Roger McGough

October 9, 2017 September 1st, 2019 Free Essays Online for College Students

Roger McGough was born in Liverpool in 1957. He attended St. Mary’s College and then later, went to Hull University. After his education he taught English for three years. He then joined a pop group called Scaffold and played with that group for a number of years in the early 1960’s, just as the Beatle’s had emerged onto the world’s music scene. Since then, McGough has stepped his way up to earning the rightful reputation of being one of Britain’s highly acclaimed leading poets, after writing poems since he was around seventeen years old. He received an OBE in 1997 and the Cholmondeley Award for poetry in 1998 .He now lives in Twickenham. His enjoyment of setting his views into poems is recognisable from the unique way he uses words.

Fitting some of McGough’s pieces into particular categories of serious or humorous can be difficult at times as they can often have a serious topic with a twist of humour in them. A example of this is one of my favourite pieces, ‘ Here I am’ where McGough mulls over his regrets and things he wished he had pursued from the past, not taking action upon his dreams and opportunities, he handles the subject thoughtfully and very effectively I think, but at the same time adding a touch of comedy. For example the line ‘ Here I am, fifty seven years of age and never having gone to work in ladies underwear’ and then a more serious outlook on his life, ‘ I think of all the outrages unperpretated, opportunities missed’.

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Roger McGough

Also another poem that fits into both categories is ‘ Hearts and Bones’. A touching poem about McGough’s lovable but ugly aunt. There are some sad moments because the elderly lady eventually died after McGough and his sister had grown up and moved away, only to send her cards at Christmas and birthdays.

But there are funny moments to the old lady’s personality, like the line ”Just one more game of snap’ she’d plead and magic two toffees from behind an ear’.

And then this sad line describing the way his aunt had tripped and fell to her death outside her house, ‘The crucifix still clenched in her fist, branded into dead flesh, the sign of a cross’. The poem is sad in nice way though.

The other short poem that fits into both categories is ‘ 40 – love’, which is a rather simple poem, but the message is put across easily. In the poem a couple are playing tennis, with the net symbolising the barrier between the two of them, as if to suggest there are problems in the relationship and something is getting in the way and that the barrier is still up when the return home after the match has finished. The poem is very brief but it works, on paper its set out as if in a tennis match, which is very effective. To have made extra lines to the poem could have destroyed the effect it gives.

And then one can move on to some of the more serious poems where McGough displays his thoughtful side to his writing style.

In ‘Identification’ McGough writes about a man that has to identify a young boy’s body, which is suspected to be his son. The man is obviously in denial, maybe inside knows it’s his child but just doesn’t want to believe it. For instance, he finds a packet of cigarettes and has a glimmer of hope that this may not be his son because, as far as he knows, his son would never smoke. And because the boy’s face is so badly burnt there is always a chance it might be someone else. I particularly like the line that goes ‘But one must be sure, remove of trace of doubt, pull out every splinter of hope.’ This totally sums up the way the man is feeling about making an awful decision to determine if this is his dead son.

One of the most powerful pieces of McGough’s work is a poem called ‘The Jogger’s Song’ and deals with the controversial and sensitive issue of rape. The poem is written from the rapist’s point of view, as he tries to make excuses for his actions and explain why he did it. He tries to convince himself by saying she was a ‘tart’ and was asking for it by ‘ Screaming and rolling all over the floor, pissed she was.’

Reading the poem made me feel disgusted with the man for having the audacity to make excuses for his behaviour. Even if the poem so far isn’t ghastly enough, after the poem there’s a caption from a newspaper that influenced McGough to write the poem in the first place. The article reads…’ A thirty five year old woman was raped and assaulted on her way home from a club, she asks a jogger who was passing me for help, but instead of helping the woman, he also rapes her too.’ To try and sum up what a horrible crime this is is impossible but McGough does a good job in trying to get into the jogger’s mind and the poem is very touching and baffling.

‘A Brown Paper Carrier Bag’ deals with the on – going situation of violence in Ireland. In this particular incident a bomb is put in a brown paper carrier bag placed on the pavement outside a busy Irish restaurant. I like the effectiveness of this poem a lot as it coincides with the current news stories and displays the events in a dramatic way of putting across how the simple action of placing the bag on the floor can lead to the disastrous consequences that followed.

Looking at the humorous poems next and starting off with the poem ‘Let Me Die A Young Man’s Death’ talks about the picturesque and noble way to die, a brave man’s death. Something that most elderly men dream of while sitting in their arm chairs at home fantasising about all the thrilling ways to die, like in a scene from the movies. One of the lines I particularly like goes like this, ‘May my mistress find me in bed with her daughter and fearing for her son cut me into little pieces and throw away every piece but one’. It’s a very imaginative poem and makes you think about the dull way most people actually die, in their sleep.

Another poem that fits into the humorous category is ‘Melting into the foreground’, an amusing poem that I think everyone can relate to at some point in their life, after heavy drinking sessions and regretting your behaviour when you’re told of what you got up to the night before. In this instance a shy man comes out of shell after one too many. While nursing his hang over, he reminisces about the events of that night, where funny moments like hitting on a married woman, stealing Bacardi in his drunken state and not being able to find his coat at the end of the party so taking which ever one appealed to him at that time. The poem is funny and a situation most people have experienced, McGough puts a humorous out look on it.

McGough had written another humorous poem about football. It tells the story of a football fanatic that has to split his support between Everton and Liverpool and the tricky situation he faces when the two teams play each other on Derby Day. He describes himself as ‘ schizofanatic’ by supporting the two teams fanatically. It appears to be a very strange thing to so, but he puts it simply by saying that at the end of the day he doesn’t lose out and that either way he has twice the fun and twice the heartache.

In every school there’s always one person that attends school just to terrify the other pupils and only as you grow up you realise that perhaps behind these school bullies’ tough exterior they were not as tough as they were made out to be. McGough’s poem is based on exactly that. He’d make a typical statement that one of these boys would threaten their schoolmates with and then contradict it with bracketed comments. For example the line, ‘I’m a nooligan got an nard ‘ead, step put of line and you’re dead (well, bleedin)’ McGough has once again used his witty outlook on life to make another successful poem for people to relate with in typical everyday school life with an amusing touch to it.

To add to the collection of more humorous poems is ‘George and the dragonfly’ in which McGough revisits his memorable school years and remembers his old friend George Jennings who was a superb spitter, and known as the schoolboy hero. McGough imagines that he can relive his school years and invite all his old mates back to his house for a get together and they manage to persuade George to give them all a performance of his old speciality. And reluctantly, George agrees and while the rest of his friends are sunning themselves in the garden, blushing George gives them a performance, ‘So he takes extra care as yester heroes must, fire’s at a dragonfly, encapsulate, bites the dust’. He then walks back to his friends with his reputation of twenty years still standing tough.

The last humorous poem I am analysing is ‘ Big Arph’ which is about a huge forward rugby player, or as McGough puts it, ‘ A forward and a half’. McGough uses animal images to describe the large man, such as a giraffe in the lineout’ and ‘A rhino in the pack’ and you get the instant impression he’s a very large and muscular guy.

But we also learn he’s a gentle giant when it comes down to that he is capable of running with a soft boiled egg to the halfway line without it being damaged, almost as if he was caressing it gently.

And that leads me to my conclusion. After studying twelve of McGough’s poems I have discovered that he is fully capable of demonstrating the skills to write both serious and humorous poetry. One side is the serious, curious side which deals with tough and highly sensitive subjects and brings out his serious outlook on life. Then to his other side which is more amusing and deals with his real life experiences with a humorous touch to them.


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