Sunday, December 26, 2021

John Cooper Clarke: ‘Impotent rage is my default setting. Specifically when it comes to politics’

John Cooper Clarke
Photograph by Ki Price
John Cooper Clarke: ‘Impotent rage is my default setting. Specifically when it comes to politics’

The poet, 67, on late fatherhood, not liking crowds, and being a control freak

‘A dry martini and the odd flutter on the nags are my lasting vices’ John Cooper Clarke

Portrait of the artist / John Cooper Clarke / At heart, I'm just a frustrated playboy

Shahesta Shaitly
Saturday 11 June 2016 14.00 BST

It only takes one person to change a lot of minds. I went to what can only be described as a slum school in Salford – rough and full of trainee punks – but I was very lucky in that I had one inspiring teacher, John Malone, who gave the whole class an interest in romantic poetry. Somehow he created a hothouse, competitive atmosphere. Poetry, because of him, became a macho thing at our school, and we discovered very quickly that it was a great way to impress chicks.
I’m not fond of crowds. I’m no jittery neurotic, but I don’t really want to be surrounded by a lot of people if I have a choice. A big audience though… now that I love.
By the 80s, anything to do with punk was perceived as rancid. Me being known as the “punk poet” meant my work and I plummeted. I spent a decade living a feral existence on very little, and heroin became a big part of that. Slowly, with help, I managed to get myself out.
Impotent rage is my default setting. Specifically when it comes to politics. I can’t believe the ideas people walk around with. I try not to get too upset but it’s got to the point where I’d like to stop reading the news, as I’m infuriated on a daily basis.
I worry about other people’s kids. I watched a guy in the street yesterday pushing his daughter in a pram while he had his phone wedged between his ear and shoulder. The thought of him crossing the road without looking horrified me.
A dry martini and the odd flutter on the nags are my lasting vices. I don’t drink until after 6pm – I’m no lush – but a few glasses of wine with dinner and chat is a nice way to spend an evening, isn’t it?

The last time I cried was today, when I heard an old friend had died. I’ve said goodbye to a lot of my pals in recent years. I guess it’s an occupational hazard at this point in my life.
If I’d have known how much fun fatherhood would be, I would have started way earlier than 45. I know that men can still father children into their late years, but we decided not to. My daughter is a great kid.
Films are one of my greatest loves. Old films, with proper film stars like John Wayne and Dean Martin. You don’t get screen stars of that magnitude any more. Most of them couldn’t chew gum and fart at the same time.

I’m writing more poetry now than everbecause the world is infuriating. My poetry can come from anger at something on the telly or the radio, and then it just blurts out. It’s always about real stuff – I don’t have time for fiction or fantasy.
I’m a total control freak. If I wasn’t a poet, I’d probably be some tin-pot dictator of a banana republic. Whatever I do, I’ve got to be in charge.
I’ve turned into my dad. He was always a bit of a comedian. My aunts used to say that I was a miniature version of him and encouraged me to be entertaining, but it’s only now when I bet on a horse or have a drink that I see that I’m actually morphing into him.
I look like a ruined matinée idol. I fucking hate getting old, but it’s too late to complain – I’m already there.

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