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ISSUE 6 - MAY 1975

cover size 210 x 148 mm (A5)

 

CONTENTS
   
Editorial   Ben Ainley
Reincarnation                              M Doyle
The Christmas Present                      R Friedman
The Quiet Black                            AM Horne
Man in Winter                              M Ferns
The Gun                                    J McFarlane
Pseudonym                            FG Walker
The Bell spews its Evil                    J Barnes
The Name of the Game                       B Eburn
Harry the Tick Man                         V Leslie
Staunch True Comrade                       J Sutton
Factory Boy                          T Harcup
Oppression ...                             T Harcup
Comment on Ken Clay's article              W Froom
Comment on Ken Clay's article              F Moore
Comment on Ken Clay's article              I E Reed
Comment on Ken Clay's article              B Eburn
The Silly Bloody Working Class                   M Ferns
Modern Poetry, Eliot and The working Class             T Whitfield
Poetry - Where are You Now?                IE Reed
A Matter of Opinion                        V Leslie
Remember your Kerb Drill                   A Prior
We came en masse                     J Sutton
On Winter's Highway                        AG Froom
Saving Face                          A Jamieson
Turning Point                              J O Broonlea
The Housewife                              B O Connor
Fireweed A Review                    B Ainley
Listen to the Old Men                      A Arnison
Woman's Paper                              F Moore
Promise                                    F Moore
Midnight                             KB Stump
Note to Contributors  
Modern Magic                               B Smith
If Things Go on as They Are                A Prior
War Maimed Girl at a Dance                 R Friedman
Far From My Window                         T Whitfield
Drama Now                            W Froom
The Dancer of Death                        IE Reed
Elegy                                KL Jones
Person with the grace of a tall ship                   J Barnes
North Scale's Winter                       AM Horne
Father Crisp Sell                          AM Horne
Last Rites                           B Eburn
Graphics by Peter Carter  

 

 EDITORIAL

This is Voices 6, and our total output covers about 300 pages. There have been more than 200 separate pieces in these 6 issues, written by more than 80 writers, the overwhelming majority of whom have never had work published previously. The quality varies greatly of course: some of the pieces (and at this point it would be invidious to select examples) are of high poetic or literary merit; others are not. The whole purpose of "Voices" is not to perpetuate mediocrity, but to fan the sparks of imagination and revolt against what is reactionary, soulless, greedy and exploitative, and to encourage writers from the factory floor and the branch meeting. We would like world famous writers, and national figures, and we admire their works in other publications: but our aim is to help to build a team of working men and women who are reflecting in new and vivid writing the explosive left movement in Britain and the world. 

We need a lot of help. We are getting new writers with each issue. Our sales, still modest, are growing. Our financial appeal was generously backed. But we still do not know whether Labour Party wards, Trade Union branches, workers in factories, students, Communist Party members, enjoy "Voices" and feel that it meets a need. 

Three of us went recently to a Labour Party group in Stockport, and read pieces from "Voices" to them and discussed them. There was genuine appreciation of what we are doing We would like to test the reactions of all sorts of people to "Voices" and invite you to ask your organization, or student bodies to give us a chance to explain "Voices" to them. 

We need the Labour Movement. Does the Labour Movement need us? We think it does. Us and organizations and publications like us. We ask Labour Party and Trade Union and Communist Party, Young Socialist and Student bodies to help us. How? These are some ways. 

Buy a number of copies of "Voices" to distribute and sell to your members.

Circulate an advertising letter of ours to your members.

Give us a regular subscription (yearly, half-yearly or quarterly) on which we can rely and budget.

Affiliate to Unity of Arts our parent body, and contribute an agreed annual affiliation fee. 

Elsewhere, we welcome "Fireweed" which has an advertisement of its second issue in the summer. We also give a free advertisement to "The Basement Writers". We will gladly give publicity to all ventures which try to establish an association between the Labour Movement and the arts. 

Finally, if among readers living within 10 miles of the centre of Manchester, there are three or four prepared to give time to helping to widen the contacts of "Voices" such people can be sure they will be warmly welcomed. 

Our thanks to Peter Carter for the graphics.

Ben Ainley 


JOHN MACLEAN 

Brian Gallon, 12 Frank Place, North Shields, Tyne and Wear, is researching material for a play about John Maclean, the Clydeside socialist leader. 

If anyone has personal recollecticns or parents or grandparents who remember Maclean, or any written material about him, will they please get in touch with Mr. Gallon.

The cash raised by our appeal in November which finally raised over 145 helped us clear our debts, and get "Voices 5" out. We are not out of the wood. It costs around 150 to get out an issue of "Voices" and at this moment, from the proceeds of sales of "Voices 5" we have around 100. We are compelled therefore to ask people interested in our survival to continue to help us financially. We will acknowledge directly all sums received. Make cheques payable either to Ben Ainley or to Frank Parker.


NOTE TO CONTRIBUTORS 

We welcome contributions in prose and verse. But we cannot undertake to return manuscripts unless stamped addressed envelope is included. 

Number the pages of your contribution. Write your name and address on each page. If possible, send typescripts; but if your piece is hand written1 make sure it is legible to the printer. 

We are dealing with between 80 and 100 contributions per issue, and this number is growing. Bear with us if there are delays.

PLEASE TYPE (or WRITE) ON ONE SIDE OF THE PAPER ONLY

This is a must. 

A brief personal biography (about 40 words) will help us, but will not necessarily be published.

 


 

Reincarnation

 
Do you feel misspent
Are you fully content
In the role life's given to you?
 
Do you feel all the while
Something more worthwhile
Is what you should be aiming to do?
 
Do you feel overwrought
At the change change has brought
In this life by men different than you?
 
Do you just criticise, 
Live a life like the flies 
And discontent spread like disease?
Do you play your part
On the basis of art
Deny what the heart tells you?
At the end of the day
When you get your pay
Do you feel it just isn't worthwhile?
 
Then cor blimey mate, You're in a helluva state
And there's not going to be a next time.
 
Or
I hope that it's different next time.
 
M.Doyle

 


 

The Christmas Present

The placards screamed the headlines. The evening paper followed through with the rest of the story.

Citizens homeward bound released from the day's toil, bought the papers and read the news in shocked silence. "EMINENT NUCLEAR PHYSICIST RESIGNS".

