Sunday, 22 February 2009

The Toughest Audience Of All...

I'm beginning to do more work in schools. This puts me in a challenging position: attempting to write poems that make some kind of useful political point but that aren't going to go over the heads of 10-15 year olds, whilst simultaneously trying not to be a patronising git.

I'm probably doomed. But I'm going to have a try anyway, so below is my first attempt at a poem specifically for younger audiences. As with most of my stuff, it's designed to be spoken rather than read, so the dodgier rhymes will seem less obvious in practice (I hope). Comments and suggestions very welcome...

Handles (The Engineer’s Dilemma)

In the Palace of Ultimate Malice
On the perilous peak of Mount Fear
Emperor Zawl holds the country in thrall
With strange doomsday devices, exotic and cruel
But I live in a cellar, underneath it all
And I’m just an engineer.

All the same, see, some folk try to blame me
For the Emperor’s death traps and guns
But I don’t make the blades, or the laser arrays,
The Apocalypse Sludge, or the face-melting sprays,
Or the self-launching, fun-seeking missile bays;
No, nothing to hurt anyone.

You see, I just make the handles
For the Emperor’s machines
And if that still seems like a scandal
Come with me, behind the scenes
And once you understand all
Of my reasons, hopes and plans
You’ll see I’m not some violent vandal
But a kind and peaceful man.

Though his highness demands just the finest
Rockets, missiles, death-tanks and guns
He generally fails to check all the details
And if every last handle weren’t carefully nailed
Then the Night Horror Cannon might run off its rails
And destroy not the moon, but the sun.

If I weren’t there to line up the crosshairs
With the handles on every death-ray
The next heroes who try to sneak carefully by
Our defences – the type that we’d normally fry
In an instant, might find that our aim goes awry
And their grisly end could last all day.

It’s fine to demand I take some sort of stand
And walk out – but where would I go?
And whoever replaced me would probably kill
Far more people, without my attention and skill
And how would I cover the rent and the bills?
I do have a family, you know.

So, though the Emperor has banned all
Children aged seven to nine
And with a giant Roman Candle
(That was partly my design)
Blasted three cities into sand, all
Coz he missed his morning tea;
I just make the handles
So you can’t blame me.

1 comment:


Hi Danny
Just found your blog & myspace and interested to read your thoughts on poetry and climate change. I'm doing a residency in the Arctic next year and hoping to set up a series of poetry&environmental workshops when I get back. Would love to talk to you sometime and hear about your experiences of doing workshops and raising awareness. Do get in touch if you have a moment. Thanks!