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Poetry and politics

5 May 2016

Owing to flu, some were unable to come to our monthly discussion on Christianity and literature today, but those of us who were ther had an interesting if rather rambling discussion of Beat poetry and current politics.

We read one of Tony McGregor’s favourite poems, A Supermarket in California. Tony’s book didn’t have one of my favourites and I could only recall isolated snippets but, thanks to the word-wide web, here’s a link to the complete poem, Christ Climbed Down by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. My favourite verse is this:

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no intrepid Bible salesmen
covered the territory
in two-tone cadillacs
and where no Sears Roebuck crèches
complete with plastic babe in manger
arrived by parcel post
the babe by special delivery
and where no televised Wise Men
praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

Because we weren’t sure who would be there and what we would talk about, I also printed a list of books I have read this year.

Books read in 2016

Berg, Martin Litvinoff, Miles. 1992.Ancestors: the origins of the people and countries of Europe. Euroland.
A brief summary of the history of Europe as a whole, followed by descriptions of the various peoples who have lived in Europe. from the Alamanni and the Alans to the Vlachs and the Welsh. The final section is a description and potted history of each of the countries of Europe, but to about 1991. .

Gansky, Alton. 1999.A ship possessed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
A WW2 submarine that went missing in the Atlantic reappears fifty years later on the west coast of the USA.

Gerritsen, Tess. 2012.Last to die. London: Bantam.
Set in a boarding school in a remote area in Maine, USA, where most of the pupils are victims or survivors of violence. Three of the pupils, whose parents had been murdered, still seem to be threatened. .

Lewin, Hugh. 2002.Bandiet: out of jail. Parktown: Random House.
Hugh Lewin was a member of the African Resistance Movement and was arrested in 1964 for his part in their sabotage campaign, and sentenced to 7 years in prison. Among his fellow prisoners were Raymond Thoms and Marius Schoon. .

Nkosi, Lewis. 2002.Underground people. Cape Town: Kwela.
In the dying days of the apartheid era the National Liberation Movement sends Cornelius Molapo to his home ground of Tabanyane, to coordinate a local uprising with the national liberation struggle. To account for his disappearance they put around the story that he had been detained by the Security Police, which brings Anthony Ferguson, who works for an international human rights NGO, to South Africa to investigate his disappearance. For Ferguson, a South African expatriate who had been out of the country for 15 years, it was as much of a strange homecoming as going home to Tabanyane was for Cornelius Molapo.

Rickman, Phil. 2003.The lamp of the wicked. London: Pan.
Gomer Parry’s workshop burns down and he suspects a rival in plant hire, Roddy Lodge, whose workmanship in installing a septic tank he has criticised. But then a woman’s body is discovered, and Roddy Lodge becomes a suspect in that too, Detective Inspector Frannie Bliss of the Hereford police thinks he is dealing with a serial killer and Merrily Watkins’s advice is sought by all, Her daughter Jane, meanwhile, entering an atheist phase, is trying to foster a romance between her mother an Lol Robinson, the erstwhile folk singer who is reclutantly making a comeback.

(Midwinter of the Spirit)
Rickman, Phil. 2005.Midwinter of the Spirit A crown of lights. London: Pan.
Merrily Watkins attends a course on exorcism, and is proposed by the Bishop of Hereford for the post of “deliverance consultant”. Suddenly there seems to be a lot of work to do in that line, and some rather disturbing connections seem to emerge.

Wilson, Robert. 2007.The blind man of Seville. London: Harper.

We recommended Phil Rickman’s books to Tony McGregor, who had not read any of them, though we think his earlier ones are better than the later ones. They seem to capture the spirit and culture of English Christianity and social life, and to a lesser extent Welsh Christianity at the end of the 20th century.


We also talked about current politics. The EFF are not very convincing when they tell us how they will put things right, but they do have an uncanny knack of putting their finger with what is wrong. If, in the coming local government elections, the ANC lose a significant number of municipalities, the tenderpreneurs will be seriously annoyed, and the word is that the present violence and vandalism in Malamulele are a foretaste of what could come. The amalgamation of two municipalities will seriously invonvenience the tenderpreneurs in one of them, and it said that they are behind the violence and burning of schools etc. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape letters, muncicipal official with graft sauce is a staple diet of demons.

On the way home we went to visit the Owl Bookshop in Pierneef Street, Villeria, which seems to have quite a good selection of second-hand books. Next door was a Pizzeria, for those who find browsing bookshops makes them hungry. It seemed appropriate that there was a scooter parked outside.

Pierneef Street, Villeria

Pierneef Street, Villeria

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