by Heathcote Williams
“Even when all possible scientific questions have been answered,” wrote Ludwig Wittgenstein, “the problems of life remain completely unanswered.” Forbidden Fruit is not only a collection of poems on science and nature, but also a meditation on the problems of life. It has been described by Beat poet Michael McClure as “a collection of inspirations … as rich and dark as wasp honey”.
Williams has created a unique form of polemical poetry with which to attack the vast political and social forces which overshadow, grind down, and poison our lives: militarism, big business, consumerism, the sensationalist media, dehumanizing technology—all those things embraced by corrupt governments and used to strengthen the modern megalomaniac state.
He presents his vision not with cloudy political rhetoric, but by focusing on the absolutely known and familiar in our lives, with occasional ventures into the off-beat: a mistranslated word, a wasp that makes honey, electronic surveillance, the shape of Darwin’s nose, gun culture in America, a visit to a museum, an old photograph of a Paris street, or the unusual experience of keeping a jackdaw as a pet.
The title poem, ‘Forbidden Fruit’, is a moving tribute to our greatest computer scientist, Alan Turing. An audiovisual version of the poem, with narration and image montage by actor Alan Cox, can be viewed below.
“Forbidden Fruit … is by turns tender, provocative, surprising, and, in its own way, political.”—Martin Stott, Guardian Books of the Year, 2012
If you live in Oxford, this volume is conveniently available from the Albion Beatnik Bookstore, 34 Walton Street, Oxford OX2 6AA. Tel: 07737 876213. Drop in and have a coffee, and you may well find other books you didn’t know you wanted.