Health Fanatic – John Cooper Clarke

May 3, 2015

Here is a blast from the past:


Around the block – against the clock

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock

Running out of breath – running out of socks

Rubber on the road… flippety flop

Non-skid agility… chop chop

No time to hang about

Work out health fanatic… work out!


The crack of dawn he’s lifting weights

His tell-tale heart reverberates

He’s high in polyunsaturates…

Low in polysaturates…

The Duke of Edinburgh’s award awaits

It’s a man’s life

He’s a health fanatic… so was his wife


A one-man war against decay

Enjoys himself the hard way

Allows himself a mars a day

How old am I – what do I weigh

Punch me there… does it hurt… no way

Running on the spot don’t get too hot

He’s a health fanatic, that’s why not


Running through the traffic jam – taking in the lead

Hyperactivity keeps him out of bed

Deep down he’d like to kick it in the head

They’ll regret it when they’re dead

There’s more to life than fun

He’s a health fanatic – he’s got to run


Beans greens and tangerines

And low cholestrol margarines

His limbs are loose, his teeth are clean

He’s a high-octane fresh-air fiend

You’ve got to admit he’s keen

What can you do but be impressed

He’s a health fanatic… give it a rest


Shadow boxing – punch the wall

One-a-side football… what’s the score… one-all

Could have been a copper… too small

Could have been a jockey… too tall

Knees up, knees up… head the ball

Nervous energy makes him tick

He’s a health fanatic… he makes you sick

A poem about spell checkers

October 27, 2013

This poem is a warning about relying too much on spell checkers:

Candidate for a Pullet Surprise  by Mark Eckman and Jerrold H. Zar

I have a spelling checker,

It came with my PC.

It plane lee marks four my revue

Miss steaks aye can knot sea.


Eye ran this poem threw it,

Your sure reel glad two no.

Its vary polished in it’s weigh.

My checker tolled me sew.


A checker is a bless sing,

It freeze yew lodes of thyme.

It helps me right awl stiles two reed,

And aides me when eye rime.


Each frays come posed up on my screen

Eye trussed too bee a joule.

The checker pours o’er every word

To cheque sum spelling rule.


Bee fore a veiling checker’s

Hour spelling mite decline,

And if we’re lacks oar have a laps,

We wood bee maid too wine.


Butt now bee cause my spelling

Is checked with such grate flare,

Their are know fault’s with in my cite,

Of nun eye am a wear.


Now spelling does knot phase me,

It does knot bring a tier.

My pay purrs awl due glad den

With wrapped word’s fare as hear.


To rite with care is quite a feet

Of witch won should bee proud,

And wee mussed dew the best wee can,

Sew flaw’s are knot aloud.


Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays

Such soft wear four pea seas,

And why eye brake in two averse

Buy righting want too pleas.

Tim Minchin – Storm the Animated Movie

November 11, 2012

This animated video is by Australian-British comedian, actor, and musician, Tim Minchin. In this acclaimed 9-minute beat poem Minchin argues with a hippy named Storm at a London dinner party about science, truth and Scooby Doo. It has had 1.9 million hits, and there isn’t a skateboarding cat in sight. Enjoy!

A selection of Philip Larkin quotes

May 26, 2012

Philip Larkin is considered one of England’s greatest post war poets. But he was also famous for his no-nonsense personality. He disliked fame and was once  described by Lisa Jardine as a “casual, habitual racist, and an easy misogynist”. He was most  definitely a curmudgeon, but he remains popular more than 25 years after his death. In 2003 a Poetry Book Society survey ranked  him as Britain’s best-loved poet of the previous 50 years. I have a personal connection to Larkin he was the librarian at the University of Hull, my alma mater. I can still remember him telling me off for handing in Peasant Uprisings in 19th Century Bavaria three days late. Anyway, here is a selection of quotes from his poems, letters and other sources:

Sexual intercourse began

In nineteen sixty-three

(Which was rather late for me)—

Between the end of the Chatterley ban

And the Beatles’ first LP.


I have no enemies. But my friends don’t like me.

I can’t understand these chaps who go round American universities explaining how they write poems: It’s like going round explaining how you sleep with your wife.

In life, as in art, talking vitiates doing.

