Seed, John

John Seed - Pictures from Mayhew

£10.95

John Seed - Pictures from Mayhew

Paperback, 171pp, 8.5x5.5ins

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Every word in this book by John Seed is drawn from Henry Mayhew's writings on London, published in the Morning Chronicle from 1849 to 1850, then in 63 editions of his own weekly paper, London Labour and the London Poor between December 1850 and February 1852, and then again in the four-volume work of the same title. From the thousands of pages of Mayhew's investigations, John Seed has selected a few hundred extracts from those passages where he attempted to record the voices of London's working people. He has cut and rearranged the source texts, and has re-set them as poetry, splitting the lines in such a way as to make them both more easily readable and less easily, or quickly read, in an attempt to get closer to the original voices. The author likens this process to a sound engineer editing a tape to try to get rid of interference or distortion.

 

"What Seed has done is edited and re-packaged some of Mayhew's writings published in The Morning Chronicle newspaper and his book London Labour and the London Poor between 1849 and 1852. He's filleted the pieces, stripping out Mayhew's own voice, in order to foreground the actual voices of a huge range of London's working people, including costermongers, ballad-sellers, coal-heavers, sweepers, thieves, prostitutes, bird sellers, seamstresses and slop sellers, sewermen and soldiers. These selected first-person accounts of working lives and conditions, which appear in much more extended form in the Mayhew pieces, have been lineated and organised into stanzas, and re-presented as a kind of street poetry. The result is a vivid and timely portrait of the sort of urban underclass that our society in 2005 is so anxious to render invisible. […] Pictures From Mayhew, then, represents a rather wonderful kind of 'found' poetry, teeming with life, noise and colour." (Gareth Twose, in Exultations and Difficulties online)

 

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