( I )

For ‘JC’ of the TLS

Nightmare of metropolitan amalgam

Grand Hotel and myself as a guest there

Lost with my room rifled, my belongings scattered,

Purse, diary and vital list of numbers gone –

Vague sad memories of mam n’dad

Leeds 1942 back-to-back with shared outside lav.

Hosannas of sweet May mornings

Whitsun glory of lilac blooming

Sixty years on I run and run

From death, from loss, from everyone.

Which are the paths I never ventured down,

Or would they, too, be vain?

O for the secret anima of Leeds girlhood

A thousand times better than snide attacks in the TLS

By ‘JC’. Fuck you, Jock, you should be ashamed,

Attacking Brenda Williams, who had a background

Worse than yours, an alcoholic schizophrenic father

And an Irish immigrant mother who died when Brenda was fifteen

But still she managed to read Proust

on her day off

As a library girl, turned down by David Jenkins,

‘As rising star of the left’ for a place at Leeds

To read theology started her as a protest poet

Sitting out on the English lawn, mistaken for a snow sculpture

In the depths of winter.

Her sit-in protest lasted seven months,

Months, eight hours a day, her libellous verse scorching

The academic groves of Leeds in sheets by the thousand,

Mailed through the university’s internal post. She called

The VC ‘a mouse from the mountain’; Bishop of Durham to-be

David Jenkins a wimp and worse and all in colourful verse

And ‘Guntrip’s Ghost’ went to every VC in England in a

Single day. When she sat on the English lawn Park Honan

Flew paper aeroplanes with messages down and

And when she was in Classics they took away her chair

So she sat on the floor reading Virgil and the Chairman of the

Department sent her an official Christmas card

‘For six weeks on the university lawn, learning the

Hebrew alphabet’.

And that was just the beginning: in Oxford Magdalen College

School turned our son away for the Leeds protest so she

Started again, in Magdalen Quad, sitting through Oxford’s

Worst ever winter and finally they arrested her on the

Eve of the May Ball so she wrote ‘Oxford from a Prison

Cell’ her most famous poem and her protest letter went in

A single day to every MP and House of Lords Member and

It was remembered years after and when nobody nominated

Her for the Oxford Chair she took her own and sat there

In the cold for almost a year, well-wishers pinning messages

To the tree she sat under – “Tityre, tu patulae recubans

Sub tegmine fagi” and twelve hundred and forty dons had

“The Pain Clinic” in a single day and she was fourteen

Times in the national press, a column in “The Guardian”

And a whole page with a picture in the ‘Times Higher’ –

“A Well Versed Protester”

JC, if you call Myslexia’s editor a ‘kick-arse virago’

You’ve got to expect a few kicks back.

All this is but the dust

We must shake from our feet

Purple heather still with blossom

In Haworth and I shall gather armfuls

To toss them skywards and you,

Madonna mia, I shall bed you there

In blazing summer by High Wythens,

Artist unbroken from the highest peak

I raise my hands to heaven.

( II )

Sweet Anna, I do not know you from Eve

But your zany zine in the post

Is the best I’ve ever seen, inspiring this rant

Against the cant of stuck-up cunts currying favour

I name no name but if the Dutch cap fits

Then wear it and share it.

Who thought at sixty one

I’d have owned a watch

Like this one, chased silver cased

Quartz reflex Japanese movement

And all for a fiver at the back of Leeds Market

Where I wander in search of oil pastels

Irish folk and cheap socks.

The TLS mocks our magazine

With its sixties Cadillac pink

Psychedelic cover and every page crimson

Orange or mauve, revolutionary sonnets

By Brenda Williams from her epic ‘Pain Clinic’

And my lacerating attacks on boring Bloodaxe

Neil Ghastly and Anvil’s preciosity and all the

Stuck-up arse-holes in their cubby-holes sending out

Rejection slip by rote – LPW

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