Steve Ely: Surveying the Savageries of Power

In today’s High Window preview we are highlighting the work of Steve Ely, a poet whose poems has previously appeared in the THW #5, in Spring 2017. However, we are pleased to announce now that in December we will be publishing Bloody, proud and murderous men, adulterers and enemies of God, Steve’s fourth full length collection. As in all of Steve’s  work the exuberance of his language, so frequently admired, expresses a vision of the world that is unashamedly radical.

In Bloody, proud and murderous men, adulterers and enemies of God he brings together for the first time his recent poetry about violence.  Addressing content including the the Falklands conflict, anti-Semitism, the Rwandan genocide and the role of ‘the Mob’, he rejects the dominant contemporary responses to manifestations of violence — condemnation, voyeurism and complacent ‘human nature’ explanations — in favour of a more analytical approach that seeks to expose and understand the role of the state as the primary facilitator of violence in human societies.  The book’s survey of the savageries of power ultimately finds hope in the potential of the powerless to combine in order to resist injustice and the almost unbearable pressures of the state.

By the way, those intrigued by the cover design, which incorporates the flag of the Benin Empire, will be able to find more information here.

Steve Ely: Two Poems from Bloody, proud and murderous men, adulterers and enemies of God  


Once the decision was made
it was simply a matter of logistics.

Trains from ghettos all over the country
dropped their freight at Doncaster sidings,
where tantalising tastes of Southern Fried Chicken
licked around the cars
like tongues of heavenly vipers.

They were fornicating
and rifling each other’s luggage
even as the infirm fell beneath their feet.

From Doncaster to Hull
and onward to Easington’s verbotene zone:
an electric-fenced peninsula of gas, wind and wave,
patrolled by police and private security,
Range Rovers and unmarked cars.

Halt at the unnamed junction:
necessary paperwork, then the single-track to Spurn.

At the Point: a ramp, low buildings and chimneys,
Razor wire in coils. Men with dogs and machine guns.

Stampeded through
the underground concourse
to board the boat
for the Benidorm Work Camp.

Howling, gnashing of teeth.

Big-bucket Cat-plant scraped up the crap
and tipped it into the furnace.
Tugs towed the ashes to the German Bight.

The Point was buried under dunes
and planted with buckthorn.
Foreshore crawling with ragworms
and twitchers.

In towns and cities, where once was blight,
now were parks and orchards.

Income tax was slashed.

The accounts were audited
and nothing found amiss.


Yes, I remember Fasayil
the dirt-track’s hanging gate
a shanty of tents and mud-brick shacks
annexed to the Jewish State.

Melon fields of blinding light
and sentried ranks of palms,
Tomer’s barbed-wire cash crops,
Fasayil’s destitute farms.

The drudgery of those melon fields
was relieved by the company
of my smiling Bedouin workmates
exiled and refugee.

Yet I refused an invitation
to dine with them in their homes,
not because the Arabs will eat your heart
and make bread with your bones,

but because a Brooklyn accent said
this is the West Bank guys
and those that eat with Arabs
are terrorists and spies.

Shabbat shalom on Tomer
grilled steaks and Maccabi beer
‘Dance Rock’ and the Kids from Fame,
Sharon and Shamir.

Yes, I remember Fasayil
where I learned good men are meek,
and collude with power against the poor,
the dispossessed and weak.


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