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Roger McGough, poet, playwright, broadcaster

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I haven’t done any English after 15, But I did French and geography. Funny, did you know that the Network Theater in Waterloo was copying my version of The Misanthrope last week, which is somewhat exciting? At university, the French department would have considered me the student least likely to adapt Molière to the stage.

I wasn’t very good at French, but reading Rimbaud and Baudelaire took me to poetry, and that was fine. We did not read poetry at school for pleasure, but studied it. But I enjoyed choral poetry and poems like “Jabberwocky” and “Charge of the Light Brigade.” I knew no modern poetry, nor did I know Odin, Eliot; But the study of French poets was interesting. But when I had the opportunity to go to France for a year, I didn’t want to go. This seems strange now.

After graduating from Hull, I taught at a comprehensive school for boys in Kirkby outside of Liverpool, followed by two years at a technical college teaching French food to apprentice chefs. They knew how to cook – I didn’t – so I learned things too. They were using the Chinese strainer: a conical strainer like a Chinaman’s hat; And spinach dishes were called “Florentine” because the Princess of Florence introduced spinach to the French court. Then I started making things up, and I told them that creme brulee was named after the battle of brulee.

I retired at the scaffold [his comedy, music, and poetry trio] took off and merci’s voice has been published.

Charles Cosley, Christopher Loegue, and Adrian Mitchell influenced me, and Brian Patten is still friends with me. I’ve never been a musician, though I’ve worked with Jimi Hendrix, Graham Nash, Elton John, and Paul McCartney. . . I was an outsider and a lyricist, and I knew my place.

Having lived through those exciting times, both culturally and historically, I often wish I had received more attention. I usually felt like the youngest person in the room seen. And I still do, even though I’m 84 years old.

When is a poem for children or for adults? It’s an interesting dilemma. At some point, I realized that I had always written poetry for children, and to this day, there are many poems that challenge this age classification. It is different with stories, of course, and comic books.

I remember reading my books and stories to my children when they were young, and enjoying the process – not hoping to delight or impress them, but just to experience it. But, if they are naughty, [my wife] Hilary was screaming, “Keep quiet, or your dad will come over and read some of his poems!”

I think the writing comes from an imaginary child talking to a part of yourself. SPCK just posted Top 100 Christmas Poems for Kids – Beautiful selections of poems that you have edited; Boffin publishes my new poems for children: You’re done! The poem “Today I am writing my first poem” is about a child having to write his first poem, tired of all the rules, then finding a permit, and deciding to be a poet. Then there are the mischievous girls, the naughty boys, and Vlad Impala: wordplay and funny animals.

After The Scaffold was put to bed and my first marriage ended, I moved to London. I’ve lived half my life here now.

penguin spread Safety in numbers In November – Poems written during lockdown about realizing that, this year, we won’t be going on vacation abroad, we enjoy not having to. Other poems about death and dying, and the last time I saw someone – I didn’t realize the last time I saw my father; Stand in line, walk. The closure helped me appreciate the talent for creativity, and its ability to banish darkness. I try and encourage people, young people in particular, to embrace poetry.

I suffer from dyslexia. My wife is a careful gardener – “Smell this, look at that” – everything was the same for me. But, last year, I started noticing trees, now I’m starting to see differences, and that’s pretty good. I am more aware of nature. And it was nice to be under Heathrow Pass, and not get on the planes.

I love doing the readings, and people come in droves (and on their bikes). Many of them ask if I have my business on sound. They buy books. So I suppose the hair is telling them something.


Yes, sometimes my toes curl when I hear poetry readings.
This is a kind of “sit and listen”. All is well; But not being an academic, not being an engineer. lit. Graduate, I don’t have Sharia, I can’t be anything other than myself. When I read poetry, I am posting what people already know.


Once upon a time, poetry belonged to the elite of Uxbridge,
But now she lives on texts, YouTube and video. If I was young, I expect that’s what I would do.


Hair does a lot of things.
Lately, it seems to be identity-driven: about a story, a journey, and the more excruciating the better. We all have a story to tell, and sometimes how you tell it is more important than the story.


Imagination has gotten me into trouble, sometimes.
John Ronson’s series on the Culture Wars, just launched on Radio 4, is about one of my poems that was banned in Virginia in 1968. Books were burned by the Christian Right movement because of a story she wrote and published in merci’s voice. But it’s a moral anecdote: If you misbehave, there will be consequences.


You have to be careful when you write from different points of view.
People can think it’s your voice, your own truth, and it can come back and bite you.


We had conviction.
I was cuddly, and was brought up thinking I was very lucky, even though we lived in a tiny house with a balcony with an outdoor toilet during the Blitz. I was born in Liverpool – but imagine, it might have been Manchester! “Some people aren’t Catholic, you know.” “You have to wear glasses, Roger? Well, you’re lucky you’re not blind.” “Do not be envious.” We have learned that from religion without a doubt and it gives you confidence.


We were not told that once we wanted something to come true, that would make it a reality.
It doesn’t work like that. You won’t get one hundred percent all the time, but don’t worry about it. Most of us are losers, staring out of the window, and you don’t have to be a star. It doesn’t make you happy.


My education by the Irish Christian Brothers at St Mary’s College, Liverpool,
The alma mater of Cardinals Vincent Nichols and Trent Alexander was good at getting us to sit up straight and act. There was little time for creative thinking or imagination. So I revived these hidden skills to life after I left.


Sometimes education is about information,
Get the correct answers, get rid of the adjectives. Children say things like: “The candle is crying” or “The moon fell a little.” It’s nice, but it is quickly corrected: “It’s all about atoms”; “Go and Google it.” But imagination is the source of creativity and wonder. Something catches your eye: follow him into the bush – that’s where you find the poem. You don’t know where it is.


I was told that God was there in the beginning,
So I believed it.


Every time we turned on the news, another dread descended upon us.
I desperately need children who are growing up sensitive to what lies ahead. I try to be positive: Don’t worry, things will get better. Please, fingers crossed, we can get past this.


It goes back to my childhood and church community.
The priests were heroic and intelligent. My mother loved our priest as he approached the house. They weren’t all kind, and my sister was telling a different story. Catholic friends have bad stories to tell. But they were pillars of society. The church was there to help. We have lost it. Young people had church clubs and were kind of taken care of by old people, but that’s gone now.


I may be naive, but I love going to the block.
It’s hard to talk to people. Most of my friends are not religious or anti-religious: they are not only religious, although they may go to church sometimes. It’s the aggression that worries me. Do not throw the baby into the bath/manger water.


I pray that I am not naive.
Give me strength, Lord. And of course, I pray for my family and friends, every month the list goes on and on.


I’m never angry, really.
We are impatient and confused about our political leaders


I am happy to be in the middle of the poem and realize that it is on its way
– Most importantly, she is looking forward to meeting me.


I trust in human ingenuity and basic goodness.


I would choose to be locked up in a church with Blaise Pascal.
Do you know Pascal’s bet? Well, well, Belize – can I call you Belize? Was it a good bet? classic! I was always on his side a little. I’m not a gambling man, but I can see that my friend.


Roger McGoough was talking to Terence Handley McMath.

He reads a poem daily on the SPCK website during Advent.

Safety in numbers By Roger McGough Posted by Penguin at £9.99 (Church Times Library £8.99); 978-0-241517352 and You’re done! It will be published by Puffin in March 2022.

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