Professor Lewley withdrawn into the corner of the first class railway compartment and taking refuge behind a copy of The Times, shook his head sadly and sighed. Seeing the announcement of his action in the cold black and white of the placard and stripped of the warmth of his covering explanation, aroused in him a deep sense of desolation. However, he thought to himself, staring unseeingly at the small print of the morning's paper, the deed was now done and the step now taken from which there was no retracing.

He had resigned on a matter of principle and that was that.

His thoughts went back to that final scene when after months of grave and gnawing disquiet within himself he had faced his eleven colleagues on the committee of top level scientists and had delivered the bombshell. "Gentlemen", he had said, "Brother scientists, after deep and serious thought on my part I have come to the conclusion that I can no longer reconcile my own feelings with the aims and objects of this committee for the development of weapons for use in nuclear warfare.

Please colleagues, I ask you here and now to be good enough to accept my resignation from this committee."

Looking at the stunned faces of the men around him had moved him to add softly, "Believe me, I have, as I said, given this matter deep and serious consideration and I find that now at long last I must face the realisation that I can no longer work on objects for which the ultimate use will be the destruction of man, by man."

Of course his resignation had not been accepted unanimously. Some of the older ones had been prepared to argue it out with him, make him see reason so to speak, but in the end they too had had to give in, hoping that perhaps he had been overworking and needed a break for two or three weeks.

"Why not take a trip over the Xmas holidays, Lewley old chap", professor Dacre had said soothingly in a tone suspiciously like that one would use to a man on the brink of a nervous breakdown. "Just pack a bag and fly off with your wife and kiddie, say to the Bahamas." "It should be pretty warm there, just now, I can fix the flight for you old man, no trouble at all, and you'll get there just in time for the Xmas celebrations."  quite an idea y'know."

Lewley shuddered a little, thinking back on Dacre's patronising air.

Hm! The Xmas celebrations that really was what had brought things to a head and had determined him to take the final step.

So simple. So utterly, utterly simple, the circumstances that had at last removed the scales from his eyes and had revealed the image of his true self, standing clearly before him, face to face.

How often one's puppet sneaks in and takes command, steering one this way and that whilst one's own soul squeezed out stands by biding its time just waiting the opportune moment in which to reassert itself. And so it had been with the learned man of science.

The false premise on which his own sense of security had rested and which had begun to rock quite some time ago, had finally toppled when he had been assigned to the role of Santa Claus at the Xmas party of his young daughter Caroline.

Several of Caroline's little friends were spending the Xmas holidays abroad with their respective parents and so the Xmas party had been held three weeks before the holidays.

Dorothy the professor's wife had made up a cloak for him out of some red cotton fabric, a bit of medical tow had done for the beard and a furry cap had completely covered his dark brown head. When he had protested at the too obvious fake of the tow, Dorothy had replied, "Oh the kids'll never notice, all that interests them is the sack of gifts which you are going to hand out, after all Caroline and her friends are only five years old."

Then she had added in mock solemn tones,

"I promise you when Caroline's seven you shall have a full blown grey beard."

When Caroline's seven - sev-en sev-en were his last thoughts as he drifted off into uneasy slumber that night. "What makes you so sure Caroline will reach seven?" said his soul, accusingly, confronting him and barring his way so that he could move neither to the left nor to the right, but only backwards.

Wildly he tried to press on, but his soul now dressed as Santa Claus and sporting a full blown grey beard and wearing a mask of the professor's own features, continued to stand in his way. "Who told you, who told you?" Frantically the professor looked around for a scapegoat, his eyes large with apprehension. Then he spotted the tow-bearded Daddy Xmas. Pointing a forefinger in his direction he cried out desperately,

"He told me, he told me." The tow-bearded red-cloaked figure advanced towards him, also wearing a mask the replica of the professor's own features. "Ha, you'd no need to listen to me," he croaked. "No need at all to listen to me."

"You see", said his soul, gently. "You see!"

"Yes, I see it all now," said the man of science, dropping swiftly into a relaxed sleep. The way was now clear, the doubts, the uncertainties, the nagging pointers were stilled once and forever.

And so he had gone forth and given his decision to them. The decision which by now was being blazoned forth for the world to see and to wonder at. To be repeated faithfully by some, to be distorted by others.

Dorothy was waiting for him when he arrived home. He took three large strides towards her and with a tired sigh went straight into her outstretched arms.

They clung together thus, for a few moments, neither speaking, each deeply aware of their spiritual oneness.

Then Dorothy looked up at her husband, her eyes shining as she uttered the words he wanted more than anything to hear from her lips at this moment. "Don't you see, darling," she said, "You have given those kids the best Xmas present in the whole world." 

Rose Friedman 


 

The Quiet Black

 
I lay in the darkness looking at the black
A car past placing a window on each of the walls.
The clock murmured on and on always asking the same question
I was uneasy waiting for a voice that never came.
A tree its branches moving as a Japanese hand dancer
Formed slowly in half closed eyes.
Black on a white grey haze, branches pointing.
Shiny raven branches, carving twisting in unsettled order
Each offset joint a shape of beautiful agony
Saying something that I couldn't hear.
Warm blankets collected my thoughts
I mumbled prayers in tired subconscious
Sleep pulled at my eyelids and the story was left untold.
AM Horne

A Man in Winter

I've no flowers for your grave to-day
So I'll offer my thoughts as a bouquet.
You remember the clock you used to wind?
Think of it ... you'll call it to mind.
It misses the hand that wound it up
And treated it like a loving cup.
The roof still leaks, it's not very strong,
The nights are awful ... awful long.
My pension was cut when you went away,
In fact, it was cut the very same day.
And flowers are dear in the winter time,
If only we lived in a warmer clime.
You still haven't got a stone at your head
My money just goes for rent and some bread,
And the children don't visit me any more
Life is harder ... when you're very poor.
Everyone goes rushing and tearing about,
Remember old Ted, the way he did shout?
My old friends have gone ... all gone away,
Young folk are different ... nothing to say.
I'm afraid I won't see you to-morrow,
My dear ... it causes me very great sorrow.
I'm so shaky now ... I suppose I'm old
And I walk so slowly and, oh it's so cold.
The old coat I have so faded from blue
Lets the wind come tearing through.
If old Ted were here he'd help me along,
Young folk are different ... tho' big and strong.
They just pass me by with never a glance
For them to speak ... there' s simply no chance.
Maybe they're thoughtless, the folk of to-day,
And not unkind as some might say.
Do you think, dear, that people do change,
Or is it just me, that's acting strange?
But, here I am talking in the wind and the rain,
And all I keep doing is just to complain.
But, listen to this ... it'll make you smile,
Yesterday, I walked for nearly a mile.
I was passing a church, old and black,
And, thinking of you, went slowly back.
I went inside and walked all around,
Apart from my footsteps there wasn't a sound.
I went so very softly, so timid and mild,
Right up to a statue of Madonna and Child.
A candle was burning with slow, steady flame,
I lit one for you ... and said softly your name.
I loved you all the days of your life,
I love you still, oh, my wife.
When summer comes and the birds are singing,
I'll come every day and I'll be bringing
Roses of red to show I love you,
And to make you smile, flowers of blue.
Your favourite colour ... just like the skies,
And, oh, I remember ... just like your eyes.
 
