Motor-mouthed performance poet Luke Wright is temporarily absenting the stage to languish at a rather more leisurely pace on the page. Notorious for his mile-a-minute performances of spirited poetry, strewn with buoyant satire, Wright's affable stage presence was the glue that held his Cynical Ballads tour together. A lack of Essex-boy charm, illustrative props and ebullient gesturing may have rendered Wright's first foray in print, Mondeo Man, a little dry by comparison.
Happily, these jaunty, thought-provoking modern ballads mature and improve with space and time; like a good, smelly, Essex-reared, Jamie Oliver-approved cheese. In print, Wright's colloquialisms, cheeky half-rhymes and poignant sentiments are more enjoyable with time to revel in them, rather than flying by the seat of your pants past hidden linguistic gems.
Wright's comic capabilities certainly aren't in question, with giggles ranging from the school-boy humour of Jeremy, Who Drew Penises on Everything (silliness on the Spike Milligan scale), to jabs at popular culture - it's not often that "the atom bomb in Gaza" is rhymed with "here's me with Lady Gaga", nor is it commonplace for published poets to refer to their "Twitterati", but Wright takes every grotty facet of modern British life and imbues it with poeticism that is accessible, riotously enjoyable and intelligently lyrical. Sweet sentiments like "I'm modern and I wear my heart on my feed" marry a pop culture mentality and poetic sentimentality in bemusing harmony.
Yet, while reveling in cynical silliness is all good fun stuff, Jeremy's phallomania, or extended reflections on "The tits that crashed a thousand cars" in Bloody Hell, It's Barbara!, can only do so much to sooth the poetic soul. Wright's quietly emotive poems are an altogether more lasting, affective experience. The Ballad of Chris & Ann's Fish Bar remains a firm favourite; poignantly musing on an excruciating divorce, Wright frames heartbreak in parochial, drab, intimate terms, demonstrating tender insight and well-measured balladry.
Perhaps it is in Wright's sonnets and assorted, briefer poems that his hidden tenderness really shines. In these thoughtful asides, Wright reveals a romantic lyricism and reverence for language that is woefully pushed aside in moments of jaunty cynicism. Thaxted, For Radio or A Shed of One's Own benefit from fond accounts of contemporary British culture, untarnished by a chippie mentality that becomes too brash on occasion.
This is not the poetry of Lords and Ladies, it's not elitist, obtuse or grandiose. Mondeo Man is the exact opposite: the 1%, hunting-shooting-fishing types and Cameron and his cronies are all laid into with some serious force. This is poetry to entertain the everyman enthusiast and win over the cynics. If any contemporary collection is going to convince the disbeliever that poetry can be a riot of cheek, giggles, boobs, tears and facebook - while keeping it's artistic integrity firmly intact - Mondeo Man is it.
★★★★★Suggest a correction