Tag Archives: Saturday Live

Saturday Live poem 2/3/13-Guests: Judy Finnegan & Adam of the Hearing Voices network


Distant Voices, Still Live

I once wrote a poem
about wanting Gordon Brown to be my Dad,
but Richard and Judy were the parents
I really wished that I had had.

In our living rooms every day,
ordinary and nice,
chatting to stars, celebrities and Keith Chegwin,
giving recipes and advice.

Streakers on the weather map,
guests without their clothes,
testicles and traumas
and “Ooh, we’ve had one of those”.

They became spokespeople for the nation,
everywoman and everyman,
your mates, that couple you met on holiday,
a student’s surrogate Dad and Mam.

Parents become broadcast voices
you replay in your head,
“Be good”, “Be quiet” “Be prepared”,
“Don’t be alone with Uncle Ned”.

Even now, some inventive individuals,
with a perverse streak in their souls,
are wishing they were being raised
by Sian Williams and Richard Coles.

The voices in Richard’s Madeley’s head
never stayed in there for long,
but Judy would speak up sensibly
if he went too far or got it wrong.

and they are as unthinkable separately
as an Ant would be without a Dec,
or a Lib without a Dem,
a bloomin without a heck.

Couples who’ve been together for ages
hear the other’s voice in their head,
and they’ll still be able to hear them
when their other half’s away or dead.

Then there’s those other demanding voices,
yelling down’s life’s earpiece.
Now Judy’s have been silenced
and she’s feeling the release.
No more soap stars plugging songs,
no more tossers on pancake day
no more babble and burble and bubble
no more talkers with nothing to say.

A dreaming space in Cornwall,
a kitchen table by the sea,
being able to hear the voices that come
when you let yourself float free.

Many of us wish we could write a novel,
but end up going down the pub,
instead of getting our magnum opus
into the Richard and Judy Book Club

Something of us that will live on
longer than footprints in the sand,
a tangible achievement,
words you can hold in your hand.

But even if we don’t manage that,
our voices will resound and echo,
in the chambers of our loved ones heads,
in the places we used to go.

We can be heard again like a programme on iPlayer,
a podcast you can download any time,
the voice of a person you love
living forever on repeat in your mind.

Our Ends In The North-Saturday Live apocalypse poem


Our Ends In The North

On the first day the world ended,
I said “Least said soonest mended.
“Sometimes these things are sent to try us.”
Though in this case, they were sent to fry us.
But in the North we don’t like to make a fuss,
though sometimes, I admit, we make a bit of a fuss
about how we don’t make a fuss.
In fact that “No Fuss Festival”
with the new play by Alan Bennett
“Not Fussed”
and the 38 act opera “Unfussy”
starring Lesley “I Never Make A Fuss Me” Garrett
might, upon reflection
have constituted making a fuss.
But just because it’s Doomsday, there’s no need to make
a big song and dance about it.
On the second day I was on the bus
when there was a bang and all the lights went out-
and there was a chorus,
of “Call this an Apocalypse? I felt nowt”.
and “Grimsby hasn’t looked this good since
the Germans redecorated.”
You’ve got to make the best of things,
Northerners are tough like that
nobody else compares.
On the third day, the Tyne Bridge fell into a crack in
the space-time continuum
I said “I’ll go to the foot of our stairs”,
but when I got home,there weren’t any.
On the fourth day,
Cleckheaton exploded.
I said “Worse things happen at sea.”
and popped on a Bear Grylls DVD.
On the fifth day the government said it was tough for everyone,
with it being the Apocalypse
but that actually in London the restaurants were full
and maybe we just weren’t trying hard enough
in Liverpool, Newcastle and Hull.
We should get on our bikes
and there not being any roads left, or bikes, was just an excuse.
On the sixth day, the streets were full of people wandering about, moaning.
The Zombies hadn’t come-
it was just folk complaining about the price of petrol
and how the Co Op had run out of white sliced.
On the seventh day Greggs’ Ham and Armageddon pasties
were going down a storm,
and they didn’t have to charge tax
as the surface radiation kept them warm.
On the eighth day there were no planes in the sky,
we had street parties,
shared the last of their tins,
best china was brought out, bunting unfurled.
What’s the problem? we said,
“It’s not the end of the world.”

The Take, a poem after the riots.

Take my word, they took us for a ride,
now you’ve got to take a side.
They took their leave, now their leave’s been taken,
They’re taking control, over, charge.
Take note of the decisions they’re taking.
Take your chances or have your chances taken.
Take off, take up, take out, try not to be mistaken.
Take a break, take on me, take a leak,
Take your time, take a kick, take a peek.
Take care, take heart, take it in, take it apart.
Take stock,-not that stock-take a pill, take a look.
Takings are down, takings are up.
Taking your stuff, your livelihood, your will to live-

something’s got to give.

Clearing Up

Beat eggs not people,
Draw trees not guns,
Set fire to your imagination,
Smash taboos, steal puns.
Harness hordes with Haiku
on BBM and Twitter,
Join in the fluting,
set the streets on glitter.
Don’t waste 9 grand on a Uni course
with Martin Amis and A.S Byatt in,
shell out for the next vocational must,
an MA in Creative Rioting.

Four Possible Futures For Performance Poetry

This week I was asked by someone writing for a Uni newspaper to write a bit about performance and slam poetry and about how I “saw the the future for performance poetry in Britain”. I realised that my view of it’s future had shifted quite a lot since the change of government and shake up of Arts Council funding. How realistic are any of these scenarios?

1. It continues as a grass roots activity with small, enthusiastic audiences and occasional break out performers impact on other fields: eg Hip hop or stand up comedy.

-In most cities there are at least one or two regular events where performance poetry is part or all of the line up. Still, even the most marginal sports (ice hockey say with average attendances of 5000 attract many, many times larger audiences.)

2. It gets more funding and support as a non commercial art form, is used more widely as an educational tool, and borrows platforms and values from subsidised theatre and theatre venues – whilst also developing its own reflective practice and criticism.

-It feels like this is the way things were heading pre Funding crises. Things like the “Lit Up” initiative were spearheading a spread into larger venues. Artists like Inua Ellams, Polar Bear, Molly Naylor and Zena Edwards were working in ways and forums also used in experimental theatre. Aisle 16 & others continued getting Escalator East funding to take shows to the Edinburgh Fringe and many poets worked on Creative Partnerships projects in schools. Apples and Snakes continues to advocate for the medium- & the Arts Council sees it’s funding of an Olympic S
Am project as a strategy to widen it’s educational use. Much less money around than there was though- & the Poetry Society seems to be having a bit of a meltdown over a division between how much they should focus on widening poetry participation through education. A reflective practice among artists and critics would be nice though. Universities might have been pulled in in an era of more humantities research, but that seems likely to be delayed some years now.

3. It breaks out into the mainstream like stand up comedy and becomes a commercial art form supported by British versions of the visionary Russell Simmons of Def Jam in the U.S.

-Yeah right. As many performance poets as non performance poets seem perfectly happy to play for small audiences and not “sell out”.

4. It diversifies and re integrates into other art forms in the way it used to in the early 80s and you get performance poets valued in music, comedy, traditional literary events, academia and even the corporate world.

-Personally I think the diverse portfolio of work that the Saturday Live (Radio 4) poets do is a good example of this. It may not quite fulfil my dream of a mainstream platform promoting greater inclusivity, but a reminder that poets can write accessibly and to order on a wide variety of issues (as also done by Ian McMillan on Radio 5 in the 90s), it means that you can see performance poets in sports arenas, health conferences, er…supermarkets, Literary festivals (as the novelty act though). Live in forlorn hope that Carol Ann Duffy might include performance poets in things sometimes….sigh.

Not included in these scenarios though is the melting pot/melting poet most commonly, not exclusively working in London. Crossing page/performance boundaries. As likely to be found in post in a literary residency as in a one person show in Edinburgh (Helen Mort for example) and less likely to reject out of hand the occasional label of “performance poet”. Their future is more closely tied to the general poetry funding/audience situation in the country (hence, a but precarious but probably safely subsidised to a degree for the foreseeable future).

Or none of the above?