E. E. Jones
The title poem of E.E. Jones’s first collection tells the story of an unremarkable day in August 1944, when nothing much happened: the weather was beautiful, a dog barked, and the women of Amsterdam went on making jam.
The Incident is a book about what we fail to see and what we ned to remember, about History and Fascism, what our times make of us, and the violence we allow to be done to others – minorities, refugees, dissidents, asylum seekers, benefit claimants. These are stories of solidarity and resistance, told with tenderness and fury and a passionate commitment to a world still possible – Sylvia Pankhurst and Kier Hardie, Auden and Erika Mann; William Tyndale and Nye Bevan, the Peterloo dead and the Belgian Resistance fighters who in 1943 stopped a train bound for Auschwitz. At the heart of the book is a series of portraits of remarkable women who tried to resist, like Rosa Parks, Sophie Scholl, Anne Frank, and Jo Cox.
Cover photo: Katharine Jane
Author photo: Katharine Jane
the flowers have taken this town and the birds are returning singing their exiled songs in many colours the flowers have risen not without cost mourn for the fallen of autumn remember with sorrow the snowdrops’ fierce stand against frost but the flowers are holding their ground and the snow is retreating the year is ours
when they came for him I was not there or anywhere near though I might have been in the next street or an adjacent universe when he returned defeated clutching his crumpled form what they wanted was the patch of ground on which he stood his morning coffee his shopping list his right to exist all this they took until he had nothing not even the words and I was not a friend or neighbour but only another stranger who read of his death in the paper and signed the petition I did not write to his family or stand with a placard protesting in shame or even (forgive me) remember his name
the fourth of August nineteen forty-four was the most beautiful day years later someone remembered how the dog on the houseboat barked and the passers-by with their shopping bags stopped and stared as if at an accident then drifted away shaking their heads the sky was the same oblivious blue the dog lapped from a bucket it had to go on being Friday and there was plenty to do women of Amsterdam went on making jam decades later there would be time enough to remember and to make a shrine
‘In the eleventh [year] of Elizabeth, one Cartwright brought a slave from Russia, and would scourge him cruelly for which he was questioned, and it was resolved that England was too pure an air for slaves to breathe in...’ John Lilburne, 1645 now in the sixty-fifth year of the second Elizabeth it should be noted that the title to the air is disputed and the slave (most likely) deported as for the orphaned boy who touched this shore aged nine fleeing the latest war why he may fill his lungs with English air home school ten years or so but when he is nineteen may be required to cough it up sobbing as they put him on the plane since freedom to breathe our freedom is no longer guaranteed
to the memory of Jo Cox (1974–2016) someone shattered your light into fragments fatal but a crowd came weeping they gathered each spark they stood in the rain cupping your light in their hands as if guarding a promise
of course we’d have been for Alfred and unity (not Mercian supremacy or Little Wessex) back then we’d have added more clauses to Magna Carta seen the point of the Peasants’ Revolt we’d have stood with the Levellers in Burford linked arms with the martyrs at Peterloo Amritsar Sharpeville and Derry we’d have been the only Chartists in the village the first to call out old Lord Macaulay who (with Cambridge Westminster and the Privy Council all behind him) decried universal suffrage as ‘incompatible with civilisation’ we’d never have swooned into war pro patria mori or sat in the stalls at Olympia praising the autobahn as we waited for Mosley or poured over the blacklist murmuring darkly just picture us then abolitionists reformers repealers home rulers suffragettes all... naturally times have changed these days you’ll find us holding the middle ground the status quo now is basically sound
‘A brave confrontation of inhumanity. Grim and thoughtful balanced by optimistic poems too: rich with “the heady scent of hope” or simply chronicling the day-to-day activism that can sustain it.’
‘Jones writes with controlled passion about the injustices of the past and the present. Her voice is quietly persuasive, her lines short and spare, words and imagery chosen with precision and accuracy, re-imagining history in poems that are evocative and original.’