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Friday, 1 July 2011

Close the libraries

stop the stories being told
take away their pages
and let them read Kindles.
But Jeremy Hunt quakes in the knowledge
that so much art is born out of a recession.
so many garrets warmed by the friction
of lead on paper
and acrylic on wood.
so many frustrated hands
don’t hold 9k fees
but belong to minds
that burn with inspiration.
Even if they’re not at your job centres
filling in your forms
there’s just not enough time
when even the cost of pen ink is soaring
and the theatre on the corner just lost its funding
and the pub that runs the open mic night just ran dry.
Every school’s classed as independent.
someone’s got to fill the void
when Michael Gove’s rewriting the National Curriculum,
swapping Drama classes for Classical Greek
and Art for Health and Social Care.
Smuggle scripts through underground caves
sell Shakespeare on the black market
override the airways
with Billy Bragg and Bob Dylan
just don’t let Cameron’s kids turn to stone.

© Jess Green

Gove takes control of the curriculum

Jess Green is a 22 year old poet facing full time unemployment but performing on every stage possible, held back only by bus fare.


  1. What I personally like about both Close the Libraries and Stop the Poetry (13th June post) is the authentic sense of gritty resistance to dictatorial authority they convey. I feel it is this that makes these poems genuine political acts, and positive ones, too. They inspire an optimism that, no matter how much the powers that be ‘lie and charm and cheat’ or, worse, try to micro-manage the National Curriculum, ultimately any efforts to control what people think will fail: ‘You can’t stop me waking from dream filled sleep’ and ‘you can’t stop the poetry’.

    At the risk of perhaps overstating the point, I think these poems indicate why the type of totalitarian nightmare envisaged by Orwell in 1984 could never be imposed – the ‘leaking brain’ of Jess Green and writers like her just wouldn’t let it.

    I hope I have understood your poems as you intended, Jess. I would be interested to know if you or other people agree.

  2. I like this a lot, Jess. Art is indeed aided by recession and I think your points come across succinctly and forcefully. And what is art in its most basic form: a desire for freedom, expression - yes, indeed. I thought the last government was bad enough but this one really does take the biscuit. I note that neither Eton, Harrow nor Westminster schools will become academies... Changing the name of school will not alter the substance within it.

    If I may make a further political point, the problem is that, in England, we suffer from a democratic deficit. In Scotland they are now in the enviable position of having the option to leave a country which doesn't serve them well enough and go it alone. Good luck to Scotland. Could England do the same? If Scotland, Wales and NI leave the so-called United Kingdom, then we'll have to, but England needs to be more politically aware NOW and not rely on 'singer's and other 'activists' who appear to be on our side. I am a patriot in many ways, I love the notion of England, what it could be, but not what is has become. I have also have 'left' leaning ideas, the redistribution of wealth etc. Heaven forbid but does this make me a national socialist?!!

    Seriously, to mention Bavo's point, I think a kind of 1984 has already been created here. People who come up with very good, sound ideas, who could make a difference, are marginalised, belittled, while so many of us are brainwashed by wall to wall sport. It's time to wake up and Jess is one of the early risers...

  3. Thank you for taking the time to read my poems and for such interesting and positive feedback.

    I'm often criticised for not being a 'proper poet' and told that my poetry is too passionate and doesn't rely enough on metaphor so it's really interesting to hear both of your responses.

    At the age of 22, I have never experienced life under the Tories before and as a young artist desperate to be taken seriously, seeing what the government are doing to the arts is incredibly frustrating.

  4. Metaphors are okay in their place, but concrete images and ideas like yours paint a real picture.

  5. I would agree with Fran, Jess. I suspect that critics who argue you do not ‘rely enough on metaphor’ have in mind a particular kind of controlling metaphor. While these have their place (e.g. to jolt a reader to view a subject from a fresh perspective) the imagery in Close the Libraries is nonetheless effective at painting the picture of reality you see.

    And there is a lot of imagery here, too. I don’t think it is fanciful to read the ‘stories’ of line 1 as a metaphor for ‘alternative social/ historical narratives’, or the ‘pages’ of line 2 as one for ‘sources of information/ knowledge’. And if anyone has video of Jeremy Hunt literally quaking, (line 4) I would love to see it on Youtube. Or of art being born (line 5) . . . well, no, perhaps I don’t need to see that.

    So I’ll stop there before the list becomes tedious and skip to the last line of Close the Libraries to rest the case that this poem is indeed loaded with effective imagery:

    ‘just don’t let Cameron’s kids turn to stone.’

    I don’t think you could have chosen a more concrete image that this to put the final stroke to your picture of reality, and I sense that it exactly this kind of metaphor that helps lend the power to your voice that Clare remarked upon in her Sunday editorial (3rd July).

    (If I’ve misunderstood what you meant, Fran, please let me know!)