Ode to recession: with Donne and Weller ringing in their ears, Indy readers took up the challenge...
We asked you to match Andrew Motion's poem on the economy. D J Taylor picks his favourite
Monday 04 May 2009
Poetry on the air, George Orwell once suggested, "sounds the Muses in striped trousers". Poetry on TV, on the other hand, seems to encourage the creative imaginations like no other stimulus. The dozens of responses to our call for a "recession poem", sparked by the retiring Poet Laureate Andrew Motion's recitation on Question Time, took in practically every poetic form available.
There were limericks (Chris Sanderson's "There once was Prime Minister Brown/Who said with a sad sincere frown/That the problem was global/And his efforts noble/But we all thought he'd let us down"), performance poetry clearly written for declamation to sympathetic audiences and dense meditative reflections. Fat cats, market forces and gravy trains ("The gravy train stands gleaming/with the sweat and blood of you and me" – Philip Seaman) abounded, along with the assumption that the City of London was a spiritual graveyard ("A banker mopes in the city forlorn" – Neil Harvey).
Amid the drift and dereliction came many a striking image: magpies rooting through "bright city lawns", the fiscal crisis as a sexually transmitted disease no antibiotics could cure. Naturally, Independent readers are well-read, as the submissions bristled with literary references and allusion: Dickens, Shakespeare and Donne were all deftly evoked, along with the Bible, and several of you, to judge by the not-quite deliberate homages to The Jam's "Town Called Malice", have fond memories of early 1980s recession-era pop music. The statements of political intent pulled no punches ("If capitalism's so great/Then how come we got into this state?" opened Paul Eustice's five-liner, ending with "Vote Old Labour – it's never too late".
Marilyn Murray's winning entry combined the intense moral dissatisfaction common to most entries with simple, effective imagery, culminating in the stark injunction to "Love what you've got/And stop your fretting".
To want more
To need less
To a total mess
When we grab
All that's there
Stack up ore trophies
The less we care
The sightless many
Follow a light
Take all you can
Pocket all you must
You have no truth
You have no trust
Look over your shoulder
See what he's getting
Love what you've got
And stop your fretting
By Marilyn Murray, Ormskirk, Lancashire
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