Sunday, 20 March 2022 08:44

Poetry for the State We're In

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Poetry for the State We're In

Fran Lock writes about the current economic and political crises, and introduces poetry that constructs a 'socialist imaginary', a space for hope and protest, against the distractions of nostalgia and the numbing exhaustion of working-class existence. Image above: Unloveable labour by Steev Burgess

There are times it is hard to imagine an adequate response – poetic or otherwise – to the state we are in. According to a recent report by the housing charity Crisis, over 66,000 more people will be homeless by 2024, with 8,000 more sleeping rough, and 9,000 forced into unsuitable temporary accommodation. These figures are driven by benefit freezes, towering food and energy bills, and the winding down of both Covid eviction bans and the widely praised “Everyone In” initiative that housed homeless persons in hotels throughout the pandemic. But these things aren't causes in themselves. Rather, they are the inevitable result of Tory economic policy, of a failure to regulate the energy market, the baffling decision to close gas storage, their absolute disinterest in insulating homes or investing in renewable energy. They are the result of a disastrous Brexit deal that has created disruption, delay and scarcity, hitting the poorest amongst us first and hardest.

Many people I speak to these days – friends, family, students – feel as though they're barely hanging on. The reasons are obvious: according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation the recent hike in energy prices will squeeze low-income households to their limit; some of our most vulnerable citizens could be forced to spend over 54% of their income on bills. Inflation is now at its highest level in three decades, and wages are stagnating. For the lowest-income families, who are already spending predominantly on essentials, there is nowhere to cut back, no savings they can make. Keep tightening your belt, these people are told. Until it cuts you clean in two.

Meanwhile, new Universal Credit rules have significantly reduced the amount of time those claiming benefits are given to find work: from three months to just four weeks, forcing people into poorly paid jobs, however unsuitable, under the threat of financial sanctions. The new rules mean sanctions could be imposed four weeks after people make their initial claim, i.e., before they even receive their first benefit payment. This hideous scheme is dubbed Way to Work, and it is designed to fill the estimated 1.2 million job vacancies largely created by government incompetence over both Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Partygate

Johnson launched Way to Work in the wake of “partygate”; it is the emergency manoeuvre of a Prime Minister and indeed a party desperately attempting to regain control of the political agenda. It has zero to do with helping people to secure work or with leading a sustainable economic recovery. Welfare experts have stated that the use of sanctions could have dire implications for low-income families struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, and the government's own National Audit Office had already found in 2016 that there is no evidence at all that benefit sanctions work to fulfil their stated aim. In fact they are as likely to deter people from claiming benefits without getting a job as they are to force them into employment. To put it another way: sanctions are punitive and persecutory in nature. They work both to demonise and punish those already suffering.

What are we to do with this? A walk through any major city these days is a walk through the wastelands of a neoliberal apocalypse: estates, neighbourhoods, and the communities that once thrived there are left to languish in a state of “managed decline”, where “managed decline” is Tory-speak for wilful neglect. The roots of this neglect are deep and old. Their origin is Thatcher's poisonous Right to Buy scheme, where home ownership was only made possible for comparatively affluent council tenants off the backs of their poorer neighbours: rents for council tenants rose dramatically throughout the life of the scheme, while the rate of construction slowed to a crawl. Successive Tory governments have evinced a similar lack of commitment to the provision of social housing: only 1,650 council homes were built between 2020-21, and maintenance of existing properties has been woeful.

'You feel expendable', a student of mine said recently, 'you feel forgotten.' This is a heartbreaking thing to hear, and in a sense he's right, poor and working-class people bear the brunt of austerity measures in a variety of ways: firstly as scapegoats in a narrative of personal responsibility that presents the feckless, scrounging and profligate poor as a drain on national resources, and where individual acts of economic prudence are supposed to balance out or compensate for decades of systemic waste and failure. Secondly, in that the needs of poor people are the first to be reclassified as optional extras during times of austerity. So mental health services are cut, and free childcare is cut, and local authority spending on property maintenance is cut. But I don't know about 'forgotten', which implies that poor people are the collateral damage to government incompetence and greed. I don't think they are. I think it's worse than that. I think the poor are targeted victims of government greed. I think the basis for this is ideological.

