Published on April 16th, 2015 | by Niall Norbury0
Review: Campaign in Poetry – The Emma Press
Politics is not typically associated with poetry. It can be difficult to discuss the minutiae of policy or argue for political reform with such an introspective art form. However, poetry can capture the spirit of the age – one only has to look at Yeats’ The Second Coming which perfectly captures the mood between the two world wars.
For Campaign in Poetry, Winnersh-based publishers, The Emma Press, wanted to challenge voter apathy and disillusionment. While their collection of poems may not change anyone’s political opinion or restore faith in politics – Campaign in Poetry is a fascinating insight into the cynical spirit that pervades modern politics.
Although most of Campaign in Poetry’s poems are pessimistic in nature – many tackle issues of apathy or cynicism with a sense of humour. Ewan Stevenson’s ‘Election Live’ reads as a transcript of a typical online comment section – filled with snark and meaningless comments. James Trevelyan finds a perfect analogy for the cause of the financial crisis in ‘Understanding the collapse of the economy’:
and naivety it’s like
Robbins got off
with four boys
in one night
at the Rugby Club
and I didn’t care
cos one of them
was me yeah
it’s a bit like that
However, there is an underlying sense of anger in many of the poems. At their mildest, they describe politicians as a nuisance such as in Holly Hopkins’ ‘The General Election’. While Luke Kennard and Rosie Miles choose to attack political and financial elites that are furthering inequality across Britain.
The stand-out piece in the collection is ‘Hamelin’ from Clare Pollard. The poem is a speech from a politician in the rat-infested town, calling for an extension of power for the catcher to help protect the town’s children. It is an excellent piece of satire that perfectly tears apart current political rhetoric which promotes division: between the rich and poor, old and young, those in work and the unemployed, or British born and immigrants.
We must face the nature of the threat
and extend the powers of the catcher.
Think of ordinary families, the future,
your daughter upstairs in her bedroom
where the pale light pours like water.
If there is one criticism that can be made of this collection of poems, it is that it only captures one side of the political debate. Most of the poets seem to share a similar outlook on who is to blame for the current political crisis and it would have been interesting to see voices from the opposite side of the political spectrum – at least to help understand their thinking.
Campaign in Poetry ends with a piece from Elizabeth Barrett about the day Obama was inaugurated. The poem speaks of new beginnings and the chance to ‘get things right’. After all the political and economic chaos of the past few years, it is difficult to remember the atmosphere on that day in Washington – the feeling of hope and change. After a collection of poems ranging from scepticism to cynicism, we are left to wonder whether we should recapture that feeling or that we are all were just naïve.
Campaign in Poetry is available to pre-order online.