I’m taking YOUR NEW FAVOURITE POET to The Leicester Square Theatre in London’s West End. I’m there for 3 weeks, 22 May – 8 June on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. That’s exciting isn’t it? The show starts at 7pm and is 60 mins long. I’ve been touring it all year and it’s pretty nicely refined now.
Right, here’s the blurb. After the blurb is a new song I’ve been working on with Lora Stimson, I like it, hope you do too.
LUKE WRIGHT: YOUR NEW FAVOURITE POET
After a 25 date national tour the hit Edinburgh show finally comes to London!
Expect thigh-slapping acerbic wordplay and bawdy bar room ballads as Wright introduces you to a cast of greedy politicians and boozy ne’er-do-wells. Meet Jeremy, the public schoolboy who draws penises on everything; kung-fu fighting French copper Jean-Claude Gendarme; and witness the world’s first b-movie set in Brentwood.
“Wright is a rock’n’roll balladeer in scarlet brogues, a performer who wouldn’t look out of place marching with the Chartists, scratching at London’s underworld with Oscar Wilde or doing guest vocals with The Smiths … Rock’n’roll tour de force of performance poetry” * * * * The List
22 May – 8 June (Weds – Sat only, not 5) | 7pm | The Leicester Square Theatre, London | Click for Tickets!! or call 08448 733 433
Here’s a poem from the new show Essex Lion. It’s one of my favourites.
Houses That Used To Be Boozers
This town has its stark share
of repossessed dark lairs,
of houses that used to be boozers.
Where once we were drinking
we’re now slowly sinking
in sofas the colour of bruises.
are now minimalist rooms
where every night somebody chooses
to rest their behind
and half-silence their mind
in a slow death of sweaty-necked snoozes
in a tap-drip of box sets and docs.
But these houses they used to be buzzing
they used be busting and splitting and spitting and ripe.
These places they used to be tasteless
they used to be graceless and legless and feckless each night!
Down lop-sided streets
fact’ry workers would meet
in these houses that used to be boozers.
They’d wash the week’s slog
in the honey-dew grog
in their bawdy and dubious rouses.
Now ladies frizz hair
in the Glade Plug-in air
of these houses that used to be boozers.
So far from the funk
of the blood, sweat and spunk
when these houses were floozey-filled boozers.
When these houses were ringing with song.
And I long for the throng of that song when we thrived
in these dives with their ligging and frigging and dirt.
These hell-holes where black-hearted arseholes
would pour souls, then sing and kick heads-in till everything hurt.
Farewell Rose & Crown
for The Ship has gone down,
she’s no more for rum-infused cruises.
The mad Horse & Dray
is not bucking today
he’s muzzled as McIntyre muses.
And clatters of pewter
are taps on computers
in houses that used to be boozers.
there’s no society
houses that used to be boozers.
In cordoned-off hush
we are turning to mush
in these houses that used to be boozers,
we’re fingering phones
and we’re drinking alone
in these houses that used to be boozers.
Hurrah for Audlem. It’s a lovely village with a proper centre. The church is on a slight hill overlooking sweet little independent shops and a pub that serves way past my bedtime. The people are very nice too. Seventy of them saw fit to come to my gig, which meant we sold out. Yes, selling out the Audlem Guide and Scout Hall – I’m big time now.
The gig was one of my favourite in a long time. Mainly, I hasten to add, because I was pleased with my performance. I don’t think I fudged a single word in the first half, which is very rare indeed. In the second half I was having so much fun I don’t even remember it, but I felt on good form.
So that’s two brilliant gigs courtesy of the Chesire Rural Touring Arts Scheme. I want to do more of these. Have you got a village hall? If so, let’s do it.
I’m in the pretty little town of Tattenhall. It’s built on a slight hill, with handsome red brick buildings, a handful of pubs and restaurants and the Welsh hills distant in the background. It’s the Cheshire equivalent of my home town of Coggeshall, except it didn’t double in population during the 90s. Places like Coggeshall and Tattenhall used to be less gentrified than today, but since the 70s they’ve become more middle class as professional baby-boomers looked to move out of the cities and bring up their kids in old houses in winsome villages.
Last night I did a gig in The Barbour Institute, a kind of community hall, with plaques like this on the wall.
The gig went pretty well but as we didn’t have a mic or stage lighting I had the duel problem of not knowing where to put my hands and seeing the faces of the people I was performing to. Actually, these were not major problems but it took some getting used to. Often people who are loving the gig pull the most disconcerting expressions when they are listening. I want to do more rural touring, it seems like the sort of thing a poet should be doing – going off the beaten track, shunning theatres, exploring the bits of Britain you would otherwise never go to. So all was good, I even did an encore, which was nice.