Michael Ferns
 
 

The Gun: Television Gangster Blues

 
Courageous man, he copulates;
He gives to earth the gift
From out his loins:
His living replicas.
His phallic organ
Rejoices in new life.
 
Perhaps he has forgotten
The phallic symbol gun,
Shooting out destruction
Into earth's worn womb;
For everyone that he creates
A hundred more shall die.
 
For you, for me, O sorry man, I sigh.
 
J McFarlane

 


 

Pseudonyms 
F.G. Walker

Father John O'Rourke, small and wiry, was in his study when the bell rang. He put the silver chalice back in its case and opened the door. Outside, in the bloom, was a woman. She was tall and slim like a willow, wearing a dark green suit and a green 'Robin Hood' hat.

"Good evening."

"Good evening. I'm sorry to come so late, but I well, I was in the district so I thought it would be alright." Her voice had a soft, light sound, like spring rain.

"I don't believe we've met." She shook her head.

"I'm a writer ... Pat Fielding and I thought ..."

"Not the Pat Fielding?"

"If you mean the one who wrote 'Tombstones at Midnight' , yes."

"Well!" He studied her for some moments.

"Perhaps I'd better tell you why I've called."

He stood aside. "You'd better come in then."

She stepped into the light. He closed the door, noting that she was much younger than he had first thought, and she was quite pretty too. He led the way to the study; waved her to a chair.

"Thank you." She sank into the seat, sending a speculative glance around the room.

Father O'Rourke stood across from her, fingering the soft flesh at the end of his chin.

"You were saying," he said.

"What?" She flicked her eyes back.

"The reason you came."

She smiled lopsidedly. "Well, it might seem silly really but I've just started my next book and I'm trying to ..." She paused, gesticulating with one hand. "How shall I put it ... trying to get the right ... atmosphere." Her voice rose on the last word.

"I see." His eyes narrowed. "This new book. Is it anything like the last one?"

"You've read it?" She lifted her eyebrows a little.

"Yes, twice as a matter of fact."

"I'm flattered. I hope you'll buy the new one." He shrugged. There was a small silence. An idea flickered in his brain. "Perhaps I could offer you a glass of sherry?"

 "Yes, thank you."

He went over to the sideboard and poured one glass of sherry.

"Look," he said then, "I have to make a phone call, I won't be a minute." He went through to the hallway, made the call and then padded outside into the drive. Her car was turned round, facing the road. He wondered what she was doing here. Then he laughed softly. He opened the car door and took the ignition key. Then he went back to the study.

"May I look round the church tonight?" The woman stood up as he entered.

"I suppose so ... if you're not frightened."

"You'll tell me it's haunted next."

He held the door open and waited while she picked up her handbag. As they went out he said: "I suppose I'll be in your book?"

"Perhaps." She stopped; gave him a quick look from under her dark lashes, then she added: "In fact it might be a good idea."

"You haven't decided then?" She tilted her head on one side.

"It depends on the story ... and the atmosphere. Shall we go?"

"Sure." He led the way across to the church; pushed open the door. "What would you like to see?"

"The belfry." She sounded as if she had been expecting the question. He turned left into the small alcove that led to the stone steps. Looking back at her, he said casually,

"They say a ghostly monk has been seen hereabouts." She stiffened visibly.

"Oh! Really?" Her voice trembled. "Where ... exactly?"

"Here. Still want to go up?" She looked at him for several long seconds.

"Yes." He started up the narrow winding stairs. At the top he unbolted a small trapdoor and climbed through. He turned, looking down at her. She stayed there, her head and shoulders through the opening. A little breathlessly she said:

"Are we alone now?"

"Of course." He stepped back. "Come on up." A smile pulled at her lips. She reached up; grabbed the trapdoor.

"Sorry Father. But I've made other plans. She pulled down the trapdoor then and slipped home the bolt. With a laugh that echoed on the stairs she hurried away. He knelt down; tugged at the handle. It held fast. He stood upright, breathing hard. Then he remembered the torch in his pocket. He rushed over to the wall and stared hard at the darkness. Twin headlights pierced the night on the main road. He almost laughed out loud as he began flashing the torch.

The police car swept up to the church. Two minutes later he heard the bolt drawn on the trapdoor. A burly constable led the way down into the church and across to the vestry.

"We caught her, sir," he boomed. "Trying to start her car." He swept open the study door.

Father O'Rourke blinked at the brightness. In a chair near his desk sat the woman. Her face was the colour of raw cod. A police sergeant towered over her.

"Caught her with this, sir," he said. He indicated the silver chalice on the desk. "If the car had started she'd have got away with it." Father O'Rourke smiled impishly. He took the ignition key from his pocket; tossed it on to the desk.

"I made sure that she wouldn't," he said. The woman jerked her head up; for a second her eyes blazed.

"You ... you... How did you know about me?"

"Simple." He spread his hands, as if that one -gesture was sufficient. There was a tiny silence.It was almost as if, from across the room, he felt her wince. The police sergeant rubbed thoughtfully at his chin. Father O'Rourke sauntered across to a book case, selected a volume and handed it to the woman.

"Perhaps you'd like to read this," he said in a soft whimsical voice.

She gazed at it curiously. It was encased in a brightly coloured dust cover. Her eyes lingered on the words: "A NEW NOVEL BY PAT FIELDING." She turned the book over, and on the back was a picture of Father O'Rourke.

