Holden Caulfield

As poet Holden Caulfield keeps ramming home - Manchester is the most important city in the world. It's this city which provides the inspiration for his forthcoming collection of poetry entitled "Manchester Meander" and while you'll be able to spot the local reference points it's a body of work which has translated well in both New York and Hong Kong.

Caulfield scrubs away the grime and lets the words flow out and realizes how important  Manchester is in terms of democratic revolt. How many of you know for example that Marx lived on Oxford Street for a time and that Engel live round the corner? Many of you won't and it's these gems of information that Holden Caulfield expresses so eloquently throughout his poetry and indeed this interview. If you can't see the beauty - maybe it's because you're not looking hard enough.

Q: Going back to the Anti Royal Variety Show where we first saw you perform your poetry. What we got was that you were trying to put across images that you wouldn't necessarily read in the paper or watch on TV. Is that a fair assumption?
A: Enid says that poetry is very ordinary language, but it brings out extraordinary things. I'm not a great user of sonnets, but I can if I want, and I think to be simplistic and to be honest to yourself is more important that anything else. I also think that there's a great beauty around us all the time and were not looking hard enough - even within the ugliness there's beauty in there. You might hear different lines in different pieces which are pretty freaky or pretty scary, but you'll usually find it followed by a line that recognizes the beauty.

It's a lot of observations about the changes in the city and it's not just this city. I played in New York last year and I did some of the Mancunian Meander and the point I always make is that a City is Cities. They all have similar problems and personalities and I think we can all identify with what I'm saying whether you're from Manchester or Mongolia.

Q: So even though its coming straight out of the streets of Manchester and your poems are steeped in local references, it still has that wide universal appeal. Have you lived in Manchester all your life?
A: I've lived in Manchester in the sense that my family are from here. It's been my base all through my life whereby even though i've lived all over the world in different places - Europe, Middle East, South East Asia, America - I always come back here because Manchester's the most important city in the world. I firmly believe that and it's something that inspires me all the time, its something that no-one can ever take away from us. We created ideals and ideologies and struggled all the time and because of the nature of the city the small man gets shat on!!!

The social history of Britain and Manchester really interests me because there's so much that were not aware of. People aren't aware of what happened at Peterloo and people aren't aware of how important Manchester is in terms of democratic revolt and the strives for democracy. How many people know that Marx lived on Oxford Street? How many people know that Engel's lived round the corner? How many people know that they wrote the Communist Manifesto in the middle of....yer know what I mean.

There's lots that goes on, which is hidden behind a platoon of rain or dullness or grit or grime. I want to scrub away a bit of the grime and let the words come out because there's a lot of interest in what we've achieved here, plus there's social phenomena as well.

People say I'm angry about things and I am. Manchester, I love the place, but it angers me to f**k as well, the way it's made out to be a trendy cosmopolitan city. Why do we try and do that? Why do we try and emulate Milan and Paris when we've got our own identity which is much more richer - the point is were cities with our own unique ideas and cultures.

Q: We keep mentioning it with each respective artist / band from Manchester, but it is important if you live here in the city. This idea that Manchester is being marketed through these Yuppie TV programmes is creating false images of a City which goes far deeper than a few Cocktail Bars and Loft apartments.
A: It f**ks me off big style. It's taking certain aspects of Manchester that designers and graphic artists want to portray. I've not got a problem with artists, graphic designer, architects or these new interior designers...but it sells the city if that's all it is. Even in the loft apartments everyone wants to be working class - Mash & Air - it's bangers and mash and it's taking it back to our culture.

And the way Manchester is sold is totally wrong. It's come here and buy. Or come here and shop. It says come straight in and go straight out. It doesn't say go in the suburbs where the quality is and the richness and the real people are. Because there's not that many real people left anymore, because were too attached to the labels and the commercial aspects of things instead of what we should be interested in, which is people.

Relationships. Friends. Guys walking on the streets - we should be connecting with them. Not walking round thinking you're cool cos' you're wearing Nike!!!

Q: All the cultural landmarks in Manchester are being ripped down. The Salford Lad Clubs through to the Hacienda. And they're just replacing it with City Centre Apartments. As someone who comes from the previous generation it must be even more heartbreaking to see these places demolished?
A: I'm working on this thing at the moment about the whole idea that Manchester has totally been taken over by architects, designer, media people where Sun drenched Piazza's and shade less colonnades where silver furniture sits alone in the rain. We've tried to create this cosmopolitan vibe by sticking silver furniture outside and then it pisses down and it gets soaked. And bars where nothing really ever happens and they only ever sell drinks in half's.

