Tag Archive | Class

The Emporer’s Birthday Suit

This poem gives my  critique on those who are prententious enough to believe that poetry is like a puzzle which has to be  solved by the reader. This is in my opinion nothing more than sanctimonious self entitled drivel. If poetry is the art form I believe it to be, it is has to communicate a message to the reader or in spoken word form the listener and this has to be done in a way which the public both appreciate and understand. To those who say otherwise I have one uncompromising message and that message is this you are deluding yourselves and nobody cares what you think. Yes I’m afraid it really is that simple. It is my view that you if see art as elitist you are actually barking mad it isn’t that’s why it’s called free expression and it’s not just the politically conservative right  who have this view, some of the inverted snobbery I’ve heard from the psuedo socialist left with there poetry’s not for the likes of us drivel is absolutely death defyingly stupid and I have news for them you don’t speak for me nor have you ever done. Real socialists however know the power of art of whatever kind as a vehicle for social and political change and have never been frightened of using it in support of causes and campaigns. It is with this in mind I have written this poem which was titled The Emporer’s Birthday Suit by Scottish Slam runner up Leyla Josephine, I hope you enjoy the read. 

The Emporer’s Birthday Suit. 

To those who believe that poetry is a puzzle 

like a jigsaw or crossword 

which has to be solved by the reader 

I say only this 

if you wish to masturbate your ego

or want to play the hero

by showing the world how clever you are

go to a bar where you are the only customer 

nobody wants to know the thoughts 

that run round in circles in your empty head

there are some things which really are better left unsaid 

your art is not art if it can be understood by the working class chat

doesn’t impress me and exposes your writing as prententious crap 

art must be understood by those 

in the schemes 

it is not the preserve of the county set 

I think you forget that 

the designer of the employers new clothes 

had convinced the emporer to wear his birthday suit 

this was not a good look for a chilly day

now you believe you can wrap poetry in the same way 

the raffle prize of the elite 

the reward they get for completing their puzzle 

the trouble with this self entitled view 

is that you can’t hide the fact 

that if art of any kind is what you say 

it can never inspire others to create 

poetry should be accessible to all 

in your world only the ugly sisters would have got tickets to the ball 

whilst Cinderella would have known her place 

this pompous poetic snobbery 

can only lead to intellectual poverty

 it is exclusion by suggestive terminology 

 to which we are supposed to bow the knee 

not me my words are the tools I use 

to craft my thoughts in to poems 

my voice is my own

I suggest you stick to jigsaws

and keep the emporers birthday suit 

for a morning as frosty as your attutude 

© Gayle Smith 2018

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Ten Days

As pride gets ever closer this poem looks at the story of a princess and a trans girl. Only ten days separated me and Princess Diana. Ten days, and different world’s.Though never a royalist it would have been impossible for a trans girl only ten days younger than Diana not to gush over her glamorous lifestyle not to mention wardrobe but sometimes fairytales are not  quite what they seem and at a time when I was struggling to confront my gender identity issues,  her life appeared to be less complicated than mine It is fair to say that perhaps I didn’t  realise how much pressure she was under or how lucky I actually was. As is often the case when I’m finding it difficult to select a suitable choice of title I let a friend make the call for me. On this occasion the friend in question was a member of the Blue Chair poetry family Molly Frawley who agreed with my original choice of title Ten Days as this shows both the few  similarities I had with Princess  Diana and the even greater differences between us. I hope you enjoy what I think you’ll find a thought provoking read. 