I've been reflecting on this a lot lately, talking with an online class about Charles Eisenstein's book The Ascent of Humanity (North Atlantic Books, 2013), and revisiting some of its gloomier chapters. Specifically, the section in 'Money and Property' where Eisenstein talks about the separation that is built into the social and physical fabric of neoliberal society. Eisenstein states that those of us now living will never experience community because community is 'incompatible' with the highly specialised work and estranged faceless dependence of modern capitalism. 'The groundwork of life' he writes, is 'anonymity and convenience.' But poor and working-class people do build strong, mutually supportive communities. Or we do up until the point those communities are dispersed, our neighbourhoods gentrified, our districts socially cleansed.

Doubtless, there is an economic basis for neglect and “managed decline”, but there's a political and ideological basis too: scatter and disrupt the association of poor communities and it becomes harder for those same persons to recognise themselves as a class cohort. On a practical level, how do you come together and organise when there's nowhere for you to meet? Equally as important, how do you develop affinities for an area and the people who live in it if your own existence within that space is precarious and temporary? How do you apprehend your struggles as part of something bigger if your closest neighbour is not – for example – another working-class person, but someone who gives you a filthy look as you enter the tower block you happen to share through the specially designated poor door? They occupy the same building to you, in the same area of town, but their life never touches or acknowledges yours. It never has to. Gentrification displaces persons. It forces the marginalised out of even the margins.

A space for solidarity

I've written before about how poetry might offer a space for a network of solidarities to form, might function as a wide imaginative community that allows us to recognise ourselves as a class cohort and to extend our solidarity to others whose experiences are different to but intimately linked with our own. I still firmly believe that poetry, at its best, can offer us a space of sustained attention and mutual care seldom afforded us as citizens or as subjects. Yet how can poetry speak to a cultural moment that feels so violently opposed to poor and working-class life it is prepared to consign vast numbers of people to hunger, homelessness and untold misery? How does poetry address the political reality of living under a government so grotesquely corrupt that they lie, obfuscate, and indulge in the worst kind of spineless self-protection, securing their careers at any cost while people starve? The poems I want to share today were solicited and chosen with this question in mind. They represent various strategies or approaches for writing this reality: with admirable directness, with verve and energy, with knotty and resistive language; with humour and with hope.

Borisocracy

David McKinstry's 'Borisocracy' tackles a premiership so uniquely awful that the poet coins a new name for this grotesque political reality. The repeated refrain 'Welcome to Borisocracy' works to perform the false bonhomie and smiling hypocrisy of a country in which so few are truly welcome. It becomes particularly chilling in the context of the third stanza, where McKinstry evokes the Home Secretary, a woman with 'ice in her veins' who has made it abundantly – and for some, fatally – clear, just how unwelcome many people are within Tory Britain, whether those people are fleeing persecution in another land or born on British soil. The refrain could also be read as a form of rhetorical shrug, the kind of helpless 'that's life' statement we often make in the face of Tory awfulness. Within this context the final 'Farewell to Borisocracy' is especially heartening, imagining a turning of the tide and a gathering of courage in the midst of despair.

In the opening stanza McKinstry makes use of numerous half and internal rhymes, for example 'mythical', 'mists', 'cricket'; 'morning', 'worn', 'laundered' and 'Tory', both to create chains of association across lines and to achieve a rapid and deceptively musical cadence that belies the poem's darker content. Just as Johnson attempts to paint a rose-tinted and superficial portrait of a 'mythical' English past and to present himself – as somehow emblematic or representative of this past – as essentially kindly and benign, so the poem adopts and satirises his use of easy cliché and glib language to expose their devious underpinnings. My favourite moment in this stanza is McKinstry's use of 'laundered' and 'spun': a vivid physical description that nevertheless holds the metaphorical connotations of those words, so that the English national story, symbolised in an image of white-washed linen, becomes invested with numerous kinds of political and financial deceit.

This is a theme that McKinstry develops within the second stanza, which offers a clear-eyed assessment of Tory tactics. Specifically, their weaponising of nostalgia as a distraction and an anaesthetic. The poem presents nostalgia as a vague 'fog' peppered with unspecified glorious deeds, given a gloss of respectable authority by Johnson's Classical education. Nostalgia functions as a denial of the past in order to cope with an unendurable present. It numbs us, and it's meant to. It saps us of the will to move forward and to organise. McKinstry captures this sense of paralysis and the contempt our government holds us in within the lines 'Whilst the plebs look/ on with vacant faces'.

