Being Challenging

When we first started out, I was promoting Philistine Press by describing it as “edgy,” “cutting edge,” “rebellious” and words to that effect.  I’ve stopped doing that, because I prefer the work to speak for itself, but I’m particularly interested in uncompromising work that (to use another cliché) “goes against the grain”.

Kenneth Pobo’s Fitting Parts is an angry collection of poems, which furiously satirises homophobia in all its forms – as seen here in the title poem:

Fitting Parts

The minister says that

God didn’t intend

homosexuals because

our parts don’t fit.  His

God, Henry Ford,

people are cars

off the line.  You can get

matching parts easily.  But

some don’t drive,

and some think

cars exhaust.  Me?

I’m happy with your parts,

boyfriend, like them

just as they are.  You’re

a good fit!  And if

Henry doesn’t like it,

let him go back

to his assembly line,

let him manufacture steel

mice to dart down�
America’s highway maze.

A collection that goes against a very different kind of grain is Richard Britton’s The Birth of Taliesin The Bard, a narrative poem directly influenced by the Romantics.  The Romantic poets have been embraced by the establishment in our current age.  How many streets in Britain are named after Wordsworth, Keats and Coleridge?  It’s easy to forget they were revolutionaries.

I interviewed Richard Britton on the Philistine Press blog, asking him if he considers himself an old-fashioned poet.  He said,  “I am not old-fashioned in the sense of being retrospective and nostalgia-fetishistic. I believe strongly in many of the values of the “Romantic” movement; Wordsworth and Colerdige’s mixture of radical socialism and conservatism; republicanism; indivdual liberty etc. But I don’t live in the past. I don’t want to try and mimic their work like some pop-historical novelists try to write another Jane Austen novel. I want to take influence from what they did and see how far it can be taken forwards today. Many of the issues of the Romantic poets are still relevant today – if not more relevant. We live in a society that has been choked by extremes – social injustice to unbalanced emancipation, desperate poverty and excessive wealth, people trying to control how others think and feel, people who have huge power merely on account of the money or good looks they have rather than how skilled and responsible they are.”

The most confrontational ebooks we’ve published yet are Entertainment and Violence is the Answer, two collections of mashed-up poetry and prose by a writer who calls himself Mr If.  The first collection is a series of confessional poems about the author’s string of sexual encounters with the his friends’ wives and husbands.  On the surface, Entertainment may appear entirely nihilistic, but it’s an extremely political piece of work.  Mr If’s second collection, Violence is the Answer, brings the author’s political views unapologetically to the forefront.

Sample poem:


Most of my friends don’t live for pleasure,

Which makes them sound like saints, somehow.

They work and work, and rip their hair out.

Why do they do it?

What’s in it for them?

What’s in it for other people?

My friends don’t live for pleasure,

They live for spending money.

For houses, cars, clothes, TVs.

They work for twenty-five days holiday a year.

They work so they can fly off to the Seychelles

For one week out of fifty two,

And stress the rest of the time.


They would shudder at the thought of living for the moment,

Or for enjoying themselves.

Somehow such a lifestyle would be beneath them,

Like that’s the sort of thing children do.

They would never admit this,

But they are no better than me,

Somewhere inside, they must know,

They are no less selfish than I am.

The crucial difference

Is that they are selfish in an acceptable way.

I will never say any of these things to their faces,

Because I am two faced, and because I like them,

And don’t want to hurt them, because they are my friends.

I like writing poems under this ridiculous pseudonym, “Mr If”

Because I like the thought that my friends will read this one day,

Having no idea who wrote this,

And might see my point,

And think, “Hey, this Mr If seems like a real insightful guy.

I would like to be friends with someone like that.

Perhaps I could learn something from him.”

If you are one of my friends,

And you are reading this,

I know you don’t know who I am,

But I want you to know,

I have nothing to teach you.

I like you, but I also like writing bitchy poems about you,

And I’m probably having sex with your partner,

While you are too busy working,

And ripping your hair out,

And spending money

To notice.

Links to the collections:

Kenneth Pobo’s Fitting Parts

Richard Britton’s The Birth of Taliesin the Bard

Mr If’s Entertainment

Mr If’s Violence is the Answer

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