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.

Friday, 19 December 2014

The trouble with 'objective' journalism

'It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.' - Hunter S Thompson, 'He Was a Crook'

Still thinking about something I saw on the news on Monday night. A journalist was interviewing people for vox pops in Great Yarmouth after Labour's immigration announcement. One of the people he interviewed said 'I don't complain about the immigrants taking the jobs because a lot of the locals won't do the jobs. But it's these benefits they get - free cars, free houses...'
Immigrants don't get free cars.
Immigrants don't get free houses.
This is generally known, by people who've looked into it - such as journalists. We know this stuff about free cars and houses is made-up - and, in the case of the free cars thing, we can specifically trace it to a bullshit column from professional opinion-haver Carol Malone, back in 2009.
But the journalist didn't correct this woman - even though what she said was demonstrably untrue - because that might have been thought 'biased'. This is where so-called 'objective' journalism lets us all down: because people watching that programme will have seen these words about free cars and free houses go unchallenged, and will think 'well, it must be true - someone said it on the news'.
It's especially annoying that this was the Channel 4 News; if their reporters can take it on themselves to confront a hipster doofus over the cost of his overpriced Lucky Charms, you would think they would also be willing to call someone out for spreading this poisonous, racist 'free cars' bullshit. 
You would think so, but you would, it seems, be wrong.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Regardless of Consent

I circled it, my truth,
like an opponent
that I doubted
I could beat; or, rather,

one I wanted to give in to,
but would make a show
of putting up a fight.
My truth protected me

when it most seemed to hurt;
when it most seemed I would be broken
my truth held me, with its teeth
beside my ear, biting off

the final consonant of 'slut',
and you could call the noise
I made a sob, could call this
degradation, but

I have seen people,
bound and helpless,
smile with sanctity
I never saw in church,

and I have sat in cafes
looking out onto the street
and feeling Buddha-level love
for every passing face I see

because the night before,
somebody beat me up
the way I like it, and
- how long will this be legal?

Physical or verbal abuse
(regardless if consensual)
is only forbidden on video now,
along with

(and, oh, what I could write about those, 

and as to
penetration by any object
associated with violence
- do love beads count? I mean,

I know they're not exactly weapons-grade,
but when I thought that they'd got stuck...
well, that was scarier than being choked
between a lover's thighs) but

when you enclose desire, things tend
to creep: what cannot be seen
can become harder to imagine,
to explain; once an image in motion

is prohibited, the still frame
becomes suspect, once a photo
is forbidden, illustration
seems transgressive, and when

all image is off-limits
then the words which conjure images
speak threat
and must be censored.

And, yes, there are times
when we agree safe limits
to such violence: but the limit
is consent: informed,

enthusiastic - from the Greek
en theos, meaning
'full of God', and really
there is no better description

of this blessing which will never let me go,
this love which only seems like violence from outside,
this truth I circled, circled, circled
for so long, until the knowledge

that what I thought single combat
was instead a mosh pit carnival, 
a battle royal, a free-for-all,
that I was not alone:

this, you disown,
regardless of consent. 
Three words, that's all:
but all the difference

between defending and denying our existence. 

           *           *          *

So, if you're the kind of person who likes my work - and I'm going to assume you are, since you're reading this blog - you'll already be aware of the ludicrous new regulations on online pornography in the UK. As you'll have gathered from one or two of my poems, I enjoy being dominated and, well, beaten up, frankly, in a safe, consensual setting, so the idea that the government has essentially, at a stroke, declared quite a lot of my sex life illegal is a little worrying. Sure, right now it's technically only illegal in the arena of video-on-demand porn produced in the UK, but it's a slippery slope, y'know? And for me, the scariest part of the legislation is 'physical and verbal abuse' being illegal regardless of whether or not those involved consent. This seems, to me, to carry worrying echoes of 'Operation Spanner' and the bad old days of the 1980s. Anyway, I've been wanting to get my thoughts about this thing down poetically, and this is a first, very rough attempt at that. It's going to need knocking into shape later; hopefully it'll take to that as well as I do.

Thursday, 13 November 2014


Don't call me unstoppable
because of what poisoned my veins;
Don't call me unstoppable
because you maintain that I have a 'male frame';
Don't call me unstoppable
because girls like us all have big hands;
don't call me unstoppable
because I 'used to be a man':
you've never seen deceleration
'til you've seen a trans girl breaking,
asking why she's been forsaken
through a face of running make-up,
defeated and retreating from the space we're told we take up,
anticipating beatings from the moment that we wake up
reeling from repeated sneaky
cotton ceiling break-ups,
Wise up! Size up who statistics really favour,
we're more Miss Elizabeth
than Big Van Vader,
you get away with hitting us
by claiming we're a danger
say our inexistence
should be morally mandated
leaving me inquisitive
on why we're highly gate-kept
through the hospital doors,
slipping past the smokers outside,
bypassing the wards,
who got to board-level
and kissed some corporate arse,
and got to set the obstacles
that we all have to pass?
Do you think I'm paranoid?
Well, call me Shirley Manson,
'cause I've fought with the dysmorphia
that tells me I'm not handsome,
and coped with self-congratulators
who want me to thank them
for using the right pronouns
when they message me one-handed,
AND this, AND that, and a hundred other things,
I've been knocked flat a dozen times with suffering,
called 'bitch', called 'fat', always called that other thing,
everybody and their cat
thinks I could use some humbling,
is it any wonder that
I often feel I'm stumbling?
And I will stumble,
I will fall,
and I will rise up Phoenix - style
and BE unstoppable
and that's not because I'm stronger,
and it's not because I'm hard,
it's not because blunt trauma hurts less
when your tissue's scarred;
it's not that I'm a mutant,
some majestic weirdo freak,
it's not even because I have a flawless rhyme technique,
no: if I can seem unstoppable
it's because of the things I've been through;
if you must call me unstoppable
it's 'cause what tried to stop me
was you.

*   *   *
I know one often loves one's poems a little too much after first writing them, but right now I feel like filming this professionally with some proper music behind it. Anyone up for helping?