We are publishing work from our students for World Poetry Day.
Here, Layla tells us about the work she is doing with a health website and brings us a poems on the theme of IVF.
I am writing and recording a series of poems on the theme of infertility for a media company. The poems are based on interviews with people who have experienced fertility issues, as well as research into how those affected sufferer mentally and emotionally.
The poems are part of an ongoing creative project with the company to creatively explore the complex emotions, fears and prejudices around the issue of fertility.
The poem “Game of Hormones” is performed by actor Eddie Bammeke, who is a film student at Staffordshire University. It was written for the Tiktok app, so it’s exactly 59 seconds long.
The prose poem “Just” was commissioned by a company that makes fertility probiotics to explore the advice that their customers are given at various stages of their life.
Just don’t come home pregnant, your dad will lose his mind. Just remember to take your pill every morning. Just don’t sleep around & you won’t have to worry about it. Just slow it down, don’t get too serious too quickly. Just remember, you have plenty of time for all of this.
Just don’t ruin your life like she did. Just her and the baby in that tiny flat. Just a waste of potential really. Just threw her life away.
Just focus on your studies. Just get your qualifications first. Just get to know each other.
Just save up and get a house before you start worrying about babies. Just wait another year for the promotion.
Just got married have you? Just don’t keep us hanging around too long for grandchildren, OK?
Just relax, you’re overthinking it. Just go on holiday, it’ll happen. Just keep trying, that’s the fun part! Just enjoy the peace while it lasts! Just enjoy your lie-ins while you can. Just hurry up a bit though, time’s getting on.
Just get that checked out. Just to make sure. Just sit tight, I’ll ring the hospital. Just don’t blame yourself, that’s all. Just try to breathe. Just remember, everything happens for a reason. Just try again when you’re ready.
Just a bit of advice, don’t keep that photo on the side like that. Just a bit morbid, that’s all. Just need to move on. Just need a holiday or something. Just the two of you.
Just do some yoga. Just lose a bit of weight. Just lose a bit more weight. Just cut out alcohol, caffeine and dairy. Just get him checked out too just in case. Just get yourself fit. Just don’t overdo it with the running though. Just don’t get too thin, that’s all.
Just talk to the doctor. Just choose a clinic. Just do the IVF. Just a needle, that’s all. Just your hormones. Just have another cycle as soon as you can. Just save up! Just borrow it off your Mum. Just take out a loan. Just sell the car.
Just use donor eggs! Just, I don’t know, get a surrogate like that woman off the telly did. Just adopt! Just playing Devil’s Advocate, that’s all. Just saying. Just give it another go. Just my opinion. Just give up. Just a waste of time. Just accept it. Just too old. Just wasn’t meant to be then, was it.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti was a friend and a publisher to the writers of the Beat Generation, and an influential poet who was both critically and commercially successful. His bookshop, City Lights, became the epi-centre of the San Francisco phase of the Beat movement when it’s major figures, particularly Ginsberg and Kerouac, moved from New York to the West coast. City Lights has been open in the same premises since 1955 and along with Shakespeare and Co in Paris – which had been an inspiration for Ferlinghetti – is one of the best known and most inviting bookshops on the planet. San Francisco was an enclave of non-conformist culture at the time, possibly because of the siting of a camp for pacifists and conscientious objectors nearby during the war. Once released back into society, these renegades fostered a community of radicals and rebels. Ginsberg and Kerouac were drawn to San Francisco by the promise of literary freedom and like-minded artists. The little black and white covers of the Pocket Poets series have become a design classic and have remained unchanged for nearly 70 years. The shop, too, remains a beacon to poets, travellers and those with a love of the writing of the Beats.
The City Lights Books Pocket Poets series was thrust into
the glare of publicity by Ginsberg’s collection, Howl and Other Poems.
