Johnny Bevan in London.

This FRIDAY 29 May is the last chance to catch What I Learned From Johnny Bevan in London before it heads to Edinburgh (and naturally takes over the world.)

The show is at THE ROUNDHOUSE as part of THE LAST WORD FESTIVAL. You can get tickets by clicking HERE. Or HERE. Or even HERE.

luke_wright_0029a_photo by steve ullathorne

The Ballad of Edward Dando, the Celebrated Gormandizer

The Ballad of Edward Dando, the Celebrated Gormandiser!

Hurrah! It’s me, it’s ballad time.
Hang some bloody bunting!
Now shut your eyes, sit back, we’re off
to eighteen twenty-something.

The belching Georgian after-party,
age of gout and laudanum
where opulence and dropsy spread
to all that could afford them.

The spit-roast swine, Germanic wines
Beau Brummel’s ice-cold quips
the clash of Nash’s symmetry
with George’s wobbly bits.

Frayed pantaloons and powdered cheeks
and boo-sucks to you prigs
The Tories had the power but
it was all about the wigs.

And dandies dashed in Hackney cabs
from bar to drinking shop
a gin-soaked trail of a tabs until
their foppish waistcoats popped.

And just as in our stage-school age
the slack-jawed Shaznay’s dream
of being auto-tuned and airbrushed
into pop’s hareem

so young men walked the gas-lit streets
of London’s rotten heart
with grand ideas to take their lives
and spin them into art.

And so, our hero, Edward Dando
apprentice to a hatter
(we don’t know what his hats were like,
but they, dear friends, don’t matter.)

For days spent stitching hats for chaps
sent Dando mad with boredom
the line of dandruff decades stretched out
miserably before him.

A member of the lunar race
that history near forgot
he might, had he been born later,
lined-up with Marx’s lot

but short on ideology
or union or committee
Dando only had a hunch
that life was sort of shitty.

While some were blessed with tails and titles
others buffed their boots
and pickled, stewed and boiled the scraps
of labour’s rotten fruits.

O who will be pave my grave with jewels?
O who will sing of me?
The hatters, blacksmiths, cooks and fools
all piled up like scree.

And that, thought Dando, shouldn’t, couldn’t
be the way for him
so he resolved to live his life
with shellfish, beer and vim.

So off then to the oyster house
with sawdust on the floor
a pile of shells around his boots
our hero ordered more:

shuck-gulp-drop, shuck-gulp-drop,
and all washed down with porter
the swagger of a don juan
with his mitts on someone’s daughter.

And when he’d swallowed thirty dozen
Dando belched and sighed
performed a dance of pocket pats
“What rotten luck!” he lied

“I’m sorry Mr Oysterman,
I’ll have to see you clear
another day, alright old boy?
Next time I’m passing here.”

And had he been a gentleman
the trader would have bowed
and sent him on his merry way
contented with this vow.

But swagger isn’t breeding and
no sooner out the door
this whistling, cocksure hatter felt
the long arm of the law.

They banished our voluptuary
to Brixton for a month
where Dando’s raging hunger gave
the other lags the hump.

They flung him into solitary
for stealing beef and bread
where there the old screws pummelled him
and boxed his grisly head.

But when his month of gruel was up
he found the nearest stall
devoured ten dozen natives,
and then coughed up bugger all.

Alas! His choice of Oysterman!
This one was like a bull
and left our hero in the gutter,
sore but very full.

So Dando spent his life like this
from Oyster house to beating
from shellfish stall to court then gaol
and all for sake of eating

exactly what he wanted to
exactly when he wanted.
For every bristling oysterman
or judge that he affronted

he gained a hundred new admirers:
DANDO STRIKES AGAIN!
Can nothing can sate his appetite
for oysters, ale and pain?

Some eight long fishy years passed by
he dined on London’s best
till everybody recognised
his black eyes, gaol dress

and strange distinctive limp
for Dando’s foot was lame
(a wage of his depravity
a spoil of his game)

and he was forced to ply his trade
in estuary towns in Kent
though gutter scraps and rozzers followed
everywhere he went.

‘Till 1832 came round
the aged Sailor King
now on the throne: austerity
in place of George’s bling.

And Dando like his Royal exemplar
saw his fortunes fade.
One August night in Coldbath Fields
on prisoner parade

our man collapsed with cholera,
they carted him inside
where legend, that forgiving mistress,
claims, before he died

they brought a dozen oysters
to his licey prison bed
he rubbed his stomach, scoffed the lot
and then he fell back – dead.

