Hey everyone As this week is refugee week I thought it may just be a very good time to review a poetry collection by a man who has always supported the rights of refugees asylum seekers & any other group who needs supporting not only in this country but anywhere in our global commonwealth. A man who hates racism in any shape or form. A man whose book Verse Verses The Bourgeoisie, has one of the best titles I’ve ever heard I refer to the Brilliant Colin Poole.
Colin Poole is a Londoner by birth though his father hails from Partick in the West End of Glasgow. However you have to believe me when I say there’s nothing West End about this guy’s poetry. I mean he may have moved his location from London to Glasgow He may even have walked 500 miles but he’s still very much an Eastender.
In the title poem Verse Verses The Bourgeoisie which is about the idea of poets having to apply for a poetic licence Colin starts as he means to go with rapid fire rhymes which combined with brilliant imagry never miss the target. I particularly liked the lines. ‘I was arrested by the poetry police And Thrown into a cell. They tortured me with tapes of Pam Ayres poems & That’s the closest thing to hell. This is Colin’s comic wit at its brilliant best.
It has often been said that the most effective use of humour has been when its been used to raise concerns on serious issues & this is when this poet uses it as a cultural weapon of choice. The poem Uncle Billy provides a good illustration of this as humour is used in liberal measure to deal with the topic of racist stereotypes. As he fights back against his Uncle Billy’s outdated attitudes he raises the spectre of how to deal with him by saying
‘Ever since you’ve been here this house has had a hoodoo
I think I’ll try & exorcise you with some cockney voodoo
I’ll sacrifice a jellied eel & watch it writhe & thrash.
I’ll anoint myself with lager & feast on pie & mash.
The idea of tackling cultural stereotypes in poetry is a good one when its done effectively & nobody does better than Colin Poole. He really is a master of this particular art.
The secret of a good poet is I believe to be comfortable with your topics & write about what you know. Colin Poole fits both these necessary requirements &does so with consummate ease.
Maybe its because I graduated in the subject but I’ve always believed that a poets work should reflect their cultural identity & give the reader a flavour of where they come from. Well geography is important to the reader as it gives a sense of place to the author’s work & assists greatly in gaining an understanding of the forces that shaped both them & their writing. When reading or listening to Colin’s work, as I have shared a stage with him on a number of occasions I have to say I have gained more of a flavour of the authentic East End of London than I ever could from the exaggerated caricatures of a BBC Soap no matter how well scripted or how brilliantly delivered by an excellent cast of very talented performers.
My validation for this comment is a simple one. The television authorities will always go down the sanitised route rather than take their chances at the cutting edge of life. That is what gives writers like Colin Poole the advantage over the blandness of the BBC they speak from the heart with powerful voices which need to be heard but are all too often ignored. This is a man who knows real life whether it be the real Glasgow he now calls home or the real London where he was born & raised.
He gives a great example of this London in the excellent A Pearly King A Gin Soaked Gambler & The True Spirit Of The East End in which he targets the myths of the Pearly Kings & Queens and the culture of deference that the class system provides. He also in this year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee takes aim at the queen mother as he says in the voice of a Pearly King
‘ The Queen Muvver sir Gawd love her sir She was the Nations gran’
then transferring to his own voice says
‘Or a gin soaked gambler who never paid the bookies or the off sales man’.
Make no mistake Colin Poole is a Socialist. An internationalist who will use his poetry to promote understanding between cultures & nations & a tool to fight injustice wherever he sees it. I joked with him on the night of his book launch that in a post independent Scotland I would ask the Scottish Government to keep him & we could give England Gordon Brown in exchange. After saying he would be delighted to stay he asked me a very important question. The question he asked of me was what have the people of England done to deserve Gordon Brown? I couldn’t answer that.
What I can say however that in poems like A Song For Victor where he writes a brilliantly moving poem in tribute to the murdered Chilean poet & socialist Victor Jura. In justice for the 96 in which he scorns the contempt of both the Thatcher Government & the Murdoch owned tabloid press for the 96 Liverpool fans killed in the Hillsbrough disaster, Politics where its political leaders of each & every hue he has in the firing line, or particular parties such as New Labour in his excellent radical rant Kick Down The Doors. Ok I know I could have called it a polemic & that would have a wee bit more factually accurate but radical rant is a far better use of illiteration.
However it is in one of my favourite poems in the collection the Blame Game that you’ll find this powerful voice at its best. As he goes for straight for the throat of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown after Brown’s British Jobs for British Workers comment at the Labour Party Conference a few years ago, you can sense the poet’s genuine anger at the leader of the so-called people’s party expressing sentiments which could be perceived to be racist.
This sense of fury is shown very clearly in the opening four lines of the poem.
‘British jobs for British Workers
says Gordon Brown on my TV
a sentiment supported by
UKIP & The BNP’
Though in no way is the poet calling Gordon Brown a racist, he is warning of the dangers of using this kind of language.
But Colin is nothing if not an optimist with a great belief in humankind & the solidarity we have with each other regardless of geography,or nationality . This can be illustrated by looking at the last four lines of the same poem
‘As much as we are different
We are also much the same
Let’s make sure those that hold us down
Are the ones who get the blame.
These lines in my view illustrate the passion of a fighter for real equality & a poet no what your political views who is well worth reading.
Versus Verses The Bourgeoisie is published by Seeds of Thought poetry and arts in collaboration with Cathy Fallon priced £5.00. Trust me its bargain at the price.
Love & Best Wishes