Tuesday 26 May 2020

Not a daffodil in sight

Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt I should state up front that this review will be somewhat biased. John Cooper Clarke, aka the Bard of Salford, was born and raised in the industrial northwest of England, like me. He's working class, like me. I saw him perform I Married a Monster from Outer Space in the early 80s, and in the early 90s a friend and I tried to get him to play a gig in London (his mum was his manager). You'd be right to say I'm a big fan of John Cooper Clarke and that I was inclined to like Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt before I read it.

His poems are humorous, visceral, and deal with subjects that reflect the poet's background and experiences in the 1970s. There's not much punctuation in the book, but that reflects how Clarke performs his work. Check him out on YouTube reading Kung Fu International (from this collection) in 1978.

It was a pleasure to read favourites such as Evidently Chicken Town and Love Story in Reverse. There are also some which I'd never come across before. The self-explanatory Readers' Wives made me laugh out loud:
a fablon top scenario of passion
things stick out of holes in leatherette
they seem to be saying in their fashion
i'm freezing charlie have you finished yet
I also smiled at the holiday poem, Majorca:
I got drunk with another fella
who'd just brought up a previous paella
wanted a fight but said they were yella
in majorca
A couple of other poems stand out but won't be to everyone's taste: Gaberdine Angus is about a flasher, and Conditional Discharge is about STDs. But don't let this put you off. The collection is about real life and real experiences. I doubt many youthful working class poets from Salford would be writing about daffodils.

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