Biography of Adrian Mitchell
Adrian Mitchell (24 October 1932 – 20 December 2008) was an English poet, novelist and playwright. A former journalist, he became a noted figure on the British Left. For almost half a century he was the foremost poet of the country's anti-Bomb movement. The critic Kenneth Tynan called him the British Mayakovsky.
Mitchell sought in his work to counteract the implications of his own assertion that, "Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people."
In a National Poetry Day poll in 2005 his poem "Human Beings" was voted the one most people would like to see launched into space. In 2002 he was nominated, semi-seriously, Britain's Shadow Poet Laureate. Mitchell was for some years poetry editor of the New Statesman, and was the first to publish an interview with The Beatles. His work for the Royal Shakespeare Company included Peter Brook's US and the English version of Peter Weiss's Marat/Sade.
Ever inspired by the example of his own favourite poet and precursor William Blake, about whom he wrote the acclaimed Tyger for the National Theatre, his often angry output swirled from anarchistic anti-war satire, through love poetry to, increasingly, stories and poems for children. He also wrote librettos. The Poetry Archive identified his creative yield as hugely prolific.
The Times said that Mitchell's had been a "forthright voice often laced with tenderness." His poems on such topics as nuclear war, Vietnam, prisons and racism had become "part of the folklore of the Left. His work was often read and sung at demonstrations and rallies."
Adrian Mitchell Poems
To All In The So-Called Defence Industry
Arms trade workers, here's an early warning You might wake up tomorrow morning And find that this is the glorious day
DEATH IS SMALLER THAN I THOUGHT
My Mother and Father died some years ago I loved them very much. When they died my love for them Did not vanish or fade away. It stayed just about the same, Only a sadder colour. And I can feel their love for me, Same as it ever was. Nowadays, in good times or bad, I sometimes ask my Mother and Father To walk beside me or to sit with me So we can talk together Or be silent. They always come to me. I talk to them and listen to them And think I hear them talk to me. It's very simple - Nothing to do with spiritualism Or religion or mumbo jumbo. It is imaginary. It is real. It is love.
A Poem for Space: Human Beings
look at your hands your beautiful useful hands you're not an ape you're not a parrot
A PUPPY CALLED PUBERTY
It was like keeping a puppy in your underpants A secret puppy you weren't allowed to show to anyone Not even your best friend or your worst enemy You wanted to pat him stroke him cuddle him All the time but you weren't supposed to touch him He only slept for five minutes at a time Then he'd suddenly perk up his head In the middle of school medical inspection And always on bus rides So you had to climb down from the upper deck All bent double to smuggle the puppy off the bus Without the buxom conductress spotting Your wicked and ticketless stowaway. Jumping up, wet-nosed, eagerly wagging - He only stopped being a nuisance When you were alone together Pretending to be doing your homework But really gazing at each other Through hot and hazy daydreams Of those beautiful schoolgirls on the bus With kittens bouncing in their sweaters.
look at your hands your beautiful useful hands you're not an ape you're not a parrot you're not a slow loris or a smart missile you're human not british not american not israeli not palestinian you're human not catholic not protestant not muslim not hindu you're human we all start human we end up human human first human last we're human or we're nothing nothing but bombs and poison gas nothing but guns and torturers nothing but slaves of Greed and War if we're not human look at your body with its amazing systems of nerve-wires and blood canals think about your mind which can think about itself and the whole universe look at your face which can freeze into horror or melt into love look at all that life all that beauty you're human they are human we are human let's try to be human dance!
Lovers lie around in it Broken glass is found in it Grass I like that stuff Tuna fish get trapped in it Legs come wrapped in it Nylon I like that stuff Eskimos and tramps chew it Madame Tussaud gave status to it Wax I like that stuff Elephants get sprayed with it Scotch is made with it Water I like that stuff Clergy are dumbfounded by it Bones are surrounded by it Flesh I like that stuff Harps are strung with it Mattresses are sprung with it Wires I like that stuff Carpenters make cots of it Undertakers use lots of it Wood I like that stuff Cigarettes are lit by it Pensioners are happy when they sit by it Fire I like that stuff Dankworth's alto is made of it, most of it, Scoobeedo is composed of it Plastic I like that stuff Apemen take it to make them hairier I ate a ton of it in Bulgaria Yoghurt I like that stuff Man-made fibres and raw materials Old rolled gold and breakfast cereals Platinum linoleum I like that stuff Skin on my hands Hair on my head Toenails on my feet And linen on my bed Well I like that stuff Yes I like that stuff The earth Is made of earth And I like that stuff
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN (TELL ME LIES ABO...
