Tag Archives: Andy Croft

Lightening the Dark – Morning Star and Solstice Shorts

My poem about a female volleyball player, inspired by the tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan, was published in The Morning Star newspaper on 23rd Dec, and can also be read online at: News Flash

‘Newsflash’ is one of those poems that write themselves out of an instant emotional reaction. I read with horror about the beheading of a young woman volleyball player by the Taliban. This coincided with a birthday celebration in Brighton on a beautiful sunny day. The mismatch was painful, and a poem started to rise up in response. The first draft was just in time for my Stanza group, where some helpful feedback ensued (thank you Brighton Stanza), followed by a second draft, then a quick email to Andy Croft who selects for The Morning Star‘s 21st Century Poetry column. Ten minutes later, he pinged back an acceptance (does he never sleep?).

I’m under no illusion that this poem will make a difference to how the Taliban treat women (or indeed men), but apart from supporting Amnesty, it’s all I can offer. As poets, we must write as we feel.

The winter solstice is a symbol of how dark and deadly the world can become. What better way to contemplate the lengthening of days and hope for positive change, than the fascinating mix of stories and poems in Arachne Press’ latest Solstice Shorts anthology, Words from the Brink?

Contributors include Jane Aldous, Julian Bishop, Claire Booker, Kate Foley, Katherine Gallagher, Lucy Grace, Mandy Macdonald, Ness Owen, Michelle Penn, Diana Powell and Robert Rene Galvan.

The amazing cover image is ‘Red Earth’ by Komal Madar, and beautifully reflects the anger of our planet driven to ground by human greed and ignorance. Published by Cherry Potts at Arachne Press, ‘Words from the Brink’ is the seventh Solstice Shorts anthology, marking the tipping point of each year. “We urge you all to do SOMETHING while we still can,” writes Cherry in her foreword. “Turn off that light, turn off that tap; reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle; plant a tree, protect the bees; write a song, a poem, a story that can reach people who need to hear. Everything may yet be all right, but only with your help.”

You can watch the zoom launch of ‘Words from the Brink’ at Arachne Press’s Youtube channel, or better still, buy a copy of the book at https://arachnepress.com/shop/

If you have a poem to share on the pages of The Morning Star, then drop Andy Croft an email at info@smokestack-books.co.uk. The Culture section at the Star’s website is also worth a read. You can check up to 7 articles per month, including featured poems, for free. https://morningstaronline.co.uk/categories/arts

Black Lives Matter poem in Morning Star

Morning Star Aug 20Some poems arrive unexpectedly. My poem ‘The Chair’ in Wednesday’s Morning Star caught me blind-side while scrolling through my Facebook feed. There was an image. One I couldn’t get out of my head. The only solution. Write a poem.

Black Lives Matter has arisen spontaneously, through the power of social media. It’s a movement for desperately needed justice. Anger can be turned into action. Laws changed. Attitudes altered. We all have our part to play. Things are changing – but slowly.

Morning Star (12.8.20)

It seems deeply shocking that a so-called civilised society like America still executes people. The constitution allows each State to decide for itself, and tragically 25 States still have capital punishment on their statute books.

If that’s not horrendous enough, the colour of your skin has a lot to do with whether you receive a death sentence. The ethnicity of the murder victim is statistically the deal breaker – a white victim more often results in Death Row than if the victim were black. Old prejudices die hard.  Some lives are still deemed more equal than others, yet the US Supreme Court does not acknowledge statistical bias as a reason to overturn an individual sentence.

I’ve been a member of Amnesty International for much of my adult life. It campaigns for the abolition of the death penalty world-wide. Do please consider joining if you aren’t already a member.  Here is a link to their work on capital punishment: Amnesty International

imagesMy thanks to Andy Croft, who chose ‘The Chair’ as Poem of the Week in the printed newspaper. The Morning Star costs £1.20 and is available at a number of outlets, including The Coop, Budgens and McColls. You can also read its mix of News, Politics, Culture and Sport online, where my poem is also available to view at:  The Chair by Claire Booker

Boris Johnson fights the Jabberwocky

Jabberwocky by John TennielThank you Andy Croft, editor of the 21st Century Poetry slot at the Morning Star, for taking my Lewis Carroll pastiche Jab-or-Washy? Abs 2019-nCoV virus hologramIf Boris has time to read it when he returns to work tomorrow, he may see himself in a new light.

The poem came about in time-honoured fashion, through a small group of friends setting themselves a writing challenge. My brother laid down the gauntlet with a poem about Covid-19 composed in the style of Robert Burns. Duncan Fraser responded with a deliciously irreverent take on Shakespeare’s Cymbeline entitled Fear No More th’infected Bun. Then I shamelessly plundered Lewis Carroll’s great absurdist work for a chance to criticise how this pandemic has been handled. It was a record 7 days from writing the poem to publication. Normally it takes me months, years or, more frequently, never!

14-kotzI couldn’t have known that casting Boris Johnson as the tardy battler against the Jabberwocky, would have me dicing with death – literally.

When I submitted my poem, he was doing well at home, with very mild symptoms. By the time Jab-or-Washy? went up on-line at the Morning Star, he had been admitted to hospital. During the following three days, it looked increasingly as if my poem was about to cross the boundaries of extremely bad taste.

Luckily for Boris, he pulled through and is thankfully on the mend. Let’s hope his close shave with mortality will give him the necessary jolt to properly resource the NHS. Praise and appreciation of course is great. But money is pretty handy too!

imagesYou can read Jab-or-washy? by clicking on the following link: Jab-or-washy? by Claire Booker

The Morning Star’s Culture pages carry several poems a week, together with book and arts reviews and literary discussion pieces. You can read seven free articles per month, before being required to subscribe. To submit a poem, email it to Andy Croft at info@smokestack-books.co.uk