New Boots and Pantisocracies

Welcome poets, polemicists and disbelieving masses! New pants for old! The 2015 General Election made manifest changes that have been taking place in UK politics this century. Previous certainties like Labour’s Scottish hegemony are no more. Older patterns like the Conservative dominance of England have reasserted themselves. The idea of the UK as a single country has been replaced by a plurality of national, regional, generational and class identities.

The week after the election Bill Herbert and Andy Jackson decided to chart the responses of those unacknowledged legislators of the world – poets – to the new dispensation. For the first 100 days of the new government they published a poem a day on their New Boots and Pantisocracies blog, recording life under the new unrealpolitik. Now it is a book by over a hundred of the most compelling and distinguished poets of our time, including Sean O’Brien, Sheenagh Pugh, Daljit Nagra, Claudia Daventry, Ian Duhig, Michael Rosen, Polly Clark, Ian McMillan, George Szirtes and Malika Booker.

New Boots and Pantisocracies takes its name from the idealistic plans of Coleridge and Southey for a social utopia or ‘pantisocracy’, and from Ian Dury’s iconic first album, with its ironic and melancholy celebration of working class identity on the eve of the Thatcherite revanche. It is a book of poems and polemics, contraries and resistances, appalled but not entirely despairing.

Sample Poems

New Boots and Panties

We stayed in the pub, election night.
There were a few of us: the guv’nor,
the usual lads, some of the ever-popular
drunk sorts and the feisty Welsh barmaid.
By the time we clocked red London was sinking
we were tossing back the drinks,
less for the fun of it and more to lose the taste.
The jukebox took a beatin’ too –
reggae and punk. Songs from our yoof.
Babylon’s Burning, I remember that all right.
Beasley Street was my choice.
We were up at the bar reciting along:
‘Keith Joseph smiles and a baby dies…’
The Welsh girl asked who he was.
In honesty, the lilt of her voice deserved
a better answer. ‘He just moved in,’ I told her,
‘you’ll be hearing a lot about him.’
Come the weekend she caught me by the elbow,
‘I looked that Keith Joseph up,’ she said.
‘He seems like a proper cunt.’

Tim Wells

The Garden is Not for Everyone

All summer the children have been running in the global refugee crisis
in the communal garden Ammar is searching for his brother on a train
kicking a football through the yellow roses, chasing the bodies roll out
across the parched ground on the platform, a woman lifts a card sign
I hear their cries from the fourth floor help us, save our souls! A child
on my side of the block & some days who looks like my child is asleep
I take my boy down there to play in the calm waters of a tourist beach
with Luna’s boys – Albert, Adam, Ali, the newspapers don’t know how
they live on the council side. Luna is Ethiopian I think this story ends
and I mean to ask when I see her down on our street but describe the
baby bound in batik on her chest, but instead smell of 71 people dead
we talk about the letter in her mailbox: in a truck on the highway. We
the council children can no longer use sincerely wish we could help
the communal garden – there is no reason in the global refugee crisis.

Hannah Lowe

Mr. Duncan-Smith Dreaming in the Sun

A man is knocking down a high brick wall
only to rebuild it further from the swollen river,
each brick re-finding its original neighbour,
the wall somehow more massive than before.

Torrential rain from a bright sky,
though the ground is bone.
Days of rain upon the man and the wall in minutes
make him pace back and forth and change tack.

Now he is smashing the bricks, bagging the bits,
piling the bags in a line, then a stack, then, well, a wall.
The water laps against the bags, soaks them dull.
The earth is a footprint set hard and sharp.

There are children up on roofs, arms out,
shadowing helicopters and planes,
smudge-faced children down in the dirt
scratching for tools of make believe.

There are parents looking for their children,
good parents looking for naughty and nice alike.
The motives of others, says the voiceover,
the unfathomable motives of others.

Mark Robinson

Politician on Politician

after Cameron On Cameron, Conversations with Dylan Jones (2008)

The politician always wanted to be a politician
The politician points at the things he wants.
The politician sounds like a very reasonable man.
The politician has previously had a problem with women
but now it all seems to be coming together.
The politician has never been described as
a miserable wet Friday afternoon in Manchester.
The politician cried when a lovely Oxfordshire girl sang.
The politician noticed more white faces in prison and said:
‘There are obviously more eastern Europeans here.’
The politician often comes out of those places
with a fair bit of gob on his shoulders.
The politician always wanted to be a politician.
The politician has never been in prison, and
previously had a problem with those places,
a very reasonable problem with those European faces.
The politician cried: ‘I always wanted to be reasonable.’
The politician said more but it all seems lovely,
the women are lovely white things, the afternoons
are never miserable. He has a fair bit of Oxfordshire
on his shoulders, but it all seems to be obvious.
The politician has often been described as wet,
an eastern girl points at the gob on his shoulders
and sings: ‘The things he wants, the things he wants…’

Hannah Silva

no change given

the news is no less shit
when wrapped in sun

the taste of loss still
sour as an unripe plum

a hemisphere can’t shift
the weight of death

or else of dying
hope face down

& drowned again
in puddles of infernal

spring & me still waiting
on lenin’s slow train

alone & forlorn & in
the grip of northern rain

april’s thesis
still unproclaimed

jerusalem postponed
our flags le maimed

no chink of paltry light
to grace our days

all vigour subjected
to unspecified delays

Paul Summers

News From't Northern Powerouse

Gorron’t train. One o’ them old unz
Squeaked like a bugle. A lot gorron
     (Voices like tinkling dreamcatchers

At Wombwell. An it were that early
Moon were still chunterin’ in’ sky
     One of their coins fell

Abartar late it wor. They were all
Gunner work pickin and packin.
     To the floor of the train

Zero Hour for them zero hours
Tha could call it if tha were bein
     And rolled, rolled, a moon

Clever. No need for clever round
Here no more. Nubdysedowt.
     Tumbling from the sky

Silence breeds compliance.
Northern Lean-to. Northern Shed.
     And landing at the feet

Northern Outhouse. Northern shithouse.
Northern rented house. Northern Shared House.
     Of the future

Northern half-demolished house
Where I have seen the shadows
     Of the dispossessed

     Gathering around candles.)

Ian McMillan