Burns’ Link To Slavery/Rosen’s Recovery – Poetry News Roundup June 30th

Robert Burns and the Link to Slavery

The Bard of Ayrshire, Robert Burns has become the subject of one of the latest discussions over statues in America. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter campaign his name, along with many others has been linked to the questionable acts that took place in America”s history, most specifically slavery. People are calling for all statues linked to those people to be removed from public view, in some cases going as far as to remove or deface them themselves.

This might be the first that you have heard of a link between the poet and slavery and it is understandable. Unfortunately, as so often happen this is a question of information being remembered incorrectly, and the poet simply being the next statue in the line of fire for a group who want these reminders removed.

So why has the poet”s name been linked to slavery? He was the author of the poem The Slaves Lament. He was also, in 1786, just days away from boarding a boat from Greenock which was heading to Savanna La Mar in Jamaica where he was planning to work on a slave plantation. He never actually went through with this.

This appears to be the poets only link to slavery, but his statue in Jacksonville Confederate park is in danger.

The statue of Burns isn’t the only poet’s statue to have been targeted. In Whittier, California a statue of the city’s namesake, John Greenleaf Whittier was tagged with the letters BLM and other graffiti recently.

Michael Rosen Gives Interview

Following 47 days on a ventilator and a lengthy hospital stay the poet and former Children’s laureate Michael Rosen was allowed home last week. In an interview, the poet spoke about how close he came to dying.

The doctors in the hospital where he was being treated for Covid-19 told him that they wanted to put him in an induced coma, but that he might not wake up. They gave him a piece of paper and told him he only had a 50/50 chance. They asked him to sign something and he remembers thinking that a 50/50 chance wasn’t too bad although he does mention he also felt rather lightheaded at the time.

Rosen who had thought that he was suffering from the flu, says that he believes he had only been a few hours away from death if it hadn’t been for the intervention of his neighbour, a GP, who tested the oxygen levels in his blood and told him he needed to get to A&E immediately.

He was told later that his liver and kidneys along with his respiratory system had been failing and that he was lucky he got to hospital in time.

Rosen is recuperating at home. He has a temporary hole in his neck from a tracheostomy that was performed to allow the ventilator to provide him with oxygen and he has some loss of hearing and vision on his left side. Having spent so long lying down he described his legs as “cardboard tubes full of porridge”.


  • Poetics

    Feels like we are very close to a 'book burning age'.

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