Monday 19 January 2015

Dear M Hebdo,

One of the author's earlier forays into hard-hitting SATIRE

I understand you have a vacancy for journalists on your satirical magazine. I wonder if you would consider letting me write for you? I have many funny and satirical ideas about UK politics which would, I think, be a perfect fit now that your magazine is internationally famous. For example:

1) In the wake of the attack on your magazine, a man called Eric Pickles has written to all the Mosques in England asking them to tell Muslims that terrorism is a Very Bad Thing. No, this is not the silly and satirical thing! Mr Pickles really did that. No, the satirical thing is that we can make a joke about an Imam writing to the Tories to tell them to stop letting Pickles go to pie shops - because Mr Pickles is FAT, you see! Tremendous satire. Feel free to make the Imam as much of a bearded ethnic caricature as you like, obviously.

2) A man with a squeaky voice who had a hit song about stalking a woman on the Tube a few years back has also written a letter about how upset he is that people think he's posh just because he was born in a mansion and used to ride about on a horse with a sword. No - again, that's not the satirical bit! The satirical bit is that he has a surname which sounds like a rude word!  Obviously once again the amazing satirical potential is endless. I'm not sure how you can work a horrendously Islamophobic cartoon jihadi into this one, to be honest, but obviously I am just starting out in the satire business, you have more experience in that area than I.

Anyway, thanks for your consideration in this matter and I look forward to hearing from you soon. Don't hesitate to get in touch if you have any other ideas for things you'd like me to satirise, I'm sure there are plenty of British political topics just crying out to be skewered with some fearless gallic racism.

Je suis
AJ McKendoNagasaki

Saturday 17 January 2015


I've just finished drawing up a submissions spreadsheet. I'm determined that this year I am going to Be Serious About This and Actually Submit to Magazines, something at which I'm notoriously bad. This means that there will be fewer poems uploaded to this blog, which means, if I'm to keep it ticking over, that I am going to have to write more non-poetry stuff for it.

For now, however, there is one more poem I want to put on here, because I'm interested in people's thoughts about it. I wrote this last night: I was thinking about the events in France a little over a week ago, and the issue of reacting to religious fundamentalism in general. In particular I was inspired by this very moving blogpost by Sam Ambreen, which set me thinking about my attitude to God. There is something about men shouting about the greatness of God while murdering others which is chilling, whichever God they claim to worship. And of course 'great' does not necessarily mean 'most exceedingly good': it can simply mean big. Containing multitudes.

So I started from that point, and the following poem is what I came up with. I'm posting it here, despite my newly-professed commitment to word-hoarding, because I'm not entirely sure it's finished. What I'm not trying to do in this poem is be another white, Western poet condemning Radical Islam and striking the agreed posture: as anyone who read the entry preceding this one ought to be able to grasp, je ne suis pas Charlie.

I hope this poem reads like what it is - a tentative, throughly-lapsed Catholic attempting to try and understand what drives someone to strap on a kalashnikov and kill people for religious reasons. It isn't meant to be an answer, or a speech. It is meant as a kind of response.

You say your God is Big

You say your God is big, and you’re not lying:
your God’s a God who throws His weight around,
from one side of the planet to the other.
Your God takes heads, sends towers crashing down:

my God – the God they brought me up to worship -  
my God can’t make me ditch the booze for Lent.
I’d like to say my God is almost spent:
but I’m not trying to terminate a pregnancy

in Texas. That’s Him, too, my God:
a heavyweight, like yours. A clubber.
Tremendous overhand when punching down,
but slow in footwork these days. Getting old.

Gets to us all. But your God:
oh, He’s strong, and big: so big
you just see part of Him: the fists,
the snarling jaw, quick to avenge

an insult, like Whitman’s American:
you never see the hands untaped,
without the gloves, cupped
to cradle children, all unmartial,

almost feminine: or do you?
Was it a hungry baby’s cries
your wages couldn’t satisfy
that made Big Daddy God seem so appealing?

Did a life of smiling at the men who killed you slowly
make you avid for the day you would bark orders
from the barrel of an AK-47?
Did you ask yourself my God, what have I done,

when you first saw what bullets did to bodies,
or were you hardened by a life lived under guns,
in rubble, at the sharp end of the flattened world?
We cannot know, of course. We have the words

that you recited to a camera
in another holy warrior’s hand. A truth,
or catechism? Form of words
or credo from the core?

What would you tell us without the camera,
the foreknowledge of the act
that you would justify on film?
Without the act, the headline – would we listen?

Wednesday 7 January 2015

The Charlie Hebdo attack is terrible. Let's respond like adults.

It shouldn't need to be said, but it does.

I believe that it is possible to be against hate speech while also believing that people do not deserve to be gunned down for saying things that I consider hate speech.

I believe in criticising fundamentalist religion without attacking the fundamentals of a religion.

I believe that one can object in the strongest terms to the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and yet find the idea that the way we protest this is to 'republish the images the killers want to suppress', as Johann Hari urges, morally troubling.

Do I have to explain why? Do I have to talk of shouting fire in a crowded theatre? Do I have to get tactical, and talk about the strategy of tension? Must I paint you a picture explaining how the best way to convince more angry, alienated young Muslim men that the West is full of juvenile, spiteful Islamophobes is by uncritically defending a magazine which ran a cartoon captioned with the phrase 'The Koran is shit', showing that book being literally shot full of holes?

Do I need to say two wrongs don't make a right?

And do I need to point out that this attack wasn't today's only act of terrorism?

Do we need to think about that?

Thursday 1 January 2015

'In the Margins', Mr Murdoch? Don't make me laugh.

My poem below is a response to a video which Sky News have been running as part of their coverage of the run-up to the General Election this year.

The advert features a poem, which seems to be something of a trend in advertising these days. It's a poem that I find somewhat irritating, because I feel that, in its urge to hype the Murdoch-owned 'news' channel's election coverage, it glosses over the very real struggles that have characterised life in Britain under the Coalition, a Coalition whose policies have been generally supported by the right-leaning Murdoch press and television channels. It seems a bit rich for Sky News to suddenly come over all concerned about those who live in the margins when the people they support have spent the last five years kicking the shit out of us.

So I wrote this.

In the margins?

Politics ain't oven chips,
or Maccy Dee's, or football:
politics is how we live
and often what we're killed for.
It's not about the purple shires
or cities turning green,
it's not some sporting spectacle,
a tournament of teams,
and 'hang the King'?
I wish I could hang
Cameron and Osborne,
spike Nick Clegg's head
on traitor's gate,
run Farage out of town,
but putting ticks in boxes
is only half the fight:
half not nothing, people fought
so we could have that right,
but the struggle's not decided
on the day the votes are cast,
we don't go back to training
to prepare for the next match,
we struggle on a daily basis,
catch as we can catch,
we fought back with rioting,
strikes and occupation,
fought back just by having thoughts
they thought above our station,
fought back just by living
in a world that wants us dead,
by giving to a food bank
or shoplifting daily bread,
fought back by demanding more
than just our rulers' scraps,
fought back by saying mansions,
and not bedrooms, should be taxed.
We fought, for we know votes alone
won't make the centre give:
don't talk to me of margins.
The margin's where I live.