Ten Days 

I was never a fan of the Royal Family 

but as a young trans woman coming to terms with my sexuality 

I was subliminally influenced 

by Princess Diana who was only ten days older than me 

you see I  liked the way she carried herself

even though one of her dresses 

would cost ten times my family’s combined wealth

if everyone put all our money together

getting engaged to a Prince on Valentine’s day

seemed like the most romantic fairytale ever 

till I remembered that fairytales only happened in panto 

not to 19 year olds from forgotten housing schemes 

in remote parts of Glasgow 

and to be honest I never fancied her man 

well I couldn’t be doing with a guy

who spent more time talking to plants 

than he did getting in to my pants

no matter how rich he was 

that kind of man could never be my type 

he was more Mr Wrong than he could ever be Mr Right

now I don’t why but I always thought the marriage was a sham

It was too great a contrast 

like David Attenborough meets Wham 

and that it was never going to work in the long run 

Diana knew the meaning of girls just wanna have fun

not just the lyrics 

while his stiff upper lip made him typically British 

and I do mean sexuallly repressed 

when she got married I focused on her dress 

and how I would love to have worn it

for my  wedding to the groom of my choice 

she gave me the strength to admit to myself 

I fancied boys not girls

well I was too busy wanting to be one 

to look at them in that way 

of course, in those days 

If I aired those thoughts folk would have just have assumed I was gay 

nobody even considered girls like me could exist 

so I transported myself to the dream world 

of a girl who was just 10 days older than me

when her death came I was saddened 

though not as surprised as some 

I thought it best to say nothing

play dumb and watch Blair hijack her death 

cry fake tears for the queen of hearts

the people’s princess 

the girl who made another girl smile 

as she showed me style and high fashion

the kind of outfits I would have loved to have worn to the dancing 

if only I had the chance 

but the princess who was only ten days older than me 

was the girl who had everything

until she realised that sometimes princes turned in to frogs

and not every fairytale has a happy ever after 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Active Citizens 

As a spoken word poet I am rightly proud of our tradition of activism on just about every topic you could name. From Apartheid to Women’s rights poets have opinions on everything and not afraid to voice them. This is something we share with all performers, but in this poem I take a look at musicians both folk and pop, and in particular the protest songs written over the years to express support of causes and campaigns to document an important part of social history . Whilst some of the songs, I’ve incorporated in to this poem may be very obviously political others may initially at least  strike you as slightly less so but when you look closely at the lyrics you’ll see they may be more radical than you think . I’ve given it the title Active Citizens as I have  long held the belief that the creative community are often a government’s more effective critics. I hope you enjoy the read. 
Active Citizens
My journey started with McGinn of The Calton 

who sang of  a may day for the ordinary people

and women pining for the pill .

Glen Daly told the story

of a wild colonial boy 

whose spirit will always live 

in the hearts of rebels with or without causes

the Corries took me over the sea to Skye 

while the hills of Donegal 

and the fields of Anthery 

showed the other side of my family tree 

both sides displaced in the name of the great white sheep 

and generations later the Proclaimers 

lamented the industrial clearances 

when they sent a letter from America

and narrated Scotland’s story 

as a  land of migrants 

throughout our history 

our so-called masters have ignored us 

attempted to silence our voices 

in the name of their false unity 

but our community remains strong

writing and  singing  the protest songs 

that expose them and their cruel deeds

carried out in the name of greed and personal gain 

meanwhile though she took a train to Leeds Central in 1989.  

we are still  looking for Linda 

and when we find her 

she will know she is one of  Jock Tamsons Bairns 

regardless of where she was born 

you see  where you are from can only be the first verse 

the starting point of the protest song

what follows is the journey about where your going to

and  how we help you get there 

by listening to the lyrics 

and the lessons they teach us for the future 

we can’t afford to be seduced and abandoned

by falling for lies and false promises 

or ignoring the 1 in 10 

we need to send the selfish homeward 

make them think again on the consequences of their behaviour 

their attitudes that make me a very angry girl 

I come from the generation who dared to feed the world 

and ask when there would be a harvest for it 

a harvest we could share 

with west end girls and smalltown boys 

we can’t let politicians create 100 000 Allentown’s 

or hold back the years in a vain attempt 

to keep us in what they think is our place 

in the rat trap they’ve created over years and centuries

to preserve what they see as the natural order 

with those McGinn sang of at the bottom 

with independence lies the hope of a better Scotland 

though we will still have our problems 

and protest songs to sing 

in the hope of the finding solutions 

as creatives we have always been political 

critical of our establishment regardless of party colours

and as our future governments will discover

we will always be active citizens

speaking out on the issues that matter. 

.© Gayle Smith 2017 

People’s Friend 

As Jeremy Corbyn addresses the masses at Glastonbury I give my thoughts on a middle class man addressing a middle class crowd and pretending to be a friend of the people. I don’t know why but this working class hero stuff is something I just don’t buy. You see if you are a unionist of any kind you are essentially a conservative maybe not in the economic sense but you certainly are in the social and cultural senses of the word. I’ve given the poem the title People’s Friend I hope you enjoy the read. 

