Dr John Cooper Clarke (the doctorate is honorary but he's the only performance poet that has one) is a performance poet . As is obvious, what performance poet means is that he goes on tour and performs his poetry. What isn't obvious is the way that he performs his poetry. He does read some of the newer ones but he reads/recites at breakneck speed, slows down, speeds up and performs with feeling. It's manic actually and isn't easy to describe (there are clips on YouTube). He is also known as the punk poet because his style : fashion, poetry and performance, fitted in with the punk ethos and he went on tour supporting punk bands of the day. Think about that : John Cooper Clarke was performing poetry onstage to an audience that had paid to see a punk band performing and he was accepted.
This autobiography is as eloquent, erudite and funny as I expected. His prose is as good as his poetry and he has a phenomenal vocabulary. What shocked me was : he was addicted to heroin long before he got regular work as a poet let alone got famous and has been so addicted until fairly recently. Not what I was expecting at all.
His poetry has been taught in schools and he now headlines his own tours. When he started nobody was making a living out of poetry let alone performance poetry and now there are, of course, more people doing it. Indeed he has other performance poets supporting his tour. However, he remains not only the original but the best.
Another surprise for me was how enthusiastic he is about fashion. Everybody he describes in his book is described as to their taste in fashion and then their occupation. And he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of music. Nowadays he's happily married and has a daughter.
Altogether a well written and entertaining book from a very talented and interesting man who doesn't need someone else to write it for him and whose sense of humour never left him.
Most poets who also perform their works live are not as good on stage as they are on the page. JCC (though I would consider him a singer performing his own lyrics rather than a poet speaking his own words) is a wonderful exception. The playful way he has with words combined with the ascerbic delivery of his poems make him a delight to listen to.
"Evidently Chickentown" and "Beasley Street" show his wonderfully tricksy way of unusual rhymes with both a great ear for Northern speech patterns and an unapologetic use of swear words.
Apparently he was big during the punk era, so I apologise if I'm thirty years too late. He's still got it, though.