Helen Mort has written one of the best poems of the last few years: Scab.
Whilst it’s not a ranting poem it stands on the same picket line. It’s not an angry poem, but it’s fired by the same rage.
Helen says, “When I wrote ‘Scab’, I was always worried about how it would be received as a poem. Because I wasn’t part of the strike myself and because I was born in ’85, I thought some people might feel I didn’t have a right to put those experiences into words. What I wanted to show was that what happened at Orgreave and across the country – that civil war that ripped communities apart – still matters to my generation, to people like me who have grown up observing the aftermath. And I’m so touched and humbled every time I read the poem and an audience recognises that intention. Those reactions mean more to me than any review ever could.”
Helen read the poem at a Well Versed gig in my local. Looking round the room several men had tears in their eyes. One was Members singer Nicky Tesco. I asked if he was all right and he said that the poem had brought back all the feelings and memories of the strike. It is a moment that brought home how powerful poetry can be.
One of the things I’ve tried to do with Stand Up and Spit, both on the blog and with gigs, is to draw the dots from what was happening in the 80s, musically, poetically and politically, to all that’s going on today. I’ve been delighted that so many young poets have realised that, and Helen is clearly one of them as this poem amply demonstrates.
Helen is a crafted writer and reader, she’s also a deft hand at sinking a pint.
There’s a 2014 Daily Telegraph interview with her here