 


 

The bell spews its evil 

The bell spews its evil and the leash is slipped, 
you're washed, your gear's gathered
and you sail like a pigeon into the clean fresh air 
circling through the scent of honeysuckle that isn't there
flying up up into the bright sky until the sunlight hurts your eyes
then you come to rest upon the gentle, rose scented waters of melancholy
until the leashes of necessity and conformity drag you back next morning.
 
Jimmy Barnes
 
 

The Name of the Game

 
People like us 
can be very mean 
until we learn 
the name of the game.
Blame if you must the blacks 
for the squalor we live in, 
for our depreciated 
standard of living,
 
but who gains most 
from lack of houses, 
whose profits are swollen 
with stolen wages?
 
Mean we shall remain 
until we learn 
the name of the game 
is money.
 
Bill Eburn
 
 

Harry the Tick Man

 
Harry comes on Fridays, paydays
Round the doors in his estate car
Holding back the revolution singlehanded
Outfits for you and your man for the club dance
Fifty pence a week, no deposit, no bother.
 
He carries an armload of lurex dresses
Cheap tinsel, wherever he goes
In case some one's in need
The car is bulging with cellophaned sheets
Shoes and boots, jeans and pit shirts
All new, all in a jumble.
 
Working late for village Cinderellas
Swopping shift money for weekend dreams
No deposit, no bother.
 
Vivien Leslie
 
 

Staunch, true Comrade 

 
Staunch, true Comrade 
it hurts to see you 
suffer for your belief. 
You are ready to fight 
for a world that seems lost. 
You swim against the tide 
waving your convictions 
like a banner
while others run and hide 
wrapped in their cocoon 
of complacency
fed on glib promises 
and poisoned by subtle tongues 
against you.
Your courage shines like a beacon 
A light in a dark world.
Jean Sutton
 
 

Factory Boy

Went to school, got no joy -
Where's your school uniform, boy?" 
Messed around, broke up chairs, 
Smoked fags under the stairs.
Got a job on the assembly line 
Same bloody thing all the time. 
Look forward to Fridays - at the pub scene.
At the match on Saturdays - let off some steam.
 
Born into this mess, never had a hope,
Too many kids, me mum couldn't cope.
Too noisy and crowded at home, same at school;
No wonder I broke the rules!
 
Me mum just watches the tele,
Me dad's always on the drink.
And you wonder why we go on strike,
The system that causes this stinks.
 
I'm the stool the middle class sit on,
I'm the tool the middle class shit on.
But one day - you wait and see,
We'll run our factory; me mates and me.
 

Oppression

 
Oppression...
      Corruption...
 
Depression...
      Disruption...
 
Eruption.
      Solution?

Revolution!

Tony Harcup of the Basement Writers

 


 

A number of comments follow on the article by Ken Clay which appeared in Voices 5:

Of course there is a tendency for new, dedicated, enthusiastic working class writers to write in the way he deplores, but I think if they are sincere, and not just striving for effect, or to convert, they'll learn to be artistic as well as realistic.

There is also a technique of writing which does not come easily or naturally to people whose vocabulary has already been limited by the so-called examples of culture around us. Small wonder they overdo things, when they write themselves, like teenagers who must be fashionable, even if it hurts.

Finally, if we are sincere, we too must strive to be encouraging, as well as critical, both of ourselves as well as fellow writers - God knows the unpublished, unknown, writer has enough to contend with, when trying to get somebody to read his work, and there must be many who remain dumb through lack of opportunity or hope. This is where VOICES CAN HELP, by making people more articulate, and perhaps eventually more observant, analytical, critical, and discerning too. 

W. Froom

 

Would Ken Clay perhaps have modified his schoolmasterly rudeness if he had thought his letter would be printed? Talk about didactic? Of course it is often hard to avoid sounding bossy if we lay down the law, especially to those who don't accept our ideas.

People write out of their experience of life; often it is a hurt that sets us composing. Capitalism is a system that crushes and hurts us and we cry out. Our one sidedness is usually too much doom and gloom and we are embarrassed when we celebrate the joys of life, but that too is real, and genuine experience. Why should those of us who are happy in love be called dreamers for example? As for style, people write as they have learnt, and only in relation with others do they modify and refine in their own way the common heritage - which of course is part of bourgeois culture - but are we to stop speaking in case we are bourgeois? It is not the words we use, it's what we say that makes us different.

The fashion is to be opaque, of course, and such a style is great fun to write; but are we writing to show off or to communicate? In years of reading poetry (not just my own) to ordinary people I for one have had to make a choice. If art is communication, as I believe, and if we want to talk to people, we must talk in common ways. But not in watered down English or in bad language. The Labour Movement taught me that long ago.

Finally, how intolerant can you be? The infinite variety of personality offers many ways and styles of writing. There is more than one 'right' way. The thing, surely, is the affirmation of belief and confidence in people, and the refusal to accept misery as our lot.

As for me, I have lived as an active communist for forty years, and must write out of such an experience subconsciously by now.

Frances Moore 

 

I find it a matter of urgency to make a reply to the article about "Voices" written by Ken Clay. I hope you can find room in your next issue to publish this.

The main error in his article is his definition of Socialist Realism, Socialist Realism is NOT "A discipline designed to produce parables rather than art." That may be Ken's definition, I suspect Ken has mistaken the crude "banner waving" material that does at times appear in "Voices" for a definition of Socialist Realism, if so, he couldn't be farther off the mark. The discussion that really remains is: What is "Socialist Realism"?

How many conflicting ideas emerge, basically ranging from those who never seem to have shaken off their respect for bourgeois ideas, hence they do produce these abstract, complex, over-worded symphonies of literature that Ken mentions.

Then the other extreme is the growing idea that any crudely rhyming, "Red Banner" waving wordiology, however crude it is in form (sometimes the cruder the better) in fact anything written by a worker constitutes "Workers' art": therefore if it waves aloft the red flag that is "Socialist Realism".

This form of diversity will I think be inevitable in any left wing movement of the arts such as "Voices" which is trying to counter bourgeois publications, and I think it will be some time before Socialist Realism in the western movement really emerges.

Anyone in contact with present publications from the Socialist Countries (Soviet literature etc.) will see the results of past struggle, the emergence of Real Socialist Realism.

Socialist Realism in my definition is art conscious of its role in Society. An art having something progressive to contribute, an art based on all aspects of humanity, progress and beauty. Art should uplift, agitate, enlighten, educate and give the reader a greater understanding of his relationship with his fellow man, nature, society, love and the ever present riddle of infinity, but must always retain some aesthetic quality.