You have different project teams that are trying to sell Manchester in different ways. So the first project team is the advertisers who's role is to sell Manchester without the rain. So they employ rain dancers and they get a massive umbrella that stretches from Audenshaw and Hyde and covers the whole of the city so that no rain can come in. And then eventually the final thing is that brick by brick and stone by stone they take down the Pennines because that's the reason for our rain.

And it's how the media do it. Granada TV, Key 103, BBC selling Manchester with a stupid f**king grin  where everything's bright and everything's pretty. And you can all look this good if you shop in this city. They sell King Street paved with gold and there's no fat people or no-one with spots. It's f**king bollocks and it does my head it. It's been taken over to make money and what there doing it tearing down beautiful facades and replacing them with Crosby Homes.

Q: So what do you think of what they've done with the Hacienda? They rip it down and then sell it on the premise that it used to be the Hacienda.
A: I always thought the Hacienda was massively massively over-rated. I've had this discussion with my mates and I ask them to name me one tune you heard at the Hacienda and they can't. They can't because it was a youth club and we just used to go and sit down stairs. I remember one night me and my mate Carl were sat at the bar and I said what's on up stairs. He says "Oh, just some New York bird". It was like shall we go up or have the weed. It was Madonna upstairs and we just couldn't be bothered...to be honest with you I'd still probably do the same thing now.

Q: Poets tend to come at it from two directions. The classical direction of just being brought up reading books from day one and starting writing poetry at a very young age. Or perhaps the more exciting direction of getting into it through lyrics. Who was your inspiration?
A: Lyrics were a way of voicing dis-approval or dis-enchantment. In a lot of ways the reason I started writing was due to people like Bowie and thinking how did he get these lyrics together like that which sounded so cool. The rapture and delight in language and the way words are constructed. I think people forget that lyric actually means poem, but getting back to the 21st century thing lyric sounds cooler than poem.

And punk was really important to me because I was a poor working class kid growing up in Moss Side, Fallowfield, Rusholme and places like that. Six of us in the house all battling to get on. It was a family thing and very Irish. There were lots of different opportunities to hear voices when we went to loads of Irish Events and also the tradition of just sitting round chatting round the fire. I'm not harping on about being working class, but we had a black and white tele up till about 10 years ago and it wasn't on that much when we did get it.

It's weird then because you start sharing time with people who are your heroes. Like the Hacienda I used to be chatting in there with Shelley (Buzzcocks) all the time and that led onto the New Order thing and the Joy Division thing. But from that a lot of other voices were coming out, poets like Lemn Sissay and John Cooper Clarke. And Lemn's a hero in many ways.

Q: "Men's Morning" is the book you currently have out. Very much visual commentary but perhaps a little different from what we've heard at the Anti Royal Variety Show. Would you like to take us through it?
A: Men Morning is about a group of men who meet up every Friday and go to the local recreation centre and participate in sports together. I've been going to Moss Side Leisure Centre since I was 14, which means I've been going there for 22 years, and from the first time I went to the last time I went there every time I go there I have a brilliant experience.

It's just the most wonderful place in the world where men are naked so they're all equal and there is everyone in there from actors to drug dealers. It's a massive sanctuary from growing up in the city where everything's a f**king smack in the gob and where every corner you turn there is just shit. At the end of the week you can just sit there and cleanse yourself physically and mentally. I think guys get a bad press really when they say that we just sit around talking tits and arse and we don't really. In this place over the 22 years I've never heard a tits and arse conversation once.

"Men's Morning" takes the viewpoint from two main characters. Charles who is an old Jamaican and Patrick who is an old Irish guy and it just shows the similarities between the immigrants of Jamaica and Ireland. A lot of us are second generation and it takes the very idea of being second generation and coming over.

Q: And in a way what you've tried to do is take it back to the community through your publishing house Cheers Ta. For any of the budding poets who read Designer Magazine would you like to tell them a bit more about it?
A: It's not just about my writing. Its about reading being a way out and it's about writing being a way out. Reading's really important to me and fiction isn't just an amusement or entertainment or Coronation Street or something like that. It means so much more in terms of cathartic entertainment and issuing dire warnings about things and in terms of seeing your life in parallel to someone else's. In terms of an actual relationship between you and the author or you and the poet, because it's a very unique in the way that you share their space and you share their mind space. I just think it's an essential part of life and I know what it does for me in terms of keeping my head together and in terms of being creative and artistic.

