Sunday, 28 February 2010

Christina Lindberg Boxtoy

The time has come to promote my new pamphlet, Scarecrows, published by Happenstance Press, priced £4.00 and available to order from here. It looks a little like this:

My marketing plan is to make seven downloadable cut out and fold paper boxtoys, each one based on a character who has a starring role in the pamphlet. The third poem in the sequence is Christina Lindberg: A Collage and here's the grindhouse star herself, as she appeared in They Call Her One-Eye:

Watch it! She's out for revenge! And while she may only be three and a half inches high, you wouldn't want both barrels unloaded into your ankle, would you?

Didn't think so. You can download the net for Christina as an A4 pdf from here. All you need is a colour printer, some scissors and glue. Cut along the thick black lines, fold along the dashed ones.

Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin, 100 word review

Russian literary star Pelevin’s fifth novel concerns a kind of kitsune, a fox spirit thousands of years old, who works as a high class prostitute in contemporary Russia (but only ‘hypnotises’ her clients into thinking they’re getting their money’s worth). A series of careless mistakes leads her to encounter her charismatic counterpart, a werewolf/high-ranking military officer, and they immediately engage in energetic half-human, half-beast sex and equally passionate philosophical debate. This ain’t no Twilight-grade anaemic fantasy - much of the book is engagingly bizarre socio-political riffing, topped with spiritualism, occultism and satire. It’s funny too.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Top Three 'Concept' Pamphlets of 2009

I suppose it's too late for 'Best of 2009' lists but I thought I'd put a note about these because good poetry can always use more publicity. I'm a huge fan of the poetry pamphlet being used as a platform for conceptual ideas that might not be sustainable over the course of a full book, or would be otherwise regulated to a 'section' in the middle. My enthusiasm for these ideas comes, at least in part, I think, from the feeling that while 'the poem' is a respected artform, 'the poetry collection' is not - that is to say, poets are very keen to make an individual poem work in all sorts of interesting ways but think less of the artistic possibilities afforded by the grander scale of the whole book. Snowballing of themes and images is one thing; making the whole artifact into your canvas, to be perceived at once as a whole, is, in my view, quite another.

1. The Reluctant Vegetarian by Richard Moorhead, Oystercatcher Press
Reviewed by me here
Sample poems here
Buy from here

Moorhead uses not vegetables but the words denoting vegetables and ransacks each of them for flavours, uses and meanings. Each poem is laid out in dictionary format and many of the definitions are simply sumptuously worded. Mm.

2. Corpoetics by Nick Asbury, Asbury and Asbury
Reviewed by me and others here
Buy and sample here

Asbury slices up corporate manifestoes gleaned from websites and rearranges them into stumpy but hugely inventive epigrams and light verse. Pointed and artful.

3. The Terrors by Tom Chivers, Nine Arches Press
Reviewed here
Buy from here

Chivers, who published his debut book only months after this delightful pamphlet, presents a series of imaginary emails to inmates of Newgate prison - some unjustly judged, some maniacs. History collides with the technological age - thunderously good.

Johnny Weir: Hero

I stopped myself from writing about American figure skater Johnny Weir a while back, mainly because I feared it would quickly descend into me gibbering about how goshdarn beautiful he is, but now I have a better reason to talk about him.

I've loved watching the guy skate since the 2006 Winter Olympics - he's talented, dedicated and a spectacular showman. But he's also got a massive personality too. He carries with him an orbital array of quotes and eccentric actions, which, naturally, the press love. For the not-yet-obsessed, these include Camille, the single red glove he wore for a spell while skating, who was 'blamed' for any mistakes on the ice, his awesome Poker Face routine, his forming part of the inspiration behind Jimmy MacElroy in Blades of Glory, the Peta death threats regarding the fur on his costume, the fact that when asked for his 10 favourites songs of all time, six were by Christina Aguilera, and of course, his famed discretion when quizzed about his sexuality:

"There are some things I keep sacred. My middle name. Who I sleep with. And what kind of hand moisturiser I use...If I was out to please 10-year-old girls and their 45-year-old mothers in Boise, Idaho, I could play the game and be nice and make my voice deeper. But I don’t see the point. I’m not alive for 10-year-old girls and their 45-year-old mothers in Boise, Idaho — or Colorado Springs, Colo."

