This review of the Poetry Olympics album is from Norwich poetry zine, Speakeasy, issue 2, May, 1982.
Poetry Olympics Vol.1
Recorded live at the Poetry Olympics. Poetry as it should be VERY LIVE. The record features 12 poets, including; Roger McGough, John Cooper Clarke, and Michael Horovitz. Two interesting new comers are Attila the Stockbroker and Seething Wells. Good readers, good poems. One word of advice, if you haven’t heard John Cooper Clarke read sit down before you listen.
(£4 from all round records, 60 Red Cliff Rd. London SW10)
The anthology Apples and Snakes: Raw and Biting Cabaret Poetry reviewed in Jamming!, number 21, 1984.
Apples and Snakes: Raw and Biting Cabaret Poetry
(Pluto Press, £1.95)
Following the success of the Apples and Snakes cabaret comes this volume of representative work. ‘Here are the rants, raves, screams, and whispers that are the poetry of today’, proclaims the cover.
The intentions of A&S are creditable enough – a return to the idea of poetry as a means of mass communication/information, rather than safe entertainment for a smug elite – though ultimately they are playing to an equally narrow field as their reactionary precursors.
Take Attila the Stockbroker (please!) who reveals his bootboy mentality in ‘Contributory Negligence’ (concerning the beating up of a judge) – ‘He asked for it! He’s rich and snobbish/right wing, racist sexist too!’ Hardly endearing qualities, though merely a listing of traits he knows his ‘hip’ audience will despise, thus justifying his violence.
The original emphasis, it must be remembered, was on performance, and many of these pieces suffer as words on a page. The contributions from John Hegley – hilarious in his deadpan style – appear curious nonstarters in print.
Also, the poets tend to over-reach themselves, writing what they ‘ought’ to, rather than what they know. The most effective pieces come from deeply-felt emotions on a wide range of topics (those by Marsha Prescod, Rory McLeod, Fran Landesman, for example).
Otherwise we have little more than ‘grown -up’ nursery rhymes – the type of crude lavatory humour that typifies most ‘youth’ poetry, from Seething Wells and John Cooper Clarke through to Pat Condell. Politically there is little genuine concern here – were the country ever run by a humane government (a contradiction like ‘living corpse’, but bear with me) this bunch would be at a loss for subject matter.
What is advertised as ‘raw and biting’ is, at the end of the day, as toothless and ineffectual as its declared enemy.
‘What poets like Benjamin, Attila the Stockbroker, Seething Wells, John Cooper Clarke and Linton Kwesi Johnson have done is to demystify poetry and to make it relevant to those people who are likely to listen.’
Benjamin Zephaniah in a decent interview with Soundmaker, 22 January, 1983.
Penny Reel reviews Gil Scott Heron live in the NME, 24 March, 1984.
The excruciating Paula Yates had a gossip column called ‘The Natural Blonde’ in the Record Mirror running from 1979. The lad John Cooper Clarke gets a mention in February 9, 1980.
Lapsed catholic John Cooper Clarke is another boy who’s injured himself this week (all these bum lifts and hernias, where’s all the drugs and sin?) John broke his ankle while he was getting off a train being rather myopic and misjudged the distance and clambered into mid air. His mind was obviously on a higher, nobler plane than the other commuters.
Zig Zag, September, 1984 lists the skinhead zine Stand Up and Spit and Swift Nicks’s New Youth.
This 1984 documentary focuses on John Cooper Clarke and also includes Seething Wells, Linton Kwesi Johnson, and Attila the Stockbroker (I’m in the crowd).
The film is from 1984 and was made by Nick May.