From Bill Herbert and Andy Jackson

Robert Malthus, ‘the Gloomy Doctor’, studied population growth in the late 18th century. His work identified natural checks to unlimited population growth. Should one species become too dominant in an ecosystem, nature may attempt to restore balance, sometimes in dramatic ways. In the current crisis, it seems like we’re all – hopefully temporarily – living in Malthusia now.

These are surreal times. Maybe the most surreal they have been in our lifetimes. As John Lennon remarked, ‘Strange days indeed!’ And almost as alarming as the Coronavirus is the way politicians and scaremongers are using language to define it and our lives – as William Burroughs remarked, ‘Language is a virus from outer space’.

But unlike viruses, or governments, or trolls, poetry has the capacity to engage with both the real and the surreal, the strange and the alarming. It is a curative medium – not only will it not be socially isolated, it helps us thrive in our isolation; it associates freely through time and space and, albeit only in our minds, helps us do the same; crucially, it carries with it a highly efficacious vaccine for distress – ideas.

We want your NEW AND UNPUBLISHED poems addressing issues related to the current situation – poems of community in adversity, of clarity in solitude, poems offering commentary, regret, insight, support, or relief. We will publish the best of what we receive at the rate of one poem per day (via the New Boots & Pantisocracies and Gude and Godlie Ballatis blogs and Twitter accounts) until there is no need to publish any more. Spread the word – it contains antibodies of the imagination.

By the time you read down this far, the world may have changed again. So get writing and send to azjackson65 at gmail dot com

The Fall of Brexitopolis: W.N. Herbert

This is the way the empire ends.
The proud nose shall be rubbed in its own hallucinatory piss.
The pony shall be rent in the temple
and the chlorinated dollar carried into the place
of the Holy of Moliest.
Chickens shall speak in tongues in the seats of power
while their teeth are treasured as charms against
the coming of plagues or nurses.
The roughly asleep shall be bayoneted where they lie
to save on bullets for the flat of foot.
Like the tides there shall be an amnesty on bodkins,
and then a redistribution.
Where there is plenty we shall restore rationing.
Where there is home we shall bring deportation.
Johnny shall be as a foreigner whether
he remembers me or not.
The bee shall be placed on trial for the pollution of bonuses.
The ear of corn shall be deafened,
the eye of the needle quite put out.
The sick shall queue to die, their trolleys
nose to tail on the orbital motorways.
The Old Preventibles,
cholera, the pox, rickets, tuberculosis,
shall be released from the laboratories:
collect them all now.
The articulated lorry shall not rest in the ruined nave.
The chorister shall not be listened to with great care.
Also the pea shall be removed from the whistle
and taken to a secure jar.
The ornamental pond shall be filled with ornaments.
The antique shall be tat
and the masterpiece shall not be all that.
The arts shall be done better by my six year old.
Facts shall be the wrong sort, and statistics a poor show.
The Sciences shall be an absolute shower.
Vendors of gin and cupcakes shall take up residence
in the former libraries and shall style themselves
Artisans of Utopia.
The Unity of the Kingdom shall be preserved
by the biting of rum-soaked bullets, a satterlee saw,
and the tarring of stumps.
There shall be a general pickling in the provinces.
Barristers shall be mistaken for baristas,
barrators for orators.
Prejudice, citing precedent, shall be postjudice.
Righteousness shall be called on as a substitute
in the eighty-fifth minute.
The Golden Calves shall be set up in the Own Goals
while the referees are being hamstrung in the tunnels.
Trees shall be netted to defend them from birdsong.
Migratory geese shall be shooed from the Capitol.
Plastic shall be forced down the throats of swans
and, should they wash up on our shores, whalefish.
Nanny shall stockpile Zopiclone and Cyanide
for the coming of Naptime.
The last poet swinging from the last lamppost
shall switch off the final streetlight, whereupon
the Senate shall assassinate each other in order of eminence
till only those too incompetent to stab themselves shall remain.
The self-elected emperor shall then divest himself of his last invisible cloak
and, casting it ahead of him into the absence of a fray,
shall lose himself where the lack of fighting is thickest.