For Johnny Weir, he is answerable to the public for his skating and his skating alone. And that's exactly how it should be. But apparently at the 2010 Olympic games, interviewers in Vancouver thought it would be fun to prod the lion. Entertainment Weekly's PopWatch reports that journalists suggested (employing the piss-poor caveat of "this may not be politically correct but -") that his costume and body language were to blame for his score, before asking whether Weir's femininity reflected badly on other male skaters (AAARGHH! NOT GAY!!!! Skating isn't gay! Get your gay off me!) and even joking that he should take a gender test.

It's this kind of institutionalised, insecure, casual homophobia and gender bias that can gradually drive people who don't fit the idea of femininity or masculinity to despair. But it's also a question of free speech, and the most touching thing about this nasty, bigoted little situation is the grace with which Weir handles the subject. Just watch this passionate and eloquent press conference.

Because it's not just about a celebrity getting touchy about questions regarding their sex life. It's about children in the 21st century being afraid to be who they are and about parents and the media hammering gay, bi, trans and just plain different children into lying to themselves and living in fear, sometimes for their entire lives.

Johnny Weir is setting an example for kids in a number of areas: hard work, unabashed, unapologetic self-belief, and a masterclass in how to be a genuine star.


Thanks to Lizzie.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Approaching the Divine Comedy in the Twenty-First Century

The first feature article we have up at Dr Fulminare's Irregular Features is a fresh look at Dante's the Divine Comedy by Andrea Tallarita. If you've found yourself baulking at the idea of reading the Comedy because it looks like so much 'fire and brimstone' preaching, or just because it seems intimidating, give this short article a whirl - you might find it provokes renewed interest:

Approaching the Divine Comedy in the Twenty-First Century

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Fables 13: The Great Fables Crossover, 100 word review

The last volume of Fables left the characters facing their grimmest predicament yet, so writer Bill Willingham really couldn’t have chosen a worse time to insert a jaunty cross-over romp with spin-off series Jack of Fables. Even on its own merits, it’s a damp squib - the antagonist is essentially God (manifested as an author), determined to end the Universe with a stroke of his pen but stricken with writers’ block. His agents - all personifications of genres of fiction - are fairly irritating, especially ‘Literature’ (who should really have been called ‘Bad LitCrit’). Bizarrely, each gets their head chewed off.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Paper Foldables

I just discovered It's a wonderful site run by Bryan Green, featurable downloadable nets for paper characters, many of which are based on computer games. Just check out the amazing Street Fighter II set! I might have a go at creating some of these myself...

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Last Stand of the Wreckers, Issue 2, 100 word review


What if Alistair MacLean (he of Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare fame) were alive today and writing comics? He might be doing something like Nick Roche and James Roberts’ Last Stand of the Wreckers. Issue 2 carefully finalises the bubbling pot of contrasting personalities and gives us more background to arch-villain Overlord, the Decepticons' most famous deserter. Then it throws the Wreckers headlong into a wall of gunfire as they begin their suicidal assault on the prison outpost Garrus 9. On top of that, there are at least three mystery sub-plots raised. Exhilarating, engaging, coherent and beautiful.

That J.K. Rowling lawsuit, 100 word review

‘Harry Potter plagiarism lawsuit could be billion-dollar case, says claimant’. The only real question to be answered is who’s the most transparent hustler here. Is it the family of a deceased multiple bankruptee whose claim to plagiarism amounts to ‘protagonist has to overcome a series of problems’ (presumably they’d be sueing Homer, if he was still alive and a billionaire)? Is it the lawyers, greedy for a high-profile case, who have shamelessly encouraged them? Or is it J.K. Rowling and her publisher for flogging such an unimaginative hodge-podge of hoary old narrative devices and stock characters?

Branding, 100 word review

What would convince you to trust an ever-changing assortment of dull-but-devious individuals whose sole raison d’être is to wring enough money out of the population to buy another fat fucking house? Answer: branding. The keystone of marketing. A brand, after all, is just like a name, except that it belongs to nothing more substantial than a vague constellation of shapes, colour schemes and mass-produced clutter. But people place their confidence in brands - feel safe with them - possibly due to an inability to find the same meagre security and consistency in other people. How rubbish is that?

Monday, 15 February 2010

Tilt Sneak Peak


Forgive me for being a day late but here, as promised, is what Fuselit: Tilt looks like. We've made eight so far and we're going at a pace of four a day. I can't type too much today though because I've done in my arm misusing the punch. Ow.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Tilt Update

Sorry - the last post was really, really boring. More something for me myself to refer to later. Here's a quick Tilt update:

We've had a few upsets with typos and things and had to print out some pages multiple times, but today - literally as soon as I click 'Publish Post' - we are punching and binding, bagging, burning, sticking, folding and enveloping. Our front room is a mess of equipment and paper. We are excited about being so close but wary too - because of all the hiccups and setbacks so far. We were receiving submissions for this issue almost nine months ago. Believe me, we are very aware of how long some people have been waiting for this and it does get to us!

