Tom Phillips – Poetry is the new rock’n’roll


None of us really wants it, do we?
Poetry is the new rock’n’roll –
the fame, the fortune, the snowdrifts of cocaine?
The megastores stuffed with slim volumes,
the stadia packed with hysterical fans.
Seamus Heaney struts through his Greatest Hits
and Wembley goes mental for his retro 60s smash –
The Death of A Naturalist.

At the Slam Awards, things get out of hand
when U.A. Fanthorpe does a Jarvis Cocker,
leaping on stage to punch out Andrew Motion.
Poetry Please puts MTV off air
and Chris Evans takes over The South Bank Show:
Thank Fuck It Isn’t Melvyn Bragg.

Chased by balding journoes from New Literary Express
and Ivy League groupies begging them
to hold spontaneous writing workshops wherever they go,
a tourbus full of Britpoets breaks big in the States.
Attila the Stockbroker’s guest appearance
on Friends is something else
and Benjamin Zephaniah dons his Elvis seguin jumpsuit
for a six month stint in Vegas.
Rumours that T. S. Eliot choked to death on his own vomit abound.

Tattoos of Auden and Sylvia Plath are openly worn
and Now That’s What I Call Metaphysical Poetry 57
outsells the Oasis comeback album.
To save their failing careers,
The Spice Girls resort to hiring Pam Ayres.
Now that’s what I want
what I really really want…
Everyone’s looking for the elusive Bristol Sound
and Faber & Faber send A&R teams
to comedy clubs and the upstairs rooms of pubs
to sign unknown writers for six figure sums.

For Simon Armitage, though, it’s all too much.
After winning the Battle of the Bards
and beating Wendy Cope to Number One,
he escapes to Iceland and releases a volume
of Lo-fi verse which marks a departure
from his popular mainstream work.
He becomes Huddersfield’s Syd Barrett –
an acid-frazzled lesson to us all.
His last known poem is printed in The Sun.
He claims it is better to starve as a genuine artist
than to spend your life as a fat rich fucker
with houses in Hollywood, Chelsea and Cannes.
Everyone agrees that he must have gone mad.
Somewhere in an abandoned CD pressing plant,
a group of penniless popstars is dreaming of revenge.


(from “Burning Omaha”, Firewater Press, 2003, Bristol)

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Tom Phillips
Tom Phillips was born in Buckinghamshire in 1964. He is a freelance writer and guest lecturer at various British and Balkan universities. He has lived in Bristol, UK, since 1986, but since the 2000s he has often travelled to the Balkan peninsula and much of his literary and research interests are focused on the region. He has been published in many magazines, anthologies and pamphlets and he has published three books of poetry in UK: “Recreation Ground” (Two Rivers Press, 2012), “Reversing into the Cold War” (Firewater/Poetry Monthly, 2007) and “Burning Omaha” (Firewater, 2003) and one bilingual books of poetry in Bulgaria: “Unknown Translations / Непознати преводи” (Scalino, 2016). He is the author of a number of plays, of which “Coastal Defences” (Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol, 2014) and “100 Miles North of Timbuktu” (Alma Tavern Theatre, Bristol, 2013) have enjoyed the greatest theatrical success.