Monday, 21 May 2018

Robert Creeley (21/5/26 - 30/3/05) - Poet, a rich lasting legacy of simple wisdoms

Robert Creeley, was one of America's most celebrated and distinctive poets and writers and for more than half a century a leading figure in the literary avant-garde who I have admired for a while, many of his  collections on my bookshelves,  I was originally drawn to his work because of his associations with the Beat movement, but there is far more individual richness about him, so was surprised that on what would have been his birthday, I've never actually done a blog post about him, I will correct this with the following post
Born on  May 21 1926 in Arlington, Massachusetts, two weeks before the birth of Allen Ginsberg in Newark, New Jersey. He lost his father, and the use of his left eye, before he was 5, and was subsequently brought up on a farm in West Acton. A year with the American Field Service in India and Burma (1944/5)  followed, which interrupted his time at Harvard; on his return he married Ann McKinnon Creeley, left Harvard without graduating, and, in 1948, went to New Hampshire to try subsistence farming. His attempt two years later to launch his own magazine failed, but prompted a long correspondence with the poet Charles Olson and provided material for Cid Corman's journal, Origin. In search of a cheaper way of life,  after his marriage,,the Creeleys moved in 1951 to France and the following year to Mallorca, where they stayed until their divorce in 1955. There they set up the Divers Press and printed books by Creeley himself , Robert Duncan, Olson, and others. His only novel, "The Island" (1963), drew on his time their and his relationship with his wife.
At Olson's invitation Creeley taught at Black Mountain College (spring 1954 and autumn 1955) and founded and edited the  innovative literary journal Black Mountain Review (1954-7), a crucial gathering place for alternative senses of writing at that time. Through the Black Mountain Review and his own critical writings, Creeley helped to define an emerging counter-tradition to the literary establishment
After his divorce, he returned briefly to Black Mountain before moving to San Francisco, where he associated with Allen Ginsburg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac and other members of the Beat Generation of writers. His work appeared in the influential anthology "The New American Poetry: 1945-1960" (1960), edited by Donald Allen.
Creeley's poetry was predominantly concerned with love and the emotions attending intimate relationships. Among his strongest influences he listed not only poets, like Olson, William Carlos Williams, and Ginsberg, but also jazz musicians, like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, jazz taught him, he once wrote, that ''you can write directly from that which you feel."
Creeley's poetry emphasized the personal, the lyric, the improvisatory. he developed a spare, minmalist style. Reacting against such poets as T.S. Eliot, he rejected the ''literariness" of allusion and metrical form. There's a singularly stripped-down, casual quality to his poetry. For him, breath was the determining element in verse. ''I heard words/and words full/of holes/aching. Speech/is a mouth," he wrote in his poem ''The Language."
The most mannered thing about Mr. Creeley's verse was its absence of manner. He wrote in free verse, with short lines and stanzas. Not everyone approved: ''There are two things to be said about Robert Creeley's poem," the critic John Simon once wrote. ''They are short; they are not short enough."
In poetry, Mr. Creeley once said, ''form is never more than the expression of content." Yet a central paradox defined his work: For all that he wrote in a minimalist style, his great subject was the most maximal of human emotions, love and the complications that arise from it.
Creeley's early poems, collected in Poems 1950-1965 (1966), are minutely detailed,often obscure-analyses of feelings, their verse invariably free, their lines and stanzas short, and their sentences terse. A new disillusionment with analytical thinking is evident in Words (1967), Pieces (1969), and A Day Book (1972), and  following Creeley's second marriage  to Beat poet Bobby Louise Hall ending in divorce in 1976, his  poetry from that time reflected a brooding sense of loss. and a  less exalted view of love in Later (1978) and Echoes (1982). More notable for its continuities than for its changes, however, his poetry managed to sustain its unique brand of vigilant minimalism  as evident in For Love: Poems 1950–60 (1960). His manner became even more fragmentary in later volumes, notably Words (1965), Pieces (1969), Hello: A Journal (1978), and Memory Gardens (1986). Life and Death and The Dogs of Auckland appeared in 1998. He would finally marry gor the third time in 1977 to Penelope Highton who he would remain with for the rest of his life.
Creeley wrote more than 60 books during his lifetime and is often cited as one of the most important and infuential poets of the last century, he was also known for the diversity of his collaberations with artists outside his own authority. These include records with two decisive jazz composer/ musicians, the bassist Steve Swallow and the saxophonist Steve Lacey, and the alternative rock group Mercury Rev, with their 1993 musical setting of his poem ' So There'. He also worked for more than three decades with such visual artists as Robert Indiana, Jim Dine, Francesco Clemence, Alex Katz and Susan Rothenberg among others.
He subsequently taught at the University of New Mexico, and then would teach Poetry at Brown University and also served as the Samuel P. Capen Professor of Poetry and the Humanities at State University of New York at Buffalo He was admitted to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1988, and was the recipient of the Frost Medal (1987) and the Bollingen Prize in American poetry (1999),and received the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001 .
He died  in Odessa, Texas 30 March 2005, he had been struggling with a lung ailment and died of complications from pneumonia. In his last years he often wrote of the anxieties of aging with humor,  and wistful anticipation. He leaves a  rich lasting legacy, I for one admire his poetry a lot, simple wisdoms that serve to remind us all of our deepest truths..

