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.

Now The Last Poppy Has Fallen

Five poems about life in Essex in World War One, one for each year of the war. Commissioned by The Last Poppy Project.

August Bank Holiday, Essex, 1914

To Essex then, one hundred years ago
to sun-scorched, dusty fields and parched stream beds.
Where windfall codlings pock the russet earth,
September’s fruits come early, and to waste.

At Boreham Reverend Yonge mops cobs of sweat
and begs his guv’nor for a dose of rain
as horticultural ladies trim their blooms,
they nip and bud and dream of red rosettes.

Down Thaxted way, the labourers are striking
it’s coming up for forty wage-less days.
They roam the country lanes in search of scabs,
as Pankhurst comes, the red flag on her car.

The trains are packed from third right through to first,
the coastal steamers coat the blue sky white
as Essex leaves her heartlands for her shore.
From Romford, Dagenham and Tilbury

near forty-thousand, swap the clock for sand.
The boarding houses with their lists of rules
and fearsome landladies are full, although
it’s quieter than last year. They know why.

A storm is building in the stifling air:
in Chelmsford they can talk of nothing else,
the newsagents are desperate for vendors,
the tittle-tattle’s milled right through the night.

Until on Tuesday, everybody knows.
In Southend hundreds gather at the Standard
to read the words they posted in the window.
The tiny wives, umbrellaed by their men.

We’re twenty-one today, we’ll make the Kaiser pay
The regulars demob down Mersea Road
while Reverend Yonge in Boreham writes in black:
Bella horrida bella… smite, hell, ruin.

VAD Hospital, Saffron Walden, 1915

The ancient oak on Freshwell Street
is jaundiced in the Autumn sun
as Clementina clips her way to work.
A window pane plays mirror to
the mid-blue of her uniform
and though she’s late, she stops stock-still and stares.

The red-cross on the armband,
the starched white of the hat,
black boots that pinch, the bag balm on her palms.
Pulled-in, pinned back, with pale-blue eyes
it takes the girl a breathless beat
to realise it’s her who’s staring back.

It’s Clem. Our Clem. The messy-haired
adventurer and story queen,
pied piper to her brothers, lost in June.
But no one’s called her Clem for months,
those summers seems an age ago.
They linger like a half-remembered tune.

The chance to go and do her bit
had won against her life at home
she’d kissed her mum and hugged the boys to bits.
But as she pitted guilt against
adventure with the VAD
she never stopped to think what it might do.

And now she knows: this woman here
will never lead a squawking gang
of children through the Essex water fields.
And as the thought occurs to her
it darts across the pale blue eyes,
she blinks the thing away and turns for work.

Zeppelin Attack, Braintree, 1916

Doris and her sister Maggie
shook awake by mum one night
as starlight shows a large dark shape
in deathly, whirring flight.

The oilcloth of the bedroom floor
is icy underneath their feet,
they struggle with the steamed-up sash
and peer out on the street.

As overhead a Kapitan
unsure above this foreign land
turns the zeppelin’s engines off
to better understand

exactly where his airship is
and as he does St Michael’s bell
tolls and tells this Kapitan
what Doris knows too well.

He’s cleared the patchwork Essex fields,
dirt farmyards and the gladed copse,
he’s reached the jostled terraces
and little shuttered shops,

the churches and the railway line
where sloes and dark, fat blackberries grow,
where thatched roof pubs and gothic schools
are all the young girls know.

He’s likely near enough to Crittall’s
where in peace time men annealed
those futuristic window frames
in toughened Essex steel;

where now their women heat and cool
the liquid fire for darker ends,
the grim, efficient work of war.
He gives the order, sends

a thousand screaming kilos down
upon the brisk Spring Essex night
a silent rip through country air
and then the sky turns white.

Memory’s a funny thing
and later, when she wrote it down
Doris was unable to
recall the burning town.

The oilcloth and the sash stayed with her
and the news the morning after
a tiny girl was crushed and killed
by chimney brick and rafter.

But mostly Doris thought about
her kind old dad away at war
the picture of him coming home
was what she chose to store.

So handsome in his postman’s blue
much better than the army green
he never smacked or chided them
or told them what he’d seen.

