This Poem Is Not To Be Read In A South London Accent

A poem about poetry.

This poem is not to be read in a South London accent.

This poem will not begin by walking in a shoulders-dropped,


baggy-trousered swagger towards a microphone,

lower its eyes,

point its tattooed arm towards the sky

and after a dramatic pause



(which lasts for some time)



say “London!” or “Yo!”

No, this poem is not going to be like that.

This poem doesn’t roll that way.


This poem does not wear its origins on its sleeve,

Giving its home town a shout out at 2am from the top of a tower block,

Turning the place where a pirate radio mast once stood into a theatre of words

And sprinkling whoever cares to listen with magic urban dust and a beat

for the after dark warriors

that knew that the coolest city in the world was always theirs.

This poem might look out from a multi-storey car park in the middle of the night,

Looking down on nothing but taxi queues, pissed kids and the odd rat –

(Everything is shut

Everything is shit)

This town just gets deader after midnight

Apart from the odd fight that nobody can be arsed to break up.

Tell the world its name

And the response will always be the same:

“Where’s that, then?”

So this poem won’t bother wearing its home town on its sleeve – or showing it on a map.


This poem will not swagger through the mean streets

Watching the spray-paint Michelangelos turn the old warehouses into modern shrines,

But it might wander past pound shop after pound shop after pound shop

Where some kid wrote ‘I WOZ ERE’ in biro on a boarded up window

And maybe tagged the statue of the kid with the boat at the end of the high street in Tipp-Ex

This kid wasn’t making a statement, crying out for change,

Shouting out that the media is controlling our minds –

No, they were bored, and it passed the time.


This poem will not tell you of the philosopher with an addict’s face,

The bohemian who won’t beg but will write you a poem in exchange for a few quid

The people the city sweeps under its carpet and make the night more interesting.

We have the more prosaic sights:

The lady outside the post office,

Smelling of piss and not being sure it’s not 1956 –

Because her carer’s not been for the last six weeks

And there’s nobody to check since they cut back Social Services

But if she gets her slippers and her nightie on she might make it to town

Where the flags are still up from the Coronation

And nobody starts up a conversation.


No, this poem will not be read in a South London accent.

This poem will not be read or composed on the night bus.

(This poem will be shuffling slowly forwards in the queue for the rail replacement bus

Muttering to itself –

As it does every single day –

that it’ll all get better when Crossrail comes.)

This poem will not be fashionable because it exists.

This poem will not be cool because it was read by someone with an asymmetrical haircut.

This poem will not be read in an unnamed pop-up bar that was never advertised but is mysteriously full of people drinking imported craft beer.

This poem will not be followed by a DJ set.

This poem will not be broadcast on Radio 1.

This poem will not be filmed in the toilets of a bar in Piccadilly Circus and broadcast as a late-night filler on BBC 4 for National Poetry Day

This poem will not be adopted as a statement about the state of the nation.


This poem is not to be read in a South London accent.


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