Posted in General Interest, interNational Poetry Month, Poems/Poetry, poetry

When The Queen Came to Tea | John Anstie

A little boy in awe, aged six, perhaps more
…or thereabouts, it matters little or less.
Four years had passed since She had been
proclaimed our Queen, our first coronation for 
a Queen Elizabeth in nearly four hundred years. 
So young. So pretty. So popular and pure. 

Around my age there was another little boy
her son and heir apparent, but not quite so excited.
He wasn’t by her side at her glorious crowning.
Now, whilst in my retirement, he bears the burdens of 
the decease of his darling mother, whom he had to 
share with us. So close. So secure. So family. So far.

Meanwhile, at the family picnic, they were 
serving us all, by the loch, among the trees
copious fresh air, inspiration, love and fun
the children, renewing family ties, learning their
duty to serve us. With such stamina, She, so young 
with such a burden, accepted with such grace. 

Our friends’ lonely house lay by that same road 
the Royal planners decreed they should follow
to their next tour venue…that evening in 1956.
As she was passing through, after a busy day
She said “I think we should stop for a cup of tea”  
as She is wont to do, with such instinctive inspiration. 

So willing was She to walk about and meet us all
on the streets or in our places, we came to expect it.
It seemed so normal. It should have come as no surprise.
Our teacher to the class: “who saw the Queen, yesterday?” 
Me, in total belief: “ Yes, Miss, yes, she came to tea with us! ” 
Her response, dismissed my heart-felt truth with just one look.

In her younger days, poignantly, Lillibet once declared…

				“…we are all just passing through ”

Landscape in a Landscape
Painting ©2023 Gerry Shepherd

©2022 John Anstie
All rights reserved

The 2023 (Inter)National Poetry Month BeZine Blog Bash

Pastel of European Robin perched on a small branch by Tom Higgins ©2021
Art: European Robin, pastels, ©2021 Tom Higgins

Sure on This Shining Night | John Anstie

“Sure on This Shining Night” is a poem written in the 1930’s by James Agee. All Poetry says the following of James Agee and shines a light on the impact of the Great Depression and perhaps on the unsustainable effects on human dignity of the unfettered and unsustainable human quest for profit and power: The poet, James Agee (1909-1955), was also a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He was the author of “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men”, an eloquent and anguished testimony about the essential human dignity of impoverished sharecroppers during the 1930s. The book is regarded as one of the most significant literary documents associated with the Great Depression.

Sharecroppers were tenant farmers, who, as a result of the economic maelstrom of the 1930’s depression, could no longer pay their rent. Their landlords allowed them to continue growing their crops on the land, take what they needed for themselves and give the rest to the landlord in lieu of their rent. How hard would that have been, both physically and psychologically, particularly in view of the vagaries of the weather and seasons. 

So evocative are the words of this brief poem, that it has been set to music by several composers, notably Morton Lauridsen and Samuel Barber, but none, in my opinion is quite so beautiful and moving an arrangement as this one for double choir (or double quartet) by Jay Giallombardo. Jay is primarily a notable arranger for close harmony ensembles of the Barbershop genre. I also say this with no uncertain bias, because this same arrangement is currently being rehearsed and in the process of entering the repertoire of my own chorus (Hallmark of Harmony), which has given me much impetus to do a little more research behind the poem and its writer.

—John Anstie

Sure on This Shining Night

Sure on this shining night
Of star made shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground. 
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth. 
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder 
wand'ring far alone
Of shadows on the stars.
The poem, "Sure on This Shining Night", by James Agee,
first appears in 1934 in his book entitled "Permit me Voyage"
(© by the owner and referenced here).

Here it is sung very powerfully by the Westminster Chorus . . .

“Sure on this Shining Night” Arr. Jay Giallombardo.

Poem ©1934 James Agee
Introduction @2023 John Anstie
All rights reserved

Not Talking | John Anstie

Most issues of The BeZine now have a section called BeATTITUDES, for work that may not be directly related to the theme of that quarter, but in general fit the values and purposes of The BeZine (see our About page to learn more about these). This essay and poem from the first issue, by our current Prose and Music Editor, John Anstie, is a good example of a BeATTITUDE.

photo 2

At the age of one, going on two, telephone calls from my granddaughter, three or four years ago, for a while became a fairly regular as well as welcome and enchanting occurrence. One such call prompted me to write this response.

It addresses that stage in a toddler’s life when they seem to be striving to develop their language skills to communicate with their adult family, but cannot find the words. So I, would pick up the the phone when she called, find myself (like a typical stupid adult) doing too much talking, trying, as we do, to encourage her to say more. What comes back the other way, not surprisingly having been patronised by her grandpa, is mostly silence accompanied by (and this is the truly enchanting bit) mutterings, sing-song tones and breathing, which only fuel my imagination, which rapidly, but mostly unsuccessfully, tries to figure out what it is she is trying to say. The particular phone call to which “Not Talking” is the response was in fact received by our answer phone messaging system, hence I was able to record it for posterity.

Our desire to help them talk can, of course, be dimmed once their newfound ability to talk leads to incessant nattering, which drives us in search of refuge!

But they will always remain an enchantment on our lives and a potential for renewal of our own childhood hopes and dreams.

Not Talking

You called; it seemed from somewhere far away.
You called to say hello in your sweet way.
Not so much with news but how you're feeling;
our talk, not so much an open book as freewheeling.

You called to say your Dad was making tea;
that, whilst you wait, you'd make a call to me.
An inner smile grew as I listened on
to silences between the phrases of your song

that comes from somewhere in your life, so full
of carefree energy and zest, that you just pull
me with you and, yet, wherever it is you go
metaphysically, little do you know

how much it is you say to me, not talking
of all of your imaginings, while walking,
or perhaps you're standing, hearing me,
whilst you contemplate what is for tea.

