Poems for Grenfell Tower
Edited by Rip Bulkeley
Published by Onslaught Press. Available at Bookbuster, £10
REVIEW BY KAT NIP

I’m sure that Theresa May and her government would much prefer that we forget all about Grenfell Tower and the people who died there, but we must keep reminding them that we have not. Even now, almost a year on from the disaster, it is reported that some of the residents have still not been given new, permanent homes and the social cleansing of London continues to pick up speed as more and more people are forcibly ‘decanted’ from their council estates to outside the capital.

This book of poems has been compiled as quickly as possible after the tragedy
that took place last June and the editor admits that he found it difficult to publicise and so it’s possible that many people who would have liked to submit poems did not because they were simply unaware of the project. Nonetheless, he received 346 poems from 300 poets and put them to a panel to agree upon a final selection
of 61 poems.

Some of the poems are by well known poets like Attila the Stockbroker and Michael Rosen, but many are by unknown poets or people with connections to the tragedy, including one of the firefighters, a local school teacher and a Big Issue seller.

Poems were accepted in any language, and those not in English are printed alongside an English translation. There was a 50 line limit so that no one poem is longer than two pages and there is also a limit of one poem per contributor to keep the anthology varied.

There are two dangers with a collection like this – the first that there will be a lot of repetition, with many people taking the same angle and writing essentially the same kind of things. The second is that it will be weak, filled with well-meaning bleeding heart type poems that are very ‘worthy’ but aren’t actually any good. I am happy to say that this anthology manages to avoid being either of these things. There is a nice balance of different themes and forms of poetry, and while many of them gave me the feels, nothing about it feels clichéd or sappy. In fact, it’s quickly become one of my favourite anthologies and definitely one of the best released so far this year.

No doubt every person who reads through it will have their own opinions and favourites but my personal ones are: High-Rise by Al McClimens, about the culture of corruption in development ‘Buy a flat in a tower block. Rent it out. It’s on a higher floor. That view. Those sundowns set the place on fire.’ and The Day After by Sharon Cohagan about a missing girl ‘She’s an obedient child – when told to stay, she stays.’

You can buy the book online direct from the publisher or from Amazon (be advised it will say out of stock but it isn’t, it’s print on demand). Or if you’re local to Hastings there are copies at Bookbuster. Proceeds from the book will go to the Grenfell Foundation. There are also several events planned across the country with dates and details on their Facebook page: Poems for Grenfell Tower.

 

Grenfell, 2018
ANON
So, pull down the monument of Britain’s shame?
It’s not enough. The horror and the grief
May some day ease; insomnia and strain
Give ground before the impetus of life.
And perhaps the dead have other things in mind
Than Grenfell Night, more practical concerns…
But years will not dispel the stench of crime.
The cremated steel and concrete ghost will scorn
Mere demolition; rather, persevere
For children’s children’s schoolchildren to read
And wonder, with stilled hands and hidden care,
At how their ancestors were torched for greed,
But then the neighbourhood rose up through fire
To stand together, one with Grenfell Tower.

 

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