Mrs Godley’s War, 1917

Meet Mrs Godley, well to-do
Victorian in sober blue
and not content to chat and sit
No, Mrs Godley does her bit.
Or tries to, but it’s rather hard
her Peter joined the Old Boy’s Guard
her Jack went off to man a tank
but no one wants her in the ranks.
It seems a woman’s work in war
is more of what it was before:
ironing, cooking, washing, scrubbing
while men all give the Bosch a drubbing.
A zestful woman in a time
where bus drivers were old and blind
before they ever wore a dress.
No voice in church, committee-less
and wasted, really, like her friends.
So at her threadbare tether’s end
our Mrs Godley takes a stand
and grasps the war with eager hands.
Full-bodied like a vintage port
she scours the streets of Dovercourt
with firm resolve and hawk-like eyes
in search of snooping German spies.
And who’s this here? Suspicious pair
all nordic hue and flaxen hair,
peculiar manner, funny hats
no Englishman would dress like that!
You there boy, now are you willing?
Help your country! Earn a shilling!
Good lad. Operation Rhine:
go ask that brace of chaps the time.

She sends him with a zealous push
then darts behind a nearby bush
to listen as they answer him
and when they do the news is grim!
A stuttered mess of Zees and Vees
so Mrs Godley’s out the trees
flag wagging her white parasol
to fetch a military patrol.
Here they come now, almost quickly
(asthmatic, flat-feet, over fifty)
whistles blowing, touch of flap
inexpertly they seize chaps.
But later down the local nick
our heroine is feeling sick:
Belgians, Madam, no need for fuss,
best leave the espionage to us.
Your efforts might be better spent
on errands of a gentler bent.

So Mrs Godley set off home
embarrassed, patronised, alone
to measure out her life in jams
and wait for tragic telegrams.

The Kings Head, Harwich, 1918

On Market Street near Harwich dock
the shore-leave sailors stop the clock
and fill their throats with yards of beer
as if the final days were here.

Debouched and broached, The King’s Head groans
with battered thick-slurred baritones
as fear is scrubbed with boozy prayer
in gas-lit, blue-tinged, smokey air.

And can you blame these sozzled kids
for wanting some escape from it?
Tomorrow they haul anchor then
they sail away from homes and friends.

From Danbury; from Peasenhall;
from Edmonton; from Coggeshall;
from terraces up pot-holed lanes
from hamlets never touched by trains

from farmhouse, workhouse, market hill
from trading streets that chirp and till
from nooks that never make a noise
apprentices and grocer’s boys

step up and say that they are keen
despite the fact that they’ve all seen
the letters home, the telegrams,
and fresh-faced widows pushing prams.

They’ve watched their brothers not return
they’ve heard of how their young lungs burned
with gas in reeking sodden ruts
and now they feel it in their guts.

The churn of dark uncertain days
they gulp it down, the newly brave
play brutes and beasts until they’re sore
and summon what it takes to leave for war.

Stay-at-Home Dandy

Here he comes – all style and snuff
the rubber gloves with lacy cuff
from icy quips in perfume fug
to scrubbing cat sick off the rug.
It’s Oscar Wilde meets Mother Hubbard
in an East of England suburb.
Wears his velvet pinny tight
Stay-at-Home Dandy – he’s alright!

Man of nappy, man of bib
he does his bit for women’s lib
by bleaching teaspoons in his topper
household chores – he does ‘em proper
homework club while prepping tea
(he aced romantic poetry)
Dad! Please stop quoting Byron!
Stay-at-Home Dandy – Go on try one!

The school run’s never seen his ilk
the tailored trews, the plume of silk
the pocket watch, the floral scarf
with polkadots of baby barf.
Hip-hip horray this popinjay
puce peacock of the PTA
frayed pantaloons and riding crop
Stay-at-Home Dandy – Soccer Fop!

Weekly shop? Pah! it’s a Spar Day
menthol supers, bottle of chardonnay
then “good lunch” with the village movers
Jeremy Irons, Terry Hoovers.
Playgroup! Watch the gropey mum!
What’s for tea dad? Opium!
Starched cravat and vampish slap
Stay-at-Home Dandy – what a chap!

The narcissistic nanny man
who does the things Aunt Fanny can
Mum’sNet break: AIBU?
My wife won’t let me wear her shoes!
To garden next to prance and prune
a crazy, hazy afternoon
he nips and buds les Fleurs Du Mal
Stay-at-Home Dandy – fuck – he’s swell

From Middle England – grey and mean
all rank hypocrisy and spleen
comes fresh caprice in Saville suits
and champagne-rinsed rococo boots.
Wreck the rules, lose the labels
still get dinner on the table.
Love yourself and love your kin
Stay-at-Home Dandy. [hiccup] Fin.

