by Adrian Mitchell, illustrated by Ralph Stead - £10.95 Bloodaxe Books Ltd (0000)
paperback ISBN 13: 9781852248437 | ISBN 10: 1852248432
Tell Me Lies is a rampaging last collection by the late and much lamented Shadow Poet Laureate. The title-poem is a 21st-century remix of his celebrated anti-war poem, ‘To Whom It May Concern (Tell me lies about Vietnam)’, first performed at the anti-Vietnam War protest in Trafalgar Square in 1964. Much and nothing has changed since then, and Mitchell’s new (now sadly final) poems are just as powerfully relevant 40 years on.
Here are visions of war and peace, celebrations and elegies, daft adventures, a gentle explanation of his new job as a Senior Sheep, and exuberant outbursts – like his version of Beowulf told from the point of view of Grendel the Swamp Monster.
His poetry’s simplicity, clarity, passion and humour show Adrian Mitchell’s allegiance to a vital, popular tradition embracing William Blake as well as the ballads and the blues. His most nakedly political poems – about war, Vietnam, prisons and racism – became part of the folklore of the Left, sung and recited at demonstrations and mass rallies. His childlike questioning was a constant reminder from the 60s onwards that poetry is first and foremost an assertion of the human spirit.
A pacifist prophet who remained true to his heartfelt beliefs, Mitchell reported back for half a century from a world blighted by war, compromise, double-talk and pragmatism without losing his innocence, integrity and impish sense of humour. Angela Carter described him as a ‘joyous, acrid and demotic tumbling lyricist Pied Piper determinedly singing us away from catastrophe’.
With artwork by Ralph Steadman.
(Price & availability last checked: October 2018)