What Are Poets Good For?
It’s true that they are not much good at earning a living from writing alone.
But they don’t seem to be bad at being presidents, although to be honest I only know of two examples. Václav Havel – first democratically elected president of the Czech Republic and Michael D Higgins, the current president of the Republic of Ireland.
Poets are also good at rising to the occassion and putting into words hard to express thoughts and emotions. Through the blog of Josephine Corcoran I’ve discovered that a collection of poetry has just been published to mark Jeremy Corbyn‘s campaign to be leader of the Labour Party.
If you’re not from the UK or been on a very, very long holiday, Corbyn is a 66 year old left wing MP who has never sought high office in his 30+ years in parliament. However, he has been a vocal and active politician often supporting controversial causes and giving a platform to people whose voices would otherwise not be heard. He entered the race just before nominations closed to widen the debate about such issues as austerity and the savage cuts in welfare benefits.
To everyone’s surprise, not least his own I suspect, he is now the main contender – although I don’t have much faith in the polls. They got the May general election wrong and this one is much harder to judge. But there’s no doubt that his campaign has awoken people who felt that their views weren’t being represented. He has spoken to packed meetings up and down the country (extra meetings having to be put on, people climbing through windows to hear what he has to say). What you see is what you get and that’s an immensely attractive and unusual quality.
If this sounds vaguely familiar you may remember A Very British Coup, a novel written in the early 1980s by Labour MP Chris Mullin. It’s been televised twice, the first time winning a numbers of awards and staring the brilliant Irish actor Ray McAnally who died too soon, not long afterwards.
This is the plot summary from Wikipedia.
Harry Perkins, an unassuming, working class, very left-wing Leader of the Labour Party and Member of Parliament for Sheffield Central, becomes Prime Minister in March 1991. The priorities of the Perkins Government include dissolving all newspaper monopolies, withdrawal from the NATO removing all American military bases on UK soil, unilateral nuclear disarmament, and true open government.
We will find out on September 10th whether life can imitate art, but in the meantime you can download this free poetry collection HERE (click on the pdf link).
And you needn’t wear the hair shirt of a martyr while you’re doing it because this is good poetry. I like Josephine Corcoran’s contribution very much which is why I followed the link and there are many other good pieces here including a poem from Michael Rosen.
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A very interesting post. As you point out poets are good for saying clearly what others only vaguely express. I don’t think politics is often a poetic subject but I don’t see why not. I wonder how Mr Corbyn feels about the publication of this book.
I’m sure he is delighted especially as the poetry ISN’T embarrassing because (it’s bad we’ve all read poetry like that haven’t we? And maybe written some…) or because it’s all about him. It is much more reflective and emotionally mature and about a bigger picture – at least the contributions I’ve read.
I really hope he does win the leadership, although like you I have little faith in the polls. Thanks for the poetry link, I’ll be downloading it.
Thanks for the link, Bridget! Best wishes, – Josephine
You’re very welcome. I’m impressed with the collection.