Date Archives February 2018

The Lady’s not for Turner

‘I can’t tell you what art does and how it does it, but…I know…that the powerful fear art.’*

Do they really? I can’t imagine Theresa May or Donald Trump or the invisible people who tell them what to do worrying in the slightest about the impact of a picture. Would a film or a song make them slightly nervous? I doubt it. Remember when Rage Against The Machine achieved a Christmas #1? Simon Cowell expressed momentary annoyance.

Fear? No. It’s interesting to think that art could somehow inspire millions of people to become involved in sustained activism that would truly make the powerful fearful. In the US, children are marching miles and miles in protest against the NRA/Trump, but a picture or a lyric didn’t make them do this. I like the occasional ranty poem, especially when I’m reading it to 20 people, but it’s just howling in the wind, followed by an expensive pint, followed by facebook comments and memes and distractions… Meanwhile, the powerful count their money.




‘Are you an unpublished working class prose writer trying to get into print?’

Does this blog count as prose? Ah, I see: the emphasis is on ‘working class’.

‘Submit to Common People for a chance to be published in this ground-breaking anthology celebrating working class writing.’

I have a piano – does this make me middle class? I can’t play it – does this make me working class?

Some of my poetry friends are divided on the value of inviting people to submit specifically working class writing. I think I see both sides of the argument: possibly patronising yet allowing an opportunity for hitherto undiscovered and gifted writers. But, as one has said, ‘I had never thought of appending my class as a label to my writing.’ Does the poem below – yet another sneering piece about Thatcher – make me working class? Does having a job that involves *using my hands* make me working class?


Thatcher refused to fly with a panda,
Not even for the sake of propaganda.

As far as I’m aware,
No one asked the bear
Whether they were keen
On being seen
With a violent animal.

Journey to the End of Decency

‘The pseudo-paradox of the artist who is also a shit has abiding, morbid interest.’*

Indeed, it is abiding. I wrote this in July 2013:

‘It may be true that you don’t have to agree with someone’s political views to appreciate their music, but if Radiohead announced that they had joined UKIP, I’d certainly struggle to enjoy ‘The Tourist’ anymore.’

Quentin Tarantino is currently fending off accusations of unpleasant behaviour. Will his many fans stop watching his films? When I first started reading Philip Larkin, I had no idea that he was a three-timing, Tory racist. Furnished with this knowledge, have I stopped reading his poetry? No, but I have to try hard to forget his views. I learned from the TLS article from which I’ve quoted above that Ezra Pound was awarded a prize by a jury of T.S. Eliot and friends. In Simon Armitage’s poem ‘Poundland’** (which I think is great), I couldn’t detect any reference to Pound’s fascist beliefs. Should there have been? Should literary merits outweigh hate speech (or writings, such as in the case of Céline)? The pseudo-paradox will continue to be debated into the night…