clare pollard

Proletarian Poetry at the Poetry Library

IMG_0279On Wednesday 6th April, Proletarian Poetry took over the Poetry Library as part of their Special Editions series. With the poets, Mona Arshi, Rishi Dastidar, Fran Lock, Clare Pollard, Richard Skinner, and Laila Sumpton, this was always going to attract a full house. For those unfortunate enough to miss the event, there is a link to a recording of all six poets readings below, and introductions from myself (I have included in the latter the time in the recording the poet started reading and a link to the original poem featured on the site). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The link to the whole recording of the evening is here:

Proletarian Poetry at the Poetry Library

Thank you everybody for coming this evening and to the library staff who have been so helpful in setting up the event. (more…)

Decline and Fall, and On Guillotines by Fran Lock

This is for those of us still licking our wounds in the fallout from the General Election; at the fact that Labour was seen to have lost because it was too Left wing (I know, don’t you love the media and those that lapdog them); and trying not to think too badly of those who ‘silently’ not only voted Conservative, but twisted the knife with an large overall majority.

Succour has been hard to come by. I migrated to Al Jazeera as I do when domestic news is too, well, domestic, and I felt guilty when perspective was given to me with migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean, and the continued war in Iraq and Syria, and the Yemen, and the secondary earthquake in Nepal.

But though certain things are relative, there has still been a need to seek solace from friends and networks. I tried to believe in the more nihilistic anarchistic view that it wouldn’t have mattered who got in, but that just made me angrier. Then there were blog posts from the poets Jo Bell, Clare Pollard, and Josephine Corcoran, who bound their anger and hurt in a constructive and humanist approach. And inevitably there have emerged poems in response, from the Stare’s Nest, Well Versed, and the new blog, New Boots and Plantocracies, which I highly recommend.

10881278_965132330180995_1124375228_nI have taken my own time to think about how to respond on the site, and I have to admit a defeatist lethargy was still getting the better of me, until I received an email from Fran Lock this morning. I met Fran after the launch of the latest issue of the Poetry Review, where she read some fantastic poems. I gave her my card (yes, got cards now for PP – getting almost corporate), and she contacted me offering some poems she has written in response to the election (poets really are the people that keep on giving). I could have chosen them all but I’m not greedy.

They made me angry, but this time in a positive way because of the language; they articulate my frustrations with Labour, my contained anger at the invisible voters, my uncontained anger at the media (I keep trying to believe we have a free press, but can only see it as free to keep feeding us its elitist bullshit). I decided on two poems, “Decline and Fall”, and “On Guillotines” because she captures all of the actors involved in the democratic farce and even manages to fit in some humour, “Ed’s head like a Pez dispenser, shot/from the neck up and wearing puzzlement/like loss of blood. Cameron, of course,/pinkly inevitable. He pokes through his suit/like a big toe.” (more…)

China by Clare Pollard

There is some doubt as to whether Zhou Enlai (it was not Mao) ever said, “Too early to say,” when responding to the question, “What significance did the French Revolution have on the world?” True or not, I think it is not too early to say now. The year 1789 was seen as the end of the divine rule by monarchy and hardcore nepotism. However, countries began to develop in a more paradoxical way through incremental freedom of the individual, innovation and trade coupled with exploitation and war. Today is no different. Western democracies develop through free market neo-liberal economics based on a democratic model that exports both goods and services backed up by war and centralised control.

But the reason I think we are in ‘interesting times’ is that in the past twenty years, the model of communist development has also embraced free market economics; but instead of a social democrat capitalist end game, the benefits of capitalism are being used to achieve a socialist utopia. We may not be at the end of history but you have a situation in China (and Russia too), of a ‘by whatever means necessary’ model of development; yes, let’s use the market model to create wealth, but be clear this is only to finance a socialist revolution.


photo by Hayley Madden

This creates all kinds of contradictions in the country, which are perfectly summed up in Clare Pollard’s eponymous poem, China;
you have some of the most polluted cities in the world, “I saw skies so full of filth the stars were all put out,/and bags dip and fly across the flat, farmed fields/in their thousands – a plague of doves.” Whilst at the same time huge investment in green technology and growth. People now own their own businesses for private wealth and ownership at hugely different ends of the scale: “Dumplings were sold on every cluttered corner -/their dour, pinched faces sweating in bamboo stacks -/that cost 10Y or so, nothing to us.” Whilst at the same time controlling their freedom of expression and wider human rights: “We bought a watch where Mao’s arm moves when it ticks:/complicit in how time runs evil into kitsch.” Present day China is incomparable to the evils carried out to get the country to where it is today, but as Clare says in the final line: “with all this harm done/can it really come all right in the end?” (more…)