White working-class men aren’t allowed to write poetry… but here’s some anyway.

Pretty accurate

A few months ago I had the pleasure of throwing myself back into that most enjoyable of activities: moving house. Moving house is always a wonderful exercise – my favourite aspect is always dealing with those efficient and responsive people who work at some of the globe’s finest internet service providers. It has been a few years since I last moved house so I was astonished at how much their service level has improved in the interim. This time it only took me four months to successfully relocate my internet connection.

While going through boxes of junk, I stumbled upon some note books from my younger years. Immediately upon opening the books a dark cloud of self-indulgent adolescent emotion flew out of the pages and infected my surrounding neighbourhood. A group of passing teenagers were unfortunately quite badly contaminated and have now got heavily into grunge music and experimenting with razor blades.

Now, everybody knows that white working-class men aren’t allowed to write poetry. The art is solely reserved for those with better families, better educations and better connections. There may have been a time in the more aspirational 1950s, ’60s and ’70s when bright young talents were plucked out of their council estates and given a chance at a better life by admitting them into a Grammar School, but thankfully we live in more enlightened times today. The Arts are firmly back in the hands of the bourgeoise, with the exception of a few publishing deals and scholarships thrown to ethnic minorities and women to make everybody feel better. We are so lucky to be living on the right side of history, aren’t we?

I took this photo. The following Wednesday I popped my head round to see what these drama classes entailed and it was just an empty room with two women having a conversation about whether they needed to print more flyers.

Browsing through some of my younger self’s poems, I discovered that the exact same realisation had occured to me over fifteen years ago. Here’s one poem that I remember writing after watching a bunch of overly-privileged luvvies slapping each other on the back on BBC2’s Late Review and telling each other how wonderful they all were.

Fuck Byron

I will not see my father die,

On a deathbed he won’t lie,

And I’ll not hear his final sigh,

I’ll work instead.

I will not meet the perfect girl,

We’ll never dance, we’ll never twirl,

No poems on her hair that curls,

That’ll be unsaid.

More with a slapper I’ll get pally,

And fumble in a backstreet alley,

She’ll notch me on her bedpost tally,

Perhaps I’ll pay.

And as children we never played,

But wondered who would first get laid,

We never skipped along the glade,

That would seem gay.

Scenes like this aren’t for the masses,

They’re only enjoyed by upper classes,

Or in the heads of literary asses,

A false concept.

So I’ll not hold my dying dad,

He wouldn’t want that from his lad,

I’ll go to work and feel sad,

And soon forget.

Looking back on that poem I can’t believe how woefully immature I was back then. Just look at that pathetic usage of metre, rhythm, verse and rhyming. Here in #2017 I now know that proper poetry should be blank verse, contain no rhyme, and is only fit for publishing if it mentions homosexuality, the suffragettes or racism: preferably all three.

Still, talent I may not have possessed, but foresight seems to have been mine. Here’s one poem that analysing my life so far has turned out to be stunningly accurate and probably will continue to remain so.

The Evolution of Man

At one he didn’t know what to think.

At ten he wanted to conquer the world.

At twenty he wanted to conquer the girl he adored.

At thirty he wanted to conquer the job he abhorred.

At forty he wanted to conquer his children’s ambition.

At fifty he wanted to conquer his medical condition.

At sixty he wanted to conquer his world.

At seventy he didn’t know what to think.

Any example of poetry written by young people wouldn’t be complete without some good old-fashioned emo-wallowing on not getting enough sex – it’s the stuff that indie band dreams are made of. I wasn’t cool enough to join a band or learn how to play guitar, so I wrote crap poetry instead. Here’s a couple of examples, again containing that pesky use of verse and rhyme. Don’t worry though readers – I’ve since matured considerably and brushed up on my Maya Angelou. Now I finally understand what great poetry should be.

Old Man Love

Here he comes, Old Man Love,

With helmet of steel and an iron glove.

He comes on a horse as black as the night,

Fiery eyes gleaming and burning bright.

With weapons of sex, passion and lust,

He reduces strong men into nothing but dust.

Hunting’s his game, the thrill of the chase,

Breaking men’s hearts by swinging his mace.

Trailing behind are the hearts he has gained,

Each one blackened, shattered and strained.

Slowly he counts them, one by one,

Spearing them all until they’re all gone.

The day’s work is done, he has enough hearts,

Steadying his horse he turns and departs.

Tomorrow he’ll be back to collect even more,

Be careful, my friend, avoid Old Amour.


The Dead Man at a Wedding

A friend of mine

Whom I had not seen for a long time

Invited me to his wedding yesterday

I went, but it wasn’t easy

For you see, I was dead

I had been dead for some time

It was terribly inconvenient

But I went anyway

A dead man went to a wedding

In the church I sat on the back row

Decomposing slowly down the pew

And as the couple exchanged vows

When two became one

I slowly fell apart

Letting the worms nibble away my insides

Later the bride threw the bouquet

It came flying my way

But I could not catch it

Because I was dead

So it just bounced off my side

Knocking an eyeball out as it did so

The meal afterwards was nice

Though I could not eat anything

For the food just fell through me

And littered the floor

The best man’s sister also complained

That my stench was putting her of her food

So I sat and rotted on the verandah…

… for a little while.

I did not stay for the disco

My dead legs aren’t used to dancing

My friend thanked me for coming

Though his wife didn’t look so sure

She did not like to see

A dead man at her wedding

I caught a taxi home

Lowered myself back into my grave

I left my piece of wedding cake

By the side of my headstone

And let the rats devour it

I haven’t been invited to the Christening

That last example is actually not too bad. You can see that by that time I had discarded punctuation and any attempt at rhyming. Perhaps if I had carried on with the poetry I might have finally mastered the art form and stopped using capital letters too.

Well, that’s enough poetry for one day. Since this is still for the time being a supposedly China-centric blog, I guess it would be wrong of me not to include at least one example of one of my failed efforts at writing a China themed poem. Here you go. In all honesty though: this one is genuinely terrible. Author Simon Clode will enjoy the pot noodle reference though.

The Centre of the World

Dust, dirt, sandstorms and grime,

Dry stinking streets covered in slime,

Discarded pot noodles, packets of tea,

Beijing is really getting to me.

No electricity, everything dim,

Wheezing buses packed to the brim,

A million taxis go BEEP BEEP BEEEE,

Beijing is really getting to me.

People wanting you only for cash,

Others pestering for an English class,

Selfish strangers are sending me crazy,

Beijing is really getting to me.

Life without any deep, happy meaning,

Cheaters smiling but lacking in feeling,

This desert decay makes me feel empty,

Beijing is really getting to me.

Join me next week on this blog when I’ll go back to acceptable topics for white working-class men to write about; namely football, tits, and how fucking terrible they are and how they deserve to be wiped out.


If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

5 thoughts on “White working-class men aren’t allowed to write poetry… but here’s some anyway.

  1. “Now, everybody knows that white working-class men aren’t allowed to write poetry”

    Because when they do the result is John Cooper Clarke doing spoken-word on the Old Grey Whistle Test.


  2. My greatest fear about the impending full data dump to disrupt certain populations isn’t the revelations of who I’ve shagged and failed to shag, my finances or lack of, or even the out of context comments that will sound really vicious. It’s my mid-teenage poetry being unleashed.


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