Ferlinghetti had seen Ginsberg read the title poem at a now famous reading at
the Six Gallery in October 1995 and contacted the young poet to arrange to
publish his work. The content was scandalous for the time, a period of
political and social conformity enforced by a Cold War culture that valued a
narrow consensus that privileged an anti-communist, white, middle-class, male
hegemony. Ginsberg’s famous opening lines, ‘I saw the best minds of my
generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,/dragging themselves
through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix’, challenged
everything that the mainstream cherished. His portrayal of angelheaded hipsters
‘with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless
balls’ attracted the attention of the SFPD, who failed to have the book banned
for obscenity and succeeded only in bringing a radical new poetry to the
attention of a much wider readership. The Beats became internal exiles,
attacking what they saw as America’s conformity, inequality, consumerism and
warmongering. The Beat writers were in search of ‘IT’ – the soul of jazz,
orgasm, the freedom of the streets, the heightened consciousness of drugs – and
Ferlinghetti was an important guide on that journey. Ferlinghetti was
himself a poet of some note and he toured the world with Ginsberg, bringing
Beat poetry to the Beatniks and hippies of the 60s – including a famous reading
at the Royal Albert Hall in 1965.
Ferlinghetti’s iconic 1958 collection, A Coney Island of the Mind, remains one of the bestselling poetry collections. (link: https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2008/aug/19/revisitingconeyislandofthe) . It is a masterwork of lyricism and realism which weaves together motifs of music and the clothes-pegged, telegraph-wire strewn cityscape. In many ways, this collection is about lines: telegraph lines, poetic lines and musical lines reaching from the improvised line of jazz, to birdsong, to more classical structures of phrase and cadence:
The poet’s eye obscenely seeing sees the surface of the round world with its drunk rooftops and wooden oiseaux on clotheslines and its clay males and females with hot legs and rosebud breasts in rollaway beds
City boundaries and lines which demarcate social spaces are blended and problematised in the ‘plastic toiletseats tampax and taxis’ (note the generous texture of internal consonance and alliteration) which nestle amoung ‘stemheated cemeteries’ and ‘protesting cathedrals’ to form a ‘surrealist landscape’. The projective, ‘open field’ lines which arc across the page architecture the poetic space and unleash a ‘wired’ energy through this opening sequence of twenty-nine poems.
Ferlinghetti lived in the bohemian North Beach area of
San Francisco up to his death last week at the age of 101.
Here are some of the novels, stories and poems English and Creative Writing staff have been reading, researching and teaching at Staffordshire University.
John Cage (1912-1992) Dr Lisa Mansell
Most people know John Cage as the somewhat cheeky, avant-garde composer of 4’33”, but fewer people know the significant contribution he made to poetry and poetics, recorded over several collections including M: Writings ’67–’72 (1973), Empty Words: Writings ’73–’78 (1979), and X: Writings ’79–’82 (1983).
Cage was a pioneer of procedural, constraint-based and algorithmically generated poetics: a kind of poetry which is composed within a strict confine of rules. One of these algorithmic techniques, called ‘writing through’, entailed a process of selecting the letters which spell out the name of an author then using them as a ‘code’ for selecting words from a novel written by that author, according to strict rules. Cage deployed this procedure for his five ‘write-throughs’ of Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, (Cage mischievously said of this novel, “it’s my favourite book I’ve never read.”) Taking the letters ‘J’ ‘A’ ‘M’ ‘E’ ‘S ‘J’ ‘O’ ‘Y’ ‘C’ ‘E’ as the code, he then applied the process of ‘writing-through’ to Finnegans Wake. The poems were then presented via a reinvention of the ancient mesostich form (pronounced MESS-oh-stick), which Cage called ‘mesostic’. Readers may be already familiar with the acrostic poem, where the beginning letters of each line in a poem form a message or spell out a name; a mesostic does the same thing but with the spelled-out message in the middle of the line. (In case you’re curious, if the code letters are at the end of the line, it is called a telestich).
Cage was also interested in algorithmic process as chance procedures. This time, ‘writing-through’ Thoreau’s Journals. Cage divided the text up into five kinds of material: letters, syllables, words, phrases, and sentences:
“A text can be a vocalise: just letters. Can be just syllables, just words; just a string of phrases; sentences. Or combinations of letters and syllables (for example), letters and words, et. Cetera. There are 25 possible combinations.”
‘Empty Words’, p. 11. (1975)
The next stage in this process, after assigning numerical values to these lexical parts, was to use the I Ching, to produce aleatoric combinations of these words, syllables, letters, and phrases. This results in some of the most strikingly avant-garde and beautiful (in my view) poetry which challenges the way we think about language structures, meaning, and representation.
Aiden Thomas, Cemetery Boys (2020) Amy Blaney
“I’m currently reading Aiden Thomas’ Cemetery Boys as part of a buddy read with some friends. It’s a YA fantasy novel that follows a trans boy – Yadriel – as he attempts to prove himself to his traditional Latinx family. Yadriel’s family are involved in an unusual line of business – the brujos look after the Latinx cemetery and ensure that the souls of the dead pass over and don’t turn maligno, whilst the bruja use the powers gifted to them by Lady Death to heal. Determined to prove himself a brujo, Yadriel sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set him free – although things don’t go to plan when he instead summons the spirit of local bad boy Julian Diaz – who then refuses to depart this earthly plain until his own unfinished business has been dealt with. Cue the two boys having to learn to work together to defeat an evil that threatens both the world of the living and the dead, all set against the backdrop of a vibrant Latinx culture and featuring heaps of excellent LGBTQIA+ representation. The book is a brilliant mosaic of culture, acceptance, and personal identity (although trigger warnings for instances of dead-naming and misgendering) and I’d strongly recommend it, even to those who don’t normally read YA.
I’d also recommend a visual novel called If Found. It’s available on Steam and Nintendo Switch which focuses upon the experience of a trans woman – Kasio – and her return to her family in rural Ireland. Again, trigger warnings for instances of dead-naming, transphobia, and misgendering – things get very rough for Kasio before they get better – but personally I found this a deeply moving and emotive story that touches on several important LGBTQIA+ issues and examines identity, cultural acceptance, found family, and family relationships in a moving and sensitive way. It also has some gorgeous artwork and a wonderful soundtrack. If you want to find out more about it, you can watch Aoife from Eurogamer conduct a chilled playthrough of the full game at https://youtu.be/nfJLXoGG5PI.”
Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club (1996) Dr. Mark Brown
Fight Club was published in 1996, with the film catapulting Chuck Palahniuk and the novel into the cultural spotlight in 1999. Once the film was released, there were many media reports of men taking the fight club – and its famous rules of secrecy – as a blueprint for a version of masculinity constructed around male companionship, violence and heteronormativity which functions as a visceral and authentic contrast to the artificiality of the intense commodity culture in which the IKEA catalogue (remember them?) has become the new pornography. This interpretation of the novel and the film, based on a surface reading of the first section of the narrative, was problematised by Palahniuk ‘outing’ himself as gay on his own website to prevent an interviewer doing it for him in the press.
In the novel, an anonymous narrator unconsciously escapes into the alter-ego of Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt in the film), a figure who embarks on a passionate relationship with Marla (played by Helena Bonham-Carter) and establishes the fight club where men punch each other in basements, which then morphs into Project Mayhem; a carnivalesque anti-capitalism and counter-cultural movement.
In the introduction to the American edition of the novel, Palahniuk explains that he constructs a homo-social space because women find this easier, with ‘quilting and mah-jong societies’, but men are limited to sports. While we should be wary of using the author’s biography to interpret a text, there is clearly a willful misreading of the novel by those men who interpret it as a manifesto of physical and sexual dominance, for the establishment of ‘real fight clubs’ and for the ‘pick-up’ culture of the 2000s.
Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and Other Parties (2017) Dr. Melanie Ebdon
Dr. Melanie Ebdon has been reading Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and Other Parties (2017), which depicts several lesbian relationships which are ‘just normalised—there’s no big deal made—they’re just relationships”. Dr Ebdon reads a section from “Mothers” in which the protagonist imagines an idealised future with her new partner. Listen here.
Staff and students at Staffordshire can read the full collection in an ebook, online here.
Most students wait until they have graduated before they
seek work experience, but others are keen to get straight into their chosen
industry. One of our second year students Kudakwashe Phiri was hand-picked for
a paid internship with a media company, before she’d even finished the first
year. She has just had her first article published in the commercial sector.
Her ongoing internship for a media company in the fertility
niche, includes researching articles on law and medical issues, writing book
reviews and scientific articles, and even appearing on the company’s Tiktok
account. You can read one of Kuda’s book reviews here.
Kuda was talent-spotted in class by a fellow student who
also works for the company because of her thorough preparation for lectures and
Kuda said: “I thought I would be working a normal job
through university, but this is bringing me straight into the industry. It’s
just a few hours a week, but it’s paid and I am learning how to write for the
commercial market. It works really well with my studies, and I can translate
the skills I learn in the classroom directly to a work environment.”