Spoken Word Session with Janice Long

I was lucky enough to be interviewed by the great Janice Long on Wednesday night. I did a few poems, chose a few songs and talked. Mainly, I talked. You can listen to it here.

Better Together

So I gone wrote a poem about Scottish Independence, or rather a satire on some of the English voices on the Better Together campaign. The Guardian commissioned it and you can see the video here..

Bitter Together

Scotland, old boy, come on now
must we have another row?
We’re not so different, you and I -
Isle of Wight, Isle of Skye,
it’s all the same, a melting pot
from your wee dinghy to my massive yacht!
So come on, let’s be neighbourly.
I feel a deep affinity
for Scotland – have done all my life -
my family owns some land in Fife
well, most of Fife – and Moray -
I even plan to visit one day.

Scotland, darling, change the song
you’ve got the Englishman all wrong
we’re huge huge fans of what you do
haggis, sporrans – well done you!
Your Highland jigs, your heart disease,
your Orkney with its dearth of trees.
Your Russ Abbott – he’s on the money!
I’ll see you Jimmy! Yes, very funny.
Your ditties – Derek, Where’s the Troosers?
And Andy Murray – when he loses -
(Otherwise he’s just sort British, isn’t he?)
God bless the Scotch for all their toil
and all their lovely offshore oil.

Scotland, Scotland, calm down dear
this Bolshy talk is spreading fear
you’ll have them brawling in the streets
park your kilt, we’ll fetch some neeps
I’ll send down for a blended scotch
just stick your sgian dubh in your sock
and tell me, why this lefty tripe
this share-it-out, Utopia hype?
Some will strive, but most will shirk
lovely thought but doesn’t work -
Ha! like your youth, dreadful mess
no, stick with us, we know best.

Scotland, Scotland cool your boots
easy there, here have some fruit
sorry, sorry, I forgot …
but really, stop this “fairness” rot.
Britain’s fairer by the day
now we make the scroungers pay
and charge them for their extra room.
We’ve added to the penal gloom
by banning books in county jails
and put up half the state for sale.
Britain’s back in business, thus
the oligarchs all come to us.

Scotland, sweetheart, don’t look blue
I’ll explain the thing to you.
An apprenticeship, er, union, what you will
takes patience, fortitude and skill
with each chap playing to his strengths
and we’ve gone to such tremendous lengths
to fit you in and fell your funk
and still you pitch up cross and drunk.
Look, just as I’m not made to plead
you were never meant to lead -
we let old Gordon have a go
and look what happened, yes, Och NO!

Scotland, pal, I have a dream
of rivers pure and pastures green
where my strapping, ruddy sons
are diligently waited on
by your pasty, ginger brats
and you and I can chew the fat
we’ll take a show in at the Fringe
my wine glass clinking your syringe
and laugh about this silly spat
now tell me that you don’t want that.
Oh, and small point, hate to mensh
saying it’s an awful wrench
but if you ever make the split
you’ll fail, and we’ll make sure of it.
Chin chin!

Friday Night (UK Garage Revival, feat./ Lora Stimson)

Last week I made my debut as a garage MC. Don’t panic, this was not a conscious career move. This was Homework. Homework is the club I run with Joe Dunthorne, Ross Sutherland, Tim Clare and John Osborne (our 6th resident Chris Hicks ran away to Japan). We do six events a year at The Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, and each month we have to produce new work to a theme. The theme this month was music and I hit upon the idea of us all writing a song. To mix it up Ross suggested we draw genres from a hat. We got our cruel audience to suggest genres. One man suggested Garage, and I just knew …

To say I’m not a fan would be putting it mildly. However, I do know a bit about garage. It was at its most popular when I was 17 and starting to go to clubs. Making the song was a bit of trip down memory lane and I realised that when I first started writing poems I was basically just writing to a garage beat. So whether I like it or not garage is in my artistic DNA. Brap. Ahem.

I thoroughly enjoyed making this and performing it for the Homework faithful. It was scary and difficult and made me think about how I go about creating, which is exactly what we want Homework to do. That said, I might find a way of doing a poem next month.

