polemical poetry to prickle the politics of "permanent austerity"
thistles stretch their prickly arms afar
Nonviolent direct action requires no-one’s permission
And, for dealing with capitalism’s beds of nails –
The spikes that are everywhere to deter rough sleepers –
Cans of concrete mix and the strategy fails.
Outside Foxtons, the upmarket Estate Agents,
There are rows of spikes to deter sleepers
So squatters delight in taking over Foxtons’ properties
To proclaim triumphantly, ‘Finders Keepers’.
In the nineteenth century the Rebecca rioters
Objected to tollgates “confining the rabble”.
They distracted the constables standing guard with a play
While they turned the tollgates into rubble.
Likewise the Luddites sneaked under the radar,
Disguising themselves in female dress,
They then took hammers to the mechanical looms
That were sacrificing them to ‘progress.’
In 1871 the Paris Commune declared Paris
To be the site of a “permanent festival”.
With their autonomous liberated city still haunted by the guillotine
This was considered more preferable.
In 1968 the revolutionary festival spirit broke out once more,
Enhanced by the Situationists’ declaration
That it was the revolution’s job to serve poetry
Not the job of poetry to serve the revolution.
Heathcote Williams is a poet, playwright, author and actor. His first book, The Speakers, was published in 1964. A portrait of the orators at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, it was greeted with critical acclaim. He went on to write his epic poems Whale Nation, Autogedden, Sacred Elephant and Falling for a Dolphin, which were all published by Jonathan Cape and released as audiobooks by Naxos. Heathcote's first full length play, AC/DC, won a hat-trick of prestigious awards. His other plays include The Local Stigmatic, The Immortalist and Hancock's Last Half Hour. More recent works: Badshah Khan: Islamic Peace Warrior (Thin Man Press), a play about Christopher Marlowe, Killing Kit, due to be staged at the Cockpit, and a play about squatting and the homeless, The Ruff Tuff Cream Puff Estate Agency and Frestonia Rules OK? due to be workshopped by Cardboard Citizens.
And now interconnected activists
Tuned to a global brain
Can operate horizontally, without leaders,
To derail the hierarchical train
That drives a system dominated by oligarchs –
The corporate oligarchs of the one per cent –
Whose wealth spawns the tent-cities of the homeless
And who rule with no one’s consent.
And where property prices guarantee that the poor
Find themselves economically cleansed;
Where the disabled are deliberately disconnected
And the animal kingdom’s condemned.
The idea of revolution is essentially poetic,
Coming out of the soul like a rocket,
From something within that’s barbaric and wild –
To make the most exciting thing on the planet.
Like poetry, revolution gives you permission
To live on a higher level
And its reward is the sensation of challenging
The world, the flesh and the devil.