Legendary poet Christopher Logue reads: ‘I shall vote Labour’

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In 1964, The British Labour Party was elected into government with a slim majority of 4 seats. Such a small majority made governing the country difficult for canny Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. Therefore, after 17 months in power, Wilson called a second election. In support of winning re-election, the Labour Party’s magazine, Tribune asked a selection of writers and artists who they would vote for in the 1966 General Election. In response, sensing Labour might not hold to their socialist ideals, poet Christopher Logue wrote the poem “I shall vote Labour.”

I shall vote Labour

I shall vote Labour because
God votes Labour.
I shall vote Labour to protect
the sacred institution of The Family.
I shall vote Labour because
I am a dog.
I shall vote Labour because
upper-class hoorays annoy me in expensive restaurants.
I shall vote Labour because
I am on a diet.
I shall vote Labour because if I don’t
somebody else will:
AND
I shall vote Labour because if one person
does it
everybody will be wanting to do it.
I shall vote Labour because if I do not vote Labour
my balls will drop off.
I shall vote Labour because
there are too few cars on the road.
I shall vote Labour because I am
a hopeless drug addict.
I shall vote Labour because
I failed to be a dollar millionaire aged three.
I shall vote Labour because Labour will build
more maximum security prisons.
I shall vote Labour because I want to shop
in an all-weather precinct stretching from Yeovil to Glasgow.
I shall vote Labour because
the Queen’s stamp collection is the best
in the world.
I shall vote Labour because
deep in my heart
I am a Conservative.

Christopher Logue was a poet, writer, journalist, dramatist, screenwriter, actor and performer. Born in Portsmouth, in 1926, Logue was an only child of middle-aged parents. After school, he served in the Black Watch regiment, from which he was given a court-martial for selling stolen pay books, and given a 16-months’ jail sentence.

On release, he moved to Paris and started his career as a writer and poet, ‘out of complete failure to be interested by what was happening in London at the time.’

‘It was so drab. There was nowhere to go. You couldn’t seem to meet any girls. If you went up to London in 1951, looking for the literary scene, what did you find? Dylan Thomas. I thought that if I came to the place where Pound flourished, I might too.’

In Paris, Logue met writer Alexander Trocchi (who saved Logue from an attempted suicide), and the pair set-up and edited the legendary literary magazine Merlin, which premiered work by Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Chester Himes, as well as Logue and Trocchi. The pair also wrote pornographic novels for Maurice Girodias’ Olympia Press, and briefly met William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso in the late 1950s.

George Whitman, propietor of Shakespeare and Co., described the pairing of Trocchi and Logue as:

‘True bohemians, Beats before Beats officially existed. Christopher was the scruffy poet, quite down and out most of the time. He definitely fancied himself as Baudelaire or somebody like that.’

In Paris, Logue toyed with Marxism, and was once famously put down by the author Richard Wright.

‘You’ve got nothing to fight for, boy—you’re looking for a fight. If you were a black, boy, you’re so cheeky you’d be dead.’

But Logue lost none of his mettle, or his socialist convictions and he continued to be a gadfly throughout his life. In the 1960s, he collaborated with Lindsay Anderson, giving poetry readings at the National Film Theater between features. He was a pacifist and a member of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, taking part with Bertrand Russell on the marches to Aldermarston.

He appeared at Peter Cook’s club The Establishment and wrote songs for jazz singer Annie Ross, and had one recorded by Joan Baez. He also appeared at the Isle of Wight Rock Festival, and contributed the wonderfully bizarre “True Stories” to Private Eye magazine. He acted for Ken Russell in The Devils, wrote the screenplay for Russell’s Savage Messiah, and acted in Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky. Logue’s poetry was incredibly popular, even appearing in posters throughout the London Underground. His most famous works were Red Bird, a jazz colaboration with Tony Kinsey, and War Music, a stunning and critically praised adaption of Homer’s Illiad. He was awarded the 2005 Whitbread Poetry Prize for his collection Cold Calls.

Logue died in 2011, and Wilson won the 1966 election with a majority of 96 seats.

This is Christopher Logue reading “I shall vote Labour” in 2002, as filmed by Colin Still.
 

 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
‘I do not wish…my nose nailed to other people’s lavatories’: Dame Edith Sitwell on ‘Naked Lunch’

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It was John Willett’s review of William S. Burroughs Naked Lunch, in the Times Literary Supplement, that led poet and writer, Dame Edith Sitwell to make her famous statement about the book, in 1963.