Whatever it may be that you are thinking
I know you'd love to talk and, in a blinking,
you will, and I'll be thinking: are we blessed
or will we ask, politely, for you to rest?

Essay and Poem ©2010 John Anstie
All rights reserved

Anti-dystopoem | John Anstie

United we stand, divided we fall.
Together we rise. Alone, we hear only the call
from sirens of an alternative kind of destiny,
where attention seeking soldiers of fortune,
their collegial architects and faceless shadows
construct a new order, birthing the unfamiliar,
wrapped in a matrix of the convincingly familiar.

A weeping iconic mater outwardly gestures
her loving hands and offers lessons learned
by a handmaid and her tale of forced labour
and social media generating artificial facts
of incontestable statistical intelligence, promising
to remove uncertainty from uncertain lives
to offer security in a profoundly insecure way.

Yet the still small voices of independent thought,
unafraid of consequence, reality, insecurity or pain,
continue to echo the inspiration of she, who reasons
encouragingly and compassionately against
the harbingers of our future decline, against
the pornography of privilege and wealth,
against the deniers of equitable, sustainable life.

These voices will endure, like those refreshing waters
of a spring that flows from deep inside humanity.

Underneath the radar of the darker web of lies,
they carve in stone the undeniable truth of history.

Note from 2020: Jamie Dedes, founder and editor in chief of the BeZine, formerly ‘Into The Bardo’, for over ten years, has stepped down from the roll because of failing health and, in her words, feeling too exhausted from the effort required to maintain the project. Instead she has characteristically shown her faith in the team she has built up, encouraged, nurtured and, above all, imbued with her own enthusiasm for the BeZine’s mission of promoting Peace, Sustainability and Social Justice, through the medium of the written word and all-coming art forms. She invited me to get involved in 2012, it seems like an age ago! I have never regretted a moment and further, I often wonder where my motivation would have come from, to write and achieve more than I would have given myself credit to achieve. This is my humble attempt to show my appreciation for her influence on me, alongside other stalwarts like Michael Dickel, who has agreed to take the tiller as Editor in Chief, and the other ten or so members of the core team, who have kept the faith. Not to mention countless guest contributors, all of whom have entered the spirit of a very, very worthy cause. This is as much a tribute to you as it is to Jamie. I salute you all.

©2020 John Anstie
All rights reserved

Sunday | John Anstie


Walking home from church.

Like seeing the sun rise
over the week ahead,
mind full of penitence
a righteous child, wrapped
in reverential warmth and
a sense of duty fulfilled.

That place of comfort,
as short lived as chocolate
such pleasure lies in this
some selfless, priceless
kind of self-indulgence
in your own kind of God.

Who can resist that path
to an easier peace where,
one day a week, the ad-man
cannot get to you; where
you miss nothing; where
those urges play no part.

Where has Sunday gone?

About Flowers
Digital Art
Miroslava Panayotova ©2022

©2018 John Anstie
All rights reserved

This poem was previously published in The BeZine in March 2018. The author thought it timely to present again because of its poignancy in the light of how children might be dealing with the change to their lives in Ukraine … far more violent than we have had to cope with in the West in the past two generations, by simply growing up. He is currently an Associate Editor of The BeZine.

John Anstie …

… Qualified as a Metallurgical Engineer, for the first quarter of his working life he worked as a scientist and engineer, for the second quarter, as a Marketing and Export Sales Manager, both in the Steel Industry; in the third quarter he held a variety of roles in IT and Project Management and was Master of his own company. The last quarter could well be his most fulfilling, if of least financial advantage, as a writer and singer in a small local chamber choir and with one of the UK’s finest barbershop choruses. Married with three children and six grandchildren. He is currently an Associate Editor of the BeZine.

Ukraine’s Cultural Traditions…under threat | John Anstie

Can you imagine being forced to give up all your participation and activity in poetry, storytelling, music, art and oral histories; even your connections and hence enjoyment of these forms of culture … by the imposition of an external aggressive, authoritarian and violent regime? A regime that will insist on imposing their own strict values, that could barely be described as cultural? Gone from your life. For a long time, possibly for the rest of your life. 

Are we about to see these very same inhuman restrictions being imposed again? Restrictions that the old Soviet regime stamped out for seventy years in all those Eastern European countries that were freed by the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1989. 

The Ukraine, a country that voted clearly and decisively for its own sovereignty within two years of the break up of the old Soviet Union, is now the object of an invasion that was clearly planned strategy, which is an unmitigated disaster. When, in 2014, the Russians moved their armed forces into and claimed that part of Ukraine, Crimea, which has always been a strategically important peninsula, a southern bridgehead, it was clear that this was a part of that strategy, which has been on the cards of a dictatorial leadership. They are now bombing, shelling and attacking what is effectively an independent, democratic European country on three fronts and it is clear that they will stop at nothing to get their way, even to the extent of threatening Europe as a whole.

Several years ago, I attended a workshop run by one of the top Georgian Male a cappella choirs, who were touring the UK. At some point in the evening we learned that, during the seventy years of Soviet dominance, their art of story telling through their folk and cultural traditions was not allowed by the authorities. Only through clandestine meetings, at risk of banishment, did they manage to keep their songs and their stories alive and it took several years after the break up of thee Soviet Union, to get back to the level of performance they and now we can enjoy.

Just as Georgia kept their stories alive through song, dance and oral history, so too does the Ukraine. Miklos Both founded the Polyphony Project, for which, over a period of four years, he travelled around Ukraine, to visit 100 villages. He managed to record over 2,000 songs for which he has created a digital archive. This represents such an important piece of work.