I'll post a picture of a finished issue up on the blog tomorrow.

Personal Manifesto, part 1: Outwards not Inwards

I'm not sure how I feel about manifestoes. On the one hand, it seems like formulating one, privately or publicly, is a necessary part of the process of becoming focused and of defining your personal efforts, which is especially important when spending so much time on something that is neither a hobby or a business. On the other, every time I've attempted to write one down, it has come out wrong - either inaccurate or over-confrontational.

This morning, the thought occurred that the problem was down to my trying to pinpoint an individual position in relation the world's, as opposed to against itself. In simpler terms, instead of writing: "This is how I intend to differ from everyone else", I should be writing: "This is the route I intend to take, as opposed to others which remain open to me." I don't believe this robs the manifesto of its ability to be revolutionary or morally arresting but it puts it on a far more realistic scale.

So part 1 of my own manifesto - since I think it's best to write these things down as and when they feel important - is that as a poet - and as far as I am a poet (and if I'm a pretender, then equally so) - I want to face outwards not inwards. By that I mean that I don't want to set my sights on the inner world of poetry and what it takes to impress and ensconce oneself there (although, if I'm honest, I sometimes feel a burning need to do just that, so that I am authenticated in some way) but on engaging with everything outside of that inner world. That notion is, I think, the basis for a lot of my ideas, while staring at the sea of high-achieving, already-established poets in catalogues (whether ones I admire or ones I find dull) is the basis for so much anxiety and ill feeling.

That doesn't mean I won't read poetry books or won't engage with them as a reader; rather, I will treat them as part of that external world, rather than as achievements I want to match.

So that's that part. I'll see what else comes up in the future.

Univocalisms, 100 word review

Raymond Queneau came up with some hugely compelling ideas for original literarature in his time, but sometimes there was more art in the concept than any possible execution. Such is the case of the univocalism, a poem which only uses one vowel. As far as poetry is music, it is the sound of someone incessantly hammering the same piano key. What’s its appeal? Only that it is a striking example of something that appears to require much greater skill than it actually does, so that as the spoken word equivalent of ‘is this your card?’ it goes down a storm.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Introducing Irregular Features!

The inestimable Dr Fulminare of (he of Sidekick Books fame/infamy) begs to alert all merchants, mountebanks, bards and footpads to his latest experiment, Irregular Features, a sporadically updated, peer-reviled journal of poetry goings-on, in which the following reactions and imbalances may or not occur:

  • Things to Make and Do - games and guides to coerce you into such unatural practices as generating 10,000,000,000 pantoums in but clicks, using fridge magnets to constuct your own poetry blurb, folding your own stanza-stimulating origami swift, crafting the images of famed poets from dots and much more.
  • Poetry Top Trumps - pit the varied talents of Ted Hughes, Frank O' Hara, Getrude Stein and Giorgos Seferis against each other in a duel to the (probably car-crash or oven-related) death, with further metersmiths to be added.
  • Woe's Woe - a directory of suffering, for when 'blue' won't cut it and 'out-of-sorts' is too infuriatingly non-specific to pinpoint exactly what kind of pain you are feeling. You will be introduced to such diagnoses as Faughstalkery, Lentopression and Repustress and before long, Dr F vouchsafes that you should be able to accurately diagnose misery at a good ten paces!
  • Plus Articles, Reviews and Interviews with poetry types, as the benevolent Doctor permits.
Dr Fulminare requests contact with any sharp-witted types who, upon spying this literary litany, feel they too may wish to contribute ingredients, or, tangentially, anyone with staunch amounts of scentless sulphur for sale at a reasonable rate. Contact him through the Devil's Wiretangle at

Stephen Bayley versus Germaine Greer, 100 word review

Feminist Greer laid into egomaniac Bayley for his book ‘Women as Design’ on account of it being a misogynist pervathon. Bayley hit back that Greer was guilty of as much in her 2003 book about ‘The Boy’. Thing is, ‘The Boy’ is actually a worthwhile subject - Greer is specifically discussing that which is between a child and a man. Bayley’s subject is over-scrutinised. Plus he’s all cart-before-horse, his central premise being that it’s aesthetic taste that informs his fetishisation of bums and tits, rather than the other way round. Greer challenges lazy cultural stereotypes; Bayley intellectualises them.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Doctor Who, the Tennant Years, 100 word review

Armed with legendarily third-rate (and now charmless) BBC special effects, Russell T. Davies' 'Great Idea' was to transform the Doctor from an eccentic, brilliant and jammy scientist into an all-gurning, all-shouting action hero with a penchant for self-aggrandising speeches. Then he set about coaxing unconvincing performances from even the most experienced actors and filling every scene with either (a) the sound of an orchestra giving birth, or (b) a guest appearance from a past-their-best comedian. This wasn't so much Doctor Who as Doctor Who's psychotic stalker, having killed the object of its obsession and started parading around in its skin.

