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What’s up with radical poetry?

April 9, 2009

In the latest Red Pepper (Apr/May 2009) , Brigg57, a regular on the Red Pepper forum, criticises a sloganeering tendency in radical poetry, which he accuses of pretending to be daring when all it really does is encourage complacency. His argument is persuasive even though the self-styled ‘people’s poet’ is an easy target and has been effectively satirised in the past (see below).rick_pp2

I have to confess I’m not averse to a bit of sloganeering and regularly stomp about the kitchen to The Chi-Lites’ (For God’s Sake) Give More Power To The People.

For me, this proves that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a slogan combined with a good tune. And as a self-confessed ignoramus about poetry, I tend to think that poems are just lyrics in search of a decent tune.

But Brigg57’s article raises important questions about what we want from art generally; from dramatists, filmmakers, songwriters as well as poets. And this has to be seen in the context of most art and cultural representations blithely acquiescing to power or whole heartedly endorsing it.

Brigg57’s article began as a contribution to the Red Pepper forum. You can visit it here.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 10, 2009 4:49 pm

    I think Brigg’s point is just that art stands at a tangent to power: art which is simply reduced to only either celebrating or challenging it can very quickly stop being art. This doesn’t rule out the possibility of radical art of any kind, but means it has to be a bit more than simply a collection of slogans. I may be in a small minority here, but I avoid Ken Loach films for this reason – I think he’s just ‘shouty’.

    I think a poem is a bit more than a lyric in search of a tune. You can get away with truly terrible lyrics, political or otherwise, with a good tune, but a poem must work on its own. So, for example, the words to the Internationale are rather stirring when sung, but cringe-making when read….

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