I became a full time poet in 2006, after leaving my job as a radio journalist. I often encountered Grumpy Poet. Grumpy Poet was usually, but not always a man, in their 50s, had once been full of youthful idealism and socialist ideals and was going to transform the world using poetry. By the time I met them, Grumpy Poet didn’t think there were new audiences for poetry, or that publishers, press or a nebulous establishment of “Them” cared what they were doing, and had become bitter. Grumpy Poet found my late twenties, innocent poetic idealism and flag waving for the “New” inclusive joys of performance poetry annoying.
Now, five short years later, I may have become an accelerated version of Grumpy Poet. Exciting ventures that matched and supported my vision of an inclusive poetry have bit the dust (Creative Partnerships and the Cultural Leadership Programme). My show Kate Fox News was marketed as poetry and consequently I think, got much smaller audiences than had it been marketed as comedy. I’m still one of the Saturday Live poets on Radio 4, but I don’t think a nebulous poetry establishment of “Thems” thinks that having a big audience for satirical poems is much to do with poetry and when I tell people that I’m a poet, I answer their next question of “Are you published then?” with a “Sort of” and mildly wilt under their conclusion that I do it as a hobby and write mainly about cats.
Yes, recently I have had some great poetry joys; mainly doing instant stand up poetry for a Stoma Nurses conference, the Journal Culture Awards and the Great North Run Hall of Fame dinner. I have been involved in some wonderful projects in the last year with young people. Supporting them to do improvised performances, work towards publication, Tweet a book festival and see their local area in a new way.
However, I’m doing less school work at the moment to try and conserve my energy and sanity. Maybe seeing fewer of those enthusiastic, young faces who couldn’t give a toss about the marginalised place of poetry in current society prevented me from becoming Grumpy Poet for longer. Or maybe I no longer have the Evangelical belief I once had that any young person I worked with, could and should if they wanted, make their own way in society as a poet. Be a Plumber I think. Be a Banker. Be a brilliant Parent. Be an M.P even. Anything but the deeply inconsequential figure of the poet. Or worse, the Grumpy Poet.
But, as ever for me, to write something, is to understand it, transform it and heal it. So, after a blogging hiatus, I’m going to be blogging honestly again and see if I can write my way out of the Grump.