Willett was a writer, critic and, most importantly, translator of Bertolt Brecht’s plays. His translations so impressed the playwright that it led to their collaboration on the Berliner Ensemble’s historic 1956 London season. Yet, for such a seemingly radical critic and writer, Willett hated Naked Lunch and made his thoughts well known in a review headlined “Ugh!”:

“[Naked Lunch]...is not unlike wading through the drains of a big city . . . [It features] unspeakable homosexual fantasies . . . ...such things are too uncritically presented, and because the author gives no flicker of disapproval the reader easily takes the ‘moral message’ the other way…..If the publishers had deliberately set out to discredit the cause of literary freedom and innovation they could hardly have done it more effectively…”

Appearing not long after the controversial trial and publication of D. H. Lawrence’s infamous Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1960, it seemed to many of England’s older and moneyed class that their world was under very real threat from the Barbarians at the gates.

One such figure, was Dame Edith, who upon reading Willett’s review fired off the following missive to the TLS:

To the Editor of the Times Literary Supplement

[published 28 November 1963]

Sir,

I was delighted to see, in your issue of the 14th instant, the very rightminded review of a novel by a Mr. Burroughs (whoever he may be) published by a Mr. John Calder (whoever he may be).

The public canonisation of that insignificant, dirty little book Lady Chatterley’s Lover was a signal to persons who wish to unload the filth of their minds on the British public.

As author of Gold Coast Customs I can scarcely be accused of shirking reality, but I do not wish to spend the rest of my life with my nose nailed to other people’s lavatories.

I prefer Chanel Number .

Edith Sitwell, C.L.

What Dame Edith failed to grasp was that to a generation of young, free-thinking individuals, this letter was the perfect encouragement to go and buy the book.

Though Mr. Burroughs and Mr. Calder had made no small an impression at the Edinburgh Festival in 1962 (though arguably upstaged by the legendary spat between Communist poet Hugh MacDiarmid and Beat writer Alexander Trocchi), it is fair to say, this letter was amongst the best publicity they could have had for Naked Lunch.

Edith Sitwell is sadly neglected today, and her poetry, biographies, and one experimental novel are now mainly left to the reading lists of academics. Yet once, Edith and her brothers Osbert and Sacheverell, were the English Avant Garde—but time, fashion, politics and a World War soon usurped their position.

The poem mentioned in her letter, Gold Coast Customs (1930), was Sitwell’s own (almost Ballardian) tale of the horrific barbarism lurking beneath the artificiality of civilized humans in the city of London.

The following clip is of Dame Edith discussing her life, her parents and Marilyn Monroe, in 1959.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

‘Whaur Extremes Meet: A portrait of the poet Hugh MacDiarmid


 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
‘Whaur Extremes Meet’: A Portrait of the poet Hugh MacDiarmid

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When Hugh MacDiarmid died in 1978, his fellow poet Norman MacCaig suggested Scotland commemorate the great man’s passing by holding 3 minute’s pandemonium. It was typical of MacCaig’s caustic wit, but his suggestion did capture something of the unquantifiable enormity of MacDiarmid’s importance on Scottish culture, politics, literature and life during the twentieth century.

Hugh MacDiarmid is perhaps best described by a line from his greatest poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (1926), in which he wrote:

‘I’ll ha’e nae hauf-way hoose, but aye be whaur
Extremes meet - it’s the only way I ken
To dodge the curst conceit o’ bein’ richt
That damns the vast majority o’ men.

It explains the contradictory elements that merged to make him a poet.

Born Christopher Murray Grieve, on August 11, 1892, he changed his name to the more Scottish sounding Hugh MacDiarmid to publish his poetry. He was a Modernist poet who wrote in Scots vernacular. One might expect this choice of language to make his poetry parochial, but MacDiarmid was a poet of international ambition and standing, who was recognized as an equal with T. S. Eliot, Boris Pasternak and W. H. Auden.

In politics, MacDiarmid had been one of the co-founder’s of the National Party for Scotland in 1928, but was ejected when he moved towards Communism. He was then ejected from the Communist Party for his “nationalist deviation.” He maintained a Nationalist - in favor of an independent Scotland - and a Communist throughout his life.

As literature scholar and writer Kenneth Butlay notes, MacDiarmid was:

..as incensed by his countrymen’s neglect of their native traditions as by their abrogation of responsibility for their own affairs, and he took it upon himself to “keep up perpetually a sort of Berseker rage” of protest, and to act as “the catfish that vitalizes the other torpid of the aquarium.”

 
In 1964, the experimental film-maker Margaret Tait made short documentary portrait of Hugh MacDiarmid, which captured the poet at home in Langholme, his sense of childish fun, his socializing his the bars and public houses of Edinburgh (the Abbotsford on Rose Street).
 

