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Street Music at Housmans Bookshop – December 2012

Audio recording of Mike Marqusee reading poems from Street Music at Housmans Bookshop, 12 December 2012. With questions and comments on topics poetical and political. Welcome and introduction Multiple Myeloma Street Music Object Lesson / Egypt / It should not be difficult Do not believe that we grow This morning’s surprise Naming the book and poets Poetic… Read more

My stay of execution from cancer

The Guardian, 11 December Figures released by the Office for National Statistics confirm that more people are recovering from, or living longer with, cancer. Welcoming the news, Mike Hobday of Macmillan Cancer Support observed that for many patients, “cancer is now a long-term condition rather than an acute disease”. And there’s the rub. Surviving, it… Read more


For a long time I was perplexed by the phenomenon of “survivor’s guilt”. While I recognised it as a reality, a terrible affliction, and I could see its logic, to me that logic seemed perverse and alien. I couldn’t get inside it. Now five years after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma (cancer of the bone… Read more

At the Olympics: Hype vs Reality

The Hindu, August 4 2012 I enjoyed my afternoon at the Olympics, sitting in my public lottery assigned £50 seat at the ExCel, with a fine view of the men’s boxing. And I enjoyed it not least because I was finally able to watch the sport itself without the surrounding hype, the layers of commentary…. Read more

Olympic icons

Contending for the Living Red Pepper, June-July 2012 In a world where the words ‘iconic’ and ‘icon’ have been cheapened by gross overuse, it’s salutary to recall their original meanings. In a religious context, an icon is a representation that is more than a representation, an image that contains a power beyond itself. It’s not… Read more

Challenges to secularists

CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING Red Pepper, April-May 2012 When a High Court judge ruled against Bideford Town Council’s inclusion of prayers in its formal agenda, Tory Communities Secretary Eric Pickles acted quickly, fast-tracking a parliamentary order “effectively reversing” the Court’s decision. By doing so, he crowed, “we are striking a blow for localism over central… Read more

Poem: This morning’s surprise

‘This morning’s surprise’, a poem by Mike Marqusee, was a short-listed finalist for the 2011 Wells Literary Festival Poetry Prize. This morning’s surprise This morning’s surprise is how much I’ll miss rail travel. The green fields looming up and falling behind, the milky tea wobbling in a plastic cup, the engine’s steady vibration. This afternoon’s… Read more

Streets of the imagination

CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING Red Pepper, October-November 2011 Events over the summer brought to mind William Blake’s uncompromisingly angry poem “London”, written in the early 1790s under the impact of revolution in France and repression at home. The poet wanders “through the charter’d streets / near where the charter’d Thames does flow” where he encounters… Read more

What I’ve learned from cancer

The Guardian, 27 July [A longer version of this article will appear in the August issue of Red Pepper.] Now entering my fifth year of living with multiple myeloma, a haematological cancer, I reflect back on a roller-coaster ride of symptoms, treatments and side effects. Whatever else this experience has been, it’s been an education…. Read more

Time to talk utopia

CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING Red Pepper, June-July 2011 In 1818, Shelley visited his friend Byron in Venice, where his Lordship was camped out in a decaying palazzo, ruminating on the city’s faded glories. Their conversations – on human freedom and the prospects for social change – formed the basis for Shelley’s poem Julian and Maddalo,… Read more