"Accidental Narratives": a new poem by Jack Underwood

A crab on the phone box floor; the armless mannequin
on the chapel roof at dawn; the plastic toad in the office
biscuit tin; three cuts on your shin this morning to make
the letter A; the wedding cake abandoned in the car park
of the motorway services; the caraway seed in the turn-up
of your jeans; the waxwork head of Chaplin in the bowling
bag in the overhead locker of the night train to Munich;
a slug exposed by the spotlight of a hushed concert hall;
or the roaring magnificent intersection of these objects,
which probably never existed, but we can each picture,
drawn from our unique worlds at large, knocking like fish,
trying to agree; meanwhile, either somebody else somewhere
is reading this now, or no one else in the entire world is.

Jack Underwood’s debut collection, Happiness, will be published by Faber & Faber in 2015.

This article first appeared in the 20 August 2014 issue of the New Statesman, What the Beatles did for Britain

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Karen Bradley as Culture Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

The most politically charged of the culture minister's responsibilities is overseeing the BBC, and to anyone who works for - or simply loves - the national broadcaster, Karen Bradley has one big point in her favour. She is not John Whittingdale. Her predecessor as culture secretary was notorious for his belief that the BBC was a wasteful, over-mighty organisation which needed to be curbed. And he would have had ample opportunity to do this: the BBC's Charter is due for renewal next year, and the licence fee is only fixed until 2017. 

In her previous job at the Home Office, Karen Bradley gained a reputation as a calm, low-key minister. It now seems likely that the charter renewal will be accomplished with fewer frothing editorials about "BBC bias" and more attention to the challenges facing the organisation as viewing patterns fragment and increasing numbers of viewers move online.

Of the rest of the job, the tourism part just got easier: with the pound so weak, it will be easier to attract visitors to Britain from abroad. And as for press regulation, there is no word strong enough to describe how long the grass is into which it has been kicked.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.