Afterwards the organisers took me to the pub and we drank beer and agreed on everything from Beeching to punk. This is the way gigs should happen, they should be about going into a community and actually meeting people. It feels right to go to the pub with your audience and talk on level terms (rather than declaiming from the stage). There’s a movement within the arts world to get poets into theatres and making theatre shows, bringing more than just the forth wall into play. I want to go in the opposite direction, it should be about pubs, communities and the countryside.
I’m in Audlem tonight for hopefully more of the same.
To who, or whom, it may concern
verbose, composed or taciturn
a verse from which we all can learn
a verse concerning GRAMMAR!
Grammar? Huh? Yeah, don’t be dense
that thing what makes all things make sense
where us dyslexics come a cropper
Grammar I don’t do it proper!
But grammar’s not all heirs and graces
for whilst it has a Latin basis
we learn our tongue instinctively
from mum or dad or bad TV.
And some, of course, say “them”, not “those”
or dress their words in faddish clothes,
who swear blind that they “didn’t do nothing”
and other crude linguistic roughing
say “is it” not “are they” or worse
can only speak in rhyming verse,
drop commas like they’re Essex aitches -
they’re still communicative creatures.
Who banter, quip and joke with friends
their grammar perfect for their ends.
Pitched just right for their survival
Language, after all, is tribal.
Look, I’m in awe of Carver’s pauses
and Bertie Wooster’s complex clauses
but sometimes I prefer the bark
of LKJ or Johnny Clarke.
Yes, this is what I’m trying to say:
you don’t need all the rules to play.
L O V E J O Y
East Anglia, sweet lowland of my past,
its Tudor towns, half timbered, skew and quaint.
From Wivenhoe with clumps of brittle masts
to Sudbury where Gainsborough came to paint
his sleepy ponds, a place of soft constraint,
that in the early nineties Auntie canned
and served-up Sunday nights as “Lovejoy Land.”
Remember Lovejoy – divvie, dealer, rogue,
the lovable but dodgy antiques cad?
When oak and silver trinkets were in vogue
the nation sat agog at McShane clad
in leather jacket, mullet oh, so bad,
out-foxing crooks in endless Essex June.
The men said “Clever!” Their wives quietly swooned.
And even though my parents spoiled my weekends
with car-sick drives to Lavenham or Clare
to snuffle round the antique shops, boutiques and
auction houses looking for some rare
Victorian dresser or Queen Ann Chair
come Sunday nights our family sofa-snuggled
as Lovejoy wriggled suavely out of trouble.
I loved the patchwork quilt of rural scenes
the best bits of East Anglia stitched together
with shots of Bury flanked by village greens
and always soaked in perfect summer weather
whilst we cuddled in our winter sweaters.
The chance to watch a grown-up programme with
the warmth and comfort of still being a kid.
I know it’s not the standard stuff of verses -
too middle class, unfashionable, too twee!
A poet’s primal scene should feature hearses
not Phyllis Logan primly sipping tea
but Sundays, Essex, Lovejoy, well, that’s me.
So my excitement then was palpable
when Lovejoy came to film in Coggeshall.
Production vehicles flanked the Market hill
as young and old stood gawping in the street
or peering down from paint-peeled window sills
at grumpy fellows kicking tripod feet
and waving booms, the olive-skinned aesthete
still nowhere to be seen in April rain
not even Tinker, Eric or Lady Jane!
The adults there soon tired of the scene,
they ambled home to hearths and inglenooks
to cook or read, and left their not-quite-teens
on rattling bikes, still hoping for a look.
That awkward age, too old for children’s books,
but artless still and out for games and fun,
the adolescent chaos just begun.
And there among the Tetris blocks of trucks
my hormones buckled, writhed and thumped my chest
as Sally Scattergood came riding up,
all straggly dirt-blonde hair and proper breasts.
Oh Sally from the year above, who messed
around with year elevens down the rec.
Oh Sally, who got served for cigarettes.
Oh Sally, Sally Sally went my heart
but not quite thirteen, what more could I do
far easier to hunt for autographs
from stars of tea-time telly than go through
the crushing squirm, the flustered ballyhoo
of talking to girls. Love put out my head
we set about finding Lovejoy instead.
And Sally being older took the lead
sent BMXs bombing over town
in search of anything with “BBC”
marked on it. Misty rain still drizzled down
as word got out that Lady Jane was found.
Outside the vast, ivy-clad MP’s pile
we skidded to a stop and waited while
the men with cameras spoke their TV slang.
To kids on bikes in puzzled, slack-jawed silence,
it seemed strange to see this alien gang
on Coggeshall streets with these things of Science,
our normality bound-up with giants
of the small screen. Someone shouted ‘CUT!’
and bold as yokels we just sidled up
to Phyllis Logan, who played Lady Jane,
and offered scrappy books and well-chewed bics.
She seemed surprised we even knew her name
no doubt she thought it odd we got our kicks
from Lovejoy, but then we were from the sticks.
And though we knew she wasn’t actually gentry
I swear it, as we left, one kid bowed gently.
