From Socialist Review, No. 173, March 1994.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
You Are, Aren’t You?
Jewish Socialist and Mushroom Bookshop £4.99
Anyone overly apprehensive about approaching Michael Rosen’s most recent volume of poetry can take assurance from his introduction: ‘Just in case there is anyone out there bothered about whether what follows really is poetry, can I say, don’t worry – just call it “bits” or “stuff”.’ And this is the flavour of the book – a small volume of 45 poems, which brings together previously published pieces alongside many new poems.
The poems take you through a gamut of emotions – reminiscing with Bubbe and Zeyde (granny and grandad); childhood mischief in Don’t tell your Mother; the irritation of parental habits in Ice Cream.
Michael Rosen is probably best known for being both an accomplished broadcaster and children’s writer, and is a valuable voice in anti-racist and educational campaigns. His poems reflect his strong anti-racist sentiment.
The racism experienced in New School and Easter is countered by the optimism of a mixed relationship in Maths. His sense of outrage at war is clearly illustrated in the graphic Fighters for Life and Let’s Play Tyrants.
From the intimacy of personal relationships and family life to the arena of international politics he evokes memories of the past and yet succeeds in providing poems relevant to today.
My personal favourites include the poignant How Many for Mordecai Vanunu and the superb Jewish Museum, which skilfully exposes the way in which Zionist propaganda is used.
The Promised Land critically examines the (sometimes tragic) reality of Aliyah (emigration to Israel). Finally, Duckslager – a poem which in just 61 words evokes an image of the concentration camp that shouts out from the pages.
Last updated: 8 March 2017