The Drunken Laureateship – guest post by Max Dunbar

I haven’t updated recently as I’ve been busy getting my first tattoo and getting back together with my ex-boyfriend and let me just say this about that: I will come to regret neither. I know this blog was a place for me to get angry about the break up and yes, it was a horrible, horrible time in my life. However I’m sure a lot of my fellow crazies will appreciate that sometimes being the mad one in a relationship can make you temporairily ignorant of your own unreasonable behaviours. I wasn’t seeking help the first time around and anyone who knows me will know I am capable of being really “quite a handful”. Throw a misdiagnosed mental illness and ineffective medication onto an already insecure and unstable person and they’re hardly going to be perfect girlfriend material. No, I am not taking all the blame but I’m able to reflect and correct the errors I made. If someone like me can do that then I respect my boyfriend enough that he can do the same. I am hopelessly in love and losing him was a pain I will never allow myself to endure again. Yes it will always sting a little that it happened, but I’m not about giving up on people. Love is love and love is imperfect,like everything else. But it’s real and it’s worth it, and that’s our decision. For those wondering, me and the other ex have decided to remain friends rather than a dramatic goodbye. He’s dating someone new now and what’s left of the tatters of our previous relationship is an enduring friendship with someone is, admittedly, quite a bit of a vile fop, but someone to whom I am indebted for the help he offered when my partner (and a few friends) deserted me. Also we’ve lived through a lot together, and I think a sensible friendship with someone like that is necessary. I hated being given up on and I hated feeling like my flaws were somehow luminescent to those I loved, them forgetting the nice person I am capable of being. I don’t want to do that to anyone, especially not someone who pretty much saved my life and helped me to give myself time to grow.
Which brings me neatly to the tattoo. I have changed a lot. The problems I had in ALL of my relationships were these: wanting too much too soon, relying too much on the other person, not getting help when I need it, and becoming too entrenched in the relationship. Those things have changed because my outlook on life has. I no longer feel unsafe most of the time and my insecurities have settled somewhat. I feel more independent. I feel braver, and getting the tattoo was about that. It’s a triangle, which symbolises power, change, intellect, protection and summoning, and for me that’s an important symbol to wear on my body. Also I confronted the fear of the unknown in actually getting it, I’ve been putting it off for a long time. Finally, my body is too full of ugly scars as it is. I wanted to make a scar that looked nice and meant something positive.

Okay. So that’s all out of the way now. Let us get to the matter in hand. My good friend Max Dunbar has written a short piece of prose which is about what it would be like should I become poet laureate. He does things like this. It’s called The Drunken Laureateship.

The Drunken Laureateship

I really don’t know why they chose me. Perhaps the local talent pool wasn’t so good: Simon Armitage too Northern, Seamus Heaney too Irish, Larkin still dead. My investiture followed the Hay helicopter disaster of 2010: I imagine they had to make a lot of phone calls before they got to me. My first composition, on the occasion of the wedding of the Duke of Cambridge to Catherine Middleton, was a shock. Called ‘Diamondcore Plebstomp’, it was a result of my involvement with the flarf movement in poetry, and also contained elements of, H P Lovecraft, e e cummings and a new versifying style of my own invention that I like to call ‘witchhouse’. The poem was broadcast on a big screen set up in the Mall in a four-minute YouTube collage where I narrated the verse over mashups of tableaux from medieval history, Daily Express front page generator sites, and Breaking Bad meth cook montages. There was some criticism (‘I couldn’t really identify with it,’ I remember Lord Bragg saying) even talk of having me sued to meet the additional costs of policing the event, but Christ, what English wedding went without a riot?
For the Olympics, I had been told, quietly but firmly, to ‘tone it the fuck down’ and ‘try to do something more traditional’ and so it surprised me that my Opening Ceremony composition, ‘Fuck This Discus Bullshit’, was not more appreciated than it was. I mean, they had like Danny Boyle and Underworld, so I thought I could attempt something a bit more adventurous. The accompanying music I chose was a tasteful blend, I thought, of Unforscene’s ‘Nuclear Symphony’ and Apollo 440’s ‘Altamont Superhighway Revisited’. I certainly didn’t expect to be rugbytackled and tasered, mid-recitation and in full view of the dignitaries and viewing public: the last thing I remember is shouting ‘We want more cycle lanes, motherfuckers’ at the Prime Minister of Turkey, and Sebastian Coe sobbing into his hands.
​On a last warning, my composition for the birth of George Alexander Louis was, I thought, a subtle and discreet affair, yet full of ambiguity and allegorical weight: ‘Oh, a royal baby/How vulgar/Prince William’s going bald.’ That was it, apparently. ‘Call Simon Armitage,’ I remember the Lord Chamberlain shouting. I became the first laureate to be dismissed since Dryden.
I immediately went back to my little drunken poetry circuit in the pubs and hipster bars of the North: I came to think of the laureateship as a rather silly affair. Still, perhaps it taught me something, at that. Come with me. Don’t think of routine. Desire is not weakness. It’s been a beautiful summer. Let’s do something different today.


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