Back in 2014 Jeremy Paxman hit out at poets for not engaging with the public. This poem was written in response to those comments.
A Public Engagement
Come now, Paxman, let’s have this out –
I can’t stand by and let you wipe
the floor with us. Sure, there’s plenty
of bad poets out there; no doubt
you’ve written some sickly verse
yourself? You do seem like the type.
Don’t get me wrong, wouldn’t think worse
of you for trying, Jeremy –
no one gets far without trying.
But when you sit up there and swipe
at us for not connecting, try
listening; we’re out there, dying
on open-mike-night; dying to
be heard. Must be easy to gripe
from a newsroom with its high view
to all your Oxbridge alumni.
Try getting your front teeth knocked out
by some yob who thinks poetry
is gay, then still show up the week
after for a gig that pays nowt.
Not sure how much more engaged you
can be with the public than three
missing teeth and some purple-blue
bruises from your lips to your cheek.
I only have a few steadfast
readers (and one of them’s my nan)
but they are my public, my kin,
my brothers and sisters. So cast
down your judgement; make it snappy
or sharp, but if these green words can
make just one old lady happy
I will consider it a win.