Archive for Poetry

Poem: Going to Muhammad

I shook the hand

which shook the world

“I shook up the World!”

He once hollered

The hand of the man-child

Who destroyed Liston with a phantom punch

The hand from Allah which felled

Foreman beneath an African sky

Thought invincible monsters,

Yet slain like sheep

On the ropes

The hand which once struck like death

Now shakes involuntary sweat

From its tremor

The Man who renounced his slave name

Refused to be moulded like Clay

For the white, rich man’s,

Stone Age War

“No Vietcong ever called me Nigger”

He famously said.

And further, defiantly, he questioned

“Why should a black man

Travel thousands of miles

To kill the yellow man

On behalf of the white man?”

Unanswerable, rhetorical

They sentenced him to prison

They took away his license

They took away his livelihood

They stole his athletic peak

And made him a Hero

As a child,

I watched with dad,


As he danced

Poetic verbal rings

Around Michael Parkinson

Now that once mighty voice

Is all but stilled

Reduced to barely audible whispers

Parkinson’s revenge?

Yet as I shook

That giant


Shaking hand

And looked into those beautiful, boyish

Still playful eyes

And saw him slow-motion shuffle

To stroke the hair of a child

I knew I’d shaken

The hand of Greatness

“I am the Greatest!”

He often proclaimed

He was

And is

The Eternal Champ’

Black and Proud

And strong and free

Muhammad Ali



By Tony Green


Public domainThis work is from the New York World-Telegram and Sun collection at the Library of Congress. According to the library, there are no known copyright restrictions on the use of this work.

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Venue 156. 12:50. until 27th August

Elizabeth McGeown – a three times All-Ulster/Northern Ireland Poetry Slam champion – brings her poetry to a live Edinburgh Fringe audience for the first time. She claims to be better online than in real life, but that’s just not true.

Elizabeth McGeown in Cockroach

Her command of language as she recounts stories in verse of great encouraging teachers, bullying in school, and her struggles to fit into society, is electrifying. She references popular books and films in her works.

Some folk – often for good reason – avoid poetry readings fearing that they’ll be bored rigid. Not so with Elizabeth McGeown in Cockroach. This one-woman show isn’t merely a reading; it’s an immersive dive into her struggle for acceptance and confident self-expression. Her language pours out of her lips in punchy assertive verse. Like a flood tide, she sweeps her audience away with her. It’s powerful stuff.

Reviewed by David Kerr

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The Poetry Pharmacy and The Poetry Pharmacy Returns; William Sieghart

poetrypharmacyAre you ever out-of-sorts, grieving, or broken-hearted?  Have you regrets, a fear of the unknown, or are you having to deal with problems in your life? A time may come when you’re bored, or anxious, or perhaps you are bereaved or unlucky in love.

Quoting Alan Bennett, the editor of these two compilations of verse says, “The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”

The reader identifies with the sentiments in the verse; you’re no longer on your own. Somebody else has experienced the same thing and bared their soul in print. It speaks to you. You have made a connection. You’re NOT the only one who feels like this.  Sieghart believes this can be therapeutic, hence his titles, The Poetry Pharmacy and The Poetry Pharmacy Returns.

For comfort, reflection, delight and inspiration, Sieghart offers poems to deal with most of our problems together with little individual introductions to explain why he considers them apt to the appropriate situation.

I love this poem by the fourteenth-century Persian poet, Hafez, which speaks to us all in a time of rancour, discord and division. It reminds us, that whatever path we take, we are probably working towards the same final goal as our neighbour who goes a different route; understanding, not fear, is the key.

I am in love with every church

And mosque

And temple

And any kind of shrine

Because I know it is there

That people say the different names

Of the One God.

These collections have delighted and inspired me and encouraged me to look into further poems by authors who spoke to my condition. I am likely to share some of them with the rest of the congregation the next time it’s my turn to give a reading when Sunday morning services eventually resume.

The Poetry Pharmacy; Particular Books 2017. ISBN978-1-846-14954-2

The Poetry Pharmacy Returns; Particular Books 2019. ISBN978-0-241-41905-2

Reviewed by David Kerr



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Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love

Director: Nick Broomfield

Runtime: 1hr 42mins

marianne and leonardNick Broomfield’s documentary opens with a BBC television news report from 2016 of Marianne Ihlen’s death and reports of a last email sent to her by her one-time lover, the Canadian singer Leonard Cohen; who was himself to die some three months later. These are the ‘words of love’ from the film’s title.

Nick Broomfield then tells the story of how Marianne and Leonard met on the paradise Greek island of Hydra when he was a struggling young Canadian poet and she was emerging from an abusive marriage.

Broomfield has crafted this compelling documentary from a lot of archive footage – including some of his own – and he’s made good use of interviews with friends and recorded recollections of Marianne and Leonard themselves.

Both Marianne and Leonard had a whole lot of love to give – in that brief period in the Sixties which was the era of hedonistic ‘free love’ and ‘open marriage’. The effects on the younger generation only emerged later. The Johnston family – who mentored Leonard when he arrived on Hydra – lost their mother and all but one of the children to mental illness and suicide when they left the island and tried to resume normal life back home in Australia.  Marianne’s son – ‘little Axel’ also developed a number of mental issues and had to be admitted into a mental institution in later life.

Both Marianne and Leonard also had to deal with depression. Both sought comfort in the arms of others: Leonard with Janis Joplin, his other muse Suzanne Elrod and others; and Marianne who had brief relationships with Nick Broomfield before remarrying and returning to Norway. It was her encouragement that persuaded Broomfield to make the first of many successful documentaries.

This is a revealing and passionate film. I reckon that two-thirds to three-quarters of the audience in my local cinema were women of a certain age; probably in their mid teens to early twenties around the time of the 1970 Isle of White festival when Cohen first came to prominence in Britain. He never lost that magnetic appeal to many women.

The ‘words of love’ in the title came from the email Leonard sent to Marianne in 2016 after hearing from their mutual friend, Jan Christian Mollestad that she was dying from cancer;

“Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.

“And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and for your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey.

“Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”

This story became public shortly after Marianne’s death. Leonard died some three months later. What we didn’t know then was that she was filmed on her deathbed by Mollestad as he read Leonard’s final letter to her. I have never seen anything more moving in my life; what an emotional punch this film packs. The old cliché, ‘not a dry eye in the house’ was no exaggeration this time.

Circumstances and events drew Marianne and Leonard apart and into the arms of others for a while; but despite this, they had a deep bond that never entirely faded away. From her earlier recollections to footage of Marianne singing away to herself the familiar words of ‘her’ song, So Long, Marianne in her front row seat at his Olso concert in 2008, Broomfield faithfully documents their intertwined stories and their complicated lives. It’s powerful stuff.

David Kerr

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Book Burning


There’s a book burning today are you going to come?
It’s someone we loved but you should hear what they’ve done
They’ve defended Goldstein – you’ll be sick at their views
Vile and twisted, it’s all over the news

There’s a book burning today bring all he has written
Tear the pages and spines and make sure that you spit on
Chant his name with hate as the books are consumed
This old way of thinking must be stamped out and doomed

Are you coming to join in as the heat rises high
You’re shaking your head – so tell me just why?
You aren’t a Goldstein, a hater of love?
For any who hate – in the fires, we’ll shove

There’s a book burning tonight be sure that we’re here
Any who aren’t let them stay home in fear
For when all the books are just piles of ash
We’ll come for the silent ones with pistols and lash

There’s a new book we love and you all have to read
It’s message is love and has a story to heed
And writers will never deviate from our thought
Rebels are burnt when tracked down and caught

There’s a burning tonight and she’s on top of the fire
Her views have kindled her own funeral pyre
Let this be a warning of love to you all
We’ll bury haters alive, wherever they fall.

By Tim Bragg

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