Thursday, December 25, 2008

Remembering British Poet Adrian Mitchell, Voice For Peace And Social Justice



British poet Adrian Mitchell, who railed against war, racism and injustice, died on Saturday. “I think a poet, like any other human being, should recognize that the world is mostly controlled by political forces and should become politically active, too,” he stated. 

Such convictions found expression in his famous anti-war poem "To Whom It May Concern (Tell Me Lies About Vietnam)," read as part of the International Poetry Incarnation, Royal Albert Hall, 1965. The performance, shown above, was part of the film "Wholly Communion" (participant Allen Ginsberg is seen at the end).

The poem's narrator longs to be shielded from the horrors of the war in Vietnam:

I was run over by the truth one day.
Ever since the accident I've walked this way
So stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Heard the alarm clock screaming with pain,
Couldn't find myself so I went back to sleep again
So fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.


The concluding stanza condemns those who send other human beings to wars built on lies:

You put your bombers in, you put your conscience out,
You take the human being and you twist it all about
So scrub my skin with women
Chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Mitchell could just as well have been condemning the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. Such is the power and universality of his impassioned protest.

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