Archive for the ‘Opinions’ Category
As 2016 draws to a close, I thought I’d mention some of the books I read this year. I tend to have three things on the go at once: prose, poetry and non-fiction – so the selections come from each of those sections, although two of the writers transcend those boundaries.
Lux the Poet – Martin Miller, 1998. (Thanks Jan.) Read the rest of this entry »
Social media transmits news and fixes mass opinion at an unprecedented rate. Richard Dawkins’s memes – self-replicating ideas – evolved into cat pictures with captions, and those pictures were spread around millions of people. The blogsphere/twitterati/instafam soon hits on a trend and runs with it until new ones emerge and the old ones are forgotten. Our ‘hive mind’ quickly selects phrases, jokes and attitudes; tags people with labels of hero and villain; and chooses trends, news and fashion which then pass into what might be termed ‘common sense’.
This year it became the fashion to bemoan the year itself. 2016’s favourite enemy was 2016. The calendar year became to modern people what the various devils, dibbuks, duppies, djinns, incubi, faeries and etc. had been to people of pre-Enlightenment civilisations. “Oh 2016, why have you taken from us yet another most precious member of our tribe?” wailed the tweeters and posters from their sackcloth toilet seats, virtually tearing their hair and beating their breasts in mourning. Read the rest of this entry »
Just ten days before Dalian Atkinson was murdered in Telford, Black Lives Matter movement announced itself in the UK with a series of coordinated actions in a number of British cities, causing major disruption that embarrassed the state, the police and corporations.
Their demands are bold and well presented. Like Occupy, another US import with its inspirations in ‘third-world’ struggles, the model has been copied and made relevant for a British context. Read the rest of this entry »
Reading Claudia Jones’s broadside against 1962’s Commonwealth Immigration Act as reproduced in the latest Race & Class, a few things struck me. This first immigration act, passed by a Tory government in the year following Jones’s opinion piece in the West Indian Gazette, significantly changed British views on immigration. The targets she rages against should make us reflect on some of the assumptions we have so naturalised that we no longer recognise them as assumptions at all.
An astonishing moment in British politics and the attempted coup is underway. David Cameron is gone and the knives are out and sharp for Jeremy Corbyn. Now, more than ever, do we need that man to stay as Labour leader, hoping that he can forge a coalition with SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens and that we have a progressive, decent government after the next election. With a whole load of vacant jobs in the shadow cabinet and a vote of no confidence underway, there is potential either for our last hope to be crushed or for something to be reborn that could re-ignite progressive movements in the UK. The vote of no confidence was set in motion by an MP who is blaming Corbyn for not “getting a clear message” to Labour voters on the EU referendum. This is Margaret Hodge, MP for Labour-run Barking, where 63% voted to leave EU – as opposed to a YouGov survey results that suggested a national trend of 69% of Labour voters voting to remain. How much more could Corbyn or any other Labour really have done? Read the rest of this entry »
I saw someone share Canadian poet Chris Gilpin’s blog from last year arguing that we need to avoid “adopting the term ‘slam poet’”. Slam poetry, he says, is not a ‘genre’. It’s a way of running an open mic and it’s an international movement, emerging historically with the aim of freeing poetry from the “elite cultural gatekeepers”. It is excellent critique and I hope it is read far and wide by young poets who engage in live performance. Gilpin complains:
“Aspiring slam participants (and apparently even those who have no interest in participating) … copy the most obvious elements of performance cliché—yelling, speed, tones of distress, waving their arms—believing that they are correctly recreating a cool, new poetic style. In this way, the idea of slam poetry has crushed a great deal of artistic self-expression, encouraging poets to conform to something they can’t even define.”
The fact that he can describe a set of conventions in writing and delivery which are followed by its producers and recognised by its consumers suggests that ‘slam poetry’ has become a genre. And that genre is a bit wack. Can we turn back the tide? I’ve been running slams for ten years now in the UK, so I thought I’d give some tips for fellow poets to consider.
“To all those who have seen these awful things, I want to say we are going to lead a war which will be pitiless.” said Francois Hollande after the murders in Paris on November 13th. It sounded dramatic and the impression we were given by sensational headlines and news reports was (to misappropriate Naomi Klein) ‘this changes everything’. Angela Merkel, Queen Elizabeth II, David Cameron, the Dutch foreign minister and the NATO secretary general were all among those who said they were ‘shocked’ by the murders. Yet, if we look at what Cameron said three days later at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet [insert joke about pigs, snouts and troughs], we see something more real to the facts: “The more we learn about what happened in Paris the more it justifies the approach that we are taking in Britain.” We see that the PM does not see UK’s response as a change in direction but a ‘redoubling’ of efforts for an ‘approach’ Britain was already perusing. Read the rest of this entry »