I’ve just received the heartening news that my friend and comrade John G Hall has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. As you can see it’s fairly prestigious with past nominees including Raymond Carver, John Irving and Rick Moody.
If you don’t know John he’s a Manchester poet and editor of radical poetry magazine Citizen 32. He does free poetry workshops in the Cornerhouse and Fuel and hosts popular spoken word nights in which the bar is always rammed with Tony Walsh’s rare breed, the Lesser Spotted Non-Poet Audience Member. Most of this is done with absolutely no financial support from Arts Council North West or any other public body.
I’ve known him for several years, the bulk of that time spent drinking in the Cornerhouse – our normal table on the top floor, me with a Heineken, him with a Corona, discussing and arguing into the night.
A middle-aged man with the fire of a twenty-year-old, John has a wealth of fascinating information about classic and contemporary poetry, particularly the Beats, as well as loads of hilarious and shocking stories about the labour movement in the 1980s. I remember thinking that he would make a fine lecturer in poetry or creative writing. But as John is a working-class trade unionist from Wythenshawe, this was never going to happen and despite his talent I don’t think John will ever be accepted by the mediocrities that govern the arts in this country. The establishment has already got its token working-class Northerner and it’s Ian McMillan.
But he’s always enjoyed success in the States and is a close friend of surviving Beat poets George Wallace and Diane di Prima. I’m always going on at him to move to San Francisco but the silly bastard is scared of long-haul flights.
I can think of no better living poet than John G Hall and I’d love to see him get the recognition he deserves. I want to close with George Wallace’s description of the man and his works.
In these early days of the 21st century; in these days of Cookie Cutter MFAs, McPoems and MTV-style performance poseurs; in these sad, terrible wondrous days, it is reassuring to read the poetry of John Hall, writings that remind us that the generative power of poetry comes not from the formalists and the faux counter-culturalists inside the academy, but from the people standing outside the academy’s lustrous gates.