I went to Cobbledy last week to listen to poets. There were many – around a hundred! A healthy turnout I would say. Mostly from Yorkshire.
I have much admiration for people who can stand up and perform their work, fill their poems with passion, expression and yes, make it poetry. The audience was cosy in both venues, a small group of people, keen to listen and take part over the weekend. All very appreciative, all good listeners. It was really nice to see poetry alive and welcoming, It was good to hear empathy, anger, humour.
I couldn’t help but notice that most of what I heard was nostalgic, reminiscent of old times – whether good or bad. So much was wonderfully working class – highly emotive, political – a blend of the mad, bad and funny.
I wondered if we were all hankering after a past which felt more empowering. It was, but only just. Our power was beginning to slide. We found ways to cling on to the good memories among the debris.
As I walked back down the cobbles I recalled the time spent in the old school room at parent and toddler group and how a few of us decided that something else was needed. We were a little bit forward thinking and created the very first under 5’s Woodcraft Folk group, hoping for a better way for our kids, an improved, progressive future.
What role does poetry have to play in our society today. I am always in search of the Fridas and Diegos. The artists who are not afraid of political expression. Over the weekend at this festival I heard such artists, unafraid to express their feelings, observations, experiences about the shafting of the working class, about racism, inequality and of course plenty of word play, clever twists and turns of lines.
Words are powerful. Poets know it. Be Frida. Be Diego.
What of futuristic poetry – it exists today. There was a movement in literature in the early part of the 20th century which started in Italy, all to do with futurism. We can create our kind in the 21st. The Brontes were futurists to, in their era, and their legacy still inspires us today.