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A Good Poem -- Roger McGough

Guest poem sent in by Zubaer Mahboob
(Poem #1100) A Good Poem
 I like a good poem
 one with lots of fighting
 in it. Blood, and the
 clanging of armour. Poems

 against Scotland are good,
 and poems that defeat
 the French with crossbows.
 I don't like poems that

 aren't about anything.
 Sonnets are wet and
 a waste of time.
 Also poems that don't

 know how to rhyme.
 If I was a poem
 I'd play football and
 get picked for England.
-- Roger McGough
This poem brought a wide, knowing grin to my face when I first read it. I
suspect that it will resonate with many other readers who were frustrated at
an early age by poetry that appeared wilfully obscure and who, even now,
shudder at some of the more inscrutable stuff that escapes all efforts at
analysis and understanding.

The charm of the poem lies in its directness and honesty.  Through the
poet's empathetic voice, the adolescent reader tells us just what he thinks
of poetry, and how he would like his cuppa. Who would deny him the sweet
irresistible pleasures of narrative verse, of poetry that rhymes and
rollicks and rolls off the tongue? Many of us, I'm sure, can still rattle
off from memory reams and reams of our favorite poems - think Browning's
"The Pied Piper" or Scott's "Young Lochinvar". (I especially like the
tongue-in-cheek "Also poems that don't/ know how to rhyme", given that the
poem itself doesn't rhyme either!) [It's even more tongue-in-cheek than that
- the one rhyme in the poem is "sonnets are wet and/ a waste of time/ also
poems that don't/ know how to rhyme" - martin]

McGough comes from Liverpool and rose to prominence in the 1960's. He has
been described by Betjeman as "long, tall, thin, and with drooping


[Martin adds]

We were way overdue for a McGough poem - he used to be my favourite modern
poet (indeed, practically the only one I really liked) when I was a kid, and
it's poems like this that explain why. "If I was a poem/ I'd play football/
and get picked for England" is an utterly original, and utterly brilliant
perspective on poetry, one that cuts through the reams of deconstruction and
analysis and speaks of the universal pleasure of a good poem.



  Biography, and a sadly moustacheless picture

  An interview with McGough:

47 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Waterloo1 said...

Roger McGough, the hippy poet. I discovered him and plagiarized his poetry to woo Helga, a buxom lass that I took to the prom. One of the last things I remember doing was necking with Helga in the park just before I hitch-hiked to Vancouver. In those days we liked all things from Liverpool.

Dave Hodgkinson said...

This was in the back of the Dragon Book of Verse I got as a leaver's present from my prep school. Great stuff.

Anonymous said...

Will anyone even read this? The date of the poem was 2002. In any case I have a poem that contradicts somewhat what Zubaer likes about McCough yet I think he might like this for its trickiness. this poet is always tricky.

On Gossiping
Pardon me if I decline your invitation to take a romp in the garbage can. I'd rather spend the day at the beach, playing in the sun and the surf.
Carol Lynn Pearson

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