This is a first – I am going to write a blog about a book I haven’t actually read!

Last night I had the pleasure of going to listen to a reading by the great Roger McGough. If you haven’t come across McGough before he is a living legend, and his accessibility and at times sheer silliness is a joy. Just to save you the effort here’s a link to his Wikipedia page.  While I freely confess to not having read all of his collected poems – he has been writing for over 50 years, so that’s quite a collection – I have lived with his works and enjoyed his poetry pretty much all my life. And yes, of course I got him to sign my copy!mcgough

There is a particular pleasure in hearing a poet read their own works, and McGough’s gentle Scouse accent and throw-away lines are ideal for a public performance. There are plenty of recordings of him available if you want to see what I mean, and I would be shocked if he’s not got his own YouTube channel as well.

Many of McGough’s poems are short and funny, he can’t resist the worst of puns, and he doesn’t stretch the boundaries of poetic form too far. But having said all that faint praise, some of his works are wistful and elegaic. Just to give you a flavour, here’s “Let me die a youngman’s death”. (Notice all the compound words):

Let me die a youngman’s death
not a clean and inbetween
the sheets holywater death
not a famous-last-words
peaceful out of breath death

When I’m 73
and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car
on my way home
from an allnight party

Or when I’m 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber’s chair
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommyguns burst in
and give me a short back and insides

Or when I’m 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one

Let me die a youngman’s death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
‘what a nice way to go’ death