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BILLY CHILDISH’S aesthetic is not one I share but that he’s true to this aesthetic is something I admire. I wasn’t much of a Fall fan but liked that they were doing their own thing. Billy Childish has been doing that with poetry for decades “because/i can’t spell/and/refuse to show off/with cheap tricks” his poem i am the un corrected states.
His book the uncollected from Tangerine Press brings together 40 years of his poems.
Some stand out like the grey in that bloke down the pub’s barnet, you can tell they’ve aged. But they tell as much of a story as the gnarled hands and india-ink tattoos.
The book has the feel and heft of the old Black Sparrow Bukowski books. Like Bukowski’s, the poetry isn’t for everyone and some seems posthumous. Billy doesn’t pull punches and doesn’t write for the genteel, nor should he.
Anger runs through his writing, but insight does too and Billy has rightly become a treasured outsider voice.
A generation along is Salena Godden, whose new collection Pessimism is for Lightweights is already in its second edition. It's published by Rough Trade, which has put out a dozen small books, full of ideas, by a variety of contemporary poets. All of them are pocket-sized and all with too much to be contained by a pocket.
This year has seen Godden take centre stage and she’s worked hard for it. Her poetry embraces, it doesn’t coddle, it’s a poetry for people. There’s always a kick to her work.
The centre spread poem Red is a pointed but comical take on menstruation. The inner spine is tinged red, as is the word “red” repeatedly through the text. She sees struggle, but also a way round, over and through.
As Oku Onuora has said, “I don’t fool myself and believe poetry may change the world. It can’t! It can help to bring about a certain level of consciousness in the people to bring about changes because people is the decisive factor not ideas. People get ideas and implement those ideas.”
Godden is getting a lot of gigs at protests and marches these days. Like Idol, she knows hard times but forces forward. As she says in Red,
“This blood does not come from violence
This blood does not come from murder
This blood is not my death
There are no bullets or knives
This is no wound or sickness
This blood is not a weakness
This blood is my moon, my time
This blood is all me”
From the younger poets currently kicking arse there’s a new collection, Fondue, by AK Blakemore. This is her second collection — the first, Humbert Summer, was one of the few books on Eyewear to have a decent cover.
She writes tight, concise poetry. “I wanted to move forward to something sparse but monumental, like the Cure at their best,” she told me. “It’s as good as All Cats Are Grey but not as good as Disintegration. The cover is from a book about a 1920s doll factory in Berlin, Kathe Kruse. It’s even more deeply goth than anything I have done before.”
She sums her work up neatly in the poem when my boyfriend spanks me my inner feminist weeps. “i hate poems where something is realised/on a holiday on a rope swing.”
This collection is with Offord Road Books and, while it’s the most academic of the three books reviewed, AK Blakemore is the kind of poet who uses the compasses from her geometry set to score the name of her favourite band onto her forearm rather than work angles.
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