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The Poetry News Desk

A Day at a Northern Beach

I’ve been trying to think of ways of making my poetry more popular, more accessible over the last few weeks. Mainly, I’ve been twittering as many tiny poems as is humanly possible, and you can see the results so far on my micro stuff page.

I’ve also tried reading to music, and video readings, but then my good friend Alam, who is much better versed in all things presentational than I, came up with this:

Now how’s that for an intro?

Of course, now we have to have a poetry spot – and this is it:

Killing Thoughts

Well, I do hope you all had as happy, successful, stomach thickening a Christmas and New Year bash as I have enjoyed. My wife asked me what my new year resolution was, and I said it was to be a better person. She sniffed loudly and asked whether it might not be better to be a thinner person…

But weight watching is not the theme of the day for today, you’ll be relieved to hear. Funnily enough, after reading Spurious I met an old friend from Essex over the Christmas holiday. Obviously we reminisced about the old days when hope was still young and foolhardy, but couldn’t help being a little jealous of our friend W’s rise to fame – nobody would write a book about us – although we did wonder whether knowing him would increase our sex appeal…

What was more apparent was my friend’s despair at the scope of the change facing British academia in the next few years. It’s not simply the introduction of massive fees, which will serve to hugely reduce student numbers, especially those from poorer backgrounds. What’s galling is the oncoming privatisation of higher education which is especially focussed on Humanities and Arts subjects since they are regarded by the current Government as the most frivolous of the academic subjects i.e. both worthless in terms of their usefulness in getting a job, and so easy that anyone could teach them. Government funding of these subjects is to be axed completely and they should be completely fee dependent. Fees will be kept down by opening up the education market and letting the free market dictate the best solution.

You know, like they did with the water, with the gas, with the steel (remember steel?), the cars (remember the cars?), the docks (remember the docks?), the airports (did a great job this winter), the trains (do I need say anything about the trains?)… It’s going to be good!

But not for thought. I think it’s safe to say that thought – in its institutionalised form, in terms of critical and analytical thought of all forms (not just Philosophy) – will die. It’s not just that Humanities departments will close, which they surely will, but that the ethos behind them will be lost. Sold off, to be exact. Degrees will be effectively up for sale, but the knowledge and skills they stand for are not effective commodities – you cannot buy them, you have to acquire them, you have to work and you have to learn. This is obviously not going to be acceptable to people paying for their degrees – why should they work for what they’ve paid for? You don’t think this is true? Just consider G.W. Bush’s qualifications (BA from Yale and an MBA from Harvard) – do you really think he knows what he is talking about? Witness the symptoms of the death of thought…

I could go on and on about this one, but I won’t. I did something much better and wrote a poem about it. You can read it here.

Oh well, it’s back to the ironing board for me…

White Christmas

Two good points this week – the dreaded German censorship (sorry, the protection of minors) law, which would have meant the closure of this blog has died. Unfortunately, like the bloodsucking vampire it is, it can still rise from the grave once more, so beware… But for the time being, German bloggers can peddle their wares without fear of being hounded by fortune seeking solicitors.

The second piece of good news was that Julian Assange was granted bail yesterday. Now I’m aware of the opprobrium surrounding this case, and that Assange has quite possibly a more than unsavoury role in his demise, but the fact of the matter remains that a damoclean sword hangs over him in the form of the retribution being sought by the US, the so-called bastion of free speech. This sword makes it almost impossible not to see this as a crusade against both the man and the ideals of free speech he has come to represent.

This little respite in an an otherwise wayward world gave me pause to peer out of my window onto a snow swept landscape and remember that they forgot to cancel Christmas again…

So, in honour to all you Christmas muffles out there I wrote this little ode. You can read it here.

Golden Tone Radio

Just hunkering down for my next batch of corrections and thought I’d just quickly mention this song before attacking the looming mountain. It’s from my good friend Clemens Krallmann and his delightful band Golden Tone Radio, but is special to me because I wrote the lyrics. It’s called Pictures and you can listen to it here.

And here are the lyrics:


Run, don’t miss your bus now,
You have missed it every day,
Love is growing stronger,
It’s so hard to leave our bay.

Dance, my eyes will kiss you,
I have kissed you every way,
Love is drawing closer,
The dawn seems so far away.

I adore you,
Like marshmallows,
We saw floating in the sky,
As we lay gazing at the clouds,
Painting pictures of our joy.

© Andrew Rossiter 2010

Isn’t it nice?

And another quick mention for this blog by Lars Iyer called Spurious: the basis for a new book which is basically a rambling dialogue between a disillusioned Philosophy Professor and his drinking friend – it’s wonderfully obscure and funny, and the bits on Philosophy at Essex University bring back memories, not so fond ones, but memories, anyway.

And that’s it for my quickies – it’s back to whittling down that mountain.

Whoa – bad news, Germany’s bringing in new censorship laws for the internet, well at least for people who offer content from Germany, which includes me. All content has to be categorised according to its suitability for children, just like in films. This means I will have to display a sign which looks a bit like this:

Now, of course, I’ve got stuff that could be judged as not being suitable for little children, but I’ve also got stuff which is, but the best bit about the law is that they say themselves no-one really knows what’s suitable and what’s not – it’s up to you to decide and for them to prosecute if you get it wrong…

Now, since the fines go up to €500,000 (and they’ve already prosecuted a couple of artists, not for that much, but even so) then I’ll just have to say sorry little German children you can’t read my poems and stories, but really, it’s probably for the best…

It’s still a bit ominous hearing about German authorities prosecuting artists for questionable aesthetics, it brings back dark memories – but I’m sure they have their reasons. Just as they have their reasons for sending people “home”. Anyway, I thought, since I’m here, I might as well write a poem in the language of my hosts: here it is, together with a little translation:

Der Himmel bebte
Als das Flugzeug ihn küßte.
Es wäre in Ordnung
Wenn wir nicht schlafen müßten.

Der Himmel grollte
Als meine Frau weinte.
Sie saß im Flugzeug
Und wußte nicht wohin.

The heavens quaked
As the plane kissed them.
It would have been alright
If we didn’t need to sleep.

The heavens growled
While my wife cried.
She sat in the plane
And knew not whither.

© Andrew Rossiter 2010

Over the last week I’ve been “contributing” to Guardian articles in the comments area, but all it does is perturb me – utterly inane discussions about education cuts, immigration and the like, and the impression that the thirties are slowly but surely coming around again…

On the issue of education – when I went to Poly/University there was still a general understanding that access to education was for everyone who had the ability to complete the course, but that access would be affordable. The ideal behind it, of course, was that education should be free, entirely funded by taxes.

This view slowly changed as I started and Thatcher began cutting into the welfare state, but it was twenty years later under a Labour government, that substantial fees were introduced, and they began to wonder why working-class participation in education began to plummet. Now the middle-class are up in arms with talk about at least doubling fees, with a minimum (sorry, maximum) of 21000 pounds for a BA/BSC degree. Workers comment that this is a good thing since they are no longer prepared to fund degrees from which they don’t benefit, as if they were personally responsible for allocating their taxes. Everyone thinks of education as personal gain, ignoring any benefit education brings to society as a whole. But the idea of “free” education has flown the coop – depressing. But Britain does get to keep Trident – very useful.

Immigration – almost too sickening to write about. An Angolan refugee, Jimmy Mubenga, was smothered to death during deportation by his private guards. What was perturbing was the general view of other commentators that this was sad, but that was the price we had to pay for dealing with immigration. Except that we didn’t pay for it, Jimmy Mubenga paid for it with his life. As I said, perturbing.

So now the wrangling begins. But what did anyone really expect from a set of parties short on ideas (what we used to call policies) and big on bluster? Hell, you know that Clegg can work better with Cameron than with Brown because he looks the better of the two, and is maybe a bit nicer, but in terms of ideas, let’s face it, there is nothing to pick and choose between the two. I would even go so far as to say a Tory – Labour – LibDem coalition still wouldn’t make a difference as to what’s going to happen. We could call it the bcc coalition.

So what’s on the agenda then? You only have to look across the waters to Greece to see what’s on the cards – a slide in Britain’s credit rate, market turmoil, pale faces and accusations followed by cuts, big style. And where? Well, who always pays when the going gets tough? That’s right – the poor ones – the pensioners, the unemployed, the students, the sick on the one hand, and the people who service them on the other, nurses, civil servants, teachers etc.

And what exactly will they be paying for? The massive hole in the world economy left by the banking fiasco at the end of this decade which Western governments were forced to shore up because they were too afraid to take on the banking community and reform their inherently corrupt systems.

And meanwhile, the banks are making money again…

So I’ll leave you all with a post election question – just exactly who will the future bcc coalition actually represent? Of one thing you can be sure of, it won’t be me.

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