I WANNA BE YOURS - JOHN COOPER CLARKE BOOK REVIEW
Much like many others, I was introduced to Dr. John Cooper Clarke’s poetry via the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I wanna be yours’ from their 2013 album AM which started out as a poem by Clarke. I wasn’t lucky enough to study his poetry at GCSE like many others were, but my mum was also a big fan of his so I've always been pretty familiar was this work.
As someone who studied English literature, it was pretty easy for me to get sick of literature. And I did. Sick of everyone except Clarke and his cynical and humorous punk poetry.
So, when I saw Dr. John Cooper Clarke was bringing out a memoir, I knew I had to read it to find out what makes this man with such an individual musical and literary style.
I Wanna Be Yours is a 400+ page-long epic description of Clarke's early years into his poetry success. I haven’t read too many memoirs, but this is one of the more riveting ones I’ve ever read. The fast-paced lyricism that Clarke is most well known for in his music and poetry can clearly be seen in the way he describes his childhood and the build-up to his career. The story is a true rag to riches, with a bit of heroin thrown in for good(?) measure.
If you like Clarke’s poetry, it’s safe to assume you’d like his memoir too. Not necessarily because you’re a fan of the man, but because somehow his prose is just as honest and warm as his other work.
The relationship between punk and poetry plays out beautifully throughout. What you expect to be an intense battle between the world of literature and punk actually ends up being an almost beautiful intertwining. Obviously, it wasn't a seamless ride to the top, but John Cooper Clarke identified a connection with punk even before it really had a name, and punk seemed to welcome him back.
The memoir makes you realise how important of a part of rock history icon Clarke is. The who's who of 70s/80s rock are mentioned throughout the book and Clarke has either met, worked with, or been inspired by every single one of them.
It was also heartwarming to hear how the inclusion of Clarke’s work into the GCSE curriculum helped him for the better, then led to the creation of the song that got me interested in the poet in the first place. You know when you discover a music artist through one of their more popular songs then the artist ends up hating that song and you feel bad for liking it? That’s not the case here. Clarke is proud of the way his poetry on the curriculum of GCSE’s influenced young people to have an interest in poetry and also gained him a new generation of fans.
Overall, if you like hearing stories about rock and roll across the UK in the seventies then this is then this may be a good read. However, it’s far more interesting if you focus on the man telling the story. Sure, the name drops are good, but Dr. John Cooper Clarke’s story really is something to be intrigued by all in itself.