John Cooper Clark - borrowed from his website.
So, never mind all the royal fuss down south... the exciting event for many of us recently was a TV documentary about poet John Cooper Clarke (it's here - available for a few more days). Maybe it's because I'm an (English) Northerner but I do love JCC (and I've written bits about him before - here and here). For a start I love his accent (never mind the eternal "punk poet" - how about "alternative king of the north"?) but I also love his total devotion to just being himself and not what other people want him to be, his use of language and his dedication to rhyme. I like that he's such a music fan too (wisely he's hung around with musicians far more than with poets...), that he's so naturally funny and entertaining but at the same time deathly serious, in his way. I love that he lost some years to drugs (happens to the best people, you know) and that he has come back from the beyond, in some ways, stronger than ever before. What a guy... even if he is, technically, from the wrong side of the Pennines (as they say). You can't win 'em all.
The new documentary has more talking heads than a poetry festival has extremely opinionated individuals and some of them you will enjoy more than others, depending on your taste. I enjoyed Billy Bragg's contributions (because I love him possibly even more than JCC... no definitely I do... Billy sings this) and nods from comedian Bill Bailey and Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner but there are lots of others to spot (Steve Coogan, Stewart Lee, Mark Radcliffe, Plan B, Craig Charles... it's a long list). You did feel they struggled to get some women onto the list of heads (total 3 - journalist Miranda Sawyer, singer/songwriter Kate Nash and "GCSE Syllabus Selector" Gill Murray... for they learn JCC at school now, apparently) but some is better than none...
Still, the heads are really secondary and it is, as it should be, JCC who is the star of this show. I've selected my favourite quotes from the show and pasted them for your delectation below:
I'm grateful I never had any encouragement actually. You look at the poets that got encouraged by their parents and they're all shit.
If you see me going into a vegetative state, right, I've been there before and it's not that bad. Don't go making assumptions - "oh, he's dribbling out of the corner of his mouth, we'd better kill him he was a very proud man."
Poetry like all art is utterly useless, it is, fucking useless - that's the beauty of it, it's a luxury.
Because I rhyme things my preoccupation is with technique, the craft of it, how best to put this so that it, you know, supplies this rhyme. In between those two rhyming words is your imagination then coming into play.
People who make a distinction between written poetry and recited poetry make a mistake, I think, because all poetry should be read aloud.
And to end - a video of the poem of JCC's that most on the programme seemed to pick as their favourite: