Poet profiles: Ruth Aylett’s poetry has that rare combination of political punch with acute delivery. She tells The Poets’ Republic why poetry needs to be at the vanguard of cultural life
What was it about the aims of The Poets’ Republic that made you submit your work for consideration?
I like its focus on taking poetry outwards. My husband’s great grandfather was a farmer living in North Wales who was also a bard – not the white-sheet-eistedfodd kind but the routine contributor of poetry to the community, which was what bards did in that time and place. It’s easier to play this role in a small village with a long cultural tradition of everyday poetry than in our larger-scale globalised world, but that is not an excuse for abandoning effort. The aim of The Poets’ Republic of “poetry that is irreverent, provocative and alive to great public debates” is one I want to support.
“Poetry used to be the voice of the people. How can we regenerate people’s understanding of, and enthusiasm for, poetry as a vehicle for social change? Taking poetry out of its box and into the world must be the way to go. Spoken word has a vital role to play in doing this, though I feel that the heat and passion of slams attracts a specific rather than general audience.
“We need to find other forms of spoken word as well. Some poets are rightly exploring the associated use of media, music and film in particular. And we need to articulate our common experiences, good and bad, to show people that poetry expresses all of their inner voices from the intensely personal to the completely social.
“What poetry can do is to crystallise feelings, images, ideas and arguments in a way that sticks in the mind, encourage people who are in struggle, and move those on the fringes to take action. To play this role though it has to be out there: spoken, written where people can hear and see. When a poem is an integral part of a speech at a demonstration, we’ll know we have begun to succeed
What one other poet would you recommend to our readers?
I admire Tony Harrison’s ability to write political poetry that rises above mere sloganising, especially in conjunction with film. He pioneered what we now call poetry film with ‘V’ and ‘The Philosophers’ Banquet’. And his piece ‘A Cold Coming’ commissioned and printed by the Guardian in 1991 (the first Iraq war) is a quintessential example of poem as politics.
Who should submit work to The Poets’ Republic?
Anyone writing good pieces that fit its aims and purpose. Over to you…
In what public space or media would you most like your work to appear?
City buses; Daily Record; in someone’s speech to a mass demo at Glasgow Green.
What is the best piece of writing advice you have been given so far?
‘Write a poem a week. Start now. Keep going’ – Jo Bell’s 52 project.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Research computing and robotics at Heriot-Watt University Care for my father, shout at the tele, read books, dig the allotment.
Where can we find you online?
www.macs.hw.ac.uk/~ruth/writing.html and on twitter as ruthaylett
Any upcoming gigs or events?
Not since I did Edge of Infinity last November. Always open to offers – I really enjoy reading.