richard skinner

‘Precarious’ & ‘The Combination: a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto’ (please scroll down to exit via the gift shop)

PRECARIOUS

Precarious CoverPrecarious was published by Smokestack on April 1st this year, and I have been on a Precarious Tour around the country, with the novelist and poet Richard Skinner (whose book The Malvern Aviator is also published by Smokestack) . So far we have read in Oxford, Huddersfield, Newcastle, and London – with Bristol and Swindon to come later in the year. I have also read in Derby, St Albans, and London (at the launch of Jane Commane‘s book launch of Assembly Lines), and later at Ledbury Poetry Festival, Cork, and Merthyr Tydfill.

Here is a poem from Precarious about a night when my son was changing his anti-depression medication, which caused suicidal ideation.

Night Watchman

Bed by midnight, I set my alarm for two a.m.
At its sound I pad to my son’s room. The floor
is a rubble of clothes, guitar leads, a trophy cabinet
of sticky bowls residue in a corner.

In bed, he holds the glow of his screen,
perched in fear of the grave hymns that sing
in his dreams.             He says he’s okay, without shifting.
I fail by saying ‘try to get some sleep’.

I retreat to my bed, risk an hour.
At three he’s still glowing. Says he tried.
I know.                        Best rise for a time.

I wipe last night’s words from the kitchen table.
We eat cereal to silence, see if that works.
It’s being tested with everything else outside
the covers of a book.  Back in bed,

he turns to the wall.   Now I stay, see him to sleep.
At the inhale of day, the sun cracks its knuckles
behind the curtains.    ‘Come on then,’ I say.

 

The COMBINATION: a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto.

CM book Peter Raynard cover (1)In January this year, with prompting by a workshop run by Karen McCarthy Woolf, I began to write a poetic coupling of the Communist Manifesto. Coupling is a line by line poetic response (that includes rhyme, repetition, and assonance) to an existing text. To my surprise and delight, Mike Quille of Culture Matters offered to publish it, and the resulting book; The Combination came out on June 1st.

I think the form devised by Karen is a great way to respond to political speeches, policies, or books. Breaking the line of the original text is great fun of itself, but this then turns each line into a writing prompt. The book took me three months to write and I had so much fun going back to read Marx’s classic text.

I am now working on a fifteen minute multi-media version for public performance.

Here is an excerpt from The Combination.

The “dangerous class”, [lumpenproletariat] the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society,
steady on, this suit is clean on, Sunday’s best, they’ll be no rat catching on this day of rest.

may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution
there is much sweeping to be done, until we form a Vanguard and become all for one

its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue
does this less than ‘precariat’ class lack the luxury of refusal?

In the conditions of the proletariat, those of old society at large are already virtually swamped.
just to be clear, this is a premonition – not yet a reality, it is just a welcome fear

The proletarian is without property; his relation to his wife and children has no longer anything in common with the bourgeois family relations;
any chance of the sex tonight love? Reproduction or pleasure? Er, pleasure? Ooh, come here you sexy bourgeois bastard!

modern industry labour, modern subjection to capital, the same in England as in France, in America as in Germany, has stripped him of every trace of national character.
yet stereotypes remain, just ask any stand-up comedian of old

Law, morality, religion, are to him so many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests
coming ready or not, we seek him here, we seek him there

All the preceding classes that got the upper hand sought to fortify their already acquired status by subjecting society at large to their conditions of appropriation.
and you can’t exactly fortify something that is nothing – nought plus nought still equals nowt

The proletarians cannot become masters of the productive forces of society, except by abolishing their own previous mode of appropriation
which be the doffing of the cap, and mucking of the hands

and thereby also every other previous mode of appropriation
that’ll be the thieving and gambling, womanising and fighting, at least that’s what the tabloids say
They have nothing of their own to secure and to fortify
for you may be prisoners, but there is no dilemma

their mission is to destroy all previous securities for, and insurances of, individual property
and don’t be giving us any of your French, La propriété, c’est le vol! – Karl thinks it’s self-refuting

All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities
shall we ask the Diggers & Levellers, ask Gandhi and the 400 million Indians in 1947, ask Nelson Mandela, ask the Suffragettes, ask ourselves, is that not now in our past?

