Our featured publication for September and October is Manland by Peter Raynard, published by Nine Arches Press.
Peter Raynard’sManlandis a bold, brilliant and outspoken new collection of poems that scrutinise men and manhood, mental health, working class lives and disability. Aloud and alive with music, wit, anger and rebellion, this is an accomplished, politically aware and vital book.
Raynard is a skilled observer, and these razor-sharp poems document parenthood through the lens of a stay-at-home dad, attempt to tell the truth about men and depression, study our cultural and social and medical relationships with drugs and drug-taking, and lay bare the realities of life at the sharpest edges of society. By turns frank, painful and bleakly funny, this humane and brilliant book encompasses pride and prejudices, the bonds between lads and dads, the toxic pressures of masculinity and the way illness and poverty irrevocably shape lives.
A Poetic Coupling of the Communist Manifesto by Peter Raynard (with Karl Marx)
Counting in at around 12,000 words, can there be a more influential book with so relatively few words, than the Communist Manifesto? Today (21st February, 2018) is said to be the 170th anniversary of its publication. Written in a six-week rush, after the Communist League imposed a deadline on Marx, its take up has been phenomenal and its relevance remains today, if not more so.
Much is planned to mark the occasion, especially as it is also the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth on May 5th. I have read the Manifesto a number of times over the years. However, as a poet, I hadn’t given it…
‘There is nothing one man will not do to another.’ (The Visitor, Carolyn Forché)
On 7th January 1915 the war in Europe was at a stalemate. Soldiers were still dying for an unknown cause but the papers in the UK at least, were headlined with floods that covered much of the country. On the following day, the future UK Prime Minister David Lloyd George, in response to the war not ‘being over by Christmas’, said that half a million new volunteers should not be ‘thrown away in futile enterprises’ and by ‘this intermittent flinging …. against impregnable positions’.
‘Tumbling over hills, likes waves of the sea/Staggering on, attracted magnetically by Death.’ (At the Beginning of the War, Peter Baum, 1915)
When you look at the iconic picture taken of the German city of Dresden in 1945, it is as though the statue of the Rathausturm, known as ‘Die Gute’ (the Goodness – a personification of kindness), is pointing in disbelief at the utter devastation wrought by the British, where an estimated 25,000 people (many of them civilians) were killed. Almost five years previously in November 1940, my home town of Coventry, was heavily bombed by the Germans because of its industry and munitions factory. Although the death toll (estimated c560+) was far less than in Dresden, it was still massively devastating in terms of the damage done to the city, which took years to rebuild.
The greatest symbol of that destruction is the ruins of the old Coventry Cathedral. I still go up its tower, St Michael’s, and two things stay with me when I look at the view; the…
At fifteen I was a punk. I don’t have the spiky hair anymore (don’t have any in fact) but I still like to think I have a little bit of the ethos. My son is fifteen and into much the same type of alternative music, although his relates more to the various genres of heavy metal. It is only now, however, I have spotted a contradiction in our choices, for although I reveled in being different, I also wanted to be part of a group who looked and felt the same.
What we all have in common, whatever identity we feel we have, is the need to belong to something. It may only be with four other boys playing Warhammer in Games Workshop on a rainy Sunday afternoon, or as in Hannah Lowe’s poem Dance Class, being with ‘the best girls posed like poodles at a show‘. But it is often not that…
The late great Liverpool football manager Bill Shankly had many famous sayings that are repeated to this day. The one that struck me growing up was, “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” Although I have followed football all my life, I have rarely, if ever worn my team’s shirt. For one, I didn’t want to get beaten up by any wayward away fans; and two, I have never liked the tribal allegiance element of the game nor the violence that lies behind it.
Football is also not devoid of influencing national politics to the point of igniting armed conflict as was the case in 1969 between Honduras and El Salvador. The political map influences where teams will play; most notable being that the Israeli…
On This Day She is the new book from Jo Bell, Tania Hershman and Ailsa Holland – a page-a-day history book featuring 366 women who have earned a place in history, but haven’t always got it. You can watch a recent event in which the three of us talked about the book and some of the women in it, here.
History is not just ‘what happened in the past.’ It is the story of what happened in the past. Our existing stories need an overhaul, because women have not been fairly represented in them. There are plenty of women who should have taken their place in any accounts of great deeds and cultural change. If they don’t appear in those accounts, that is not because they weren’t there.
Artists and philosophers are downplayed as the ‘muses’ of men for whom they were…
My year began well. I spent a wonderful week on a Nine Arches retreat in Hartsop with fellow poets, Jane Commane, Jo Bell, Josephine Corcoran, Gregory Leadbetter, and Roy MacFarlane. At that point, COVID was still an inside page and I can’t remember it coming up in conversation. Roll on into the pandemic and I found it increasingly difficult to engage with poetry and the outside world more generally, so withdrew from most things beyond my front gate including social media.
Roughly two weeks ago, my 87 year old Father rang to say he was finally getting his second hip operation. So, although happy for him, the worry began its loop de loop. Despite a delay of over a year, he is one of the lucky ones. Born in the Gorbals in the early ‘30s, he’s been in many a scrape, from cracking his skull aged 3 to gang fights, bar fights, burst ulcer, kidney problems, and now his joints.
My extended family has been relatively lucky in terms of tragedies; but that ended this year, as it has for many people. The tragic irony was that ours wasn’t Covid. My wife’s cousin died in a car crash in April, after an impatient driver tried to overtake on the opposite side of the road, and hit him head on. He was a beautiful person; a teacher in Kent, aged twenty-six and just really starting his adult life. Because of lockdown restrictions, only his mother, father, and sister were able to attend the funeral.
Even though I have not read or written any poetry, I have still thought a lot about it, in particular working class poetry. In recent times, important poetry books of working class life have emerged, such as Caleb Femi’s recent Poor, all of Fran Lock’s brilliant writing, Jay Bernard’s Surge, Chip Hamer’s Class Act, and Julia Webb’s Threat, to name but a few. And I hope that 2021 sees more new voices.
I am most excited for Malika’s Poetry Kitchen 20th anniversary year, with its anthology (out in August) and series of events that will hopefully further fuse race and class within poetry. Malika Booker is one of the most inspiring people I have met, and Malika’s Kitchen is one of the most important things to happen in poetry, and I miss all of the members.
My son is a producer of drill and trap beats so I have been listening to quite a lot of Grime (check out GRM Daily). Some of the lyrics/poetry these young men and women are producing is lit (in my son’s parlance). Writing about poverty, gang violence, prison, it is a vital avenue for working class voices. I like Meekz, but I also love Ghetts’ video ‘Proud Family’ that goes beyond the horror stories, to portray his family life. Poetry can learn a lot from this genre.
Then, in the midst of my breakdown, I cancelled my third book (which was due to be published in two weeks). But after a few calmer weeks, my wonderful publisher and fellow Coventarian Jane Commane of Nine Arches Press, talked me round and the book will now come out in 2022 for my 60th year; although sadly I won’t be part the Coventry City of Culture’s Contains Strong Language weekend in September of next year.
Then, ratatattat eight days ago, my youngest son developed a cough and temperature, and tested positive for Covid. Three days later, my wife tested positive. I have a number of endocrine conditions, which puts me at heightened risk, so my anxiety hit the roof. However, the imperative of looking after the two of them, with the help of my older son, helped ease me away from my own dark thoughts.
Thankfully, he and I tested negative, so we are now running the Covid Hotel to feed my wife and other son and keep their spirits up. But it is exhausting, wearing a mask for most of the day, constantly cleaning, constantly stressed; though ten years a househusband has helped (unlike the so-called progressive Tony Blair, who admitted to not doing his chores – naughty boy). I can only imagine how truly horrendous it has been for nurses and doctors.
I am hopeful that things will be okay over the next day or two as their symptoms are subsiding, and we are nearing the end of enforced isolation. Though the best we could get for our Xmas meal is an Iceland frozen turkey crown – but it only makes me feel more working class 😉
My Father had his operation today, and thankfully it was a success and he should be home before Christmas Day. All of which makes me momentarily believe there is light at the end of a cliché.
I am hoping he can walk again in the New Year, and I have wrote this wee poem for him.
Keep well everyone, and I hope your year has not been terrible, thank you for continuing to follow Proletarian Poetry, even though like an old boxer, I keep trying to retire it. Much love to you all, and come Hogmanay, raise a glass for the sake of your own Auld Lang Syne.
For my Father, life has ever been a braw bricht moonlit nicht But Lauder was no Burns for the Ayrshire Bard’s picture was a fixture on the shelf within a line of our kin. Though my Father never read poetry Burns was the man like Celtic the team whisky the drink leaving Scotland the means to go down South behind auld enemy lines armed with saltire crosses their brogue voices lilting the bars with songs for the displaced who wandered many a weary feet singing their way home for the sake of a fading time for the sake of Auld Lang Syne.
I was in the room when he kicked her in the stomach. She was pregnant. Her scream was piercing. I was in the room when he drew blood back into the syringe before injecting himself with heroin. I was in the room as others left, unable to cope with what was unfolding in front of them, only a few feet away. I was in the room, at the first showing in London of the play Trainspotting at the Bush Theatre, back in 1995 before it was made into a film. As the eponymous blog says, it was ‘in-yer-face-theatre’.
Theatre is often tarred with the same brush as poetry; that it is elitist, not for the masses, etc.. Some of which may be true, but outside of the honeypot of the West End, in fringe and regional theatre, much of what goes on is done with an inclusive…
We are coming to the end of the school year; a year full of turmoil instilled by a Government who feels it needs to do more than tinker with the education of our children, treating them more like guinea pigs in an ideological battle to send us back to Victorian times. Both education Secretaries (Gove and now Morgan), seem to want a war with teachers with the proposed imposition of academy status for all schools (thankfully withdrawn), new SATs for Year 6 students, and the madness of testing those under the grand old age of seven.
Governments still struggle with mass education; with classes of upwards of thirty children, herded together like cattle despite their different needs and abilities and family circumstance, all with the sole intention of getting them to pass a minimum of five GCSEs. I know from personal experience…