Remembering Adrian Mitchell

Adrian Mitchell

Sad news today that Adrian Mitchell, poet, has died. I remember seeing him several times at the Everyman or Students Union in uni days. I once had a copy of his collection Peace Is Milk. In ‘Loose Leaf Poem’, from Ride the Nightmare, Mitchell wrote:

My brain socialist
My heart anarchist
My eyes pacifist
My blood revolutionary

The Mitchell poem I recall most vividly is ‘To Whom It May Concern’ which he first read at an anti-Vietnam protest in Trafalgar Square in 1964 (I must have first heard him read it in 1967). Here he is reading the poem at the International Poetry Incarnation, Royal Albert Hall in 1965:

Here is the original version, as I would have heard it:

I was run over by the truth one day.
Ever since the accident I’ve walked this way
So stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Heard the alarm clock screaming with pain,
Couldn’t find myself so I went back to sleep again
So fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Every time I shut my eyes all I see is flames.
Made a marble phone book and I carved out all the names
So coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

I smell something burning, hope it’s just my brains.
They’re only dropping peppermints and daisy-chains
So stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Where were you at the time of the crime?
Down by the Cenotaph drinking slime
So chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

You put your bombers in, you put your conscience out,
You take the human being and you twist it all about
So scrub my skin with women
Chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

He kept changing the final verse as the years passed and events demanded. He referred to the updated version as “the 21st century remix”.  You can see him reading it here.

In this clip he reads To Whom It May Concern and another poem, Norman Morrison, at an event in May 2008 to mark the events of 1968:

See also

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2 thoughts on “Remembering Adrian Mitchell

  1. Thanks for including the original version of ‘To whom it may concern’ in this memorial website. It is a beautiful poem and brings to the forefront the miseries that war can bring. The loss of Adrian Mitchell is a great loss indeed.

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