“Props” to Lora Stimson who did the vocal on the chorus bits. Lora and I were in a indie band called Dorian Grey when we were at college, during this period that I’ve written about. If you’d told us then…

If you want to come to Homework then all the events are on my ‘gigs‘ page. Or more info can be found here.

Below is the video of me performing the piece at Homework, below that is a recording in which I get the words right.

An Immodest Proposal

An Immodest Proposal

It is a melancholy spectacle, to those, who walk the streets of British towns, and indeed through parts of the countryside, which should by rights be reserved for the middle and upper-middle classes, to observe the benefit scrounger: these hulking boss-eyed yobs and their obese, tattooed women folk, dragging dangerous canines or potty-mouthed children down streets and through public parks that are maintained with the taxes of decent, hard-working people.

There are some who like to point the finger at this excrement: puce-faced mechanics and Audi-driving junior executives cough Cornflakes on their Daily Mails when faced with a photograph of yet another chain-smoking illiterate enjoying some treat or other. One can hardly blame his fellow countryman for this reaction, but when I see some rat-faced degenerate effing and blinding at her scrawny offspring outside a municipal building I can feel nothing but pity for her and these poor urchins who will, no doubt, grow-up to become thieves or reality-TV contestants. To see a fellow human being living so low, and seemingly with no point or purpose to their short, unhappy life, fills me with a deep grief. After witnessing such maudlin existences it is no surprise to hear that these citizens (for want of a better word) resort to defrauding the state.

But, of course, the sorry business cannot just be ignored. If we cannot be divided how can we be effectively ruled? So, we come to rely upon responsible news outlets, who bravely scour the rougher parts of these islands for ever more shocking abuses of our generous welfare system, to feed us regular tales of this deceit. While the brief moments of dead-eyed outrage these news stories provide the average Briton should not be dismissed as useless, they are, after-all a much needed distraction from the smallness of our everyday lives, I have come to realise that there might be a way to end this problem altogether.

The solution came to me today while reading about a young women called Josie Cunningham. Miss Cunningham has caused rage and disquiet in homes across the land for having a £4,800 breast enhancement operation (a “boob job”) free of charge (to her!) on the National Health Service. This “boob job” has led to some “glamour modelling” work and regular employment as a £1000-a-night prostitute. It was upon reading that final fact my idea struck. This woman is now a top tax-bracket earner! She has gone from scrounging off the state to paying almost £100,000 a year in tax, the cost of her boob job many, many times over.

My proposal is modest (and yet also immodest): BOOB JOBS FOR ALL WOMEN ON BENEFITS, whether they seek them or not! With one piece of legislation we can lift thousands of women out of wretched state dependence and bolster Britain’s flourishing sex industry. I challenge Mr Cameron to draft a white paper immediately. And if Mr Miliband could perhaps stand limply by the white paper and then apologise later he will do himself and his party much credit. Mr Farage has already expressed strong support for my idea. I didn’t bother with Clegg.

* It must be said I make this proposal with no personal motives – none of my immediate family would qualify for this measure and my own use of pornography and prostitutes remains, and will remain, indiscriminate and unthinking.

Babble On

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I’m delighted to have programmed part of Edinburgh International Book Festival’s programme for 2014. On Saturday 16th August the festival will be focusing on spoken word and I’ve put together seven events (plus two Unbound gigs yet tba). The day is produced by the brilliant Becky Fincham.

Babble On features performances from Hollie McNish, Martin Newell, Kevin Eldon, Hannah Jane Walker & Chris Thrope, Mark Grist, Tim Clare, Ross Sutherland and many more.

Babble On will show off the diversity of voices and quality and writing present in Britain’s Spoken Word scene. Have a look at our line-up here.

Heart

I’m really pleased to be included in Rebecca Goss’ heart poems project in aid of Children’s Heart Week. You can read my brand new poem “Oh England Heal My Hackneyed Heart” here.

The Children’s Heart Federation (CHF) is a registered charity. There are lots of ways you can help this charity raise important funds by organising your own event or taking part in some of the CHF events. There’s The Big Heart Bike Ride, The Dragon Boat Challenge or the slightly less strenuous Bring a Bear Day – to work or school. There are fundraising opportunities for all ages, things that you can get involved in independently or as a group. Find out more about fundraising for the CHF here.

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