 
More on Hugh MacDiarmid, plus poetry and reading, after the jump…
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
A short film about Alexander Trocchi
02.27.2011
08:36 pm

Topics:
Drugs
Literature

Tags:
Alexander Trocchi
Cain's Book

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Born in Glasgow in 1925 and reborn in the land of Morpheus sometime in the 1950s, Alexander Trocchi was the beatest of the beat, a self-described “cosmonaut of inner space” who Allen Ginsberg called “a major figure in cosmopolitan new-consciousness fifties’ and sixties’ literature.” Trocchi was a junkie, poet, writer of porn and author of one of the landmark books about being a rebel, drifter and drug addict, Cain’s Book. He wrote it while living in New York and even though it’s billed as a novel, Cain’s Book is based on Trocchi’s own life story. Though banned in the United Kingdom as pornography, it wasn’t the sex that upset the status quo as much as it was Trocchi’s unabashedly anarchic spirit and overall fuck you attitude.

Trocchi’s belief was that a writer should be a pioneer, venturing into areas that ordinary people either were too sane or too afraid to go. His explorations included heroin. Like DeQuincey, Crowley, Baudelaire and Burroughs, Trocchi found a muse in drugs. He was relentless in his pursuit of the next high. And while he might be accused of wearing his junkie status as a badge of honor, he never romanticized the life of the addict. He also never apologized for who he was and what he did, which included turning Marianne Faithfull onto heroin and letting his wife Lyn prostitute herself on the streets of the Lower East Side.

Cain’s Book is the classic late-1950s account of heroin addiction. . . . An un-self-forgiving existentialism, rendered with writerly exactness and muscularity, set this novel apart from all others of the genre.” –– William S. Burroughs

Along with Naked Lunch and Hubert Selby’s Requiem For A Dream, Cain’s Book is a classic of dope-inspired writing. It was Trocchi’s last novel. He spent the rest of his life occasionally writing short stories, prose and poetry. He died of pneumonia in 1984.

I discovered Cain’s Book right around the time I was reading Burroughs, Bukowski and Kerouac. It was another big black splotch on my teenage Catholic soul. Literature was ruining me for the “straight” world but splendidly preparing for a life of sexual adventuring, drug experimentation and the pursuit of my own muses. Trocchi was an imperfect muse himself. But I have discovered that it is the troubled souls that stir up the most heat and though their light is often hidden in the murk of their disheveled lives when it does shine it does so more intensely.

Here’s a clip from the documentary Cain’s Film followed by a short video on Trocchi featuring William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Leonard Cohen.
 

Written by Marc Campbell | Discussion
A Complete Disorientation of the Senses: William Burroughs’ and Antony Balch’s ‘Cut Ups’

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It caused nausea and vomiting when first shown at the Cinephone, Oxford Street, in London. Some of the audience demanded their money back, others hurled abuse and shouted “That’s sick,” and ““Its disgusting.” This was the idea, as writer William Burroughs and producer, Antony Balch wanted to achieve a complete “disorientation of the senses.”

Balch had a hard-on for the weird, unusual and sometimes depraved. It was a predilection born from his love of horror films - one compounded when as a child he met his idol, Bela Lugosi, the olde Austro-Hungarian junkie, who was touring Britain with the stage show that had made him famous, Dracula. Film was a love affair that lasted all of Balch’s life.

He also had a knack of making friends with the right people at the right time. In Paris he met and hung out with the artist Brion Gysin and druggie, Glaswegian Beat writer, Alexander Trocchi, who was then writing porn and editing a literary mag called Merlin, along with the likes of Christopher Logue. Through them, Balch met the two men who changed his life, Burroughs and Kenneth Anger.

Anger helped Balch with his ambitions as a cinema distributor, getting him a copy of Todd Browning’s classic Freaks, which was banned the UK, at that time. Balch paid Anger back when he later released his apocalyptic Invocation of My Demon Brother as a support feature.

Burroughs offered Balch something different - the opportunity to collaborate and make their own films.  This they did, first with Towers Open Fire, an accessible montage of Burroughs’ routines, recorded on a Grundig tape recorder, cut-up to Balch’s filmed and found images of a “crumbling society.” Put together stuff like this and the chattering classes will always take you seriously. But don’t doubt it, for it was good.

But it was their second collaboration, Cut Ups which for me is far more interesting and proved far more controversial. Cut Ups was originally intended as a documentary called Guerilla Conditions, and was filmed between 1961 and 1965 in Tangiers and Paris. It included some footage from Balch’s aborted attempt to film the unfilmable Naked Lunch. The finished material was collated and then conventionally edited - but the process didn’t stop there, no. For Balch divided the finshed film into four sections of equal length, and then...
 

 
Bonus clip of ‘Bill and Tony’ after the jump…
 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

William S. Burroughs’ The Junky’s Christmas


 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion