“Drummer Hodge” – a short podcast.

ON English Readings a short podcast/microlecture on Thomas Hardy’s poem, “Drummer Hodge”.


“Gramsci’s Hair”. #poems #poets ‘#poetry



Il Duce was too soft on you
and let you live

so your hair survived
the damp cells of Ustica and Turi
where you wrote a way out for your comrades
from the ruins of their revolution

I saw you in that photo
on a tutor’s wall
from before those prison days
hair thick and black
you in your neat commissar’s outfit

now every student reading Dante
inhales your spores
and can spell the word hegemony

afterwards I see it was a simple suit your wore
like any old bourgeois citizen
and your face had grown fat
though your hair was still black
if not so voluminous

pity you didn’t live to see
the bald dictator strung up and bloody
like a bulbous spider

that hegemonic bastard, death,
did for both of you, hair or no hair

@ Michael Blackburn, 2018

“Telling lies to the young is wrong” – Yevtushenko


Telling lies to the young is wrong.
Proving to them that lies are true is wrong.
Telling them that God’s in his heaven
and all’s well with the world is wrong.
the young know what you mean. The young are people.
Tell them the difficulties can’t be counted,
and let them see not only what will be
but see with clarity these present times.
Say obstacles exist they must encounter,
sorrow happens, hardship happens.
The hell with it. Who never knew
the price of happiness will not be happy.
Forgive no error you recognize,
it will repeat itself, increase,
and afterwards our pupils
will not forgive in us what we forgave.

“Lies” by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, translated by Robin Milner-Gulland and Peter Levi. From the Selected Poems in the Penguin Modern Poets series, 1968.


“Out of the vortex, rifling the air it came…” – In Parenthesis

The final paras of Part 2 of In Parenthesis by David Jones. Private Ball, the protagonist of this Modernist Great War poem, experiences for the first time the blast of a shell close by.

Please don’t encourage the young to “change the world”.


AROUND THE INSTITUTION posters have gone up exhorting the young folk to become global activists. “Change Your World,” says one of them. “You must be the change you want to see in the world,” says another (good old Gandhi). “Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons,” comes the voice of Malala Yousafzi. In the communal dining area the words of Saint Mandela are printed on the wall up high: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

As a now aged man who has seen and endured the results of people wanting to change the damn world — purportedly for the better and with our interests at heart, of course — I wholeheartedly disagree with this advice.


At The Fortnightly review.

Too young to tan, too young to vote.


THE CAMPAIGN TO GET the voting age lowered to 16 is one of the left’s current political fashions and a useful way both to market themselves as modern and caring while badging opponents as youth-hating old fuddy-duddies. They seem to have had some success in persuading young people to vote for Labour in the recent election, despite the fact that there is no dinosaur older than Corbyn on the political scene or anyone whose policies are more paleolithic and discredited. But that’s a result of the ignorance of youth, as we shall see.

Read on at The Fortnightly Review.