The company, Best Fertility Now, is a startup led by a
former BBC journalist. The fertility niche is a rapidly expanding market, and a
combination of lifestyle, medical and technical knowledge is needed to navigate
The CEO of the company said:
“Kuda is a fantastic addition to the team, and I’m really
looking forward to seeing how she develops as a writer.”
Kuda’s love of writing and literature clearly runs in the
family as her mother, Edna, also received a degree in English from us just 2 years
Course leader, Mark Brown, said: “we always encourage our students to get their writing out there and get real-world experience. It’s even better when they are able to encourage and support each other.”
(Layla Randle-Conde, 2nd year English and Creative Writing)
Over the years, Storm was a ceaseless supporter of our students and offered meaningful and transformative work experience to our young writers at Immanion Press leading to, for many, publications of their own, further postgraduate study and careers in creative writing.
Storm was a frequent visiting lecturer at the department and her no-nonsense ‘warts and all’ insight into publishing, both large-scale, commercial and independent was of immense value to students learning their craft. She encouraged our students to see the options available to them in modern publishing—an ever-changing industry.
In 2016, Storm Constantine published and co-edited (alongside Paul Houghton) a collection of stories called Dark in the Day:
“The idea for this anthology originated during one of my regular sessions as a guest lecturer in Creative Writing at Staffordshire University. I often speak about the day to day running of an independent press, explaining to students how books are created and all the work that goes into them once the actual writing is done. I thought it would be an interesting idea to involve the students in the creation of a book and what better way than to publish a short story collection that included some of their work?” (Constantine, 2016, p. 7)
And so a beautiful collaboration was born. Professional and polished stories composed by our own students nestle seamlessly alongside more seasoned hands like Rosie Garland, Tanith Lee, and Nicholas Royle. Storm never treated our students quite like students, but as professional writers, and Dark in the Day stands as a testimony to the hard work, care and compassion she generously extended to them—and to us as colleagues.
Storm will be very greatly missed by us and by our writers past and present, and long may she live in the work she leaves behind—in over thirty novels and nonfiction books. She is perhaps best-known for her Wraeththu trilogy (1987-1989)—influenced by Birmingham’s ‘Goth scene’ in the ‘80s—and in words ever-resonant today:
“Wraeththu. I shiver to say the word. Something has happened to them. Where did they come from? How did it happen? Why is it spreading like a plague? I have seen what they do. I have seen their faces. They always take their dead with them, always. There is a secret. Don’t you understand? A secret. Wraeththu are not what they seem. They are more than they seem.” (Constantine, 1987)
Gorman addresses the president, then
the first lady, Dr. Biden—with a palpable emphasis on ‘doctor’: an
acknowledging doff, woman to woman—before her narrative leans seamlessly from formal
address to poetry. In this swaying shift
between narrative modes, Gorman presents a complex, hybrid, blended space of
art and activism, politics and poetics, logos, ethos and pathos.
The seemingly natural spontaneity in a poem written both for the inaugural moment and in the moment through Gorman’s august performativity inaugurates a new power for poetry. Gorman reminds us what poetry is for; we are reminded of its rhetorical, oral roots as a form and any former schisms between worlds of high politics and of art, poetry and aesthetics seem now so slight in this new poetry for new politics—we hope.
The lexical texture of the poem is astonishing in its intricacy, as though the meshing of political and poetic fibres is somehow reflected in the consonantal weaving of the following line:
With every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one. (Gorman, 2021)
The linguistic sonority of the line pivots both accentually and alliteratively around the plangent semi-vowel ‘w’ like a plainchant—and ‘w’, being somewhat liminal in phonetic quality embodies the blended space Gorman creates in almost gospel gravitas. Her 2017 poem “In this Place: An American Lyric”, exhibits the same riffing in the key of ‘w’, and sibilant ‘s’ counter-weaves through the texture in a kind of bitonal remix of language:
There’s a poem in Los Angeles yawning wide as the Pacific tide where a single mother swelters in a windowless classroom, teaching black and brown students in Watts to spell out their thoughts so her daughter might write this poem for you. (Gorman, 2017)
This molecular interweave of phonemic alliteration on the stressed and unstressed parts of the word—on their beats and their off-beats—create innovative rhymical sequences which are developed further by syncopated assonances of rhyme though the lines in unexpected distributions. The splicing of “just is” from “justice” and the morphological ‘sampling’ of “arms” to “harm” to “harmony” in her inaugural poem also destabilise and challenge the fixedness of words as their meaning blends semantically from one to the next. Just like people—society—language comes apart and then coalesces back together again.
