We’re all writing or talking about Brexit at the moment, we’ve come across a lot of poets using their art to open wider conversations about Brexit, about the working class and the struggles that come with living in time of globalisation. Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Grave’s second Burning Eye collection GOD SAVE THE TEEN is our fourth book of the year and already a firm favourite. This a winding journey through the secret back ways of a northern city with all the rhythm of a defiant and purposeful walk. We asked Andrew to write a guest blog this week to talk about his journey from his first collection to GOD SAVE THE TEEN.
I was asked to write a blog detailing the journey from my first full Burning Eye collection Light at the end of Tenner, to my second Burning Eye book God Save the Teen, so I wrote it.
In my head, anyway.
That blog was full of rejection, frustration, bile, replete with scenes of a self-pitying artist, angry and alone, wandering out into the rain-lashed night, Heathcliff style. It was burdened by cluttered pretensions, half formed kitchen sink sentiments, reams about an ego shattered against a wall of attention seeking utility bills that screamed red against my soul, etc., etc.
The thing is, for me, I’m not sure that there is an actual journey from one project to another, at least not one that would be worth documenting or trying to recreate in any meaningful sense. I’ve always thought those sorts of journeys only seem to happen to the kind of poets who get booked to play much bigger arts centres than I do. I’ve never really had to deal with things like existential angst or cosmic crushing misery, I watch the telly instead. I have always tried not to have artistic journeys if I can help it. I usually end up getting lost.
I don’t think that I ever sat down and said right, now I’ve finished with Light at the end of the Tenner, I’ll write God Save the Teen. I think the whole thing was much more organic, imperceptible even. My ‘process’ for want of a phrase that sound a bit less like something Ollie from The League of Gentlemen’s Legz Akimbo, might say, is to just write.
Sometimes when I write, things happen, other times they don’t. I wrote a bunch of poems in 2013, some of them became Light at the end of the Tenner. Most of them didn’t.
I toured with that book fairly consistently through 2014 and 2015, It was a good laugh, and I felt important, because I actually had a something to sell. It gave me a genuine excuse to go and do poems at strange people up and down the country. People actually started to take me seriously, Burning Eye played no small part in that, there was no mistake about it, to me and many others, they were the publisher of choice, the cool kid whose gang you definitely wanted to be in.
Then, at some point I started writing other things. Those other things eventually became not a book but a show called God Save the Teen. In one sense, it was a personal performance piece about the decimation of the youth service, social exclusion, injustice, working class frustration, growing up and getting lost. In another slightly more honest sense, it was about a beer swilling ex-miner with a flatulence problem and his gormless son who was brilliant at not having sex.
Some time happened, I did a number of performances of that show, mainly in the east midlands, but then I started coming up with other poems. I didn’t really know what to do with those poems. I started to feel that they might make a book. But I was already planning to take God Save the Teen, the show, out on a much bigger national tour and it wouldn’t have made any sense to have a book and show which were separate, with different promotional aspects behind them.
I decided to combine the two ideas – a written version of the show, which would be surrounded by loads of other new poems. From a promotional point of view, it made sense to call the whole thing God Save the Teen and it would work I guess, as part show souvenir/part new collection. That’s the only way I can explain it really. There was no real plan.
I went back to Clive at Burning Eye to see if he’d publish it, without really being sure what it was I was asking him to publish. I began to feel like a contestant on Dragon’s Den, one of the really nervous sweaty types who hasn’t really done his sums properly.
But to my honest surprise, they went for it.
So here I am with a new thing. Call it a show transcript, a collection, a series of stories, a set of poems, or just a pretty looking book, if you will. I like it and I hope some other people will.
I hope you enjoyed reading about me not telling you about a journey I definitely didn’t have.
Maybe you should have read the other blog. Maybe I should’ve written it.