roy marshall

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…)

Meat is Murder by Roy Marshall

roy marshall pic

Roy Marshall (photo by Nick Rawle*)

Today’s featured poem Meat is Murder is, as the title suggests, not for the squeamish (‘bled down the step’, ‘hanging those soft stretched bodies’) but there is such beauty in the imagery (‘dew-clawed and raspberry eyed’, ‘ruby jewels and red jellies’, ‘lifted on a diesel breeze’). The butcher of the poem is under attack and turns to drastic action in order to keep the family business going (‘the son of a butcher, who was son of a butcher’s son) to the point where this time it is possibly not the animals whose blood has been spilled.

The poem is based on a true story from Roy’s home town in the 1980s, when a butcher’s shop had paint thrown over it, I am sure is inspired by The Smiths’ song. Now, vegetarianism has become a more popular choice of many people and there appears less antipathy towards your local butcher, although this is probably to do with a decline in independent traders. The world is a more corporate place where pressures on profits mean economies of scale translate into ‘mixed meat’ solutions as the revelation of horse meat in the EU food chain showed. It is this development I think that makes the poem very poignant; the decline in family and independent businesses and the rise in large corporations whose income matches that of small countries and whose political influence is much greater. Ironically, it has always been the capitalists that have understood Karl Marx better than the Marxists (read John Lanchester on Marx at 193). (more…)