Romantic poetry, as much as you might heave at the thought of it, has worked miracles for thousands of years.
Shakespeare was the main man doing bits, making sure that the ladies and gents had something to swoon over. He even wrote a sonnet titled ‘Sonnet 18: The Valentine’s Day Sonnet’ so yeah you could say he is a love master in this sort of field. “Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s Day” opens the poem. Well Shakespeare, summer is pretty grim up North so if you’re trying to say I’m like a torrential downpour at 2pm followed by another downpour at 4pm then you can, yano, do one.
Fast forward a couple of centuries and John Cooper Clarke is the one bashing out romantic poetry like there’s no tomorrow, but with a twist. Take his poem ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ (yes Alex Turner sang this and maybe I cried a lot but whatever) where JCC lovingly states “I wanna be your raincoat for those frequent rainy days”. Ahh a raincoat, that’s just the thing I need. A necessity. Something I’ll value. Something that will protect me. You can see where it gets romantic can’t ya? This notion that the most delightful devices are the most romantic is farcical. The highest romantic resemblances could just be something right in front of you, JCC expels this idea and thus (yeah thus) makes romance appear gritty but colourful and alluring.
We’ve all seen the cards in ASDA or Sainsburys that have some comical drawing on them of a couple or whatever, and if that’s your cup of tea then please drink up. JCC isn’t afraid to battle with the lovey dovey side of romance, and thank the lord he does. JCC romantic poetry can split your sides just as much as that £1.50 card in ASDA with a drawing of two half pints of beer saying “To my other half” can. Set the scene, you’ve given your lover a card and inside are the words “I wanna be your electric meter”, what does the lover do? They laugh in agreement. Unlike Shakespeare who drags on and on about how beautiful their partner is and how they are more powerful than the sun, JCC simply puts it straight causing a few giggles along the way. Wanna laugh but still show someone you think they’re decent? Read them ‘I Wanna Be Yours’.
But when it comes down to it, Shakespeare and JCC write about reality for them. Shakespeare in his fields of wheat and castles and JCC in a grim house in Salford or walking through Manchester City Centre. Reality in romantic poetry it what makes it romantic. “I wanna be your electric heater, you’ll get cold without” or “Deep as the deep Atlantic ocean, that’s how deep is my devotion” is straight to the point and bluntly stated, but in the context of a working class punk poet, highly realistic. It’s the blunt reality that shines light on the romance. Yeah you just compared me to a heater but what would I do without a heater? What would I do without you? *Wedding bells ring in the distance*
So if you want to have a turn at being the Bard of Valentines Day (never too early to start planning for next year, right lads?), get on that John Cooper Clarke CD or if you’re feeling dead indie, read the anthology over a candle light dinner. Shakespeare and his ‘Sonnet 18’ who? It’s all about JCC and ‘I Wanna Be Yours’.
Disclaimer: If all goes wrong and you got your £10 M&S Valentines Meal for Two thrown at you because your partner didn’t like your love being compared to a Ford Cortina then don’t blame me, you should have read them some Shakespeare.
Words by Brigid Harrison-Draper