Poetry is a medium of expressing ideas, thoughts, feelings etc. that cannot be expressed in any prose. If prose could cover these manifestations fully Poetry would never exist, therefore Form is important as a medium of creating in the reader the emotions that the writer intended. Socialist Realism strives to create positive emotions and reactions to the world around us. The worker who is talented and has something to say, will, with effort, defeat all the obstructions that lack of decent education present to him.

Oversimplicity, crudeness and "banner waving" (The glorious working class marching sternly forward etc.) is not only unreal because it is most often not the case, it also lacks humanity and didn't Marx call Communism "Scientific humanism"? Also it can tend to embarrass the audience. Over-complexity tends to often cover subjectiveness and tends to overawe the audience.

Our job is not to create a "sub-culture" but real Socialist culture of the very best. The idea that any worker who picks up a pen and scribbles a few words is a proletarian artist is false and often comes from the middle class. Bringing culture to and out of the working class is a challenge, but not impossible.

By supporting "Voices" we can help this process, so let us throw our words at one another and the world for the sake of humanity.

Fraternally, Ian E Reed 

 

To Instruct or Delight?

1. "He will win universal applause who blends what is improving with what is pleasing, and both delights and instructs the reader" wrote, Horace, which does rather suggest the problem is not altogether new. Ken Clay would doubtless like Voices to do both. The question is how. 

2. Things to avoid according to Ken

(a) Didacticism - many of us feel there is not much point in writing unless you have an audience; some of us go further and consider there is not much point in having an audience unless you give them the works. Too true. How many of us have lost friends that way? 

(b) Social realism - this seems to me to be an extension of the above except that to the sin of proselytising is added the further sin of over simplifying. Capitalists wear black hats, communists white ones. To this too some of us must plead guilty. 

(c) Naive idealism - Ken seems to be suggesting that even if people like us have something to say they don't say it because they feel inhibited, and tend instead to ape their betters. One reason for this might be that Voices is unique. Other journals won't publish unless the contributor sticks to the rules. 

3. What is to be done then? Or, to put it another way, what would I do if I were a member of the Editorial Board?

(a) I would accept with gratitude any contributions which both delighted and instructed, although one could expect these to be few in number. Blake, Byron and Shelley, and say Siegfried Sassoon in his anti-war poems, could do it; but most of us are learning the hard way. 

(b) The rest I would select according to whether they delighted or instructed, though I would expect Voices to have a bias in favour of the latter. There are enough glossy journals that serve to please. 

(c) Those that appeared to fall into neither category would have to be returned to sender, though I would like to think that someone would be able to find the time to return them with a word of encouragement. There is no point in our persuading ourselves there is a vast amount of talent available unless we do our best to use it. 

4. Ken may well think that my response raises more problems than it solves. e.g. what do we mean by "instruct" and "delight"? Well I'm not greedy. Let someone else have a go. 

Bill Eburn 


 

The Silly Bloody Working Class

Who builds the bridges and the 'planes
Who builds the ships and all the trains
Who builds the roads and sleek fast cars
Who are slaughtered in their masters' wars
Who wander homeless in every nation
Whilst editors express their jubilation
At the jumping stocks and shares
Whilst pensioners starve and no one cares.
And who the fools that endure all this, alas,
The silly, bloody working class.
Who sweats and groans and grows old fast
Who suffers and moans and at the last
Are led like beasts to grim old places
To sit and sigh at unknown faces.
Whilat politicians lie in beds
Making up speeches about the Reds.
Who forms the queues outside the dole
Who in history has the role
Of saving all, except themselves, alas,
The silly, bloody working class.
Michael Ferns

 


 

Modern Poetry, Eliot and the Working Class

Does the modern poet write for the working class, or for fellow poets and critics? I'm afraid it is not the former. It is not that poetry is not easily available to the working class - it is. Its insularity derives from its esoterical lineage and its erudite- ness. A poet, such as Eliot, has so many cross references (what working class man hears of Webster, or St. John of the Cross?) that the poetry can become like a Times crossword puzzle - interesting, taxing but pointless.

One can't help feeling that Eliot can only be appreciated by someone with a similar education to his own (remembering that he was at school until his mid-twenties). Obviously, he can only write of his background, his class, and the preoccupations of his class. The truth of the matter is that Eliot writes for poets; for a man to understand him, he must raise himself to the level of a poet. Which isn't a bad thing, but hardly feasible considering the circumstances of most people. To use one of Eliot's own phrases - "there is no objective correlative common to the rich Oxford educated banker, and the ill educated capstan lathe operator."

Poetry can only become truly modern, when it can live as the expression of a struggle to raise our conscious mind to a greater level of awareness. What has gone before in poetry has been the expression of a small minority of people's reaction to the universe and society, the greater part of humanity's feelings going unverbalised. It has been played like a game for the elite, with a strict, almost impenetrable code of conduct. It has been preserved like a Ming Vase, for all eternity - daring imitation or improvement.

Poetry should be written, digested and thrown away for practical purposes. Art is of its time, created from its time, by people who will take the rein of history and guide it. Do we need this over-indulgence in past expression, expressing what has gone is dead?

A people has its creative wellspring, and only when we become involved in history, will the poetry flow. When we awake to the modern situation, we will get modern poetry; and what poetry does a line of machines inspire?

Real modern poetry will only come through an honest survey of the situation. Eliot represents decadence, art for the liberation of the individual, He is not concerned for the rest of humanity, other than the rich, or gifted.

A modern poet will realise his purpose and function. It will not be to give the dilettante something to prattle on about; or to furnish material for the professors to write exegesis. It will be to reflect, consider and direct the mass of people now ready to break in on history. To give them a mirror on themselves, and a fresh language to express their struggle.

Poetry has become the activity of the few for the few. It still is the poetry of unconnected individual destiny with an unhealthy preoccupation with self. Even poetry of rebellion - say Baudelaire or Rimbaud is put into a snug system, its shock value eliminated by careful study.

The truth has to be retold by each generation to itself. Reality has to be re-examined in the light of our total experience, which is different from generation to generation.

If we are the lost children of god, alone without a faith, we should not waste time looking for our lost father as Eliot does. We should look to find ourselves, and poetry must be of this struggle, not of lone individuals' search for the absolute.

