Ordinary people often lead extraordinary lives and their life experience does not often find its way into poems. Rita Ann Higgins grew up in poverty and reflects on this in Some People, a poem that is angry, defiant, sometimes funny and always honest. In How to Grow Your Own Poem Kate Clanchy invites us to construct a similar poem about our own experience. I knew poverty growing up in the 1950s. Not the absolute poverty of destitution and homelessness, but the daily grind of a family struggling to make ends meet on a dock labourer’s wage, making do with second best and sometimes doing without.
However, when I tried to write an angry, defiant poem it turned into a love poem to my mam. At least it’s honest. Here it is.
SOME PEOPLE Some people know how it feels To be poor To be dressed in someone else’s clothes To play with their toys at Christmas and To be told, “That’s my bike,” by the neighbour’s daughter. To play at explorers under a tented table where you have To be quiet so the outlaws don’t find you. (when it was the rent man, tallyman, milkman come for their money, tapping on the window and fooled by a net curtain cloak) To lose the letter for the school trip because “We couldn’t afford it, Mam,” and To be clouted for her shame. To be raised so that you cried when you found a penny and couldn’t find its owner. To know that holidays were for other people and not to mind. And some people do not know how it feels To be so loved that I never knew I was poor.
Life long socialist. Now retired, I have been an office junior, a bookseller, a docker and a teacher. I write a lot and read a lot more. Committed member of the Society of Authors, English PEN and the National Education Union. Uncommitted member of the Labour Party. Will they expel me before my direct debit expires?
One thought on “Some People”
Dani Cobb read this poem out at the Eastbourne Cost of Living Crisis Protest 12th Feb
“My home is *icking freezing
I can’t afford the heat
I can’t afford my *icking life
I can’t afford to eat!
It’s shyte to have these problems
While the rich are getting more
I need to get some money
It’s a killer being poor!
I used to have a good job
I never knew hardship
But it started to deteriorate
When my health took a big dip.
And now I can’t afford to live
But I’m really scared to die
I really hate this world sometimes
But I know I have to try.
Try to get myself better
Get a better paying job
Oh life is just one big headache
When your name is Dani Cobb!
Life right now is very tough
And set to get much tougher
We need to make some changes now
Or many more will suffer.
We need to cap the cost of fuel
And also tax the wealthy
We need to have some empathy
We need to all stay healthy.
So come on people listen up!
Here’s what we need to pass
We need to oust this government
Before we ALL fall on our arse!!