The power of anaphora has long been the domain of both poetry and political speeches:
We will rise from the golden hills of the west. We will rise from the wind-swept north-east where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states. We will rise from the sun-baked south. We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover. (Gorman, 2021)
These are the ‘power-chords’ of a poem seeped multimodal sampling from phoneme to morpheme to phrase. The repetition of the anthemic phrase ‘we will rise’ vaults through the lines to evoke a message of solidarity and activism.
poem comes to rest on a couplet which formally resembles the beginning of a
blues stanza where the opening line is repeated by the second line with minor variation
in an echo of itself:
if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it. (Gorman, 2021)
now apparent that Gorman is accessing and gathering the whole tapestry of
American poetics and political discourse to create a new poem for a new age: from
the Whitmanesque listing of subjects, identities, cultures, to the blues.
Gorman has always combined the spaces
between poetry and politics, art and activism, and has woven a new blended
discourse of both. In 2013, inspired by the Pakistani poet laureate, Malala
Yousafzai, Gorman became a youth delegate for the United Nations. In 2016, Gorman founded One Pen One Page,
a non-profit programme of free creative writing workshops to foster the talent
of disenfranchised young writers and future leaders.
2014 saw her own inauguration as the Youth
Poet Laureate for Los Angeles, her home city, and again in 2017 as the first African-American
National Youth Poet Laureate. In the same year, she opened the Library of
Congress’ literary season with the poem, “In this Place: An American Lyric” to
commemorate the inauguration of the United States Poet Laureate, Tracy K.
Gorman graduated from Harvard with a
degree in Sociology in 2020 and is the author of two poetry collections: The
One for Whom Food Is Not Enough (Penmanship Books, 2015) and the forthcoming
The Hill We Climb (Viking, September 2021).
Prolific feminist beat poet and cultural icon, whose revolutionary work continues to be relevant.
Diane di Prima, one of the last surviving beat poets, has
died in San Francisco at the age of 86. Of the few women associated with the
Beat movement, Di Prima’s work reflects the upheaval and rebellion of the
1960’s from a feminist point of view. Her life’s work includes more than 30
collections of poetry, and she also wrote plays, short stories and nonfiction.
Her work has been translated into more than 20 languages, and she was named San
Francisco’s Poet Laureate in 2009.
Born in Brooklyn in 1934, Di Prima began writing at the Hunter College High School in New York City. When she was 19 she was mentored by Ezra Pound, whom she visited at a psychiatric hospital in Washington. She went on to Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, but dropped out two years later to join a bohemian community in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. Her most famous work Memoirs of a Beatnik (Penguin, 1969) recounts this period of her life, where she was a contemporary of, and became friends with Jack Kerouac, Alan Gisnberg, John Ashbury, Denise Levertov and Frank O’Hara, and became part of the Beat movement.
Her first poetry book was entitled This Kind of Bird Flies Backwards (Totem Press) and published in 1958. Three years later she co-founded the New York Poets Theatre and became co-editor of the Floating Bear, a mimeograph newspaper.
Her subjects were often contentious – feminism, class and counterculture, and Di Prima was regularly targeted by the authorities. She was arrested by the FBI in 1961 for publishing two obscene poems in the Floating Bear, but the case was dismissed. Alan Ginsberg praised the radical slant of her work, declaring her “heroic” and “brilliant”, and stating that she was “a learned humorous bohemian, classically educated and twentieth-century radical, her writing, informed by Buddhist equanimity, is exemplary in imagist, political and mystical modes.”
Communications Coordinator, Daisy talks about the advantages of the English 2-year accelerated degree and some of her highlights of studying at Staffs.
Why did you choose a 2-year degree over a 3-year degree?
I decided to apply for a 2-year degree as I had taken a few gap years after leaving Sixth Form to go travelling and wanted to get on the career ladder as soon as possible. I also knew that most of my friends were coming close to finishing their degrees and I didn’t want to be too far behind them. A 2-year degree was the perfect solution!
What were the advantages for you?
The main advantage was how quickly I could start working again; taking three years to study felt like such a long time, but two years felt really achievable! It also helped me to stay motivated as I knew the hard work would be over before I knew it. Another major advantage of a 2-year course is how much money you can save – I have the same degree as everyone who has completed the 3-year course but I have £15,000 less debt!
