Research poem [still in progress]

[This isn’t even a completed first draft, just posting it here in case I don’t get time tomorrow to work on it more and print off a copy]

I’ve been selecting quotes from articles and song lyrics that discuss gentrification/class struggle and playing with positioning to create a poem. But I enjoyed how mixed the sources were in The Bowery Project and the Book of the Dead. I think I need to try giving out some questionnaires/conduct some interviews/dig out letters from my MP related to rent controls/check out the comments sections from online articles etc. etc. My portfolio is going to have at least a section related to Coventry, I reckon, if not all of it, so I should take some walks and note down observations too.

My ideas are currently all over the place, wish they weren’t but there you go.


And the city cries…

we will protest against
the stench of cultural contamination
these no-job creatives coming in hordes
brooding 20-somethings
with their blogs and their “likes”
student accommodation arrives like a Trojan horse
all over my city like a Tory with a sex-worker
rubbing on her titties leaving money in palms
while across the borough, the Meccano scaffolds
rose up for the £15bn development
our rumbling guts can only hunger so much
What the fuck’s a latte? What’s with these prices?
almost endless potential for argument
speaks to fundamental questions of home, identity and community
you can trace it back centuries
to a literal gentry responsible for social cleansing
when the bailiffs were on horseback
the subject has entered the mainstream
castigated by Channel Four News
£4 bowls of cereal
Class War’s so-called Fuck Parade, flaming torches in hand
demand for urban space is higher than ever
we are witnessing the triumph of the market
sooner or later, the wealthy will get what they want
the cultural and commercial changes are not the main event
It all comes down to housing, she says
Berlin made headlines enforcing rent controls
we don’t want a situation like in London or Paris
stuck in overpriced boxes
polar bears floating on our little ice sheets
rent stabilisation is something that could help everyone
strident legislation to protect poorer citizens
does not just drop out of the sky
robust civic campaigning
the right to the city
it’s anthropologically unjust
cunts are still running the world
a Stockholm syndrome recreation
of the twice-daily commute
their two hours of planned hedonism
ripped from their original contexts
notice the lack of anything meaningful
Jamaican emblem, a can of Red Stripe
overpriced, stripped of its origins
the warehouse
once a site of industry
has trudged down this path of appropriation
who can afford the £15 entrance
its industrial identity has been destroyed and
its transgressive thrill neutered by money
by legality and middle-class civility
more kitsch, high ceiling hideaways to shield capital from tax
venues that commodified and sold the culture
opportunity to bathe in the edgy cool
of a former working class space
bars, clubs and street food markets
these construct romantic illusion
new cute names but the same gritty aesthetics
only experienced second hand
through objects and spaces plucked from below
in the hope that some semblance of reality will slip back into view
explicitly bourgeois restaurant, attracted by the hip kudos
and ready spending of the area, inadvertently points out
that the emperor is stark bollock naked
nothing more than an illusion
cheap rents beckon
drinking cocktails from jam jars
can do without
Sure Start centres, food banks and the local comprehensive
have the income to inoculate themselves
against how locals live
at the bottom of a system
that blames the individual
but offers no legitimate means of escape

And the student population chides:

see when I move to my manor with my artist’s life
artichokes, and my nice tofu fried
they supply my demand to build somewhere nice
and it’s good for everyone
if you can pay the price
the working classes are obsolete
they are surplus to society’s needs
we’re a movement encountering opposition
because the founders had a track record of success
they are just jealous
about the great things
their children’s generation are doing to this city
that they want to nip progress in the bud
by objecting to damn near everything
they want to turn the clocks back
to a time that they somehow perceive as having been more ‘real’
because it was their own miserable reality growing up
and they want it to be ours
thankfully capital has an antidote
we re-connect with reality
at the weekends

And the city cries…

“this partial experience is deliberate
because with intimate knowledge
of how the other half live
comes an ugly truth: that middle-class privilege
is in many ways premised on working class exploitation
that the rising house prices and cheap mortgages
from which they have benefited
create a rental market shot with misery
that the money inherited from their parents
goes largely untaxed, while benefits for
both the unemployed and working poor are slashed
that the unpaid internships they can afford to take
sustains a culture that excludes the majority
from comfortable, white collar jobs
that their accent, speech patterns and knowledge of institutions
by their very deployment in the job market
perpetuate norms that exclude
those who were born outside of the cultural elite”

And the government replies:




4 thoughts on “Research poem [still in progress]

  1. pjsars

    Wow, these are really strong. I love the difference in tone between the three pieces .Is the government’s reply intentionally left blank? If so, fantastic!


  2. deirdrenicm

    Love the different voices and the very strong social comment.
    couple of little touches I really like- the gentrified with cocktails in jamjars


  3. raefonb Post author

    Patrick – at first it was an accident because I hadn’t come across enough government responses in my research at the time, and then I realised it said a lot by saying nothing. So I might stick with leaving that section blank. Does the little full-stop work to show that it’s not an accident, or should I try for something else to indicate silence without it looking like a mistake. To me, (…) resembles an attempt to speak, so that wouldn’t work, but maybe N/A or something?

    Deidre – thanks. This is only the stage of copying and pasting stuff over, a lot of work to go, but I was surprised by how easy it was to extract poetic moments from journalistic discourse.


    1. pjsars

      I think if it was printed on paper rather than on a screen I would think it was deliberate. In some ways it would be a shame to do that, though, because the gov’t has spread a lot of lies and misinformation about what they are doing (or what they allow to happen). Did you know there was social housing for the blind by the river in Fulham (I think) and the retail value was astronomical (obviously) so the council shipped all the blind people out and sent them to live elsewhere, while they made millions by selling the land by the river to property developers. Ignorning the fact that the guys they’d removed wouldn’t know anyone, wouldn’t know their way around, would be further from friends and family. Pretty gauling in one of the richest boroughs in the richest city in the fifth largest global economy. I can’t find anything online about it (I’ll keep looking) but there’s a link here to some other related stuff –
      and I’m sure that sort of thing is happening all over the place, while the government stands by

      Also, I don’t know if you had a chance to look at the poem I shared last week, Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands, but you should have a look at it and where the material comes from – I’d say its 70% found, but still really poetic. I don’t know how he does it, but maybe you’ll be able to make something of it



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