Rip Bulkeley

Rip Bulkeley

Rip Bulkeley is a semi-retired research historian and non-retired poet.

Cruel Britannia
Wednesday, 26 August 2020 14:17

Cruel Britannia

Published in Poetry

Cruel Britannia
(adapted from the song by James Thomson and Thomas Arne)

Image above: Famine in Mysore, India, while the British Raj exported food

by Rip Bulkeley

Now Britain fina-ally has learned ho-ow best
To li-i-i-i-ive with o-o-others on this earth,
To live, to live with others on this earth,
This epitaph, for wrongs we here confe-ess,
Shall remind us of our land’s rebirth:

Cruel Britannia,
This song shall be your grave.
No more victims seek, and no more slaves.
Cruel Britannia,
This song shall be your grave.
No more victims seek, and no more slaves!

Mindful humi-ili-ity becomes u-us well.
For ce-e-enturies of bloo-o-od we should atone,
For bloody centuries we should atone.
Let peace reshape us, our fantasies dispe-el,
Greed and arrogance be overthrown!

Repeat Chorus


Grenfell Day
Thursday, 14 June 2018 08:22

Grenfell Day

Published in Poetry

It's a year since Grenfell Tower in west London was destroyed by a fire that killed 72 people.

Grenfell Day

by Rip Bulkeley

Like any and every other day
this one was filled with happiness,
with loss and crime and ice-cream vans,
with lovers' confessions and catastrophes,
with hopeless refugees, with foolishness and failures,
with traffic shunts and garbled texts
and delicious meals shared with friends.

Nothing extraordinary was supposed to occur.
Our online lives were already too full for that,
too crammed with coping, fears, and change,
with the welcome birthday of a partner
or the unwanted anniversary of their dementia.

But it fell like childbirth, nightfall, epilepsy, winter.
It thrust its evil way into the evil world
which we had built especially for its theatre,
ending scores of lives and changing those of thousands.
No flights into or out of Heathrow
were grounded by its column of charnel smoke,
though Ramadan was no doubt changed
for some of those who rushed to help.

We cannot, should not, put it back, or do it justice,
or move on. The self-syled 'great'
are remembered for a century or two,
but 72 Hashims or Glorias or Biruks?
There hasn't been a single day of national mourning,
a Grenfell Day.


Grenfell Tower, 2018
Monday, 19 February 2018 20:08

Grenfell Tower, 2018

Published in Poetry

Since July 2017 Rip Bulkeley has been creating an anthology "Poems for Grenfell Tower", which will be published by The Onslaught Press at Easter. Poems were invited in any language and up to 50 lines long, and then selected blind by a small review panel. The resulting collection includes 62 poems, four of them not in English but with translations, some by well-known authors, others by people closely touched by the Grenfell atrocity. Royalties will go to the new Grenfell Foundation, which is being set up by Grenfell United in order to receive such donations and use them for the benefit of the community.

There will be two London launches with free admission and collections for Grenfell United:

Harrow Club, 187 Freston Rd, W10 6TH, Sunday April 15th, 2.30pm
with protest singer Robb Johnson and the Nostalgia Steel Band

Seven Dials Club, 42 Earlham St, WC2H 9LA, Friday April 27th, 7.30pm
with oud player Rihab Azar and London-based Balkan folk group RAKA

Further events based on the book will be held between in Edinburgh, Newport, Doncaster, Newcastle, and probably in other London venues, with poets not in the book invited to read their own responses to Grenfell also.

The sonnet below has been written to open the collection.

Grenfell, 2018

by Rip Bulkeley

So, pull down the monument of Britain’s shame?
It’s not enough. The horror and the grief
May some day ease; insomnia and strain
Give ground before the impetus of life.
And perhaps the dead have other things in mind
Than Grenfell Night, more practical concerns…
But years will not dispel the stench of crime.
The cremated steel and concrete ghost will scorn
Mere demolition; rather, persevere
For children’s children’s schoolchildren to read
And wonder, with stilled hands and hidden care,
At how their ancestors were torched for greed,
But then the neighbourhood rose up through fire
To stand together, one with Grenfell Tower.

Ballade upon 'Warts and All'
Wednesday, 03 May 2017 21:17

Ballade upon 'Warts and All'

Published in Poetry

Ballade upon ‘Warts and all’

by Rip Bulkeley

Only the old world could provide
the means by which to reach the new,
wreck timbers soiled by the tide
of history which a stumbling crew
have cobbled for a rough canoe,
then launched with hope for all our sakes
despite the fact, which they well knew,
that politicians make mistakes.

It need not, surely, be denied
that Jeremy has blundered too.
How could he not, when vilified
by hacks from here to Timbuctoo
who yearn to cage him in their zoo,
then smear across their mental jakes
the headline revelation: ‘Ooh!
This politician makes mistakes!’?

Our man pays no one else to hide
his defects from the public view.
He’s neither schooled nor prettified;
his faults and merits are all true
and benefits from this accrue.
A voter from the balance makes
an informed choice: this much virtue;
this politician; some mistakes.

Let none of this bewilder you,
divert you from the greater stakes
which some would have you misconstrue:
Which politicians? Which mistakes?