Sex means nothing–just the moment of ecstasy, that flares and dies in minutes.

There is bad in all good authors: what a pity the converse isn’t true!”

I wouldn’t mind seeingChinaif I could come back the same day.

Sex is designed for people who like overcoming obstacles.

I came to the conclusion that an enormous amount of research was needed to form an opinion on anything, & therefore I abandoned politics altogether as a topic of conversation.

Mother’s electric blanket broke, & I have ‘mended’ it, so she may be practising suttee involuntarily before long.

I am always trying to ‘preserve’ things by getting other people to read what I have written, and feel what I felt

Work is a kind of vacuum, an emptiness, where I just switch off everything except the scant intelligence necessary to keep me going. God, the people are awful – great carved monstrosities from the sponge-stone of secondratedness. Hideous.

Poetry is nobody’s business except the poet’s, and everybody else can fuck off.

I have a sense of melancholy isolation, life rapidly vanishing, all the usual things. It’s very strange how often strong feelings don’t seem to carry any message of action

I had a moral tutor, but never saw him (the only words of his I remember are ‘The three pleasures of life -drinking, smoking, and masturbation’)”

How little our careers express what lies in us, and yet how much time they take up. It’s sad, really.

Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth.

Depression hangs over me as if I wereIceland.


They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.


One of the quainter quirks of life is that we shall never know who dies on the same  day as we do ourselves.

You can’t put off being young until you retire.

I think writing about unhappiness is probably the source of my popularity, if I have any-after all, most people are unhappy, don’t you think?

Not My Best Side by U.A. Fanthorpe

February 19, 2012

I really like this poem by the late UA Fanthorpe. It’s called Not my best side, and is based on Uccello’s painting St George and the Dragon, which can be seen at the National Gallery inLondon. The poem’s three stanzas are monologues from each of the three characters depicted in the painting – the dragon, the maiden and the knight respectively. I love the way it subverts the our stereotypes of the characters. Sice reading this poem I have never thought of the maiden in quite the same way:


Not my best side, I’m afraid.

The artist didn’t give me a chance to

Pose properly, and as you can see,

Poor chap, he had this obsession with

Triangles, so he left off two of my

Feet. I didn’t comment at the time

(What, after all, are two feet

To a monster?) but afterwards

I was sorry for the bad publicity.

Why, I said to myself, should my conqueror

Be so ostentatiously beardless, and ride

A horse with a deformed neck and square hoofs?

Why should my victim be so

Unattractive as to be inedible,

And why should she have me literally

On a string? I don’t mind dying

Ritually, since I always rise again,

But I should have liked a little more blood

To show they were taking me seriously.


It’s hard for a girl to be sure if

She wants to be rescued. I mean, I quite

Took to the dragon. It’s nice to be

Liked, if you know what I mean. He was

So nicely physical, with his claws

And lovely green skin, and that sexy tail,

And the way he looked at me,

He made me feel he was all ready to

Eat me. And any girl enjoys that.

So when this boy turned up, wearing machinery,

On a really dangerous horse, to be honest

I didn’t much fancy him. I mean,

What was he like underneath the hardware?

He might have acne, blackheads or even

Bad breath for all I could tell, but the dragon–

Well, you could see all his equipment

At a glance. Still, what could I do?

The dragon got himself beaten by the boy,

And a girl’s got to think of her future.


I have diplomas in Dragon

Management and Virgin Reclamation.

My horse is the latest model, with

Automatic transmission and built-in

Obsolescence. My spear is custom-built,

And my prototype armour

Still on the secret list. You can’t

Do better than me at the moment.

I’m qualified and equipped to the

Eyebrow. So why be difficult?

Don’t you want to be killed and/or rescued

In the most contemporary way? Don’t

You want to carry out the roles

That sociology and myth have designed for you?

Don’t you realize that, by being choosy,

You are endangering job prospects

In the spear- and horse-building industries?

What, in any case, does it matter what

You want? You’re in my way.

Poem #2 : Skyscraper Carl Sandburg

November 13, 2011

This poem by Carl Sandburg ties in with my post about skyscrapers.

By day the skyscraper looms in the smoke and sun and

has a soul.

