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Morgan), seem to want a war with teachers with the proposed imposition of academy status for all schools (thankfully withdrawn), new SATs for Year 6 students, and the madness of testing those under the grand old age of seven.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…
When I was born in the early ‘60s, I put my mother through a two day ordeal of labour, then was extracted via C-section; this was in the days when the scar of such a section was twice as long as it is today. So, it is little wonder that when leaving the hospital with my dad, my parents forgot to take me with them. Thank God for the NHS and all its efficiency, for an eagle-eyed nurse came running out of reception saying: ‘Haven’t you forgot something?’ Just over two years later, and my parents were playing cricket with friends in the stretch of scrubland outside our flat; when I was in need of something, I ran up to my mother who was in bat. The ball arrived at her stump the same time I did, she missed the ball and broke my nose. Thank God for…
“Capitalism has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities. Capitalism has agglomerated population, centralised means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands.”
Karl Marx was 195 on May 5th last year, and wrote these words albeit using the word ‘bourgeoisie’ instead of capitalism. John Lanchester used this trick when quoting Marx to show how prescient he was in describing the structure of capitalism and the way in which it changes the landscape (I sometimes think that capitalists understand Marx better than Marxists).
Just over five years ago, I began my journey into the poetry world. Blighted by a preoccupation/ obsession with class and the arts, I brought them along for the ride. I started Proletarian Poetry for two reasons: to put more working class poetry ‘out there’, and by doing so, learning from and engaging with what became 150 poets. I have written around 150k words of commentary, which some day might become a book, and there has been 65k visitors to the site.
However, not in small part due to my continued ill-health, but also because I need to move on a little with my own writing, I have decided to bring down the bright red curtain on the site. I will continue to keep it accessible and will tweet missives relevant to class and poetry.
My next venture is two-fold: first, completing the manuscript for my next collection to be published by Nine Arches Press in 2021. Second, I have just been awarded an Arts Council grant to write a novel in verse (gulp).
I want to thank every poet, publisher, and reader who has been involved with PP, including those who read at the events I organised. Fear not, there is still plenty of working class poetry out there, but I hope in some small way, that PP has added to the barbed wire poetry of resistance.
Many years ago my friend went for an interview at the Royal Mail; when asked why he wanted to be a postman, he said, “Because my uncle runs the pub across the road.” He didn’t get the job, which wasn’t fair really because the pub was always full of posties at lunchtime.
Charles Bukowski was probably the most famous literary drinking postman. When deciding whether to continue at the post or become a full-time writer he said, “I have one of two choices – stay in the post office and go crazy … or stay out here and play at writer and starve. I have decided to starve.”
Imagine however, that instead of delivering other peoples’ letters or junk mail, the postman delivered a message of his or her own. What would the folks of downtown L.A. have thought about missives from Bukowski or Burroughs? Or…
I am so happy that this coming Thursday 28th March, Joolz Sparkes and Hilaire will launching their book London Undercurrents. Published by Holland Park Press, the launch is at Gradidge Room of the Artworkers’ Guild, 6 Queen Square London WC1N 3AT Further detail can be found here: https://www.hollandparkpress.co.uk/books/london-undercurrents/
It is said of Truman Capote that his book, In Cold Blood was the first non-fiction novel. Based on in-depth research, the book tells of a family murdered by two young men in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959. It was part of what became known as the New Journalism by the likes of Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer and Joan Didion, who used literary devices to tell factual stories. Today, this type of writing has become known as creative non-fiction. Their approach was a form of social archaeology, where the writer is led by the subject, often taking them into strange situations (read Hunter S Thompson for more of that).
Poetry being the most (ahem) truthful of writing forms, I think could be described as creative non-fiction. It often tells true stories either of the poet or others’ lives, and relevant to PP giving voice to to people who are rarely heard or depicted…
For the past year or so, I have been helping out with editing collections at Culture Matters; and I’m very proud to say that one of these is by the great US poet, Fred Voss, which will be out soon (with an introduction from myself). Below are details of Culture Matters’ Bread and Roses Poetry Award. Get yourself entered, it’s free!
Culture Matters is pleased to announce that the third Bread and Roses Poetry Award, sponsored by Unite, is now open for entries.
Our mission is to promote a socialist approach to all cultural activities, including arts such as poetry. So we run the Bread and Roses Poetry Award to create new opportunities for working people to write poetry, and to encourage poets to focus on themes which are meaningful to working-class communities.
As in previous years, there will be 5 prizes of £100 for the best poems, and an anthology of the poems of around a further 20 entrants will be published later in the year. In addition, we are offering a mentoring and support package for writers who have not yet published a collection. Up to 3 of these entrants – who may or may not have won one of the 5 prizes – will be linked to an experienced, published poet, and they will be helped to produce their first published collection. (more…)
Yesterday 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! (more…)