Tony Whitfield


 

Poetry Where Are You Now?

Poetry; Daughter of inspiration and love, 
where are you now in England?
Are you now drowned in intellectual blood, 
has your body been ravished
and drowned by the flood?
Smashed into formless phantoms?
Poetry; Mother of rebellion and hope, 
where are you now in England?
Have bandits of words now tethered your scope 
to meaningless rantings?
Now in darkness to grope
in their minds empty spaces.
Poetry; Lover of freedom and truth, 
where are you now in England?
ravished by demons both base and uncouth, 
with no direction to roam
your torn body a proof
of dignified killers still prowling.
Ian E. Reed

A Matter of Opinion

He came to the village brandishing wall charts
Equipped with degrees and graphs
He lectured on social change and evolution
He stood his reasons up in rows
And argued with himself
To make his lack of prejudice apparent
Out of the crowd came a demanding shout
"Think yer clever, eh? Name me three early tatties!"
Vivien Leslie

Remember Your Kerb Drill

Stephanie
Wait for me
Stand still
Remember your Kerb Drill
Open your eyes
It's not just a prayer.
Look right
Look left
And Look right again
And Look left again!
And Look right again!
And Look left again!
And...
Wimbledon has nothing 
on this
At last a gap 
Run across as fast 
as your little legs 
can carry you 
Do not trip!
They cannot stop 
They are not 
Niggers or hippies 
or old age pensioners 
but good solid 
First Class citizens 
who do not
have to wait 
respectfully 
at the kerb.
Alan Prior

We came en masse

We came en masse
To cheer you in your hospital bed 
complete with gifts
and smiling faces, 
grouped round your clean clinical bed 
a mission of love
with one eye on the clock.
And then you took the stage 
and held us spellbound, 
words and pictures tumbled 
from your lips.
Heads turned round 
and smiled to see us laughing, 
though they could not hear 
your droll and merry quips.
You warmed us, 
we who had come to comfort 
and to cheer.
And when we left 
turning to wave at the door 
we saw your smiling face 
and took you with us 
-somehow, we did not leave you 
lying there.
Jean Sutton

On Winter's Highway

Through a haze of driving rain 
the distant hills are bleak and grey.
Wind, cold, gusty, gaunt, flaps the rain like blankets 
pinned against the sky, 
then slaps the backs of animals as they stand, miserable, patient.
The fields, full-flooded lakes, feed the ditches and the roads,
drowning all life.
All his darts thrown, 
the wind staggers, falls, feebly struggles.
The rain, his former plaything, now gently covers him. 
Suddenly the clouds break, a javelin of light flames through,
touches the hills on the instant, for man to see 
all his hopes and yes, his immortality.
AG Froome

Saving Face

The Pound, my son, is best of friends,
which in thy pocket dwells,
In two score years and inure, I've proved,
No lie my Father tells,
Whilst pride of place, the cash to save,
He gave his full attention,
There's saving, other, I've learned dear Father
Than cash to merit mention.
The life-boat crew, whilst battling through
the storm think not of earning,
Or the fireman bold, when flames enfold,
Some helpless victim burning,
The Surgeon's skill with scalpel, will
Great numbers save from dying,
Each course they choose, at times may lose,
None count the cost of trying.
Although we toast this numerous host,
And others, who us do favour,
Unlike these deeds, among us, breeds,
Another form of saver,
Whose fellow man, he'd trample down,
That he himself may climb,
Would soul deprave, his face to save,
It's the ultimate, untried crime.
This Predator, in peace and war, 
To no one land peculiar, 
Would he in Hell be better placed? 
He's surely nature's failure? 
The death he's planned, while in command, 
Some died without a trace, 
what thousands yet will die to save? 
Some Politician's face?
Will he, in anger with his finger?
Press the button we cannot stop,
All life disgrace, whilst saving face,
We can only wait and hope,
That while there's time, men will combine
With Charity and Worth,
No privilege crave, but just to save,
The face of Planet Earth.
Alexander Jamieson

Turning Point

Liggin' together o't' th'after, 
We talked o' thi mam.
Aw'd said,
Mindin' 'er gabbin' an' laughter,
It wur 'ard t'insense, as hoo'r dead.
An aw rued hoo couldn't ha' known
Ut, tho' yo'n parted, 'im an' thee,
T' feelin's twixt us a' t' while 'ad grown:
Ut sum'dy luv'd thee - an' theaw me.
But, at t'moment, aw'r some an' ta'en
Aback, as tha nestled to lay
Thi yed o' mi shou'der - an' then,
She'll know now, though", aw yeard thee say:
An' so tha wept
Afoore tha slept.
We're nooan o' t' same mind o' this'n,
Us two; for me it's 'ard to grasp
One meht lam an' look an' listen
Who's nobbut neaw yepsintle ass.
Beside which, t' thowt one meht ha' sin
Us bally-to-bally jus' neaw
a rude sort of intrusion in
Ear lowly luv-o'er-t'latch, chuseheaw.
Thi breathin' steady wur good t'hark,
Whilst t' sliftert city neet-sky leet
Thwittled thi beauty eawt o' t' dark
So's gazin', fond, aw'r fain to see't:
An' aw c'd own
Aw'r nooan alone.
Bu' t' neet-lang shadder fancy - yearnsfu' to compensate
for t' mischance o' t' toom moment when aw'd failed to relate -
proved nooan jannock bi t' dawn leet, an' ony rooad to' late:
frae't let-deawn - reet that moment - thy luv wur set t'abate.
Jone o' Broonlea

 

GLOSSARY - Turning Point by Jone o' Broonlea

Insense - realise. Some-an' - very much. Yepsintle ass - a small amount ("handful") of ash. Meht ha' sin - might have seen. Sliftert - enter through a crack. Thwittled - carved. Fain - glad. Own - admit. Toom - empty. Jannock - genuine.


The Housewife

"Dear God, another day! What was it? - Tuesday, Oh yes, stairs and hall and mince-meat stew." Already the morning was slipping by. The pots waited; silently sneering under a blanket of egg-yolk and toast crusts. They should have been washed long ago, still, she promised herself that she would do them as soon as she had had another cup of tea.

