From top: Poet Kevin Higgins; The Morning Star
after John McDonnell
When you paint hatred on my garden wall
and front door, I will read your words
with great interest.
When you try to burn my house down
I will listen to what the flames are saying.
Every lie you tell against me
I’ll help you spread
by earnestly, and in detail, answering your questions
about it over and over again.
When you burst through my living room door
with a chainsaw intended for me,
I’ll pour you a nice cup of tea
and say: let’s talk about this.
When the tumours come for me
I’ll know their opinion must be taken
absolutely on board.
And when the beetles and bacilli
begin to consume me,
I’ll realise I’ve long seen
their point of view.
On Thursday, Kevin Higgins’ poem ‘Listening Exercise’ (above) – concerning the ‘massive listening exercise’ called for by UK Shadow chancellor John McDonnell amid accusations of antisemitism against the British Labour Party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn – was published on Broadsheet, on the UK based site Culture Matters, and online in The Morning Star newspaper.
It was also to appear in the Morning Star‘s print edition last Saturday.
Before some high level politics intervened.
1) E-mail received from Cliff Cocker (Arts Editor of the Morning Star) Thursday, February 28.
Timely and spot-on. Will try and get online asap and in paper on Sat.
2) E-mail received from Cliff Cocker (Arts Editor of the Morning Star) Friday, March 1st, 9.17am
Here it is, in print tomorrow. Cheers C
3) Email received from Ben Chacko (editor of the Morning Star) March 1, 1:04pm
I’m afraid I’ve pulled this poem because things are on a knife-edge in the shadow cabinet and at the moment our friends there advise exacerbating divisions would make things worse.
I do appreciate the poem and the many biting poems that you have written for us, but the sensitivities right now mean publishing it in the Morning Star would in our view feed the divisions that the right are trying to exploit.
That doesn’t mean we will stop fighting back against bogus accusations and we will be continuing a robust defence of Chris Williamson and attacks on the so-called Independent Group, but we just feel targeting John in this way now is not the right approach for us.
I hope you aren’t too angry that this time I want to hold back and that you are OK with continuing to publish poetry in the paper.
Solidarity and all the best,
“It is great to know that my poems are being read by member’s of Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet. This poem was intended as friendly advice for Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, albeit that it is satirically delivered, as is my way.
I understand the pressures people are under at the moment, and am in no way angry at the editors of The Morning Star for the action they felt they had to take here. I plan to continue published poems in The Morning Star, as I have since they asked me for my satire on Tony Blair in 2015.
I do stand over the poem which I wrote while eating lunch last Friday week in the Arabica Coffee Shop on Dominick Street, immediately before one of my poetry workshops at Galway Arts Centre…”
Previously: All Ears