Today, Jeremy Langrish shares his poem A Life in 400 Words and invites you to write a similar poem about your life or someone else’s. Don’t worry about hitting 400 words exactly on the first draft, we’ve got a poem a day to write after all!
Below is an easy-to-read version of the poem and one with the correct formatting.
A life in 400 words
I was born to be wild, barefoot, in the highlands of Africa,
to a mother gifted with words.
I’ve swum in emerald oceans, by coral, sea urchin and devilfish.
I’ve cruised the Suez before I could fly.
Baby, boy with two tongues, bronzed and bleached.
I have heard the Gully-Gully Man say hocus pocus malocus – and no mongoose!
Youth, sportsman wing forward, sailor of dinghies off the shores of Nyanza.
I’ve looked down to the Omo from a great height.
Studious, ragged and rough, halfmade, straddling cycles, kickstarting motors.
Examined for credentials by degrees.
I have had Delhi Belly,
plied my hand at Chase The Lady – over pontoons, whistfully.
Shopped in Lille,
lived in bedsits, bungalows, flats, caravans, terraces, semies before I came home,
holidayed at sea sides, in tents and apartments.
I’ve worn odd socks, my shirt inside out.
I have taught computers Conway’s Life in mnemonics.
I’ve been good by the law but bad for police.
Three planets supported me.
Averse to footy, bet I’ve never stepped inside a bookies.
I have foraged for bacon:
onetime waiter, groundsman, bottler of lemonade, U-bend moulder,
caller of Bingo’s numbers. Voluntary Purveyor of furniture –
I have plucked turkeys.
Sometime barman, mower of lawns, carter of taxi fares, warder of waywards,
surveyor of fat in pies.
Longtime negotiator of resolutions for the conflicted, a keeper of secrets.
L o n g t i m e scientist; I have made enzymes in the dead of night.
Danced with machines, made powders from ferments.
Exceled at spreadsheets, crafted relations between Access and data.
presented with Powerpoint, spelled out Words for procedures,
reporting, and numbers to risk. I trained…
…I hung up my hat…
Always a student of boffy book-titles…
…and long time wordsmith.
maker of poesy for page and performance,
exhilarated, enchanted by stages.
A ditherer, diffuse, intense, relentlessly persistent
at universals, lyricals, trivials, absurdities.
Maker of books (sssshhhh. Don’t tell anyone!)
I’ve been gifted a spouse, considerate and caring,
homemaker, adoptive of cats. Capable.
I’ve earned our house.
I’ve been gifted two babies, boisterous boys, their goldfish and hamsters,
hairy youths, their achievements, adventures and mishaps,
independent loving men
each gifted the wonder of their spouses –
and babies of their own.
They have me as fussy tight scruffy smelly hoarding nob (‘ello ‘ard)
but sometimes thoughtful, and helpful,
and I have cherished. I can’t be all bad.
Jeremy Langrish is a graduate (2016) of the ‘Writing Poetry’ MA course offered by the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne / Poetry School collaboration. Over the last few years he has self-published several poetry collections (Jeremy Langrish | Lulu ), and his poems have appeared in numerous anthologies. However, for some 15 years his favoured mode of publication is stage ( he was part of a collaborative duo called ‘Ambigram’), and ‘Open Mics’. This enables him to describe himself as ‘an
Itinerant Poet’. He lives in in Maidstone, Kent, home for the last fortyish years from where he schemes how to rebel to avoid extinction.
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