in t’ George by Geoff Hattersley

cedars pubThe pub I spent much of my twenties in during the 1980s, is no longer. Turned into an Indian bar and restaurant. I’m not too down about it. After all that’s where people tend to end up after the pub anyway, so why not make it the pub. Better than some overpriced hipster bar where you can drink five pound craft ales that taste like toffee or coffee, and eat food called burnt ends. It is life’s transitions which challenge us – the old with the new. Our pub was separated into three age-based parts; ‘the bar’, where the family men went after work, then the ‘smoke bar’, where us teen/twenty something dole heads, sat at one end (with a pool table), and the ‘death end’, where the coffin dodgers sat and smoked their roll ups.

screen time kidsBut I fear that at a time when my generation (us middle-aged types) are/were getting closer in understanding of our children, it is wars between the ages which is given as the reason in many spheres of change. The baby boom generation denying Gen XYZ/millennials their right to buy their homes (when in fact the problem was in not keeping and building new council housing); Brexit, where the older generation voted to leave and the younger to remain; then there are views on sex and gender, which on the face of it have an age-based divide. The demise of places, like pubs and social clubs where the ages were at least in the same space, adds to this notion that age is a key factor in the social and political issues of today. Notice I haven’t mentioned the age war over ‘screen time’, as this is a raw subject for any parent, mainly because they are losing the battle, and thus if you can’t beat them….

2006 Aldeburgh Poetry FestivaslThe pub at the bottom of the road where I lived, is still there, and it is still an important social outlet for my parents, who have been going there for some fifty years. I am reminded of this by Geoff Hattersley’s sequence of vernacular poems, ‘in t’ George’, in particular the importance of having a place to moan about the world (which is probably why pubs were invented). ‘Tha knows what shi reckons meks a good breakfast?/ A bleedin’ apple/ That’s all, nowt else, just a bleedin’ apple/ A bleedin’ apple on a bleedin’ little plate’. Then of course, a place for telling past stories, ‘Ah remember when ah wa’ a young ‘un/ Ah biked it to ‘arrogate/ All t’ way, non-stop, in t’ bloody sun/ Abart eleven ah wa’ ‘. Then it’s back to complaining, in this case lamenting the bygone days of smoking resin, and the dangers of today’s skunk. ‘When ar wa’ a young ‘un/ Resin wa’ better ‘n’ grass/ Tha on’y smoouked grass/ If tha cun’t get nowt else’. Today’s ‘young ‘uns’ are drinking less alcohol, which is a good thing. But the demise of pubs, for whatever reason, will also see the demise of places where the personal histories and political opinions of working class people are shared. Somehow, I don’t think coffee shops or social media platforms will replace that type of interaction.

Geoff Hattersley has been performing his poetry in public since 1983 and still hasn’t kicked the habit. His poems have been widely published and have been used as part of syllabuses in schools, universities, and with The Open University. He edited The Wide Skirt Press from 1986 until 1998, publishing 30 issues of the magazine and 24 books and pamphlets. He is currently Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at York St John University, and his interviews with poets such as Ian McMillan and Gillian Allnutt continue to appear as podcasts on the Writers Aloud section of the RLF’s website.

 

In t’ George

Stan and His Lass

Ah’ve lost mi bastard coyt ageeun
Ah’m allus loyzin’ it
In pubs, tha knows, pissed up
Tek it off ‘n’ forget

Ar lass reckons ah’m mental like
That’s a laugh comin’ from ‘er
Some o’ t’ stunts shiz pulled o’er t’ years
Mad cow!

That time shi come in t’ pub
‘n’ put mi Sunday dinner o’er t’ top o’ mi ‘eeud!
The’ we’ mashed taties darn t’ back o’ mi collar
The’ we’ carrots ‘n’ sprouts ‘n’ all soorts

Tha knows what shi reckons meks a good breakfast?
A bleedin’ apple
That’s all, nowt else, just a bleedin’ apple
A bleedin’ apple on a bleedin’ little plate

*

Don’s Watter

Ah remember when ah wa’ a young ‘un
Ah biked it to ‘arrogate
All t’ way, non-stop, in t’ bloody sun
Abart eleven ah wa’

Ah were deein’ o’ thust
Ah knocked on a dooer
‘n’ asked for a drink o’ watter
Did ah gerra drink? Did ah ‘eck

Ah’ll tell thee summat
Tha’d ‘ave ter knock
On a lorra bloody dooers in Wombwell
Afore tha farnd someb’dy

That wun’t gi’ a kid
A drink o’ watter
Tha’d ‘ave ter knock
On a lorra bloody dooers all reyt

*

Sam’s Absence from the Horse Shoe Explained

Ah remember walkin’ art o’ t’ ‘oss shoe
This is abart thirty years sin’
Ring Mi Bell wa’ on t’ juke box
Remember that shite?

Suddenly ah guh flyin’
Ah’m darn on t’ floor ‘n’ ah look up
There’s these three lasses in jeans ‘n’ leather
Stood sneerin’ darn at mi

Ah tell thee, ah gorrup ‘n’ walked art
‘n’ ah nivver went back ageeun
Ah thought, well, that’s enough fer me
If even t’ lasses’re lookin’ fer a feyt nar

It shook mi up a bit ah’ll tell thi
It’s not like the’ w’re lads
Wunt raise an eyebrow these days would it?
‘n’ they’d put t’ boot in ‘n’ all

*

Cockroach’s Lament

When ar wa’ a young ‘un
Resin wa’ better ‘n’ grass
Tha on’y smoouked grass
If tha cun’t get nowt else

Tha can’t even buy resin ner moor
Not that’s any good any rooud
‘n’ that skunk stuff, ah dun’t know
Ah can’t be doin’ wi’ it

Ah’d love a good smoke o’ resin though
Afghan black, summat like that
Like it used ter bi, ah meeun, back in t’ days
Tha cun’t g’ wrong wi’ that stuff

Thi mind went fuckin’ ivvrywheeur
It wa’ like all ‘n a sudden tha understood stuff
This skunk’s nowt like that
Just meks thi even moor mental than tha are already

*

Fat Al Dismisses Pig Parker’s Literary Ambitions Out of Hand

Iz started writin’ stuff tha knows
‘ad a couple o’ stories in this magazeeun
‘e showed it mi, di’n’t look like much ter me
But tha’d a thought ‘e’d won t’ Nobel prize ‘r summat

Nar, like, ‘e’s all lardy da
Dun’t even talk ter nob’dy ner moor
Thinks ‘e’s gunner bi a gret writer
Ah’m not bleedin’ jokin’

Ah tell thi, me ‘n’ thee, wiv got moor chance
O’ bein’ t’ next men on mooin
Gret writer f’ fuck’s sake!
Livin’ in a world o’ ‘is ooun

Can tha imagine anybody comin’ back from t’ shop
Carrying a book written by yon?
Ah allus thought ‘e wa’ a bit ‘n a weirdo
Can tha call ‘em that these days? Weirdos?

 

What about Bobby? by Saira Viola

stop and searchOne Sunday afternoon in 1980, on our way from Coventry to see Black Uhuru in Brighton, the Bedford police stopped us on the M1 due to the fact that clouds of collie weed filled the inside of the motor. I have only been ‘put’ in a police cell on this one occasion. I was locked up for four hours, with two mates who had done a bit of time so thought this was a stroll in the park. They decided to wind me up by shouting at the beasts, ‘you’ll never take us alive copper!’ as they kicked the mattresses and banged the door, before falling onto the floor in a heap of laughter. (more…)

If We Were Real Quiz – the answers

time for answersSo, here are the answers (poem below). Hope you did well.

ANSWERS

  1. TASTE OF HONEY
  2. LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER
  3. SATURDAY NIGHT SUNDAY MORNING
  4. A KIND OF LOVING
  5. FOOTBALL FACTORY
  6. NIL BY MOUTH
  7. THIS IS ENGLAND
  8. CONFESSIONS OF A WINDOW CLEANER
  9. RITA, SUE & BOB TOO
  10. EDUCATING RITA
  11. SHIRLEY VALENTINE
  12. BILLY ELLIOTT
  13. TRAINSPOTTING
  14. TOP BOY
  15. SHAMELESS
  16. LOCK, STOCK & TWO SMOKING BARRELS

(more…)

If We Were Real – The Quiz

i daniel blake.jpegYesterday I hosted an event at the wonderful Swindon Poetry Festival. As part of the evening I read the following poem ‘If We Were Real’, which was published in the Rialto; I then used it as the basis for a quiz. The following sixteen points, reference a film/book/play/TV programme, which portray the working class from the 1960s to the 2010s. It seemed to go down well, and the winner got ten out of sixteen, which under time constraints and not able access the Internet, was very good (the cheats know who they are). So, if you are that way inclined, why not have a go. No prize, just the personal satisfaction that comes from any pointless test of our memory. Only clue I will give is that they are all British and I Daniel Blake isn’t one of them. Please don’t post your answers in the comments section, as they will give it away for others. I’ll post the answers at the weekend and you can tell me what score you got in the comments then. Best of luck!

If We Were Real by Peter Raynard

1. Jo’s mum Helen is a slag,
doesn’t stop her having a go
at Jo getting pregnant by a black man
and staying in a hole
with that pansified little creep though.

2. Colin’s mum is no better,
she’s just after his dead dad’s
insurance money, but Colin’s
a little toe rag running for his life,

who’ll let the whole fucking lot
of them down. 3. Arthur’s a proper
hard bastard, working his seed
into as many women as he can.

4. And guess what, Victor’s only gone
and got his missus up the ready rough,
so has to live with the mother-in-law,
and she’s had a leading role

in working men’s jokes for years.
5. Tommy’s off up the match, an away game
kick-the-shit out of any proper casual
who’ll have it. 6. Ray beats up his missus
when he gets home, stamps on her throat

like some rat he found in the bog. 7. Lol’s Dad
commits the horrors with her sister
and her mate any place he can, then tries
it on with her until Combo ends the cunt.

8. Young Timmy knows how to enjoy himself,
he cleans double breasted windows,
or checks under the sink for some
scantily clad plumbing, before delivering

a whipped cream double entendre
to bored housewives. 9. Rita likes a bit
of that an’ all, off shagging Bob,
with her mate Sue, 10. but her namesake

tries her hand at books instead of dotting
her luck on the bingo of a Saturday night.
11. Shirley’s fucked off to Greece, can’t stand
talking to the wall no more, cooking

egg ‘n chips for her husband,
who believes that’s a woman’s place.
12. Billy’s dad knows what a man should be,
and it’s not a fucking dancer.

13. Rent’s smacked off his boat, so goes swimming
for a pearl in the filth of the bog,
whilst 14. Dushane’s a boy at the top
of his game, on the estates round his way.

15. Like Frank’s kids, who surround him
like a wreath, this all may be true.
16. And Big Chris is right when he says,
‘It’s been emotional.’

But is that really all we are?
Do we not go by any other names?

‘Persona Non Grata’ anthology edited by Isabelle Kenyon, with poem ‘The Refugees’ by Jennie E. Owen

HandsThe other week, I was helping out Culture Matters at the Poetry Book Fair, hosting a reading with the wonderful Fran Lock and Nadia Drews, both of whom have upcoming collections with the press. Mike Quille and I shared the space with Andy Croft of Smokestack Books, and Isabelle Kenyon of the relatively new press, ‘Fly on the Wall Poetry’. Isabelle has been a tour-de-force on the poetry scene recently, first of all editing the mental health anthology, ‘Please Hear What I am Not Saying’, in support of the charity MIND. It was awarded ‘Runner Up for Best Anthology’ at the prestigious Saboteur Awards this May and to date, it has raised £500.

Now Isabelle has turned her social and politically motivated energy to another anthology, ‘Persona Non-Grata’, highlighting two pressing issues, homelessness and the refugee crisis globally. All profits from the book will be donated to Shelter and Crisis Aid UK. Isabelle hopes that with the support of her readers, and the 45 poets involved in the anthology, she will raise an incredible amount for charity, providing support and advice for anyone who finds themselves homeless.

Below is a poem from the anthology, ‘The Refugees’ by Jennie jennie e owenE. Owen (pictured), and you can support this initiative by buying the anthology here.

