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Purple Porn, Psycho Punk and Paranoid Pratfalls

Updated: Dec 13, 2023


There has been a great deal on the news lately about poets and their scandals, plus a series on the secret lives of some of the better ones. People seem shocked that poets have lives away from the page, in between the sheets. If poets went to bed with their Horlicks every night would they write more poems, or fewer? I suspect fewer, but even if they wrote more, would they be any good?

Maybe all this poetry in the breeze is what inspired me to look again through my own collection of poems, dating back to 1976. Of 200-ish poems in my “collection”, around 50 are punk songs (and one country & western), several are long, meandering rants, and quite a few are excruciating paeans to loves long forgotten. If I’m generous, about 20-30 are “decent”, another 20-30 not bad - enough for a collection? No. But it might be interesting to use some of them as part of my memoirs, as illustrations of my mental state...

Although most of the poems must remain private, it’s interesting scrolling through to see how my preoccupations changed. The early ones, from the 1970s, are all vivid rural imagery; no surprise there, as I lived on Pennine moors. Then, in 1980 we moved to the “backstreets”, just as I hit adolescence, so there are a large number of angry anarchist rants. After leaving home and ending up in someone’s cellar I wrote a number of odd pieces which make me wonder how close to madness I really was; yet these are intersperse with tender odes and sad, wistful songs to my first love.

Leaving Yorkshire gave my poetry fresh impetus; I started to write more about other people, other lives. I used the imagery of the city and revelled in its alienation. I fell in love, again and again, and sometimes acted appallingly; yet politically I was holier-than-thou. Although most of my poems are about me (naturally) I have touched on other subjects: Chernobyl, Dunblane, 9/11 (admittedly, usually the poem is about how these impinged on me). There are a large number in which alcohol is mentioned in reverential terms and a greater number which wallow in measures of angst-ridden self-pity.

Sometimes I’ve revisited a subject, perhaps uncertain that I did it justice first time round; for instance there are two poems in which a night security guard wanders round City offices. I just like the imagery, the torch-light playing over empty desks, the lonely and broken man at the centre of corporate finance. (Sorry any security guards out there, but I was one once...)

Since the mid-nineties the number of poems I’ve penned per year has dropped, to the extent that between 2005 and 2009 I didn’t write any poems whatsoever; unless you count Fire Horses, into whose text I tried to suffuse poetic imagery. Another thing since 2005 is that I’m now a father, and for some reason haven’t used my children in poems. Maybe I’m saving them up for something special.

So: at parties I used to call myself a poet, and quote remembered segments of my own work and that of poets I liked (Yeats, mainly), but in 30 years I’ve written around 200 poems and songs, less than 10 a year; if I cut these down mercilessly, maybe 30 are decent. One poem a year over 30 years - is that a respectable amount? I guess it depends on the quality of the poems. Maybe I’ll put some up on my webpage so you, my imaginary friend, can judge for yourself...

Oh – and if I was to offer a title to this imaginary anthology, what might it be? How about “Purple Porn, Psycho Punk and Paranoid Pratfalls...”

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