I like John Hegley’s poems. I like watching him talk and sing and show his drawings because he isn’t boring and he makes words wonderful.

I like how John reads words in a whimsical way with his legs all rubbery like if Elvis was a pencil wearing glasses. He is like a pencil in glasses that was pulled out from under a settee and has some dog hairs stuck on top of the rubber.

I like how John’s words can leave an imprint on you like on a kid with bare legs sitting too close to the fire or from the smack off a Dad.

I like how John does drawings that are quite rubbish on the one hand but on the other are magical, and in this show we get to see a lot of drawings of elephants. I’m sure most people would be happy about that.

I liked being in sheer abandon at the show, bobbing my head to one side when we said “Bob”. I thought about my son Bobby being out somewhere he thought was cool and cutting edge because it was his birthday. And that I was with a lot of people in glasses with grey hair, bobbing my head to the word “Bob”. But I still felt cool because I was watching John Hegley.

John Hegley’s shovel. Credit: Cathy Crabb.

I liked how because I am now old enough to have been through all the stages of family represented in John’s poetry, that I can imagine I am a bit revered and admired like John’s fabulous French Grandma in his book that he signed for me – Peace, Love & Potatoes – with a nice drawing of a shovel.

I liked to see that John is old now. But not as old as Keats. Who is also always young like John. Keats (who John talks about and whose house he said he was the writer-in-residence in, which is wrong because he should have been the other writer in residence as just because Keats is dead he still exists in his books as a young man and if you think that is spooky here is something spookier – to exist beyond your body is one of the main reasons people write poetry) will always remain for me that fresh-faced, young Barry Manilow lookalike in the painting I saw in my poetry book in sixth form. And John Hegley will always remain different ages because he is different ages in his pages. And also, because he draws like a baby. Although the shovel he did for me was a very good drawing considering it was done in seconds.

I like how the poems in the book Peace, Love & Potatoes sometimes have bits in them that are ruminations on his past poems. And to me those bits are like chocolate chips in an American biscuit or like Dorothy Parker’s raisins.

I didn’t like the amount of drawings of fig biscuits in the show though, because when I was little at my Nanna’s house she gave me a fig biscuit. I said ‘what’s that?’ and she said ‘shit with sugar on’. And though fig biscuits taste nice, they could easily be shit with sugar on.

I liked how at the end those of us with lenses in our glasses got to tap them in appreciation of John. John also suggested that those with lenses in their eyes tapped theirs, but he was only kidding.

A review in picture form. Credit: Cathy Crabb

A review in picture form. Credit: Cathy Crabb.

And I liked most of all that he did a drawing of a shovel in my book. Even though he couldn’t remember that many years ago I metaphorically borrowed a shovel from him, and he said I could metaphorically keep it. But it doesn’t matter now.

By Cathy Crabb

Main image used with permission from Waterside 


To catch John Hegley on tour, check out his website here.