I knew from the beginning I would be including Kei Millar at some point, and given that he has now won the Forward Prize for best collection, what better time. The poem I have chosen takes an object as its focus, in this case zinc roofing (aka corrugated iron) and describes its role in the lives of poor of Kingston, Jamaica and beyond (it made me think of the importance of objects as symbols and metaphors of how people live). And in the poem he references Dawn’s Scott A Cultural Object and I urge you to look at it, as it helps visualise the images Kei Miller makes in his poem, This Zinc Roof.
Kei’s latest collection is The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion published by Carcanet.
I wonder what other objects you can think of that symbolise the lives of the working class (ones that move beyond clichés) and where have they appeared in poems?
Karen McCarthy Woolf‘s Hoxton Stories are vernacular poems of her grandfather’s experience growing up in the area. Here is featured, Guy Fawkes Night, taken from Modern Poetry in Translation Dialect of the Tribe. I have written poems taken from my Father’s verbatim experience of living within the pages of Angela’s Ashes, (for him it was Glasgow) but never thought of it as translation. But thinking about it, that is what it is; maybe not in the literal sense of how we understand translation as a foreign language, but in the vernacular sense. Translation is more than understanding or comprehending, it is about empathizing with, not only people’s experience but their culture. This is summed up in the final beautiful and direct words of her grandfather, ‘So what d’ya reckon about that one then?’ Well, what d’ya reckon?
Karen has recently published “An Aviary of Small Birds.”
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’.
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,