Monday, 4 April 2016

Emotional Terrorism - Joolz


Remember Joolz? Flame-haired, tattooed Punk poetess with New Model Army affiliations? She's still around, you know? Still performing, still painting, still writing. Runs a tattoo parlour in Bradford nowadays as well. When it came to her poetry, not for her such things as rhyming or alliteration but narrative and prose. Vignettes, observations and short stories were more her style, delivered when spoken in a northern accent or on the page written almost as a conversation with the reader.

She was probably at her most popular during the Eighties when for a while being a ranting poet was in vogue. Attila The Stockbroker, Seething Wells, Mark Miwurdz and others were being taken seriously by the music press and fanzines up and down the land were always featuring them. Fashions come and fashions go, however, and the music press soon moved on to the next trend, assigning them all along with their Left-wing credentials to the dustbin of history.
Though lumped in with these poet ranters, Joolz was always different and slightly apart not only due to her being a woman amongst a bunch of blokes but for her delivery. She was an old soul born into a deprived, modern-day environment and her words were like echoes from centuries past, washed up upon the shore of Thatcher's Britain like remnants from a shipwreck.

Her book, Emotional Terrorism (one of many she's had published over the years), collects a number of her poems and drawings into a neat volume of what can only be called 'art'. Joolz is an artist, nothing more and nothing less.
A striking thing about the poems collected in this particular book is that whilst she rages against oppression, injustice and the 'corrupt and wicked government' she has no qualms about also criticising and chastising her own peer group and her fellow members of the working class community of which she's from.
In a number of her poems she rails against the ignorance, prejudice and small-mindedness of the working class, particularly that of Bradford, her home town. Indeed, in a poem entitled 'Bradford (Hometown)' she admits to hating it and wishing it 'destroyed, flattened, finished, ploughed with salt... Because it isn't good, they aren't nice and it doesn't fit the dream'. She gives good reasons for feeling this and is justified because it can be true: '...when you can't walk out alone and the hatred, blind and ignorant, is a trait they breed for; when resentment and sullen fear are all too easily read in eyes deprived of passion by callous families, rotten schools and the endless, slow crucifixion by the society that spawned them'.
It comes, however, with a caveat: 'But even though there is no welcome, no love and no smiling faces, I still go back, don't I? We all go back, always, don't we? To all those towns that scar this sorry island, we all go back and some of us never leave, because it's all we've got'.
Joolz is a very good poet and far better than she's ever really been credited for.

In her poem entitled 'Nemesis', she describes an encounter with a family living on an estate at the back of her house, a 'sprawl of ill-built council houses, pebble-dash peeling and broken fences'. The family's puppy keeps getting loose and ending up in her garden so she's always having to take it back to them. She describes the mother as a 'worn-out zombie' and the father as 'stupid drunken... beer gut straining his shirt buttons'.
On one such occasion after returning the puppy, the father starts yelling at Joolz and it's then that she notices the grubby children and in the eyes of one of the children in particular a bright intelligence: 'And I can't forget that, I can't forget the stab of surprise and the horrible knowledge of what that bright child's life will be: with his worn-out zombie mother, and his stupid drunken father, cheated of his chances in useless schools, ignored by corrupt and wicked government, denied, beaten, dispossessed and shoved into the numbing inevitable round of frustration, fighting and savage boredom, while the children of the middle classes piss away their privilege in the Student Union bars, and prop up the tottering society that shelters their inadequacies.
Everything faded but the child's gaze as he stood at the rickety gate, his fate certain and damned. And I want to pull all this injustice down, destroy it all in blood and fire, not next year, not tomorrow, but now, this moment, this very second, level it, raze it and start again clean, so he's got a hope, so we've all got a hope...'.

'If there is hope,' wrote George Orwell 'It lies in the proles.' And it always has and always will but Orwell despaired as there was no mass rebellion forthcoming. "You don't have to take this crap!" said Paul Weller in one of his better moments but we do and the British working class continues to be shafted over and over and over again. Spat on and shat on and made to eat soap, then saying thanks for the privilege.
You do what you can to right wrongs but there comes a time when you wonder what else can you do if your neighbour refuses to raise their voice let alone their fist? Fucking get on with it then and wallow in shit is one conclusion. Joolz is an artist but then aren't we all? The difference being that Joolz expresses herself rather than keeping quiet, sitting on the fence or trying to be moderate and reasonable. At the end of the day Joolz did and does what she can (and very well too, it must be said) but she holds no answers but then has never claimed to. Though at least she once stood up and spoke out.
It's always horses for courses and you do what you can - and Joolz has done more than a lot of others even if her faith in a Labour government coming to the rescue was somewhat misguided. Her book, Emotional Terrorism, is interesting as it documents not only her art but also something much more. It's a snapshot of a time over thirty years ago when the world was being turned upside down. Unfortunately it was by market forces, the free enterprise economy and the conservative Right and, of course, things have never been quite the same since.

John Serpico

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