I think that opportunity should be spread and that's what Cheers Ta is about. It's about putting on events, publishing new authors and gives them opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have. It moves away from the traditional poetry way where you send your stuff off to magazines, if the editor likes you get published and then other people see it. I don't like it that way because I find it very academic and you find a lot of the people putting stuff in is ex English students.

I'm really lucky in what was once a hobby is now my job. Very few people get to do what they enjoy doing. I say I'm lucky but then you can't just be lucky, there's a lot of hard work involved. Over the past 20 odd years I've worked on thousands of poems and you sat there with scraps of paper working on things.

Q: When I was growing up there were bands like Manic's and then you look back to the Smiths. Massive inspirations to people. Do you think there is anyone around now who inspires people in the same way?
A: I used to hang around with the Smiths, I used to be a mate of Morrissey's. I used to work with Morrissey's old man and I came across Morrissey when he came in one night and we introduced him for the Smiths. We struck up a friendship which was a bit of a rarity with Morrissey because he didn't have many friends.

I worked with Johnny Marr in Stolen From Ivor because he worked at the Stolen From Ivor's in the Arndale. Mikey Joyce used to work in the local Irish Club with my brother selling cans so I knew him through that. And I used to score with Andy!!! All that Manchester music because I've been here and lived here is in the veins. And Morrissey's a massive inspiration for a writer. Lyrically his work is sweet, it's complete.

Looking around at people today Eminem's f**king stunning. I have to do the academic thing and I have arguments with Professors about him. I don't particularly like Eminem, but then I don't particularly like Shakespeare neither. And you can seem the similarities in terms of style, in terms of delivery, in terms of shape, in terms of poetic license and in terms of writing a sonnet and in terms of alliteration and all the poetry devices you learnt for GCSE's. Eminem's a lot more applicable to the modern day. I don't personally like him and there's lots of people who do it just as well like Public Enemy. But you can take it back before that to the Lost Poets and it keeps going back and back with this oral tradition.

Q: The "Mancunian Meander" book, which is out in September, draws on the whole industrial landscape of Manchester. For me it's what drew me in when I saw you. Again its very hard trying to explain what it's about for people who haven't seen you or read the book. But you try and explain the ideas behind it?
A: I did it in Hong Kong last year and even though there was the language barrier people could identify with the city. I think we've moved away in the sense that I prefer an Industrial Landscape to a Turner any day. I prefer driving past Stanlow to driving past a field. And it's about representing the world where we come from now.

Manchester's just lots of little villages and the Mancunian Meander is a journey around these villages. You can start in Gorton and work your way round the student corridor through to Chorlton. And a lot of it's quite cynical in a way. When I grew up in Chorlton it was places where my mates hung out and now those kids that have grown up can't afford to live there because the media has attracted the tourist who can't afford it.

When the students first start coming here in their droves around 84 / 85 I used to think f**king b**tards, but in the same breath they brought a vibrancy to the place. I grew up in Fallowfield and Moss Side and there was nothing there for a very long time and they brought stuff. But at the same time they have no respect for local people and I feel sometimes people are coming here, raping it and taking it off to London.

But it's a fact that people who come here are influenced. Look at the people who have come here over the years. Marx and Engels. Loads of people have come to this city for ideas and inspiration - writers like Peter Saville West, The Bronte Sisters, Wordsworth.

Q: Finishing off were trying to get an idea of each artists personal take on The New Wave Of New Angry. What's your take on it?
A: It's very much finding a way to express your anger and express your disenchantment and express your feelings of loss. Those feelings of political bias and unfairness. Discrimination and Separation and the divide of the rich and the poor.

It's about saying f**k this, I'm not having this no more. I'm not having this guy with a plum in his mouth making himself millions of pounds a year while i'm making peanuts and having him trying to make out he's a top person. Like I said at the beginning it's about trying to find the beauty in the individual. It's not about finding the beauty in money or finding the beauty in the kind of car you drive or the drink you drink.

Were angry because no-ones talking to each other. Everybody's too busy assessing each other and looking at what your wearing and looking at whether you're fit or not. It's not about that. It's about recognizing the individual for the beauty that they are and everyone of us are f**king brilliant. I know that sounds like a hippy saying, but I don't care.

Men's Morning" is out now
"Mancunian Meander" is out in September
For more info

Post Your Comments About
Holden Caulfield and The New Wave Of New Angry
The Designer Magazine Message Board