To Whom It May Concern

With Critical Mass ELT hosting an interesting and thoroughably enjoyable discussion of Merseyside poetry, we thought we would offer up a small offering inspired by our last post on military recruitment in schools:

Adrian Mitchell, who can be seen above reading his anti-war poem, sadly died December 28th 2008. The world of poetry lost one its most profound and courageous voices. Mitchell remained a passionate writer committed to socialism right up until his death. Here is Mitchell reading a revised version of the poem (to take into account the Iraq and Afghanistan wars) only months before his death. He is a truly great inspiration to us all.

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3 responses to “To Whom It May Concern

  1. Powerful poetry. Thank you Marxistelf. I didn’t realise Adrian Henry had died – he was a truly remarkable man. Inspiring as you said. A sad loss.
    “you take the human being and you twist it all about”.

  2. marxistelf

    Hi Sara,

    Yeah pleased you picked up on this

    You put your bombers in
    Your conscience out
    You take the human body
    And you twist it all about

    Taken from the Hokey Cokey dance craze written in the 1940s but still very popular at the time.

    You put your left leg in
    You put your left leg out
    You put your left leg in
    And you shake it all about.
    You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around
    That’s what it’s all about.

    In this Micthell is using a similar poetic device as TS Eliot in the The Hollow Men where he uses a popular children’s rhyme and dance to demonstrate our childlike senselessness:

    Here we go round the prickly pear
    Prickly pear prickly pear
    Here we go round the prickly pear
    At five o’clock in the morning.

    Mitchell, however, has greater faith in the capacity of human beings (ie he is not a miserble right-wing shitbag like Eliot)and the lines are delivered to show the conflict in human beings between truth and humanity on the one hand and the desire to ignore suffering and get on with life, on the other.

    What makes this poetic device even more incredible (even more incredible than the way Mitchell spits out the lines in his live performance) is that the origin of this song/dance craze is itself controversial. Some claim Hockey Cockey is anti-catholic (bit stupid really) whilst others claim Hokey Cokey was a word used by Canadian miners to dull the pains they suffered as a result of their inhuman conditions.

    But as Alan Balfour, grandson of the song’s creator, puts it :
    “All of a sudden the song has become something to hammer people with when all it was was something to create cheer and a better feeling for the population during the time of the war.”

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