She wandered over to the kettle, her image curving down its side, like the walls of the house around her throat. Icily she picked up the baby's rusk and put it into her mouth. She hadn't even realised what she had done until angry screams of annoyance met her half-closed ears. "Sorry chicken," she thought, too tired and distant to speak, and placed it back into her child's mouth. She lifted her hand to ruffle his hair but accidentally knocked his cheek with water-worn hands, heavy with boredom and hidden despair.

Plugging in the kettle she thought about how she had found her ring in last night's hot-pot. Should she tell her husband and make him laugh like she used to? Searching in her mind for the answer she realised she didn't even know how to talk to him any more; besides he probably couldn't remember her losing it. She put the thought out of her mind. It was too much trouble worrying over words. The pots grew in number. The electricity ran out and the kettle murmured to a halt. She went to sit down, tired out from thinking. Scared of thinking.

Rosslyn O'Connor


Fireweed

A warm welcome to "Fireweed" announced as a quarterly magazine of working class and socialist arts, beautifully designed and printed, copiously illustrated, and with a dozen distinguished contributors, including the world-famous Bertolt Brecht and Pablo Neruda. If this level can be maintained, "Fireweed" will be that "flowering weed that spreads across waste land" which is the meaning of its title.

For the most part it is a fine compilation, and if this reviewer expresses his preferences, for the world-famous Neruda and Brecht, for Archie Hill's unbearably tragic story of a boy's first day at the foundry, for David Craig's poems of crofters, for the extract from Margaret Parkinson's novel, and for Leon Rosselson's magnificent folk ballads, others may well find matter for pleasure in other contributions.

It is said to be a brave venture to launch a magazine like this in these difficult days. But when the old world is visibly collapsing before our eyes, when revolutionary ferment and change is seen on every continent, among millions of people, the need for art to give confident expression, imaginative creative expression to it, to open up for hitherto silent man and women a medium in which they can speak for themselves, is very urgent.

Elsewhere "Voices" carries an advertisement of Fireweed No. 2 which will appear in the summer, and this promises to maintain the present level. "Voices" which carries no national names, and whose writers are so far unknown, sees in "Fireweed" a colleague and a co-worker, and we hope to be of mutual assistance in the future. Trade Unions, Labour Party, Communist Party and the host of people who both love the arts and work for socialism and peace, should give "Fireweed" active support.

Ben Ainley


 

Listen to the Old Men

Listen to the old men cry the pity
Remember remember remember to weep
Remember to breathe in long and deep
The smell of grass burning in the city.
Balcony railing scrapes shins unused to climbing
Bloodstain like ink on blotting paper
Spreads downwards and outwards on nylon stocking
Tears mingle at corners of mouth with desperate
saliva
Red scrabbling furious hands
Scratch at brickwork
Grasp at stanchion
In vain
The final irony
Not to jump but to fall
Like the first autumn acorn
Ten storeys she plunges
Breath forced out of tortured lungs
Screeches like the death cry of a train
Entering a tunnel
Turning on a bedroom light on each floor as she passes
Finally explodes blood and brains
Like a water bag on the concrete car park
The new curtains just would not fit
Ten storeys' worth of women send ten storeys' worth of children
To bed and weep
Ten storeys' worth of men make love to the women
Below on the adjoining half finished block
The old night watchman throws an empty soup can
At a mongrel peeing on the cement bags
On the ninth floor a woman stretches to put up new curtains
Smell of grass burning in the city.
Alan Arnison

Woman's Paper

Comment upon this whore's exchange
On methods how to get your man?
Sales talk on an accepted range
packeted to a streamlined plan.
Protuberance of breast and bum
Permitted but of belly barred -
Hogarth's exuberance become
Vulgar and therefore off the card.
More mealymouthed less glossy page -
That gives the little woman hints
On what attractions will engage
And hold her worker between stints.
Intellectuals display
Unmealymouthed and without ruth
Their wares in the same brazen way
Tricked out with scientific truth.
If you accept the woman's place
As brood mare, lollipop and drudge,
Here's how to prosper in that race,
But here's no relevance to love.
Frances Moore

Promise

Those who are ossified themselves in mind
And therefore also calcified of heart,
Postulate natural laws that bind
All of us to as limited a part.
When we first start to notice on our face
Wrinkles begin to annotate the years,
We hold our peace about our passion's pace
Lest we provoke the ignorant to jeers.
But lay it to your heart for coming time,
Love's possibilities are not laid down
By armchair pedants bent on tidying life.
Middle age modulates new joys to crown
Remembered raptures with refreshed delight;
Whose days are very full live far into the night.
Frances Moore

Midnight

Flaps the ivy softly, 
Cold against the wall? 
Is the moon a-peeping
Neath its cloudy pall?
That's my love a-waiting
Shadowed by the beams
Harvest moon is making.
Wind, what are her dreams?
Lift the swaying curtain,
Trip the mossy stone
Round about the rose-bush
Love we are alone!
Midnight from the belfry
Booms for them its bliss
Age all lies a-sleeping.
Youth can kiss.
Kenneth B. Stump

Modern Magic

In the year thirteen hundred and seventy six
The people of Hamelin were in a rare fix;
Though the issue was simple and not politics -
All over the town rats were up to their tricks.
They lodged in Hamelin's rooms and halls,
Below the floors, behind the walls;
Moreover - this truth really shamed her -
There were rats at large in the Council Chamber.
At length an angry population
Flocked in a local demonstration,
Causing the Mayor and Corporation
To quake with a mighty consternation;
In absence of a quick solution
The townsfolk promised retribution:
Let the problem be rats, or the trouble be muck,
The Council of Hamelin could not 'pass the buck'.
Six hundred long years later 
to us this story's strange; 
better does Bristol City 
its corporate chores arrange:
Bristol has men and women who toil day by day;
They sweep the streets and catch the rats,
They heat the schools and feed our brats,
Unclog blocked drains; for little pay
They nobly clear our waste away.
Yet, as I write my ditty,
To see fair Bristol dirtied so,
And see her townsfolk come and go
Mid refuse, is a pity.

