The company of poets

A long time ago – in August 2000, in fact – I wrote a poem called The company of poets. I’ve included all of it below; I don’t put many poems in this blog, but it just seemed appropriate this week. Looking back at it, I think it could do with some editing – it’s a bit long – but the principle’s there all right.

The company of poets

The company of poets has no mission statement,

Except, perhaps, for the singing of birds –

We don’t waste words.

This company keeps no accounts;

Our work can’t be measured in figures and amounts –

Our books are always unbalanced,

A loss increases our raw materials,

And we are our own prophets.

The company of poets is multinational;

The world is our concern

And we refuse to discern

Regional differences in lying power.

We do not clock in or out;

We have a deadline every hour,

Which we always miss,

And a lifeline in each kiss –

Fraternisation is encouraged.

Our workplace is untidy;

We have foraged

Through dustbins, on our way to the top,

Where we don’t stop

Rummaging through rubbish,

Seeking the best letter in the litter.

The company of poets may be hungry and lean

But that does not mean

We are fitter

To survive against competition;

We attack from a weak position,


There are no personnel records;

Our days

Are not counted, and we are unnumbered.

For our success, we set no targets;

We are not encumbered

With policies, shareholders, or bored directors,

And we have no company cars;

We are driven by stars

And truth.

We have no lie detectors.

The company of poets has no community outreach;

We send the right message to many ears

And teach

As a way of facing our fears.

This company is public, but never limited;

No crime is committed

When we give away secrets;

We have no liabilities.

The company is sometimes measured by performance;

But an objective way of judging our abilities

Has not been found.

We have no peers, so there can be no jury.

The basis for the company of poets is not sound;

But perhaps it is; or perhaps it is fury.

The company of poets is always in the hands of the receivers,

Who invest the savings in hope,

Because they are believers

In tomorrow,

And we borrow heavily, but repay with interest.

We give a good return, of glimpses and surprises,

Affirmations, promises, love, wildness, rest;

The company of poets does not win any prizes,

But in today’s marketplace,

It is the best,

For the company of poets looks after its own,

And gives all that it has;

We are never alone.

(It’s also full of bitches,

Sad old farts and wicked witches,

But they don’t belong in this poem.)


Why this week? Because of Tuesday. Monday was pretty straightforward – the usual time on prep; some slam practice; and in the evening we went to see The Grey. This wasn’t bad; the plot was a little unlikely in places, but it made me jump satisfactorily. The ending was odd; even the extra bit added at the end of the titles (we always stay until the end of the titles) was a bit ambiguous. Good snow, though.

On Tuesday I went to the Drum, inBirmingham, for a training session with other poets from theWest Midlandswho are to be involved in the Shake the Dust project. It was an excellent session; we shared and learned useful things, and had a delicious lunch. But the great thing was working with other good poets, who all have the same commitment to spread the joy and other good stuff that comes from performance poetry. It was invigorating! And in the evening I answered lots of emails – back down to earth.

On Wednesday I went to the hospital, and was as usual inspired by the terrific people I meet there – both women, with their husbands; both wanted rhyming poems and I managed to oblige. I wrote up the stuff, and did some prep for the prison and the GP group, and then spent some rather tedious time sending out invoices for Poetry on Loan – it’s just stuff where I have to pay a lot of attention to detail. In the evening I had two long phone calls, so I didn’t get everything done.

Thursday was the prison – again my guys had produced some terrific work for homework, and we had a good discussion about ethics. There was an attempt at editorial control of the newsletter from a governor, but I think I’ll try to resist it this time; I really don’t think anyone is that interested in the history of our prison, especially as it’s a subject we’ve covered already. On the way home I had a long phone call from The Daughter. Write up and lots of emails in the evening, and a long call from my mum.

On Friday I finished the PoL invoices and did some accounts, and then had another long phone call… what’s got into everyone this week? The GP surgery session didn’t go that well – I knew one person would be away, but after I’d waited there for a bit, there were phone calls from the others; everyone was ill. Ah well; it happens, especially at this time of year. I did some planning for the Cheltenham Poetry Festival slam, and the Lydney Festival slam, both of which I will be running, and some slam practice, and had two very long phone calls from The Son. My phone will be wearing out. I did lots of typing of prison stuff – it’s time to start getting entries ready for the Koestler Awards, and that means a lot of prep.

On Saturday I managed to clean the house a bit. I miss my cleaning lady. In the afternoon I bought a new wastepaper bin for my office; I know how to have a good time. And yesterday was a relaxation day – except for a bit of time spent on the book of hospital poems; it’s really hard trying to choose a reasonable number out of the poems for the last three years, but someone’s got to do it…

…unless, perhaps, I could hire the Company of Poets to do it for me. No. They’re much too busy.

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