Black Dwarf, 20 April, 1970 gives a somewhat sympathetic account of skinhead bank holiday aggro.
Back in 1971 a West Indian schools anthology noted of Louise Bennett’s poetry: “Enjoyable as she is in performance, Louise Bennett’s range is often restricted to topicality and journalism.”
They saw waht was the strength of her poetry as a weakness.
Ranting often suffered the same, and there was some fairness to it back in the 80s. Much of the spark and kick that a live poem has as it’s ranted and seethed at an audience can be lost a few months down the line when events have turned, or more likely worsened. Much of the fire can be extinguished on the printed page as new issues and causes are there to ranted at and poemed about.
This latest collection by Attila covers poems from 2014-2016 so the poems are still kicking.
True to his punk rock roots Attila published the book, as he has others, himself and sells them at gigs. He gigs non-step so the books move as fast as Jello Biafra sings.
As you’d expect from Attila there’s politics, there’s humour, but there’re also some personal reminiscences that bring out a more poetic, rather than ranty, side to Attila, and very welcome that is.
Faves of mine here included are My Doctor Martens which covers the battles we fought in the 70s and 80s and brings ’em right up to date, Auntie Rose, and his ode to flexible cystoscopy Candid Camera. Farage and Trump also take a kicking.
Good to see the lad still hard at it. Let’s kick out the Tories…
Buy it here, or even better, at a gig.
Suprisingly things aren’t much different today, despite the interweb, Roundhouse Poetry Collective, and grime. The situation for radical poetry is discussed in this Marxism Today article from February, 1984.
A Spotlight feature, The Trouble With Poetry
There is a prevalent view in white culture of the poet as droopy decadent self-indulgent aesthete shrinking from political change and hiding from the real world to pen banal or unintelligible laments about eternal truths. Poetry is set up in opposition to politics; people working in politics think poetry has nothing to do with them.
The romantic image of the absinthe swilling velvet-cloaked garret-dwelling outsider separates the poet as hero and prophet from ordinary people. It also conceals the fact that most poets are poor and enjoy their poverty no more than other deprived persons. And this romantic view, while to some extent feminising the poet (so that some skinhead poets I know need to reassure their audiences that you can
remain a Real Man despite scribbling rhyming couplets), completely denies the existence of women poets, who may also be mothers hard at work in, and perhaps also outside, the home.
Poetry was once an oral art practised in public. Lullabies, ballads, riddles, curses and chants were shaped and passed on by ordinary women and men as well as by professionals. Though poetry has become, since the fourteenth century, increasingly associated with books written and read by the literate elite, the oral tradition has continued boldly on, in this country flowering anew since the war to produce a rich variety of poets.
Marxist theory speaks of man controlling nature, has no concepts to deal with gender and sexual difference, and tacitly accepts the idea of woman as part of nature to be controlled and exploited for man’s ends: literally hundreds of women break into poetry to demonstrate that by accepting we have bodies and are part of nature, we create culture and press for change. Poets like Alison Fell, Judith Kazantzis, Michelene Wandor, Janet Dube, Stef Pixner, Gillian Allnutt and Berta Freistadt perform their work in pubs, clubs, cafes, meetings and bookshops across the country.
A similar upsurge of black poets has occurred. The experience of oppression in this country backed up by whites’ attempts to deny it has led black poets to mine the riches of Caribbean culture and mix proud angry words with music to testify to their need and determination to survive racism and celebrate a history whites would rather forget. Lynton Kwesi Johnson, now internationally known through his live appearances and his albums, recently completed a successful national tour with Manchester bard John Cooper Clarke, thus proving that black and white can cooperate. He is just one among many: John Agard, Grace Nichols, James Berry, Keith Jefferson, to name but a few.
Some white working-class poets go so far as to declare that poetry is dead and long live rant. The Ranters, drawn from north and south, include Attila the Stockbroker, Joolz, Seething Wells, Little Brother, Little Dave; they draw on the tradition of scurrilous ballads in rhyme and, like the other groups, produce their own fanzines and magazines.
