Louis Kasatkin, is founder and editorial administrator of Destiny Poets in Wakefield, England. His priors include, Poet-in-Residence at Wakefield Cathedral, seven years as president of The Black Horse Poets of Wakefield and many years as Rugby League correspondent, “The Man in the Stand" from 1983-94 for the near legendary Leeds Other Paper. A keen and critical blogger, poet and critic, Louis received the inaugural Overseas Award for Excellence---2013 by the leading Authorspress India. In conversation with Sunil Sharma about the state of British politics and letters.
Q. what does it mean to be a writer in today's Britain?
A. To be a writer in Britain today is to experience the same struggles that all writers encounter and have encountered throughout history. Without engaging the daily economic, social, cultural and emotional challenges, I feel that my creativity as a writer would be impaired to some extent and would therefore be in danger of being rendered null and void. My own personal creativity is driven by and relies upon my responses to the general conditions prevailing in contemporary society.
Q. What is your idea of Britishness?
A. My idea of Britishness is probably very different to that which is explained and categorized by prevailing doctrines and shibboleths. For me Britishness is about being rooted in locality, community, a shared mutual history, cultural practices and norms, which constitute the bases of identity, that in my case are authentically British.
Q.What is the current state of British poetry?
A. My take on the current state of poetry is that as a whole, it’s pretty unremarkable and conformist-ridden. Historically it has been led by the largely Oxbridge educated, metropolitan elites who govern, regulate and expound what is acceptable and what is shunned. Like any other creative cultural praxis, mainstream poetry tends to reflect the anodyne and impoverished state of oppositional thought and art.
Q. Why do you write poetry?
A. I write Poetry because through experience I have found it to be the most readily useful among the range of literary art forms, i.e. creative writing, essays, etc. with which to promote and encourage a love and appreciation of the literary arts in general, and of literacy in particular within schools.
Q. Does poetry matter?
A. Poetry matters only in so far that all forms of artistic endeavour and expression ought to matter. And that we as writers and poets, for instance as conscious, autonomous historical agents determine that they matter. The actual material relations of production have no actual need nor requirement for any art whatsoever, poetry least of all.
Q. In multi-cultural England, is there interaction among various groups?
A. I don't see anything that might constitute evidence in my eyes of a multicultural England nor much of any much vaunted interaction. Alas “multi-culturalism ", for me, having studied Barthes Althusser, et al, is an ideologically loaded term, a construct of the ruling elites and deployed by the usual liberally inclined cultural intelligentsia. True multi-culturalism, the active and dynamic interaction of distinctive and separate societies has always existed, one need only refer to the Mediterranean world of 2000 years ago, for instance or preceding Persian Empire et al.
Q. What do you think are the reasons of the decline of London as a world literary capital?
A. If London is perceived as having in some manner "declined" as a world literary capital, then that is to be welcomed. For those of us, in particular writers and poets here in Great Britain, the yoke of metropolitan-centered arts and culture ,particularly in financial- funding terms, remains an insurmountable impediment to allowing us to develop and achieve to the fullest extent our own artistic potential.
Q. How does recession affect liberal education and arts?
A. My view is that all economic crises are used as the jawbone of an ass by governments on behalf of the ruling elites to dampen down and quell any and all viable expressions of what they deem to be oppositional thought. Art being at the apex of human endeavour is thus the first to feel the impact of the "crisis" when in the wake of recurring crises of capitalism economic leech craft is applied to arts funding.
Q. In August 2013, you carried out a successful 15 Day hunger-strike protest against unemployment, why are things so apparently bad for writers?
A. In keeping with 90% of all practitioners of all the other art forms, musicians, actors, novelists etc, a writer/poet such as me needs a day job to keep body and soul together. Since the onset of the present globalised crisis/financial recession in 2007, those readily available day jobs have vanished. Which is brutally hard if you happen to be a regular worker and doubly so, if that job was your bulwark against the fickle and unpredictable nature of the writing /music/acting business.
Q. What are your views on the Left in British politics and the whole notion of revolution as once articulated by Marx?
A. I invariably stand on the side of the economically and socially marginalized and oppressed. I would define myself primarily as Christian and others are free to take into account my track record of activism and reach their own conclusions as to where I stand. Exactly in the same place that I have always stood, to paraphrase Martin Luther. Today that means being active in the guise of the Occupy and other contemporaneous movements that long ago superseded and evolved out of the historically moribund Left. As for failed revolutions, nothing can be said to have "failed" if in fact it has never been undertaken.
Q. Where are the contemporary equivalents of such voices as Alan Sillitoe and Raymond Williams in the present day?
A. Sillitoe and Williams are names among many other of their contemporaries from another era, whose core aspirations and objectives have yet to be realized in any meaningful and sustainable fashion. They are pioneers among many others whose history and achievements have been purloined by vacillating and ideologically conformist liberal cultural elite.
Q. What is your take on Destiny Poets and Facebook and the future for poetry in this digital age?
A. Facebook has turned out to be a marvellous and invigorating platform of opportunity, in the same way that the invention of printing was. Poetry and indeed all the other forms of creativity now exploiting social media are as secure in their own futures as they always have been. As for Destiny Poets; we have a distinctive, qualitatively differentiated mission and purpose. It is to restore and reinvigorate fundamental core values of integrity, excellence through endeavour and personal development so that the greater social goals of reversing for example the decline in standards of general literacy, etc, can begin to take place. All of that and we all get to enjoy and thrill to having some of the very finest poetry we've all longed to be part of.
Q. Hypothetically would you like to come back in a next life as a British poet?
A. I would much rather be, given my parentage, return as an Austrian or Russian Poet.
Q. Who are amongst your personal favourite writers?
A. Vargas Llosa, George Orwell, Jo Nesbo, CJ Sansom, Willy Vlautin, Philip K.Dick, Ray Bradbury.