So bouyed-up by our first success we shot
in search of stars with precious messy scrawls
threading our bikes past skew-whiff twists of shops,
dark wood framed houses, mossy red-brick walls
and gated, gravel drives to pseudo halls,
to wait for “CUT” down ram-shackle allies
and though I tried I couldn’t take my eyes off Sally.
I liked how she was bossy, no scrub that,
it pissed me off and yet I still enjoyed it
the same way when she nicked my baseball cap
it riled but I’d do nothing to avoid it.
Of course I’ve come to learn that being toyed with
is what the thrill of flirting’s all about
but back in ’94, it spun me out.
But every time my hormones dived and swirled
the hunt for autographs would ease my pain
I might have been a dolt with pretty girls
but making luvvies scribble down their names
was dead easy. We scrabbled down the skeins
of blackberry lanes all day in weak, warm sun
and got the whole lot, well, apart from one.
By 5 o’clock McShane still at large
as one-by-one the kids all peeled-off home
for slabs of Mighty White with cheese and marge
’til Sally S and I were left alone
to kick at blim-pocked swings and blush, my bones
like putty as her hands fell to my hips
she dug her nails in gently, kissed my lips.
And it was just a peck but in that second
something snapped, though what I still don’t know.
She giggled at me, grabbed her bike and beckoned
that I come. So, still flushed with the glow
of my first kiss I sped past bungalows
and new build semis till we reached the sloping
Tudor centre of my home town, hoping
now for something more than autographs
when Sally brake-screech stopped and sent me flying.
Bejewelled with grit I looked-up, in our path
was Lovejoy, wry eye-brow arched at me lying
face down in the dirt, bleeding and half crying.
He peered at me, then her, then me again:
Chasing girls eh? That’s a painful game.
He helped me to my feet then off he went
past cockeyed buildings bathed in honey light:
the sweet shop, Chapel pub and houses lent
on one another, decked in creams and whites
as early evening softly called in night.
I brushed my bloodied elbow, rubbed my head.
Should we get … Sally started. No, I said
We mumbled brisk goodbyes. I pushed my bike
as twilight sweetly sighed across the town.
I dreamed of Sally Scattergood that night
I penned a florid poem short on nouns.
But when I saw her next she pulled that frown
that one that seems to say: “Whatever, freak!”
I was inconsolable, for a week.
And now at thirty-one with kids, and belly,
my parents up and gone from Coggeshall.
I miss those nights of gentle Sunday telly.
I bought the Lovejoy boxset, watched it all
and waited for nostalgia’s lure to pull
me back to childhood. To village greens,
quaint country boozers, Constable-eque scenes,
warped-muntin-windowed shops and pale-ale sun.
And there they were, plus eighties number plates
and dialling codes without the extra “1″.
I thought about mine and Sally’s strange date
and realised I was twenty years too late
to wander like I did down Essex lanes,
too much has passed, I can’t go back again.
I am delighted and proud to announce that I have been made a founding Patron of Bungay Library. The library is now run by an Industrial Providence Society after Suffolk County Council’s foiled attempts to close more than half on the county’s libraries (there’s some Thatcherite thinking). Thankfully the tireless efforts of people like Sylvia Knights have saved our library, and it has NOT been privatised, which is no doubt what SCC wanted all along. Our budget is smaller but it is in the hands of people who care about it.
The picture below is of me and my fellow patrons Lord Prior and the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard.
I can’t say this is my best work, but the swine doesn’t deserve it. The hookline is from a Barbara Ellen article. Respect and thanks to her.
POOR SHAMER GENERAL
Saddle his nag, he rides at dawn
a wet-eyed wave to his well-kept lawn
he’s off to mock the lowest born
The Poor Shamer General
All bloody-spurs and jet-black stead
beware all feckless folk in need
he’ll cut just to watch you bleed
the Mail’s support is guaranteed.
Poor Shamer General
Flanked by SPADs and leering chums
he roams the shabby Northern slums
in search of tracky-bottomed mums
to muddle with sophistic sums
then offer up a fist of crumbs
The Poor Shamer General
The poor are litter, he’s the broom
and you don’t need that extra room
so pack your bags, you’re leaving soon
to a slum lord’s crumbling, ice-cold tomb
it’s no mod cons and on the moon
“Say thank-you now” the Shamer croons
Oh Thank-you! Poor Shamer General
But what’s this here? The Shamer’s right?
say red-faced fellows filled with spite
who swallow all of Murdoch’s shite
then vomit it all through the night
hunched-up in rage in laptop light
I understand you’re not that bright
but these people aren’t the ones to fight.
smite the Poor Shamer General
One day it might be you down there
a daily fight for food and air
desperate, hopeless, lonely, scared
let’s show a little kindness, yeah?
Essex Lion II
A fucking lion! A fucking lion!
A fucking lion! A fucking lion!
