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Poetry slam
Posted by: StephenFryer (
Date: August 19, 2003 02:09PM

Here in the UK, we celebrate National Poetry Day annually. This year, it's on October 9th.

In our local library (Ashford, Kent) we are to have a poetry slam, and I've been asked to help organise.

Thing is, I have virtually no idea what a slam is, or what organising I need to do.



Poetry slam
Posted by: Henry (213.78.111.---)
Date: August 19, 2003 03:05PM

How does the Austin Poetry Slam work?

Anyone can perform -- sign-up starts at 7:30 p.m. First come, first served. Twelve poets maximum.

Poets step up to the mic and perform one poem of their own construction, any style or subject. No props, costumes, musical accompaniment, or animal acts are allowed. Three minute time limit.

A group of five judges selected from the audience scores each poem on a scale of 0.0 - 10.0, considering both content and performance. High and low scores are dropped, middle three added together (so a perfect score would be 30.0).

High scores advance to 2nd and 3rd round, everybody has a lot of fun, and at the end three poets win cash prizes. The Points are NOT the Point, the Point is Poetry.

For more information contact

It would be interesting to hear from an entrant to a slam.
Best of luck!

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Jack? (
Date: August 19, 2003 05:20PM


Sorry, but I caught you in a lie and a contradiction.

'Anyone can perform'
I don't THINK so!

'Everybody has a lot of fun'
'No animal acts are allowed'
If no animal acts are allowed how can there be FUN?



Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Tandy (
Date: August 19, 2003 05:43PM

I don't know anything about poetry slams either, but I googled it and got 131,000 references! Maybe start with the first one:


Grand slam
Posted by: Henry (213.78.116.---)
Date: August 20, 2003 05:20AM

Well, Jack, perhaps they do things differently in Austin.

There is a whole new world here which we should investigate further. Which appeals to you more, Austin or Ashford?

Stephen, propose a theme of Eurostar in Esperanto and get them to offer the prizes. If only they could perform.


Post Edited (08-20-03 04:26)

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: dennis (
Date: August 20, 2003 10:52AM

Do a checklist. Start with a finished product-slam dunked. Determine the
last function needed before the slam is dunked. Write that down and
work backwards to the front of the event.
The front will be something like 1. a list of guest speakers.
The end will be something like 2. a parting shot and open the doors.
Write this all in sequence. start-to-end-by function.
Get people to do all of the functions. On critical factors arrange back-ups.
Get approval for the checklist and play ball. Hope this helps dlc

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: StephenFryer (
Date: September 19, 2003 04:43PM

Now, I get my comeuppance. As my contribution to National Poetry Day on October 9th, I've agreed to read poems to year 9 kids (age13+) in my local schhol.

Bear in mind, these are street kids from housing estates. They barely read anything beyond comics.

So I don't think there's much on my shelves will get through to them, but ... I aim to try. Bejamin Zephaniah and Eminem are my starting points.

Does anyone have any ideas for shortish poems which streetwise kids will appreciate - oh, and not using the f word?

Post Edited (09-19-03 15:43)


Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Talia (216.117.99.---)
Date: September 19, 2003 05:56PM

I don't have any particulars in mind, but I would say kids would love satire. comical poems--something that would really suprise them. Good luck.

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Pam Adams (
Date: September 19, 2003 07:41PM

The Poetry 180 site has modern stuff that's pretty accessible- []. I like #s 17, 3, 38, and 58.

Or maybe some Gwendolyn Brooks?

We Real Cool
Gwendolyn Brooks


We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.


Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: ph (
Date: September 19, 2003 11:56PM

If it weren't so rampantly politically incorrect, I would suggest The Congo by Vachel Lindsay. Wonderful to read aloud, but you'd get murdered on the spot, and it's long.

Maybe The Highwayman by Noyes--sorta long but it has a story, love and possible betrayal and darkness and courage--all the good stuff.

The Highwayman
By Alfred Noyes

Part One
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight, over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding-
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And dark in the old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say-

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the West.

Part Two
He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gipsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching-
King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through the casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now keep good watch!" and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say-
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till here fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain.

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs
ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did
not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up strait and still!

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him-with her death.

He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat.