I emphasise that the lists of names above are short owing to the constraints of space, and apologise to all the poets whose names I have omitted. The current poetry revival challenges elitism: any selection of poets is invidious, and in this case is based on my experience as a white feminist.
The public role of the new generation of radical poets is, oddly enough, aided by the current recession. As theatre companies close for lack of funds and grants, so the actors involved have re-formed into variety acts performing at the many cabarets which have sprung up across London and other large cities and which offer a cheap night out: beer and music, mime, comedy, poetry and backchat.
This is very different from the hushed churchly atmosphere associated with traditional poetry readings where the emphasis remains on the written text read from rather than performed in a mixed-media entertainment setting. Instead of welcoming the diversity of choice now available, which reflects our multi-cultural society, some establishment poets ignore it. The recently published Penguin anthology Contemporary British Poetry, for example, caused a furore by concentrating solely on the work of a small elite group of poets (all white and mostly male) and omitting all the poets discussed above. And there are still plenty of critics happy to disdain as tainted or corrupt poetry that is in any way connected to politics, to dismiss feminist poets as shrill hysterics, and to patronise working-class and black poets as occasionally interesting minority inhabitants of a peripheral zoo.
These new poets are frightening, subversive and dangerous. Radical poetry heals the splits our culture inflicts as necessary (common-sense) wounds between intellect and body, man and woman, mother and
revolutionary, conscious and unconscious, theory and ideology. Radical poetry tries to speak what has been unspeakable: working-class , black and female experience. The Left is not always comfortable with this. Nor am I: other poets give me disturbing, shifting images which don’t correspond to my yearnings for simple socialist-feminist heroism. Radical poetry allows the unconscious back in. Labelling it as irrational, opposing it to scientific theory doesn’t make it go away. Poetry makes us laugh or shudder or weep or desire when perhaps we’d rather fantasise controlling the world through a political language which is almost never playful and inventive. The Right understands the power of the unconscious and exploits it in rituals and ideology, utilises the energy of repressed yearnings and conflicts. If we on the Left want to unblock more of our creative energy for change, we need to let poetry (a way of thinking, of understanding, of being) back into our politics.
A poster for the 1988 Anniversary gig. Cheers to Chip Grim.
The chaps reviewed live in the Melody Maker, 1 February, 1986.
Queen’s University, Belfast
Raw, bloody and most certainly uncooked comedy from two more men in baggy suits vying for your thick, sweet peals of laughter – this was the “Scum, Vitriol And The Slash Tour” (soon to join the Red Wedge Comedy Tour) and the barbarism began very much at home. With the audience utterly pliable within minutes and in the midst of a bitterly argued national constitutional national upheaval, the gags about the RUC, UDR, supergrasses and Paisley and “Burn Again” Seawright singing, “You Don’t Get Me I’m Part Of The Union”, lash out with absolutely no regard for personal safety.
In front of the most partisoan (prejudiced?) audience they’re going to be up against on the whole tour, the unmitigated moxie was unbelievable – no testing water, treading water or pissing about, just hit the bastards where it hurts most with Clones cyclone, comedy that could well leave unsightly bruises.
Foresaking the all-too-familiar alternative comedy routine of sinecure sitcom ‘n’ ads sends ups (not to mention appearing in the bloody things) and other largely incestuous media coverage, Skint Video instead pick on the much ignored Sixties style animating satirical principle of Radio 4’s “Week Ending” and go for broke . . . and to hell with the breaks.
As rock afficianados you’ll love The Jones’s impression: “I would go out tonight/But I couldn’t find a vegetable who cared”, The Kinks’ Sun City opus “Zola”, spewin’ up with a shockingly pin-sharp Bragg take-off and the dead pop stars rock ‘n’ roll call eg “…drive a purple mini/Into an oak tree” to the tune of “Ride A White Swan”.
As clued-up world watchers, the ice cool commentary on French defence hi-jinx, “Somewhere Under The Rainbow”, and the affecting “Cecil Don’t Take Your Love To Town” will send you back to your “Spitting Image” videos demanding even more excess.