Paul Summers

Paul Summers

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

William Blake at the Bridge Hotel: Ten Newcastle Poets
Tuesday, 05 October 2021 10:03

William Blake at the Bridge Hotel: Ten Newcastle Poets

Published in Poetry

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.

the dreamers' ark
Friday, 09 October 2020 08:21

the dreamers' ark

Published in Poetry

the dreamers’ ark
(the haven, tynemouth)

by Paul Summers

the oak is seasoned
the sawyers done

each board & beam
is shaved & steamed

rendered immaculate
in barrel curves

planed & polished
to perfect laps

the wrights slip-
glazed by noble toil

each limb in balance
each peg set tight

like lovers’ vows
immoveable in situ

caulked with hope
& dogma pitched

our lines are tied
the mast is set

beyond the lash
of briny rain

the sirens call
a kelpie chorus

in refrain beseeches
us to join them

on their barricade
of angry waves

then truths & lies
file two by two

the ghosts of all
our champions too

then faith & doubt
complete the crew

the flexing muscle
of a lunatic tide

will raise us off
our silt-kissed keel

our petards primed
the mainsail draped

we’ll voyage toward
some promised land

towards a haven
of our communion

this ark of gesture
& good intent

within the warp
& weft of oily sheets

the reek of sheep
the thrill of transit

its canvas chest
heaved out in pride

repels the barrage
of this storm

its swell embellished
with gilded words

non nocere
do no harm

 

National Poetry Day: Re-union
Thursday, 03 October 2019 08:47

National Poetry Day: Re-union

Published in Poetry

re-union / night at the museum
(the wallaw, blyth.)

by Paul Summers
with images by Chris Killip

'spoons' is stowed;
its crowded bar
a wedge of thirst,
an eager slick
of growing agitation,
blunt confluence
of unhealed wounds,
a tumour of attrition,
a smudged tattoo
whose tattered edges
relish in contagion.
we worship at the altar
of the cut-price crowd,
this sepulchre
of misplaced faith,
a reliquary of losses
& every empty victory,
of stagnant empire's
tattered standards,
of struggle & toil,
of all our dead parents
& awkward divorces ,
of capped shafts
& yards left idle,
of empty shops
& factories grown quiet
of rotting staithes,
of thrift & forgetting
of youth & truth,
of every scant memorial.
communion
in the trauma
of century's neglect.
we meet to remember.
the absurd theatre
of our former selves,
a wake for our imagined pasts.
we drink it all in,
raise toasts to the absent
& to all our frail futures,
whose faces have grown grey
through scarcity of care
here, where empties
form a barricade
across the bar;
bleak jager-bombs
explode like hope
above our heads;
each sickly shot
a warning from history.
we cultivate our spite,
our rhetoric primed,
cementing our dogmas
in monoliths of settled dust.
here, within this cube
of flickering walls
we learned our fear
of sharks & war,
our love of love,
the warmth of kisses,
curled like cats,
in dark back rows,
beneath an arrowhead
of magic light.

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arise!
Saturday, 13 July 2019 17:15

arise!

Published in Poetry

arise! is a poem by Paul Summers, published to celebrate the rich history and traditions of the Durham Miners’ Gala and the resurgent spirit of socialism in the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. We want to make a film of the poem for the labour movement, and we need to raise a minimum of £1500 to make it.

It's wonderful to see the proud history of the Durham Miners' Gala represented in this powerful poem. Paul Summers has managed to capture the spirit of the Miners' Gala and its central place in our movement's mission to achieve 'victory for the many, and not the few' 

- Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party.

The film-poem of arise! will celebrate the rich history of miners and the Durham Miners' Gala, the collective spirit of the working class which lies at the heart of trade union history and which is vital to the future of the labour movement and the next Labour government. Reflection is an essential ingredient in learning (and teaching): arise! is, among its many other attributes, a belting education resource.

- Jim Mowatt, Director of Education, Unite the Union.

Combining film with poetry can be a powerful way of sparking an audience's imagination. I hope it will have a broad appeal, to the audience we need to persuade to ensure a Labour victory in the next general election. I support this exciting project from Culture Matters.

- Ken Loach, film director.

If you wish to make a donation, go here.