polemical poetry to prickle the politics of "permanent austerity"
thistles stretch their prickly arms afar
Brenda Williams NHS Protester Extraordinaire
(Born Leeds 1948 – Died London 2015)
We are the words, we are the music
The threat of closing the West Hampstead Day Hospital,
Art therapy nine to five, your home for a decade,
Left you inconsolable and incandescent.
You had eighty-four placards printed,
Pushing them every day up the hill,
Tying them to railings the length of Hampstead Green,
‘Save our NHS’ to
‘The Great and the Good of Hampstead ,Where are you?’
Under the baleful glare of Andrew Way, the C.E.,
Who hated you from day one and plotted
With Camden Council to have you gone.
You didn’t win, they closed Fordwych Road
And threw in a hundred acute beds.
The patients kept their distance, every one,
But for two years you kept on, ignoring the looks
Of loathing, the spitting, the plotting.
Three times they came for you, the police
Held you while the council inspectors
Tore the placards down, one by one.
The sheer weight of the hatred, the ignorance
Of what you were doing, inspired you
To write ‘Lament for the Day Hospital’
In fourteen scorching sonnets and moved you
To St Pancras to protest the death of Margaret Walsh,
Godmother to Damien Hirst, ‘Left at the door of a closed ward’
To die by her own hand.
Way at the Free went back to Australia;
There were questions about ‘appointing unqualified friends’
He felt unable to answer and Coroner Reid
Was dismissed for something similar.
How do I fill the void you left?
The sound of your tread on the path
Your own phone line cut off.
Barry Tebb was born in Leeds in 1942. He studied English at Leeds Training College and sat at the feet of a series of Gregory Fellows in Poetry at the University of Leeds including Martin Bell, Peter Redgrove, Jon Silkin and David Wright. His first collection The Quarrel with Ourselves was praised by John Carey in the New Statesman and he appeared in Children of Albion (ed. Michael Horovitz), and in Three Regional Voices alongside Michael Longley and Ian Crichton-Smith. He edited Five Quiet Shouters which included work by the then unknown Angela Carter. In 1995 he founded Sixties Press and has edited the magazines, Literature and Psychoanalysis,
Leeds Poetry Weekly and Poetry Leeds. He has published
a novel, The Great Freedom, an autobiography, Dancing
to Nobody’s Tune, and several collections of poetry including two selected volumes and a Collected Poems.
His most recent publication, Cut Flowers – Selected Poems 1964-2015 Sixties Press (2015), has recently been critically praised at The Recusant.