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MY CHRISTMAS doesn’t start until I’ve randomly heard the seasonal Slade smash. As of yet, I’ve still not, but this week I did read what may well be my favourite poem of the year.
I’m Shocked by Iris Colomb from Bad Betty Press is a one-poem chapbook, which may well be my favourite of the year. The poem’s a cracker. It starts: “I was drunk but not paralytic ...” and that refrain weaves through it just as I’ve done down Stamford Hill more times than I care to remember. This is small-press poetry kicking it — intelligent, witty and crafted and it felt like more than sex.
Going back to my yoof with 'zines, one of the book launches I best enjoyed in 2018 was Tony D’s collected issues of Ripped & Torn, a punk original dating back to 1976. Herein you’ll find angst and anger but sadly more Adam and the Ants than I care for.
However, there’s Patrik Fitzgerald, Wayne County, Alternative TV and the real punk that Brewdog ain’t fucked up. The book has been put out by Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace Library and I enjoyed both chaps talking about the book at its launch.
Whippersnappin’ punk band Big Joanie also played there and so let’s raise a glass to some of the bands whose records have made Brexit year less of a bollocks — Thee Dagger Debs, Amyl and the Sniffers and the Lovely Eggs.
What is it with girls and guitars? They’ve all been killing it gigwise too and all power to their pogo.You might even see me break into a sweat at the Hard Skin Xmas do. I’m fat, it shouldn’t take much.
One of the most anticipated books this year has been Raymond Antrobus’s The Perseverance and it’s all we wanted. Ray and I have long shared a joke that he’s “the acceptable face of Hackney poetry” and that such a deft poet works so well with the real people of this world is something that tells me the future of poetry is a good one.
Us old ranters always wanted the younger generation to kick us in the arse, as we had the previous. We just wanted them to be better writers as well be young. Ray does not shy from class, as so many wadical poets do, or race, and he writes about his deafness in a way that brings new understanding to both the hearing and deaf audience.
At his book launch, as he’s done at several readings, Ray had a signer stand in front of him as he read. It opened the poem up, as well as the audience. It was certainly one of the best readings of any poem I saw last year. Ray does all of this with a sense of humour and a genuine commitment to making the world around him a better place.
Also struggling have been my Poetry on the Picket Line comrades. Early starts and cold weather are now a part of poetry gigs on picket lines and we’ve been supporting workers fighting for the living wage and for basic employment rights.
As well as the thermos of coffee and the satirical song, poetry’s been there with, written and read by the people. As Christopher Logue wrote in the early 1960s: “If you do not get that firm jerk in the stomach, if the poet doesn’t fit a little wing to you, then throw the book up the room and sing a pop song.
“Poetry needs lots of money poured into it but not a jot of tolerance.”
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