Spud-lover you'll like John Hegley comes to Norwich with special poem just for us
PUBLISHED: 15:56 04 October 2017
The poet, comedian and singer will bring his unique mix spoken word and chaotic comedy to Norwich Arts Centre with trademark whimsical musings on subjects including his love of the humble potato.
I am not quite sure how to describe the great John Hegley.
The 64-year-old has been given a number of names over the years, mostly centring around the two labels of comedian and poet. But he is also a songwriter, performer, singer, writer and entertainer. You name it, Hegley is it.
So what would the man, who once did a gig in a Colombian woman’s prison, describe himself as? “Well, you have to think of what is the most helpful to people,” he says, helpfully. “A ‘singing poet’ – that shows people there is an element of entertainment.”
But if you have ever seen Hegley recite one of his poems about dogs or glasses or potatoes (one of his favourite subjects) live, or even watched some of his clips on YouTube, singing poet does not seem to do him justice.
You can judge yourself as the ‘potato laureate’ is back in Norwich today bringing his combination of spoken word and chaotic comedy to Norwich Arts Centre with his show, Peace, Love and Potatoes.
The show is part of a tour marking the re-release of his book of the same name that brings together poetry, prose and drawings on the themes closest to his heart. Contemplating subjects from painting, France and family to Daleks, and of course potatoes, these pieces are by turns funny, moving, thought-provoking - and always brilliantly original.
Its initial release back in 2012 prompted one critic to write: “John Hegley is to potatoes what Wordsworth has been to daffodils”.
So why the fascination with the humble spud? “You can enjoy them in many ways,” he says. “They are versatile, and cheap. And they can be exotic, too. I prefer brown skins to red. That’s all I know about them. I peel them sometimes, sometimes not. My mum used to make chips and then I used to wipe the fat off them individually.”
His love has even led to his poem titled Poem de terre, which goes…
I’m not a normal person
whatever that may be
there is something very very vegetable
this human skin I’m skulking in
it’s only there for show,
I’m a potato.
Emerging during the punk era, Hegley first came to the public attention performing with The Popticians on Carrott’s Lib. Along with his backing band he recorded two sessions with legendary DJ John Peel, before going on to publish his poetry in a number of collections including Visions of the Bone Idol and Glad to Wear Glasses.
His whimsical, daft style has touches of that other punk poet John Cooper Clarke and like him he has made his career as much through live performance as published works, leading the fusion of stand up and poetry.
His work is popular in schools and is full of pleasingly awkward rhymes and endearing twists on words, covering anything and everything from his childhood bungalow in Luton (Luton Town FC is another favourite subject) to the differences between a dog and a deckchair.
Hegley’s grandmother, a Parisian dancer with the Folies Bergère, also appears throughout his poems, and he is fascinated by his French ancestry. This has also influenced some of his work including his 2009 book The Adventures of Monsieur Robinet.
Hegley cites among poets amongst his favourites including Seamus Heaney, Carol Ann Duffy and D H Lawrence, and many more are referenced in his poems.
“I’d always loved writing,” he has said of his own poetry. “Still do. I like to play with rhyme and to rhyme with play. I think people understand there is another side to it.”
• John Hegley: Peace, Love & Potatoes, Norwich Arts Centre, October 5, 8pm, £13 (£10 cons), 01603 660352, norwichartscentre.co.uk
• Peace, Love and Potatoes is out now, published by Serpent’s Tail
POEM FOR NORWICH
To mark his visit to Norwich, John Hegley has written a special poem just for the EDP
A meditation upon Saint Benedict to coincide with visiting his Arts Centre in Norwich
Benedict was a monk
who thunk so strict and proper.
The other cloister boys were stranger
to the modest message of the manger
and not taking to the goodie hood example,
wanted to make Benny come a cropper.
In his mead they put some poison
but, before he’d took a sample
the goblet smashed in smithereens
and Benedict oblivious, went whistling off to mass
with his inner sense of where is
danger, like canaries
sent down mines to sniff out gas.