poets on the picket line

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).

To further support their work, Grim Chip, and Mike Quille of Culture Matters, have brought the PotPL together between the sheets of a book, in the form of a poetry anthology, featuring the aforementioned people, plus the likes of Matt Abbott, Janine Booth, and David & Lizzy Turner (of Lunar Poetry Podcasts & a poem a week). So just in time for St Capitalism Day on the 25th of this month, and to help the workers in their continued struggle, go online and buy the anthology – you’ll be a hero yourself if you do. as all the profits go to the striking workers.

phill jupitasHere is the introduction to the book written by Porky the Poet, the ubiquitously funny, Phill Jupitus:

“I have always thought there’s an unrecognised grace and beauty in a picket line. Also, they are a huge embarrassment to the organisations being picketed. The fact that, for centuries, news organisations have portrayed the objectives of those who stand on them as avaricious, unreasonable or somehow evil is a testament to the strength of the image. A picket line is the simplest most direct manifestation of the will of people to be treated with some measure of fairness. Ordinary workers, forced to stand outside a place of work, because they simply won’t take shit any more.

The Poetry on the Picket Line crew have been pitching up at many and various sites of industrial action, and showing their support with impromptu alfresco performances, for a few years now and the scope of their activities has grown over that time. This collection encompasses the passion, empathy, wit and commitment of their work.

It is not merely the job of art to hold a mirror up to society from a distance, the best of it needs to engage with hearts and minds on the ground. Poetry on the Picket Line is a perfect manifestation of this. It’s odd to say that I wish there was no need for them. But the fact is that over the coming years they’re going to be getting busier if anything.

So thank you for buying the book and supporting them and their work – and by extension, everybody out on the line.

Don’t cross them!”

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…)