The Necessity of Alcohol for Literature

 

Many writers stretching back hundreds of years have always held in high regard their alcoholic choices. As Hemingway describes in ‘A Moveable Feast’:
‘In Europe then we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also as a great giver of happiness and well being and delight. […] it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary…’
For them it kept time moving simultaneously slowly and quickly, and however heavy the hangover might be the next day, they wouldn’t say no to the next drink that came to them.

 

It was that opportunity to socialise with either their closest companions or the next stranger that would walk into the bar, to talk and act with unstable freedom that otherwise wouldn’t occur under sober circumstances. It is then up to the skilled writer to then extract these details in a hungover state, note them down and manage to abstain just for a brief period in order to craft a piece of writing.

 

This leads them to a key component of writing that alcohol unconsciously teaches them: research. In P. J. O‘Rourke’s words: ‘I like to do my principal research in bars, where people are more likely to tell the truth or, at least, lie less convincingly than they do in briefings and books.’ It is not only in the socialising where they gather stories or information, but the inebriated gaps in memory can be later retrieved by those who were there to witness the occasion. On the other hand, gaps present the writer with the capacity to interpret the situation using another important component: the imagination.

 

Notable writers such as Bukowski, Kerouac, and Welsh have written extensively on alcohol (among other debaucheries), almost to the point of dependence. It must always be kept in mind that there is always the risk of alcoholic capitulation, but it is a risk that, if kept in check, is more than worth its troubles. It is almost inescapable with its inter-connected links to other pleasurable outlets such as eating, gig-going and sporting events, and it’s there because it enhances the experience through unbridled concentration towards those aspects. To tenuously link Blake, it temporarily unshackles those ‘mind forg’d manacles’ of sobriety and allows us to forget about responsibilities large or miniscule.

 

Now it would be a stretch to suggest that all of us should be drunk all the time, otherwise nothing (especially writing) would ever get done; we’d be enjoying ourselves too much to ever write down the tale. It is with a balance that many of the greatest works of literature have appeared. One such example, with which I sign off this essay with, is Lord Byron’s ‘Don Juan’, in which he writes:

 

Man, being reasonable, must get drunk;
The best of life is but intoxication:
Glory, the grape, love, gold, in these are sunk
The hopes of all men, and of every nation;
Without their sap, how branchless were the trunk
Of life’s strange tree, so fruitful on occasion!
But to return,–Get very drunk; and when
You wake with headache, you shall see what then.

 

22/05/17 – Manchester

The atrocity that occurred in Manchester Arena last night was not solely an attack on the people at the concert – mainly children – but an attack on culture. Despite this tragedy, it was great to see the community of Manchester and emergency services coming together to support the victims of the attack.

As two of our founders are from the Manchester area, and the other two having a deep affinity for the city and its culture, we thought it fitting to make two poetic tributes to Manchester and the victims of the attack:

The city we love –
A beacon of hope –
Forcing light onto those eyes
of the weak

~ Joshua Cialis

My country is lost
in a whirl of attack.
Where we are headed
nobody knows, but
a spirit together
out of chaos grows

~ Joshua Cialis

Foxtrot Uniform’s thoughts today will we with the families and friends of all those affected.

 

Of Cats and Men

‘In ancient times cats were worshipped as Gods; they have not forgotten this.’ – Terry Pratchett.

 Cats and men have almost always been a taboo subject; men are associated with dogs. Man and dog have bonded through the ages through the masculine-centric hobby of hunting – dogs are, after all, man’s best friend. For some men at least. This post presents a contradiction to the idea that masculinity relies upon love for dogs.

To name but a few male literary figures who were inspired by their cats:

Ernest Hemmingway – Pictured Above. Hemmingway was famously known for his love of cats, and coined the saying ‘one cat just leads to another’.

William S Burroughs – His house was littered with cats, similarly to Hemmingway. His last recorded diary entry before he died expressed the pure love he felt for his cats: ‘Pure love. What I feel for my cats present and past.’

Edgar Allan Poe – He adored his tortoiseshell cat, Catterina, who used to sit on his shoulder and watch him write. Catterina also kept Poe’s wife, Virginia, company whilst she was dying of tuberculosis.

T.S. Elliot – Having written an entire book of poetry on cats, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, he owned many felines himself. Those most notable were called Jellylorum, Wiscus, and George Pushdragon.

Jack Kerouac – Aside from being a free-spirited Beat pioneer, Kerouac was also a self-proclaimed cat lover. The death of his favourite feline, Tyke, was documented in his 1962 novel Big sur.

Charles Bukowski – Bukowski famously declared ‘In my next life I want to be a cat.’ The gentler side of his personality is revealed through the book On Cats, which offers his musings upon these beloved felines.

More men should be able to embrace their inner ‘cat-man’ like the writers above, whether for personal reasons or purely to spite gender normativity and the constraints of masculinity.  I leave you with a final quote:

‘What greater gift than the love of a cat?’ – Charles Dickens

 

 

Jade.

 

The Importance of Creative Writing in Politics

 

There is a General Election coming up in Britain and at Foxtrot Uniform are very interested in poetry that questions the Establishment and status quo so political poetry is important to us. There are clearly two straight choices in this election: the hope of the state working for everyone in society, or the stability of working in the Government’s interests. Throughout the campaign period we’ll be given lots of information telling us reasons to vote for one party or the other, but one piece of information we are rarely given is literary views, or views from within popular culture. Creative Writing has been so important in the past to influence public opinion. Think of the scathing satires on parliament such as Gulliver’ Travels, or the woe of World War One poets, the anti-establishment writing of the Beat Generation, or the political music – for lyric is definitely poetry – of Bob Dylan and Billy Bragg but in recent years political works have been rarely published.

Creative writing is, as Wordsworth stated, ‘Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings’. It is these ‘powerful feelings’ that can help to influence our voting choices. Poetry and prose have helped to kick start and fuel revolutions and protests: from P. B. Shelley’s ‘The Mask of Anarchy’ and Blake’s ‘The French Revolution’, to Whitman’s ‘To a Foil’d European Revolutionaire’ or Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’. In fact, the influence of some poets has been so feared that poems have been censored to prevent their message being spread. Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ was the subject of an obscenity trial in 1957 as it was believed by the State that the poem could influence young Americans to liberate themselves both politically and sexually. ‘Howl’ calls for us to cast away the

‘Three old shrews of fate the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar the one eyed shrew that winks out the womb and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden threads of the craftsman’s loom’

 

These are all obvious metaphors for average American life, and being told to cast them away is controversial and revolutionary. However, the Judge presiding over the poem’s trial ruled that the poem does have ‘literary and social merit’ and therefore, was important as a piece of text that might influence young Americans. In fact, the poem – along with Kerouac and Burroughs’ texts – kick-started the Beat Generation, a revolution that liberated the youth of America.

 

However, creative writing has lost its influential capacity. Writers – and musicians – are scared to offend and do not publish political poetry so much. Kate Tempest is one poet whose poetry is politically influential. Other writers, however,  may find that publishers are generally scared to hurt sales figures so are not overly keen to publish controversial or politically charged pieces of writing. Yet, here at Foxtrot Uniform you can expect to see controversial poetry and prose which questions where we are going as a world. So, get out there and explore the influential politically charged poetry that is published and write some of your own to influence your peers in this upcoming election.

By Joshua Cialis