouse inits cage and we all just stopped what we were doing and sat there and watched...At first nothing happened. The mouse, it just huddled over andkept real still...like it was frozen...and the boa, for awhile it acted as if therewas nothing there. Then all of a sudden it turned and in this one movement it took the whole mouse into its mouth, so that only the tail was left hangingout and then these muscular swallowing contractions started up and slowly,the mouse's tail began to disappear. When it was over, you could see this enlarged place inside the boa where the mouse was. Even now, when I think about it, I, it keeps coming back to me about how it was all so totally silent. From beginning to end, there was no sound, nothing...After it was over, we all talked about how we felt watching. You know, I was the only one in the room who identified with the mouse. The only god damn one.

-- J. R. Brady, San Francisco
She says: Piece was published last year in North Coast Literary Review. When I read it in the cafe's here there are mixed reactions. It tends to make some folks uncomfortable.

I read this, among other things: (loosely based on family history)

birds on the fells

he threw out and spun a lure
to a cast of hawks across the sky
off-hand said
‘see! this cascading stream in the fells is my grandfather
dead now
but listen!
he told his jokes
always with a straight face
yet now he chuckles
content that his words are for the wind
My mother sang here as a girl
her voice bright, soaking up the lakewater
It snowed when she was born
and grandad walked all night
She taught me the storytelling of rooks
and their clamour caught on my father’s tape recorder
The last rout of wolves laired about here
hunting the husks of hares
before the hoary old one, huge as a bear
was slain on the headland past Cartmel
That kettle of hawks you see
is seeking the hoard of mice in this scree
but it’s the owls that get them,
calling to each other in late night sittings,
the parliament of owls.’

Next SpokenWord is 5th January. And the theme? Clothes/les vêtements.
Merry Christmas & joyeux Noel!

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Food & drink: report from 1st December

That's Martin Neaga on cello. Later Betty Rojas improvised on a large box instrument whose name escapes me while I did Unspoken Words.
Sarah was in Berlin for Baader Meinhof days. Scott was on Quality Street. Soon you'll be able to see him from space. Maria performed extracts of Burns' Tam O'Shanter. Rufo listed everything he's eaten and drunk all week. Thanks to Marianela and everyone else who did stuff too.
Some other words about food and drink, especially jam.

In Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, the White Queen, seeking to hire Alice, offers her 'jam to-morrow':

'I'm sure I'll take you with pleasure!' the Queen said. 'Twopence a week, and jam every other day.'
Alice couldn't help laughing, as she said, 'I don't want you to hire ME - and I don't care for jam.'
'It's very good jam,' said the Queen.
'Well, I don't want any TO-DAY, at any rate.'
'You couldn't have it if you DID want it,' the Queen said. 'The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday - but never jam to-day.'
'It MUST come sometimes to "jam to-day,"' Alice objected.
'No, it can't,' said the Queen. 'It's jam every OTHER day: to-day isn't any OTHER day, you know.'
Edward Lear's The Jumblies (extract):
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,
And a hive of silvery Bees.
And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws,
And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,
And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,
And no end of Stilton Cheese.
Next Spoken Word: "Animals" 15th Dec