Goodbye -Robert Creeley

The century was well along
when I came in
and now that it's ending,
I realize it won't
be long.
But couldn't it all have been
a little nicer,
as my mother'd say. Did it
have to kill everything in
did right always have to beso wrong?
I know this body is impatient.
I know I constitute only a meager voice and mind.
Yet I loved, I love.
I want no sentimentality.
I want no more than home.

Self-Portrait - Robert Creeley

He wants to be
a brutal old man,
an aggressive old man,
as dull, as brutal
as the emptiness around him,

He doesn’t want compromise,
nor to be ever nice
to anyone. Just mean,
and final in his brutal,
his total, rejection of it all.

He tried the sweet,
the gentle, the “oh,
let’s hold hands together”
and it was awful,
dull, brutally inconsequential.

Now he’ll stand on
his own dwindling legs.
His arms, his skin,
shrink daily. And
he loves, but hates equally.

DO YOU THINK THAT - Robert Creeley

Do you think that if
you once do what you want
to do you will want not to do it.

Do you think that if
there’s an apple on the table
and somebody eats it, it
won’t be there anymore.

Do you think that if
two people are in love with one another,
one or the other has got to be
less in love than the other at
some point in the otherwise happy relationship.

Do you think that if
you once took a breath, you’re by
that committed to taking the next one
and so on until the very process of
breathing’s an endlessly expanding need
almost of its own necessity forever.

Do you think that if
no one knows then whatever
it is, no one will know and
that will be the case, like
they say, for an indefinite
period of time if such time
can have a qualification of such time.

Do you know anyone,
really. Have you been, really,
much alone. Are you lonely,
now, for example. Does anything
really matter to you, really, or
has anything mattered. Does each
thing tend to be there, and then not
to be there, just as if that were it.

Do you think that if
I said, I love you, or anyone
said it, or you did. Do you
think that if you had all
such decisions to make and could
make them. Do you think that
if you did. That you really
would have to think it all into
reality, that world, each time, new.

Language - Robert Creeley
Locate I
love you some-
where in

teeth and   
eyes, bite   
it but

take care not   
to hurt, you   
want so

much so   
little. Words   
say everything.

love you

then what   
is emptiness   
for. To

fill, fill.
I heard words   
and words full

of holes   
aching. Speech   
is a mouth.

Ground Zero - Robert Creeley

What's after or before
seems a dull locus now
as if there ever could be more

or less of what there is,
a life lived just because
it is a life if nothing more.

The street goes by the door
just like it did before.
Years after I am dead,

there will be someone here instead
perhaps to open it,
look out to see what's there --

even if nothing is,
or ever was,
or somehow all got lost.

Persist, go on, believe.
Dreams may be all we have,
whatever one believe

of worlds wherever they are --
with people waiting there
will know us when we come

when all the strife is over,
all the sad battles lost or won,
all turned to dust.

Mind's Heart- Robert Creeley

Mind's heart, it must
be that some
truth lies locked
in you.

Or else, lies, all
lies, and no man
true enough to know
the difference.

Mercury Rev-So There (As read by Robert Creeley)

Sincerely Y'alls - Chris Massey , John Mills, Steve Swallow & Robert Creeley, 1999

Sunday, 20 May 2018

'Killing Gaza': A New Documentary on Palestinians Under Siege

In their  powerful new film "Killing Gaza," journalists Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal capture the harrowing stories of Palestinians who survived the 2014 Israeli assault and their struggles to recover and persist under a crippling blockade.Featuring direct testimony and evidence from the survivors.
Their new film "Offers an unflinching and moving portrait of a people largely abandoned by the outside world, struggling to endure." - Pulitzer- prize winning  journalist , best selling author and activist Chris Hedges. Killing Gaza captures the culture of resistance and might  help us all understand why so many Palestinians have been prepared to risk their lives and rush the gates.
You can watch the whole film here ;-
With thanks to The Real News Network
However the Palestinians have long lived under occupation, and remain steadfast with perseverance despite their collective feelings of oppression, represented by the concept of sumud that allows them a sense of rootedness to their land. Sumud is about persevering despite all the oppression and hardships that Palestinians daily face. Continuing to speak up, keep on going on with daily life at a time when there are massacres all around, as seen in Gaza.
Meanwhile the UN has at least voted to send an international war crimes probe to Gaza after the body's leading human rights official slammed Israel's reaction to protests along the border as " wholly disproportionate."
After Israel killed 60 Palestinians at mass border protests last Monday.The council voted through the resolution with 29 in favour and two opposed. while 14 states abstained.
The resolution also condemned "the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israel's occupying forces against Palestinian civilians."
Shamefully the UK abstained from the vote, in doing so going against a general international consensus among international Palestinian human rights organisations, which agree that the only way to approach justice is through an independent inquiry.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Levellers Day

On 17 May 1649, three soldiers Cornet James Thompson and Corporal  John Church and Private Perkins were executed on Oliver Cromwell’s orders in Burford churchyard, Oxfordshire. They belonged to a revolutionary movement which arose in the English Parliamentary Army in the 1640s, popularly known as the Levellers, with beliefs in civil rights and religious tolerance. During the Civil War, the Levellers fought on Parliament’s side, they had at first seen Cromwell as a liberator, but now saw him as a dictator. They were prepared to fight against him for their ideals.
The movement had developed within Cromwell's New Model Army, England's first professional force comprised of volunteers and with an openly political ethos. Inspired by the parliamentary cause and by the ideas of John Lilburne, Richard Overton and other radical pampleteers, and faced with the reality of pay arrears and unacceptable orders from Parliament, they quickly became radicalised and organised.
Their demands set out in a manifesto called the Agreement of the People, published on 1 May 1649, included universal male suffrage, abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords, land reditribution and the equality of all under the law. These demands in particular posed a serious threat to Parliament, dominated as it was by wealthy landowners.They also demanded universal state schools and hospitals to be provided at public expense anticipated the welfare state that would come 300 years later.
Leveller leaders had led mutinies in the Army during the civil war and had been arrested and imprisoned. The Burford mutiny followed on from the defeat of radical ideas at the Putney debates in 1647.However, on previous occasions the generals had not executed mutineers.Cromwell could not afford rebellion in the ranks of the parliamentary army and was determined to crush them. After government troops caught up with the Levellers at Burford. Three hundred were imprisoned in the Church.According to Christopher Hill, here the defeat of ‘the more extreme radical’ activists, resulted in a ‘total rout’
 In 1975, members of the WEA Oxford Industrial Branch went to Burford to reclaim a piece of history that seemed to be missing from the school books. They held a meeting in remembrance of the Leveller soldiers. The following year, Tony Benn came and read in the church and in each succeeding year, people have come to Burford on the Saturday nearest to 17 May, debated, held a procession, hearing radical speeches,listened to music, placing wreathes in the churchyard and remember the Levellers and the importance of holding on to ideals of justice and democracy.
Many years have passed since the Levellers made their stand, but many of the issues they struggled for remain as relevant today.
While universal suffrage has been achieved Parliament the political process is still dominated by the wealthy, as the current government shows only to clearly. The monarchy still  unfortunately with us and we have the House of Lords  that still ensures  privilege and heredity are directly represented in the governing of the country. We can at least look back and take inspiration of the struggles of the Levellers.
 SERTUC has published The Levellers Movement, an account of perhaps the first political movement to represent the ordinary people. You can download it free here The Levellers Movement.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Stuff the Royal wedding

The Royal couple said they wanted a people's wedding, but the fact remains  people are not being treated equally.
Why are people allowed to camp out on the streets awaiting the Royal wedding, while those who are actually homeless have their sleeping bags ripped from them  and their few possessions trashed, and are forced to move on? This is completely disgraceful.
It's certainly a sad indictment of modern Britain, that nothing really changes. In 1820 there were homeless beggars outside palaces. In 2018 it's still the same. 30 million quid obscenely spent on a family whose inherited wealth and privilege by birth is the norm and people without a roof over their head watch them go by.
Around two thirds of Britons are simply not interested , in the forthcoming wedding, according  to a new poll by You Gov .
The research found 6% of the 1,615 asked saying they were not very interested or not interested at all in the ceremony, while 60% planned to have a normal weekend.Other findings showed 57% of those surveyed thought the royals should pay the full cost of the wedding including funds spent on policing and security.
Anti monarchy group Republic, which commissioned the poll , is planning to hold a republican convention in central London as the couple tie the knot in Windsor.
Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, said ;"We chose the day before they did. When they announced the royal wedding we decided to keep it.
" It's an opportunity to highlight the alternative and point out the problems with the monarchy."
They will continue to fight for an end to the "corrupt monarchty"
The latest campaign on their website entitled " Fat cat monarchy earns average UK salary in one hour." claims each member of the Royal Family earns £19.1 million each year and costs the public purse £10.95 every second.
While the right wing media and the establishment will try to cultivate a spirit of national unity, there remains a palpable sense of resentment amongst a significent  section of the population who are repulsed by this fawning celebration of wealth and privilege that simply exposes the extreme division of wealth across the land .The cost of this forthcoming  marriage will be 110 times that of the average  couple. This extravagence  serves to remind us of the lives of the super- rich who have not suffered the decade of austerity the rest of us have, and a distraction from the abject poverty that has become a common feature under the Tories' watch..
I am am happy when people fall in love, but there should be no place for these relics of primitive feudal times  in a modern society, so stuff the royal wedding, abolish the monarchy and fight the cuts.

Thursday, 17 May 2018


We are heading towards a transition
We're not wasting our lives by tradition,
Because we're finally running the show
And in our hearts and minds we glow,
Filled by the promises of riches untold
The gift of friendship that can't be bought or sold,
With truth and justice make the righteous fall
The innocent freed, proudly walking tall,
While the summer slowly comes out to play
Sun shining down,seasons beauty here to stay,
World's heaviness crumbling into dust
Humanity's darkness restored with love and trust,
Power given to the oppressed who fight and fight
Tearing through barricades to get whats right,
With flags of red, black and green, make a stand
Cloaks of privilege removed, hope spread across the land,
Pecking through rubble, picking remnants, planting anew
Clearing spaces,overturning wrong, paths of peace grow.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

70 years since the Nabka the Palestinians right to existence still ongoing.

The Great March of Return in the Gaza Strip has served to remind the world of the Palestinian people and their ongoing struggle. Since March 30, Palestinians in Gaza have engaged in peaceful grassroots protests at the Israel military fence that daily imprisons them, calling for an end to the dire conditions that they are forced to live with, as well as for the right of return to the land which they were expelled 70 years ago, what Palestinians call the Nabka or catastrophe, and an end to the suffocating 11 year siege on the Gaza Strip. The protesters have literally been placing their bodies on line with the risk of being shot by Israel snipers. After the US embassies incendiary move to Jerusalem and  the incredibly insensitive recognition by Donald Trump as Israel's capital,  the world has witnessed up to 59 unarmed protesters being massacred in cold blood. with over 3,000 injured  in an abhorrent violation of international law and human rights, with many injured reporting wounds to the head and chest.That must be met with condemnation and protests of solidarity.
In human terms in comparison 1948, saw the mass deportation of a million Palestinians from their cities and their villages,  it saw the massacre of civilians, and the razing to the ground of hundreds of Palestinian villages.Zionist forces used a terror campaign to expel 800, 000 Palestinians from their land. Today Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza strip, as well as pro-Palestinian supporters across the globe, will mark the 'catastrophe' and the inception of the State of Israel. Today is the Palestinians annual day of commemoration of this displacement. The vast majority of Palestinian refugees, both those outside the 1949 armistice lines at the wars' conclusion and those internally displaced, were barred by the newly declared state of Israel from  their right to return to their homes or the reclaiming of their property, and in doing so Israel violated international law which they continue to do with impunty..
Sadly to this day, there is no peace in this stolen land, especially when people are forced to cry for liberation and the right to return to their lands.Remember Palestinians in Gaza have only four hours of electricity and 97% of water is unfit for human consumption. And currently hospitals already crippled by shortages of supplies, are unable to cope with the daily influx of the wounded and dying.,
To make this tragedy more unbearable, just 60 miles away from Gaza, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, David Friedman and other US officials have been celebrating the opening of the US embassy, a move that cements US complicity in Israel's occupation and its seperate unequal apartheid policies and simply tells Israel that they have carte blanche to continue the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.
As Palestinians bury their dead and tens of thousands continue to march in processions across the s to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nabka, I will end with this statement released by  the Palestinian Human Rights Organisation recently which called for the international community to act and end the "ongoing Nabka."
"For the Palestinian people, 70 years of Nabka means seven decades of subjugation by Israel, characerised by segregation, apartheid and colonial policies and practices.It also attets to the chronic inaction and failure of the international community to fulfill its obligations and responsibilities under international law, to a lack o accountability and protection, and to the continued support of a shallow and biased peace process incapable of bringing about peace and justice." it read.
The rights group claimed more than eight million of 12.7 million Palestinians are displaced worldwide and accused Israel of colluding with the US stop humanitariam aid programmes providing support to Palestinian refugees,"
In these incredibly dark times we should all continue to condemn Israel's use of excessive lethal force. All people should have the right to march peacefully for their rights. As the protests continue lets remember and commemorate too the Palestinians 70 years of displacement, marching for their lives, their freedom , their homes and their human rights, who continue to resist the Israel Government's continued efforts to erase their collective  memories of suffering, who despite Israel's blockade of the West Bank and open prison we know as Gaza, do not stop their dream for their right to return and or having Jerusalem as their capital.
Their catastrophe ongoing, their will though unbroken, lets stand with them  in solidarity, until they are given back the dignity and respect  they deserve as human beings.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

NHS: You were warned

A shocking bill proposed by a right wing M.P  that would see increased charging is listed to be debated in Parliament.
MP Christopher Chope wants to increase charges throughout the NHS and will use the debate in the House of Commons to persuade his fellow Conservatives to include it in their next manifesto.
Currently NHS charges are restricted to only a few areas such as dentistry, eye tests and prescribed medicines. Chope's bill would open the floodgates to charging for a host of other services which would include GP appointments and some hospital procedures.It has no chance of being passed without Government support but could be debated in the main chamber if there is time in an attempt to spark a national debate on the issue.
The National Health Service (Co-funding and CoPayment Bill)
 would make provision for co-funding and for the extension of co-payment for NHS services in England.
Meanwhile hospitals are increasingly understaffed and ill-resourced and unable to respond to the urgent need of patients - even those of emergency patients. It is not the fault of the staff , it is the fault of the Tories, who have driven the N.H.S to breaking point. Waiting times are up, and it is getting increasingly  difficult to see  your G.P  when you want,  combined with ambulance services  being put  under enormous pressure. 
The N.H.S is in crisis because it is continually being undermined by this government through covert privatisation  that carries on the wreckage and destruction that Margaret Thatcher started. The N.H.S is on a cliff edge because of underfunding which threatens to push it over,  with continuing attempts to make the N.H.S unworkable by making impossible demands on the system and its staff.
So we have to continue  to fight to save it from  the grips of the privateers, because we owe it our lives. We can not afford to sit back while it is being chipped further away and falling increasingly into the hands of those who seek to make profit out of our healthcare.
The Torys  keep pledging that the N.H.S is safe in its hands but at least we can now see this  for the lie that is. Don't say you were not warned.
Contact your MP here

Friday, 11 May 2018

Bertolt Brecht ( 10/2/1898 - 14/8/56) - The worst illiterate is the political illiterate.

  Cheers Bertolt Brecht, ( the late brilliant German poet and playwright) as long as we excuse ourselves from politics,  our countries will continue to be run by rogues. Those in power will continue to fill their pockets at the detriment of the people. 
If good people continue to avoid politics, the bad will continue to leave their mark, any chance of a better world is lost. The world does not need political illiterates it needs you to make a difference. Is it not our collective responsibility to stay engaged with matters arising. Have not we as human beings, evolved to the extent  that we cannot fail to notice certain things are undesirable and need to be opposed. This does not mean that we have to follow systems of political authority, we can remain outside and question the status quo, with a careful and deliberate observation of events. 
The way to change society is not to be folded into systems of control, but to counterbalance and neutralize , we can do this by the way we live our lives. There's nothing apathetic about that.
Because of toxic conditions, people are finally waking up, refusing to be political illiterates any more, refusing  formative culture and its attendant cultural apparatus that create a form of manufactured consent. Political illiteracy kills the imagination, our questioning spirit, the need to question and revolt, our informed judgement and critical capability. This simply allows those in power to remain unaccountable, enabling them to continue to cause damage to our society. 
Meanwhile the British public has allowed right-wing press barons like Rupert Murdoch to frame the political debate to such an extent that the actual meanings of basic political words and phrases have become lost, basic political words and phrases like ' socialist' and left wing' have been divorced from their actual meanings. 
This also  allows the Tories  to carry on regardless, creating so much damage to our society, releasing their brand of conscious cruelty, currently stripping our assets,  privatising our NHS  piece by piece, and with their policy of universal credit simply designed to blame the poor for their own poverty. This what they do as they give tax cuts to their friends the rich, this is their morality, a form of  sickness, which allows people because of political illiteracy to accept their lot , and lose sense that they are being exploited and robbed blind on a daily basis.
We cannot afford to close our eyes and drift to sleep, we have to learn to fight, continue to shout out, engage ourselves  beyond apathy and indifference, for a brighter future, in which justice and equity belong to everyone, for the many not the few.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Henry Vincent (10/5/1818 - 29/12- 1878) - Radical Chartist

Today marks 200 years since the birth of radical Chartist Henry Vincent .Vincent, was the eldest son of Thomas Vincent , a goldsmith, who was born on 10th May 1813 at 145 High Holborn, London. When the family business failed in 1821, the Vincents moved to Hull. Henry received little schooling, though he was an avid reader. In 1828, he was apprenticed to a printer. During this apprenticeship, his early interest in radical politics, taking note of the agitation and revolution taking place in France, and influenced by the work of Thomas Paine, which would lead him into activism with his election as vice-president of a local Paineite discussion group and as a member of the Hull Political Union. Upon the completion of his apprenticeship in 1833, Vincent’s uncle helped him obtain a position at Spottiswoode’s, the king’s printers, in London.
In 1836, Vincent became involved with a dispute at Spottiswoode’s and left the firm with about sixty other employees. About this time his mother inherited an independent income, which freed Vincent of family responsibilities (his father had died in 1829, leaving a widow and six children). Vincent started getting more heavily involved in radical circles and in 1836 joined the London Working Men’s Association.
He became a very successful lecturer and travelled extensively promoting the People’s Charter.The Charter demanded the reform of parliament, At this time very few people were qualified  to vote, around one in twenty of the population of England and Wales, voting was done in public and votes were often bought, Chartists demanded votes for all men over the age of 21 ( some wanted votes for women, but it was felt that this would make the movement a laughing stock) and annual elections to ensure that MP's were instantly answerable to their constituents. They also wanted the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies redrawn so that each seat would have an equal population. To allow anyone, whatever their background to become an MP, they demanded the end of the law which said that an MP has a large amount of land and MP's were to be paid. Secret voting was asked for to ensure that people could bot be victimised for their favoured candidate, and to prevent votes being bought.
In December 1838, Vincent contributed to the Chartist cause through the founding of a weekly newspaper, The Western Vindicator based in Bath.'Chartism was the result of increasing class consciousness in the working class, as this extract from a leaflet issued by the South Wales Chartists in 1839 shows: 'The wealth producer is made the slave to the possessors of wealth that he has laboured to create; power is transferred from labour to capital and the producer sinks into a mere instrument to be used as needed, and thrown aside as soon as a more efficient one is presented.'
Chartism is often dismissed as only being about reform of the polling system, but it was much, much more. Workers thought that when the Charter was law their lives would be transformed for the better. They believed that 'children would no longer labour... men and women would only work for six hours a day... the distinctions between rich and poor would be swept away.' After the government turned down the mass petition for the Charter, leaders like John Frost and Henry Vincent called for 'physical force' to obtain the Charter, amounting to political revolution. Parliament’s refusal to listen to their concerns led to increased working class anger. erupting and  South Wales  would become the storm centre of this discontent.
Vincent was sent to Wales by the London Chartists as a ‘paid missionary’, to spread support for the People’s Charter and during the spring of 1839 he addressed mass meetings across Monmouthshire. His lecturing and writing activities were brought to an abrupt halt  though after his arrest in May, 1839.The warrant from the Newport magistrates charged him with having participated in ‘a riotous assemblage’ held in that town on 19th April 1839. He was taken to Bow Street, charged, and committed to Monmouth gaol to stand trial at the ensuing assizes. So great was the rage felt outside the court that the mayor was obliged to read the Riot Act. His trial took place on 2nd August 1839 before Sir Edward Hall Alderson, baron of the exchequer. Sergeant Thomas Noon Talfourd conducted the case for the crown, and John Arthur Roebuck that for the defence. Roebuck showed clearly from the admissions of the chief witnesses for the prosecution that Vincent had told the people to disperse quietly and to keep the peace. The full text of what Vincent wrote, and his own account of what he said that day in Newport, can be found in an article from the Western Vindicator now published on the vision of Britain website.
Vincent, neverthless was found guilty and sentenced to twelve  months’ imprisonment. He applied for the use of books and writing materials but was refused all but religious books. On 9th August 1839, Lord Brougham brought Vincent’s case to the attention of the House of Lords. Vincent,though only found guilty of a misdemeanour on one count only, was treated as a felon. The intense feeling in South Wales at the time about Vincent’s treatment in prison  would help glavanise the Chartist cause  which would  result  in the rising that would follow in Newport..
 On the morning of 4th November 1839, large crowds, estimated variously at from eight thousand to twenty thousand, marched towards Newport,intending to rescue Vincent from prison and seize the town. They believed that his  release would signal a large-scale insurrection throughout the country. However they came into collision with the military and when John Frost and the marchers arrived in Newport they discovered that the authorities had made more arrests and were holding several Chartists in the Westgate Hotel. The Chartists marched to the hotel and began chanting "surrender our prisoners". Twenty-eight soldiers had been placed inside the Westgate Hotel and when the order was given they began firing into the crowd, ending in a bloodbath with 30 dead.