* * * * * *

And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding-
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard,
And he taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: -Les- (
Date: September 20, 2003 12:41AM

PH, this poem was just posted here 3 days ago. Go here for the discussion:

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Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: ph (
Date: September 20, 2003 02:58AM

Thanks, Les. Gotta quit hitting that 'messages all read' button!

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: September 20, 2003 01:16PM

They are too old for Pied Piper, I'd guess, but they might go for another by Browning:

Robert Browning - How they Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix

I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;
‘Good speed!’ cried the watch, as the gate-bolts undrew;
‘Speed!’ echoed the wall to us galloping through;
Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,
And into the midnight we galloped abreast.
Not a word to each other; we kept the great pace
Neck by neck, stride by stride, never changing our place;
I turned in my saddle and made its girths tight,
Then shortened each stirrup, and set the pique right,
Rebuckled the cheek-strap, chained slacker the bit,
Nor galloped less steadily Roland a whit.

’Twas moonset at starting; but while we drew near
Lokeren, the cocks crew and twilight dawned clear;
At Boom, a great yellow star came out to see;
At Düffeld, ’twas morning as plain as could be;
And from Mecheln church-steeple we heard the half-chime,
So Joris broke silence with ‘Yet there is time!’

At Aerschot, up leaped of a sudden the sun,
And against him the cattle stood black every one,
To stare through the mist at us galloping past,
And I saw my stout galloper Roland at last,
With resolute shoulders, each butting away
The haze, as some bluff river headland its spray.

And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back
For my voice, and the other pricked out on his track;
And one eye’s black intelligence,—ever that glance
O’er its white edge at me, his own master, askance!
And the thick heavy spume-flakes which aye and anon
His fierce lips shook upwards in galloping on.

By Hasselt, Dirck groaned; and cried Joris, ‘Stay spur!
Your Roos galloped bravely, the fault’s not in her,
We’ll remember at Aix’—for one heard the quick wheeze
Of her chest, saw the stretched neck and staggering knees,
And sunk tail, and horrible heave of the flank,
As down on her haunches she shuddered and sank.

So we were left galloping, Joris and I,
Past Looz and past Tongres, no cloud in the sky;
The broad sun above laughed a pitiless laugh,
’Neath our feet broke the brittle bright stubble like chaff;
Till over by Dalhem a dome-spire sprang white,
And ‘Gallop,’ gasped Joris, ‘for Aix is in sight!’

‘How they’ll greet us!’—and all in a moment his roan
Rolled neck and croup over, lay dead as a stone;
And there was my Roland to bear the whole weight
Of the news which alone could save Aix from her fate,
With his nostrils like pits full of blood to the brim,
And with circles of red for his eye-sockets’ rim.

Then I cast loose my buffcoat, each holster let fall,
Shook off both my jack-boots, let go belt and all,
Stood up in the stirrup, learned, patted his ear,
Called my Roland his pet-name, my horse without peer;
Clapped my hands, laughed and sang, any noise, bad or good,
Till at length into Aix Roland galloped and stood.

And all I remember is, friends flocking round
As I sat with his head ’twixt my knees on the ground;
And no voice but was praising this Roland of mine,
As I poured down his throat our last measure of wine,
Which (the burgesses voted by common consent)
Was no more than his due who brought good news from Ghent.

When you get done, make sure to let them know what the good news was, of course.

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Linda (
Date: September 21, 2003 06:20PM

No, don't do the Highwayman, its on the curriculum, and in primary school at that.

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Marian-NYC (
Date: September 22, 2003 12:55PM

From observation, I'd say that the difference between a POETRY SLAM and an OPEN MIKE for poetry is:

The POETRY SLAM is all poets reading their own work.
All the poems are written TO BE READ OUTLOUD.
There are judges.
The participants appear by invitation or by audition, so what you see is really the finals of a longer competition.
Sometimes a dozen poets read before intermission, then three finalists are chosen to perform again (different poems) in the second half.

The organizers can declare a THEME (e.g., Monday love poetry, Tuesday political poetry, etc.).

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Pam Adams (---)
Date: September 22, 2003 02:35PM

Maybe they could research the good news. That should keep them busy!


Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Jody (
Date: September 22, 2003 03:14PM

How about a Limerick Bash? Read them a few and then invite class participation in writing a few.

There was an old man from ......(local area or street) and go from there.


Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: StephenFryer (
Date: September 22, 2003 03:26PM

Kewl ideas. Thanx.


Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Talia (216.117.98.---)
Date: September 23, 2003 05:00PM

Maybe try doing some of these suggestions.....if they (and you)have a good sense of humor.

50 Fun Things for Professors to Do on the First Day of Class

. Wear a hood with one eyehole. Periodically make strange gurgling noises.
2. After confirming everyone's names on the roll, thank the class for attending "Advanced Astrodynamics 690" and mention that yesterday was the last day to drop.
3. After turning on the overhead projector, clutch your chest and scream "MY PACEMAKER!"
4. Wear a pointed Kaiser helmet and a monocle and carry a riding crop.
5. Gradually speak softer and softer and then suddenly point to a student and scream "YOU! WHAT DID I JUST SAY?"
6. Deliver your lecture through a hand puppet. If a student asks you a question directly, say in a high-pitched voice, "The Professor can't hear you, you'll have to ask me, Winky Willy".
7. If someone asks a question, walk silently over to their seat, hand them your piece of chalk, and ask, "Would YOU like to give the lecture, Mr. Smartypants?"
8. Pick out random students, ask them questions, and time their responses with a stop watch. Record their times in your grade book while muttering "tsk, tsk".
9. Ask students to call you "Tinkerbell" or "Surfin' Bird".
10. Stop in mid-lecture, frown for a moment, and then ask the class whether your butt looks fat.
11. Play "Kumbaya" on the banjo.
12. Show a video on medieval torture implements to your calculus class. Giggle throughout it.
13. Announce "you'll need this", and write the suicide prevention hotline number on the board.
14. Wear mirrored sunglasses and speak only in Turkish. Ignore all questions.
15. Start the lecture by dancing and lip-syncing to James Brown's "Sex Machine."
16. Ask occasional questions, but mutter "as if you gibbering simps would know" and move on before anyone can answer.
17. Ask the class to read Jenkins through Johnson of the local phone book by the next lecture. Vaguely imply that there will be a quiz.
18. Have one of your graduate students sprinkle flower petals ahead of you as you pace back and forth.
19. Address students as "worm".
20. Announce to students that their entire grades will be based on a single-question oral final exam. Imply that this could happen at any moment.
21. Turn off the lights, play a tape of crickets chirping, and begin singing spirituals.
22. Ask for a volunteer for a demonstration. Ask them to fill out a waiver as you put on a lead apron and light a blowtorch.
23. Point the overhead projector at the class. Demand each student's name, rank, and serial number.
24. Begin class by smashing the neck off a bottle of vodka, and announce that the lecture's over when the bottle's done.
25. Have a band waiting in the corner of the room. When anyone asks a question, have the band start playing and sing an Elvis song.
26. Every so often, freeze in mid sentence and stare off into space for several minutes. After a long, awkward silence, resume your sentence and proceed normally.
27. Wear a "virtual reality" helmet and strange gloves. When someone asks a question, turn in their direction and make throttling motions with your hands.
28. Mention in passing that you're wearing rubber underwear.
29. Growl constantly and address students as "matey".
30. Devote your math lecture to free verse about your favorite numbers and ask students to "sit back and groove".
31. Announce that last year's students have almost finished their class projects.
32. Inform your English class that they need to know FORTRAN and code all their essays. Deliver a lecture on output format statements.
33. Bring a small dog to class. Tell the class he's named "Boogers McGee" and is your "mascot". Whenever someone asks a question, walk over to the dog and ask it, "What'll be, McGee?"
34. Wear a feather boa and ask students to call you "Snuggles".
35. Tell your math students that they must do all their work in a base 11 number system. Use a complicated symbol you've named after yourself in place of the number 10 and threaten to fail students who don't use it.
36. Claim to be a chicken. Squat, cluck, and produce eggs at irregular intervals.
37. Bring a CPR dummy to class and announce that it will be the teaching assistant for the semester. Assign it an office and office hours.
38. Have a grad student in a black beret pluck at a bass while you lecture.
39. Sprint from the room in a panic if you hear sirens outside.
40. Give an opening monologue. Take two minute "commercial breaks" every ten minutes.
41. Tell students that you'll fail them if they cheat on exams or "fake the funk".
42. Announce that you need to deliver two lectures that day, and deliver them in rapid-fire auctioneer style.
43. Pass out dental floss to students and devote the lecture to oral hygiene.
44. Announce that the entire 32-volume Encyclopedia Britannica will be required reading for your class. Assign a report on Volume 1, Aardvark through Armenia, for next class.
45. Ask students to list their favorite showtunes on a signup sheet. Criticize their choices and make notes in your grade book.
46. Sneeze on students in the front row and wipe your nose on your tie.
47. Warn students that they should bring a sack lunch to exams.
48. Refer frequently to students who died while taking your class.
49. Show up to lecture in a ventilated clean suit. Advise students to keep their distance for their own safety and mutter something about "that bug I picked up in the field".
50. Jog into class, rip the textbook in half, and scream, "Are you pumped? ARE YOU PUMPED? I CAN'T HEEEEEEAR YOU!"