So back we went to tents and litter
Essex Lion jokes on Twitter
keeping half the nation laughing
french crop lads in work suits passing
funny jpegs, lions with
white socks, gold chains and TOWIE wigs.
Of course they didn’t see a lion,
sniggering at me and Brian
Gabby, Linda, Steve and Babs
from lecture halls to backs of cabs
comparing us on panel shows
to nut jobs spotting UFOs.
A poet even, that was worse
he sent me up in laboured verse.
I saw him, what a prancing nob!
A poet! Yeah, like that’s a job.
But then we see it, news at noon
this bird holds up her great Maine Coon.
This, she pips, is Teddy Bear
ooh, he’s a one, gets everywhere
I reckons they saw him y’know
and holds her poxy moggy so
we see from head to derierre
a sort of glam rock terrier
The world’s convinced, but I ain’t buying
looked nothing like a fucking Lion!
Cooing in her mumsy sweater:
this’ll make our Christmas letter.
While this hawing Guaridaista
does his smirking, knowing piece to
camera, saying: Silly season!
Packs his van and leaves the region.
And that was that the world moved on
the Twitterati stopped their puns
from curious to satisfied:
They were drunk, or just plain lied.
Now no one much remembers it,
my neighbour (twat! )still gives me shit:
Oi Mike, he chortles, Careful, Deborah
thought she might have seen a Zebra!
Joke’s on you Dave, fucking fairy
Zebras! They ain’t even scary!
Not like the fucking lion I saw
I picture it, I hear it roar.
A fucking lion, I swear it mother
Lion-O’s outdoorsy brother!
Jungle’s King, the beast, the bloody
Tin Man’s fucking drinking buddy!
A fucking lion ! A fucking lion!
I’ll swear it when I’m fucking dying
how can a thing that makes you feel
be anything but fucking real.
I’m writing this en route from Bournemouth to London, from there I’m back to Diss to drive back to Bungay. I’ve been on the road since Wednesday lunchtime, it’s now Sunday morning. I’ve done three tour gigs and one schools performance. I’ve eaten like a pig (lots of late night cheese) and even managed to watch Django UnChained (yes yes yes!).
A good life, eh? It’s not bad. I miss my wife and my sons though. A day on trains mooching is a much needed relief but more than that and you start to feel tired and a bit lost. The thing that I love is being on stage. Doing a well received 90 minute show is the dog’s bollocks. I love it. All the shows have been good. Frome on Friday was perhaps my favourite. The audience was smaller than I hoped (about 40) but they were brilliant and we had a real laugh together.
Thursday night at The Square & Compass with Elvis McGonagall and Martin Figura was special too. Two of my best pals on the bill is always going to be special. I did a real pop set – all short, funny ones, with just my Weekday Dad poem slowing it down a bit. It’s good to know I can do 45 mins of all poppy stuff now, good to have that option. The Square is also a brilliant pub. Up on a windy hill overlooking the sea (although I have always been up there at night so I’ve never seen the view). It serves good flat, strong scrumpy and perry. It was the scene of one my favourite gigs ever back in 2010. Not that Thursday was any worse. In fact, it was just a buzzy and fun, I think I just have better gigs these days, which is nice to know.
Last night in Poole was harder work because we had a very small audience (about 20 people). It’s frustrating and usually happens a couple of times on tour. But in some times it is good to be reminded how precarious the life of a touring poet can be. And I can also come away from that gig proud of my performance. It’s not easy sustaining laughs for 90 mins with a small group in a cold room (most of them had to keep their coats on).
So all in all not a bad few days work. I even managed a new poem. I am well aware this is not my greatest work, a bit of topical fun about disgraced Lib Dem Lord Rennard. Thanks to the brash style of The Mirror for the title/hook.
Lock up your activists, gag the press
here comes his Royal Fondleness
he’s out to squeeze his pound of flesh
Who’s that then? No, let me guess …
Yes! Lord Grope!
Twenty stone and on a mission
man boobs jiggle, forehead glistens
girls say no, he don’t listen
“I want to form a coalition.”
Sexual frisson Lord Grope!
The lazy peer with busy hands
the ladies just don’t understand
the flames of scandal neatly fanned
by a one track mind and swollen gland
Randy Lord Grope!
Watch him sweat and wheeze and beg
his breath of blend of beer and egg
his sausage fingers on your leg
“It’s alright love, I know Nick Clegg”
it’s the dregs, Lord Grope
And even as their lot unravel
his lib dem pals won’t bang the gavel
“harmless really, only dabbled
not as if he’s jimmy saville”
No, he’s Lord Grope!
He’s Benny Hill in a gold rosette
a master of the heavy pet
just another Clegg regret
is this poem poem finished yet?
yep, Lord Grope!
Stone the crows, where has February gone. I was on a nice little roll before and the. No new poems for a month. Actually, I have written a couple of new ones about Essex but they’re for the next issue of The Rialto so you’ll have to wait.
