Stephen Hicks (1906 - 1979) from London was a professional boxer until he lost an eye to an unlucky punch. He was also a poet: "I always had the idea I could write poetry, as I had written a few on scraps of paper just for the fun of it. The first poem came to me on the Bridge Wharf in Westminster, when in the corner of the yard I noticed a small white flower growing bravely against a host of weeds and brambles and I thought how wonderful it looked in its struggle for survival. I thought that it must surely win through with such daunting courage, and so the first poem was born."
His work was admired by John Betjeman and he had a collection, The Boxer Speaks, published in May, 1974. His autobiography, Sparring For Luck, was first published in 1982 and contains many of his poems.
The Boxer Speaks
I took up boxing just for sport,
and though not very clever
I’m really glad that I was taught
the art of slinging leather.
I was always at my worst
with too many back pedals
And so I started out at first
for cutlery and medals.
So when I learnt to stand my ground
I then began to figure
That I could punch out every round
with all the utmost vigor.
And thus I carried on that way
with very small expense
‘Til I was brimful, one might say,
of much experience.
The big moment was now at hand
and I was mad to go
To get fixed up at Premierland
as an amateur turned pro.
Needless to say, my luck held out,
for there and other shows,
With hard earned cash from every bout
for punches on the nose.
I’ve had black eyes and swelled up ears
and K.O. once or twice
But I enjoyed it through the years
a fighter at cut price.
And through it all I say with pride
most boxers are great pals
Because they will stand by your side
if everyone else fails.
Stephen "Johnny" Hicks
One of my favourite ever records reviewed in the NME, 12 December, 1981 by Richard Grabel.
Ranger is at his best over Rougher Yet.
Lone Ranger: Love Bump
There’s a new fad among the toasters. They’re all going “hibetty hibetty hibetty hibetty bump.” But Lone Ranger does it best.
Ranger is funny, sexy, sly and smooth on this ode to the joys and pratfally of romance. “Walking down the street and a sexy girl he meet/First me say me like/Then me say me love.” Ranger sure knows how to woo ’em. He takes her to the show where she wanted to go. Later he gets the clap. But it’s all part of getting your love bump. Ranger’s voice is smooth as honey and quite seductive; the backing track is a great, springy, bounce-and-skank mover.
“Love a-that love-love bump.”
Katerina Gogou, the Greek, anarchist poet, recites her poem Nobody Will Escape in the 1980 film Special Request. There are helpful English subtitles.
Sylvia Pankhurst had a collection of poetry called Writ on Cold Slate published in 1921. The title, and this poem, come from the fact that she was not allowed pencil, pen or paper whilst in prison and could only write on a slate with chalk.
Writ on Cold Slate
Whilst many a poet to his love hath writ,
boasting that thus he gave immortal life,
my faithful lines upon inconstant slate,
destined to swift execution reach not thee.
In other ages dungeons might be strange,
with ancient mouldiness their airs infect,
but kindly warders would the tablets bring,
so captives might their precious thoughts inscribing,
the treasures of the fruitful mind preserve,
and culling thus its flowers, postpone decay.
Only this age that loudly boasts Reform,
hath set its seal of vengeance ‘gainst the mind,
decreeing thought in prison shall be writ,
save on cold slate and swiftly washed away.
This poem is from Hugo Dewar’s 1981 collection Arsy-Versy World. The collection brings together work from the 40s through to 1981. This particular poem was written in the 1970s.
The moneymen will tell you they cannot use their hands
while sterling on the market like a beggar stands,
that all those that are able to count from one to ten,
must know you cannot balance books if you count the cost in men.
It grieves them very greatly, it goes against the grain
to give the poor and needy so much worry, so much pain;
but surely all will understand it doesn’t make real sense
to put the fate of common folk before the pounds and pence.
Don’t think it’s saws and hammers, chisels, trowels, spades and picks;
don’t think it’s digging footings, mixing mortar, laying bricks;
don’t think it’s human brains and skills, human labour, human sweat,
to bank on these they’ll tell you, will just increase the debt.
For Moneymen don’t count with men, as unemployment mounts;
they only count with money – for only money counts.
The Bash Street Kids in punk t-shirts from The Beano, 4 March, 1978.
The magnificent Go-Go’s in Smash Hits, the 21 Jan – 3 Feb, 1982 issue.