We break a long silence to bring you some non-news of a literary nature…
Here is the text (with links) to a lecture recently given at the Gomersal People’s Cultural Centre by Androcles Spratwarbler, Emeritus Professor of English Literature and Spot-Welding at the University of Cleckheaton:
In today’s lecture, I want to consider two poems entitled I Wanna Be Yours (meaning One Wishes to be Thine, in more traditional poetic language), one by Doctor John Cooper Clarke, ‘punk’ poet and ‘Bard of Salford’, and the other a response thereto by Dai Lowe, a nonentity from the English Midlands,, currently living in Edinburgh.
The Clarke may be viewed online, here, giving an essential idea of the machin-gun delivery amd demotic acent and idiom, essential to the work’s impact.
Now, many would consider this work an extremely modern piece of vernacular verse, typical indeed of the ‘post-punk’ era of the early 1980s. And yet it, and the recent response, belong to a very old and noble tradition of ‘Persuasion’ or indeed, ‘Seduction’ Poetry. One only has to think back to the Seventeenth Century and John Donne’s To His Mistress Going to Bed and Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress — essentially, “Get ’em off” and ‘How about a shag?’ respectively — for more pointed examples (if more politely worded in the language of the time).
But the Clarke, maybe, takes us further back than that, to the writing of Christopher Marlowe, better known as the ill-fated author of Edward II, Tamburlaine the Great and many more hit shows. His The Passionate Shepherd to His Love (‘Come live with me and be my love’) is a more romantic plea, for, ostensibly, a longer term commitment. And yet it is in itself somewhat undercut by the response poem of 1600, The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd, penned by Sir Walter Raliegh, himself better know today as an Elizabethan sailor, adventurer, and the inventor of the potato.
If the former is a plea for a romantic future (albeit one probably still hoping for a shag to start with), Raleigh’s response can be summarised as ‘get real, mush’. ‘We’re gonna get old, our bits will shrivel up, and we’ll probably argue a lot and get bored — and I don’t trust you poets anyway (ignoring the fact you’re also gay, Kit)’.
So it is in this light we must consider Lowe’s verses. He has, indeed, copied the verse form of the older poems, rather than the looser modern style of the Clarke, and also, in his second verse, refers to the Marlowe/Raleigh pairing (with a rather clumsy and far from clear extra reference to Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Twentieth Century Mexican artists, probably there just to force a rhyme).
And yet, in a style which also lends itself to the rapid and aggressive delivery of a Clarke poem (he also makes reference to the slightly older poet’s notorious Evidently Chickentown in his repeated use of swearwords in the penultimate verse (in which the epithet ‘bloody’ can apparently be replaced with the ‘f’ word throughout), Lowe does endeavour to respond to all of the examples, the inanimate conceits with which the original poet analogises his availibility to his belovéd. It is unclear whether the replacement of a Cortina with a Granada is lazily done for the sake of rhyme or in fact intended for what we might call, if we’re feeling generous, ‘humorous’ effect.
The poem, which we present below, was written in an attempt to win the right to open a show in London for Doctor Clarke, currently engaged in a nationwide tour to celebrate his life and works. It is probably safe to say that no one reading the following will be at all surprised that it didn’t win… There is still some taste and discernment in the world, thank fuck.
I’ll tell you straight, not gonna lie, son,
I don’t need no cordless Dyson
So here’s a damper on your ardour
A clamper for your Ford Granada
I’ll be the Raleigh to your Marlowe
Rivera to your Frida Kahlo —
You sure it’s mine you wanna be?
My own improper property?
For cars I couldn’t give a fuck
And vacuum cleaners really suck
To keep my hair from stormy motion
You’d need a fuckin’ lotion ocean —
My leccy’s incapacitated
My coffee’s all decaffeinated
My heating bill’s beyond your means
You can’t afford to roast my beans
Your coat lets in the bloody rain
Your bloody dreamboat sank again
And though your bloody bear ain’t dead, he
Looks a bloody threadbare teddy
There’s evidently nothing left
Besides, all property is theft
That’s just the harsh reality —
And that’s why mine you canna be