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Marian-NYC (
Date: September 24, 2003 12:07PM

One of my favorites to recite is NEXT TO OF COURSE GOD AMERICA by e e cummings:

"next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn's early my
country 'tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?"

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water.


Ideally, I would read the entire "quote" in one breath, but I can't manage it, so I have to break it somewhere. Instead of breaking at the end of a line or phrase, I decided to break it in the middle of a WORD, partly to give the impression of being truly out of breath, and partly to avoid over-emphasizing whatever follows the break. I read it thus:

"next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn's early my
country 'tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by g--

[deep loud inhale]

--osh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?"

[small silent inhale]

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water.

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: StephenFryer (
Date: September 24, 2003 03:09PM

Marian NYC, can you make it to Kent for the 9th? I need you.


Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Elliot (
Date: September 24, 2003 06:08PM

Stephen, only a one day poetry day? Here in "The States" we have May as the Official National Poety Month. All month to knock ourselves out over poetry...


Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: IanB (
Date: September 24, 2003 07:11PM

Great technique, Marian-NYC. Wish I could hear you doing it, but can just imagine.

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Ellen (213.40.3.---)
Date: September 25, 2003 06:40PM

To make them think

Not waving but drowning.
Stevie Smith.

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
Iwas much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

To make them laugh
Falling asleep in class
Kenn Nesbitt

fell asleep in class today.
As I was awfully bored.
I laid my head upon my desk
And closed my eyes and snored.

I woke to find a piece of paper
Sticking to my face
I'd slobbered on my text books
And my hair was a disgrace.

My clothes were badly rumpled
And my eyes were glazed and red.

My binder left a three-ring
Indentation in my head.

I slept through class, and probably
I would have slept some more,
Exept my students woke me
As they headed out the door.

To thinking again
Full time loser
John Cooper Clarke

Stop that horse
he wears my shirt
Regrets remorse
O how they hurt
I knock on doors
They turn to dirt
Always the beggar
Never the chooser
Full-time loser

From the slumberland
That time forgot
To the wonderland
Of a spineless clot
Who understands
Who calls the shots
You might know
It's another user
Part-time poet

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: StephenFryer (
Date: September 26, 2003 04:49PM

Thankyou Ellen: your suggestions DEFINITELY go in!


Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Talia (216.117.98.---)
Date: October 01, 2003 12:46PM

Test Prayer.....

Now I lay me down to study,

I pray the Lord I won't go nutty.

If I should fail to learn this junk,

I pray the Lord I will not flunk.

But if I do don't shed a tear,

Just put a rose behind my ear.

Tell my teacher I did my best,

Then pile my books upon my chest.

If I should die before I wake,

That's one less test I'll have to take!

-- Suffering Student

2) Why Johnny Can't Read

"I am home from school Mommy," little Johnny yells as he runs to his room

to watch HIS TV. But his mother doesn't hear little Johnny yell because she

is watching a soap on HER TV. Little Johnny throws his books on his unmade

bed. His spelling test falls on the floor. Little Johnny sits and wonders how

he spelled those two words wrong. He heard them spelled a thousand times in

the TV song. He thought he knew those words so well and he didn't have to

guess. He was absolutely certain that "cheese" is spelled K-R-A-F-T. And

"relief" is spelled R-O-L-A-I-D-S! -- Ann Landers

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Linda (
Date: October 01, 2003 05:24PM

My daughter recommends Jabberwocky and The Walrus and The Carpenter. But she's a 16 year old weirdo.

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: StephenFryer (
Date: October 03, 2003 03:25AM

This is for the UK emuleteers -

the kids want some poetry around the TV they watch. Mostly, they watch Eastenders. Any ideas?


Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Linda (
Date: October 12, 2003 06:36PM

How did it go? Were they interested? Did you survive intact?

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: StephenFryer (
Date: October 13, 2003 07:35AM

I got out alive!

In the end, I stayed away from the Eminem idea. I got the kids to write and boy did they come up with some good stuff. For theme, I gave them some poetry by Lindsay MacRae - 'Facts of Life', and 'Children also get depressed', plus Stevie Smith Not Waving But Drowning: with enthusiasm (based probably on experience but it's best not to ask too many questions) they wrote about bullying, abuse, and suicide.

Then I gave them a load of funny stuff - Kenn Nesbitt mostly, and Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky - and sent them away laughing.

The Poetry Slam in the evening was a great success: lots of audience participation and poetry ranging from the light to the angstridden. I came second with my elegy 'The Man Who Mistook His Mistress For A Mattress' - and a poem about the toilet habits of my cat Tolstoy - all quality stuff my dears and one day no doubt available in a bookshop near you.

Post Edited (10-13-03 10:48)


Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Pam Adams (134.71.192.---)
Date: October 13, 2003 01:21PM

'The Man Who Mistook His Mistress For A Mattress' - and a poem about >the toilet habits of my cat Tolstoy

So post them!


Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: StephenFryer (
Date: October 13, 2003 03:32PM

The Man Who Mistook His Mistress For A Mattress

I came home drunk last night, I will admit.
I’d had an evening out with Jack, my mate.
His influence on me grows worse of late.
It’s 2 a.m. I thought, I’m in the shi*t.

My mistress says that she can understand
That chaps do like an evening down the pub,
A pint or two or eight and then some grub
While grooving to some “loud and awful band”.

Her words not mine: she does not like my taste
In music, nor me hers, if truth be told.
That opera of hers just leaves me cold.
It takes too long to listen to, a waste

Of time. Led Zep I like. So she will say
As long as I don’t play it in the house
She’ll live with me and be my loving spouse.
Or nearly. I expect we’ll wed one day.

We might as well, ‘cause when it comes to sex
It’s poetry. And that’s another thing
We share. Surprised? I am. When muses sing
To me, they sing to her. Me and my ex

Liked music both the same, but didn’t click
On poems. She thought that I was really weird
To spend my time and money on it; feared
To fly. So her and me, we didn’t stick.

I went to readings. Milton Keats and Donne.
And Plath. And cummings. That was where we met.
We both laughed at the rude ones, and we set
Ourselves a challenge. We both lost and won.

Five minutes in, and over went the leg.
Insatiable, we couldn’t get enough:
And as for all that, well, that oral stuff
She volunteered. I didn’t have to beg.

Where was I? Oh, last night. Well I was drunk
And late, again, and scared of what she’d say;
Remembered, the new mattress came today.
Bought because I have so often slunk

Into the little bedroom at the back
To sleep it off. Why is it always me
That drinks too much? Why is it rarely her?
Do operatic concert evenings lack

The opportunity to binge on booze?
I doubt it. But she acts so self controlled
And sensible. She makes me feel quite old
And stupid. I have such a lot to lose.

I climbed the stairs. I knew that she’d been out
To see some awful thing called Turandot -
That eyetie prat Puccini’s got a lot
To answer for. She’d gone with that old trout

Jeanette. That girl is even worse than me.
She likes a drink. She lives life in a fog
Of whisky fumes. Has six cats and a dog.
Yeah, she and mistress mine can sometimes be

As paralytic as your average stiff.
Puccini did the trick, it seems, and thus
My mistress left the car, and took the bus.
I tend to think they’d also shared a spliff.

I climbed the stairs. Now how could I have guessed
That she had thought that I’d be fast asleep?
And, being late, decided she should creep
Onto the mattress (new) and get some rest?

I climbed the stairs. And something, something snapped
Inside my head. A rebel’s poem I’d sing!
New mattress? Cummings! Estlin! In just-spring!
I’ll squeal said HE! This Olaf won’t be trapped!

C’est moi! Geronimo! Ahoy there! Pissed,
I launched myself into the air. I missed
My footing. With a scream, a mid-air twist
I hit the mattress-mistress. Broke her wrist.

