Dean Atta

On Ventriloquism by Fran Lock

4334544653_5f0fa8ce37_m“When I first heard some geezer called Martin Anus had written my life story I was chuffed. Weren’t surprised like cos I know I’m a top bloke and that. But then me mate told me it was what you would call an unauthorised biography and that he hadn’t painted a good picture of me. And I thought, how could some no mark write about my life without me knowing, or without even speaking to me? So before taking the time to find him and chop off his head off, I took to reading it. And what a load of old bollocks it is was as well. Okay, a lot of it is true, such as the beatings I dished out, and prison, and how me nephew is shagging my mum, but the rest is bullshit.”
(Review of Lionel Asbo by Martin Amis by Lionel Asbo)

There is a long history of cultural appropriation far worse than that done by the likes of Amis when usurping the voice of the working class. Most notable is racial theft that ranges from the Black and White Minstrels to people self-identifying as being of different heritage to that they were born into. In terms of art, it is like a venal plagiarism; passing your own work off as authentic is the height of disrespect to the heritage it was derived from. Just ask Chuck Berry.

Proletarian Poetry is about the poems, not the background of the poets. It doesn’t matter if the poet doesn’t play bingo or leave their kids in the car with pop and crisps while they get pissed in the pub. Of course, that might help if that’s what the poem is about and it doesn’t demonise. But a poem needs to be truthful and authentic, have imagination and resonance. Just read the poems on this site by Kim Moore (My People) and Dean Atta (I Come From) to see the diversity of the working classes.

meandbaby2A reader or listener can tell if the poem lacks these ingredients, which betrays, what Fran Lock, pointedly describes as ventriloquism. And as much as I try not to provoke class war on the site, there does come a time when you get angry at such false representation, especially when you read ‘On Ventriloquism‘, such a brilliant and unrelenting poetic diatribe in response to a recent experience at an open mic. So Martin Amis, fuck off will you! (more…)

November Review – From Nana’s Luck to The Last Gang in Town?

It’s been a great second month for Proletarian Poetry (I would give you the stats but that’s a bit too geeky. I am however, warming my hands over them now).

I have got to know some great poets who have kindly agreed to have their poems featured on the site. As I’ve said before, in terms of working class lives, this is about the poems not the poets; I secretly believe that all poets have written a working class poem, they just don’t know it yet – it’s a class consciousness problem 🙂 Also as I write this, I am reminded how many of the poets I have seen read this month; all are great performers in their own right and way – you really can’t beat live poetry. For example, on Saturday I was at The Shuffle where two featured poets on PP, Inua Ellams and Karen McCarthy Woolf read alongside, Tom Chivers, Holly Corfield Carr, Gale Burns, and Harry Mann. The theme was the environment and there were a great range of poems on the subject.

This month’s poems have covered a number of themes to do with: family, gender, identity, racism, urban life, work and industry, food, and music (got to have the music). There are mothers, fathers, grandparents, butchers, assembly line workers, brass bands, activists, priests, loan sharks, and (to use the title of Inua Ellams’ poem) Lovers, Liars, Conjurers and Thieves. (more…)

I Come From by Dean Atta

Dean Atta Pic

Dean Atta

Following on nicely from Kim Moore’s My People, is Dean Atta’s kaleidoscopic ‘I Come From’. Here is a biography of many lives lived; ‘a wonderful mother‘, ‘griots and grandmothers, and her storytellers”, with people with a ‘story or poem that never made it into a book‘.  The poem moves at pace from food and its origins of the UK, Jamaica, and Cyprus (shepherd’s pie and Sunday roast/Jerk chicken and stuffed vine leaves), to travel, home, music, and how they make us the people we are. Dean has put everything into this pot and you truly get a sense of the person he is and the history of ‘his’ people, who have come from different parts of the world.

I will feast on this poem for quite some time (more…)