Poetry & Strikes





Poetry & Strikes examines shifting representations of strike action in the work of six British poets from the 1970s to the present day. It considers how these poets have come to contend with, and contribute to, narratives surrounding industrial disputes. Through these conversations, the book attempts to question the way in which union narratives and legacies are constructed, and to investigate the power dynamics that underpin the presentation of labour histories. The work of these poets helps us to understand how cultural memories have been formed, and makes it possible to see how these legacies may still be rewritten and reframed.

Author Information

Michael James holds a PhD in English Literature from Royal Holloway, University of London.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
I. Why Poetry?
II. Introducing the Poets
III. The Chapters
Chapter One
How Did We Get Here? The History
Chapter Two
Unions and Not Unions
I. Unions
I.I. Barry MacSweeney’s Black Torch and ‘Black Torch Sunrise’
I.II. Tony Harrison’s ‘V.’
I.III. Sean O’Brien’s ‘Summertime’
I.IV Steve Ely’s ‘Ballad of the Scabs’, ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ and ‘Inglan is a Bitch’
II. Not Unions
II.I Helen Mort’s ‘Scab’
Chapter Three
Naming Scargills and Thatchers
I. Naming
I.I. Paul Bentley’s ‘The Two Magicians’
I.II. Barry MacSweeney’s ‘John Bunyan to Johnny Rotten’
I.III. Sean O’Brien’s ‘Unregistered’
I.IV. Steve Ely’s ‘Arthur Scargill’, 'One of Us’, 'Ballad of the Scabs’, ‘Scum of the Earth’, ‘Nithing’
Chapter Four
Strikes and Place
I.I. Paul Bentley’s ‘The Two Magicians’
I.II. Helen Mort’s ‘Scab’ and ‘Pit Closure as a Tarantino Short’ and Steve Ely’s ‘Objective One’
Chapter Five
Other Poetic Responses
I. Against All the Odds
II. The Poet Laureate - Ted Hughes’ ‘On the Reservations’ and ‘The Best Worker in Europe’