For anyone in any country, oral histories, whether spoken, sung or danced, as well as their visual art, are an absolutely vital part of preserving the truth of a culture, a country or a system of believe, as they come from the mouths and minds of those people who are the culture, who are the stories, who are their histories unabridged by those despotic dictatorships and empire builders, who would erase what doesn’t fit with their own version of the truth.

May I invite you to watch this brief five minute example of how this can be done …

©2019 Atlas Obscura

In my searches I also found this popular Ukrainian band playing an NPR Tiny Desk concert back in 2015. Their sound, their voicing and infectious rhythms and performance are joyous and very uplifting. Their vocal sound is particularly poignant and very characteristic of those regions of Eastern Europe …

©2015 NPR

You’ve got to love the hats!

©2022 John Anstie
All rights reserved

The Wind of Change | John Anstie

O How
I love the wind …
it makes the windmill turn
but never burns the petrified
it could still grind the corn to make our bread
then turn again, renewing us, enabling change.

and why
I love the wind …
it brings the clouds to rain
drawn fresh from oceans great and small
to wash us clean, refresh the air we breathe
renew the spirit and lubricate the wheel of life.

and when
I love the wind …
it blows the clouds away 
reveals the blue, the great beyond
and opens curtains to the solar light
from sun that feeds the green of photosynthesis.

©2022 John Anstie
All rights reserved

A Day in the Real Lives of Angels | John Anstie

Not so very long ago, when I was fit 
as a butcher’s dog, what seems like
a time warp passing across the Milky Way 
when the seeds of our downfall were sown 
in a way that’s beyond comprehension, 
there grew a progenitor, an apocalyptic 
but as yet unknown force, more powerful 
than anything we knew, to which we 
could never yield, because we had 
no choice, like war, but without plans.

The victims are dazed, half conscious, 
half alive, inflamed and drowning in 
black water, systems fractured, powered off 
including ordnance, a military defensive 
without armour, damage limitation for 
lost causes, no time to bury their dead 
the wives and mothers, sons and daughters 
husbands, fathers, family and friends 
left out in the cold. No touching of hands 
bereavement on hold, for some other time
another world, some other parallel existence. 

As if in that other unreachable, longed for 
place of sanctuary and rest, Elysian Fields 
where angels dare with mercy’s offered
by saints with greatest care, unprotected 
in spite of fallible humanity, disregarding 
concern for their own… 

This is what they came to do. Isn’t it true 
they save lives, these compassionate heroes
these very normal, extraordinarily ordinary 
supernaturally humane people, who walk 
among us, the ordinary, extraordinarily lucky 
human beings. Do we truly deserve them? 
From time to time, we show appreciation 
for their dedication as they run between 
the cracks and the faults in our lives. 

But we rarely see behind their professional 
masks, the anxieties, the personal struggles, 
the humanity that exudes from every pore 
even when you look them straight in their eyes 
in the line of fire, they prepare a family for 
the inevitable, another ending too close 
to the last. Overwhelmed by new beginnings 
and more bad NEWS…

The truth that is too sanitised for consumption 
in our comfy armchair homes, we only want 
to hear not this; not what we truly need to know. 
But how else will we comprehend an urgent need 
To cry. To lobby. To action. To shout from the hilltop 
To understand. To march and never give up 
lighting the fire and fighting the liar in the dock 
fighting for the right to life, the right to social justice 
not the right to exploit for greed, for enrichment 
for personal gain, or rebel against natural wisdom 
and science, or assert a semblance of civil rights. 

Civil Rights for whom? 

Whose pain and suffering will this alleviate?  
How much will those angels and saints endure? 
Facing an onslaught of mind-numbing ignorance, 
whilst facing their own demise? How long for those 
who mourn, to rise and grieve for the final tingling 
touch of a hand? For their spring, barely sprung 
their lives just begun, not yet able to understand 
what they are losing ... and the angels chose to care. 

A haunting echo of children singing, somewhere 
across the playground, somewhere across the universe, 
somehow you feel an unexpected swelling in the depths
of your throat that caught you by surprise, unaware.

How dare their sweetest innocence awaken this grief 
inside, a fear of Armageddon, after a daylong toll of death 
you were at your most vulnerable, you were least prepared 
least able to hold it all inside. Your defences were down.

There is no denying this feeling, when all is said and done.
From out of the mouths of children, who opened your eyes 
to coming home, to reconciliation, to finding your love
came your most important gift of all … your own truth. 

This piece of writing is based on a sort of interview style conversation with a friend, a Consultant in Respiratory Medicine, who has been at the front line of the Covid-19 pandemic since it started. I am very grateful to her that she participated willingly, at times almost as if she was glad of an opportunity to talk about what she has been  through with someone outside of the medical establishment, outside of the claustrophobic bubble that has constricted her life for so long, but to which she has dedicated herself with unquestioning professionalism. One very remarkable and courageous woman.

©2021 John Anstie
All rights reserved

Little Amal | John Anstie

A larger than life puppet, as huge as the journey. A Walk 
into the multiverse, multinational, multiracial, multiplying
to seek out new friends, searching for family, connecting
us all, so that half the World knows, the other half may 
…in time, one day.

She will discover, everywhere that she goes 
on an empty beech full of sea-washed shoes 
a fest or fair, a village or a city full of strangers 
it'll matter no more if her journey ends well 
but so much depends on who writes the story…
the victors or vanquished
the divisive or divided 
the greedy or needy.

She doesn’t need history to know how it feels
to want or to need, to love and to feed and
feel the touch of her mother, her siblings’ play
the deeply felt loss of being too far away
the dearth of her years, the tracks of her tears
write their own story on a weather worn cheek
betray all her fears, bring her home somewhere 
… somewhere as alien as another planet. 

