Some poems of Les Barker - click on an item in the table to listen to one

Below the table you will find his picture, followed a biography, and then by the words for two of his poems:
(1) Poetry and sex, (2) Disaster at sea

 Poetry or Sex?  Voicemail  The zebra with spots  Government of protons
and neutrons
 Beckham's groin  Why I don't like my boomerang  George Bush's rationale for war   The Stealth Comma
 The sound of a dipthong  A dachsund with an erection
cannot climb the stairs
 The lonely lemming  Once upon a picnic
 The church of the undecided  Disposing of a cellphone    

A description of Les Barker
(taken from his website)

Les Barker writes strange poems and comes from Manchester. He was an accountant before he became a professional idiot. He's written 72 books, which sell in large numbers at his gigs because people don't quite believe what they've just heard. His poems have spawned a number of folk heroes: Jason and the Arguments, Cosmo the Fairly Accurate Knife Thrower, Captain Indecisive and Spot of the Antarctic, to name but two.

Les began his career as assistant to Mrs Ackroyd, a small hairy mongrel who lay around in folk clubs, bit people and became famous. Mrs Ackroyd was the only dog ever to own her own record label. Since her sad demise, Les is mainly a solo performer, though he has taken to working with humans from time to time. The Mrs Ackroyd Band gradually evolved from an ever-changing who's who of the folk scene into a tightly knit, well-rehearsed group.

Les has several solo albums to his credit: 'Dogologues', An Infinite Number of Occasional Tables', 'A Cardi and Bloke', 'Up the creek without a poodle', 'Arovertherapy' and 'The War on Terrier'. He has travelled the length, breadth and height of Great Britain, as well as Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, and - both solo and with the band - the United States and Canada.

The Mrs Ackroyd Band - supplemented by guest members such as June Tabor and Martin Allcock - has released four albums;'Oranges & Lemmings', 'Gnus & Roses', 'Tubular Dogs' and 'Yelp!'.

In addition there are highly acclaimed albums of his serious work; the folk opera 'The Stones of Callanish', 'Some Love', 'The Wings of Butterflies', and 'Airs of the Dog', all involving a galaxy of talent. His serious songs have also featured on recent albums by Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, and by June Tabor. June invariably includes a smattering of Mr Barker's serious and comic songs in her live performances.

And now 'The Mrs Ackroyd Occasional Table Book'; a collection of his greatest hits (up to about 1998) mixed with a selection of his photographs taken on his travels.

Les and the Mrs Ackroyd Band burst furtively onto national radio with a series of six programmes for BBC Radio 2 entitled 'Mrs Ackroyd explores up her roots'. A new, and much larger audience were led in ever decreasing circles by Mr Barker's strange mind. A growing number of radio programmes worldwide are featuring his recorded work. Dr Demento has included the Mrs Ackroyd Band's performance of 'Dachshunds with erections can't climb stairs' on one of his compilations, and 'Will the turtle be unbroken?' on another. as well as Mr Barker's solo rendition of 'Reinstalling Windows.'.

What else can one say about Les Barker? He was Old York Victoria's footballer of the year in the season when they finished top of the Altrincham League. He has run a marathon in two hours forty one minutes; but he was younger then. He's very difficult to describe. But there's only one of him. Go and see him (and buy some of his books).

Sex Is Better Than Poetry
by Les Barker
  Sometimes I wander down memory lane;
Some things spring to mind straight away;
Sex in the previous century
Is more vivid than poetry today.

I remember Helen; and Julie was fun,
And evenings with Evelyn were ace;
But Shakespeare and Milton and Wordsworth and Donne?
Disappeared for ever; no trace.

Who here has been rendered ecstatic
By Betjeman, Byron or Scott?
Is poetry better than sex?
No, it’s bloody well not.

Words it was not; it was women
Who took those sweet years of my time;
I never went down to the pub
To see if two sentences rhymed.

Nights down dark lanes in the back seats of cars;
Was it poetry that gave our hearts wings?
Was it poetry that steamed up the windows?
Was it poetry that tested the springs?

Did the thrill of iambic pentameter
Keep the fires of our passion red hot?
Is Poetry better than sex?
No, it’s bloody well not.

Remember the success of the musical “Hair”?
Did the words of its songs make it so?
Was it Glibby glop gloopy nibby nabby nooby
La la la lo lo?
Sabba sibby sabba nooby abba nabba;
Were we gripped by these words of the sage?
I think it had rather more to do
With naked bodies on stage.
Tooby ooby wabba nooby abba naba.
Am I impressed? Not a lot;
Is poetry better than sex?
No, it’s bloody well not.

Does my soul sing out for, say, Shelley?
No; his verses are just so much froth;
Should we have more sex on the telly?
Yes; though I sometimes fall off.

If you were alone in some far away place
And the evening was starting to drag;
If you had to choose, which one would you refuse;
The Lady of Shallot or a shag?

By the latter, in clarification,
I did not mean a guillemot;
Is poetry better than sex?
No, it’s bloody well not.

If poetry was better than sex,
There’d be a torrent of spam sent upon it;
‘Brazilian housewives read Shakespeare for you’;
‘Add an extra four lines to your sonnet’.

There’s no: “You are not Long, fellow;
The opposite sex will not like you;
They want a man with a big soliliquy
All you’ve got is a haiku.”

Does it matter how long a man’s poem?
No indeed; not a jot;
Is poetry better than sex?
No, it’s bloody well not.

Have I passed long years of pure pleasure
In pursuit of the most perfect rhyme?
Oh no; that to me is no treasure;
Procreation’s been the thief of my time.

Have I passed long years of pure pleasure
In pursuit of the most perfect rhyme?
Oh no; that to me is no treasure;
Procreation’s been the thief of my time.

And when I have something to say,
A passion I need to express,
Do I care overmuch about scansion and rhyme?

Do I preach that we reach for some peach of a word?
No, I lob in some odd apricot;
Is poetry better than sex?
No, it’s bloody well not.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree
And would that dome have poets in?
Not if it was up to me;

I get quite confused when I see a hand used
To write verse, whether rhyming or blank;
Some other employment would bring more enjoyment;
That’s what I think, to be frank.

The day that I’m cursed with a preference for verse
You can order my hearse on the spot;
Is poetry better than sex?
No, it’s bloody well not.

The odyssey, Illiad; in days far behind,
Did I seek out girls who could quote ‘em?
Is the way to my heart through the doors of my mind?
No, like most men, I’m led by the scrotum.

And when the debate has come to a close
And we’ve filled you with smiles and with laughter
Don’t come to us with your poems, my dears;
It isn’t your poems we’re after.

What are words when two souls might be dancing
That sweet horizontal gavotte?
Is poetry better than sex?
No, it’s bloody well not.

To keep me amused, I know which I’d choose;
But remind me, in case I’ve forgot;
Is poetry better than sex?
No, it’s bloody well not.

Les Barker - 2003

And here is a final short poem with a good final line...

Disaster at Sea

It was a calm, still day in Yarmouth,
The channel clear and wide,
As the last of the timber sailing ships
Sailed out on the evening tide.

They never saw that ship again;
They searched when it was light,
But that fine old timber vessel sank
That clear and peaceful night.

No one knows what happened
On that night in 1910;
But the crew and her cargo of woodpeckers
Were never seen again.

Les Barker - 2005