Today’s poem by Paul Summers takes on the stereotype of Northerners (UK ones) head on with anger and great humour. For those of us in the UK, there are many perceptions of what it is to be Northern as well as much discussion as to where the North begins (it is not Watford, nor Coventry where I’m from). People like Paul Morley and Stuart Marconie have written about, the inimitable The Fall had a classic song Hit the North, and the Unthanks beautifully sing Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding (made famous by Robert Wyatt).
Paul Summers cuts through the horror stories and fairy tales that have been told of the North whether it be by academics, novelists or film makers but gives us a great tongue-in-cheek last line.
Ironically, Paul could not live further from the North now, but I think this can give you a different if not added perspective of your birth ‘home’.
As always I’d welcome suggestions of other poems, so try to dig out those that reflect the North, particularly those that show the sum of the place being more than its stereotypical parts.
(Paul’s New and Selected Poems, Union is published by the great radical poetry press Smokestack)
(home thoughts from abroad)
we are more than sharply contrasting photographs
of massive ships and staithes for coal, more than
crackling films where grimy faced workers are
dwarfed by shadows or omitted by chimneys, more
than foul mouthed men in smoky clubs or well–built
women in a wash–day chorus. we are more than
lessons in post–industrial sociology, more than
just case–studies of dysfunctional community.
we are more than non–speaking extras in
fashionable new gangster movies, more than
sad lyrics in exiles songs. we are more than
the backbone of inglorious empire, or the
stubborn old heart of a dying beast. we are
more than the ghosts of a million histories,
more than legends inscribed in blood, more
than exhibits in some vast museum, or the
unbought remnants of a year–long sale,
we are more than this, but not much more.