But we are not so vacant, as McKinstry's portrait of corrupt power shows. While setting out the grimness of contemporary Britain, the poem also has a sharp eye for humour. The image of Johnson and Rees-Mogg vying with each other in a game of nostalgic one-upmanship is funny, and the poem indulges in gameplay and puns, as in the fourth stanza with 'Etonian Brexit Mess'. I think the poem's refusal to take these leaders quite seriously is in itself a serious and important form of resistance.

The Clash's EP, 'Cost of Living'

Humour is also a central component of 'The Clash's Cost of Living EP' by Peadar O'Donoghue, although it is humour of a far bleaker order. By referencing the 1970s punk record O’Donoghue summons then instantly undermines an image of youthful fire and political rebellion with one of grim subsistence living; of struggling just to get by. This is something else deliberately engineered into neoliberal poverty: the anxiety and the exhaustion. While McKinstry's poor are kept from political consciousness by a drip-feed diet of toxic nostalgia, O'Donoghue's are kept from revolution through abject fatigue.

The poem is saturated with stress, which O'Donoghue builds skilfully through the use of repeated and interrogative questions: 'Are you cold/ want the heating on?', 'Do you really need that light?' What is both fascinating and horrible is that midway through the second stanza the speaker internalises his interlocutor's questioning and there is a shift from 'do you' to 'do we'. The speaker seems, as many poor and working-class people often do, to have absorbed by dint of repetition the relentless querying and criticism of themselves.

By the short third and fourth stanza the questions have bred more questions, opening the poem up into a fevered stream of consciousness. There is a moment of unsettling humour here, where the solution to being unable to turn on a light becomes developing 'night vision'. The speaker asks, as if musingly, how much would a pound of carrots cost these days? It's as if even ludicrous fantasies must be weighed against the limits of an ever-shrinking budget.

The image of discount supermarkets as 'sacrificial alters, all/ to the blood letting of our impecunious demise' is both surreal and unsettling. The use of 'impecunious' imparts a slightly whimsical tone that sits uneasily alongside 'sacrificial', and the phrase 'impecunious demise' has an almost Dickensian flavour. There's a false jollity there, a sense of effortfully maintained normality in the face of horrors. To be 'sacrificial' someone must be sacrificing us. And this is where the poem introduces the idea of a perpetrator, before pivoting again in the fifth stanza back to musing humour. This combination of bleak humour and barely suppressed fury is a constant current in the lives of poor and working-class people. Being powerless, we make jokes out of our struggles in order to get through the day, all the while alive to the grinding unfairness that keeps us struggling.

In the final stanza the poem finds an outlet for its undersong of rage in an expression of violent intent: by reinvesting a worn slogan with renewed urgency; mock-positing the eating of the rich as a serious solution to the problem of a hunger they themselves created. 'we fatten them all the time' states the speaker, reminding us that the wealth of the few has always and always will exist at the expense of the many; that in order to survive we are forced into a mode of existence that props up and perpetuates the system that exploits us.

I do a job I hate

This sense of being caught in the perpetual motion machine of neoliberal capitalism is something profoundly captured in Wendy Young's poem 'I do a job I hate' where we accompany the speaker and her snow-balling thoughts on a bus ride to a job she desperately longs to escape. The poem is a spiralling stream of consciousness, gaining in momentum and intensity as it progresses. It provides a vital insight into the position of many working-class and poor creatives: square pegs hammered into the round holes of McJobs and shift-work, forced by economic necessity to suppress or expend their creative energies on mere survival.

What is sad, striking and ultimately resistive about the poem is how absolutely irrepressible the speaker's denied creativity is: it bubbles up in her quick-witted lateral leaps of logic; in her spoofing of patronising aphorisms, her riffing on well-worn phrases, her incorporation of song lyrics and cultural references. All of which is evidence of a mind alert, awake, and full of play.  Two strong examples of such pressured play come in the second stanza: 'toe the (bread) line/ follow the (bread) line/ don’t eat the bread/ save some for/ rainy days may come – they have/  on a drizzling Harrow Road mounting the 36/ (wheels on the bus go round and round)/ to a job I hate' and in the final stanza: 'hurry up Harry we’re going on the merry go round ‘roll up, roll up yer sleeves, roll up yer genes, grit yer teeth, Northern’s gonna rock yer'.

Throughout the poem, stanza structure and line length are breaking down and overspilling, performing a mounting anxiety and tension, but also the impossibility of containing or repressing working-class creativity. Such creativity is stifled not merely through the drudgery of poorly paid employment, but by a culture that recasts systemic inequality as personal failure. To begin with the speaker complies with this version of reality, attempting to conform to the normalising aspirations of the self-help industry, but ends by breaking out of its prison of stale phrases and prescriptive living in a hilarious and vivid way: 'be transcendental/ say ‘I can’ until I’m blue in the face/ Smurf of the turf flagging in the rat race'.

By the end of the piece Young's speaker is at her most rhapsodic: the poem breaks out of its left-lineated form altogether to become prose; it is punctuated only by commas, giving it a breathless quality, and the lines pull together a chaotic mix of references and allusions. The final 'take a ride on the eternal abyss of existence' is a sudden chilling stop. It suggests that the reality of such soul-deadening exploitation is as inescapable for working-class people as their creativity is irrepressible within that same system. In Young's poem an immovable object (capitalism) meets an unstoppable force (working-class creativity) and the two are held in a tension that the poem refuses to resolve or to release.

Full-Grown

This tension permeates our lives and art. It is a significant feature of the fourth piece I want to share. 'Full-Grown' by Al Hutchins is an oblique and unsettling poem, eloquent of dereliction and amorphous ruin. It begins 'Sometimes after a full-grown night/ Mangled out of sight or reach' but does not clarify what or who is 'mangled', what or who is 'out of reach'. The night? The speaker? Some third quantity? All of the above? The poem does not immediately resolve this question, rather, it collects small, prosaic details, arranging them into something more ominous than the sum of their parts: 'The witnesses of buses and wet cut grass and spent outcomes, thrown away fried chicken born to live and die and fry in fridge and bin'. On a sonic level the sibilance of 'witnesses', 'buses' 'grass' and 'spent' creates the suggestion of hostile hissing, like the spitting of hot fat or of a feral animal. Placing 'spent outcomes' within a list of concrete descriptions likens human destiny to dog-ends, litter, or discarded chicken bones, something thrown away, used up and hopeless.

What strikes me most, however is the use of 'live' to describe fried chicken. It signals an inevitability to the fate of being consumed, and – yet more troubling – a consciousness of being fried, consumed, and then discarded. This is a key strategy throughout the poem, where Hutchins merges the human speaker with the grimness and decay of their inanimate surroundings. The poem's 'roadside laughter', for example, might equally describe in figurative terms of the sound of traffic, but it also holds associations of human mockery for the vulnerable position of the speaker.

Hutchins’s use of the phrase 'these heaved stacked questions' also feels significant. Labour, effort, and precariousness are inscribed into these lines. Yet for all of that, no questions have been explicitly voiced within the text. Instead, unexpressed questioning saturates the poem. The open-ended lines, minimal punctuation and unusual syntax create spaces of discomfort and anxious expectancy where the reader is forced to work to interpret a landscape both threatening and abject. The reader is forced to experience, in other words, something of the confusion and misery experienced by the speaker. That these questions 'do not adjust or needle or play about with form' signals the impossibility of resolution or change; these lines suggest an inability to parley this discomfort into a trite moral message or a creative resource.

The Economy

‘The Economy’ by Pauline Sewards is the final poem I want to share. This poem also wrestles with the capacities and limits of language. Specifically, it bears stark witness to the fatal consequences of yoking human communication and care to the economic objectives of government within the context of addition treatment.

Sewards piece unblinkingly exposes the human cost of an economically driven shift of emphasis from ‘harm reduction’ to the unrealistic absolutes of ‘recovery’ or ‘abstinence’ within addiction treatment services. She registers this damage through the institutional apparatus that records and manages it: chronic and escalating need becomes multiplying ‘caseloads’, and death is plotted and recorded onto ‘the death graph’. In presenting human suffering as remote and mediated through impersonal bureaucracy, Sewards shows us how such suffering is systematised and the human edged out of official rhetoric, a process of willed amnesia that leaves the misery of human beings unattended to: ‘a scandal/ hardly mentioned on the news.’

Against the increasingly instrumental underpinnings of this system, the poem places a compassionate human listener. ‘For years I sat in rooms/ where people told me…’ begins the speaker in the first stanza, situating the reader as witness in their turn to the speaker’s accounting. The phrase is repeated in the eighth stanza; the receptive listener is constant, but what she hears subtly shifts over time. In this way Sewards charts changes to the program in which she works and the effects of these changes upon people. In the first stanza she is told ‘the narrative/ they thought I wanted to hear/ so that they could get treatment’, and by the eighth people tell her that ‘prison/ saved their life’. It is a sad and chilling indictment.

The poem’s title, and the repetition of ‘recovery’ throughout the piece conceptually link the nebulous much-touted notion of “economic recovery” to the rehabilitation of persons. The poem demonstrates the way in which mental health outcomes are now tied to the notion of economic productivity and a idealised “return to society” as obedient consumer subjects. By these metrics any therapeutic intervention is bound to fail. These goals are unrealistic: they do not account for either the recursive nature of trauma or the myriad emotional and material factors that drive addiction. How can anyone so much as begin to heal without stability or a place of safety? Or, as Sewards writes: ‘Recovery means many things./ Means nothing unless you stay alive.’

Persons struggling with addiction often already inhabit an endurable reality. Addiction is ‘a solution made into a problem/ by criminalisation.’ The ‘edict of abstinence’ kills people because it leaves them without recourse in a world in which they are already marginalised. Further, it places undue pressure on individuals without seeking to address the causes of addiction on a societal or systemic level. This pressure erodes and warps the spirit of those on either side of the treatment encounter as well as the relationship between them.

Rage is the undersong of Sewards’ poem, often signalled through subtle sonic linkages between lines and stanzas, for example the short sharp vowel sounds joining ‘stigma’, ‘pretty shit’, ‘prison’, ‘shifted’, ‘edict’ and ‘abstinence’. However, piece remains restrained throughout and does not rely on flourishes to achieve its effects, refusing to cannibalise the suffering of others into lyric spectacle.

A socialist imaginary

These five poems demonstrate the capacity of poetry to formulate a socialist imaginary against the distractions of nostalgia and the numbing exhaustion of working-class existence; they can create a space for both hope and protest. Equally as important, they can wrestle with the limits of language, tell us about what language cannot solve. If the state were a body, then poetry can show us where it hurts. It is a diagnostic tool, yet it is also a step towards a cure.

It is often difficult to sustain a belief in art in the midst of despair. We write our poems and we ask ourselves 'so what?' But I think this is because no one poem and no single type of poetry can adequately address the state we are in alone. Poems need and create communities, where many different voices and strategies can exist together. We need realism, humour, rhythm, difficulty. We need a poetics every bit as diverse and exuberant as working-class life itself.  These poems are ways in, acts of reaching out and across. They can connect, move, provoke and inspire. They can incite action. They can be the moment that reading ends and action begins. Not every poem for every person. But as part of whole, stronger together.

Borisocracy

by David McKinstry

Climbing Disraeli's greasy poll
whilst spouting a mythical past,
of morning mists, churchgoing
cricket and warm beer. All a well-
worn story, but ironed, laundered
and spun. By a sham One Nation
Tory:

Welcome to Borisocracy.

In a verbal duel with Rees-
Mogg, of competitive nostalgia
and reminiscence fog, peppered
with imperial battles and Latin
phrases. Whilst the plebs look
on with vacant faces:

Welcome to Borisocracy.

Appointing a Home Secretary,
claiming that taking the knee
is no more than a convention.
With ice in her veins, and self-
advancement her intention:

Welcome to Borisocracy.

Playing high politics
is a game, he couldn’t car eless,
be it Covid or Etonian Brexit mess:

Welcome to Borisocracy.

Peering from number ten
To survey the national horizon,
The Irish are talking unity
The people are slowly rising:

Farewell to Borisocracy.

 

The Clash Cost of Living EP

by Peadar O'Donoghue

Are you cold,
want the heating on?
No, not yet,
wait a bit. Let's put
jumpers on.

Do you really need that light?
Well, only to see. But do we
really need to see? And what
are we looking at anyway?

Maybe we need night vision,
how much is a pound of carrots these days?

Oh, Aldi! Oh, Lidl!
Do you even remember Netto?
Sacrificial altars all, to
the blood-letting of our impecunious demise.

That energy saving light bulb
we invested in uses less power,
but costs more, is that
a Commie plot?
Or a Capitalist trope?

Maybe we really should eat the rich.
After all,
we fatten them all the time.

 

I do a job I hate …

(After Billy Childish)

by Wendy Young

I do a job I hate
when I should create
because deep down inside’s a
love hate divide
a chasm holding my fear
SECURITY

a working class adage
toe the (bread) line
follow the (bread) line
don’t eat the bread
save some for
rainy days may come – they have
on a drizzling Harrow Road mounting the 36
(wheels on the bus go round and round)
to a job I hate
for money enough
when times get tough
they always will be
‘cause I do a job I hate
when I should create.

Guilt is reading self-help books
no such words as should or but
find other words like can or will
be transcendental
say I can until I’m blue in the face
Smurf of the turf flagging in the rat race
I will until the cows come home
and roam back into the field again – There Will Be Cud!

I’ll still do a job I hate – my fate
in this world of go-getting shafters
you mean you didn’t buy? – too late – be young, gifted and affluent?
not if you went to the wrong school
in the wrong time
in the wrong place
where they geared you up
lambast the wrong caste
survive by taking the piss
cast out Benevolents – the Benvolios

hurry up Harry we’re going on the merry go round, roll up, roll up yer sleeves, roll up yer genes, grit yer teeth, Northern’s gonna rock yer, we’re gonna Chase yer, we’ll take Manhattan then we take Berlin, not Irving, just the rummaged bricks of the wall – here we go – it’s all we know - take a ride on the eternal abyss of existence’

 

Full-Grown

by Al Hutchins

Sometimes after a full-grown night,
Mangled out of sight or reach-
The witnesses of buses and wet cut grass and spent outcomes, thrown away fried chicken born to live and die and fry and fridge and bin-
Sometimes when these heaved stacked questions do not adjust or needle or play about with form,
The roadside laughter can be heard,
High above the hem,
As derelict as broken pipes and clay;

First a peal,
Then a shrug of bellow,
Thrown braised and blinking like a chewed Slazenger,
Down into the tall sad side of days.

 

The Economy

by Pauline Sewards

For years I sat in rooms
where people told me the narrative
they thought I wanted to hear

so that they could get treatment
without too many barriers
or too much stigma.

I knew that drugs were often
a solution made into a problem
by criminalisation.

I knew that our services
were often the only revolving door
that was open and welcoming.

The word Recovery
was welded to our job titles more tightly
every time cutbacks were made.

Recovery means many things.
Means nothing unless you stay alive.
Caseloads multiplied.

Deaths multiplied.
Xanax - ten times stronger
Than ordinary blues

who would take a chance
on that escape route
If life wasn’t already pretty shit

For years I sat in rooms
Where people told me prison
saved their life

and they’d buried more friends
than I could ever imagine.
When the mantra of harm reduction

shifted to the edict of abstinence
the death graph started rising, a scandal
hardly mentioned on the news.

https://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CSJJ7420-Addiction-Report-1909020-WEB-1.pdf

David McKinstry is a schoolteacher and poet who lives and works in Glasgow with his wife Margaret and son Gabriel. He has been widely published in newspapers and magazines and is currently working on his first collection of poems with the working title: Viral Verse. In addition to writing poetry, he has published books and articles on the American Civil Rights Movement.

Peadar “King Badger” O'Donoghue dearly wishes he was an actual badger. He writes, takes photographs, and co-edits at Poetry Bus Press with his wife, Collette.

Wendy Young is a poet/ performer, whose publications include Living with Ghosts (Natterjack Poetry, 2015), Ooetry (William Cornelius Harris Publishing/London Poetry, 2015) and The Dream of Somewhere Else (Survivors Press, 2016). Her poem 'The Time is Ripe and Rotten Ripe for Change' was selected for Handbook for 2021, the anthology of the Bread & Roses Poetry Award 2020 (Culture Matters).

Al Hutchins has been described by Stewart Lee as a “howling faggot-and-pea-fuelled visionary”. Al is a West Midlands-based poet, performing “stuff” since 1997: his rhythm, holler and tune-mongering thing, The Courtesy Group has been lauded by the likes of John Peel, Stuart Maconie and John Cooper Clarke. His poetry and fiction have been published by New River Press, Eccentric City, Tindal Street Press and Culture Matters.

Pauline Sewards is a former health-worker and is currently writing a collection of prose and poetry basedon the known and imagined lives of her forebears who were agricultural labourers. She has two poetry collections published by Hearing Eye and Burning Eye books, most recently Spirograph (2020) and work included in The Cry of the Poor: An Anthology of Radical Writing About Poverty (Culture Matters, 2021).

This article will appear in print as Fran Lock's Soulfood column in the forthcoming issue of Communist Review.

Read 611 times Last modified on Sunday, 20 March 2022 16:45
Fran Lock

Fran Lock Ph.D. is a writer, activist, and the author of seven poetry collections and numerous chapbooks. She is an Associate Editor of Culture Matters.