English justice, 100 word review

The judiciary tirelessly maintains the tradition of hearing the strongest possible argument from both sides, and attends to the endless task of making incremental adjustments to legislature so that the law, correctly interpreted, operates as a massive and intricate moral machine. Three problems: (1) the expense and duration of a case, together with room for error, ensure the party in the wrong always has far less to lose; (2) it’s all wholly inadequate for dealing with parties who are equally steeped in folly; (3) the ushers redistribute the water left in everyone’s glasses at the end of the preceding day.

Monday, 8 February 2010

The Real Global Warming Disaster, Christopher Booker, 100 word review

Publishers must know they’re onto a winner with exposés of ‘the great climate change fraud’. But you only need to look at the language on the back and inner covers of the book to understand the agenda.  Booker is concerned with ‘the costly bill’, threat to ‘the Western way of life’ and ‘rollback of the industrial age’. This is the fightback of the terminally self-interested - incredulous that they should have to forego luxury and wealth for any reason under the sun. Sadly for Booker, many of those who agree with him would never come within spitting distance of a bookshop.

Lego Batman, Wii, 100 word review

Some people think gaming should be about the challenge. Others prefer stress-free fun. Traveller’s Tales Lego games are expressly designed for the latter. You can’t ‘die’ and you’re unlikely to get stuck on any part of a level for a significant amount of time. Instead, the emphasis is on using charming Lego renditions of famous heroes and villains to batter everything in sight and collect bucketloads of woot (with deviations into simple puzzles). Sounds repetitive, but the huge roster of characters, amusing special moves, colourful comic book levels and super-gadabout vehicles keep the grin plastered to your chops.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

About that Tilt...?

Yes indeed - where is our friend Tilt?

The latest development is this:

Since the spectacular failure of the postal service to deliver our tool, we've trekked out to Greenford not once but twice in order to secure a different one. Rest assured that it will be worth it - the wait for you, the voyage for us - 'fact, it'll be yummy.

So what could possibly be the hold-up? Well, old faithful, the Lexmark laser, has decided to print in lousy quality only, despite a plentiful and expensive toner supply. So tomorrow, after work, I'm going to go get the files printed by proper people with real printers. Then we can get to work.

Assuming all goes well at the printer's and we get back the copies ok, we hope to be sending out issues within the week to patient subscribers and contributors, and then to good supporters who're purchasing single issues. Thanks again for bearing with us, everybody!

In the meantime, if you've a curious mind and wish to see Fuselits past, as well as a treasure trove of other poetry, all for free, do head down to Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank and make yourself at home in the Poetry Library. Our entire back catalogue is there - to my knowledge this only exists in a couple other places - one of them being Jon's personal library/shoebox.

Bleach: Dark Souls, DS, 100 word review

Best beat’em up on the DS? Probably. But even better for those who have flirted with the property it’s licensed from. Like me, you might not have read any Bleach before encountering the game - your interest being aroused instead by the pedigree (developers Treasure are responsible for classics across nearly every platform of the last fifteen years). But get to know the characters a little, and it’s even more fun pitting them against one another. Four-way matches, extravagant costumes, screen-swamping special moves, lovably pompous fight-talk, plus a story mode - all makes for an engaging five-minute bash.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Mimesis 6

I'm months late to report on this, but since Mimesis is on hiatus for the time being, it's as good a time as any to recommend issue 6. I say 'recommend' - does it count as a recommendation if I'm in it? I've nothing financially to gain from it, after all.

In any case, I'll recommend it in two senses. First of all, I recommend you read my article When to Mischief: In Search of Burlesque in Contemporary British Poetry, which is published therein, so that you can talk about burlesque poetry with your friends and titter condescendingly when they ask: "Is that poetry about girls with tassles on their boobs?" "No, no, no," you will scold, and go on to explain about the roots of the word, how Virgil suffering a travesty led to The Rape of the Lock and why burlesque techniques still represent an intriguing and under-appreciated side of contemporary British verse.

