Sunday, September 07, 2008

The talk at the latter part of this week, has been about the removal of a poem by an education examining board of a poem by Carol Ann Duffy OBE, whose career has been built on controversy.

She was born in Scotland and moved to Staffordshire, before starting a relationship with the now deceased Tranmere - Birkenhead - Wirral born poet Adrian Henri, when he was 39 and she sixteen.

Henri was born in 1932 and moved to Prestatyn in North Wales when he was six, studied at St Asaphs grammar school and took part in the Rhyl arts scene, before going to Durham to study fine art and in 1955, relocating to Preston, Lancashire, for a one year teaching job, where he met his first wife - Joyce Wilson - in a jazz club.

His summer job in Rhyl, brought him into contact with people from the Liverpool scene and he opted to go there, marrying in 1957, two years after Duffy's birth. He had his first exhibitions in 1958 and 59 at the Bluecoat in the city, and he held a variety of jobs, starting as a scenic artist in the Liverpool Playhouse and then teaching jobs in Manchester (1961-4) andLiverpool colleges of art (1964-8).

He and McGough met in 1960 at the Streates coffee bar on May Street Mount Pleasant and the rest is history, as he became part of a trinity of Liverpool poets whose work came to prominence caught in the slipstream of the global phenomena of John Paul George and Ringo.

Everything in Liverpool became cool overnight and half the planets young girls collectively fell in love with their chosen poster boy, four to choose from, and like pop stars now, these crushes as much about vicarious expression of their personalities in the social groups young girls cluster in, as any real affair of the heart.

Their work brought an idiom previously unheard to prominence in the UK as the working classes had their first artistic flowering, but unfortunately, much of it has not stood up to the test of time, and now its inherent weaknesses ioverlooked in the first flowering, glare at us unsophisticated and naff, as only the dated does.

The whole notion of being a working class poet, was a brand new concept, and there being no precedents, a DIY extemporisation, a pose, a mish match of the French Symbolists, obscure verse writers and home grown names all mixed in at the first attempt by men more in tune with chasing women and boozing, than applying themself to any tradition. A jazz riff and make it up as they went along'ness, which time has exposed as weaker than what the cheerleaders of the time blindly loyal and championing it as the birth of some anti-nazi, all inclusive third reich of UK poetry, next school run by and for the prolateriat mass from the anonymous estates of post war Britain and facing a thousand yrs advance on the untested and tried strength of two mop top jazzed up scousers and a woolyback from Presatyn.

And it was to this artist, Duffy decided to set her sixteen year old cap, by all accounts a girl who knew she wanted to be a poet at fifteen, independant, a steely will and as Henri said, appearing fully formed in Liverpool, seeking out her male muse.

1 comment:

Poet in Residence said...

Duffy says she's not setting her cap at the Queen's Canary job coming up in 2009 when Motion steps down. Does that mean she is? Hope Gordon doesn't waltz George into it. That would seriously kaput! GS's future (perhaps 2013?) Nobel chances.