This past Sunday (the 8th May), was the penultimate day of the English summer. The weight of people walking around London, was lightened by their lack of clothes and perspiration. We are now descending into autumn, whilst Scotland still basks in the mid-20s. But I spent much of Sunday indoors, preparing and fretting over that evening’s events in Kentish Town.
The first was a conversation with David Turner and Lizzy of Lunar Poetry Podcasts. David, in little over a year has carried out 75 interviews with people here in the UK poetry world. It is a great endeavour, and one I hope gains a lot of interest. We spoke of course about Proletarian Poetry, but also issues relating to class more generally, poetry genres and readers, and valuing poets (i.e. with £). Have a listen, and try to check out some of the other interviews.
Then, I was very proud to be part of the long tradition by hosting the Sunday poetry reading at the Torriano Meeting House. The Torriano has been going for many years; in fact, my mother-in-law who came along on the night, used to go there more than twenty years ago. I was so pleased to have Anna Robinson and Tim Wells as the guest readers, along with some great open mics from Grim Chip and Nadia Drews, and a short set from myself. So although it was one of the hottest days of the year, which I didn’t see much of, it was well worth the effort. Onwards (with a brolly!).
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 truthfully; Anna Robinson did this beautifully on this site when portraying the lives of the women who were killed by Jack the Ripper.
The same is true of the two poems featured here by Hilaire and Joolz Sparkes as part of their London Undercurrents project; this is a fascinating ongoing poetry project to unearth the voices of strong, feisty women who have lived and worked in the capital city over many centuries. Each poet focuses on her different patch of London – Joolz north of the river and Hilaire, south – bringing to life the imagined, real, everyday and extraordinary women whose untold stories lie just beneath the surface. (more…)
Today’s poems (for there are five as part of a set) are by Anna Robinson from her collection, The Finders of London. I would say that Anna herself is a finder of London as she uses poetry to show a history of the capital from a different perspective, following a tradition that goes back to Henry Mayhew’s classic ‘London Labour and the London Poor‘.
She does this so well in these prose poems, which strip away the sensationalism and misogyny so inherent in portrayals of the Whitechapel/Ripper murders, leaving us with a rich description of these women’s lives in the year 1888. These are women who may be full of contradictions (She does not drink except for rum) have fallen foul of the law (She has been arrested for impersonating a fire engine down Aldgate) and are controlled by men, but they find ways round (She keeps a key in her petticoat pocket. It is for the padlock the waterman uses to try to make her stay). The shadow of these women’s fate makes these poems tragic but they are also funny and uplifting, and give us a picture of London’s Victorian poor from a new angle. (more…)