Marat 1 A poem about elitism in the world of publishing…


(or… Back when Adam delved and Eve spun
Who then was Sir John Betjeman?)

I‘m not a proper poet, me;
I drop mi aitches, frequently

Yes, Pam Ayres seems to do all right
But imagine the outraged cries
Of the nonplussed literati
If she took the Pulitzer Prize.
My lingua franca, to be frank
Seems at odds with the polished tongue.
An RP speaker might assume
My Mum and Dad had got it wrong.

Larkin might blame my parents, see.
I’m not a proper poet, me.

I’m not a proper poet, me.
Enunciation is the key.

I bastardize the spoken word
To perpetuate my vision;
Making use of the elipsis
And especially elision.
My ‘Modern English Usage’ will
Make old Fowler spin in his grave;
Thus leaving me, made out to be
A poor poetry, paltry knave.
Whatever critical thinking
Is placed upon this ‘masterpiece’;
I know it won’t be long before
I’m nicked by the grammar police.

They want me under lock and key.
I’m not a proper poet, me.

I’m not a proper poet, me.
Life interrupted poetry.

But life has given so much more;
It brought uncertainty and fear,
Along with much love and laughter
But little income in each year.
Working hard and then hoping for
Easy terms on a Frigidaire.
It must be nice composing verse
In the rarefied Oxbridge air.
Writing in the sheltered housing
Of a desk in some campus space;
Six hours a week of tutoring
Then back to the Tassimo-face.
It’s not Kate Tempest’s urban rage
Or Wilfred Owen’s pointless war;
Sustained by Bourbon biscuits and
The single malt in the drawer.
Condescending cognoscenti
Forget you can write from the heart.
Sometimes you have to live some life
Before it’s time to make a start.
You bet yer man that Betjeman
Managed fine without his degree;
The first poetry superstar
And a regular on TV.

Not the right university.
I’m not a proper poet, me.

I’m not a proper poet, me.
Born of the Pistols’ Anarchy.

A jazz maestro cries in anguish,
While pulling on his goateed chin,
On hearing those first strident chords
“Rock’n’roll lacks the discipline!”
And remember punk was poo-poohed
By prog rockers back in the day.
“One chord wonders playing the part
And singing about anarchy!”
They wished them all an early death
But punks climbed out of the rubble,
Persevered with their instruments;
Had success without much trouble.

I still like Yes and ELP.
I’m not a proper poet, me.

I’m not a proper poet, me.
My publisher is…me, you see.

I’ve no chance to be poster boy
At either Faber or Faber
(Less at Virago no matter
How much I rattle my sabre!).
So when the literary world
Is rocked by Holly-come-lately
(Picks up a deal with Picador);
The reactions matter greatly.
Seen as “the denigration of
Intellectual engagement” –
Put another way “dumbing down”;
Disguising certain resentment.
The green-eye of the yelling god
Is crying ‘it’s unmerited
To throw money at arrivistes
And leave us disinherited’.
Yes some of it might not be great
But some of it certainly is.
Trust the eyes of the beholder
Who are the ones that fund the biz.
If you just want to be admired
For your cleverness and skills
Then go out and buy a mirror
And find a host of daffodils.

There’s poetry and poetry.
I’m not a proper poet, me.

I’m not a proper poet, me.
I stand up for equality.

Let’s hear it for the Spoken Word…
A fanfare for the common man.
A way to progress their writing
Perhaps the only way they can;
With parent-funded internships
Creating a social impasse.
Yet another means to muffle
The voices of the working class.                                                                                                        If this embryonic poet
Brings new readers to the table,
She may inspire others to write
In the best way they are able.
When it all gets too complacent,
And in need of a seismic shift,
To open closed shops up and stop
A new voice being cast adrift.
You’ve got to see the big picture
And if it’s not your poetry
That these people are reading now,
Then in time it surely will be.
For now take some kind of comfort
That a stigma has been removed.
People want to be entertained
And they also want to be moved.
After the Manchester bombing
“This Is The Place” sugared the pill;
Tony Walsh (Longfella) moved me
More than Longfellow ever will.

As just a worker honey bee.
I’m not a proper poet, me.

I’m not a proper poet, me.
It’s all good fun, I guarantee.

Don’t be put off on the say-so
Of some academia nuts.
See what I did there? (yeah you did)
And may I say that line took guts.
That’s the point I’m trying to make,
Is be brave and not just clever.
Believe you can be a poet
With courage and some endeavour.
Buy a Rhyming Dictionary
Be surprised at where you’re taken.
“Say what you see!” like on Catchphrase;
Stand up for the point you’re making.
If you can reach out to people
Who think they don’t like poetry…
That see it as nothing more than
A bowl of verbal pot-pourri.
If elitists lead you a dance
By calling it…terpsichory;
Be like Lowry, as smart as paint
And stick with your matchstickery.
Love John Cooper Clarke’s “Midnight Shift”
As much as John Donne’s “Break of Day”.
The world is full of new readers
Who all bought “Fifty Shades of Gray.”
Which brings it back to me again
The ageing arthritic rapper…
Whose hip-op’s on the NHS
And drug of choice is a cuppa.

Collaborating with JayZee?
I’m not a proper poet, me.

I’m not a proper poet, me.
Never taken seriously.

You see, I’m a punchline poet;
My poetry plays like a joke.
It drips with flipping flippancy
(It’s annoying to certain folk).
I’m a poet with a purpose
And it’s not just to make you laugh.
Like French statesman Jean-Paul Marat
I write most of it in the bath.
If poetry moves you to tears
Then why not move you to laughter?
I might not win the Nobel Prize
It’s not trophies that I’m after.
I’m not in it for the money;
I’m happy with any acclaim.
The only thing I ask of you
Is that you remember my name.

Gray Lightfoot…First Bus employee.
I’m not a proper poet, me.

© gray lightfoot


Longfella…Tony Walsh’s poem in the wake of the Manchester Bombing