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A poem about partial clownery

On 7 February 2022, the PM’s new spin doctor confirmed that the PM is “not a complete clown”‘. 

Half a Clown

So what’s with the frown?
said the circus god.
You’re our first ever clown in
Downing Street.
Yet it’s going around
that you’re just half a clown.

Conduct yourself
as 100% loon,
a total buffoon.
Sit on a balloon.
Put on a red nose
and your harlequin clothes.
Go party with cake.

Or people may think
that you’re not a true clown,
that you’re only a fake.



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A poem about bricklaying

To shore up its vote in the northern “red wall” seats captured from Labour, the government this week issued its levelling up white paper.

This poem is designed to provide some helpful guidance to those tasked with levelling up.

Instructions for Levelling Up

Take a red wall
that’s rather small.
Announce it will soon
be ten foot tall.
Add some bricks.
Paint them blue.
You’ve got no cement
so stick them with goo.

Throw cheers and hugs
and the kitchen sink in.
You’ve got no money,
just turbo-charged thinking.
Make speeches. Write papers.
Try nodding and winking.

Hope nobody sees
that beneath the wall

 

the ground is sinking.



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A poem about an unlikely saviour

This poem is dedicated to anyone desperately hoping for a reprieve, including the PM Boris Johnson who, at the time of writing, is relying on an unlikely form of salvation from “partygate”. 

The Last Resort

When I’m in the dock
of the heavenly court

When the indictment’s been read
and it’s not at all short

When my praying and begging
have all come to nought

When judgment is nigh
and the demons are brought

When the final sentence
is virtually wrought

When the time has come
for the last resort

I’ll beseech the Lord
to hold the thought

and await the outcome
of Sue Gray’s report.



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A poem about the Queen in Ireland

This poem, written for the BBC World Service, marked the Queen’s visit to Ireland, my country of origin, in 2011.

At that time, the Celtic Tiger was somewhat on the emaciated side.

Whereas the Queen had every reason to be cheerful as Prince William had recently married.

The Anglo-Celtic Rap

And the Taoiseach said – Yo Queen, it’s the Ango-Celtic dawn,
(must remember not to fawn), haven’t seen you for a while,
guess we must have lost your file, tell us ma’am how have you been?
Rather busy – said the Queen, doing cartwheels up the aisle,
one was feeling rather dizzy, now one verges on euphoric,
shall we hug and be historic?
shall we hug and be historic?

And the Taoiseach whispered – sorry that we haven’t been in touch,
we were occupied constructing Ireland version 2.0,
adding get up, adding go, how the slaves became the masters,
how the statues started moving, going faster, going faster,
and we gave the world U2, and we threw in Jedward too,
we’d a vision of the Euro, plus we’ve won the Eurovision
quite a few times more than you, and we made holy communion
with the European Union, but we took more than we gave,
but we clean forgot to save, said the Taoiseach to the Queen,
do you think we were too green?
do you think we were too green?

And the Queen said – no, that’s cool, and we quite regret the Rule
of Britannia and that stuff, all the glorious, victorious,
we played a little rough, did we seem a bit too tough?
were we biting more than barking? were we overly monarchic?
were we not at all contrite? let us now at last be mates,
said Elizabeth the Second, the Great British head of state,
let us not be un-benign, let us go and see a shrine,
we shall almost sip some Guinness, we shall nearly consummate,
does the hand of history beckon?
does the hand of history beckon?

And the Taoiseach said – your highness, may God save your gracious self,
we’ve been taken off in handcuffs by our friend the IMF,
but we can’t put back the lid, can’t undo those things we did,
for the sake of God and Ireland, for the sake of Queen and country
could you spare a couple of quid?
could you spare a couple of quid?


  • Audio broadcast of the poem being read on the The World Today (now Weekend) on the BBC World Service on 21 May 2011:    

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A poem about the mafia, murder and respect

When I was working in Manhattan in the 1980s, Paul Castellano, the head of the Gambino crime family, was murdered as he got out of his limo in front of Sparks Steakhouse, a few blocks from my office. It was a huge news event and there was much speculation around the reasons for, and details of, the assassination. One thing I learnt was that some mob killings are more “respectful” than others, inspiring this poem…

With Respect

When they machine-gunned Sonny
on the causeway
it was done with respect.
Strictly business.
Nothing personal.

When they sent Luca Brasi
to sleep with the fishes
it was done with respect.
Strictly business.
Nothing personal.

When they chopped Lucchese
into lots of bits
it was done with respect.
Strictly business.
Nothing personal.