Jennie E. Owen’s writing has won competitions and has been widely published online, in literary journals and anthologies.  She is a Lecturer of Creative Writing and lives in Mawdesley, Lancashire with her husband and three children @Jenola101

 

The Refugees
By Jennie E. Owen

The flood water rises steadily
and out they come. Sleeking grim
confused creatures from the tide, from the mire.
Eyes flicker copper wire, up at the black beach,
reflect the bottle of the seaside streetlights.
A flash of scale. Of ivory. Feather and fur
In flight. Closer they come. As much strangers
to freedom as they are to the peeking
audience; for fingers are twitching at the curtains now.
These refugees are unaware in their hoof and claw otherness,
that they have not left their obliterated cages,
their sunken ark,
for good, just yet.
Closer.
For the watchers are waiting now, steady handed,
all their ducks in a row.
The big game hunters, the children with spud
guns. Their mothers calling them out, hauling
rocks eye to hand at increasing speed.
Closer they come in biblical procession. Up the narrow streets,
past the cobbled stones, the chippie, pubs and churches. Past
shop fronts selling rock and candy floss in bloated bags.
Some take a darker route, the back roads and byways;
the sewers and sulphurous factories.
Closer.
When the bloody dawn breaks,
the mystery slackens, pop-pop-pop.
The invaders are too faded,
too exhausted, heavy-limbed from fighting the sea.
Eyes roll, pop-pop-pop.
Tongues loll, pop-pop-pop.
They fall, don’t surrender pop-pop-pop.
They cheer hollow and howl and clap
one another on the back.
Beat their chests in slow motion over the mud bogged,
water logged, sagging
shag skinned mess of parts.
It was us or them. Was it?
It was them or us.
Whilst somewhere distant, a lone pale tiger,
the black and white kick of tomorrow’s news,
purrs in a basement and licks its rusty paws.

 

 

Why Poetry? The Lunar Poetry Podcast Anthology, with poem ‘what’s in yours?’ by Lizzy Turner

lunar poetry pod

Just over three years ago I was sitting in the garden of a Kentish Town bar being interviewed by two special people, David and Lizzy Turner of Lunar Poetry Podcasts. Like myself with Proletarian Poetry (I was that night hosting an event at the Torriano Meeting House with Tim Wells and Anna Robinson), LPP had been going for less than a year, interviewing different poets about their poems and craft. David’s style of interviewing is one of the most laid back, yet incisive techniques I have come across; a great interviewer makes the interviewee feel they are just having a conversation, as opposed to a simple Q&A, and David does this with such aplomb.

Since their inception in October 2014, the LPP series has archived well over 200 poets spanning 116 episodes and 8 countries. It stands as the UK’s most definitive archive of current poetic voices. In 2017 LPP was shortlisted for a British Podcast Award – Represent Category, recognising the producers’ efforts to reach audiences often ignored by mainstream media.

screen-shot-2018-07-22-at-12-24-23To mark this great achievement, David and Lizzy have edited a selection of twenty-eight poets in the anthology, ‘Why Poetry?‘ published by Verve Poetry Press.

The full list of poets included, a number of whom have appeared on PP, are: Travis Alabanza, Sandra Alland, Khairani Barokka, Zeina Hashem Beck, Leo Boix, Mary Jean Chan, Donald Chegwin, Grim Chip, Rishi Dastidar, Susannah Dickey, Nadia Drews, Joe Dunthorne, Harry Josephine Giles, Melissa Lee-Houghton, Keith Jarrett, Anna Kahn, Luke Kennard, Sean Wai Keung, Nick Makoha, Roy McFarlane, Paul McMenemy, Kim Moore, Helen Mort, Abi Palmer, Amerah Saleh, Giles Turnbull, Lizzy Turner, Jane Yeh.

Released on September 27th, you can pre-order the anthology here.

To whet your appetite, here is the poem ‘And what’s in yours?’ by Lizzy Turner from the anthology. Lizzy hosts a podcast herself, called ‘a poem a week’, another great platform for poets to highlight their work.

Lizzy Turner is a poet living in Bristol, though her heart belongs to South London. She co-edits the Lunar Poetry Podcast, and produces its companion podcast A Poem A Week. She has co-edited ‘Why Poetry? The Lunar Poetry Podcasts Anthology’. Her work appears in various publications online and in print.

And what’s in yours?