They buried him in Clerkenwell
beneath St James’ bells
the balladeers sung songs of him
and paved his grave with shells.

Many thanks to Sarah Murden and Joanne Major for their research.

A gig with Molly Naylor

I’m doing a gig in lovely Cornwall with my best mate Molly. The venue is great, the town is great, the poets are great. Come one, come all.

Glam Dad's Lost His Rag

Glam Dad’s Lost His Rag

Those kids will never know the pain they bring
to Britain’s former foremost lie-in King.
Oh Sunday bloody Sunday, pig-shit head
his veins an ache and squirm, his tongue half-dead
and still they roar their push-me-pull-me blows
falsetto tuneless shrieks to Let It Go!
She kicks him in the shin, when will he learn?
A hard-faced three word gesture: It’s your turn!

Oh curse this house, this cul-de-sac, this life!
Oh curse my devilled off-spring! Curse my wife!
Oh curse the mirror! Curse the paunch and sag!
Oh curse my thirties!
Glam Dad’s lost his rag.

A streak of pitch-black temper! Havoc wreaks!
Mascara smear across his grizzly cheeks,
he stumbles down the landing, knotted back
a slurring threat of discipline and smacks.
A raging monster rank with last night’s gin
his unshod sole impaled on tank engine.
All dressing gown on inside out, he tolls
Just grow up, will you! to his three year old.

Last night! Last night! Won’t someone take me there!
Thighs bulging in his drainpipes, back-combed hair,
Shakira-hipped, the snarling ghost of Strummer
his band of teachers, architects and plumbers
fucking nailed it! Big-riffed indie dream.
At times he felt like he was seventeen.
And how the lyrics from that cover’s set
come back to him right now: What do I get?

O what went wrong, this was never the plan!
We came third in Battle of the Bands
in Manningtree in 1999.
“They rocked” said The Braintree & Witham Times.
We supported Cast in Colchester
I’ve met the bloody ginger one from Blur.
Island records gave us demo money
I could have made it… what now? What’s so funny?

Beneath him on the floor his kids are grins.
A nervous sideways glance then it begins:
the stuttered giggles then the gasping laughs,
he catches his reflection in the glass:
a sallow, red-faced, stubbled, panda-eyed,
sack-stomached tragi-clown with gaping fly
They thump the carpet. Daddy! You’re so silly!
Your face looks funny, I can see your …

And now he’s laughing too, his ego shelved
time halts and for that moment he’s himself.
He gathers up his brood, it feels sublime:
Come on then you two, it’s breakfast time.

Latitude

You may already know that I co-curate and host the Poetry Arena at The Latitude Festival. 2015 is the 10th year of the festival so I wrote a little thing for them.

Darryl

Darryl

Everybody’s got a friend who fucked-up.

Mine was Darryl. Nasal, pessimistic.
His hope all backed up in his sinuses.
His thick cropped hair, a shade of cartoon ginger.
Above his monobrow a squishy mole
like a baked bean, which he called My Baked Bean.

We met aged six, he showed me round my new school.
The pegs, the cobbled floors, the smell of cabbage;
the caps and shorts they wore right through the Winter.
Darryl was a good boy. Fond of rules.
A prim refrain of Umm, I’m gonna tell.

Sometimes we’d share a fractious lift to school.
A bickered pinch of time through rural Essex,
strapped in the back of his Nan’s filthy Vauxhall.
His mum, he said, had died when he was small.
He trilled his truth, a goody-two-shoes boast.

That early awkward bond is crystallised:
our shoulders rubbing in our first school photo.
I slump and squint, he’s straight-backed, toothy, tame.
Why couldn’t you have sat-up straight like Darryl?
I took his good behaviour as a taunt.

And then one day they moved him. That was that.
Next time I saw him, we were in Year 8.
He moved into my street, but he had changed.
That boy is trouble. Nasty piece of work.
A diatribe of entertaining bullshit:

I glassed a swan. I felt my nan’s right tit.
All eyeballs in his Big Mac, we dared him.
Darryl keyed those cars in Tesco carpark
Darryl stole the vodka from his Grandad.
Darryl drank the lot and got run over.

That’s the phrase he used. He wasn’t hurt.
It’s just my luck to get run over.  - Darryl
you weren’t run over, mate. That car was parked.

The group all laughed – You twat – we slapped his back.
Oh yeah. That sheepish grin and backwards pride.

