Letters by Greenberg – Nathan A Thompson

February 2nd, 2013 by

Letters by Greenberg was born out of the Noah Baumbach film, Greenberg, starring Ben Stiller and Rhys Ifans in which its namesake writes beautifully insulting diatribes to corporations. I write to anyone I think needs to check themselves that week. We’ve all wanted to tell Britney to stop wearing bad weaves to get attention cos we all know she’s got enough bank and medication to know a decent hairdresser when she sees one. We’ve all wanted to tell Alicia Keys to stop being such a smug married with Swiss shady Beatz and I’m pretty sure we’ve all wanted to rant at another self important journalist who thinks he/she can define a genre/event/human being in the space of 20 words (ahem). 

Dear Nathan,

First of all we’re seriously wondering if it is possible to non-endorse someone on LinkedIn because I’m pretty sure proclaiming performance poetry is dead is not within the remits of being a “professional performance poet”/performance poetry educator worthy of  having his “method of teaching…picked up by the National Literacy Trust who liked it so much they made it available to 30,000 schools.” WOMP.

I like quoting: quoting proves what you said beforehand. Which leads me to wonder how it is possible that a man with this much experience with words failed to remember this when he marketed himself as a performance poet, wrote an article on the joys of slams in The Guardian 4 months ago and then informed us quite adamantly that “Poetry is dying. Actually, it’s pretty dead already for all intents and purposes” in The Independent this week. Now Nathan, we’re all inclined to change our minds, but it is unusual, even for someone of a highly artistic nature and possibly living off the high of e numbers and whatever allows poets to write all night, for the poet’s perrogative to be to change their mind about poetry itself…whilst on the job…literally mid picking up their payslip in the school office.

So maybe Nathan, the pay just hasn’t been that gravy this month, happens to the best of them, most established poets top up the love of what they do with some steady educational work. Times are hard and all that and it is entirely forgivable and permissible (and all those understanding adages) that you would feel it may be necessary to supplement the lack of funds with an inflammatory argument contradicting everything you stand for. Oh and everything you have said previously and most surprisingly, everything you have been earning money from on what seems to have been a regular basis for quite some time.

What’s more surprising however is how you’ve managed to shit where you eat so spectacularly when the article itself is so unfortunate a read that your future as a journalist is a little shaky at the very least. To put all your eggs in one, poorly structured basket, is kind of crazy/brave/stupid when you’ve largely represented yourself as as the kind of person who hates performance poetry so much he has dedicated a whole site (slampoetryworkshops.co.uk) to implementing it in the lives of as many people as possible. So I guess all that asking of how-can-I-help-your-school-facilitate-poetry-in-a cool-and-contemporary-way whilst melding “T. S. Eliot and Eminem” on the website is over? And I suppose all that training you did with Peter Khan, one of the god-daddies of “Team Poetry Slam” and leader of the Spoken Word Educator programme at Goldsmiths, is all but a distant, once lucrative memory? And I guess that Teaching Poetry course you completed courtesy of poetry giant Apples & Snakes was just a waste of time? In the meantime all of the wonderful poets and poetry fans we know are asking how can performance poetry be dead if “Poetry’s taught in classrooms, listened to in pubs, read at weddings/funerals, jotted in cards” (Luke Wright – shout out for the Twitter wisdom) So how can you believe performance poetry is dead when you’re the one who seems to insist on teaching it and it being taught?

We know that newspapers seem to be more enamoured than ever with publishing articles from traditionally marginalised people, in this case a performance poet as opposed to Carol Ann Duffy, and have them saying the most right wing/contrary-to-what-you-would-expect-from-them things possible, but Nathan, oh Nathan, why did you do it to yourself? I hope you have the inside info on a rapidly growing market for teachers who publically express their disgust for their own subject else you might be living off the e numbers aforementioned and a couple of scratch cards for the rest of your poetry loving/hating days.

To find out more about our comrade in forward thinking poetry, i.e.: making money out of performance poetry whilst hating it and teaching it, you can find him on Twitter or download some of his work here  which sits happily alongside poets of more traditional standing such as Dean Atta, Bridget Minamore, and Catherine Brogan who actually love what they do. Oh and to see brilliant performance poetry in action that makes me people happy (rather than delusional) join us on Feb 12th.