Instead, I’ve been back on the road in earnest. I’ve done tour gigs in Beccles, Brighton and Diss. I’ve also been to Preston and Sheffield with John Cooper Clarke. I’ve been running in the new stuff alongside poems from Your New Favourite Poet. As it stands my new show, Essex Lion, will feature: Essex Lion, B Movie, The Ballad of Carlos Cutting, Posh Plumber, Houses That Used To Be Boozers, The Ballad of Larner Road. I’m half way through a coming of age/teenage love poem set in Lovejoy land. I’m also planning to end the show on a reprise of Essex Lion, set the day after. There’s also a couple of other ideas I hope to have done by May to throw into the mix. The theme is: “seeing what we want to see”. No idea what conclusions I will draw but I’m not sure I have to draw any, just pose a few questions.
I’ve also had my photos done. A picture of me as the Essex Lion is imminent!
Off touring again today – check the gigs page. I’m heading to the West Country.
Here’s a new one about UKIP leader Nigel Farrage. Rhymed here (mostly) as Faridge, which, as Jeremy Hardy says, seems the proper, British way to do it.
The National Front in Barbour jackets
raise a haunchy thigh then slap it!
Vaudeville meets British Legion
keen as mustard (Not the Djion!)
a blight upon our rural regions.
Frigg-orf Froggies! Bog-orf Bosch!
EDL with tons of dosh
sect of nonsense, cult of tosh
Cool-aid? No! Weak lemon squash!
Gouty chaps in first class carriage
slap your guts for Nigel Farage!
Cream stuffed cat with verbal shits
droning on about the Blitz
the stoic wives in ration queues
all gusto, guts and thrifty stews.
And that, he says, is what we’ll lose
if Europe gets it’s way much more
Bring back inches! Bring back war!
Polish Plumbers – there’s the door!
Repatriate our ancient laws
and let’s annul the Brussel’s marriage!
Morris dance for Nigel Farage.
Who makes the likes of Gove and Hunt
seem worthy of a poll booth punt
who headline grabs and makes debate
about this fabled super-state
then claims he gives it to us straight.
And meanwhile, as this nonsense drones
this cod-lament for tea and scones
we’re drowning under pay-day loans
with Tories picking at our bones.
We must withstand this right-wing barrage
we must ignore the likes of Farage.
Who seems to think that if he’s nattish
you won’t spot his inner-fascist
Middle-Brits, he thinks you’re dense
with purple placards on your fence
he lies and calls it common sense:
Conserve, conserve keep Britain free
and hug it till it cannot breathe
We must protect our sovereignty!
As if we ever had any!
We plebs will never be charge
by cheering blue-blood like Farage.
Feedback for Mondeo Man is coming in and thus far it’s been great. I’m all warm and happy.
“If any contemporary collection is going to convince the unbeliever that poetry can be a riot of cheek, giggles, boobs, tears and Facebook – while keeping its artistic integrity firmly intact – Mondeo Man is it.’
5/5 – The London Aisle
“[Mondeo Man is] not only verbally substantial, skilful and very funny but also complex in its feeling. It is Luke-laddish wit but laced with some fellow-feeling for its subjects, and self-irony. It is not drunk on itself, loves words and verbal patterns, and is set in an important public sphere that it observes in depth. It knows what it’s talking about.”
“Luke is a craftsman with a big heart. [Mondeo Man is] an excellent book.”
You can buy a copy here.
Here’s a new one:
Keks of jaunty raspberry pink
his bills in sprawling Parker Quink
for dramas of the kitchen sink
think: Posh Plumber.
Middle class? Embarrassed? Nervous?
Does the tradesman in your service
makes you feel like Libby Purves?
You don’t deserve this,
call Posh Plumber!
He might be slow, he might be late
or pitch-up on a different date
he may hum Hayden’s Number 8
BUT he’ll never call you ‘mate’
dial 118 for Posh Plumber.
Cry Hip-horray and jolly good for rummy, well bred plumbers
vocals chords all treacly like twenty Brideshead summers
Worksman’s hat, he sometimes doffs it
eats and plays squash, never quaffs it
antique plunger held aloft it
must be Posh Plumber!
Need a man whose good with copper?
Can’t take another glottal stopper
get a chap who talks all proper
is that a topper? Posh Plumber.
A pastry face like Quentin Letts
no GSR, but in Debretts
his cousin is a Baronet
don’t forget Posh Plumber.
Yes, though the family bread is gone
he buttons up and solders on
while quoting chunks of Don Juan
All hail etc, Posh Plumber.
He’ll put at ease you plummy mums
with darns and drats and cripes and crumbs
occasionally a Latin pun
to You and Yours he nobly plumbs
ti-tum-ti-tum, ti-tum ti-tum
um um um …. Posh Plumber.
Yes splendid, super, rather, cheers! And one more for the road
Imagine Bob The Builder cross-bred with Mr Toad!
