He went into the cells a pop star: he may come out a poet
Publishers scramble to sign troubled rocker Pete Doherty. Anthony Barnes reports
Sunday 06 February 2005
Already famous for his drug-fuelled antics as the former frontman for The Libertines, as well as his on-off relationship with the supermodel Kate Moss, Doherty is being seen as a hot property after agents learnt that he had been scrawling volumes of verse since his teens. Publishing houses are bidding to sign up the wayward star, who is due to be released tomorrow on bail after being charged with robbery and blackmail. A source close to Doherty, 25, said that he had been approached by a number of publishers.
Doherty has long made clear his literary aspirations, and the interviews he has given have been littered with lyrical sparkle. Before his success with The Libertines he had dabbled with performance poetry and as a teenager he was taken to Russia after winning a competition run by the British Council.
He posts his work in regular dispatches, penned in a spidery scrawl complete with crossings-out, on to his website www.babyshambles.com under the title "The Books of Albion", which also include rambling musings on his life. Poems currently posted there go under the titles "Ask a Stupid Question" and "The Continuing Adventure of Spaniel O'Spaniel".
Another, called "Madame Fanny Perrier", begins:
Saw himself as a poppy leaf - a troublesome one if he was, pouting with a very certain ease, his spangly hips scarred tight with steel and fashion - his glorious and local.
While his works have caused excitement among publishers, it is the paparazzi who will be hot on his heels tomorrow when he is expected to be bailed for pounds 150,000. His record label and publishers had been unable to raise the sum at short notice when he appeared in court on Friday.
On his release he will be whisked off for yet another spell in rehab to kick his addictions, after failed stints at The Priory and under a tough regime in a Thai monastery.
Last week's daily media coverage of his spiralling descent began with a documentary maker's decision to sell photographs of the musician using heroin to the Sunday Mirror for pounds 30,000.
The appetite for such shots had been sharpened by Doherty's relationship with Moss. Those close to the singer - who now fronts his own band, Babyshambles - insist the pair are a genuine couple and it is not simply a publicity ruse for them. The pair are due to make a public appearance together at the NME Awards next week.
As last week progressed, Doherty became involved in an alleged scuffle with the film-maker Max Carlish, and was charged with robbery and blackmail. He was remanded in custody on Friday. Carlish said yesterday he wants to patch up his relationship with the musician.
Doherty would not be the first to make the transition from musician to published poet - the late John Lennon, his Beatles bandmate Sir Paul McCartney and even the Soft Cell singer Marc Almond have had their work published - but he would certainly be one of the most colourful.
The poet Roddy Lumsden believes publication of Doherty's work could be a money-spinner: "I certainly know he's got a lot of fans who would lap up his stuff.
"I used to see him around on the performance poetry scene and he was quite good. He's very lively and he can write. He's definitely a talented lyricist. I teach poetry at City University and one of the lads in my class was inspired to come along because Pete's lyrics got him into being a writer. I'm introducing this young guy to lots of other stuff now."
Matthew Hollis, a poetry editor at the publisher Faber, said: "Literary publishers are open minded and respond to the quality of the work. The fact that someone is known primarily as a musician does not inhibit them from being taken seriously as a poet."
But Don Paterson, a poet and editor for Picador, said: "Poetry doesn't need popularising among the young. Poetry is already there for anyone who wants to read it - all we need is to lead young people to where it already lives, and let them open the books and get on with it themselves.
"And quite often the song lyrics of talented musicians like Pete Doherty will accomplish exactly that anyway - spark a curiosity for what else words might be capable of. Where's the shame in being a fine songwriter?"
Focus, page 19; Rowan Pelling, page 25
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