New BoJos and AntiDemocracies: W.N. Herbert

Rogues Reparcelled

(After Burns, and for Ian Duhig)

Fareweel tae aa oor island’s fame,
fareweel oor claims tae glory;
Democracy lives but in name,
for Parliament’s a story.
Noo saccharine and hollow speech
demeans a Premier’s station,
demarking Bozza’s pinchcock reach –
sic an arse tae prorogue aa the nation!

But sic a guile for mony years,
gained Empire’s greedy wages,
and is wrocht noo by a gang o fieres,
Late Capital’s bluff sages.
Tho Eton Rifles we disdained,
secure in Labour’s mission;
but Eton’s gamesmanship’s oor bane –
sic a farce tae prorogue aa the nation!

Auld Éire lang has seen the play
whaur Tories strut but sell us,
and Scotland sune must brak away
tho Tories tut and tell us.
For wi this shower we must not cower,
but mak oor declaration –
the UK’s soul is bought and sold,
sic a curse tae prorogue aa the nation!

New Beating into Pantisocratic Ploughshares of the Same Old Rattled Sabres: N.S. Thompson



The city is a collage. You look back,

The station’s shiny sinuous S-curve glints

An avant-garde triumphant in the sun

Avant-la-lettre architecturally,

Abstract, except the banks of glittering scales

Of windows seeming to wriggle towards

You; then a blackened mill, a viaduct, 

Converted warehouse, public house, a bank

From what was once the Florence of the North,

Its civic buildings in a classic style

Once shaded charcoal grey by chimney smoke,

The columns, porticos and tympani

On banks and credit institutions, most

Names now defunct, absorbed by new players on

The block, the public library circular 

In shape, its steps leading to Peter’s Fields

Where tipsy yeomanry once charged at crowds

Protesting peacefully about the need

For parliamentary reform – the vote –

This after years of lack of work and bread

Brought all surrounding mill towns to a stop,

With shadows on the cobbled streets and slate

Roofs capping figures looking gaunt and stark

Who came out in their Sunday best only

To see it decorated with the blood

Of those cut down by indiscriminate

Sabres, the dead eighteen and hundreds more

Maimed, injured, women and children in the toll.

I look down from the library steps and see

And feel the carnage visited upon

The working poor or poor because of need

Of work in Bury, Bolton, Oldham who

Had walked there in their Sunday best to hear

The radical speaker Henry Hunt perform.


If Manchester is difficult to see 

Without its history, it paved the way

For what we have to today in highlighting

The need for work and dignity, for care

And overall political reform. 


The city is a collage, cut up, put

Together in the mind from patches, past

And present, images and photographs

And print of memories not to forget. 


New BoJos & NoMos: Christopher Reid

Buying a Bojo

‘Give me a Bojo!’ the spoilt child cries.
‘Give me a Bojo! I want one now!’
The parents gawp back with alarm in their eyes:
they long to say no but they can’t see how.

‘Give me a Bojo!’ the child repeats.
‘And don’t wait for Christmas! Be quick about it!’
‘Are you sure, my darling?’ one of them bleats,
but it’s plain that their angel can’t live without it.

For the world has been swept by a Bojo craze:
Bojos for sale in every shop,
heaped high on shelves and in window displays,
in a quick-buck orgy that may never stop.

But what exactly is the appeal
of this pudgy and unprepossessing doll,
which can speak, but never says anything real,
and which has all the charm and grace of a troll?

It’s brilliant at bluster and bluff;
its fibs are clearly designed to be funny;
but are these attributes enough
to explain why people part with good money?

The spoilt child’s parents drive into town;
they buy a Bojo, the first they see;
and as soon as they put their tenners down,
they’re told it comes without guarantee.

Then a scurrilous chuckle is heard from the box,
which shakes with menace and merriment
all the way home, while the stink of old socks
combines with an even less wholesome scent.

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