Inside every slim volume there’s usually a slimmer volume trying to get out. In Adrian Mitchell’s case it’s positively anorexic. There are one or two good poems (or parts of poems) here, but the overall performance is such that it’s clear Mitchell intends to shock us into realising that there are more important things in the world than poetry. Repeated across the top of his pages runs the insistent troubling context within which our desire to be entertained and his to perform have to be placed – an account by Rene Cutforth of the effect of napalm: ‘he had no eyes, and his body, most of which was visible through tatters of burnt rags, was covered with a hard-black crust speckled with yellow pus...’ But then, what one page offers, under these very words, is the following:
When I am sad and weary,
When I think all hope has gone,
When I walk along High Holborn
I think of you with nothing on.
The message is clear and unexceptional: make love not war. What offends is its form, which would be cute on a greetings card – the sort one sends to lost lovers, in the hope that they’ll be moved to chuckle and come back. The ‘poem’