A review of Andrew Walton’s Little Red Poetry by Dave Gorton
For too long, poetry has been seen as the property of the well-educated or the middle classes, an idea happily perpetuated by capitalism which, for its own survival, needs to ensure the working class ‘knows its place’. Many poets’ use of sometimes anarchic structures and styles leaves such poetry less easily ‘interpreted’ and certainly outside of the very rigid constraints of the national curriculum. Poetry in schools is reduced to learning and reciting poems by heart, which becomes a chore.
Yet, literature would be a much less rich field without, for instance, the likes of Shelley’s calls to arms in the 19th century, Sassoon’s war poems, Brecht’s socialism, or more recently the sheer imagery and force engendered by the great, but now both sadly late, Norman MacCaig and Seamus Heaney.
Andrew Walton, a Leicester Socialist Party member, has just published his own short collection and it is definitely worth picking up a copy. Drew – as he is probably better known to readers – says Little Red Poetry argues for socialism and it does indeed. The collection includes poems on a host of issues such as the bedroom tax, an EDL march in Leicester and Unite, Falkirk and the need for a new workers’ party.
His views will be shared by most readers of The Socialist but Drew uses his talent to describe his anger in a different way than the majority of us would in, say, writing a leaflet.
Take his verses on the dismantling of the welfare state:-
Millions of workers that once were employed
Building, making – lie idle. Stage by stage:
Confidence shattered, despair unalloyed.
or in Triple Dip:-
Something is wrong, when the future of millions
Is described as if we were fruit in a yoghurt,
Or sticks of chocolate in an ice-cream pot.
In Mutually Assured Destruction, Drew’s stanza:
There is another way
Not wasteful profiteering
But dialogue, co-operation,
Community and sharing.
highlights the alternative to capitalism in beautiful simplicity.
And his modern ‘re-writing’ of Grandola Vila Morena – the song of the 1974 Portuguese Revolution – is very bold … but it works. The powerful final stanza, like the rest of the collection, signals the writer’s unshakeable confidence in the working class to overcome the yoke of capitalism:
In the spirit of nineteen-seventy-four,
We, the masses, are rising once more.
We shudder the seats of power;
Millions are singing our tune.
It would seem churlish, particularly as I can’t string two verses together, to be overly critical of Drew’s efforts but this is a review so….
While he is certainly not the worst protagonist I’ve read, once or twice, the rhyming in some poems seems forced and unnatural (though I hadn’t needed to have been as wary as I was when I read the line in Why I didn’t watch the royal wedding following “Or paying for the Queen to float down the Thames on a barge, like a gigantic duck”).
And it would be interesting to read some longer pieces (hopefully the next collection, eh Drew?).
But I do think this is a fantastic effort and one that should be more widely publicised and read.
Thanks go to Dave Gorton, for reviewing my efforts! I am in the process of writing another collection on the environment and socialism, to be called Little Green Poetry.
Copies are also available from Left Books