Several members of the Laboring-Class Poets Online research group will present their recent work at the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conference in Minneapolis, MN later this month.
Gathering information for the Database is an immense and seemingly eternal task. The Database began with an informal checklist I made thirty years ago, during my doctoral research on Stephen Duck and Mary Collier, by the end of which I guess I had got a handlist of about 300 identifiably labouring-class poets. It all took a huge leap forward when the ‘Elsie’ group was formed, shortly before the millennium, to compile the six-volume Pickering and Chatto anthologies of the poetry, and we began pooling all the stuff we each had on our computers.
This posting is about a working-class writer who won’t be listed on our Database of Labouring-class Poets any time soon, even though he was a coalminer’s son and an immensely successful and popular writer (and even had an interesting link to our project). He would of course be ‘OP’, or ‘out of our period’. But more importantly my friend and colleague Graham Joyce, who died on September 9th aged 59, loudly disdained what he saw as the pretentiousness and self-absorption of poets, and indeed art writers of all sorts.
In an effort to get to know more about the technical side of this Laboring-Class Poets project, Charlotte and I recently attended a series of Digital Jumpstart workshops hosted by the Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities at Kansas University. It was an informative and surprisingly fun two days in which we learned more about Omeka and gained a greater appreciation for the work Cole has been doing.
Biographical details about each individual poet, such as birthplace, occupation, associated locations and emigration patterns, form an important structural/organizing feature of the LCPO database. One might wonder why these entry fields are necessary for a project that specifically focuses on poetry, an aesthetic medium that certain theorists would argue should be removed from any potential authorial impositions on the text and treated objectively.
In honor of Burns Night, and the terrible weather we’ve having in the midwestern United States, I post not “Auld Lang Syne,” but “A Winter Night,” available online with glossary at “Burns Country.”
A Winter Night
“Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm!
How shall your houseless heads, and unfed sides,
One of the defining features of the Labouring-Class Poet tradition is the sense of community shared between these poets. Because they were so conscious of their sense of ‘place’, both in society and geographically, common bonds formed between those from similar areas. One of the first things the LCPO Database makes apparent is these specific links: it helps scholars to group the poets from Paisley together, those from Bristol, those from Tyneside.