Another strange world where the weather is cold 
with seasons that brace your bodily defences
then shock your feelings till they come to their senses
till they touch you on your almost unreachable hand
sing songs, recite poems, tell tales of life in strange 
tongues, but sometimes, to surprise you, in your own. 
If only you were older, and bolder with a sense 
of the history of an imperialist, colonial past. 
Now irony is casting its net and repeating the cycle.  

This jumped up imperialism and privilege dictates
who should stay, who should go. Or perhaps 
there’s a war or a famine, or both, that ignites
a desperate diaspora, an up-rooting of life 
more horrid than the terrors each night in the jungle 
out of sight, out of mind, the children, our children 
just maybe we don’t understand. Surviving the journey 
missing meals, kicking heals, waiting for someone 
to offer you charity, to offer the hand of welcome
and compassion … yes, compassion, like food in so 
many places and ways, is in short supply these days.

Then who can provide and who will decide
who can stay, who will go, who drowns, who will stray
but those who decide, haven’t a clue what to do 
but the children survive for time being, live in the hope 
that one day, the all seeing will cool us all down 
and save an overheating world from it’s most 
unpopular creature, whose numbers still feature 
most often in bringing its battles and wars to a head
‘till the bodies and the money pile up, ‘till, by some
unfathomable cruel twist of fate, the decision’s too late.

Then the World will be able to breathe once again
and Little Amal and all who will follow, may have seen
that the miles of their lives would ultimately mean
that those lives whom she touched as she cut through 
their compromised cultural divisions, melded together 
a simple revision of all that they formerly believed. 

For a moment she replaced all our concepts of greed 
with compelling images of the desperate need
for compassion and love, for stories that tell us 
how fragile and frail, dependent and faulty we are
how we’re all joined together 'till we’re forced to be fed
by hands that lie outside our realms and control.

But those who would lead persist in their partisan quest
to retain the status quo of their cultural wars, political zest
to eliminate open-minded discussion, Socratic debate …
will the horse have bolted long after we’ve bolted the gate?

So, Little Amal and the hoards who will follow, as their world 
falls apart, hotter still, runs dry, ‘till all that is left is barren 
with dust and the ashes of a civilised age, and a people 
who forgot to look after the only source of their life. 

Are we listening? Critical thinking? Can she heal the World?
Can we save her and ourselves and hold onto the Earth 
… by reconnecting its fracturing parts, and rejoining hands?

About Little Amal

Little Amal’s story began in Good Chance Theatre‘s award-winning play, “The Jungle”. The critically-acclaimed production was based on the stories encountered by Good Chance Theatre’s founders, Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, when they created their first Theatre of Hope in the 2015 infamous Calais refugee camp. Little Amal appeared as a character in The Jungle who represented the hundreds of unaccompanied minors in the Calais camp who were separated from their families. Following the success of The Jungle, which contributed to a global conversation about refugees and shared humanity, Good Chance felt Little Amal’s story still had so much more to say…so the creators of the famous Warhorse, Handspring Puppet Company created the larger than life young girl.

Little Amal made what was titled “The Walk”. This was an incredible 8,000 km (5,000 miles) from Turkey’s border with Syria. So many refugees have started their trek from this far away. Little Amal’s walk took her across Europe to complete her journey in Manchester in the UK.

At the last moment, the organisers decided to add one further destination to The Walk, which meant that Little Amal headed for the crowded streets of Glasgow at the height of COP26. This would draw attention to the refugee problem, which is not only caused by war and famine, but also by the diaspora which will increasingly be due to global warming as the average temperatures of the large continental masses across our planet will continue to rise. These parts of our world are threatened with the outcome of being turned into barren dust bowls, possibly even within the lifetime of some of those, who are alive today.

Introductions to Little Amal and The Walk…

The Walk has been an extraordinary demonstration of how art can respond to a crisis of global proportions. It was more moving and touching than I could ever have imagined. You might find it interesting to watch a couple of the many YouTube videos of Little Amal’s journey and the story of those, who brought her to life. I may lift your spirits.

And more video about Little Amal…

Also by John Anstie in this issue:
Little Amal Goes to Wentworth Castle — Creative Nonfiction

©2021 John Anstie
All rights reserved

Little Amal Goes to Wentworth Castle | John Anstie

My wife and I have been volunteering at Wentworth Castle Gardens in South Yorkshire for the past ten years. On Saturday 30th October, something very special happened here. We were stewards charged with a certain amount of ‘crowd control’, in the castle folly at the top of the fifty acre gardens. It was here that Little Amal would complete her visit to the site, after her walk through the gardens. This was no ordinary day here. Wentworth Castle Gardens had been taken under the wing of the National Trust only two years before. We were very fortunate to have been selected as the penultimate destination in the UK as part of Little Amal’s long walk of 8,000 km (5,000 miles). ‘The Walk’, which became the title of the project, started at Turkey’s border with Syria and went all the way across Europe to Calais, across the English Channel to Dover, to London, Birmingham and Manchester, including several destinations in between, before completing her journey on the streets of Glasgow in Scotland during COP26, which was a last minute and very appropriate addition to Little Amal’s extraordinarily long journey.

Photo: ©2021 John Anstie

The inclusion of Wentworth Castle Gardens to the list of destinations was brought about courtesy of the lead taken by Barnsley Museums in collaboration with the Northern College and the National trust.  I was already very impressed and I dare say moved by what I had already learned of this creative and artistically brilliant but challenging project. Whilst it had become known by the rather understated title of ‘The Walk’, it was actually a logistically very challenging project involving the crossing of many international borders on route, not to mention the planning and coordinating of events at over sixty-five cities and towns along the way. The result is no less than a triumph of the human spirit over adversity. To be present and witness to Little Amal’s arrival at the castle, and to feel my own as well as to see other people’s emotional responses to this huge demonstration of art was beyond all expectations. 