I was run over by the truth one day. Ever since the accident I've walked this way So stick my legs in plaster Tell me lies about Vietnam. Heard the alarm clock screaming with pain, Couldn't find myself so I went back to sleep again So fill my ears with silver Stick my legs in plaster Tell me lies about Vietnam. Every time I shut my eyes all I see is flames. Made a marble phone book and I carved all the names So coat my eyes with butter Fill my ears with silver Stick my legs in plaster Tell me lies about Vietnam. I smell something burning, hope it's just my brains. They're only dropping peppermints and daisy-chains So stuff my nose with garlic Coat my eyes with butter Fill my ears with silver Stick my legs in plaster Tell me lies about Vietnam. Where were you at the time of the crime? Down by the Cenotaph drinking slime So chain my tongue with whisky Stuff my nose with garlic Coat my eyes with butter Fill my ears with silver Stick my legs in plaster Tell me lies about Vietnam. You put your bombers in, you put your conscience out, You take the human being and you twist it all about So scrub my skin with women Chain my tongue with whisky Stuff my nose with garlic Coat my eyes with butter Fill my ears with silver Stick my legs in plaster Tell me lies, tell me lies about Aghanistan. Tell me lies about Israel. Tell me lies about Congo. Tell me, tell me lies Mr Bush. Tell me lies Mr B-B-Blair, Brown, Blair-Brown. Tell me lies about Vietnam.
BEATTIE IS THREE
At the top of the stairs I ask for her hand. O.K. She gives it to me. How her fist fits my palm, A bunch of consolation. We take our time Down the steep carpetway As I wish silently That the stairs were endless.
BACK IN THE PLAYGROUND BLUES
I dreamed I was back in the playground, I was about four feet high Yes I dreamed I was back in the playground, standing about four feet high Well the playground was three miles long and the playground was five miles wide It was broken black tarmac with a high wire fence all around Broken black dusty tarmac with a high fence running all around And it had a special name to it, they called it The Killing Ground Got a mother and a father they're one thousand years away The rulers of the Killing Ground are coming out to play Everybody thinking: ‘Who they going to play with today?' Well you get it for being Jewish And you get it for being black You get it for being chicken And you get it for fighting back You get it for being big and fat Get it for being small Oh those who get it get it and get it For any damn thing at all Sometimes they take a beetle, tear off its six legs one by one Beetle on its black back, rocking in the lunchtime sun But a beetle can't beg for mercy, a beetle's not half the fun I heard a deep voice talking, it had that iceberg sound ‘It prepares them for Life' - but I have never found Any place in my life worse than The Killing Ground.
SORRY BOUT THAT
Truth is a diamond A diamond is hard You don't exist Without a Barclaycard Sorry bout that Sorry bout that Even South African cops Do the sorry bout that They showed me the world and said: What do you think? I said: Half about women And half about drink And I'm sorry bout that Sorry bout that Mother I need that booze And I'm sorry bout that But if you cut your conscience Into Kenno-meat chunks You could get elected To the House of Drunks Sorry bout that Sorry bout that You'll never have to think again And I'm sorry bout that You can do the Skull Or the Diplomat But I do a dance Called the Sorry Bout That Do the Mighty Whitey Or the Landlord Rat But I'll keep grooving, To the Sorry Bout That Sorry Bout That Sorry bout that They make me dance with pistols and ten to one I'm sorry bout that Hey Johnny Betjeman Where you been? Down Buckingham Pigstye With Princess Margarine Sorry bout that Sorry bout that Bop goes my knighthood Pretty Jesus but I'm sorry bout that I saw Money walking Down the road Claws like an eagle And a face like a toad Well I know your name baby Seen you before Slapping on your make-up For the Third World War Sorry bout that Sorry bout that Someone set the world on fire And I'm sorry bout that.
SONG IN SPACE
When man first flew beyond the sky He looked back into the world's blue eye. Man said: What makes your eye so blue? Earth said: The tears in the ocean do. Why are the seas so full of tears? Because I've wept so many thousand years. Why do you weep as you dance through space? Because I am the mother of the human race.
ESPECIALLY WHEN IT SNOWS
for Boty especially when it snows and every tree has its dark arms and widespread hands full of that shining angelfood especially when it snows and every footprint makes a dark lake among the frozen grass especially when it snows darling and tough little robins beg for crumbs at golden-spangled windows ever since we said goodbye to you in that memorial garden where nothing grew except the beautiful blank-eyed snow and little Caitlin crouched to wave goodbye to you down in the shadows especially when it snows and keeps on snowing especially when it snows and down the purple pathways of the sky the planet staggers like King Lear with his dead darling in his arms especially when it snows and keeps on snowing
Telephone told me that you were dead Now I hate every telephone's stupid head I'd rather sit here turning to a block of stone Than pick up any snake of a telephone
WHAT IS POETRY?
Look at those naked words dancing together! Everyone's very embarrassed. Only one thing to do about it - Off with your clothes And join in the dance. Naked words and people dancing together. There's going to be trouble. Here come the Poetry Police! Keep dancing.
look at your hands
your beautiful useful hands
you're not an ape
you're not a parrot
you're not a slow loris
or a smart missile