English poetess Clare Pollard interviewed

This video from England is called Clare Pollard, Thinking of England (Poetry).

By Jody Porter in Britain:

Well Versed: From Bolton to Bloodaxe

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Raised in Bolton and now living in London, poet Clare Pollard rose to prominence when her first collection, The Heavy-Petting Zoo, was published by Bloodaxe in 1998 when she was 19.

She has since gone on to win an Eric Gregory Award, write three more collections and co-edit Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century, also from Bloodaxe.

“My grandparents were northern working-class. They were part of that generation for whom the war made opportunities – suddenly an ordinary boy from an industrial town was an officer in Singapore, a lad from Manchester was looking at the Taj Mahal.

“They believed in education. My granddad was very proud of his copies of Dickens. My dad went to a grammar school in Salford, and my parents met at teacher training college.

“I suppose we were lower middle class by the time I was growing up, but it wasn’t the second-home-and-pesto kind of middle-class – the culture was Coronation Street, The Daily Express. We had a darts board in the lounge.”

Having achieved much from humble roots, Pollard is pessimistic about current opportunities for social mobility.

“It was generally agreed that I was a swot – I was always an outsider, reading Plath on the school bus – but even in the ’90s there was still a sense that if you worked hard enough you could be anything you wanted.

“The teachers at my comprehensive, Turton High School, encouraged me to aim high and I ended up going to Cambridge. It’s harder to imagine now.”

Although she was keen to leave Bolton at the time, she has fond memories of her roots, some of which continue to inform her poetry today.

“It was the kind of place you left if you had aspirations, although there’s a romance to the north too, in scuzzy indie clubs and existential boys and vinegar-chips on the Blackpool tram. Now I’m older I find I miss the countryside.

“Once you get out of the towns it’s really beautiful. I miss the moors, and I’m finding my poems return to those landscapes of my childhood.”

She recalls that Tony Harrison was an early influence on her work, drawing parallels with her own consciousness of class and the value of education.

“One of my teachers brought in his poems when I was doing A-Levels. I remember reading V for the first time, realising you could write a poem that included both Wordsworth and the word fuck.

“One of his subjects, which I identify with, is how education separated him from his roots. There’s one heartbreaking poem where he finds his dad’s attempt to write words for his mother’s gravestone on the back of an envelope, and can’t help judging them: ‘Mis-spelt, mawkish, stylistically appalling.’

“When I go back north I’m painfully self-conscious of being this Oxbridge educated poet who’s currently translating Ovid, that people must assume I’m a la-di-dah snob.”

As a teacher and editor, Pollard encourages young poets to write plainly about the issues affecting them and their contemporaries.

“For too long British poetry has discouraged the political by default because we discourage assertion. There’s this idea that poems always have to be ambiguous so the reader can interpret them, and that makes any poem that takes a clear position a ‘bad poem.’

“This is actually really boring as the reader is free to disagree with you, it’s not like if you make a statement you’re violating them or anything. I encourage young writers to rise against it!

“Why shouldn’t they say how shitty this country is right now? I have so many brilliant young graduates on my courses who are out of work, living with their mums at 30, saddled with huge debt.”

Pollard’s recent poem Los Indignados, published in Well Versed last week, takes its title from “the outraged” Spanish youth who continue to protest.

“What societies have always needed are young people to fight wars, have babies, hunt, carry water – they’ve been essential to survival. So what does it mean that in Europe we’re now turning to our young people – 50 per cent in Spain – and saying ‘we literally have no use for you?’ To me, that’s a symptom of a very sick society.”

Clare Pollard has published four collections of poetry, the most recent of which, Changeling (Bloodaxe, 2011), is a Poetry Book Society recommendation. Her play The Weather premiered at the Royal Court Theatre and her documentary for radio My Male Muse was a Radio 4 Pick of the year. Her new version of Ovid’s Heroides will be published by Bloodaxe in 2013.

2 thoughts on “English poetess Clare Pollard interviewed

  1. Pingback: British art in Big Business stranglehold | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: British poetry and politics | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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