I spend my time now reading Gerard Manley Hopkins, good poet,
bit of a puff some say, but poets well you’re either against ‘em or you’re with ‘em
I sometimes think that only good old Gerry, and my mistress, and me,
and all the crazy buggers who contribute to the poetry archive, have heard of sprung rhythm.



We went to the garden centre
to see what we could see.
We bought a pyracantha
a treat for my wife and me.

A pyracantha is a bush
with brightly coloured berries,
which would look nice against the fence
and last for years, no worries.

One point I did make to my wife:
My dear, I beg your pardon –
but do you think we will find space
for this shrub in our garden?

I asked because my darling wife
has a thing about bare earth.
She doesn’t like to see it;
and says it has no worth.

Of course we will! I’ll find a space!
I’ll squeeze it in somewhere!
And so the pyracantha came,
our shrubbery to share

with all the other impulse buys
that we make every year,
and carry home triumphantly
and plant here, here or here.

Or here. We have identified
the very smallest gap
between two unsuspecting shrubs
to accommodate this chap.

On one side is a barberry,
a buddleia on the other –
I’m sure that I can hear them sigh
‘Oh God, here comes another’.

Out with the trowel, out with the fork,
Down I go onto one knee –
there’s no room for two in this border you see –
and dig where the new boy’s to be.

A ten minute job, and before you know it,
a hole is dug and ready for action.
And I go to get the pyracantha
to see if the hole is a fraction

too big or too small, too shallow or deep,
or needy of any more working;
and to find me some compost to put in the bottom,
which I know in the greenhouse will be lurking.

The hole’s unattended
there’s no-one around,
and out from the shrubbery,
with hardly a sound
comes the ground force team,
not Titchmarsh not Charlie
not Tommy not Will,
but the feline army.

Yes, here come the cats.
Oh, didn’t I mention
we’ve over a dozen,
and us on a pension?

Their food costs a fortune
so we can’t afford litter
so out in the garden
go the twelve little shitters.

The head of the clan is a snowshoe,
a Siamese boy with four white paws,
very fond of listening to detailed instructions
which he inevitably ignores.

As I was heading up the path towards the greenhouse
I spotted Tolstoy out of the corner of my eye
and I gave him a detailed instruction
‘Stay away from that hole, or die!’

Yes you’ve guessed it, when I came back down the garden,
there squatted the dear little sole,
his face turned towards the heavens,
his bum turned towards the hole.

So it is that the new pyracantha
has a good start on life, I am sure:
with good friends on both sides, with water and love,
and a good dose of Tolstoy manure.

Post Edited (10-13-03 14:33)


Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Jack? (
Date: October 13, 2003 03:48PM


I remember the first, but not the second.
Both great!



Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: IanB (
Date: October 13, 2003 05:31PM

Bravo, Stephen!


Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Linda (
Date: October 13, 2003 06:50PM

And in years to come you'll have readers asking who Titchmarsh, Charlie, Tommy and Will were. Even worse, the poem survives a centuary and our successors will be asked.

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Pam Adams (134.71.192.---)
Date: October 13, 2003 07:26PM

Actually, people will be writing theses on the 'hidden meanings' of the work.

My assumption was that they were football players. (soccer on this side of the Atlantic) However, Titchmarsh seems to be a gardener. Who are the others?


Seem like ordinary cat names to me- I can claim Bonnie, Cecil, Ellie, Samantha, Silvie, Black Cloud, and the [weird] Siamese, Obi-Wan.

Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: StephenFryer (
Date: October 14, 2003 01:54PM

The others are gardeners too.

I have sixteen cats. One is called ForNow. When she arrived, seventeen years ago, my daughter was asked to give her a name, couldn't decide, said 'let's call her kitten, for now'. Over time, we dropped the 'kitten' part.


Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Pam Adams (134.71.192.---)
Date: October 14, 2003 01:59PM

My sister's newest is named 'Danger Kitty.' She's a very tiny and very foolhardy kitten.


Re: Poetry slam
Posted by: Linda (
Date: October 14, 2003 06:31PM

Tommy and Will may disagree with that description, they're really more of jobbing builders who only seem to build gardens now. Charlie is a statueque woman without a bra and with the ability to carry half hundredweight sacks easily (British long ton) She's reputed to be the main reason for the popularity of this particular gardening programme with men of a certain age.

Post Edited (10-14-03 17:39)

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