Juleigh Howard-Hobson’s “I do not belong to the Baader-Meinhof Group” & Other PoemsChristopher Pankhurst
“I do not belong to the Baader-Meinhof Group” & Other Poems
San Francisco: Counter-Currents Publishing, 2013
When Jonathan Bowden died in 2012, Juleigh Howard-Hobson composed a poem in honor of his memory. In doing so she was performing the role of the ancient skald, the heathen poet who composed songs to commemorate and immortalize the deeds of great men. Howard-Hobson’s composition, “After Bowden’s Credo” is included in her new collection of poems, “I do not belong to the Baader-Meinhof Group,” along with 79 others that augment her position as the leading skaldic voice in heathen and new Right discourse.
The poems brought together for this collection also commemorate several other familiar figures from a broad right wing milieu, from Mishima to Enoch Powell, and from Unity Mitford to Savitri Devi. If there is a common element to these diverse personalities it is perhaps in the belief that there is something higher than the merely mundane element of existence, something worth sacrificing career, convenience and even life for. It is the belief that reputation is a fickle and inessential chimera, but that honour is non-negotiable. So Unity Mitford’s attempted suicide on the day that England declared war on Germany in 1939 should have been, “a brave death, a noble death, dreamed/ And acted upon.” But she survived, and wyrd trod a different course:
Valkyries always bend
And take the slain; they cannot take the hurt-
You were left, wounded, bleeding in the dirt. (“In Englisher Garten”)
The pivotal, aeonic importance of National-Socialism is a matter of life and death. Unity wishes to leave the world before the coming conflagration, before the debasement that flowed from the fratricidal conflict. Instead, the world of blood and soil has gone and the world of blood and dirt ensues.
The evocative vignettes of these historical heroes do not stand in isolation. These figures are seen as standing against a powerful tide of history, the ongoing dissipation represented by the Kali Yuga, or by Culture Distortion, to give it another name. The point is that individual acts of nobility, or of striving towards something higher, are destined to be demonised and suppressed at the present time because they cut against the grain of the omnipresent devolution. In fact, Howard-Hobson seems to have absorbed Yockey’s morphology of Culture to such an extent that it becomes almost synonymous with wyrd, which is entirely fitting. Acts of nobility and purity are therefore seen to be taking place within a far vaster context, against an aeonic, cyclic backdrop, so that for those of us who seek to oppose the ongoing decline:
Your time must wait for now. Today, only
Other writers who don’t rock cultural
Boats can have their say, for the distortion
Of our way, our world, has made elements
Of alienation that wreak weak souls
Through the insides of their own heads. (“Brittas Bay”)
Quite a few of the poems in this collection lament Europe’s several catastrophic conflagrations. “11-11” despairs of our inability to learn from these past errors: “But we’ll all forget. We always do./ Hence the Crimean, the Boer, The Great, World War 2.” Of course, this is a concern shared by the great war poets, and Howard-Hobson makes the sharp and bitter observation that the young men killed in such wars have been replaced by,
strange men with foreign faiths
And foreign ways who spoke in foreign tongues.
. . . men who
Didn’t conquer us, but just came to be
And so England lives amongst the fruits of a pyrrhic victory. These lines reminded me of those from Rudyard Kipling’s The Stranger:
The Stranger within my gates,
He may be evil or good,
But I cannot tell what powers control-
What reasons sway his mood;
Nor when the Gods of his far-off land
Shall repossess his blood.
This is not the only point of contact with other celebrated English poets. The economy of diction and unapologetically disciplined rhyme structure on display here puts me in mind of both Philip Larkin and A. E. Housman. Howard-Hobson favours the sonnet format but there are several other poetic forms on display here. Generally, there is a tight rhyme scheme following an ABAB or AABB format, but the meaning runs across the lines so that the sense of the words is never secondary to the metre. Again, this is similar to Larkin and also to other twentieth century English poets. What is impressive about the poems in this collection is that the type of subject matter that has seen Kipling fade into obscurity is combined effortlessly with a more contemporary form of versification so that we find ourselves dealing with genuine poetry rather than with a faux archaism.
However there is an animating principle at the heart of Howard-Hobson’s poetry that is fundamentally different from the morbid ruminations of most contemporary poets. Here, however dark and bleak things seem to get, there is a certainty that there will soon be a new dawn and a reborn sun. Natural cycles provide an authentic framework for understanding the weft and warp of human affairs. Despair is prevented from becoming pathological because it is necessarily connected to hope, however difficult it may be to realise this. By constantly returning to the cycles of nature and understanding them as an analogue of human culture, Howard-Hobson achieves a higher and more wholesome poetic vision.
What is most impressive to me about this vision is that the vast aeonic/cosmic perspective that lies behind her reading of dissident political figures is entirely grounded in a practical understanding of nature as it actually is. This is most obvious from the frequent references to gardens, trees and flowers that occur throughout this collection. “These trees seek/ Their own schedules which they do not share” (“The Pear Trees”). Natural processes stand somewhat beyond normal human understanding. Our task is to seek to perceive and integrate ourselves with these greater currents.
The garden motif stands both for natural order and for its dissolution. In Old Garden on St. George Street, the garden has been neglected and left untended. Wild flowers sway in the breeze,
bringing red, then white, then red again
To light as evening draws down the paving
Stones that no longer are a garden’s lane.
Here, the waving red and white is a dim, ironic, memory of the St. George’s flag, now an empty symbol signifying nothing in a country that has lost its identity. The lane through the garden has become mere stones; it has neither utility nor beauty due to neglect. No longer sanctified with honest labour and disciplined with cultivation the garden has become less than the sum of its parts.
The way to understand nature, to achieve a sense of integration with its cycles, and to reverse the ongoing dissolution of the natural order is through discourse with the gods, wights, and ancestors. These supernatural agents are another recurring subject of these poems. In particular, the sleeping king inside the hollow hill becomes an important symbol of hope for the contemporary wasteland. Just as the sun rises, reborn each morning; just as the apple tree fruits each summer; so will the hidden king return when the time is right,
because the time must come,
When these hills shall shift beneath their outer
Sleeves, as the deep buried continuum
Of all we once had and all we once were
Bursts forth–(“In Hollow Hills”)
This is not some form of messianism; it is rather a humble acceptance of our place in the natural order, yet at the same time a Faustian will towards future greatness: the paradoxical essence of heathen spirituality.
The poems in I do not belong to the Baader-Meinhof Group depict a European people in free fall, out of touch with their environment and deaf to the call of the blood. This is a Dark Age for our people, a time of materialism and inauthenticity. But the things that were once great and noble have not disappeared out of existence, they have been eclipsed by the nocturnal shadow of cosmic unfolding. And deeply encoded within our blood, Howard-Hobson tells us, is an indefatigable urge to greatness, an urge that can be neither defeated nor deferred. The glory of our tribe is not behind us. “For it will come, this dawning, by and by” (“By and By”).