I also recommend picking up a copy of Mimesis 6 because it contains two superior essays (by Luke Kennard and Robert Archambeau) as well as an international array of poetry, including a new piece by Paul Muldoon and four 'dictionary' pieces by Richard Moorhead (more of which are published in the latest Horizon Review).

Oh, and get you skates on - nearly all back issues of Mimesis have sold out.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Costa Book of the Year

Belated congratulations to Christopher Reid, who has won the Costa book of the year award. He's the first poet to carry off the prize since Seamus Heaney in 1999. His collection A Scattering, the Guardian notes in its byline, "has sold fewer than 1,000 copies". You what? A poetry collection that hasn't passed the 1000-mark? What did he do? Self-publish it?

In all seriousness, while this is great news for Reid (once Ted Hughes' editor) and another nice boost for British poetry in general, I have some personal misgivings. I'm not for a moment going to say it is undeserved, but anything that gives professional poetry-corpse-botherer Daisy Goodwin something to crow about is a cause for concern. "Christopher Reid’s victory in the Costa awards marks a new awareness of the power of poetry," she begins. So far, so much for my stomach contents. No one, it is commonly acknowledged, can write on poetry in newspapers without either announcing the dawn of a new age or sounding the death knell. Goodwin's speciality is trying to sell poetry as viagra, fluoxetine and ketamine all in one, so it's no surprise that for all her pretence of focusing on A Scattering, she somehow steers the subject back round to her own flimsy trestle-table of wares:
"Why wade through self-help tomes like Women Who Love Too Much, when you can read One Art by Elizabeth Bishop, or Two Cures for Love by Wendy Cope? If you need directions on how to live your life, read The Church-porch by George Herbert. If a child is leaving home, try Walking Away by C Day-Lewis. A good poem will provide more consolation than Prozac, more insights into the human condition than therapy."
The reason Goodwin gets to bang on about this is because A Scattering is a book about the death of Reid's wife. As such, it is heart-wrenching stuff.  The problem, minor as it is, that I have with books like this winning prizes is that I can't help but wonder (call it unjust cynicism, if you like) how much of the recognition is for the poetry and how much for the poet; that is to say, how far the judges were paying their due to a man shouldering the greatest of losses and the deepest of pains with dignity and humanity. Christopher Reid isn't the only person to have managed this feat; he's just one of the few with the skill to make the world aware of it. Most of us can't find the words to explain what is happening. He has. But are we praising him for finding the words, or is it just that we don't easily recognise the same depths of emotion in others who have borne a loss?

I think my concern is reasonable, particularly in an age when misery memoirs occupy more shelf-space in many bookshops than poetry and plays put together. We evidently, as a culture, have an appetite for suffering. So I suppose it's just that I'll be more comfortable believing in a 'new awareness' of poetry when the winning book is a cool and calculated display of skill, insight and exploration. I want proof that poetry survives and succeeds without necessarily acting as a portal through which we can touch each other's pain.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Last Stand of the Wreckers

The first issue of Nick Roche and James Roberts' Last Stand of the Wreckers sold out within a week. That's not surprising considering anticipation for the duo's new miniseries built up to epidemic-level just prior to its release. Some male fans of Roche's previous writing posted oddly homoerotic messages to him on public message boards, while others began to exhibit the aggressive beheaviour of drug addicts. When it finally arrived in the shops, I myself bought two issues, each with a different cover - something I have never done before.

Part of the strength of feeling comes from how ably and generously Roche (and now Roberts too) abates long-term Transformers fans with little references to past continuities and skilful use of forgotten characters. He is, more than perhaps any other writer a Transformers comics has enjoyed, a TF nerd and proud of it.

But to keep on about that aspect of the work is to do both writers an injustice. The real triumph of Last Stand of the Wreckers is that it's a wonderfully written adventure story.  New characters are memorably drawn (literally and figuratively) within just a matter of panels. The principle villain, Overlord, takes over an army after murdering its general, then leads a military assault on an outer space prison outpost, only to then turn the planet into a sort of sci-fi Ancient Rome, with himself as the mad, masochistic Emperor (Caligula, if you like, though I'm something of a Caligula apologist). The heroes, the Wreckers, are an elite commando squad who are on their way to liberate said planet, with little idea of exactly what they're letting themselves in for, since all communications are cut off. Just before doing so, they pick up four new recruits, each of whom bring a different dynamic to the team, and one of whom may carry a troubling secret.

