Updated: Nov 4, 2020
Nathan Evans talks us through a playlist to accompany his new poetry collection.
1. Sailing By, Walter Heller & His Orchestra
With political sea-change threatening to flood our shores, I could think of nothing better than the theme tune to Radio 4’s Shipping Forecast to sample for our trailer.
2. The Times They Are a-Changin’, Bob Dylan
Put systems in place against it
all you like but our future will download
in the night and, waking, we’ll find
‘Admit that the waters around you have grown and accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone.’ Bob seems to reference King Cnut in the title-track to his 1964 album; the change of which he sings is welcome. 55 years on, I reference Dylan in the title poem of the collection, but I’m not so certain about the way times are a-changin’.
3. Mercy Mercy Me, Marvin Gaye
Microbes with whom we got on just fine for
Millennia are getting ideas: it’s too darn hot in
—Mass Mortality Event
‘This overcrowded land, how much more abuse from man can she stand?’ sang Marvin in 1971, months after Greta Thunberg’s mum was born. What’s extraordinary isn’t that we’d heard of climate crisis back then, but that we’re still not listening. And the mass extinction keeps on rolling.
4. Earth Intruders, Björk
Chaos capes her shoulders, ‘You’re sure?’
‘I need a change,’ sighs Gaia from the chair.
Catching her eye in the mirror,
Chaos knows there will be more.
—Gaia Goes to the Hairdresser
In Greek myth, Gaia was the personification of Earth (created from Chaos). I imagine Gaia recreating herself via environmental Armageddon (at Chaos’ hair salon). I’m not entirely certain what Björk is singing about, but her ‘turmoil’ and ‘carnage’ sound suitably apocalyptic.
5. Running the World, Jarvis Cocker
cream of the crop
siloed in city highrises
‘Did you hear… that the cream cannot help but always rise up to the top? Well I say, Shit floats.’ And, thirteen years after Jarvis did, it’s still as pertinent, the neo-liberal myth still as persistent.
6. Anarchy in the UK, Sex Pistols
Another forty years on—in London
not Berlin—we too dance decadent on
the precipice of a continent. As DJs segue,
our limbs find release in Anarchy…
The night after that ‘historic’ vote in 2016, I was working on one of Duckie’s ‘historic’ events: when the Readers Wifes played the Sex Pistols to end their set, let’s just say it was cathartic. ‘Your future dream has sure been seen through,’ Johnson et al.
7. Lavender Song, Ute Lemper
The idea came from Blue Peter: I conspired
with a cotton-coiffed grandmother to gather
fabric and fill it with the flower cadavers
you nosed through cheap wrapping paper.
—A Touch of Lavender
The second half of the collection covers sea-changes of a more personal nature— coming out, in this poem. ‘We’re not afraid to be queer and different,’ sings Ute in this Cabaret Song, banned by the Nazi regime. Am I the only one who thinks the time we’re now living in has echoes of Weimar Berlin?
8. I Rise, Madonna
I heard their silence
before I saw them
like lava flowing
past my front garden
tacet protest more potent
than a piper’s summons
we moved on the mountain
—They Shall Fall for Grenfell
I live a few hundred metres from Grenfell Tower and the monthly silent protest goes past my door. The last track from Madonna’s last album was accompanied by a video of footage from international protest movements. ‘Freedom’s what you choose to do with what’s been done to you’. Easy for her to say, sure. But it’s a message to inspire.
9. The Only Way Is Up, Yazz & The Plastic Population
plastic skins sweat into
plastic clothing churned by
plastic machines ejaculating
plastic semen impregnating
plastic oceans eaten in
plastic fish-gut shat down
plastic toilets upcycled as
plastic sky-fill pissing
plastic rivers drawn up
—The Plastic Population
This was a huge hit when I was a teen. The title of this poem tips a wink to the band behind it. ‘We may not know where our next meal is coming from but with you by my side I’ll face what is to come.’ We take strength from each other in these trying times.
10. Sister I’m a Poet, Morrissey
When I was young and not yet me, I crawled carpet
crab-like, stood soft-bellied to life’s sea, swaying
with its sympathies. Then my first shell was fitted.
—This Charmless Man
A little self-depreciation to end: Morrissey was master of it, until he metamorphosed into a massive twat. The title of this poem subverts that of an early The Smiths song. The poem is about someone who calcifies to the hard-right in later life. ‘And is evil just something you are, or something you do?’ Jury’s out on that.