We’re asking writers we admire to write for us, and we’ll be releasing their posts monthly throughout 2021.
We asked Roy McFarlane, former Birmingham poet laureate, to write this month’s blog, as he balances writing and relaxation.
Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
-Adam Zagajewski, “Try to Praise the Mutilated World”
“June the month of strawberries and creams and the longest day of the year, 21st June, summer solstice day. Boris Johnson tried to bring an end to the mutilated world we’re living in, having visions of Freedom Day as if we were part of the cast of Independence Day, but with a Delta variant fighting back, celebrations had to be put on hold.
“Summer solstice day, solstice from the Latin word ‘sun standing still,’ the timing between planting and harvesting crops has been traditionally the time to relax. As writers we know of planting words, half written in a note book, or a body of work in files; over the last few months I’ve been planting seeds in competitions, magazines, anthologies and commissioned work, seeing which will flourish, find their roots and blossom in the next collection. June will be the closest I’ll get to relaxing, and getting away from writing, online and social media interaction.
“During this month my walks along canals with herons, coots and a gang of seagulls chilling on telegraph wires, watching me walking through their neighbourhood has been exchanged for morning jogs along the sea front where the June sun gives iridescent blue seas and a convention of seagulls, bigger and bolder than the ones from Tipton who stride with swagger.
“But the writer in me can’t be quietened, I go into full rage in response to Priti Patel’s interview, encouraging football supporters to boo in response to England football players, both black and white, taking a knee in response to online racism, racism in the stands and the ongoing racism that leads to death. And yet Priti Patel’s response is no different to Donald Trump’s inciting aggressive response to Colin Kaepernick taking the knee. Also, it’s 5 years on from the Jo Cox tragedy, influenced by divisive, dividing words which inspired such a backlash in the lead to Brexit.
“Thank god for Windrush Day, 22nd June, acknowledging the impact and importance of migration to the making of Britain. The emblematic Empire Windrush signalling the arrival of Caribbean post-war migrants to Britain in 1948; a date in the British identity as paramount as 1066, Henry VIII and all his wives, and 1966 ‘They think it’s all over! It is now.’
“In Wolverhampton the unveiling of a blue plaque brought mixed emotions for many, as we acknowledged Paulette Wilson Windrush Campaigner ‘likkle but tallawah’ a reminder of how the government turned a Caribbean post-war migration dream of Windrush into an “illegal immigrants” of the state nightmare.
“I’m reading Just Us by Claudia Rankine, the title taken from the wonderful stand-up comedian Richard Pryor; ‘you go down there looking for justice, that’s what you find just us.’ I guess in taking the knee, in Windrush celebrations, we are simply looking for a sun that will rise on all of us with the same warmth, same freedoms, a sun that shakes hand with the night and meets us back in the morning, alive and well.”
What I’m Reading:
Just Us by Claudia Rankine
Honorifics by Cynthia Miller
Portrait of Colossus by Samatar Elmi