This project was an enormous feat of logistical organisation as well as being an extraordinary work of theatre and art, including some astounding puppetry, the quality of which we have come to expect of the South African based Handspring Puppet Company, makers of the famous puppet in the stage production of ‘Warhorse’. The often improvised art and theatre along Little Amal’s route over a period of four months from July to November 2021, added impact. But when she arrived at the castle, the meaning of the word ‘moved’ was transformed into something of a magnitude I could not have expected. By her shear size, the way she moved, the extraordinary look and design of her face, the movement of her eyes, mouth, body, arms and hands, all controlled by the stilt walker inside and the flanking puppeteers. The effect of the whole transcended her inanimate construction. The puppet’s design and puppeteers’ abilities enabled the puppet to become truly human, a little girl, who wants to be friends with everyone she meets, whilst at the same time she longs for a reunion with her family. A little girl, who was larger than life on many levels … and three and a half metres tall.!

Photo: ©2021 John Anstie

It moved me even more to experience the reaction of the crowds of people around her, who accompanied her with quiet and very courteous respect. No real ‘crowd control’ was required. There was music and singing and moments when poetry or thanks were read to her by a child, a woman then a man, in Arabic. Even though I didn’t understand a word of what was spoken, it was still somehow very moving, hugely moving. It brings that same feeling back, here and now, as I relate this story. Towards the end of her lengthy wander about the castle, Little Amal came as close to us as she was going to get. Her head raised and the gaze from her huge brown eyes seemed to look straight at us. It felt for a moment as if she was trying to connect with us. It left us feeling neither threatened nor exposed, but just as if she was asking for help, without actually asking.  

One further gesture that proved to be perhaps the most poignant moment of all, occurred when, in the centre of the castle, she walked around the circle of the crowd around her, then stopped and stood in front of and bowed, perhaps more in hope than expectation, to offer both hands to a woman dressed in a hijab. She paused there for a moment and then I knew what this meant. One of those many moments during her long journey, always searching for her mother, her family, when she thought she’d found her … and I choked. 

Official video of the day ©2021 Barnsley Museums
The conclusion of Little Amal’s visit to Wentworth Castle Gardens. Video ©2021 John Anstie

Footnote: ’Amal’ is the Arabic word that means ‘hope’ or even ‘longing’.

©2021 John Anstie
All rights reserved

Thousand and Millions | John Anstie

One hundred thousand
Poets for change,
so many voices and
carefully chosen words, seem
to be decaying into the void
of the anechoic chamber.

Earthly Fathers praying
for the Establishment,
that sets the stage
and casts its values
in concrete, steel,
plastic … and carbon.

Leaders of the World,
whose balance sheets and
rational, numerate intellect
measure only a notion
of success. What is that?
What is success?

For aren’t we just that,
a wealth of rich and
creative intelligence
that is the only hope
for our universe
to understand itself?

Heavenly Mothers ask us:
why digitise and monetise
and worship at the alter
of the great god, Thworg,
when we are imbued with
richness beyond measure?

Escape to the stars, if you must,
but answers will be found not
in the vanity of space-time travel,
but here, with unaided vision
they lie in the green and blue,
right before your disbelieving eyes.

Permit your heart to rule
even if only one day a week, when
the visceral, and the common sense
can overrule logic and intellect, and
that subliminal noise in our head
will slowly awaken the conscience.

Maybe, one day we’ll be more than
Seven Thousand Million Poets for Change!
No more sleepwalking through life
The time will come. Greatness beckons.
It’s in the wind, this beating heart,
a movement beyond the gaze of mortals …

©2017 John Anstie
All rights reserved

Twenty–Twenty and Beyond—A Year of Loss | John Anstie

The end of last year, 2020, amongst so many momentous events of the last decade, in my little part of the world, marked the tenth anniversary of the start of my blogging experience along with some serious social media activity! That’s a long time in some lives, but it seems like a very short time for me. It has nonetheless been a huge journey, not only on a creative level, but also in terms of our history. Much writing, editing, publishing and the production of a poetry anthology, becoming a core member of a quarterly blog (The BeZine), becoming a founding member of a new, but small chamber choir and an invitation to join one of the UK’s top barbershop choruses, with whom I won a gold medal in 2019. Much change politically, socially and economically.

In this same decade, seven precious new lives were added to my family, one of whom was tragically lost. In the past year or so, we have lost some good friends to a serious virus.

The events of the past year and a half – not forgetting one or two other (some would argue astonishing) historical political changes in the decade – would have sounded like a science-fiction future; perhaps even armageddon. Our non-fiction past tells us that, over the most recent century or two, only during armed conflicts have we witnessed heavier losses in such a short time all over the World. But something marks out this period as different. In some ways it has many parallels in history, but in others, it does not. Yes, there have been plagues before, but not the level of advances in medical science that have never been more evident than now. Throughout the administration and management of the pandemic, somehow, perhaps a little unexpectedly, it also seems to have had the effect of widening inequity between the ’haves’ and the ’have nots’. For most of the latter it has been traumatic; for a some of the former, they seem to have thrived during a period of social stress. Rather like in times of war, there are always those who do more than contribute, they profit handsomely from it. And we shouldn’t forget those in political power, who can’t resist basking in the glory of the battle against the virus, rather than giving all the credit to the medical professionals and scientists, who are the heroes.