What challenges did you have to overcome?
The main challenge that I had to overcome was balancing work and studying. As I continued to work an average of 16 hours a week whilst studying, there were times when it felt like I wouldn’t be able to get everything done that I needed to. It has also been difficult during the summer semesters as you are in control of your own schedule, however, I now see that as a huge benefit as I have learnt how to manage my time and work effectively to achieve a deadline.
How did the English fast-track help you towards your new career?
Completing the English fast-track degree has meant that I can demonstrate to employers I am a dedicated and self-motivated person. The fast-track degree has shown that I am willing to work hard and quicker than others to achieve a goal. This aspect is something that really helped whilst I was in the interview process for the graduate scheme as I was able to evidence my ability to work efficiently and it meant I had something that made me stand out from everyone else.
What were your course highlights?
One of my course highlights was meeting one of my best friends! I thought I would probably get along with a few people on my course, but I never imagined I would meet someone who I got on with so well and will be friends with forever. I have also really enjoyed working with the amazing lecturers on the English course who have made my university experience truly memorable. Another highlight has definitely been the opportunity to take part in the Open Days and Welcome Week as a Subject Representative as I have been able to share my enthusiasm for the English course!?
What are you doing now?
I’m currently working as an Internal Communications Coordinator at Synectics Solutions. I currently manage the communications to over 350 employees and look after our employee intranet. I work alongside the Employee Engagement Coordinator to ensure everyone at Synectics is happy, has what they need to do their jobs and that they benefit from all of the wellbeing offerings.
“Now Moses don’t know a damn thing about Jamaica – Moses come from Trinidad, which is a thousand miles from Jamaica, but the English people believe that everybody who come from the West Indies come from Jamaica.”
― Sam Selvon, The Lonely Londoners
On June 22nd 1948, as George Orwell sat writing 1984 on the remote Scottish isle of Jura, a ship named the SS Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury, Essex and 492 West Indian immigrants disembarked, the first travellers of what became known as the ‘Windrush Generation’. In 1950, Sam Selvon and George Lamming (both from Trinidad) came on the same voyage to Britain where they later developed notable careers as writers, publishing novels which were to form the bedrock of Black literary culture in the UK. Their novels gave voice to an emerging Black British community as well as educating an ignorant British readership regarding the harsh economic and social realities these people faced. Sam Selvon’s characters in his seminal novel The Lonely Londoners are placed on one of in these early waves of West Indian immigration to Britain.
West Indians were being encouraged to come to the UK under the ‘Nationality Act’ which had just been passed, partly inspired by Indian independence the year before. The Nationality Act indicated that subjects of the British empire and its former subjects (the Commonwealth) were able to come to Britain to live and work more easily than before in order to fill the shortage of labour after the loss of life and destruction of WWII. Jamaica was still under British rule at this point and remained so until 1962. According to the propaganda spread through British Imperial rule around the globe, Britain was a place of plenty, fairness, power, influence and education. Many colonial subjects, and those of newly independent nations, saw a life in the ‘Motherland’ as a way to a progressive future. The people who came to fill this post-war shortage of workers provided cheap labour (connotations of slavery and exploitation abound) and found themselves locked out of that centre of power and influence even while they lived and worked within it.
On the day after the arrival of the SS Empire Windrush, The Evening Standard’s front-page headline was “WELCOME HOME!” – the implication being that these West Indians had come to their Mother-country. Yet the people who disembarked were not welcomed into a society which had lived for generations under the idea of colonised people as their social inferiors. Signs saying “No blacks” went up at the doors of many boarding houses, only the most menial poorly paid jobs were offered to these immigrants (despite any qualifications they may have had) and problems of integration began. Sam Selvon captures this moment in The Lonely Londoners, which uses a defiantly Caribbean third-person narration throughout and focuses on a set of friends who are all connected through Moses Aloetta, a guide of sorts who attempts to ‘part the waters’ and help settle his people in the ‘promised land’.
“It have people living in London who don’t know what happening in the room next to them, far more the street, or how other people living. London is a place like that. It divide up in little worlds, and you stay in the world you belong to and you don’t know anything about what happening in the other ones except what you read in the papers.”
― Sam Selvon, The Lonely Londoners