Jan Herman – A Great One Died Today + Heathcote Williams – Dying’s Annoying

A Great One Died Today

‘He was the Shelley of his age and more.’ — Gerard Bellaart

Dying's annoying (foto Straight Up)

Heathcote Williams (foto Straight Up)

Heathcote Williams

Postscript: My staff of thousands tells me that even digital-savvy viewers may not click links they can mouse over but don’t easily see — the link embedded in the photo above, for instance, which would take them to a list of Straight Up blogposts by or about Heathcote that have appeared in recent years. So here’s the link made visible (http://www.artsjournal.com/herman/?s=heathcote+williams).

Heathcote was an unstoppable force. Characteristically, in an interview with The Guardian in May of 2016 (https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/may/12/heathcote-williams-pinter-local-stigmatic-old-red-lion), when his play “The Local Stigmatic” was getting a London revival, Heathcote remarked: “Am I pleased it’s getting redone? I’m thinking more about what I want to do next.” He was always thinking about that. And doing it. Even in death he is unstoppable. His writings, his activism, and his personal example will continue to inspire others. Have a look:

He invented an idiosyncratic ‘documentary/investigative poetry’ style … bringing a diverse range of environmental and political matters to public attention (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heathcote_Williams).

If Art, if poetry is not revolutionary, then it is not Art, then it is not poetry!

Boris Johnson: the man with no moral compass who became UK foreign minister.

‘Sweet dreams. Heroic Prince.’ — IT: International Times, The Newspaper of Resistance

Heathcote Williams (foto Straight Up)

Heathcote Williams, RIP

PPS: July 2 — From The Guardian obituary by Luke Harding (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jul/02/heathcote-williams-radical-poet-playwright-actor-dies-aged-75):

At heart, Williams was a revolutionary. The historian Peter Whitfield placed his work in a “great tradition of visionary dissent” stretching from William Blake and John Ruskin to DH Lawrence and David Jones. His poems – blasting the arms trade, consumerism and the tabloids – were “wonderfully innocent” and at the same time “wonderfully streetwise”.

And another by Michael Coveney, also from The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/jul/02/heathcote-williams-obituary), describes him as “a unique and brilliant writer — poet, dramatist, visionary and pamphleteer.”

He restored and renovated a sense of intellectual anarchy in our public discourse in the great traditions of Jonathan Swift, William Blake and Percy Bysshe Shelley, all of whom were among his heroes. […] The quality of anger is usually strained, but Williams’s muse was fuelled by a witty and beautiful anger that he channelled in three great poems at the end of the 1980s: Whale Nation, a wonderful hymn to the largest of all the mammals and a plea for their protection, Sacred Elephant, and Autogeddon, a JG Ballard-style ballad about the plague of the motor car; all three were filmed by the BBC, the third performed by Jeremy Irons.

Williams himself made notable recordings — in his day, he was a charismatic troubadour of Buddhist scripture, Dante and the Bible, and a collection of shorter poems, Zanzibar Cats (2011), which skewered political absurdity, planetary destruction and social justice mishaps with delightful glee and great verbal dexterity.

Speaking of recordings, I had the privilege of taping Heathcote’s final vinyl LP-cum-CD “American Porn,” at his home in Oxford three years ago. He read “Mr. President,” “The United States of Porn,” “Forbidden Fruit, or The Cybernetic Apple Core,” and “Snuff Films at the White House” — which, in their uncompromising nakedness are CT scans of history. He was dead serious, no glee included but not strained either.

Straight Up | Herman, Arts, Media & Culture News with ’tude, July 1, 2017


Jay Jones says
July 2, 2017 at 3:36 am
I am shocked. So many memories.
Michael Butterworth and David Britton says
July 2, 2017 at 4:48 pm
‘Severe Joy’, the collection of Heathcote’s sixties and seventies work Savoy never managed to produced, will now haunt us. RIP, friend and inspiration.


Dying’s Annoying

Dying’s annoying.
You’re enjoying the party
Then you have to leave.

You can ignore it
But death can be insistent.
Here are some options:

‘Do not go gentle
Into that good night’. Meaning?
Shout on your death-bed?

They’d tranquillize you.
…Try to sublimate your fear
Of death by killing?

Soldiers enjoy this
But it’s counterproductive
To keep cloning death.

Here’s an old stand-by:
‘I believe God will solve it
I won’t really die.’

Well, some grief-stricken
Wishful thinking on gravestones
Isn’t really proof.

Your last hope of life is to
Apply to this club:

The 120 club.
No need to change your life-style
In any fashion.

All its rules are lax.
No one minds if you die
At 117.

As soon as you join
Just say: “I’m not going to die”
Adding, “So far, so good”.

But, should you cave in,
Get up and hide your body
So no one finds it.

A Fistful of Poetry, Sunday, June 26, 2011



1 Comment

  1. Luke, so glad to read your piece and think on Heathcote when I first knew him in London decades back…he was friend, mentor, co-conspirator, actor, bon vivant, flaneur, and much more–a life lived at the very top of the game—I will miss him, and send you the best thinking of our days in Berlin….cheers from Chicago, Warren Leming

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