Prairie and valley, streets of the city, pour people into

it and they mingle among its twenty floors and are

poured out again back to the streets, prairies and


It is the men and women, boys and girls so poured in and

out all day that give the building a soul of dreams

and thoughts and memories.

(Dumped in the sea or fixed in a desert, who would care

for the building or speak its name or ask a policeman

the way to it?)

Elevators slide on their cables and tubes catch letters and

parcels and iron pipes carry gas and water in and

sewage out.

Wires climb with secrets, carry light and carry words,

and tell terrors and profits and loves–curses of men

grappling plans of business and questions of women

in plots of love.

Hour by hour the caissons reach down to the rock of the

earth and hold the building to a turning planet.

Hour by hour the girders play as ribs and reach out and

hold together the stone walls and floors.

Hour by hour the hand of the mason and the stuff of the

mortar clinch the pieces and parts to the shape an

architect voted.

Hour by hour the sun and the rain, the air and the rust,

and the press of time running into centuries, play

on the building inside and out and use it.

Men who sunk the pilings and mixed the mortar are laid

in graves where the wind whistles a wild song

without words

And so are men who strung the wires and fixed the pipes

and tubes and those who saw it rise floor by floor.

Souls of them all are here, even the hod carrier begging

at back doors hundreds of miles away and the brick-

layer who went to state’s prison for shooting another

man while drunk.

(One man fell from a girder and broke his neck at the

end of a straight plunge–he is here–his soul has

gone into the stones of the building.)

On the office doors from tier to tier–hundreds of names

and each name standing for a face written across

with a dead child, a passionate lover, a driving

ambition for a million dollar business or a lobster’s

ease of life.

Behind the signs on the doors they work and the walls

tell nothing from room to room.

Ten-dollar-a-week stenographers take letters from

corporation officers, lawyers, efficiency engineers,

and tons of letters go bundled from the building to all

ends of the earth.

Smiles and tears of each office girl go into the soul of

the building just the same as the master-men who

rule the building.

Hands of clocks turn to noon hours and each floor

empties its men and women who go away and eat

and come back to work.

Toward the end of the afternoon all work slackens and

all jobs go slower as the people feel day closing on


One by one the floors are emptied. . . The uniformed

elevator men are gone. Pails clang. . . Scrubbers

work, talking in foreign tongues. Broom and water

and mop clean from the floors human dust and spit,

and machine grime of the day.

Spelled in electric fire on the roof are words telling

miles of houses and people where to buy a thing for

money. The sign speaks till midnight.

Darkness on the hallways. Voices echo. Silence

holds. . . Watchmen walk slow from floor to floor

and try the doors. Revolvers bulge from their hip

pockets. . . Steel safes stand in corners. Money

is stacked in them.

A young watchman leans at a window and sees the lights

of barges butting their way across a harbor, nets of

red and white lanterns in a railroad yard, and a span

of glooms splashed with lines of white and blurs of

crosses and clusters over the sleeping city.

By night the skyscraper looms in the smoke and the stars

and has a soul.

Poem #1 : Totally like whatever, you know? Taylor Mali

October 9, 2011

I do enjoy reading and listening to poetry. This Taylor Mali poem, Totally like whatever, you know?,  is a nice one to begin with.

In case you hadn’t noticed,

it has somehow become uncool

to sound like you know what you’re talking about?

Or believe strongly in what you’re saying?

Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)’s

have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?

Even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions? You know?


Declarative sentences – so-called

because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true

as opposed to other things which were, like, not –

have been infected by a totally hip

and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?

Like, don’t think I’m uncool just because I’ve noticed this;

this is just like the word on the street, you know?

It’s like what I’ve heard?

I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?

I’m just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?

What has happened to our conviction?

Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?

Have they been, like, chopped down

with the rest of the rain forest?

Or do we have, like, nothing to say?

Has society become so, like, totally . . .

I mean absolutely . . . You know?

That we’ve just gotten to the point where it’s just, like . . .



And so actually our disarticulation . . . ness

is just a clever sort of . . . thing

to disguise the fact that we’ve become

the most aggressively inarticulate generation

to come along since . . .

you know, a long, long time ago!


I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,

I challenge you: To speak with conviction.

To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks

the determination with which you believe it.

Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,

it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.

You have to speak with it, too.

You can download and listen to it here. If you prefer there is a YouTube video.