People’s Friend

A middle class man 

quotes a middle class poet 

to the middle class gathering 

at a festival in middle England 

with ticket prices which only the rich can afford

meanwhile champagne socialists 

ignore Scotland 

till they need our votes to gain power 

at a Westminster election 

if we dare to challenge them

they call us insurgents 

leading an insurrection

as the self righteous  luvvie brigade 

play pretend politics 

with a crowd to apathetic to care 

about humanity 

and grandpa Jeremy desperately tries to re-live his youth 

as proof he can hang with the cool kids

except the kids he’s hanging out with 

aren’t quite as cool as they would have you believe 

and this imposter did a cut and paste job 

on large parts of the SNP domestic policy 

and had the brass neck to claim it 

as radical

as his vision for the many not the few 

even a so-called red couldn’t ditch the slogan 

which had tints of a Tory Blue Tony 

and just like that phoney his mask is beginning to slip 

You see voters like me won’t take lip.

from a Brexiteer who will always put himself first 

as he cynically attempts to manipulate the less aware

he has garden paths to lead them up 

and garden parties to attend 

this man whose style at Prime Minister’s Questions 

was enough to give me  indigestion 

raising points which we were meant to believe

 were sent by ordinary people 

rather than focus groups of party members 

the honourable member for  Islington 

is and has always been a servant of the Westminster agenda 

and had only  one mission for Britain 

namely to win the colony back for the crown 

unlike some I never bought his story 

the people’s friend , I see him as  just another red Tory 

though maybe not in the economic sense 

I’ll cut him a bit of slack 

but anyone who believes in the union flag 

is and always will be 

a conservative at heart 

it doesn’t matter how nice they are 

or how trendy or cool they pretend to be 

if they don’t want be to free from the last chains of empire 

they subconsciously out themselves as hypocrits and liars 

every time the word socialism passes their lips 

the little Brits lack the awareness to realise

you can’t have socialism in a kingdom 

united or otherwise 

it depends on the class system to survive 

as a middle class man 

who quotes a middle class poet 

to a middle class crowd 

knows only too well

as he pretends to be the people’s friend 

and remains no friend of Scotland. 
© Gayle Smith 2017 

Comfort Zone 

On day 21 of NaPoWriMo My poem  takes a look at the topic of Privacy. I do so with the issue of locality very much on my mind and that’s why I set it in the most personal places of all, well you can’t get more personal than your street and your home. It is for this  reason I’ve run with the title suggested by my Facebook friend Karen Campbell and titled it Comfort Zone I hope you enjoy the read. 
Comfort Zone 
It’s nice here 

I have nice friends

a nice home 

and a very nice life 

and believe me that is exactly how 

I want it to stay

nothing will take me from my comfort zone 

you see I give money 

to those less fortunate than myself 

I look after my health 

take care of myself 

I know it sounds so middle class

but I’m not I’m just cautious

I’ve always been honest 

maybe it’s because I’m single 

I may mix and mingle 

as much as anyone 

and believe me this girl 

has known how to have fun 

since before Cyndi Lauper hit the charts 

with the song that became an anthem 

but as a Cosmo girl I learned early 

to value my independence 

so when I shut the door behind me 

at the end of the night 

I like to keep myself right 

lock the door on the world 

and retreat to the space I call mine 

my home  is my comfort zone 

the place I can truly be me 

and have the privacy to freely 

express myself 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Jewel Of The Clyde 

On day 11 of NaPoWriMo my topic of choice is culture as I look back to 1990 when Glasgow was European City Of Culture and look at the legacy this has left us. I’ve given it the title Jewel Of The Clyde. I hope you enjoy the read.  

Jewel Of The Clyde 
I remember it well 

  1990 

when Glasgow was cultural capital of Europe 

and we were told by our so called betters 

we were the Jewel of the Clyde 

this marketing slogan for the middle classes 

never sat well with ordinary lassies like me 

well not at the time 

though we eventually got used to it 

maybe even liked it 

we never got excited at the prospect the big ticket events 

not when the prices were at least a month’s rent 

we weren’t in to Pavarotti or Sinatra 

but a bit of Love and Money went down fine 

there were lines to be drawn 

between the Scotia Bar and the Tron 

my dad said 

though  I must admit I felt at home 

in both 

well one had ambience the other had heart 

less than a mile apart they symbolised the contrast 

between new and old Glasgow

the geography of conflict 

between socialism and gentrification 

where culture wars real and imagined 

began to be fought 

1990 showed the haves and have nots 

were warring tribes on the hunt  for new recruits 

aspiration and tradition the badges of honour 

claimed by opposing sides 

you could have one but not the other 

in the world according to my mother 

I wanted both and believed I could have them 

I was never wedded to the idea of class as identity 

my view that it was a bigger social construct than nation 

sat well with my radical dad 

but not my socially conservative mum 

who heard distant drums

 as a symbol of her white Protestant Britishness 

the togetherness unionists still bang on about 

even though its days are numbered 

2014 saw generational cultures colide 

but the Jewel of the Clyde voted yes 

to independence

and did it for MacLean and Jimmy Reid 

greed  has never been our way 

the big ticket events have their place 

but if 1990 showed us anything 

it was that our communities 

are what make us strong 

there were lots Glasgowing On 

to give us a sense of belonging 

and a sentimental longing for yesterday 

but times moved on 

and we found our voice

telling stories with authenticity and dignity 

 in plays in community halls 

and poetry nights in bars 

the ordinary people were the stars 

of the Glasgow show 

the roots we planted have grown 

we have flourished beyond recognition 

aspiration and tradition have married 

and the Jewel of the Clyde 

 is the voice they gave to their children. 

