Belfast Telegraph

Q&A: Dr John Cooper Clarke on George Best, Brexit and his advice for aspiring poets

Revered punk poet Dr John Cooper Clarke is credited with influencing artists from the Arctic Monkeys to Bill Bailey and his trademark look is an inspiration to fashionistas everywhere.

We had a chat with the "people's poet" (70) ahead of his Belfast gig on Thursday, when he'll bring his wit and wisdom to the Ulster Hall.

What's your favourite thing about being on tour?

I love being in a car. It’s fantastic. Colour me happy there. That Iggy Pop song, The Passenger - that’s the story of my life.

There’s no better place to listen to music, although that's becoming more difficult. In the world of hired vehicles they don't actually supply a CD facility, so that's another avenue of pleasure that’s being sealed off - one of the thousand daily punishments of the technological age. It’s terrible.

You've been to Belfast lots... what do you like about the city?

I can itemise the things I like about Belfast; George Best, Alex Higgins and Van Morrison.

I enjoy gigging in industrial towns. It seems to be where I go down the best. Somewhere where they have a history of manufacturing, they’re my favourite places to play. They’re good for me those places... I like a blue collar crowd.

What do you dislike about Belfast?

The Titanic wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I don’t think Harland and Wolff ever lived that down.

How did you get into poetry?

At school. I was good at it. It was encouraging to be told that you’re good at something. It was a gift I sharpened into a skill to make a living. I probably took it a bit further than most people would.

Most memorable gig?

Las Vegas was a good one. I always used to say, "If you ain’t done Vegas, you ain’t done nothing". But I've done Las Vegas and it was the first gig I ever got a spontaneous standing ovation.

Your latest collection is titled 'The Luckiest Guy Alive'... why?

I wouldn’t swap places with anybody. I suspect they’re not as lucky as I am. I couldn’t prove it in a court of law, but I’ve got everything a guy could reasonably expect, given my qualifications.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

That was from my late dad, George Frederick Clarke. “Never leave the bookies with a smile on your face.”

Any tips for aspiring poets?

Pack it in, leave it up to the experts. That’s the same advice I got. Never did me any harm. And I don’t need the competition at my stage of life.

Thoughts on Brexit?

At worst, depending on what side of the fence you’re on with this, it’s an election result that you find disappointing. It’s not the end of the world. It’s a business arrangement that has come to an end. Nothing more.

It’s not as drastic as people are making it out to be. Nobody has died. It’s just an arrangement that doesn’t exist anymore and has to be renegotiated for one reason or another. Everything’s great now the f******* politicians are on their Easter break.

Dr John Cooper Clarke brings his Luckiest Guy Alive Tour to the Ulster Hall, Belfast on Thursday, April 25 2019. Tickets are on sale now at the Ulster Hall box office.

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