MUCK

It overtops the dustbins, and blocks the drains and sink
It's pumped into the Avon so that the river stinks; 
It's piled high in our gardens, and litters all the Down;
It's massed in heaps and scattered on the pavements of the town;
It clogs our feet and nostrils though we avert our eyes;
It lies in open spaces, and it smells where'er it lies.
I wish we had more people
Like Hamelin's forthright folk;
I looked up Browning's poem
And I read the words they spoke;
I imagine them in Broadmead, on the Downs or at the Zoo -
I overhear their comments, and watch all that they do:
Gazing wide wonderment at our predicament
Observing incredulous Bristol ridiculous,
They soon appraise it all, are not amazed at all,
Treat with derision our sham indecision
Avoiding solution, creating confusion.
To our body corporate in forthright terms they state
This firm conclusion:
You need not seek Pied Pipers of magic, good or ill,
Your cleaners, sweepers, wipers have the necessary skill;
Our Mayor and Corporation, knocked by our population,
Gambled fifty-thousand guilders
To rid our rats and mice.
You've got a better system? Then pay up, don't resist 'em;
Rise the fifty-five bob; pay the rate for the job -
Believe us; it's cheap at the price.'.
Barbara Smith

If Things Go on as They Are

If things go on
as they are 
we shall soon 
have more cars 
than people 
which means that 
some of them 
will have to be 
driven by computers 
if the profit increment 
of the Stock Market 
is to be maintained.
If things go on 
as they are 
what with all this 
plastic rubbish 
even babies will 
come wrapped in 
polythene and 
we shall all go to 
the Supermarket to 
take our frozen pick.
If things go on 
as they are 
what with all
these transplants and things 
my heart will be
in Liverpool 
my kidneys will be 
in Bristol 
and my head 
will be in the clouds.
If things go on 
as they are 
what with 
Electronic Telephones 
the cost of connecting 
you from A to B 
will be less than 
the cost of working 
out how much it is 
and the system, 
like the Oozlam bird 
will disappear up 
its own whatsit.
Alan Prior

War Maimed Girl at a Dance

A hurt one
A maimed one
A doll of a girl
A doll of a girl
She watches
They're dancing
They're all of a whirl
They' re all of a whirl
Just a short raid
Just a few dead
A handful hurt
Nothing more to it
Tee tom tom
Tee tom tom

(I wish I could dance)

(I wish I could dance)

Tee tom tom
Tee tom tom

(I wish I could dance)

(I wish I could dance)

Rose Friedman

Far From My Window

Far from my window, far said he,
Ships skim the horizon,
And boulders bend down to the sea.
Near to my body, near said he,
Cogwheels spin my reason,
And Metals move close to me.
Fresh round my body, fresh said he, 
Tulips and sapphires
Cling to the tree.
Stale to my mouth, stale said he,
Oils and grease
Collect around me.
Tony Whitfield

Drama Now

What a place for drama is the countryside; 
Panic-bold a rabbit darts across the lane, 
Death by mutilation only just defied.
Overhead the crows watch, wickedly alive, 
Waiting for the pallid lambs too weak to live 
Their dim eyes to steal, e'er death itself arrive.
Half-up the hill, the old sheepdog plays his part, 
Watch him as he crouches, coaxes, curls and twists, 
Dog and man together knit in shepherd's art.
In the hedge the whitethroat's courtship song is sung, 
Poised on a branch he pirouettes and patters, 
Till from his mate the ans'ring notes are rung.
Oh! What a place for drama is the countryside, 
And lucky he, who sees the pageant passing by, 
And seeing it finds all his senses gratified.
Winifred Froom

The Dancer of Death

And she danced, and she danced,
And she reeled,
and she stealed, 
across blood sodden turf
on that murderers field, 
and her feet as they squelched 
upon gore and on flesh, 
the Generals they cheered, 
their blood red eyes peered, 
and their darkened mouths leered 
at that stadium in Chile
that stadium of death.
And she span,
and she ran 
her eyes full of glee, 
a quaint "grand jetes" 
on the graves
of the slaves 
that once were so free, 
to the tune of the bloated 
that cackled and gloated 
and clapped bloodstained claws 
at that stadium in Chile
that stadium of death.
As she swung
her mind sung
of the gold she would make
for the ghouls and the Generals
that sealed Chile's fate,
and they fed her with caviar 
with wine and with blood
fresh from the graves that
their soldiers had dug. 
Oh she danced and she pranced 
controlling her breath, 
her feet caked with blood 
Dame Margot Fonteyn 
he dancer of death
Ian E Reed

Elegy

Now theirs is the comprehension
of the strain and strand of the silky root, 
and the seed's division.
They know
the flaws where life broke out, 
and the secret chemistry which forced fruit from the rock, 
the disposition forming man, 
And how the first beat leapt. 
From earth's fat in slow toil drawn erect, the 
cause and strength, the single self; 
from dissolution at the first, to unity, 
the dispensation was this;
from the stillness to the creating realisation 
in the individual reality.
Now for them combine those oppositions, 
twist, tug, and link, which make the dry bones warm,
the grapple and union on the forge of thought. 
And so on will they flare in the sun's last slide; 
and in their transmutation, 
the fullest communication.
By their going forth they have had assumption.
Keith Lloyd Jones

Person with the grace of a tall ship

Person with the grace of a tall ship 
the frame of a humming bird 
the eyes of a peacock
and the voice of the lilac on a warm spring breeze 
Let the shrouds of what you want to desire be lifted long enough for
me to be in your eye a moment, that I might, for that moment, stand as
tall as singers and men of property 
so that I might not be condemned without 
soul or dignity to the shadows of the gathering dusk as it whispers
across the fields cloaking all but the moon in black,
and that you might see reality, or me, for that moment.
Jimmy Barnes

North Scale's Winter

Oh lonely beach so long and flat
Glistening the memory of a recent tide,
Reflecting the cold blue winter's sky,
Deserted forum of summer pleasure,
Buckets, spades, freckles and sunburn,
Forgotten behind frosty windows.
Only I stand on your silken coat,
Tasting the salt from icy tears,
While the wind moves you always on,
Goading your being to restless wandering,
I stare at your open face listening for your secrets.
But even now wrapped in the same wind, 
I am only an alien in your deep eternal doings.
AM. Horne

Father Crisp Sell

Having sold his toys,
Pleasing 1,000 yelling boys,
Removed his scarlet cloak,
A ribboned cracker joke,
Pulling off a tacky beard,
He winced and round he peered,
Seeing no one in sight or sound,
Thank Christ for that!' he shouted loud.
A.N. Horne

Last Rites

Sorry were we 
to put John down, 
not wholly because 
our turn would come.
Back at the house 
full of wind and piss, 
someone had to say 
"John would have liked this."
Bill Eburn