To celebrate National Poetry Day join us as we take a look at the captivating career of the Bard of Salford, Dr. John Cooper Clarke.
Dr. John Cooper Clarke is an iconic Salfordian poet that over his career has taken poetry out of the occasional open mic night and into the mainstream world.
Emerging in the 1970s as part of the punk rock era, Clarke has shared dressing rooms with the likes of Joy Division & The Buzzcocks.
The punk poet’s career has spanned nearly 50 years which may leave some to think he’d run out of steam by 2020.
We are excited to announce the official #IWannaBeYours launch event!🕶️
In this one-off event, live from @VoutOReenees, John will be sharing stories from his remarkable life with his road manager Johnny Green plus some special guests.
— official_jcc (@official_jcc) September 29, 2020
The odd reference may be outdated, potentially thanks to Clarke being actively against the ways of modern life. He doesn’t own a computer, laptop or even a mobile phone.
Speaking on his minimalist lifestyle Clarke quips: “I don’t have a mobile or computer, because I know how great they are. If I did, I’d never leave the house – you’d find me in six months, dead under a pile of pizza boxes.”
Despite his lifestyle Clarke isn’t a writer lost in time, he’s very much in touch with today’s world.
His poem, Some C*** Used The N Word, which he first performed in 2015, comments on racism and cancel culture in the modern day.
Though he’s still writing new material, The Bard of Salford’s classics still hold up.
Having had the pleasure of seeing him live back in 2018, the audience reaction alone made it clear that his work is still loved by the public.
Though he usually performs a cappella, Clarke has delved into music releasing albums like Snap, Crackle & Bop melding rapid-fire renditions of poetry with instrumental elements.
For his contributions to popular culture John Cooper Clarke was rewarded an honorary doctorate from The University of Salford in 2013.
Even people I know that can’t stand poetry have heard of Clarke, showing even at 71-years-old Clarke is still gaining new fans.
We’ve also recently seen Doctor Who actor Christopher Eccleston perform a heartfelt rendition of Clarke’s poetry to praise from fans online.
Though Clarke may be known most for his entirely comical poems, my personal favourite is one that mixes the silly with the serious. That poem is Beasley Street.
Taking inspiration from Camp Street in Lower Broughton, Beasley Street deals with poverty-stricken inner-city Salford during Margaret Thatcher’s time as prime minister.
Through his use of comical and over-the-top imagery, Dr. John Cooper Clarke talks about the stigmatised subject of poverty with ease.
“Where the action isn’t
That’s where it is
State your position
In an X-certificate exercise
Keith Joseph smiles and a baby dies
In a box on Beasley Street.”
Beasley Street is a poem that makes us laugh but also might just make you think about the poverty stricken streets of the UK.
I think Claire Smith of The Scotsman puts it best when she says: “Clarke is a poet who writes about darkness and decay but makes people laugh.
“Clarke is a human cartoon, a gentleman punk, a man who has stayed exactly the same for thirty years but never grown stale.”
Dr. John Cooper Clarke’s memoir, I Wanna Be Yours, is set for release later this month telling the tales of his sprawling, idiosyncratic career and the stars and artists with whom he has worked and been championed by.
With how culturally linked Clarke is to Salford you may think he’s the only poet in town, but that would be far from true.
Usually the doctor himself would prescribe you with a dose of poetry, but since he’s not here why not check out some of Salford’s other poets.
- JB Barrington – Award winning Salfordian known for his searing and satirical poetry.
- Dan McLaughlin – Salford alumnus, stand-up poet & radio presenter.
- Will Stevenson – Salford alumnus, one-half of Bodies & co-founder of Switchblade Society.
- Kolin Richmond-Hughes – LGBTQ+ poet, first collection released late last year.
- Reece Ayres -self-confessed soppy poet whose work often discusses masculinity in the modern world.