Tuesday, 29 April 2008

More Poetic Justice

Following on from the last post, I'd like to say firstly that the gig was a massive success. I had a blast. I thought it might be nice to follow it up with some poetry. Not the boring, shite kind, obviously - the rousing, inventive, ballsy kind.

I hold no truck with dull, "trees and flowers", poetry. I like the political, the provocative, and the powerful. That throwaway, pretty stuff is fine for those who like that sort of thing (and respect to them for it) but for me... no.

The first poem I ever learnt to recite, some years ago now, was "Kung Fu International" by the great John Cooper Clarke (pictured left). The Salford Bard opened my eyes to something I had never heard or seen before - poetry could be sex, drugs, rock n roll and everything in between. I can still recite that poem, from start to finish, flawlessly, whether sober or drunk. I can do "I Married A Monster From Outer Space" as well.

Great as these poems are, for my mind JCC's finest moment is one of his most infamous. I refer to the poem "Twat" (which Clarke used to dedicate to Michael Heseltine, back in the day). The number of lines, in this single piece of poetry, which are approaching sheer genius are quite staggering. Listen - even if you think you don't like poetry - and be amazed.

Another favourite of mine is that evergreen curmudgeon, Attila The Stockbroker. Seeing the man live - I've had the pleasure several times - is a lesson in how to do it. His delivery, polished over nearly thirty years, is second to none. I could have chosen any number of tracks to post on here but the one I've gone for is "Asylum Seeking Daleks", partly because I am so heartily in agreement of its cynicism towards the gutter press, who are almost entirely responsible for the moral panic created around the myth of the (gasp) "asylum seeker" - in the mind of the Daily Mail's readership, an asylum seeker is not someone who has escaped terrible hardship, torture or certain death, but a knife-wielding drug dealer with a sun tan who just likes the idea of an extended holiday in a Dover detention centre. Anyway, I'll let Attila fill in the details...

From the quintessentially English poetry of John Cooper Clarke and Attila The Stockbroker, I move to a different camp completely.
The African-American collective The Last Poets fused poetry with hip-hop and politics - tellingly, the band was officially formed on Malcolm X's birthday. The Poets were undoubtedly ahead of their time - their first album was released in 1970 and covered many topics that the likes of Public Enemy would turn into mainstream rap only many years later. That debut (self titled) LP remains a landmark in the history of black music, seen by many as almost prophetic.
Here are the Last Poets at their brilliant best.

That, then, is poetry.


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