And so we called him, let him in
jowels-a-plenty, not much chin
u bend gunk on waxen skin
with just the faintest wiff of gin
chin chin Posh Plumber!
And what a chap he seemed to be:
an Oxbridge third in PPE
a Tupperware of kedgeree
tuned my set to Radio 3
claimed to loved my poetry
took no sugar in his tea
Just a dash of milk for me
refreshingly Posh Plumber
But when he’d gone-off (in his Merc)
our brand new boiler coughed and burped
the kitchen taps refused to work
then spewed some black stuff on my shirt
I’m gonna hurt Posh Plumber
But the bastard upped and ran
last heard he’d moved to Cannes
we had to call a different man
(a yobbish fellow in a van)
who sucked his teeth and charged three grand
to put right what that rogue began
damn Posh Plumber!
So now we’re three k in the red
we fell for charm and fell like lead
and Tony Blair said class was dead
you should dread Posh Plumber!
After 14 years (on 15 January) of putting my work out into the world I’ve finally got a proper poetry collection coming out. Exciting stuff. Mondeo Man is published by Penned in the Margins on 1st feb 2013. You can Pre-order / find out more from their website. As you can se the cover is pretty darn attractive (thanks to the very talented Will Daw). And being social types, we’re having a launch. Why not come along, remember to RSVP . . .
Mondeo Man Launch
Saturday 9 February, 8pm
47/49 Tanner Street
London SE1 3PL
Nearest tubes: London Bridge, Bermondsey
Join independent literary press Penned in the Margins to celebrate the launch of Mondeo Man – the hotly anticipated debut poetry collection by Luke Wright (‘the best young performance poet around’ – The Observer).
The launch is hosted by the generous people at 47/49, a massive converted Victorian warehouse near Tower Bridge (used by TV show Dragons’ Den).
Doors will open at 8pm, with readings by Luke and guests.
Entry is free but you must RSVP to email@example.com by 1 February to guarantee entry. There is no bar so the policy is BYO.
Explosive political satire and acerbic wit leap from stage to page in Mondeo Man – the hotly anticipated debut collection from Luke Wright. Yummy mummies and debauched Tory grandees mingle with drunk Essex commuters and leering tabloid paps; a small town chip-shop becomes the site of a heart-wrenching story of failed marriage; and a televised manhunt enthrals an entire nation.
Here’s the poem I did for Saturday Live on Radio 4 this morning.
The Slow Days
The slow days down to New Year’s eve arrive,
the sherry fug of Christmas afternoon
is swapped for sodden walks and turkey pie
as flames lick green their wrapping paper feast.
In Bolton, Bungay, Basingstoke and Barrhead
cabin fever seizes naughty boys.
In Colchester, Kirkcaldy, Cowes and Croydon
fathers rip the batteries out of toys.
And life plods on like boiled brussel sprouts,
the papers ration out what news they can,
it’s floods or sales or National Archive scraps
obituaries march sombre to the front.
In Droitwich, Douglas, Dewsbury and Dawlish
the grown-up single children leave for town.
In Falmouth, Fishguard, Fakenham and Frodsham
the tinsel round the bannisters falls down.
And so we turn to retail parks and malls
roam listlessly from shop to shop to shop
half-dazzled in the vast resplendent halls
then join the traffic slowly shunting home.
In Greenock, Glynneath, Glossop, Goole and Gosport
chocolate tins are cellophane and air.
In Halstead, Harrow, Holyhead and Hexham
grandad guffs with gusto in his chair.
But spare a thought for cops and chefs on shifts,
for bellboys on the night bus in the rain,
for grizzly guvnors hauling out the bins,
for Jacks and Widow Twankies everywhere.
In Leighton-Linslade, Letchworth, Looe and Loughor
they roll the metal shop-fronts up at six.
In Mossley, Morpeth, Melksham, Mere and Monmouth
there’s breakfast DJs churning out the hits.
And minutes fall like needles from the tree
as neighbours call round: is it bins tonight?
and relatives on platforms are set free
‘til finally the last hurrah pulls up.
In Narbeth, Nayland, Normanton and Nantwich
they’re counting down, all pints and lily-flesh.
In Potton, Prescot, Portishead and Paignton
they snap the dead year off and start afresh.
This is exciting. In January I’m joining forces with top novelist and Guardian journalist Tiffany Murray to teach a creative writing course at the gorgeous Hurst in Shropshire. This house used to belong to the playwright John Osborne. Not my mate John Osborne who is published by Nasty Little Press. Although he’s coming mid week as our guest author. The blurb is below but basically Tiff and I will work on poetry and prose with our group for the week in a beautiful place.
Here comes the blurb …
Arvon, renowned for its residential creative writing retreats, is opening up its writing houses in January and February for a mini-season of winter courses. Start the year writing and spend an inspiring week in one of our beautiful houses, with the help of expert tuition from professional authors. Grants to help with course fees are available. Full details and booking information here.