We have better medical science, better communication and thereby a greater ability to cooperate and collaborate to solve the challenges we face. But then, what marks out this year as different. It is the politics of division, and jumped up political partisans headed by egocentric soldiers of fortune, whose sole purpose seems to have been to stir trouble, divide and conquer. On top of this, economic policies and our obsession with consumption, growth and of servicing debt has had a massive toll on our security. This starts with personal debt that enabled us to spend, spend, spend until some of us have accrued more debt than we can sustain and have become controlled by those whose money we borrow, and who thereby become the richer for it. So now we know why we have been encouraged to consume; lured into incessant materialism. The major banks have benefitted massively throughout the Covid-19 pandemic by the process of large companies having to shore up their balance sheets. In turn, the national debt of the country has burgeoned and will eventually be shouldered, as ever, by the ‘little people’, that is us, the individuals, who cannot avoid paying their taxes. It will take many years to bring this debt, which was already burgeoning prior to the lockdown, back to a manageable level. In the mean time, during which millions have suffered privation, a few enterprising, greedy, exploitative, gold digging (circle those that apply in your own world) trans-national companies and a few well placed individuals have become significantly better off, it could be argued by a process of morally ‘unjust enrichment’.

Our health service, the treasured NHS, the UK’s largest remaining, but decreasingly publicly owned service, highly valued by us, the people, but, worryingly, also highly valued by the aforesaid international corporate community, particularly those healthcare companies and corporations, who have been lusting over getting their hands on its assets for decades – has been and, as I write, still is being overwhelmed by the demands of the number of cases of Covid-19 on top of all the usual seasonal afflictions that need to be treated in hospitals.

I have it first hand from a friend, a consultant in respiratory medicine, who has been at the front line of the fight against Covid-19 since it started, and who found herself becoming a counselling shoulder for junior doctors and colleagues from other disciplines, who themselves were traumatised by the unfolding crisis. She is now faced with the moral, ethical and psychologically challenging task of treating patients suffering from the serious effects of Covid-19, a majority of whom are self declared ’anti-vaxxers’. I wonder if they realise how lucky they are and how much they owe to these remarkable, caring professionals.

In the past year, we have witnessed significant loss of life, of living and livelihood, of community, togetherness and society. Furlough and business support packages have been kind to some but not to others. Added to all this, divisive politics has had a toxic effect on our sense of common purpose and our faith in the systems of governance and democracy itself. It could be argued that this has been engineered and sponsored by those, who fear a loss of control, a loss of income on many different levels, but there are those currently in power, who have begun to demonstrate not only a greater degree of blatant corruption but also such an arrogant sense of entitlement that they feel they can get away with it. Our economy, our mental and physical health, our morale have been beggared, not only by natural forces, but also, under the smokescreen of viral pandemic, by mismanagement and by opportunist manipulation of circumstances to the benefit of the few and at the cost of the many. Can this, can it ever, by any stretch of the imagination, be called fair? Could it be called social justice? Speaking at least for myself, I feel an insatiable, deep hunger for some humanity, some corrective social justice.

We should, I confess, nonetheless afford some concession and equity to the ‘haves’ as well as the ‘have nots’. There are those of us ‘little people’, who have undeniably benefitted from this ‘age of plenty’ and virtually uninterrupted economic growth over the past several decades, probably since World War Two. However, had we collectively foreseen the effect that our hunger for material things, admittedly driven by our gullibility for the ubiquitous marketing and advertising slogans that have etched their deceptions into our consciousness, then we might have avoided this parlous political and economic situation, if not the pandemic … but then that would be the subject of another essay.

But most of us mere mortals didn’t foresee this coming. We enjoyed it whilst we had it and now we are in danger of losing it, but for one thing.

We do seem to have lost so much in the past decade, but I feel the spirit of Peace, Sustainability and Social Justice still persists not only amongst a sizeable, silent majority but also amongst a precious few outspoken individuals in the world.  It remains as our guiding light at The BeZine and, let’s hope, with many of those who regularly read these pages. We soldier on. We still retain hope that common sense, a common purpose, the common conscience will prevail. Here at the BeZine, this may be thanks to the life and spirit of one of those tireless and outspoken campaigners, the BeZine’s creator and co-founder, Jamie Dedes. 

©2021 John Ansties
All rights reserved

Lyrical – John Anstie

Illusions - Digital Work - Miroslava Panayotova
Illusions – Digital Work – Miroslava Panayotova
What do you do when a hopeful dream begins to fray
and leaves you wanting more than all the things that thrill
heart-warming, precious moments that may not overspill
beyond the passing of another, special day. 

So drink to life as if it has a happy end 
share it even if it were not yours to share 
and then, if you don’t have enough of it to spare 
of fortune’s favours to reach out to a special friend ... 

Sing riffle, ruffle, shuffle, muffle and divide
bobble, bubble, babble, rabble, don’t be terse
ripple, topple, tipple and tumble into verse ...
a place where harmony and dissonance collide.

The air now full of music, of tales that soon unfold 
the gasping tortured spirits, grasping at their last
soul raking and heart breaking tales of one life past
and stories that would otherwise ... remain untold. 

Then how do we narrate the things that burst the soul
these uncontainable urges, are they all for you
or are they all for me, or both? So what’s to do ... 
let’s dance together, do all the things that make us whole. 

©2021 John Anstie
All rights reserved

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Passing, Stillness … Renewal – John Anstie

Spring - Photography - Miroslava Panayotova
Spring – Photography – Miroslava Panayotova

Who prefers the spring 
likens winter to the dark 
autumn to passing 

Kicking leaves and brash
a winter walk in the woods
cleansing the spirit 

Listening to birds 
heralds of summer spawning 
life’s diversity 

©2021 John Anstie
All rights reserved

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Seeking Peace — John Anstie

What is the magic answer to the thorny questions that it seems have resonated throughout human history?  What can individuals do to move us toward a genuinely lasting peace on this sacred Earth of ours; on this, the only place that we and foreseeable generations have to live? What can we do to make us honest and worthy of the quest?  It seems instead that we prefer the old formula that promises to advance us toward yet another round of talks; another ‘agreement’ that so often it turns out is not worth the paper on which it is written. Wherever we look in the world, this pattern repeats itself.  Yet, after another round of protests, of raising funds to help the beleaguered and vulnerable local population, we in the affluent West sit back in our comfy armchairs, consuming our unnecessary little pieces of luxury … and I am no exception to this! 

