Tag Archives: Politics

Politics and Provocation

8 Oct

Daljit Nagra’s was a packed workshop in the holiday Inn and we were grateful for the posh bottles of water, Holiday Inn notepads and pens, and thankfully, air conditioning. Things got quite ‘balmy’ as Daljit put it as this workshop progressed. I had intended to come as an observer but found myself quickly and irrevocably drawn in.

The political became more and more accessible as a way into poetry as the workshop progressed. Daljit talked about his experience of writing British Museum, that a way to get into the structures of politics, for him, was to look at the structures of buildings; beautifully concrete images to work from. He talked about the joy of taking on The Big Poem, of doing the research without an authoritative or didactic voice, and mentioned my favourite Yeats quote: ‘Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry’. From this, he invited us, amongst other things, to be non-partisan and to write from another’s point of view. Continue reading

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Public Intellectual is not a dirty name – Suzannah Lipscomb at Swindon Festival of Literature

17 May

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Given the reaction of the tabloid and ‘quality’ press front pages during the election, you may be forgiven for thinking that today’s public intellectuals are Katie Hopkins, Jeremy Clarkson and Russell Brand.

Happily, you’d be wrong on two counts and you can argue the toss with me about Russell. The term ‘public intellectuals’ sit uncomfortably with the British public, too self-congratulatory. The French are fine with it. But, boy, do we need them.

According to historian Susannah Lipscomb at the Swindon Festival of Literature last Friday, public intellectuals are the clever people who emerge from quiet libraries; they don’t endlessly research a particular point that only five other people care about.

They arm themselves with encyclopaedic knowledge, for sure, have a long hard rumination about all of it – then they get out there, tell people what they know and have an opinion about it: “They use knowledge and learning to change our shared world,” says Suzannah. Continue reading

Sherbet lemons: ‘punishing yourself is what it’s all about’ – Ann Widdecombe at Swindon Festival of Literature

6 May
Ann Widdecombe speaking at the Swindon Festival of Literature ©Calyx Pictures

Ann Widdecombe speaking at the Swindon Festival of Literature ©Calyx Pictures

Last night I was held spellbound by the contradictory tale of a tenacious, ferocious, grey creature with a mixed public reputation, today Swindon Festival of Literature presented Ann Widdecome in all of her similar guises.

Ostensibly in town to talk about her book Sackcloth and Ashes, the former MP made it clear right from the start that she was happy to talk and take questions about any aspect of present day politics or her often controversial stance on religious issues.

This was one intimidating, charming performer with no need for protection as she slickly moved from one topic to another. At the centre of her 28 minutes (exactly) presentation was the idea of penance and where does it fit into our modern ‘me, me, me’ society. Continue reading