We weren’t the best of friends. He just lived close.
Darryl’s mostly hung out with Joe Gray.
whose voice broke over seven long, shrill years,
whose older brother shagged a girl I liked.
My brother pooned that Katy. Hah hah. Gutted.

Yes, Joe Gray was a cock. But Darryl wasn’t.
You see, aged 12 his mother just pitched up.
They told me you were dead. But they had lied.
She played mum for month then changed her mind.
That straight-backed boy was crushed down like beer can.

You need to understand we never knew this.
Our mothers let us know years down the line.
The tragedy now rendered into gossip:
an 18-rated cut of our own lives
that slowly sunk in as our twenties passed.

Of course, we all know now that no one really
wants to wash their hair in lighter fluid
then spend the party being chased by Clippers.
Did we then? Perhaps we didn’t think.
Mistook the cries of Wolf for harmless pranks.

We did our scant revision, scraped exams.
He went from mate to barely-seen acquaintance
to anecdote, a witty party piece.
This kid I went to school with … fucking hell.
I heard he was in prison. GBH.

Everybody’s got a friend who fucked-up.
So what to do with mine? Carve Darryl up
and offer him to you, a moral tale?
I can’t go back and tell that boy I’m sorry.
I just feel sad. And, yes, relieved as well.

Have a Gong!

It’s that time of year again ….


Have a Gong!

Hurrah! New Year! Let’s play Who’s Who
the list please George, let’s keep it blue…
Yes, yes, of course, about time too!
Have a gong, have a gong, have a gong!

Oui Oui a KBE for Arthur
and my sister’s husband’s father
better not forget my barber.
Have a gong, have a gong, have a gong!

This fellow here, he sank a bank
and this one gave us cut-price tanks…
Is that for us? You should have, thanks.
Have a gong, have a gong, have a gong!

Famous people, bring your mug,
and with it stardom’s manic fug
come here, give us a tacit plug
Have a gong, have a gong, have a gong!

Angry artist? Full of bile?
we’ll dowse your fire in regal style
well done, you’re in, now hold and smile
Have a gong, have a gong, have a gong!

Elitist? No! why here’s a nurse,
long on hours, short on purse
so progressive, so diverse.
Have a gong, have a gong, have a gong!!

But just a little one …

Not a O.B.E, just a Meh.B.E.
Well done you, I see, I see.
Now move along now, yes yes, right, good
I need to give my pal a knighthood!
Good one Geoffrey, well I trust?
Golf next Tuesday? Let’s discuss
your next donation to our party
Thank-you ma’am, yes, let’s depart, eh?

Have a gong, have a gong, have a gong, gong, gong!
Scratch my back and sing along
we’ll croon our patriotic song
and dream of when we ruled Hong Kong
it’s tradition – can’t be wrong!
As sure as old Big Ben goes bong
it’s bound to cause a contretemps!
Have a gong, have a gong, have a gong gong gong!

Hip-hip hurrah, yes Britain’s best!
Dulce et decorum est
Etc, I forget the rest
Have a gong, have a gong, have a gong!

Stay-at-Home Dandy (The Album)

SAHD-cover-web

I’m releasing my fourth spoken word album this month. Stay-at-Home Dandy was all written in the last year and features a mix of comic and quieter more personal pieces. It’s also got my best ballads to date on it – The Toll, Mr Hooper’s Half Term and The Night Before Christmas. It was recorded just up the road in Beccles, Suffolk. It’s a true locally sourced product being beamed across the world via the internet. I’m really pleased with it.

Hard copies coming in Feb 2015, in the meantime you can downloads from iTunesAmazonPlay.

Great Review in The East Anglian Daily Times

I have been favourably reviewed in the East Anglian Daily Times.

“Wright always excels when puncturing the gilded whoopee cushion of the Establishment … There is a physicality to Wright’s performance that seems to build in intensity with the lyrical density of his poems … A hard act to follow.”

The Panel (edit)

I posted this poem is October. It was a visceral writing experience and something I felt I really had to put out into the world. I’ve been performing it on the John Cooper Clarke tour and it’s been getting a good response. I think a lot of us feel the same: we see the most vulnerable in society losing right after right; we see the working classes underemployed and disenfranchised, then demonised by the press; we see a floundering Labour party falling behind in the polls, when they should be trouncing a rightly unpopular Tory party; and then we see UKIP gaining ground with working class votes. The world feels upside down and deeply, deeply depressing.

