A short while ago I was pleased to have a poem included in the ‘Poems for Free­dom’ col­lec­tion, pub­lished in aid of the fire­bombed Free­dom Book­shop in Lon­don. I cer­tainly don’t con­sider myself a ‘poet’ and my con­tri­bu­tion (which began life as a daft rhyme writ­ten to fill in the silence of a long car jour­ney with a bro­ken CD player) was a thirty-six line rumi­na­tion on work and non-work called ‘In Praise of the Loafer’. The poem pon­dered the way in which we each under­stand and feel about work, what it does for us, what it does to us, how the promise of rich rewards for our efforts may come at a cost we often don’t see until it’s too late; it picked at notions of employ­ment, wel­fare, social expec­ta­tion, time-poverty, con­sumerism, jeal­ousy and ideas about what con­sti­tutes a rich life. Unlike my work on social class in acad­e­mia, poetry requires no real con­clu­sion beyond per­haps a mildly dex­ter­ous finale, and for that I am grate­ful as my car-cockpit mus­ings had reached none and had prob­a­bly raised more ques­tions than anything!

In Praise of the Loafer

Work is a bind

Of the most irk­some kind

You need it and simul­ta­ne­ously not

A salary or wage

til you reach your old age

Helps to tick things on your ‘must do’ list off

 

But what of the loafer

With noth­ing to show for

His decades of idling, his life­time of sloth?

You may think him thick

And that his list is un-ticked

But he never had such a list to kick off

 

You’ve no time to sit still

All those ticks make you ill

In a blur, not a sec­ond to sit and take stock

And think ‘do I feel rich?

Have I scratched very itch?’

Cos I tell you my friend I sus­pect you have not

 

Ensnared by the list

As it grows and it twists

You’ve a snow­man in hell’s chance of tick­ing the lot

You slave and you strive

For the things you can buy

Whether hol­i­day, telly or gold ocelot

 

Moral aspects eschewed

(you know, who pays for whom)

I long to be loafer, not ham­ster on wheel

But my nature’s been set

By school, fam­ily and friends

And my inner loafer won’t now be revealed

 

So I praise the loafer

But I hate the loafer

For why should he idle whilst I idle not?

Ensnared by my list

How it grows and it twists

A wise loafer knows not to worry one jot.

 

Whether this effort has achieved a ‘mildly dex­trous end­ing’ or not I’ll leave you to decide! This and other poems by rank ama­teurs like myself and those well known in the field, includ­ing Iain Sin­clair, William Rowe, Shi­rani Rajapakse, Pam Brown, Gavin Hud­son, Ushiku Crisa­fulli, Cathy Bryant, Niall McDe­vitt and Heath­cote Williams can be found in ‘Poems for Free­dom’ by The Free­dom Poets and can be pur­chased.