poetry on the picket line

Recent Anarchy in Poetry

FullSizeRender (1)I have been heartened by a number of things in poetry recently. As previously featured, Poetry on the Picket Line, is a great initiative to support striking workers in dispute with their employers; most notable in London has been the refusal by Picture House cinemas to pay their staff a Living Wage, as well as cleaners at the LSE. Saturday before last, I read alongside a number of poets, in a benefit gig at the Betsey Trotwood (a good pub in Farringdon) to raise funds for the strikers. It was a great night and raised over £300 – I bid successfully for Billy Bragg’s solidarity signature. Hats off to the organisers, Nadia Drews, Mark Coverdale, and Chip Hamer, and hosting from Tim Wells and Janine Booth.

IMG_1349Last week, I received my contributor’s copy of On Fighting On, an anthology of working class poetry published by Manifesto Press (supported by Unite union), through the Culture Matters, which is skillfully edited by Mike Quille. It was part of a competition they ran earlier in the year. I am alongside a number of poets who have appeared on Proletarian Poetry, such as Fred Voss, Fran Lock, Owen Gallagher, Mike Jenkins, Steve Pottinger, and coming up soon, Martin Hayes.

FullSizeRender (2)In keeping with the punk ethic of working class poetry and do-it-yourself, I got a fantastic pamphlet by the poet Robin Houghton, of the indie co-operative Telltale Press. It is called Footwear, and is a short memoir-like set of poems to do with, yes, you’ve guessed it, ‘footwear’. Robin made the pamphlet herself, as well as the poems of course. With my Proletarian hat on (I must get an actual one), I really liked the penultimate poem, ‘Handmade in Guangzhou 2.’ “Long tables in the machine room/ ribbons of women/ pressed together in pairs, bowed/ as if praying to the Western god/ of sports & leisure.” You can find out how she did it here. Robin made fifty (mine is number 9), it is a great idea.

FullSizeRender (3)Finally, on that note, I want to give mention to Tim Wells poetry fanzine ‘Rising’, which he hands out for free at different events, the latest of which is Issue 69 and includes the brilliant Paul Birtill, Phil Jupitas (Porky the Poet), Jemima Foxtrot, Salena Godden, and many more.

So the true meaning of the word ‘anarchism’, i.e. of doing it yourself, is alive and well, in working class poetry at least.

Poetry on the Picket Line, news of upcoming fundraiser & poem by Grim Chip

hackneyritzyprotest460Poetry on the Picket Line (PotPL) grew out of the solidarity work carried out by the poets involved with supporting PCS members in the National Gallery dispute. Understanding the challenges of keeping spirits high on picket lines first hand, they saw an opportunity to punctuate the speeches and slogans with poetry to both entertain and agitate. The dispute was successful, as was the poetry, so with word getting round, PotPL poets have gone on to support strikers at the National Museum of Wales, Junior Doctors, Cleaners at the LSE and, most recently, the Picturehouse Cinema workers fighting for a living wage. They have performed poetry alongside Owen Jones and John McDonnell including sharing a platform at the May Day demonstration this year.

PotPL have always believed in putting their money where their mouths are and use the power of poetry to move people to build funds to support workers in struggle. For this reason, Poetry on the Picket Line are holding their first fundraiser “Cellarful of Solidarity” on Sat Nov 18th at The Betsey Trotwood in Farringdon, London. They will present some of the many poets who have supported or performed as a part of Poetry on the Picket Line including: Janine Booth, Tim Wells and Grim Chip, as well as Matt Abbott, Sophie Cameron, Dan Cockrill and Peter Raynard, with others to be announced. Solidarity messages and poems from Billy Bragg, Phill Jupitus, Tim Turnbull, Joolz Denby, and many more will be read and raffled on the night, which will end with a special Rocksteady DJ set from Tim Wells and live music from singer/songwriter Maddy Carty.

chip picket lineToday’s poem is by Grim Chip who has featured on the PP before. Grim is a poet and trade union activist, a founder member of Poetry on the Picket line.

Bulletin

The Prime Minister is being kept informed,
It is very much business as usual,
We can prove the doom-mongers wrong,
In the event of an incident,
There is no reason to panic,
Casualties are inevitable,
The Prime Minister is being kept informed,
Casualties are inevitable,
There is no reason to panic,
In the event of an incident,
We can prove the doom-mongers wrong,
It is very much business as usual,
The Prime Minister is being kept informed.