Every Poem is a Revolution, Every Revolution is a Poem
A Reading in Celebration of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and the Popular Unity Party government of Chile at The Venezuelan Embassy, 11th September 2008
Featuring Harold Pinter, Eduardo Embri, Carlos Reyes-Manzo, Andy Croft, Alexis Lykiard,
Dinah Livingstone, Ian Duhig, Chris Searle, Paul Summers, W.N. Herbert and others
This was the most genuinely enjoyable, involving and unpretentious literary evening I’ve ever experienced. Through the ever-reliable and laudable auspices of Andy Croft’s radical Smokestack Press and associated poets, myself and the Recusant’s own roving Prolific Critic, Kevin Saving, enjoyed a fascinating and uplifting reading at Bolivar House, the Venezuelan Embassy, tucked away on a grubby-bricked side-street in London’s literary Fitzrovia.
The event was in celebration of the Bolivarian (after left-wing South American liberator, Simón Bolívar) Revolution in Venezuela and the Popular Unity (democratically elected Socialist-Communist) government in Chile. This may sound specific, but the themes resonating from this ideological pitch were global and all-encompassing, as well as deeply reassuring in an age of increasing political disillusionment in our reactionary Western hemisphere.
Chilean poet Carlos Reyes-Manzo, movingly alluded to his experiences under the Pinochet regime, and read some of his poetry in the Spanish, bar one, which he chose to read in English, by way of solidarity with the Venezuelan Information Centre’s (VIC’s) many British poet supporters, only too proud to openly express their likeminded political sentiments to a packed audience with genuine variety and gusto: Dinah Livingstone, Ian Duhig, Chris Searle, Alexis Lykiard and Smokestack’s indefatigable poet-editor, Andy Croft. I was truly gutted to have to miss Andy’s turn on the stage but it was towards the end of the evening and I had to catch a train back to Victoria as early as 10 pm since it was the last one that night (I won’t bother going into the details, suffice to say the blue-jacketed tube worker had laughed with London-centricity at my ignorance of this). But I have since been reliably informed by Kevin, who was able to stay till the end of the evening, that Andy’s ‘was really the star turn – a good reader and a lot of good material’. I can believe that from having read much of Andy’s remarkable work.
There was some beautifully played and composed Chilean music throughout, which provided melodic intervals in-between the quite serious – though by no means stuffy – politics and poetry of the evening.
It would be impossible at this point not to mention the – now sadly very frail – presence of Harold Pinter, recent Nobel Laureate and Britain’s most influential living playwright, who, after being helped onto the stage, read some of his more vitriolic polemical poems from what I suspect was one of his elegantly produced Greville Press pamphlets. Expletives aplenty, and so appropriately placed, Pinter croaked his way through a series of hard-hitting poetic assaults on the vicious duplicity of the Trans-Atlantic axis powers, making a particular point of commenting on the ‘breathtaking hypocrisy’ of the UK and US accusing Russia of invading a sovereign country (Georgia), when of course the two countries have famously done so in the Middle East on a number of occasions in recent years. (But then that’s different, since it ain’t Europe). It was indeed a privilege to see Pinter in the flesh and so telling that one so famous and critically renowned should appear so completely natural and without any aura of ego or pretension [normally the remit of those aspiring to such heights of acclaim as his, on their way up the greasy pole of a prize-grasping ‘literary scene’].
But all in all perhaps the evening was best summed up by the Venezuelan deputy ambassador, Felix Plasencia, declaring that ‘Every Poem is a Revolution, and Every Revolution is a Poem’; a resonant comment indeed and one so utterly – and nobly – at odds with the general apolitical complacency of today’s British poetry mainstream. But an undeniably valid statement, especially when one thinks of the likes of Lorca, Neruda, and on our side of the Atlantic, Blake, Shelley, Auden, Caudwell, Rickword, Swingler, Cornford, Wintringham et al. Brilliant stuff.
A truly inspiring and spiritually uplifting event – if only other ‘literary readings’ in this stylistically policed country, particularly its supposedly metropolitan capital, would follow suit. We need more readings like this, more radicalism among our poets, especially in such urgently radical times as these. Poetariat of the World - Unite!
Alan Morrison © 2008