Once again, in the past month, the hornets’ nest has been well and truly stirred between Israel and Palestine; stirred by fear, anxiety and anger; by Lord knows who.  Which party, which troublemakers, which gang, which international sponsor, who has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo … of division, conflict and any hope there may be of unifying the nations?  As ever, the previously drawn, well established lines have been punctured and drawn into question.  There is now another, yet it is always felt, fragile truce.  The circumstances of this, as with all conflicts, is fraught with complexity, with entrenched views and attitudes, with ideological positions, with stubborn refusal to yield their politically, geographically and materially sensitive attitudes and policies. 

We have spent a year fighting a common enemy, which for a time brought us together in our common cause to survive. How astonishingly resilient and industrious are those ordinary people, the medical professions, scientists and all those involved in enabling that survival.  But as the black veil of this hidden, insidious enemy is lifted from our eyes, once again, sadly, we begin to see the all too familiar lines being drawn. The rifts between nations, territories, communities, even families, re-emerge. 

There is therefore a question that needs to be asked: where is that elusive quality of humanity, that emotion that makes us glow and renews and binds our spirits? Where is Joy? 

A unique relationship between two spiritual leaders from different religious spheres, those of Buddhism and Christianity, His Holiness the Dalia Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu can provide us with some answers.  That Joy is a by-product; a by-product of what, I hear you ask? It is not easy in a life driven by material rather than spiritual concerns, but a solution is possible simply because the human character is such that we are capable of achieving great things in times of great need and a will to make changes to our personal and thereby collective lives.  Practising the ‘Eight Pillars of Joy’ is the action we need that will give rise to this elusive by-product of Joy. 

In their book of long conversations on the subject of joy, the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu developed some guiding principles, which they summarised rather happily as “The Eight Pillars of Joy” …

Perspective – there are many different angles

Humility – trying to be humble and modest

Humour – Laughter is much better

Acceptance – the only place where change can begin

Forgiveness – freeing ourselves from the burden of our past

Gratitude – appreciating what we have and life itself

Compassion – affirmation by meditation, prayer and fasting

Generosity – unconditional giving can be a source of ultimate Joy. 

Achieving this and feeling the resultant Joy in our hearts and minds, I cannot see any other result than one further by-product, which is Peace.

There is evidence in this issue of the BeZine, as you might expect, in Corina Ravenscraft’s poem, “Asking for a Friend”, which cleverly moves from the ‘I’ to the ‘We’, from the personal to the collective, and on to a compelling final question.  In the Joe Hesch poem, “Holding on to My Last Breath” he too hits home with the message that before we can wage peace collectively, we have to find it within ourselves. Then there is an essay on non violent communication, by Ester Karen Aida, which challenges us to address our seasoned prejudices by asking questions of each other and focussing in on our inherent truths. And there is so much more to bend your minds to thinking in completely different ways.

Wherever we are in our personal struggles … we need to take the first step and start today.

© 2021 John Anstie

More Tributes for Jamie… — John Anstie

In this edition of the BeZine we have once again dedicated a section to tributes, elegies, eulogies and poems for Jamie Dedes, because the period between her passing in November and the publication of the December issue, was so short that we barely had a chance to breathe, take it all in and capture all the contributions from her many friends and fans.

One very notable friend and, it needs to be elaborated, a very important collaborator in the early days of Jamie’s mission, giving no uncertain weight to the establishment of ‘Into the Bardo’ and eventually the ‘BeZine’ was someone, who was otherwise know as the ‘CloakedMonk’. This is the Rev. Terri Jane Stewart. 

After the December edition the BeZine went to press, I caught up with Terri, who was in shock at the news of Jamie’s passing and feeling unable to offer anything except the following, very honest and heartfelt, response.  At this point it is worthy of mention that Terri’s daily work involves administering to the needs of people in the community, many of whom are already very challenged by life, but which last year will also have involved dealing with the tragic effects of the pandemic.  To end the year with the loss of a close personal friend will have been as much as any human being would ever hope to cope with.

Here is what Terri had to say to me in December… 

This year has been full of tremendous sorrow. I have been unable or unwilling, perhaps, truly to process what the loss of Jamie means to me personally. I have a special gift for ducking and weaving away from uncomfortable feelings until such a time as they smack me in the face. I think we all do that sometimes. 

Jamie and I met so many years ago as two kindred spirits in the internet space, trying to create more justice, more peace, more kindness and more understanding. I am proud of the legacy that Jamie built and that we were privileged enough to journey with her on this mission. I am sure that her spirit is with us in every movement towards justice and inclusion. I miss her greatly, even while knowing that she is still with us.

Thank you for the opportunity to offer a few small reflections.” 

Since these words just before Christmas, Terri has been kind enough to send me a much fuller account, which provides more history, insight and colour to her friendship and collaboration with Jamie and, as will be revealed, that Terri clearly played a major part in the eventual establishment of what we have come to know and love as ‘The BeZine’.

I would like to offer our thanks to Terri for taking the time to write for us. I have found it very helpful to read, in just the same way as attending Jamie’s memorial service before Christmas, organised for us by her son, Richard, his wife, Karen Fayeth and Jamie’s cousin and lifelong friend, Daniel Sormani, who cast much more light on Jamie’s life going way back to the start of her life’s journey in New York. 

Terri’s response in many ways provides an introduction to how it all began, but there are several more personal contributions to the many memories of Jamie Dedes, from those who did not get a chance to submit to the December issue or for those who have more that they would like to say about that personality, with whom we shared so much and to whom we owe so much …
here’s to G Jamie Dedes.

