My Secret Life: John Cooper Clarke, 64, poet

'I am the finest swordsman in England'

My parents were… my mother was a barmaid when she met my dad.
She also worked in the Manchester munitions factories making bombs.
My dad was an electrical engineer.

The household I grew up in… looked opulent from the outside. It had flaking stucco and gargoyles. People would now say it was a slum. If you'd have said that at the time I would have hit you. It's only when I moved, I realised, really, I lived in a slum.

When I was a child I wanted to be… a private investigator.

If I could change one thing about myself… I would have immense physical strength.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at… I am the finest swordsman in all England. Once in a pub in Mile End, a guy drew out a pair of duelling foils. I challenged him. He was 30 years younger than me. I'm not saying I drew blood, but I did wear him out.

At night I dream of… rarely anything – possibly because I'm an insomniac.

What I see when I look in the mirror … a man who's lost his looks, such as they were. My declining allure is a source of great sadness to me.

It's not fashionable but I like... patriotism, manners and self-doubt.

My favourite work of art… Christ of St John of the Cross by Salvador Dali.

A book that changed me… Against Nature, by Joris-Karl Huysmans – the decadent text book. It's a blueprint for how rock stars would act 100 years later. Now we live in a censorious age. People's idea of decadence now is kid's stuff. The level of decadence we once enjoyed will never return.

The last album I bought/downloaded... The last record I had bought for me was Tempest by Bob Dylan. Sensational.

My greatest regret… I don't know where to start. I would have done everything differently. Apart from the last 10 years.

My secret crush... I don't have secrets, my life's an open book.

The person who really makes me laugh… I crack myself up. Even I don't know what I'm going to say next.

The last time I cried… at the funeral of Mr Bruce Reynolds (mastermind of the Great Train Robbery).

My five-year plan… Christ, do you know how old I am? Any plans I've got are incremental. If I get through this year I'll be lucky.

What's the point? That's all there is. Your life doesn't belong to you, you can't end it. Doesn't matter how bad it is, it's a gift from God.

My life in six words… I have moved in many worlds.

A life in brief

John Cooper Clarke was born in Salford in 1949. Known as the "Punk Poet" he began performing poetry on the Manchester club circuit in the late 1970s and became a central figure in the punk movement. He spent much of the 1980s living in relative obscurity and developed a heroin addiction. Recovering in the the 1990s, he returned to touring. Interest in his works has since revived, with Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys citing him as a hero and inspiration. He lives in Essex with his wife Evie and daughter Stella.

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones