Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The Politics of Envy v The Politics of Greed

I do not envy you your trillion pounds
And the luxury lifestyle that you lead
Or the billions you have hidden away
That typifies your rapacious greed.

I do not envy you your million pounds
Your 5 star holidays and crates of wine
Or the thousands in generous bonuses
And expenses allowing you to fine dine.

I do not envy you the hundreds of pounds
You can throw around like confetti in my face
As many vulnerable struggle to find a place to live
That in a wealthy country is an absolute disgrace.

The specialist doctors say I am too sick to work
But welfare assessments say I am well
I seem to have had an overnight miracle cure
Although I am enduring a painful kind of hell.

So why do you begrudge me my benefit
A few pounds to keep me alive
When ill health has also stolen my dignity
And I am now struggling to survive?

The obscene wealth has not trickled down
From the fountains of avarice you create
For the poor are becoming poorer
With the rapid shrinking of the state.

Today I am down to my last few pennies
I do not know how I will eat tonight
Sanctioned because I struggled to breathe
Surely this cannot be moral, ethical or right.

©Suzanne Kelsey August 3rd 2015

I had always been very fit and proactive in my efforts to lead a healthy lifestyle.  I was a trained teacher specialising in dance and drama, dance trained at the Laban dance studios in London, a qualified health and fitness instructor and a tutor on the 'Look after your heart' programme, as well as a full-time teacher and lecturer in education and child development.  Imagine my horror when I suddenly collapsed in 2009, my heart going into bizarre and alarming rhythms.  I was diagnosed with heart failure and a chronic condition called dilated cardiomyopathy apparently triggered by a virus.

When diagnosed with a chronic and/or acute illness the psychological effect can be as traumatic as the physical threat. As well as doing my best physically I also  needed to restore my self-worth that in an instant had been stolen from me. I wanted to engage with something purposeful that would benefit me and hopefully others.  To show my gratitude for the wonderful care I was receiving from the Cardiology Department at the Cumberland Infirmary I decided to do some fund raising for them and Cardiomyopathyuk a brilliant support group.

At the same time I had returned to my love of poetry to help in my recuperation and finding myself at home alone instead of talking to the walls I put my feelings down on paper. I had often used words in my choreography because of the rhythm and musicality although I hasten to add I had never taken a class in creative writing. I already had a small private collection of poetry, so I started to organise this and it motivated me into writing more, reflecting on recent events, which I found very therapeutic. The truth is I never stopped writing and was able to self publish 6 little poetry books and raise almost £7000 for various charities. Alongside this I campaigned to save our wonderful NHS and became very involved in politics using poetry to raise awareness of how austerity can affect us when at our most vulnerable. I find it is shared widely across social media and hopefully it can make a difference.

Suzanne Kelsey

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Fair Helen wakes from her age-long sleep;
Loose-locked and long limbed,
She walks down to Piraeus harbour.
Gazing across the wide blue ocean,
She turns her face once more to the ships.
Where are her heroes now?
All dead and gone;
Their shades whisper in the islands.
She remembers her young maidens
Running through the sacred groves
The sky so blue; the blood so red.
Then the Germans came to plunder what was left of Troy,
What was buried and forgotten.
They gouged deep trenches
Through the land,
In the name of Archaeology.
They came for bones,
For treasure and for gold:
For fame.
Helen fears the coming of Another;
A terrible northern god,
Three-headed, vengeful, with
Fangs of the Bear,
Talons of the Eagle.
It comes to ravage the innocents,
Demanding a terrible price.
A monstrous debt
Wreaks havoc throughout the land.
The deprivations descend like the Furies.
Helen is scavenging amongst the bins again.
She sleeps in a doorway.
She sells her jewellery
For rice and beans.
She cries out,
“Where are my Heroes? Where are my Warriors?”
Waves lap against the hulls of boats, murmuring
Resilience, Democracy.
She turns and sees the Furies
Pursue an old man
Through Athens’ dusty streets,
Down alleyways stinking of refuse.
Their icy breath falls upon the starving,
By the black market trucks,
The empty shops
And the bread queues.
She runs past the empty temples;
The sacrifice is now exacted
In homes and markets.
The privileged are unchallenged,
Their incantation is broadcast around the world:
“None shall prosper, save they bow down.”
She runs into the city;
There are new voices rising
In Syntagma square.
Bright flags are waving,
The People’s hearts awakening.
On sandaled feet she runs
Faster and faster
To join the hour of triumph.
She cries out, “Is brave Theseus reborn?
He who can slay the Minotaur once more.
He who can rescue us all
From the beast called Austerity?”
The Furies turn
To look upon her
With dreadful eyes and hollow cheeks.
Hissing their spite,
They brandish the Spear of the Troika
To drive it into the heart of Greece.
Helen fears the chaos,
Kinsmen turned foe,
The Oracle’s ravings,
Fissures and schisms,
The warring of nations,
The death throes of states,
Deceit and betrayal.
But the People call out to her
“We are the Heroes. We are the Warriors.
We are One; we are Bold.”
She lifts her hands
To the sky
In an invocation,
Powerful, primordial,
That this time, this time surely,
The centre of Freedom will hold.

© Lisa Rossetti July 2015

The Abduction of Helen of Troy - Antwerp School

Monday, 6 July 2015

Legal Observer

June 30th, 2015.
The new Tory government
cuts the Independent Living Fund.

Essential support
for more than 17,500 disabled people,
enabling them

to live independently at home,
is withdrawn, risking
them housebound, or in care homes.

On 24th June,
disability protesters,
angered, following a petition of over

10,000 signatures,
stormed the House of Commons,
just before Prime Minister’s Questions.

That day, wearing
an orange high-viz jacket,
with ‘Legal Observer’ on the back,

a young woman filmed it all.
She held her smartphone like a witness,
a testimony in pictures,

to say, the public can see.
We recorded this, as a Commons’ official

told the BBC News not to.

© Cath Davies

Cath Davies lives and writes in North Wales. She has worked in social care for many years. Currently, she is currently studying creative writing at degree level at the Open College of the Arts where she has been a student since 2008.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Tunisia et al....

It started as a spring-
A Spring- new shoots
ah, the irony
of shoots

A Spring to democracy,
words get jumbled don't you know?
like fear, like hatred

squashed emotions produce
and blinkered desperation

is where we are- on so many fronts
in the bloody void
of boated migrants, of 'terrorism'

can we continue to look away
as we look to the surface
and not examine the roots?

The ravaged remains of rubble, of humans, of hearts
of what we have done?
By the doing of everything and nothing,

we are all humanity when it suits us...
some say, in it together

The seeds of the Spring?
the camera- ever on and moving on.

Ah, in high summer I await winter, reflection of roots
and a Spring of reality for the decisioners,
treating the cause and not the symptoms
probably requires profuse pain for the privileged
as well as the rest who have already paid.

©Kathy V.J. Miller, June, 2015

Kathy V. J. Miller is currently an English teacher in South London who writes poetry, children's stories and is currently working on a novel about those who returned to Portugal in 1974 from former Portuguese colonies following the fall of the fascist regime, among other themes. She worked at the Universidade do Porto in Portugal for 12 years before returning to the UK in 1998. Fascinated by issues of identity and committed to the importance of literacy, she is also interested in politics, language and literature.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

The Beginning

We marched as if our lives depended on it.
We marched together, the young and the old,
The Monks, the Buddhists,
The Fire-fighters and Teachers;
And believe me it seemed
The Police too walked with us.
Marching for the poor, for the weak,
For the frail, for all
Condemned to live in Austerity’s gaol
Of hunger and cold.
A sea unstoppable, in our thousands we marched
Deep into the dark heart of the City,
Where temples to Mammon rose up around,
Like a forest of stone.
Do you not see
How their roots go a long way down?
The rot goes a long way down.
The Capitol was breached;
It was cleansed with our tide,
Our footsteps on The Strand.
Marching down Fleet Street;
The echoes of History
In the alleys of urchins,
Past the dead eyes of Wellington,
The blind stare of Nelson,
The stone faces of those who guard the elected elite.
Upon pavements, the perfumed ones
Sidled past, staring.
Was that fear in their eyes?
Or just glazed indifference?

I saw the fires they feared, the masked revellers,
Carnival flares burning brightly,
Hearts beating faster,
Shouts growing louder.
We do not believe in your authority.
We believe in communities;
We believe in togetherness;
We believe in kindness and in compassion.
On that day one quarter of a million,
Marched together as if all our lives depended upon it.
For we are many; and you are few.
And this is just the beginning.

© Lisa Rossetti June 2015

Click for more about Lisa Rossetti

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Slipping Through The Cracks

I'm not going to lie and say I'm a happy person all the time.
There are days I don't want to be around anyone, literally.  My illnesses affect me in a vastly complex ways. I have a wonderful GP who I wouldn't be here if I hadn't met over fifteen years ago.
He and a few others over the years have said I should write down what I feel and maybe get it off my chest. This more important than ever now there are such high demands for mental health support and limited one-on-one sessions. So here is a snippet.

Slipping through the cracks of what used to be a life.
People turning away from me because my dark thoughts aren't so nice.
I've been feeling down for quite some time now: four years, maybe five.
Memories of better times and now my daughter are what keep me ticking by.
Week in week out at night I'm sat alone.
I can't watch the TV and abject misery it brings.
I've heard so many tell me, "You're young. Things will change..."
With two chronic illnesses, a little girl, no prospects 
and no support, no confidant to engage.
I wonder how people can pass on by when I am one of millions more, 
shuffled to the side-lines abandoned and ignored.
They say I'm angry , bitter and mean, no wonder I am alone....
But once I had support and was standing tall, all on my own.
I've had that support taken from me; there's no one left to hear my cries.
I can't take much more of these cuts;
I can see why others have already died.
I am angry that alone I have to fight:
for my dignity and fair treatment just to stay alive.
I didn't choose to live this way. It's not a choice anyone makes
but I slipped between the pavers of the rules governments make.
I couldn't toe the line enough; my minds not built that way.
I’m creative and loving and whimsical;
but that's nowhere near enough these days.
Society's become so crippled with wise cracking and a vicious streak,
with everyone's inadequacies barely hidden underneath.
To point at others and mock them and deflect the heat from you:
it's a game of poker faces, laughing – until the fingers point at you.
So who is next to feel this despair then, who's next to be singled out?
Because these cuts are only just starting of that I have no doubt.
If you think that your life's perfect and people like me bring it on ourselves,
remember I wasn't always like this. I used to be someone else.
I had a job, I worked hard; and played hard too, just like you.
Then an illness took me over and that could so easily happen to you too.
Circumstances balance on a razors edge. We never realise
what we  were truly blessed with till we are left with nothing.
Where is the exit? I'm off!

Anyone else who feels like this sometimes, I hope this helps you see you are not alone xx

June, 2015, A Contributor

Monday, 22 June 2015

Some of Us Think

When it was Mental Health Awareness Week
the media embraced it, springing into action:
everywhere there were posters emblazoned with images
designed to make us stop and think;
on Facebook pages memes were being shared
and people were tweeting words of wisdom;
appeals were made and, on morning TV chat shows
where interviews were hosted and given,
statistics were quoted that would help us to see
just how easily it could have been us.
With a bit of bad luck or a life event or two,
we could have been drowning, not waving;
adrift in a sea of too many starless nights,
our starved hearts stifled by depression,
a flat black ocean ahead and behind us
as we floundered in the current of despair.

Some of us, however, already knew that;
some of us have been there;
some of us remember how steep the cliff face
and how wide-eyed and deep the abyss;
and some of us worked on, and some of us didn't;
and some of us soon gave up the struggle;
while some, the lucky ones,were able,
in the end, to find the long and winding way back.

But time moved on and Mental Health Awareness
somehow has slipped down the agenda.
Now is the time for new radical approaches
that will 'help get the nation back to work'.
Some of us, though, know how the system
works and some of us are angry and suspicious;
some of think this is just another heartless,
fraudulent, Tory Austerity trick.

And some of us believe this is just another stick
for beating those who already struggle.
a way of getting them 'off the sick'
by ticking boxes and 'treating' them with CBT.
Once the sick are not sick but 'seeking' a job
how much easier to get them all on sanctions.
Some of think there's a war going on
and the lines are being drawn for all to see.

Abigail Ottley Wyatt, June, 2015

From the Budget Document
1.236 Budget 2015 also announces a package of measures to improve employment outcomes for people with mental health conditions. Starting from early 2016, the government will provide online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to 40,000 Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants and individuals being supported by Fit for Work. From summer 2015, the government will also begin toco-locate Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) therapists in over 350 Job centres, to provide integrate employment and mental health support to claimants with common mental health conditions.