What frightens me is
I can’t see exactly
what’s stuck on the
inside of my body,
what, alongside coffee staining,
bad thought never quite sloughed,
curdling on a raw wall,
what might interrupt my
blood at a later date,
something sitting in there,
a gristle rock,
no memory of mine
but with its own,
haunted little misery of a thing,

I’m scared to think
inside of my body,
feel from the surface
quiet bumps which don’t
reveal the features underneath,
what event made my
waist bend in like this?
pulled me together and
where did it go?
I think of how the
things get in and get
transported through the system,

I fear the poisons which
won’t leave the body fully,
clawmarks in the padding
round the exits, scars
of substance, abuse of the
flesh by the brain,
what damage, what consequences,
what strange becoming of my body
while I sleep?

But now by Stuart Charlesworth

I have thought quite a lot lately about jacking in poetry. Besides my dysfunctional health, the main reason is the frustration at poetry’s gated community who situate themselves far away in the wildlife of their own comfort; their liberal stance and inability to help us live a little bit better life by being the provocative fairground mirror to surrounding events. The somewhat disingenuous basis for the argument that, the reason most people hate poetry is because it doesn’t achieve what it sets out to do (i.e. be universal), means that its self-made pedestal is built on sand. I think a lot of poetry is an escape from life, not an engagement with it. By a lot, I mean that which is published in the magazines, whether online or in heavily over-submitted under-subscribed hard copy versions. There are glimmers of hope from across the Pond (Danez Smith, Eve Ewing, Terrance Hayes), but not a lot like that is prominent here in the UK poetry scene, and I would argue we are in the same shit pit as the US.

11015203525_62c7b63436_zThe actor Riz Ahmed, when asked where he saw the problem in the lack of diversity, answered ‘those who don’t believe there is a problem’. I would extend that to those who perceive it is a problem, but don’t feel it relates to them, and thus do nothing about it within their interests and responsibilities to the poetry world. Unconscious bias is thus the reality when confronted with the ‘why I did nothing’. Unfunnily enough, you often find answers to why this is so from the business world (know thy enemy, right?). In an article in Fast Company, the way business can better address bias in the recruitment process is being aware, self-conscious of our own biases – that is something we all have and must manage. “When we are aware of our biases and watch out for them, they are less likely to blindly dictate our decisions.

image1Stuart Charlesworth’s poem ‘But now’ reflects the dissatisfaction I have with this poetic disjuncture of bias and inaction very well. I will leave the poem to show this, but a quote from a V&A Director within it, neatly sums up the situation we are in, and therefore how poetry should be better at responding to it. ‘the terms and conditions have changed/ and we cannot continue the same’. The T&Cs are constantly changing, it is the nature of the social etc., dialectic. By not being aware of our bias, and how we therefore ‘opt out’ of acting, means that those who believe there isn’t a problem will one day see, “the little men come goose-stepping/ out of the palm of your hand and into your home.” I don’t think I’m going to give up poetry, at the moment, but I do wonder if efforts would be better placed in another area of writing, which is more receptive to change, and aware of its own bias.

  

Stuart Charlesworth was commended by Pascal Petit in the 2018 Brittle Star Competition. He is a nurse, and a committee member for Café Writers, Norwich. He has an MA in Creative Writing from UEA and his poems have appeared in Butcher’s Dog, Cake, Ink Sweat & Tears, Lighthouse, Poetry Review, The Rialto and Under the Radar. He is working on a first collection.

 

 

                  But now

Mr. Roth,
leaving his post
as the V&A director,
because of the European Union
referendum result,
is speaking on Radio 4:

the terms and conditions have changed
and we cannot continue the same

while the last gallant knights of Great Britain
                    — you know them, you’ve seen them on your phone:
the AlbionFirst,
the UKPatriots,
the #IAmProudToBeBritish —
the last gallant knights of Great Britain
                    — and for ‘Great Britain’ please read
a featureless,
spotless white sun —

the last gallants boldly meme crosses,
swastikas, bulldogs,
hijabs and poppies,
same as they do in France and Sweden,
America, Russia and anywhere with a signal

and honestly, I would much rather
draw my curtains shut on their thumbing
and privately conduct a careful study
of the accumulation of dust
in the grooves of my second hand vinyl

and ruck up the carpet,
strutting like Freddie Mercury,
try to swing the lowdown dirty
blues of Bessie Smith —

but now, when you can hear the packing
of bags through your Bluetooth connection;
and now the little men come goose-stepping
out of the palm of your hand and into your home.

 

Image (top right) ‘Fiddling While Rome Burns’ by Shena Tschofan