chip hamer

Working Class Poetry Heroes of 2018 – Poets on the Picket Line

john mcdonnellIt’s been really hot at times this year – pushing into the 30s at times back in the summer. It’s been really cold at times this year – pushing into the minuses at times in the mornings. And yet, they are there, rain or shine, supporting the workers who are having to strike in order to either get proper working conditions or a living wage that they more than deserve. The heroes of Poetry on the Picket Line (PotPL) are the likes of Chip Hamer (Grim Chip), Nadia Drews, Mark Coverdale, and Tim Wells. And their support doesn’t stretch to reading poems, they have raised vital funds for the striking workers. Proper activist poetry, making a real difference to peoples’ lives when they most need it. So after little discussion with myself of the leading contenders, Poets on the Picket Line are Proletarian Poetry’s Working Class Heroes of 2018 (and 2017 & 2016 as well). (more…)

Lunar Poetry Podcast & Torriano Meeting House

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.

FullSizeRender (1)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!).

Going Forward and Pressure by Grim Chip

On Saturday the 27th September 1986, my friends stayed up all night, holed up in the front room of one of their parents’ houses. Everyone had avoided the news. ITV were to show the highlights at 9am that Sunday morning. The front room was full of expectation and empty cans. Near anticipated time, one friend was about to turn on the telly, when his Dad, dressed sharp for Church, popped his head round the door and said, “What about HoneyghanHoneyghan then? What a win!” Lloyd Honeyghan, a rank outsider had gone to America and beat Don Curry who was considered the best pound-for-pound fighter at that time, winning the WBA belt (credit to Honeyghan thereafter as he refused to fight the mandated challenger Volbrecht from South Africa, because of apartheid; dubbed ‘Moneyghan’ at the time because he had put $5,000 on himself to beat Curry, he said, “I would not fight Volbrecht for a million pounds – either here or in South Africa. How could I look at myself in the mirror each morning or face my own people on the streets if I agreed?” Top man).

It was a time when you couldn’t watch fights in the US live on TV. You either waited for the highlights, hoping an over eager Dad doesn’t spoil the occasion, or you stayed up and listened to it on the radio. I remember listening to the Hagler/Hearns fight, where Hagler with a deep cut comes out in the third to knock out Hearns; one of the most exciting fights I didn’t see. You listened to the radio by watching it, as though it helped concentration, but these commentators were genius, conjuring out of the dark, such excitement.

Me and AshYou get a real sense of this commentary in Chip Hamer’s two poems, Going Forward and Pressure. Chip takes us right into the ring, putting us on our back foot straight away: “There’s a fine art/To boxing on the retreat,/Not everyone can throw punches/Going backwards.//There’s a real skill, you see, /In getting any power /Into the jab, /When you’re in reverse gear.” This is where one of the crafts of boxing lies, in ‘going forward’ when moving back, (more…)