Don’t Mention the Children is only the second anthology of poems Michael Rosen has written for adults.
In his introduction he explains that the poems arise out of three different kinds of impulses: “Wanting to unpick and contradict the ways in which the world is described to us by those in power; to investigate the things that happened to me, my parents and their relatives; to experiment with the world I meet — I see what might happen if I shift some of the personal and circumstances from the real to the unreal.”
When you open this book you’re in for a wide variety of poetry, which will amuse, entertain and make you think.
The title of the book, “Don’t Mention the Children”, is also the title of a poem, which refers to the refusal of the Israeli Broadcasting Authority to mention the names of the children killed during the Israeli shelling of Gaza in July 2014. At the London demonstration for Gaza, Rosen recited this poem and it was followed by children reading out the names of those who had died needlessly. You can watch this and his other poem, “Then What?” on his website, michaelrosen.co.uk.
The effects of neoliberalism and the Tories’ austerity policies on working class people are explored in many poems: “We’re All in it Together”, “From Labour Deficit till Now in Seven Steps” and “Regeneration Blues”, which vividly describes how local working class people are moved out of areas for developments only affordable by the rich.
The poem “They Shall Not Pass” reminds us of the history of anti-racism and anti-fascism that Michael Rosen’s parents were involved in, linking it to the need to be ever vigilant to stop the fascists. This poem was first read at a protest to stop the EDL marching through Whitechapel in 2011.
One of my favourite poems is “London Fields” — it’s a lovely cameo of east London.
There is much in this anthology which reflects our experiences, including the bizarre and often surreal aspects of today’s world — “A Whale got on my Bus” and “Cucumber” come to mind. I saw Michael Rosen recite his poems at Bookmarks bookshop. He is a very animated performer. Buy his book and watch out for his live performances, some of which are available online.