The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.
Now you’re sucking diesel. Yes, let’s give it to the Rees Moggs and all those weasels.

Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle.
If you ’bout this revolution, please stand up/ We ain’t got no one to trust/ Time is running up, feel the burn in my gut/ And if you got the guts, scream, “Fuck Donald Trump” (JB$$)

THE GIFT SHOP

You can buy Precarious directly from me for £8 (incl P&P UK only), or £10 (incl P&P worldwide).

You can buy The Combination from Culture Matters for £6 (plus £1.50 P&P) here.

OR OR OR OR OR

You can buy both directly from me for £12 (incl P&P – UK only), or £15 (incl P&P worldwide)

 

New Book: The Malvern Aviator by Richard Skinner

malvern aviatorToday may be Easter Sunday, and it may be April 1st, but in this wonderful 24 hour 365/6 day year casino online economy, you can’t be fooled out of finding buds of goodness shooting up (even if it is snowing up North). Richard Skinner’s collection, The Malvern Aviator is one such bud which is published today and available from Smokestack Books. I am proud to say Richard is a Stablemate and for a number of gigs, will be my poet bro’ as we embark on our Rollercoaster tour promoting our books. You can buy Richard’s book from Smokestack here.

Below is the poem ‘Dark Nook’ by Richard from the archive, about the working conditions down the mines of the Isle of Man in the 19th century.

Publicity photo

Coal has received most historic attention in terms of industrial development and of course industrial strife. Less is known of the importance of tin mining. There is a certain awareness of its history in Cornwall, but as Richard Skinner’s poem Dark Nook, and the research behind it shows, it was a feature in the Isle of Man as well. And unsurprisingly, like the experience of the coal industry, conditions were just as bad. However, you had to be lucky in the first place just to get the job. “I am Egbert Clague./I come every morning from Agneash/hoping for the nod from the bargain man.” When you did get the ‘nod’ it took you, “two hours to descend the ladders,/…The hole to go down is just two foot by two,” It was dangerous work and there was no compensation for accidents, so when Egbert’s legs are crushed, his wife has to work on the Washing Floor, sorting the ore from the stone. “It’s worse work than the mine—/she has no more feeling in her hands./I’ll be joining her there soon.”

Richard explains the research he carried out on a recent trip to the Isle of Man:
11010594_10152971672946169_8033033697610363003_oI found the island to be a beautiful place full of myth and folklore but I hadn’t realised how much mining had gone on there, and over such a long period, too. The Great Laxey Mine was by far the largest on the island and comparable to some of the famous Cornish tin mines. The first shaft was started in 1824 and sunk to a depth of 247 fathoms (1482 feet). The next 30 years saw a further three shafts sunk. Miners worked two shifts—6am-2pm and 2pm-10pm—but when production peaked in the 1870s, mining carried on 24 hours a day. Cheap foreign imports hit the company hard and the mine eventually closed in 1914.

Miners worked in a team of six led by an ‘elder’ who would agree an amount per day with the ‘bargain man’, who represented the mine, and would split the money with the rest of his team. If you were ill or injured, you didn’t get paid anything. Gunpowder explosions were the most common cause of accidents. Some miners fell down shafts, others were killed by falling rocks or timber. Carbon dioxide—or ‘blackdamp’—was a constant threat. Heavier than air, it would settle at the bottom of the mine. Explosive methane, found in coalmines, was not present in the Great Laxey Mine so the miners could carry candles, the flickering of the flame alerting them when oxygen levels were running low.”

Finally, don’t think that tin mining is any less important today and that it doesn’t have a large social and environmental impact. As a report by Friends of the Earth stated: “If you own a mobile, it’s probably held together by tin from the Indonesian island of Bangka. Mining is wrecking the environment and every year it claims dozens more lives.”

Richard’s poems have been widely published. His full collection, ‘the light user scheme’, was published by Smokestack (2013). His pamphlet ‘Terrace’ (also from Smokestack) was published in April 2015. He is Director of the Fiction Programme at Faber Academy and has published three novels with Faber and Faber.

Dark Nook

I am Egbert Clague.
I come every morning from Agneash
hoping for the nod from the bargain man.
It takes two hours to descend the ladders,
our tallow candles round our necks
like white asparagus.

The hole to go down is just two foot by two,
the spokes like blunt knives,
the blackdamp smelling awful. We chip
and hack until we see the sparkle
of the rich extraordinary,
haul it up through smoke to the adit.

One day, they brought me up
in the dead box, my leg crushed.
The Captain of the Mines
came in person to the cottage and said,
‘We can’t give you anything
and that will have to keep you.’

My wife Brenda is on the
Washing Floors now, sorting ore from stone
ready to ship to Swansea.
It’s worse work than the mine—
she has no more feeling in her hands.
I’ll be joining her there soon.

Meantime, I grow veg, read and
visit the village chapel on my sticks
to pray our Sooki will one day flee.
When I’m alone, I kneel and whisper,
‘The affection you get back from children
is sixpence as change from a sovereign.’

Three Books from Smokestack in April: Stephen Sawyer, Richard Skinner, and Peter Raynard

Radically good poetry from Smokestack, April 2018

Stephen Sawyer, THERE WILL BE NO MIRACLES HERE

Stephen Sawyer’s debut collection is a book about public dreams, private desires and common fears. From a Merseyside housing estate in the 1960s via Pinochet and Thatcher to the floods in Sheffield in 2007, these poems trace the sutures of power and resistance on the body and under the skin through the mediations of love, death, class, art and oppression.

Paperback £7.99 – ISBN 9781999827601

Richard Skinner, THE MALVERN AVIATOR

Novelist Richard Skinner’s third collection tips certainties on their heads, making familiar objects in the world unfamiliar. From the Lollards to Saint Fabiola, questions of faith run through these poems as they engage with different poetic forms – the cento, the cinquain, the unrhymed sonnet, cut-ups and free verse.

Paperback £4.99 – ISBN 9780995767584

Peter Raynard, PRECARIOUS

A book that  tackles questions of masculinity, class, mental health and work head on. Rosa Luxembourg, Orgreave, 11-plus failures – it’s a book about precarious times, hard lessons and fragile lives, a defiant celebration of British working-class life and the people ‘who make the wheels go round’.

Paperback £7.99 – ISBN 9780995767591

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: https://soundcloud.com/the-poetry-library/proletarian-poetry

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…)

Dark Nook by Richard Skinner

My grandfather made his living in the water; he would often get a knock at the door from the police to say there was a body floating in the Clyde. Being a strong swimmer his job was to fish the poor person out of the river. But full-time he worked waist deep in water down the pits. This was during the 1920s where working conditions had improved little since the start of the Industrial Revolution. The development of the deep mines, saw men and women working in desperately hot and cramped space; and during the mid-19th century this raised tensions between the genders, as the men often worked unclothed. There was a particular moment of controversy, when women were pictured working topless because of the heat. Many of the men complained this was immoral but there was suspicion that they didn’t believe women should be working in the pits at all, not least because they felt they depressed wages.

Publicity photo

Coal has received most historic attention in terms of industrial development and of course industrial strife. Less is known of the importance of tin mining. There is a certain awareness of its history in Cornwall, but as Richard Skinner’s poem Dark Nook, and the research behind it shows, it was a feature in the Isle of Man as well. And unsurprisingly, like the experience of the coal industry, conditions were just as bad. However, you had to be lucky in the first place just to get the job. “I am Egbert Clague./I come every morning from Agneash/hoping for the nod from the bargain man.” When you did get the ‘nod’ it took you, “two hours to descend the ladders,/…The hole to go down is just two foot by two,” It was dangerous work and there was no compensation for accidents, so when Egbert’s legs are crushed, his wife has to work on the Washing Floor, sorting the ore from the stone. “It’s worse work than the mine—/she has no more feeling in her hands./I’ll be joining her there soon.” (more…)