But in a rush to get this poem out I neglected to give it enough of an edit. Here it is again, tweaked and slicker. There’s lots of different voices in this: mine, the UKIP voice, various voters, middle class media observers etc. I’ve done my best to differentiate by using tabs and italics. The recording helps it make better sense.

I would love for you to read it, or listen – Soundcloud player below.

THE PANEL

Broken Britain, all the rage
send documentary crews
to catalogue our grievances
and put them on the news:

In Jaywick post-war prefabs
sprout the weeds of disengagement
they struggle with the jargon of
the Westminster arrangement.

A Labour man who’s never worked
my god he’s just like me
But every time that weird bloke speaks
it’s just bad poetry …

And someone shut the Surestart down
and cut the country bus
I’m not sure who they stand for
but it sure as hell ain’t us.

The nurses strike for better pay
the teacher’s strike for pensions
but when you’ve never had a job
how do you get attention?

In ninety-seven they turned out
and Labour turned them down.
Relaxed about the filthy rich
in stone cold London town.

And now the swines are on the take
they tax then cook the books
they condescend with dumbed-down ads
and disapproving looks …

Don’t smoke in pubs! Eat five-a-day!
Remember booze is bad!
Now stare into your little phones
at things you’ve never had ….

That panel show is on again
it’s sexed-up for the ratings game
and in among the geeky blokes
a normal fella making jokes
talking English, firm but breezy:
Out of Europe easy-peasy
No to rules and yes to jobs

at least he’s not ignoring us
at least he’s not ignoring us
at least he’s not ignoring us …

In flat roof pubs St George is cross:
They’re coming over here!
They take our pay! They shag our birds!
They drink our fucking beer!

And yes his face looks ugly
when he wraps it in his flag
I know my social history and
it makes me want to gag.

I’ve learned to doubt the powers that be,
employment law that flinches
my foe is right there every day
in blogs and column inches.

But he sees burqas on the high street,
Poles in factories
That’s what’s changing Britain, mate
it has to fucking be …

The panel show is raging now
a mess of ums and sweaty brows
as pallid lefties try and fail
to out-demagogue the Daily Mail
It’s complex, really…
No it’s NOT
You’re the problem! Stop the rot!
All ‘board the Clacton omnibus!

at least he’s not ignoring us
at least he’s not ignoring us
at least he’s not ignoring us …

Or sneering like the Twitterati:
Racist, racist, racist
who pay their Slovak cleaners
cash in hand in leafy places.

Who buy their books from Amazon
in Starbuck’s wifi mist
who tut-tut-tut at apathy
then shake a cyber fist

when people go and cross the box,
they balk at it or LOL-it
but cast their own votes every day
for evil with their wallets.

Still, none of us is perfect
we’re a mess of other’s views.
I’m looking for some answers
in the aftermath of news

The panel full of jargon SPADs
who look like paunchy undergrads
all trotting out their tired tracts
but look that natty Nigel’s back
The big gin grin Tim Nice-but-Dim look
ranting from his yellowed hymn book.
Come along and join his song
grab your rose-tints stick them on
for BNP in Barbour jacket!
Raise a haunchy thigh then slap it!
Vaudeville meets British Legion,
keen as mustard (Not the Dijon!)
God he’s good, all ease and wit
if only he weren’t full of shit:
We must protect our sovereignty!
We must protect our sovereignty!
We must protect our sovereignty!

The sovereignty of you and me?
What sovereignty is that I wonder
trade unions torn asunder?
What’s the answer? Crank our rent?
Tax cuts for the one percent?
Then let the plebs all smoke in pubs
stop the proles from rising up.

The Scottish damn-near turned to go
the press declared: Resounding NO!
And so the word on British streets:
Get angry mate, attack elites
makes sense, and no it isn’t wrong
defend the weak, attack the strong
but look around the towns and shires
at all these glowing steel glass spires
and retail parks and malls so dear
and have a guess who’s thriving here!
Apocalyptic Friday Sales
and zero-hour contract fails.
Austerity and bedroom tax
while banks and business tip their hats
to politicians flush with chips
and healthcare firm directorships:
the safe seats and consultancies
that strangle our democracy.
You think that Nige’ll sort the mess
and save our treasured NHS?
Public school man, former banker
How refreshing, stop your rancour!
Working fellows needn’t fret
with right-wing Tories in his set!

So cross his box and let him loose
commit this act of self-abuse
Britain, smitten on a lie
still strung up by the old school tie.

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