The million-dollar couplet machine

Murray Lachlan Young, Wildean stand-up poet, is going global.

At sports days in villages, cities and towns

World records are breaking they just can't slow down

In the father's race one chap whilst rushing at speed

Had recorded a time just below 8.03

And that was the four hundred metres

He last holidayed in Costa Rica

from `Simply Everyone's Taking Cocaine'

You couldn't move for goatee beards and ponytails. The air was thick with the stench of very expensive eau de cologne. The colour of choice for the regulation-issue polo-necks was black. Even the graffiti in the loos was in cool rhyming couplets. We were deep in trend-setter country, at CGGBs, the ultra-hip venue on New York's Lower East Side that launched the careers of Blondie, The Ramones and Television. Record industry movers and shakers and rock journalists were wheeling round the stage like vultures who'd missed lunch.

They were there to see the American showcase gig of Murray Lachlan Young, the performance poet who has been the subject of what a spokesperson calls "aggressive interest from many record companies". This week, the interest resulted in a headline-grabbing, telephone-number two-album deal with EMI. It is estimated that his earnings from that, an off-Broadway show, supporting the Pet Shop Boys, slots on MTV, an Edinburgh run, publishing and potential sponsorship will exceed a million pounds. He's just 28.

Other poets, who are traditionally supposed to survive on a diet of black bread and art, have been muttering enviously about the figures and moaning about Young's success being a triumph of marketing over content. Forget about poetry being the new rock 'n' roll; at this rate, it'll be the new Lottery.

On stage, however, Young bore little resemblance to a business fat cat. A lean, mean beanpole, he has flowing curly dark hair that he brushes out of his eyes and a splendid line in black velvet frock-coats, white silken scarves, brocaded waistcoats and buckled shoes. It all chimes with the languidly camp image of an artist who must have a picture of Lord Byron stuck to his mirror.

A charismatic performer capable of commanding silence with a simple raised palm, at CBGBs he boomed out in his sonorous voice, a cross between Steven Berkoff and Joel Grey. Backed by a glamorous cellist in a sequinned ball- gown, he spell-bound the Men in Black with poems that could have been written especially for them. The titles of his sharp, sassy satires say it all: "One Nation Under a Goatee", "The Closet Heterosexual," and "Simply Everyone's Taking Cocaine". A line from "The Life and Death of Art" - "She told him whatever he wanted to hear. She was in PR, for fuck's sake, it was her job" - even drew a round of applause.

Unwinding before the show in the bar at the Soho Grand, Young was surrounded by impossibly groovy types who could have been lifted straight from his verse. Young rejected the notion that he's all hype and no trousers. "EMI are going for a no-hype route," he asserted. "I remember sending back one press release from them which read something like `new poetry for a new generation'. I said, `I'm not a soft drink.' I don't want to be turned into something I'm not. I must keep honest. I don't want to do Have I Got News For You. If you do too much TV, you make a deal. You become a TV personality rather than an artist."

So why, I asked, was he bothering with this interview? "I'm trying to get an audience for poetry," he replied. Open and appealingly enthusiastic, Young is all too well aware that despite all the ballyhoo, poetry has long been in need of an image makeover. "So many people say, `I hate poetry, it's crap.' That's been their experience. They had some old git teaching them a month of the War Poets when they were 15. Fifteen-year-old boys want to be Rambo, but they don't want to hear about dying and mourning."

Young can get quite worked up on this subject. He's no millionaire divorced from reality; he still sees himself as a People's Poet. "Too often people who write poetry seem like they're divulging some terrible secret or slipping you something when you're depressed," he declared. "Poetry is something of the people; it belongs to the people. Turning poetry into esoteric elitism frightens people. They feel there's no way in. If you can show people interesting poems performed in a dynamic way, then they might move on to Blake."

He has not always been well-received. "The tag of `performance poet' is a big turn-off," Young sighed. "At my first ever Edinburgh show, there were four people there and I knew three of them. People will willingly go to the Happy Banana Show - three Australian comedians throwing themselves about. But when there's a poster saying `The Poetry of Murray Lachlan Young' - well, even I wouldn't go and see that!"

Influenced by the unholy trinity of Oscar Wilde, Heinrich Hoffmann and Frankie Howerd, Young is the first performance poet to make it big since his heroes John Cooper Clarke and Attila the Stockbroker in the late 1970s. "Those people who came out of punk are quite a comfort to those of us trying to do poetry now. They were gobbed on from start to finish, but they put up with it and are still going."

Satire is Young's stock-in-trade, and hanging out in London's Soho, he never feels he'll run out of targets. "Satire's on the up," he reckoned. "As the bullshit increases, so does satire. We may be part of the caring, sharing Nineties, but there are still an awful lot of people getting wasted. Satire is a great way of mutually letting off steam. No one is innocent." But with all this hype and hullaballoo, isn't Young worried about turning into the very thing he is satirising? "It is a huge danger. My biggest fear is that you can lose your soul ... If I ever lose my outsider status, I'm up shit creek." He'll just have to keep checking his chin for the first signs of a goatee.

Murray Lachlan Young's album, "Vice & Verse", is released on EMI next month

Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Reach for the sky: there are around 250 new buildings of 20-plus storeys planned for London alone, some 80 per cent of them residential
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
filmReview: The ingenious film will intrigue, puzzle and trouble audiences by turns
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower