Sometimes all it needs is a trigger and Kit de Waal’s excellent piece in the Guardian yesterday brought together a lot of things for me that been bubbling under the surface.
Her article ‘Make room for working-class writers‘ touched a nerve…..
Also she made a comment about how the Proper v Performance Poetry debate basically divides along class lines and that really rang true for me.
It is the reason I leapt to the defence of McNish and Tempest. Adrian Slatcher’s comments about the experience of being a working class writer also hit home.
In 2011 we were both published by SALT as Salt Modern Voices but throughout I felt an outsider at that particular party.
I was reading next to very affluent new poets from privileged backgrounds who frankly I had nothing in common with.
Most of the audience were from their background not mine and in a particularly depressing reading in Oxford I actually felt antagonism for raising my subject in their presence.
A mostly white female middle-class leftist audience did not like to hear about the destruction of the working class communities of Oxford which allowed them to enjoy their academic privileges.
Some inconvenient truths are not wanted even by allegedly left-leaning liberal elites.
Adrian’s very erudite piece on the subject here:
Since then I have noticed that academic poetry and performance poetry have started to separate in a alarming way. This is an outcome of a deliberately devisive education policy by government that increasingly appears to be a ‘pay to play’ approach to education.
If your parents invest a £100 k plus (BA+MA+PHD fees)you will one day get the payback of an academic career before 30 in return . An American privatised model.
These factors stopped me writing..I gave up..I felt nobody cared..that there was no audience for what I did..and I was right….the middle-class ‘proper poetry’ area isn’t interested in me..isn’t interested in the truth of working class lives and experience as a subject.
PN Review and others are not interested in working class experience one iota.
You want to play in the Premiere League magazines better hide all that personal shit and start writing about your foreign holidays, how difficult it is being a middle class person post Brexit or at worst make up shit about Impressionist painter’s wives you have no knowledge about but it feels authentic enough to your equally pretentious and middle-class readers sitting in their sun lounges drinking martinis to swallow.
Poetry for me has always been a means of articulating my anger at the class system in the U.K.
It has always been polemical even when it appears to be purely personal. As Raymond Williams wrote about the Romantics ‘the personal is political’.
So I have the impetus and hopefully in a few weeks a book to go with it…..I feel that inspired. I have been silenced for too long.
I am coming off the subs bench……I may not make the first team but I will put in some hefty tackles especially on Simon Armitage …the David Beckham of poetry;-)