The Common or Vulgar Verb
Philip Gross, Jacqueline Saphra and Heather Phillipson join Ian McMillan to discuss what kind of writing gets called 'vulgar'.
What kind of writing and behaviour gets called 'vulgar' and how does 'vulgar' relate to the word 'common'? The Verb explores the power of both words: their power to hurt and shame, the way they help, hinder and enlighten us - and asks whether we can do without them.
Poets Philip Gross, Jacqueline Saphra, Heather Phillipson (the next artist to be curating the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square) and writer Cathy Rentzenbrink join Ian McMillan.
Producer: Faith Lawrence
Presenter: Ian McMillan
Jacqueline’s collection ‘All My Mad Mothers’ was nominated for the T.S.Eliot Prize and her second collection ‘Dad, Remember you are Dead’ (Nine Arches) will be published in the autumn. Jacqueline is interested in the way the world ‘vulgar’ is used, and who uses it. She reads her commission for The Verb called ‘Uck’, which reaches for ‘uh’ sounds to explore the way ‘vulgar’ evokes the body and the bodily. Jacqueline’s play ‘The Noises’ was performed earlier this year – a drama told from the perspective of a dog.
Philip has won many of the major awards in British poetry, from the National Poetry Competition to the T.S. Eliot Prize, and has published twenty collections, including four for children. ‘Dark Sky Park’ (Otter-Barry) is poetry of the natural world for young people and was nominated this year for the CLiPPA award; its poems delight in all kinds of language, including common names for the tardigrade (which is often called water-bear or moss-piglet). Philip is a Quaker and finds much to celebrate in the word ‘common’ including the idea of common ground (particularly the shared space of Quaker silence), common decency, and common wealth. Philip’s new poetry collection will be published next year by Bloodaxe.
Cathy’s first book ‘The Last Act of Love’ was (Picador) shortlisted for The Wellcome Prize and The Portico Prize – her most recent is ‘A Manual for Heartache’ , ‘a look at sorrow, anguish, despair, loss and how to try to live with the knowledge that the world can be a cruel place’. ‘Dear Reader’ - a book about the comfort and joy of books themselves will be published next year. Cathy contributed an essay to the anthology of working class writing called ‘Common People’ ( edited by Kit de Waal) in which she explored the status of darts and its role in her life – for The Verb she dives deep into the idea of ‘common’ things to get the root of the word’s perjorative power.
Heather is an award-winning artist and a poet. In this programme she reads from her new collection ‘Whip-Hot & Grippy’ (Bloodaxe) which merges language register, and rejoices in the flow of language as it picks up detritus from the internet on all its platforms. Through the merging of worlds and bodies, Heather’s poems explore what it means to live in the world today, and particularly what is means to live alongside animals. Heather is the next artist to be commissioned for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square – she argues for the power and potential of the word vulgar, describing it as an ‘eruption’ analogous to the ‘eruption’ of a poem.