Ever since I can remember I have been surrounded by poetry. From my mum reading poems to me when I was younger to get me to sleep to being obsessed with it all through school, college and university. My love for words has always been at a level that most would call borderline obsessive. I love poetry that makes you take in every single detail, much like how I am with music. I love poetry that has feeling, romance, humour, charm, a hint of darkness- I just love poetry. There’s one poet in particular that I will always have as my favourite and will always be one of my biggest inspirations.
John Cooper Clarke, the Bard of Salford. The Punk Poet. One of the best things to have come out of the North of England. One of the best poets ever. His way with words stuck with me the very first time I encountered his work. Thing is, I can’t actually remember when it was. I know I was in secondary school, I just don’t know when exactly. Probably when I was 15, we’ll go with that. His words became a beacon of hope during my time in secondary school. If Hell was on Earth, it would’ve been there. Truly awful. John Cooper Clarke’s words will make you crack up whether you are hearing him read them or you read them yourself. His accent is such a powerful force, more on that in a sec.
I couldn’t pick a favourite, or maybe I could. If push came to shove or something, I’d probably pick Twat. It’s poem that you can easily associate with people you know. You know you can. I’m not ashamed that I can associate it with certain people. Then again, I dislike that because it’s such a bloody good poem- they really don’t deserve it. From a comical perspective, well, if it doesn’t make you laugh- what is with you? It’s sheer genius. The way he describes the person to be as useful as a used Smartie or as fun as someone dying at a birthday party is just bloody brilliant. The way he reads this, you can tell he’s thinking of someone. But who? There’s so many twats in the world, it’d be hard to pick out who it could be about. Some people are more twattish than others. This is the perfect poem to recite to someone who just fucks you off to high Heaven. I know most of this poem, I am ready!
His accent, his voice- so distinctive and clear. His wonderful Mancunian accent is partly what makes his poetry so moving. When a poet reads their work, you can feel and sense so much from their voice. The sincerity just comes through so clearly, and you connect to it in a way that makes you feel you are part of what they are saying. I’m just going to throw this out there, if ANYONE deserves to be the Poet Laureate. He is a National Treasure. He is a bloody genius; if you can’t see that then you are missing the voice. I absolutely adore his accent. I love Northern accents- I suppose I have to with having a family that are from Yorkshire (the other half is Italy.) I could easily just listen to his voice all day. I love hearing him sometimes on air with Radcliff and Maconie on 6Music- it’s like listening to the naughty kids at school. I’ve always said that I would love to sit in a pub with Mark E Smith (The Fall) and John Cooper Clarke. Not even to join in with the conversation, but to just hear what they were saying. I’m certain some pearls of wisdom would be shared. The charm and wit in the conversation would just be wonderful.
I chose Twat as one of my favourites, but there is another poem by John Cooper Clarke that I hold quite dear to me. This poem is on the opposite scale of Twat. I Wanna Be Yours is glorious and charming declaration of wanting to be someones and just liking them. I reckon I’m daft enough to recite this to someone whilst a bit drunk. If I do this to you, you should feel honoured- but I’d assume you’d pat me on the head and tell me to go away. I love the feeling of pure devotion that comes through in this poem. It really does make you think of someone, and all the things you want to say to them. Also, the things you would probably do in order for them to see that you’re fond of them. It’s just such a kind, sincere and gentle poem.
“I wanna be your raincoat,
for those frequent rainy days.
I wanna be your dreamboat,
when you want to sail away.
Let me be your teddy bear,
take me with you anywhere.
I don’t care.
I wanna be yours.”
His words spoke to (and still do) to people who just want something non-pretentious and overbearing to relate to. I mean, it’s all well and good having poetry that paints the world in several shades of red, blues and greens- but sometimes you want something simple with an amazing level of humour that makes you see the world the way you already see it. It’s just good to have someone like John Cooper Clarke say it for you. The way he does it is utterly mind-blowing. He is such a creative force that has evidently inspired so many. If you read any of Alex Turner’s (Arctic Monkeys) lyrics, you will see such an influence of John Cooper Clarke in there. That Northern demeanor is so charismatic and warming, it just makes you want to sit in some run-down pub in a grey town surrounded by old Northerners talking about their lives. Laughing to yourself about the phrases they come out with and how they word it.
John Cooper Clarke deserves a hell of a lot more respect and recognition. His work needs to be studied by anyone and everyone. His sharp tongue and his immense wit just draws you in. Once you’ve experienced this, you become a fan for life. That’s how it was for me when I was 15, it’s been nearly 10 years and my love for him and his work is still just as big and important as ever.