'Presidents Club' by Shirley-Anne Kennedy is Poem of the Week
The new Write Out Loud Poem of the Week is ‘Presidents Club’ by Shirley-Anne Kennedy. It’s a topical poem, and each stanza begins with the refrain: “I hoped we had left it all behind.” Poetry is in her blood: her father turned his poems into ditties, and her grandfather sold his poems as song-lyrics in pubs to help support his family. She is an ardent fan of open-mic poetry, and is a former co-organiser of Write Out Loud Middleton, and of Kultura in Todmorden. Shirley-Anne is currently studying creative writing at the University of Bolton.
What got you into writing poetry?
Listening to poetry being read to me when I was a small child and when I was old enough reading it for myself. My father would turn his poems (he never wrote them down) into little ditties, and my sister and I would sing along with them. This in turn made me want to write my own poems. My parents encouraged me. My father would fascinate me with tales of how my grandfather had helped to support his family in the depression between the two world wars by writing poetry. Apparently, he had sold his poems as song lyrics which were printed on broadsheets and sung in the local pubs at the weekend. My own writing took a big turn in 1972 when I discovered The Mersey Sound. I was only 11 or 12 at the time and it was like a whole new world had opened up.
How long have you been writing?
I started scribbling in notebooks when I was in my teens. My father was in the army and we moved “back home” to the north around the same time. My parents were originally from Rochdale and we moved to Heywood, a nearby town. The area was bustling with creativity in the 1970s. I saw Adrian Henri perform and he was so inspiring. I stopped writing for many years and took it back up again when I became a carer for my husband after he suffered an accident. I was confined to the house for a lot of the time and it was a lifesaver. In 2013 I joined Touchstones Creative Writing Group in Rochdale and Langley Writers in Middleton. I entered my poem ‘Shadow Hunter’ into a competition run by the Rochdale Co-op as part of the Rochdale Literature and Ideas festival where it was highly commended. In 2015 I decided to study creative writing at the University of Bolton where I am in my third year and having a ball. I hope to do a Masters next.
Do you go to any open-mic nights?
I love open-mic nights! I used to co-host Write Out Loud Middleton with Eileen Earnshaw and Kultura in Todmorden with Anthony Costello. Amongst my favourites are The Bards from the Baum in Rochdale, Bolton and Marsden Write Out Loud and Just Write in Bury. Though I have not had the chance to get along to many recently I intend for that to change in 2018 and I am hoping to visit as many as I can.
What’s your favourite poet/poem?
It is impossible to say. I absolutely love poetry and different poems for different reasons. Currently I am inspired by Tony Walsh’s poems ‘A Girl, Like, Y’Know’ and ‘Posh Things’ which are ace. Anne Caldwell’s poem ‘After kissing him out into the night’ and Ben Wilkinson’s poem ‘First Glance’ are brilliant. While Anne Sexton’s poem ‘Red Roses’ and Les Murray’s ‘The Cows on Killing Day’ leave me wrecked and wanting to change the world.
You're cast away on a desert island. What's your luxury?
A solar powered Kindle filled with all my favourite poetry and fiction. Now that would be bliss.
by Shirley-Anne Kennedy
I hoped we had left it all behind.
Decades since I crossed the factory floor
when chants of ‘get your tits out for the lads’
bounced off the nude pics pinned to the walls.
Blinding myself to the gestures and grunts,
the stares and leers, the very real fears.
The “I’m not taking orders from a woman.”
I hoped we had left it all behind
with the men who would rather fuck over
than partner someone who beat the odds,
though the rewards are always less.
Less wages, minus the bonus
though guaranteed the advances.
The “wrong time of the month is it love?”
I hoped we had left it all behind
yet no matter how far we travel
it survives and closely follows.
Determined to show us it’s the boss.
Flexing power, keeping us in our place.
Demonstrating things will never change.
The “they were paid a decent wage.”