Friday 11 May 2012
Next Wednesday I’m starting a huge tour with my mate Rory Ellis from Australia, a big, gravel-voiced storytelling bluesman, ex-boxer and bouncer and the absolute antidote to Neighbours with his true life tales from the streets of Melbourne.
If you live in England or Wales the chances are we’ll be playing somewhere near you. If you’re in Scotland, sorry – hopefully next time.
This tour, as always, features me writing about what happens in the world and what happens to me. I’ve earned my living as a poet for 32 years, done more than 2,700 gigs in 24 countries and, even in the darkest days of Thatcherism, I didn’t have the kind of material I have now.
You can sum it all up with the chorus from one of my newest songs Looters which uses that infamous quote from Thatcher which becomes more apposite every day: “There’s no such thing as society, so steal and cheat and loot/Just one thing to remember: Make sure you wear a suit!”
Poor kids from Tottenham get sent to jail for nicking a pair of shoes while greedy City types walk away with millions, flaunt it in our faces, and we bail out the banks. There’s naked class rule on behalf of the super-rich and the multinational corporations, fronted by a bunch of Tories from the Bullingdon Club with Rupert Murdoch as their Minister of Propaganda.
You couldn’t make it up. But we’ve had enough. To quote from another of my songs: “It’s time to grab the Goldmen by their Sachs!”
There’s lots of politics and anger in what I do but there’s lots of fun as well, a celebration of life.
For me social justice means more happiness for all, more fun for all, the chance for everyone to fulfil their potential. So I try to make people roar with laughter as well as seethe with anger. And, yes, some of my stuff is very rude.
But above all I am trying to rehabilitate poetry, a word which has such a strange reputation among so many people as though it’s something from another planet which doesn’t concern them.
When I tell people that I earn my living as a poet they often react with disbelief, as though such a thing is impossible in 21st-century Britain. Sometimes people say: “You don’t look like a poet,” expecting me to have a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches rather than a leather jacket and DMs.
I can understand this attitude to a very large degree. The poetry promoted by the literary establishment is for the most part completely irrelevant to people’s lives.
My favourite quote on the subject is Adrian Mitchell‘s famous dictum that “Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people” and I have spent the last 30 years trying to do the opposite of that.
It’s always been important to me to take poetry to places it doesn’t normally go. I love being poet in residence at my beloved Brighton & Hove Albion FC. My epic poem Goldstone Ghosts – about my 46 years as an Albion fan and our battle as fans to save our club from greedy moneymen – adorns the wall in our new supporters’ bar and that means a lot to me.
So too do the many times people have come up to me saying: “I’ve always thought poetry was shit but I really like this one!” To use a football analogy – a lot of the poets who are praised in the literary world seem to me to spend their days weaving pretty patterns in the centre circle.
I just want to get the ball, charge upfield and smash it into the back of the net. I’m not interested in poems about daffodils and if I ever mention cherry blossom, you can rest assured I’ll be talking about boot polish.
I write about reality, all kinds of reality, reality as it seems to me. My lovely Mum battled Alzheimer’s for six years and my wife Robina and I looked after her to the end – she died in June 2010. As her memory faded I decided to write a poem telling the story of her life, to help her remember who she was, from a council-house upbringing in Gravesend to Bletchley Park during the war to singing Elgar at the Royal Festival Hall to going on tour with her punk poet son in Australia and Canada.
It has struck a chord with a lot of people and in pamphlet form, I’m happy to say, has so far raised over £1,500 for the Alzheimer’s Society. And it was on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour on Mother’s Day. That meant a lot to me.
Hope you’ll come and see us.
For tour details, along with poems and songs by Attila The Stockbroker and Rory Ellis, visit www.attilathestockbroker.com or www.facebook.com/pages/Attila-the-Stockbroker/20550602416 and www.roryellis.com. CDs and books are available at www.attilathestockbroker.com/merch.
- Attila the Stockbroker – Tyler Smiles – YouTube (teacherlingo.com)
- Footnotes from a poet’s journey: prose poem problems (asopa.typepad.com)
- Austrian racists lose elections (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- [my writing life] Wanted: Permissions for Poem Starters (laurasalas.wordpress.com)
- Burning the Nail Poetry Challenge – Poet: Mari Wells (alifeamongthepages.wordpress.com)
- Meena’s New Interview (2voices1song.com)
- Drawing room poetry (thehindu.com)
- Mantra – anonymous (vincentjmann.wordpress.com)
- Shabana Azmi Launches ‘Tishnagi’ by Minu Bakshi – An Exclusive Book of Urdu Poetry (prnewswire.com)