tony walsh

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…)

The Last Gang in Town? and Englishman/Irishman by Tony Walsh (Longfella)

There aren’t manTony Walshy advantages to being fifty (or thereabouts), but one of them is to have been around when Punk broke the windows of mainstream music. Tony Walsh’s (Longfella) poem The Last Gang in Town?, is more than a piece of nostalgia though with its lines from Clash songs (who’ll fight the law, who’ll rock the casbah); it is a call to arms for the bands out there today, to find their voice in political action in the same way as The Clash and many other bands did at that time. The late 1970s was in many ways a different country, as Tony’s other poem Englishman/Irishman demonstrates very well (‘I would often tell Englishman, Irishman, Scotsman jokes/to my Irish father‘). As he explains, this was ‘written about my own childhood and the experience of being half-Irish in the troubled and racist 1970s – a situation with parallels to that faced by Muslims today. Also about male working-class emotional inarticulacy in the days before Trisha!(more…)

Mute by Jo Bell


Jo Bell on her canal boat

I know there are brass bands where I come from in the Midlands. I know there are some further South. But just like Rugby League, brass bands conjure up a vision of the North (of England). (Have a scan of the English brass band population if you don’t believe me).

Jo Bell’s poem for her friend, the poet Tony Walsh (Longfella), is fully aware of the stereotypes associated with perspectives of the ‘muck and brass’ North and the men behind the horns (‘and yes, they’re fat and balding, with beer wet lips/and skin grown pale in club backrooms’). Apparently, one of the reasons favoured by a local owner for setting up the original band in the mid-19th century, was that it would be ‘most likely … a way of keeping his employees from the pub!’ – well it seems that he failed on that count. This reminds me of The North by Paul Summers (‘we..are more than foul-mouthed men in smoky clubs…but not much more’) featured on this site. (more…)