To whom it may concern: Adrian Mitchell has died

Most people ignore most poetry
because
most poetry ignores most people

– Adrian Mitchell

I’m sorry to read that Adrian Mitchell, the “shadow Poet Laureate”, died at the weekend, aged 76.

Mitchell is probably best known for his anti-Vietnam War poem, To Whom It May Concern, which he can be seen performing in this video:

Either that or this rather more cheery poem to his wife, Celia Hewitt:

Celia Celia

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

(Note for American readers: “Holborn” is pronounced “HO-bun”.)

Flicking through my copy of his collected poems 1953-79, I enjoyed this one from the section on “religion, royalty and the arts”. The final couplet in particular is a killer:

Quite Apart From The Holy Ghost

I remember God as an eccentric millionaire,
Locked in his workshop, beard a cloud of foggy-coloured hair,
Making the stones all different, each flower and disease,
Putting the Laps in Lapland, making China for the Chinese,
Laying down the Lake of Lucerne as smooth as blue-grey lino,
Wearily inventing the appendix and the rhino,
Making the fine fur for the mink, fine women for the fur,
Man’s brain a gun, his heart a bomb, his conscience – a blur.

Christ I can see much better from here,
And Christ upon the Cross is clear.
Jesus is stretched like the skin of a kite
Over the cross, he seems in flight
Sometimes. At times it seems more true
That he is meat nailed up alive and pain all through.
But it’s hard to see Christ for priests. That happens when
A poet engenders generations of advertising men.

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