Your Say Special Feature: Rebel Poets Inspire

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The Freedom Socialist Bulletin was overwhelmed by the response we received to our feature, Rebel Poets: Shaking Up the Status Quo, published last issue.

We decided to publish some of the reactions from our readers who also shared some of their own writing.

Pam Sidney is a rebel poet in the finest tradition. She is well known around the Melbourne poetry scene for running the web page, Pam’s Poetry Pitch. Pam wrote: “I’ve just read the Freedom Socialist Bulletin piece on rebel poets. It is riveting. I got goose bumps reading the Bruce Dawe excerpt. This feature will prove a wonderful guide for me to catch up on my reading of local rebel poets.

The name John Cummins jolted my memory and took me way back to the Builders’ Labourers Federation and all of their valiant struggles. I’d love to read George Despard’s Ode to John Cummins. I will see if my local library has it.”

You can find George Despard’s poem about John Cummins at

Subscriber, Steven Katsineris, wrote: “The Freedom Socialist Bulletin was excellent as usual. You do a fine job with it. I particularly liked the section on the poets and poems. There are few places for such political poetry in Australia. I’ve enclosed one of mine. While old, it is still very relevant.”

Al Nakba*

Tents have given way to bricks and mortar,
but refugees they remain.
The years of waiting and neglect have
given way to a grim determination
to hold on against all odds.
For memories persist
of that ancient and beloved land.
Songs and stories have kept alive
the hope of return, through the long exile.
In the camps of the dispossessed
life rises from the ashes,
time after time,
revealing the resolute will of a people to resist.
These wronged, who will never give up
their just rights for morsels of land.
After fifty years of anguish and mourning
for the land they lost,
for Palestinians, there is still
only one place to go,
home to Palestine.

Steven Katsineris, 2004

* “Al Nakba” is Arabic for “The Catastrophe.” Palestinians use this term to describe the 1948 loss of their homeland.

Marjorie Broadbent, a long time subscriber, responded by sending us a book of her own inspirational rebel verse. I first worked with Marjorie in 1981. As a young teacher, just learning the ropes of trade unionism in the Technical Teachers Association of Victoria, I strove to emulate veteran organisers and educators like Marjorie. She was made a life member of the union a couple of years later for her services to teaching and the class struggle. Marjorie still lives in the Dandenongs and is active with the Hills Peace Group.

I enjoyed reading her work immensely. We’re delighted to bring you two pieces from her self-published chapbook, Poems by Marjorie Broadbent.

Deputation to the Minister of Education

This person
with cold eyes and
haughty demeanour
is the State’s faithful representative.
He looks over your head
and declares……He can’t negotiate.

Underfoot, off white carpets,
on the walls, priceless paintings
hang in air-conditioned silence.

Comfort. And Contempt
for thousands of children
who stand in the rain
without shelter.
Thousands of workers’ kids
unable to read well.
Thousands, clad in grey
marching out to assembly lines
across the nation
after years of dead-end boredom
in chilled, cheerless buildings.

If school is a prison
for body and mind.
We must help the young
to scale the walls.

There is nothing to lose,
Only a world to win.

Marjorie Broadbent


A dear friend
with whom I marched
in a struggle,
is now
these fifteen years
languishing in an island prison.

I can do nothing,
dear friend, but,
participate in the struggle
to liberate all mankind,
and think of you each day
as the sun goes down

Marjorie Broadbent, 1976

Another subscriber, Paul Karp, also shared one of his recent pieces. Paul, who is a workplace delegate with the Community and Public Sector Union, a recreational cyclist and a passionate advocate for the environment, wrote this poem after he heard visiting San Francisco poet, Nellie Wong, read at Solidarity Salon.

Climate Change Denial for Dummies

When the water rises high
I reckon it’ll be grouse
I’ll have a moat around my house
And a beach in my backyard
Don’t care if there are bushfires everywhere
and the forests are all charred

When the water rises high
I’ll swim from my front door
I’ll dive off my front veranda
When the glaciers all thaw

When the water rises high
I’ll fish from my front door
Just as long as the fish are still alive
Just as long as my house
Hasn’t drifted with the tide

When the water rises high
It’ll all be sweet,
I’ll surf down my main street
Just as long as the weather aint too warm
Don’t wanna boil like a lobster
don’t wanna fry like hot popcorn

When the water rises high
I’ll jetski the Nepean Highway
Won’t be no traffic jams there no more
When the floods come and the storms roar

When the water rises high
I’ll have to ditch my car
But I’ll get around by boat
If I can only get it to budge
Through all the polluted sludge

When the water rises high
I’ll take off to the mountains
to find a place to hide
Just like millions of other people
Caught in the big landslide

When the water rises high
I’ll sail the seven seas
Just as long as the seven seas haven’t become one
And there’s somewhere to land
at the setting of the sun

When the water rises high
I’ll fly an aeroplane and glide
Somewhere between the sea and sky
Cos we didn’t hear nature’s cry

Lets go back to when the livin’ was easy
Lets go back to when the poles were freezing
Lets go back to plant more trees on
Land stripped bare for no good reason
Lets renew the growing season

Our planet was once so nice to live in
When we had clean air to breathe in
Now the water is rising high
All the beauty we know could die

Now I’m havin’ trouble understandin’ why
Not enough rain falls from the sky
Still the water is risin’ high
Must be just some freakin’ tide

The water is rising high
Lets let the businessmen decide
What’s best for us
The economy can’t subside
But there’s no economy on a dead planet
When there’s way too much water around to dam it

Now there’s no need to panic
Its not like we’re sailing on the Titanic
There’s no chance an iceberg will ever pierce our side
When every iceberg has melted into the tide

Clean coal is the answer
Smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer
It’s not guns, but people that kill
Global Warming? Bullshit!
Just turn up the air conditioner and chill!

Paul Karp, 2009

We always welcome readers’ feedback and would love to hear your thoughts about the ideas raised in this issue.

-Alison Thorne, Managing Editor

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