 © Gayle Smith 2017 

A Real Poet Smashed The Cultural Class Ceiling And Gave It A Good A Good Matt Finish ( A Review Of The Class Ceiling By Monkey Poet AKA Matt Panesh ) 

Hey Readers 

Eventually it had to happen, and it did and I made my annual appearance at this year’s  show by the one and only Monkey poet. 

Now, Monkey Poet real name Matt Panesh is not only one damn fine poet he is also one of the good guys and having attended all of spoken word shows since 2010 I have built up a good friendship with him over the years. So when I go to see him in the Banshee Labyrinth I know exactly what to expect and that is an hour of top class entertainment.

As for this year’s show entitled the Class Ceiling our resident monkey split his performance in to three different parts with a structure which has more in common with a play than a traditional spoken word show. Whilst this may have come as a surprise to others who were not in the audience on the night I attended it didn’t shock me in the slightest.  You see I know Matt’s theatrical skills and I knew he could and indeed would pull this off with effortless ease.  

In the first segement of his show Matt talked sex and boldly proclaimed with the authority that only a poet has that we are on the verge of a sexual revolution. Matt supports this belief by stating that in the 1970s and 80’s we were brought hearing about the seven year itch as the time when people were most likely test if the grass really was greener outside the martial home, whereas he now believes that over time this itch has come down to a one year itch and that is the time when relationships note I didn’t use the word marriage are likely to face their first real test. 

Matt then went on to lament the fact that he was too young for the first sexual revolution on due to the fact he hadn’t actually been born and was too old for this one because he is now in his early forties.

Having relaxed the audience in the way only he can then introduced himself with what I think many people may call his signature poem entitled I Shot That Fucking Fucker’s Son in which the accused tries to justify the senseless killing of an innocent baby by quoting from the bible. This is done for one reason and one reason only which is to prove that extremists will use the bible to justify just about anything.

Having settled the audience which in this case was much smaller than Monkey deserve and comprised mainly of his adopted fringe family of which I am proud to be part he then introduced the character of Roger Cumsnatch  who has only been a poet for six months but who claims to be connected to Benedict Cummerbatch and and has auntie Bebe whose on the board of the BBC and has all the right connections to get her nephew noticed.  

In his ‘ set ‘ Cumsnatch who claims to be a liberal but is to all intents and purposes the David Cameron of the spoken word scene reads us his patronising protestations on those who are less fortunate than himself I Am As One With The Tramps before  revealing his true colours in Police State , Fascist State , What’s Wrong With Shooting Foxes, he then moved on to the topic of Racism where he informed us of his work with the Bemes community I think he meant Black , and Minority Ethnic Community before reading his final poem Check, Check, Check Your Privilege which so was condescending it reminded me of David Cameron talking on poverty 

Mercifully, this ended Cumsnacth’s contributed and Monkey Poet reappeared and restored normality or at least his version of it to the evening’s proceedings. Our resident monkey started with an excellent if short poetic attack on the man who would be president of America Donald Trump. This pleased the audience none of whom seem too happy at the prospect of Trump ruling his country or for that matter any other country.

The show then, not surprisingly took a slightly political turn as Matt explained why he believes that UK Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, and SNP MEP Alyn Smith are two of the genuine good guys in a profession which in his opinion exactly famed for them. Matt then concluded his monkey business for the evening with his classic poem on St George and brought to an end an excellent hour of entertainment.

After the show I enjoyed a brief catch up with Matt who reveled that he wasn’t too sure about his Roger Cumsnatch character. I told him that I liked Roger, as though he represented everything I loathed it is important to recognise that there are many people like him in both Scotland and throughout the UK and I know for a fact there will be some of them on the poetry scene. Have I met any of them? Well you should know by now that a lady never tells so let’s just say I’ll leave that to your immigration. What I will say though is that this was a very enjoyable way to spend an hour, and a real poet smashed the cultural class ceiling and gave it a good Matt finish.

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X