Stick It to the Man (After ‘Howl’ by Allen Ginsberg and ‘Groan’ by Alex Levene)
I wrote this poem inspired by Allen Ginsberg’s 1950s poem ‘Howl’ and the poem ‘Groan’ by my poeting colleague Alex Levene.
I saw the greatest minds of my year group devoured by sadness — pure, naked, rancour; hauling themselves through the streets in the midsummer,
looking for something to do… through the social Middle Earths of Twitter and Insta, looking for a million likes and retweets,
lusting for a human connection to the societies of open-air realities and sunlight… blinkered by the stories of fucking Westeros.
Now begins my song of praise
bless me with your righteous gaze.
I pray you’ll concede that this world’s future
depends on the arts, creativity and poetry.
Poems weren’t always in my view
but what better way to talk to you
and read in front of all these faces
as poetry transcends colour, creed, sex and races.
I once wanted to be a police officer, a cricketer, you know?
Now I write poems, using rhythm,
rhyme, meter and onomatopoeia
and I’ll stand tall, like the walls
between poetry and spoken word.
They’re one and the same, haven’t you heard?
“Should I compare thee to a summer’s day?”
The war cry — the poet that slips into words
like Thanos and The Infinity Gauntlet,
the Mad Titan who takes centre stage and flaunts it.
And I write this poem for those who will listen,
who will take heed of my words and their composition,
people hate to hear rhythm and rhyme,
as words can allude, confuse and hypnotize.
Convey myths and magic, incantations
and summon, beasts. Tales of Merlin and Mordrid
the Druids, Arthur, Guinevere, their feasts and fights,
don’t let these poets on the open-mic tonight.
See, there are issues with poetry;
most switch off — it’s lyrical,
the pinnacle of most great songs is poetry,
the poet is more than writing,
it’s a mentality, it’s your mind-set,
life choices, your actions and your inner voices.
If prose is the bellow poetry is the murmur
in the corner people-watching
taking down each detail –
collecting everyone’s emotions and clout,
bottling it up and then raising it to a shout.
A howl, a growl, a snarl,
raging against the societal machine.
And I will never cease rhythm’s use,
it’s not might fault. Blame Roald Dahl,
Spike Milligan, and Dr Seuss… and
writing, reading, thinking, working hard
and chewing chewing chewing words
big blobs on the page like Violet Beauregard.
Poetry’s not just Shakespeare writing sonnets of love –
not just hope in the form of a holy white dove
but it’s a state of mind, a passion… it’s a want,
a hunger, a message, sometimes
a polemic attack against systems, governments
and institutions that manipulate and fashion.
For me, my creative writing degree was not a choice,
it was a chance for me to express myself and use my voice.
Every writer who has put pen to paper,
or finger to keyboard
was saving their sword for you to wield later.
I discuss race, class, politics and mental health,
children’s literature and the distribution of wealth,
and the mysteries of my family tree,
stories of slavery and immigration
as I know not how I came to be me.
Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas, or tried to,
like how Stalin banned poetry and the Nazis believed
poetry came from the land of the Jews.
The weapon that kills the fascists is not the gun or the sword,
it’s the lyrics, the ancients arts of playing with words on a chessboard
Protest and politics is where it begins
friends and experiences “poeticised” in the form of a hymn.
From reggae through to science,
The Isaacs (Newton and Gregory),
you can’t lock them up in a speech penitentiary.
John Agard, Benjamin Zephaniah, Sabrina Benaim
writers who change our perspectives for common good.
it’s the artists’ job to rattle society’s cages.
Lord Tennyson, the internet and Google search
talking about their experiences on the streets
as we learn of The Harlem Renaissance, the 50s and the Beat.
Wordsworth, the Bobs (Dylan and Marley),
Naomi Shibab Nye and Thomas Hardy.