Tag Archive | Communities

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 

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 


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 

Curtain Twitchers 

On day 5 of NaPoWriMo I look at one the most annoying groups in our society otherwise known as the curtain twitchers. You know the type I mean, those people who continually look out the window like they have nothing better to do. The kind of people who could tell you everything about everyone in their area but when it comes to the real world  can only parrot what they’ve heard on the BBC or read in some unionist tabloid. I’ve given it the title Curtain Twitchers, I hope you enjoy the read. 

Curtain Twitchers 

in narrow streets live those  with narrower minds 

the curtain twitchers look out 

through nets and blinds 

from the safety of their nice clean homes 

and when there is no late night theatre 

nor street drunks to entertain them 

they go back to the safety of the sofa 

take the remote control 

switch on to the BBC 

where they watch Newsnight , or Question Time 

without really caring about the questions asked 

or the answers given 

ambition doesn’t stretch beyond the living room 

of those with me first mentality

who get their diet of political spoon feeding 

they are content to watch society bleeding 

to death by a thousand  cuts

this is considered normal

by those who want a formal rules society 

with everything and everyone in their proper place 

this need to feel safe 

fuels prejudice in communities 

where those who are blinkered by ignorance 

drink from cups of bitterness 

and are so blinded by its taste 

they can’t see the stars illuminate the night 

eventually dawn will break

but in the clear  light of the morning 

the curtain twitchers never see rainbows 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Tainted Gold

Hey Readers.

This poem looks at Britain’s history as the first industrial nation and how the past still shapes the present especially with regards to the class divide which was enhanced during that period and how this impacts on us even now when it comes to how we view our environment. I have given it the title Tainted Gold I hope you find it an enjoyable and thought provoking read.

Tainted Gold

As children we were taught to be proud
Britain was the first industrial nation
the first country to break
from the agrarian way of life
we took a scythe to communities
which had lasted for centuries in the name of modernity and profit
cottage industries died
and wealth was no longer shared
but concentrated in the hands of a few
the capitalist class had been born
and the gap between rich and poor grew wider
a trend that continues to this day
the bard would shake his head in dismay
at the destruction of what he called ‘nature’s social union’
all for the wealth of an elite
this revolution far from eradicating poverty
or at least driving it in to retreat
has made the situation worse
whilst destroying resources
both at home and overseas
lust for wealth led to an obsessive greed
as leaders hunted for colonies
and built an empire in the name of the crown
this we were told was something
on which the sun would never go down
lest we forget the real facts of the matter
the chattering classes can’t hide
no amount of propaganda disguised as pride
can stem the tide of nature
or change the narrative of the story
it’s embarrassing to see
a country which claims to be
amongst the most developed on earth
embark on a policy of apathetic indifference
when it comes to maintaining the health of the world
whilst city boys and girls rake in obscene profits
and the landed gentry shoot the grouse
on the glorious 12th
the mind thy self mentality
cares more about fictional characters
in TV soaps
than improving our quality of life
as our leaders yet again
use the scythe
to cut the earth
in the endless search
for tainted gold

@ Gayle Smith 2017

In 1983 I Voted Labour

Hey everyone. This post is the first in what I hope will be a very poetic month. I’m up for the challenge of writing 30 poems in 30 days and you will be able to see if I can make it happen.
As part of the challenge I have issued my poetry manifesto which is fairly brief and contains only three promises. (1) the topics will vary in both content and style and will not be dominated by the General Election (2) All poems will be new and not re-writes or edits of previous as yet unfinished poems. (3) I will be looking through the posts of non poetic and non political friends for inspiration and should I find it, I will credit the friend concerned in my introduction. Anyway this is my first poem of the month and it is a political poem with some very bad news for the Labour Party. I have given it the title In 1983 I Voted Labour. I hope you enjoy the read.

In 1983 I Voted Labour

In 1983 I voted Labour
to try to rid my country of the Tories
I hoped and prayed with all my heart
we would have a better land
and not be bought with bribes
and scary stories

I dreamed I’d see a Scotland fit for purpose
the gap between the rich and poor would end
Instead my land was cursed once more by Thatcher
as Britain walked whilst sleeping yet again

forget the poor they have no place among us
said a woman who was marching to the right
she won a landslide victory in her green and pleasant seats
and then she started squaring for a fight

the miners were the first to feel her fury
communities destroyed by her decisions
next it was the greenham common woman
the country was a dis united kingdom

With national assets privatised and sold off for a song
It’s safe to say she had no love for Scotland
she told us stop your whining
there is no silver lining
I’ve far more pressing problems
down in Tottenham

Neglected and abandoned
yet many clung to dreams
that Labour would return to power next time
as for me I lost all hope
that night in 83
my first election vote
was my red line

I realised the hopelessness
that voting Labour brought
dejected that a dream was cruelly shattered
I knew the day reality dawned
I had another choice
the chance to show the world
my vote mattered

And on the day the deal was done
A lesson had been learned
the penny dropped I had to take the hint
from then on it’s been SNP
I was proud to vote Labour in 83
I’m glad to say I haven’t done it since.

@ Gayle Smith 2015