Neubooterdammerung, 2: Paul Summers

In den finsteren Zeiten,

wird da auch gesungen werden?

Da wird auch gesungen werden.

Von den finsteren Zeiten.

Bertolt Brecht

& on the eighth day

there was darkness

again. even darker

than the last time

but not a patch on

the next if you believe

that weird, little god-nik

fucker at the monument.

darker than that time

you gaffer taped my eyes.

darker than that night

we hammered the poitín

in davy’s da’s shed & you

bit off the ears of his sister’s

classroom gerbil. darker

than the entire contents

of johnny cash’s wardrobe.

darker than the core of an

overlooked verruca. dark

as fuck, apart from a pulse

of weak, pale light emitted

in the west from the burnt-out

convoy of overturned police-vans

currently blocking all six lanes

of the A1(M) in both directions,

& from jimmy upstairs, who has

somehow rigged an old black

& white portable to a car-battery

so he can watch attheraces

completely unimpeded by events

of global significance, & your

slightly eccentric, europhile

neighbour; the one with the nice

job & the buy-to-let mortgage,

engaged in an act of quiet immolation

there in the back-lane, precariously

close to our wheelie-bin. apart from

all that though, it’s dark as fuck.

much darker than the last time,

not a patch on the next.


Neubooterdammerung, 1: Sean O’Brien

If I May


The palace, oh the palace, and its undeserving opulence

Are not enough for some. There are episodes of stropulence.


A sealed coach slips the silver out in the disguise of night,

And at the torpid bourse the nation’s capital takes flight.


There is talk of revolution, there are whispers of reform,

And anything seems possible except departure from the norm.


The mirrors on the miles and miles of aimless corridor

Are preparing their excuses. They have seen it all before.


M. Le Dauphin – how to put this – well, sir, it is late.

The clerks are sneaking off and there are hangmen on the gate:

And at this hour, sir, you choose to sit and masturbate.

New Boots (Slight Retread): Martyn Crucefix

‘an americano to go’

an americano to go
black of a white man’s heart
crude statistics
when were they kin

daubed with shitty feathers
eggs broken in a bowl
footnotes about emails
when were they kin

growing weed under LEDs
headlines and tenderness
in the moment of conception
when were they kin

john smith marries jane doe
klaxons sounding
languages east west north south
when were they kin

my emigre son
notes from strings of a mandolin
olives in a screw-top jar
when were they kin

pulsing blue in the Uber driver’s ear
queries on the first page
red sky in the morning
when were they kin

share like like share
tangled nests of fishing line
up and over the brim
when were they kin

very near the end
when bridges are burning
xanthoma tendinosum
you wake and you’re done

when will you understand
zest and intelligence
when were they kin
when were they kin

New Boots (Slight Retread): Sean O’Brien

Ballad of the Burning Head

Last night I met a running man
Whose head was all ablaze.
He said: I like my brain to burn,
Whatever reason says,

So let the cerebellum roast
And every synapse fry.
If you will run beside me now
Then I shall tell you why.

I choose to be unreasoning
Since thinking hurts my head.
Mine is the bolder, braver course –
I immolate instead.

They tell me there’s no benefit
In my incineration –
But it’s a sacrifice I make
To liberate the nation

From the thraldom of rationality
And all that other shite.
Does this appeal to you? Then
Let me offer you a light.

So we can burn together –
Shining beacons in the dark!
I smiled and shook my head and he
Ran screaming through the park

To where his comrades were assembled
In a mighty burning host.
They sang of Hitler’s single ball
And drank a petrol toast.

They’d struck a match for liberty
With a patriot’s panache,
And then they went out one by one
And crumbled into ash.

New Boots (Slight Retread): Peter Armstrong

from The Gallery of Miraculous Foresight

The Last Days of St Thérèse
Paul Gauguin

she lies stiffly on her bed
the whole room tilting
so we look down
as she looks up
at no object we
or any there assembled
in the cell
can see

Her sisters
kneel as stiffly
as she lies
since there is no cure

Her window
opens on a garden
whose fruits are falling
on bare ground


From the Accompanying Notes

I am stretched on iron spikes
If this is the agony
then what is death?

The flies tormented her
but she would not kill
I always give them freedom
They alone
have caused me misery
in my sickness
I have no enemies
and since God
recommends we pardon them
I’m happy for the gift
of doing so

I write
whatever comes
into my empty pen

Her head fell back on the pillow
and was turned toward the right

Five types of political poem

(Here, by way of a last post from New Boots and Pantisocracies (yes, we know that most likely means we’ll be posting something else in a minute or a month if probably not a millennium), we are gathering by the great river of political discourse Christy Ducker’s five types of political poem. And yes, there are probably many more types, but now as when we began, we thought it might at least stimulate discussion. Do join in below in the comments.

The poems are listed in a combination of links and extracts – though the Armitage you’ll have to hunt down yourselves – hopefully you haven’t read them all before, and even so, might enjoy revisiting some of them. Over to Christy.)

