Making lists with Jo Bell outside the Forward Prize for Poetry

I went to the Forward Poetry Awards last night and introduced myself to Jo Bell, who not only said ‘hi’ and ‘nice to meet you’, but ‘join us, and let’s talk about Proletarian Poetry’.

Jo Bell large

Jo Bell

It turns out Jo had already noticed PP and put up a question on her Facebook page asking for suggestions of poets whose poems might be included on this page. Setting aside what appears to be some ‘heated’ discussion about what ‘working class’ is, which I have decided purposely not to define as I am going to let the poems speak to that, many were suggested. Those I haven’t got already include, Sean O’Brien, Kate Fox, Robin Robinson, Benjamin Zephaniah, Neil Rollinson, Nick Laird, Ian Duhig, Patrick Kavanagh, Philip Levine, Fred Voss, Raymond Carver, Tom Leonard, Eddie Gibbons, William Letford . . . “Gary Snyder wrote a lot about physical work, and Scottish poets like Edwin Muir and WS Graham, Joe Corrie, Seamus Heaney”, “Ellen Johnston (b.1830s) the ‘factory poet’ and Ann Yearsley, a milkmaid (women, interestingly!)”, Angela Readman (“Andy Willoughby, Ian Horn, and Kevin Cadwallender). But it doesn’t end there,

Jo being the active and practical person that she is, proceeded to take out a pen and paper, and with friends Jill Abram (of Malika’s Kitchen) and Gale Burns (who, with Jill organises The Shuffle, a poetry night at the Poetry Café on the last Saturday of each month – the next one on October 25th is themed ‘Out of Towners’ with Jo herself, Kim Moore and Liz Dorfman) made a further list (by the way, they invited me to do one of the upcoming nights on PP, so watch this space):
In no particular order they are: Salena Godden, Luke Wright, Tim Wells, Tim Turnbull, Dan Cockrill, Roddy Lumsden, MartÌn Espada (I love Alabanza), Neil Rollinson, Daljit Nagra, Kim Moore, Simon Armitage, William Letford, Liza Kelly, Jackie Kay, Michael Scott, Stuart Mackenzie, Hilda Sheehan, Amy Key, Martin Malone.

Wow! Thank you so much to Jo and friends and her Facebook followers. This is overwhelming in a great way and will keep me going for some time.

But don’t stop there, please add more, especially particular poems. Bye for now.


  1. Fabulous, thanks for the name check! I should clarify that the October 25th Shuffle doesn’t have Helen Mort, but does have me, Kim Moore and Liz Dorfman. Hope to see you there!


    1. Thanks Jo. I’ve made the change. I think I had Helen Mort in my head because she was one of the judges last night.


  2. I’d like to suggest Graham Fulton. Amazingly prolific, absurd and humane, and a good dose of Scottish vernacular. One of the funniest poets I’ve ever read. His collection ‘Open Plan’ is a brilliant sequence of poems drawn from the deadliest dullest depths of office work. As the blurb on the back says: “White-collar workers are the new proletariat.”


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