Owen Gallagher's second collection of poems is a book about tribes, real and imagined - the warring tribes to which we all belong. It's a journey to dystopia, from the Gorbals in the 1950s to contemporary Palestine, a close study of our need to belong to something bigger than ourselves, the shared identities whose 'anthems, arms and flags' are stockpiled in history's wardrobe. There are the loyalties of family and friendship, the sectarian and ideological loyalties of religion and class, of politics and nation state. There are the binary oppositions of Left and Right, Need and Greed, Right and Wrong, the banners of difference which are used to justify the imperial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Along the way we meet Emma Goldman, Trotsky and Shelley, and are shown glimpses of a distant worker's republic where Robert Owen cocktails are served on the beach every evening and parliamentary debates are conducted in verse.
A people without poetry are butterflies without wings. Under the State of Emergency the first act of the new Government will be to declare a Department of Poetry to address the growing decline of the nation's minds. Each day will commence with presenters of radio and TV reciting uncomfortable and provocative poems. Newsflashes will bring us work from dissenting poets. Tabloids and broadsheets will paste them on front pages and schools will become centres of poetic excellence. Verse-makers will be employed in every workplace to encourage creativity and cycle to the remotest parts to deliver a first-class service. Prison inmates will be paroled when they can write and recite verses of new intentions. Debates in the Workers' Parliament will be conducted in sonnets. Airlines will attach odes to the back of headrests. Life-jackets will contain inflatable haikus. Hospital patients will be comforted by light verse. Poetic drop-in centres will be sited in supermarkets. The State of Emergency will be lifted when Presidents and Prime Ministers from abroad stop seeking our assistance. Anyone who enters our country must be a published poet.
I imagine a table laid for two on a beach, and you being waited on by Plato and Thomas More, insisting they desist from serving the first course. They dim the sun, withdraw to the dunes, while you sip a Robert Owen cocktail and text, 'Hurry, before the tide turns.' My thumb moves into fourth gear. I ditch the sat nav and drive, until I see 'Utopia'. There to greet me are 'Red Shelley' and Mayakovsky. They urge me up the driveway. The children's screams in the rear cause me to brake in front of Butlin's gates.
until the Government dragged it onto the floor of the House of Commons, ripped its thoughts out and held them high, taunting the opposition. They plucked the vision from its sockets, tore the speech from its mouth, severed its head and stamped on its calloused hands. To ensure its remains would not be venerated, they doused it with hate, struck a match and shovelled the ashes down a sluice into the Thames.
'Gallagher is a trouble-making poet, stirring things up, puncturing and provoking his way through scenes, confessions and memories. He'll keep you asking yourself which side you're on. This book is not a lullaby.'
'Owen Gallagher's poems should be more widely known'.
'Gallagher celebrates the dignity and resilience of the working class.'
'Gallagher is a superb poet.'
Mistress Quickly's Bed
'tackles themes few poets risk - social injustice, ideology, prejudice, hypocrisy., religious bigotry... a punchy and invigorating collection which can make you flinch, think and smile.'
Jane Routh in The North
‘I am delighted that poets such as Owen Gallagher exist.’
‘a collection of incontrovertible, distinctly red truths.’