Sunday, 28 February 2010



Well not so much kill me as

make sure I never lived

which is pretty serious

And me I’m

taking it personally

I’ve never had any relationship with proper poetry

That world of books

those bleak shelves of flat oblongs

Its always seemed such an appealing world

With such unimpressive and unappealing people

That I couldn’t be bothered

I mean

no-one does anything

Hardly anyone makes a living from it like, say,

I do from performance poetry

Its all teaching and grants and editorships and prizes

Given each other by a insidiously incestuous bunch of mates

The sales are abject

Embarrassingly feeble for a medium which,

because of its shortness

should be perfect for this age

if only it would free itself from the

aesthetic and professional

prisons of the past

the archaic forms

the do’s and don’ts

the ivory towers

the eternal bunch of self-serving mates

the mouldering puny establishment

A gang of public-school types

A cliquing claque all convinced they’ve got the ball

They are the ball

Yet all they do is run off and sit in a

shadowed corner being very

pleased with themselves that

They’ve got the ball

They are the ball

Though it’s a battered and ragged ball

Lacking the air and roundness

The bounce

That makes any functioning ball a, well, a ball

While performance poetry is a considerably more dynamic medium

Its always right here right now

Where, if you throw yourself at it

And always believe you have much more to learn,



But I can think of a more human reason why I’ve never wanted anything to do with it

It tried to kill my Dad

Cos my Dad spent the war in Slough

His Dad was a policeman and air-raid warden

And Slough was bombed a fair bit

German bombs killed people in my Dad’s very street

While he was there

Which is close

And a few years before that

John bloody Betjeman wrote that poem

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough

And you know what?

They did

So Betjeman

And therefore poetry

[he was laureate at one stage]

Tried to bomb me into non-existence

Maybe the Germans heard him

Maybe he put Slough on the map

I doubt it, but

Whatever, he did his best to get it bombed and me

I’m taking it personally

Mind you

I’ve always quite liked Betjeman

The Cockney Amorist in particular

He was what he was

And I also like the fact he liked and admired the modernists

And got what they were trying to do

But it wasn’t what he did

Or wanted to do

So he kept getting better at what he did best

I got put me off the whole Arts Professional milieu forever

A horrible experience at an

Arts Council live literature meet

in Manchester in 99

Come to think of it, it rather blew off track my enthusiasm for performance poetry for a while

Those ghastly arts professionals who didn’t know

Who didn’t care that they didn’t know

Why was I expending so much energy to get into a world at least in part inhabited by those horrible people?

The small-minds and the snobs and their elevated nostrils?


Suddenly I

didn’t know the answer

I’d been running a really rather good poetry cabaret weekly in London for five years

Busting a gut, burning my head, fraying my nerve-ends and generally having a slightly wonky good time

Plus, I was the only person capable of running a poetry cabaret in Edinburgh at the time

The only successful one in decades

Apples and Snakes, the estab, had just abjectly, laughably failed

and yet a number of those careerist arts professionals

their nostrils in the air

wouldn’t even talk to me

and yet their only function that I could see was to receive pay cheques

so other arts professionals could persuade themselves they were doing something

and receive pay cheques themselves

One of them was so self-important she even refused to read my press pack

Full of more juicy press quotes than many established poets and performance poets have ever had

And she refused…

I was some street-level schmuck and she was in the rarefied air of the litfests

the funding people, arts council, were far less awful, they would at least listen

it was their job to

and they did

And I returned to London rather shattered by the whole immiserating event

Thinking, this is the world I’m supposedly moving in to and

Its hideous

I want none of it


fortunately i moved to Scotland and didn't have to bother with any of them


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