In other words, replace the Transformer characters with human characters and it would still be a ripping yarn. Although for my money, for visual impact, you can't beat giant, mechamorphic robots in this medium - especially when Roche's art imbues them with such personality.

The second printing hits UK comic shops next Thursday. Try it out. Even if you're not a Transformers fan, this is as good as comics get.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

On Killing

I don't usually say much about things like this (online at least) but it was heartening to read in the Metro this morning the comments of the father of murdered cadet Joseph Lappin with regard to the sentencing of his killers:
"There is an overwhelming feeling of sadness, not only for the loss of Joseph, but also for the waste of the lives of the young men who have been sentenced."
So often the statements reported in the press after such trials fail to reflect on the tragedy of human beings losing huge chunks of their lives to prisons. Reporters like to squeeze bereaved parents for bile and punitive zeal instead, how the criminals should have been hanged or given a tougher sentence. John Lappin's statement does not reflect any kind of sympathy with his son's murderers - it is not 'weakness' or 'liberal hand-wringing' - but a recognition of the fact that pointless killing and the subsequent imprisonment of young people is a failure of society, not just the individuals concerned, and that every part of it constitutes the 'waste'. Imprisonment is not some wonderful solution to people we don't want to share our freedom with; it's a desperate evil that is permitted only because we don't know what else to do with dangerous, broken men and women. And capital punishment is nothing but black-hearted savagery enshrined in law.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Poems of Love and Hate

Is it possible to be really affected by a poetic device and yet really hate the message said technique is helping to put across?

This is how I feel about "Unto us..." a 1972 Spike Milligan poem. In his poetry, Milligan has moments of whiny, sickly, self-indulgent, pseudo-philosophical guff (indulged by the editors, I imagine, because hell, you're publishing Spike Milligan and he sells), but he has excellent, very poignant poems too, such as "My Daughter's Horse" and "2B or not 2B".

"Unto us..." is, for me at least, a reminder that Spike Milligan was of a different generation and definitely a different ideology. They say as you get older, you get more conservative, and this poem is horrendously damning of abortion in a very generalised sense. Spoken from the point of view of the foetus (you can tell where it's going from that alone), it's strikingly ill-informed. I don't pretend to have an encyclopaedic medical knowledge of abortion practice in the 70s, but I can't imagine it involved chucking the unborn child into a pedal bin. It's almost ludicrously didactic. The parents are seen as happy - nay, celebratory - that they, having initially "committed themselves" to the child, have easily ditched it. Perhaps a termination could bring relief, but it's flippant to suggest that the parents would be casual, even joyous, about it.

Where's the redemption here? Why is this not a clear case of "fuck me - that's just a poor poem all over, and sick to boot"? The thing is, I find myself conflicted by the final lines: 
"My death was celebrated/with two tickets to see Danny la Rue/who was pretending to be a woman/like my mother was."

First off, yes, the blame has been unambiguously dumped onto the mother. Secondly, the attack on her womanhood for having the abortion is appalling. And yet, the juxtaposition of the comic, loveable and most importantly, safe, Danny la Rue with the situation is weirdly appealing. I want to rescue that idea and transplant it into less morally dubious surroundings. The kind of gendered damnation in "Unto us..." is hard to salvage. Regardless of whether the poem was written thirty-odd years ago, or fifty, this kind of passive-aggressive blame-dishing and blatant misrepresentation of the facts still happens today, fueling pro-life arguments, fear, and infringements of women's choices, and so I'd like to turn this poem on its blinkered head.

Here's my effort:

Out on a Saturday, shouting at girls

Somewhere at sometime
she committed herself to them.
her lined parka and placards
bright against the trees
that lined the clinic walkway.

I was small and had been well-timed,
trotting round in Thomas jimjams
till she came home to my father's roast.
She would be hoarse, would say
to Dad: "fifteen of them today.
I think they're starting to listen.
It's horrific. One was sixteen.
I woke up six times
last night, thinking about them."

At eight, I wanted
to know why certain comics
were banned, why the mermaid died
in the other Little Mermaid.
Where Mum went. She went
to the shops. To the shops.
To more shops, the other shops.

We bailed her out one time,
after the police caught her
following a crying girl home,
quoting and raving like a saint.
The officer gave me
a strawberry Panda Pop
as my father filled out forms and forms.

My mother was jubilant, glowing
that someone was taking notice
kissing my father
and her lovely daughter.

We celebrated her release
with two tickets to see Danny la Rue
who was pretending to be a woman.