Bruce Barnes Poet

 Poet Bruce Barnes Bradford Jewish connection…


Bruce Barnes

Bruce Barnes

Originally from North London, Bruce Barnes moved up North to Bradford with his partner in the mid 1990′s. He had an indirect link to the city many years ago, through his father who had just stopped off there after the war to collect his pay packet and some documentary papers. However his link to the Jewish community are indirect. It’s his fathers side of the family who are Jewish. He came to Britain from Cottbus, (halfway between Berlin and Dresden), before the outbreak of the 2nd World War. He was picked up as an enemy alien, and deported to Australia on the Dunera, and on returning to the U.K joined a German speaking, mainly Jewish, commando regiment.     In 2011, with the help of the Berlin Jewish Museum and his mother who had faithfully kept papers and photos, he sent an archive for the use of the BJM. The archive is now on disc, but none of the material has a direct relevance to Bradford.    Bruce briefly mentions John Baruch, a Bradford resident, whose father was instrumental in establishing Holocaust memorial Day in Bradford and had researched the experience of Jewish enemy aliens.




A couple of Bruces Poems:  



(written on 1/2/13)


A bare studio with a plain back-curtain:


the photographer’s subjects are the centre


of interest. After their squabble, he sets them


triangularly, asking for smiles from three brothers


at the base and their taller older sister


who lords it at the apex. When he’s done,


they skitter off to the years, almost forgetting


the photo of my father and his siblings.




The light for more pictures is caught from frost


on skin and in a clear winter sky. At the reels end,


the living disassemble their sparse catch phrase,


‘Holocaust survivors’; it was always too quick


a shorthand to develop as comprehension,


and any human hand in it seems intangible.


Winding on, ‘survivors’ inherit a title that’s lived,


in addition, with all its estates of time and love.




(For my father, Robert Barnes, née Baumwöllspinnar, 1918-1984)

Watch us schlep down Stresemannstraβe,

passed Anhalter Bahnhof’s Gothic façade,

me hesitating to tell your story;

I’m not sure if it’s an urban myth. But, then,

why would you lie to me.. with our shoes munching

rubble-glass, the passing bones still finding

their flesh, and me a pisher, just a thought,

in your lightless night? Let’s kvetch, speak the same

language, and materialise a bottom wet seat,

to watch your fabled wagons go by

with their….white, white, lavatory bowls heading

for water-main less Russia. I turn to you,

your face still aglow with the exquisite chutzpa,

of the Jew boy who has been interrogating

the S.S, asking of the past: what then, what then ?


Some notes that are not the poem but would like to be.

 I’m Jewish at a very second hand: the religion is carried through the mother, (a practising Anglican), rather than my father (a non practising Jew). In Judaism, God is a bystander, (One of the two people that the ‘watch us’ is addressed to) , watching with interest, and concern, sometimes providing moral instruction, but rarely intervening and when He does He is not immune to incompetence..(why would He give us the exceptional power to ‘materialise’ railway seats, when they are wet ones?).

 I’m indebted to Leo Rosten’s The New Joys of Yiddish for elucidation of the Yinglish, the English variant of the language. A couple of the words are already in the vernacular, but when I say ‘already’ I don’t mean there needs to be a hurry about it. We never spoke Yiddish at home, ( my father abandoned his early efforts to teach us Germany), but I now listen out for Yiddish words, (last week Stephen Fry gave me kvetch), adopting them as markers of my cultural heritage. Pisher is an insignificant person. Rosten refers to the phrase, “So call me Pisher”, meaning “I don’t care”.

 As with many languages, Yiddish has words that are untranslatable, or their explanation is so unwieldy, that one is content with the sound of the word… chutzpa is such a word, it may mean a sort of God defying cheekiness. Seeing as God rarely intervenes, chutzpa in that sense is always possible, and my father’s cheek is both as described, and the far deeper one of him as a Holocaust survivor, being prepared to interrogate the past. And to that extent, I am mythologizing him .

More About Bruce

He became active in Interchange Writers, and Bradford Poetry Workshop, BPW; (BPW now forms part of the Beehive’s programme of events). He has had two collections of poetry published; the lovelife of the absent-minded Phoenix Press 1993 and Somewhere Else Utistugu press 2003, was a winner of the Ilkley Literature Festival Poetry Competition in 1998, and has had poems published in various small magazines and anthologies. He tackles the big themes from odd angles and his performances celebrate a love of word sounds inspired by early years in the speech therapist’s chair. Travel inspires him too, whether it’s up the road to the postbox, or on the buses in the Yucatan, Mexico. His work has appeared in poetry magazines, anthologies and on London buses, and he’s a regular prize winner in poetry competitions including the Yorkshire Open (2nd/02), and the Ilkley Literature Festival Poetry Prize (1st/98). In 2001 he was granted a Writers Award from Yorkshire Arts to finish work on 2nd Collection,’Somewhere Else’; both his first collection,’The Lovelife of the Absent-minded’, Phoenix Press 1993, and his current collection,’Somewhere Else’, Interchange (Summer 2003), are available from Bruce at the above address. Bruce is a member of the National Association of Writers in Education,N.A.W.E, and co-ordinates the Bradford Poetry Workshop. He’s available for work in schools or with adults and will consider commissions for poems for special occassions.


Visit Bruces Barnes’ website

Information reproduced from the following sources:
Bruce Barnes' own poetry website
The Beehive Poets, Winter/Spring 2009 Issue