A beautiful collection of poetry by Chris Searle, recalling the people and incidents he has encountered in his many lives as a committed teacher in East London, Canada, the Caribbean, Mozambique and Sheffield, has just been published.
All the poems gathered together here in Doodlebug Boy written over some forty years, convey what it really means when the political is personal or, rather, when the person is political. He celebrates the contributions to him and the world that particular individuals (and his dog that graces the cover) have made, he dedicates to others his own reflections on world events.
He rants in anger at those who abuse their position – from ‘Blunketted’:
power’s arrogance/ with corruption’s grim dance/ love for the people/ supplanted/in a tory romance/ sex in a duke’s place/ the asylum seeker’s curse/ a misrule of malice/ with statutes far worse.
He sings paeans of love – to those close to him such as wife Pearl, but also to majestic public figures like ‘Anne Frank in Jenin’ and ‘Nelson Mandela’, and frequently to the remarkable young people he has taught. And the poems do not just look back but call us to arms now. From ‘April snow’ (ten years after the death of Blair Peach):
On this day we go/ from under the Pennines/ to march for Blair/ in the London streets/ where they killed him/ and as we assemble/on the Southall grass/ in an icy park/ the sun shines briefly/ daffodil pale/over the thousands/ who raise their fists/ who swear to seek unity/ to crush empires of the mind/ and the laws still living/of the club and stave.
These sixty poems are a testament to an incredible man, a perennial socialist, a natural internationalist, a tireless educator, a believer in people and, a prophet, who should have had much more honour in his own country. They tell us much about the man but more about how to keep a revolutionary flame burning in dark times.
Read an IRR News story: ‘Chris Searle: the great includer’
Special issue of Race & Class on Chris Searle