When they built an office block
above Little Vinnie
it was done with respect.
Strictly business.
Nothing personal.

When they shot the Don
at his favourite restaurant
but before he’d eaten,

that was personal.



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A poem about British sporting inferiority

This poem, broadcast on the BBC World Service in 2011, dates from a time when British tennis success seemed unthinkable  – but maybe it’s now relevant in another sport of your choosing!

A Briton at Wimbledon

you assert
he dictates
you go for the kill
he assassinates

he knows he will
you think you might
you say good evening
he says goodnight

he lifts an eyebrow
you’re known to quibble
he is a canapé
you are the nibbles

you are the liver
he is the pâté
he’s an espresso
you are a latte

you are a penthouse
he is a chateau
he’s at his peak
you’re at your plateau

you’re a repeat
he’s an encore
you are his battle
he is your war

he gets the cup
you get the mug
we shake his hand
but you we hug


  • Audio broadcast of the poem being read on the The World Today (now Weekend) on the BBC World Service on 26 June 2011:    

 


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An acronymic poem about an oil spill

This is one of the my first poems to feature on on the BBC World Service, about the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in 2010. At the time, the oil spill seemed unstoppable; in the end it took three months to plug it – while BP’s reputation also steadily drained away.      

BP

OMG

SOS, SOS
MIA, DOA

AM, FM
CNN, BBC

PR, PR
FAQ, Q&A
OK, OK
FYI, DIY
ASAP, ASAP

AM, PM
AM, PM

WWF
RSPA
RSPB

AM, PM
AM, PM

PR, PR
BS, BS

AM, PM
AM, PM

NB, VIP
CEO, USA
AF1

O

IOU, IOU

SOS, SOS

KO

PS
BP
RIP


  • Audio broadcast of the poem read by the poet on the The World Today (now Weekend) on the BBC World Service on 16 May 2010:    

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A poem about diplomatic dithering

This poem was inspired by a Sunday morning UK/US press conference during the Libya uprising in 2011. Below is an audio of the poem as broadcast on the BBC World Service.  

The Secretaries for Stating

We’re the Secretaries for Stating
in our Sunday morning sweaters.
Now, we’re issuing a call
for an orderly transition
to a newly held position:
We no longer back the sinners.

Let us dare to meet the winners.
We’ll send in our foreign legion
but there’ll be misunderstandings.
Hmm, perhaps it would be better
not to travel to the region.

We propose a no-die zone
and a roadmap to restraint.
We do not condone dictators.
Some last minute modulations
to that closely-scripted statement
will be circulated later.

Yes, we’re the pros at promulgating
with our monumental utterings,
our syncopated mutterings,
our calibrated flutterings,
our finely-crafted splutterings,
our tut tut tut tut tutterings.

The kings of indignating.

We’re the Secretaries for Stating.


  • Audio broadcast of the poem being read on the The World Today (now Weekend) on the BBC World Service on 12 March 2011:    

 


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A Latin papal poem

The following poem was broadcast to mark Pope Benedict’s trip to Britain in 2010, a time when dogmaticism was still a pope’s best friend. 

Of all of my poems that went out on the BBC World Service, this one probably garnered the biggest reaction. See some of the comments on the feedback page.  

I felt that the poem had to be in “Latin”.  I hoped it would be comprehensible, at least to people who, like me, possessed a vague smattering of school Latin. Here’s what I came up with – after much editing down at the behest of the producer. Below you’ll find an audio of a BBC newsreader reading the poem.   

Encyclica Britannica

Saluto populi.
Orbi et urbi.
Disturbi et perturbi.

Et tu Britannia.
Tua culpa.
Quo vadis?
Ad hoc?
Ad liberalismus?
Ad secularismus?
Ad egalitismus aggressivemus?

Habemus Papam,
Pontifex Maximus,
Capo di Tutti
Cardinales.

Pontifico,
dogmatico

contra homosexualismus
et matrimonia samesexismus,

contra contraceptum
et condominium
in Africanium,

pro status quo.
contra quid pro quo,

pro chastitum
et celibatum.

Et paedophilio?
Mortificato
et discombobulato.
Convocato et censura
in camera obscura.

Et ultimato, declarato:
Anglicanis Prodigalis,
reverto ad Papa,
ad paterfamilias.
Ego Benedict.
Ego veritas.
Papa Benny
est infallibus.


  • Audio broadcast of the poem on the The World Today (now Weekend) on the BBC World Service on 18 September 2010:    

  • A video version of the BBC broadcast with subtitles:

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