Join us by the fireside and unlock your imagination for 2013.
Starting to Write: Explore stories and play with poems
14th – 19th January 2013, The Hurst
Explore fiction and start to write novels, short stories or poems, through exercises on dialogue, scene setting and auto-fiction, with tutors Tiffany Murray and Luke Wright, and guest John Osborne.
Other courses include Writing for Children, Return to Writing and Poetry…
Here’s a new one, inspired by watching Carl Barat getting heckled by a handful of festival wankers in Wales last month. It’s not about Barat, but he’s in there somewhere.
The Ballad of Carlos Cutting
You know the set-up, stately grounds,
half-clotted mud, pink flags,
ironic garb on gekko girls
and onesie-cladded stags,
falafel, shit and churros stench,
a clutch of sponsored stages -
a grim roulette of status
for rock stars through the ages.
Goes: New Band, Other, Main, Acoustic -
fame’s sad parabola
as boys who tacked your face to walls
now hunch through parks with strollers.
And there, half pissed and maudlin,
while hacking through grey mud
I heard a Proustian riff that felt
like bubbles in my blood
and wiped a decade off the table,
spun me back to school,
when Carlos Cutting’s strut
was the epitome of cool.
The cocaine cloud of Britpop cleared,
the industry gone pop,
the auto-tuned and clean-cut kids,
the teeth and tits, on top.
A breathless stage school cast of drips,
the sappy ones, the gaudy ones,
by contrast Carlos Cutting’s schtick
was practically Edwardian.
Flanked by pretty whippet boys
they called themselves The Hedge Priests,
they sounded like a gin house blade flight
guttural and edgy.
Their riffs as spindly as their legs
more Fagin’s gang than Lost Boys,
with a wont for quoting Tolstoy.
Misquoting if I’m honest
but who cares about the facts
with impetigo on your cheeks
In Camden-purloined naval jackets,
masking tape on denim,
each chord a declaration
each couplet laced with venom.
And if that sounds pretentious,
well better that than bland
synthetic square-jawed wimps in hemp
whose tunes are pension plans.
You wouldn’t catch The Hedge Priests
writing songs to save the trees
just hymns to London’s back streets
from the Common Book of Sleaze
for drunken boys at festivals,
with Cutting’s riffs stitched on their souls
on golden afternoons.
bathed themselves in songs
that serenaded deviance
and rhapsodised its wrongs.
And Carlos Cutting was the king
above the mosh-pit brawls,
his likeness in acrylic paint
on art department walls;
his dirty features snarling
in the breathy fantasies
of chubby, ginger indie girls
who read the NME;
his heartaches etched on army bags
and tipexed onto folders
a generation’s melodramas
weighing on his shoulders.
Till Mrs Brown came calling
and her perfume fug would hang
around the self-indulgent tracts
that Carlos Cutting sang;
until the riffs that came so easy
lost their lick and spit;
yes, all that counts for nothing
when your second album’s shit.
Your third goes uncompleted,
the circus leaves you there,
just fodder for the red-tops:
a washed-up Baudelaire.
But snap to now and spindly riffs
were spilling from a tent
and Christ they stirred my senses,
like a former lover’s scent.
Inside on stage was Carlos Cutting
scarlet Fender raised
beating out the fragile lines
that filled my teenage days.
And for a moment it was magic
rose-tints turned-up to ten,
unshackled from my adult angst,
I was a fan again.
But then I looked around the crowd,
sixty, maybe less:
skulking, giggling groups of five
in witty fancy dress.
Not one of them was listening,
these gelignite-eyed teens
just posed for lairy photographs
or tapped their glowing screens.
And when each song was finished
they barfed a sarky roar
until the burly backstage team
sent Carlos on for more.
Skin hanging from his cheek bones
a hint of mid-life belly
an unloved broken toy
for proto-Sloanes in Hunter wellies.
Who mis-remembered song requests,
who whooped and yawned and aped him
while Carlos shut his eyes and let them
nonchalantly rape him.
His deep eyes dead, I never saw
a man look so alone.
I couldn’t watch, I turned my back
and schlepped my way back home.
With images of Carlos Cutting
as he was and now
from strutting god whose fretboard
made the holiest of rows
to bored, embarrassed forty-something
playing ‘cause he must
his past another galaxy
his mojo turned to dust.
A prisoner in public
whose crime was growing older
bluntly recreated in the eyes
of his beholders.
We put him on an oily stage
and gazed at him like art
a thing of beauty, light of life,
we kept him in our hearts,
our young, naive and hopeful hearts
that played out comedies
but when our hearts grew black from life
he became our tragedy.
So, that tour diary was an unqualified success. I was so jet-lagged all week I just couldn’t face sitting down and recounting what I’d been up to. Then I started writing a new poem and I was damned if a blog was going to get in the way.
Obvs there are loads of really distraught people out there about this. Well, just for posterity I’ll record a few facts. The shows went pretty well all told. I hated the Friday night one because I was so tired and weirded out I couldn’t be sure if I was speaking in the right language. Though I only know English and comic cod French, so the chances are … But weirdly I got the best audience response after the show, so you can never tell. We had a couple of full houses and all in all I played to about 800 people.
On Saturday night I said goodbye to Cynical Ballads for ever with what I estimate was performance number 70 or 71. It’s come a long way since the first scratch at HOMEWORK in June 2010. In fact, it was running a full ten minutes longer than the last time I did it, which didn’t make any sense as I hadn’t really changed a word. I guess it’s proof of my slowing down with a bit more confidence, so all good. Anyway, it was a great way to send off a show that has been very civil to me indeed. A huge thank-you to Genevieve and Tock who looked after me at the theatre and to Mike, Brett, Tatia and all at Melbourne Festival for making me feel so very welcome. I hope I find my way back down under soon.
So now I’m home and the jet-lag is working the other way. It’s 5.30 and I’m sitting at the kitchen table writing the blog I’ve been putting off for a week. Ho-hum. New poem coming on this very site tomorrow. And I’m off to Brighton to do the last tour gig with Johnny Clarke. Bye.
I’ve come to Australia to do Cynical Ballads as part of the Melbourne International Festival. It’s an exciting and pretty daunting prospect for me. I’m doing five nights (plus one matinee) at The Malthouse Theatre. I’m in their middle space which is 200 seats. I’ve played bigger venues in the past, but usually without any hope of filling them. Here, the idea is that we sell most, if not all, of those tickets. The Melbourne Festival is a big deal. The program is packed full of people like Billy Bragg, Thurston Moore and Antony & The Johnsons. To say nothing of all the big theatre productions that play places like The Barbican and The Southbank when they are in England. Then on page 30 & 31 there’s little old me. Actually, scrub that, it’s not daunting, it’s just exciting.
I think perhaps I just feel like I have to say it’s daunting, but in reality I’m well up for it. The programmers know what they’re doing, if they think Cynical Ballads deserves a place in this line-up then I’ll take it. These will be the last Cynical Ballads shows, after weeks of slogging away in gloomy basement venues this is the treat that comes from producing a good piece of work.
So, I’m not daunted, I’m just excited. And tired. Right now, I’m tired. I’m jet-lagged, bloated from stodgy plane food and not really keen to get out of my Pyjamas and go and explore. I’m deep into the 3rd series of The West Wing and right now I feel more like I’m in DC than Melbourne. Plus it’s 7am here and there’s not really a lot doing outside right now anyway.
I didn’t get extra leg room seats on the plane. I like being 6’4″ but not on planes. There is no way for me to sit that doesn’t mean my knees are pushed up against the seat in front. It’s not much fun for 14 hours (which was the length of the SECOND flight). I should probably get over it, it’s not the most important thing in my life right now, but I’ll probably talk about that more than anything else this week. Curious how my mind focuses on the physical inconveniences more than anything else. Hey you’re doing some cool shows this week!. Whatever, my knees hurt for a few hours.
I’ve been to Melbourne twice before. It’s an ace city. Out beyond the main grid it looks cool, especially up in Fitzroy where it appears like an Instragram filter’s been placed over every street. The food is good, the coffee is great, the people are nice and the weather is better than at home. Though it has just been raining, but probably only because it thought no one was looking. No one’s up at 6am. Apart from English tourists with jet-lag. It was probably just trying to make us feel at home.
The challenge this week is all performance, which has been a theme these past couple of months. Touring with John Cooper Clarke was interesting. So much about what makes him great, what raises him above the standard fare, is his performance. When I say “performance” I’m talking all singing, all dancing, jazz hands performance, I just mean the way he carries himself on stage. He’s complete. He knows himself inside outside, we hang off his every word because he seems other worldly. If not above us then certainly off to the side, somewhere the rest of us don’t inhabit. I’ve obsessed over writing these past two or three years and it’s stood me in good stead. I’m a much better writer that I used to be (of poetry that is, these blogs are still a bit shonky) but to the average punter writing will only get you so far in this game. My ability to be convincing on stage has got me a long way, but there’s a lot of work to be done. I’m more confident now than I ever was, but I’ve still got some way to go. The more at ease you are with a crowd the more you are willing to take risks; to say things you have no idea will work. Then all you have to do is trust your mind. But that can be the next problem.
I know Cynical Ballads back to front. I’ve performed it about 70 times, these will be the last shows. So, what can I add? It’s been a while since I last did it, I have the advantage of it feeling fresher than any time over the last two years. The flow of the sentences and lines will feel stranger than any time since January 2011 when I started performing this show regularly. It’ll surprise me at times. It’ll feel that little bit unscripted. This is good. I hope I can bring my new found confidence to it. I want these to be the best performances I have ever given.
So, as I say, not daunting, just exciting.