The People's Poet I’ve done many things to stay alive, from running a property
company in Central London to sweeping roads and driving a
mini-cab. I’ve been a goat-herd in the mountains of Morocco, a
lawyer, a university lecturer, a property developer, writer,
musician, gambler and bum. I even used to perform in a pop band
and run a record company and recording studio.
I started writing at an early age and by the time I was fifteen
I was performing my audio collages. Here is a clip from one of
I spent a lot of my schooldays skiving off
to Spain, and lived for some time in Barcelona in the dark
days of the Franco regime. No-one would talk about the Civil
War so I wrote a rather long poem about it. The English text
is included in my book Poet in Spain. Rather foolishly
I tried to get the Spanish version published in Spain, only to
end up being visited and threatened by the secret police.
The following day I was even more foolish
(I was only sixteen). I went and sat in the middle of the
Ramblas and read the poem aloud in the original Spanish.
As I finished each page I ostentatiously set fire to it.
I started reading my material at folk clubs and
pubs up and down the UK, with a regular spot at The Load of
Hay in Bath. I also read during the intervals at rock
concerts. Here's an example from that period.
My next brush with censorship was in 1971
when I was doing a reading of my Noddy Poems in the
Parade Gardens in Bath as part of the Bath Festival. Blue
language was not tolerated in those hallowed grounds. My sound
was cut and two burly gardeners escorted me off the premises.
In the meantime I traveled to Africa and gave
readings in Cairo and along the Nile, and in Addis Ababa. These
are included in my book The Nile Trilogy, except that
the number of poems ended up rather more than three. The book is
available from Amazon here
is the link .
While I was in Cairo I got a job as a visiting lecturer at the
Arab University teaching modern English poetry. I was mainly
teaching the latest craze, which was concrete art. This led me
to create my own. You can see some of them here.
When I returned to the UK I visited John Furnival
who helped me with my own ventures into that art form.
I subsequently had a one-man exhibition across Southern England
with those art works. This was later included in an exhibition
which toured the Eastern United States, and led to me writing
words to the spontaneous musical experiments of John Cage.
A memorable occasion for me was when the two of us played pianos
in the garden of a famous arts patron in what John claimed was
intended to be a quartet: Him, Me, Scattered conversation, and
I was introduced by Bob Cobbing to the electronic
sound studio at Southampton university, and another in
Stockholm, where I spent an interesting winter.
I was offered a grant by the Arts Council to get a four track
recording machine, though I ended up having to buy it myself,
and started recording sound collages.
Here's one of me doing a tribute to John Cage. The backing track
is my music, not his.
Bringing up a family put an end to my gigs,
although I have managed to appear on radio in the UK and tv in
the Netherlands. But my next book of poems won an award which
was judged by Edwin Morgan, Scotland's then poet laureate. A
copy is available on Amazon. Here's
I now live most of the time in Southern Portugal where I am
trying to rationalise my extensive literary works, and publish
everything. It's proving to be a major operation as I write
non-fiction and novels as well, and the current count of
completed books is just short of sixty.