Tuesday, 05 October 2021 10:03

William Blake at the Bridge Hotel: Ten Newcastle Poets

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William Blake at the Bridge Hotel: Ten Newcastle Poets

This new poetry anthology, sponsored and supported by Unison Newcastle City branch and Newcastle Trades Union Council, is edited and introduced by Paul Summers and illustrated with photographs by Dan Douglas. 

Newcastle, like most cities, has never been short of poetic representations. From the popular gin-house Victorian bards and songsmiths to the more academic and ‘bourgeois’ chroniclers of the latter half of the twentieth century and the early decades of this one, there exist many poetic insights into this city and its inhabitants. Between the two, there lies a whole body of works written by working-class poets that remains largely marginalised, invisible and ‘unpopular’. ‘Unpopular’ not because of their poetic worth, but limited largely by contemporary poetry’s cultural reach, the limits of the independent presses and magazines to extend into new ‘markets’, and the limited number of genuinely popular vehicles of transmission, as well as by the changing nature of the general public’s consumption of all things poetic.

This collection presents ten writers who are diverse in style but unified both by generation, politics and class. As such, their visions of the city and its people represent a very particular and interesting socio-cultural moment. It is a moment which straddles an epoch of archetypal working-class communities and their subsequent dismantling, a time of transition from industry and post-industry, perhaps even a transition from lumpen and often romantic representations of the north-east to a more nuanced and complex reality. It makes no claims to speak for, or to, everyone; but it is important that voices like these, the city’s intimate reporters, are given an airing and their validity within a Novocastrian cultural canon reiterated.

There needs to be a growing library of ordinary people representing themselves rather than being perpetually represented by others; a library with contributions garnered from a broader communion of commentators and observers, a much wider generational representation for one, with contributions from emergent voices from the culturally diverse communities, from the workplace and the broader community rather than just from the garrets of those of us already culturally and creatively active.

Only then might we begin to create a cultural landscape for our localities and experiences that looks even remotely democratic.

The North East poetry scene remains defiantly at odds with the culture of careerism, show business and narcissism disfiguring so much of contemporary British literary culture. These ten poets represent an alternative tradition of the writer as cultural activist, writing about a people, a place and a proletariat.    

 – Andy Croft, poet and publisher

We welcome and support this new anthology of poetry, rooted in the everyday experience of some of our finest creative writers, thoroughly engaged with local history and with current social and political issues, and authentically reflecting many of the problems and difficult situations as well as the joys and satisfactions of working people on Tyneside.

 – Martin Levy, President, Newcastle Trades Union Council

William Blake at the Bridge Hotel: Ten Newcastle Poets, ISBN 978-1-912710-23-2, £10 plus £3 p. and p. One of the poets in the anthology, Catherine Graham, will be reading at the Culture Matters online event on Sunday 10th October, see here.

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Paul Summers

Paul Summers is a Northumbrian poet, performer and literary activist.