John Anstie
March 2021

©2021 John Anstie
All rights reserved

The BeZine Spring

The Pine Cone Project — John Anstie

The Woods
Colored Pencil
Kim Patton ©2021
In the midst of turmoil,
our Mother Earth besieged 
by bloody conflict,
in a world beleaguered 
by well-healed negligence,
humanity is laced
with one great flaw.

Children are dying
We are dying with you.
I am crying for you.

Yet, whilst this goes on,
you walk the woods,
harvesting your pine cones
putting them in your wishing well.
Your unconscious prayer
for a better world,
for love, for life,
that sows the seeds 
of perfect purity
in heart and mind,
that will not fade with time.
This is the magnificence,
the magic of your spirit
that is untouched
by a tainted world.

Then, in one gesture,
one single act of generosity,
of utterly moving faith,
you beckoned me 
come close to you.
You looked me in the eyes;
and I was hypnotised.
Then, you gave it to me,
one single piece of magic,
a piece of nature's bounty,
and bade me keep its secret
as covert as a spy.

Each time I hold your gift,
when we are far apart,
I'll think of you and
remember this moment,
by which you have renewed
my faith in all our futures.

You could melt the heart,
like chocolate on a Summer's day.
You could soften steel
in hardened minds.
You and your magic 
are our future.

Eight years ago, my then 4-year old granddaughter gave me a pine cone. She had found it as the family walked together in the woods. She called me to her, very secretively, and put it in my hand, confiding in me that it was a magic secret and that I should tell no one. She bade me keep the secret, which I did do for five full years … until 29th September 2018. This particular date was the 100 Thousand Poets for Change annual celebration, which, in that year, was embellished by a campaign to Read-a-Poem-to-a-Child . It finally came to the day, five years after she gave me that pine cone, that I should share this magic moment with a wider audience for the sake of the mission of Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion, who established the 100TPC in 2011. Its mission is in complete harmony with the mission of the BeZine, to promote Peace, Sustainability and Social Justice. It was, most important of all, a reminder that we should appreciate, value and respect our children, grandchildren and all those who follow us, for the sake of a sustainable future for generations of young minds, whose task it will be to care for this precious planet …

… thank you Jessica.

Text ©2021 John Anstie; Art ©2021 Kat Patton
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A Sustainable Future…? — John Anstie

The title of this piece may apparently represent one-fourth of what we are about; of what the BeZine is about…of what I feel we should all be about, but it also represents a whole lot more.

It is a whole lot more than simply doing what we love here at the BeZine: writing essays, poetry, fiction; producing wonderful art, painting, photography, music, singing; and hoping to invoke some much needed joy in our lives. It is more than all of this. The title of this is, perhaps deliberately, a provocative question.

The provocation is about collaboration, sharing the commitment and the synergy that can result from harnessing the power of human beings working together for a common cause…and if you wonder what that cause may be, wonder no more. I think every last human on this great and plentiful mother Earth, does know what that cause is: the sustaining of life…all life on Earth, which is the only place in the universe that the vast majority of us have for the long and foreseeable future. Life on Mars, in that time scale, is merely a dream, a fantasy, a vanity—either in the past or the future.

We need to accept reality, get our hands on the tiller and grasp the reins, start lobbying local, regional, national and international leaders to drive us into a sustainable and renewable future, not a future that leads only to short term wealth for the few and destruction of the planet’s ability to support us all. Rather, a future that we’ll get to, albeit by a road less travelled. 


We organically source all of our creative material. We strive
for the lowest carbon footprint and to be Kind to your mind, Kind to the environment, and
Kind to the World.
Let us know if you have something you’d like to offer.


Our founder and chief editor for over ten years, Jamie Dedes, spent a great deal of her time trawling the internet for like-minded writers, artists and creative minds from many diverse backgrounds. She cast her parabolic net on both sides of the boat, in all parts of the World and, when she found someone, she would read their work, their history, spend time getting a feel for their ‘raison d’être.’

If she expected anything in return, she never pushed her agenda or placed a burden of responsibility on anyone. If they volunteered to help, to take on some editing tasks, do some outreach work, organise an event for the annual ‘100 Thousand Poets for Change,’ she accepted and congratulated with genuine gratitude.

Nor did she expect others to promote her work. She shunned many attempts to do so. I know, I tried. However, without ever having to ask, she somehow managed to garner commitment from those she gathered around her. 

Now, she’s gone and left us with with one heck of a legacy; we have something to live up to, an example to follow. It’ll not be easy, but it is a mission we simply have to pursue. Why? Perhaps because we feel we’d be letting Jamie down; perhaps because she was right. There is a need for the people of this World to pull together, cooperate, collaborate and make change happen—for all future generations of life on Earth.

We truly need to continue and try our best to emulate that spirit, that ethos…and to be active.

The result of Jamie’s vision has been synergistic. We will continue to try and make sure that the product will be greater than the sum of its parts.  But we cannot stand still.  We cannot do this alone.  We cannot stop growing the knowledge of this project, finding people to help.

It matters not your experience, but if you have been motivated by the shear illuminating vision of any of the many organisations around the World, whose missions are similar to those of The BeZine…then you can play a part in continuing to find ways to promote Peace, Sustainability and Social Justice. 

I hope you, readers, are already motivated and concerned by what’s happening in our world, but you may feel there’s nothing you can do. Please be encouraged by the fact that there are many very other good and articulate souls around the World who are playing their part and, regardless of any self doubt, you can be a part of this. It all adds up and synergy will result.

Whatever you do…

Be inspired…Be creative…Be peace…Be

…and we hope that when you do, you will share with us by submitting your creative works, essays / articles about what you are doing and lessons learned. Tell us about what people are doing individually and together around you, locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

©2021 John Anstie
All rights reserved

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