“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.
A 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…)