 Afterwards approximately 200 Chartists were arrested for their involvement in the march. The three principal leaders, John Frost, Zephaniah Williams, and William Jones, were found guilty of high treason and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. Although their sentences were later reduced to transportation for life following a national outcry, they were the last people to be sentenced to this punishment in England and Wales. Courageous men who were all prepared to fight fot the Chartr and the cause of the working class.
 In March 1840, Vincent was tried a second time at Monmouth for ‘having conspired together with John Frost to subvert the constituted authorities, and alter by force the constitution of the country’. A second count charged the men with having uttered seditious language. Again Sergeant Talfourd conducted the prosecution. Vincent having been dissatisfied with Roebuck’s conduct of the defence at his first trial, now decided to defend himself. He did so with such skill and persuasion that the Monmouthshire jury, while finding both prisoners guilty, recommended clemency for him. He was sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment. Talfourd was so impressed by Vincent’s defence that he indicated his regrets at having undertaken the case for the prosecution and became involved in the efforts to obtain better conditions for Vincent.
After his release Vincent married Lucy Chappell, daughter of John Cleave, at the register office, St Luke’s, Chelsea, on 27th February 1841. They settled in Bath, where Vincent resumed lecturing and publishing The Vindicator until it ceased publication in 1842, and continued to spread the Chartist cause throughout the country, while joining the National Charter Association..In July 1841, he stood as a radical candidate for Banbury in the first of what was to be a long list of unsuccessful attempts to gain a parliamentary seat.
His ideas became more moderate, concentrating  ore on moral reform than of class conflict, though his ultimate political aim of universal suffrage did not waver, He joined groups linked  with the Temperance movement and teetotal political societies, which condemned the social evils of drink. Because of his now more moderate approach , previous close allies of his in the Chartist movement disagreed with him over his watering down of the physical force message of Chartism and  the distraction of the Temperance message. In 1842, Vincent helped set yp the Complete Suffrage Union  that had similar aims to the Chartist movement and though still a member of the National Charter Association, he was no longer the envied spirited orator of old, and some of his old friendships and bonds were now broken, some Chartists, broke ranks with him, because they did not support his allegiance tothe Complete Suffrage union, some heckled him and branded him a traitor.
Despite these setbacks Vincent continued to hold and develop his progressive views and was invited to speak on long tours of America in 1866, 1867 and again in 1875 and 1876.His wider travels would stimulate  his interests in world politics and working conditions.He became stoutly anti-war, seeing war as a means of domestic oppression orchestrated by oppressive governments.In 1848, he lectured for the Peace Society Anti-slavery too became  his focus at this stage and he lectured on a number of social and historical questions.  In these later years  he also spoke out in favour of popular education, free trade, and religious tolerance. Vincent’s own religious sympathies were with the Society of Friends, though he was never formally received into membership. In addition to his public lectures, Vincent frequently conducted services on Sundays in free church chapels as a lay preacher.
Vincent died on 29 December 1878 and is buried at Abney Park Cemetary in Stoke Newington..
By 1918, most of the Chartist demands had been met, and women over the age of 30 were also entitled to vote. Ten years later all women over the age of 21 could vote.But the Chartists had wanted all their demands at once, this after all is what had made them Chartists in the first place, and the important demand for annual elections still has not been gained. Only a reduction in the term of parliament from seven years to five was passed.But Chartis and men like Henry Vincent helped spread early socialism and the events in Newport are now rightly celebrated each year as a symbolic step towards winning some democratic rights, leaving us with a tremendous legacy that serves to inspire and educate all those who wish to change the world.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Accordion Player ( Poem dedicated to Jane Elizabeth Husband 9/5/60 -8/1/17)

When there’s someone, one someone, who makes your days brighter, makes your joys greater, makes your heart lighter…Someone, one someone, you want to share with, do everything with, go everywhere. Someone, one someone you want to live for…You have something called love.”

- Kahlil Gibran

Today would have been my beloved's birthday, she would have turned 58years young, nevertheless her spirit and magic I still feel on every sunrise,  in the early morn, after the moon has set , arriving every dawn, neither west, east, south or north, her petals following no borders,her footsteps still following rhythmic beats of the world, dancing freely, I still see her holding out her hands, in these days of confusion her words still clear, I tell myself she is free, where skies gleam and trees sway ,a drifting peaceful beauty.I offer to sweet Jane this poem.

Accordian Player

With delicacy her hands played
tunes of light and magic,
gently squeezed through her fingers
made dreary days get filled with light,
deeply concentrating,she would release a smile
intricate notes casting joy, melodious accord,
bouncing bellows, jigs and reels
bringing the lungs of her instrument to life,
weaving music, stitched in time
dissipating sadness, releasing endearment,
my mind's eye will always honour
a once familiar sound and sight so loved,
I carry her memory deep in heart
Rays of  warmth will never depart,
I miss her greatly but  am out of tears
this vision soars now forever over summer skies.