Type 1: The declamatory

Here, the personal and the political come together in one voice. Speaking out is itself an act of defiance against orthodoxy: these are poems which insist on the first person, and assert the agency of language by way of a refrain. Tonally, these poems conflate the mercurial with the autonomous.

Examples might include Maya Angelou’s ‘Still I Rise‘.

Another might be Langston Hughes’s ‘I, Too‘.

A third example is ‘The Language of the Brag‘ by Sharon Olds.

2. The Subtle

Resisting false resolution, these poems juxtapose the global and the personal. Threat and disaster are shown slant. Here, the power of language lies in its capacity to reflect on our social realm, to test and to quest: the tone is provisional and tentative; there are fractures of form or nervy enjambements; images of distance and connection coexist uneasily.

As an example, here’s an extract from John Burnside’s ‘History’:


– with the news in my mind, and the muffled dread

of what may come –

I knelt down in the sand

with Lucas

gathering shells

and pebbles

finding evidence of life in all this


snail shells; shreds of razorfish;

smudges of weed and flesh on tideworn stone…

Another instance might be Frances Leviston’s ‘Bishop in Louisiana‘.

3. The Vernacular

Here, everyday language is used to democratize the public realm. Supple and demotic, voice in these poems moves as swiftly as political events. Social issues are approached with a lightness of touch, in recognition that everything (including language) is subject to change.

One example well worth seeking out is Holly McNish’s ‘Snotty Noses’ – another, more easily accessible online, is the same poet’s equally touching and trenchant short film poem, ‘Embarrassed‘.

There’s also James Robertson’s sharp piece in Scots, ‘Manifesto for MSPs‘.

4. The Metaphorical

These are poems of attempted reconciliation. Using extended metaphor, they try to reassemble what has been scattered by political events. Elements kept separate in everyday life meld, with the effect of attempted healing. A wry tone undercuts this and signals that loss can never be fully repaired.

Examples include ‘My father’s books’, by Choman Hardi.

Another example, available online in Google Books, is Simon Armitage’s ‘Meanwhile, somewhere in the state of Colorado’.

5. The Act of Witness

This is poetry as evidence. In bald language, these poems record what injustice and tyranny do to humans. The voice is testamentary, the imagery stark, the necessary obligation is clear: to keep traumatic memory alive, and the reader vigilant.

A key example of this final category would be Claudia Rankine’s ‘Citizen’:

Others would include ‘Postcard 4’ by Miklos Radnóti, quoted here in its entirety

I fell next to him. His body rolled over.

It was tight as a string before it snaps.

Shot in the back of the head—“This is how

you’ll end. Just lie quietly,” I said to myself.

Patience flowers into death now.

“Der springt noch auf,” I heard above me.

Dark filthy blood was drying on my ear.


October 31, 1944

This is reproduced from Clouded Sky, a collection of Radnóti’s work translated by Steven Polgar, Stephen Berg, and S. J. Marks ( New York: Harper & Row, 1972), accessed here.

Finally, there is the famous ‘Instead of a preface’ from ‘Requiem’ by Anna Akhmatova:

“In the awful years of Yezhovian horror, I spent seventeen months standing in line in front of various prisons in Leningrad. One day someone “recognized “me. Then a woman with blue lips, who was standing behind me, and who, of course, had never heard my name, came out of the stupor which typified all of us, and whispered into my ear (everyone there spoke only in whispers):

“Can you describe this?

And I said, “I can.”

Then something like a fleeting smile passed over what once had been her face.”

April 1, 1957

(This version by Frederick R. Andresen can be accessed here.)

New Boots Reboot: G.B. Clarkson

lemonjim hour: brittle england

the muse, here to amuse, brings a clock.
my hands and brain are chapped from taking her notes.
glimquist and sunkissed on a burgundy chaise longue
she turns phrase after phrase on the lathe of her tongue
and flutes, drills, planes, until she produces
five flights of solicitor’s banisters to snake down the staircase, hemming me in and
she is truth-pillowing everything out so that I’m breathing as
shallow and stinky as bathwater, anemone-blind, choking on her alien
mouthwash as she bats me from pillar to post, copper-manic, feeding me what she calls
ilk milk, squeezed from cliffs of dover: she a sovereign autonomous rose, till she drops
like a poppy, one ochre petal for each bong of the clock at tea time, drumming the carpet
with glee

G.B. Clarkson’s poems have appeared in Poetry, The Poetry Review, Poetry London, Ambit, and Magma, and in anthologies including The Best British Poetry (Salt Publishing, 2014), The Poet’s Quest for God (Eyewear, 2016), Furies: a Poetry Anthology of Women Warriors (For Books’ Sake, 2015), and This Line Is Not For Turning: An Anthology of Contemporary British Prose Poetry (Cinnamon Press, 2011); as well as in the Daily Mirror and The New European. They have also been broadcast during the BBC Radio 3 Proms series. She has two pamphlets – Declare (Shearsman Books, 2016) which was a PBS Pamphlet Choice, and Dora Incites the Sea-Scribbler to Lament (smith|doorstop, 2016), a Laureate’s Choice.