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Image by Mick Mitchell

Poem introduction

'The Meaning of Life' is about Yorkshire dialect poetry and the fact that it's not meant to be able to carry very big meanings, and it's also complete nonsense. Unless you read it very carefully.

The Meaning of Life

The Meaning of Life

(A Yorkshire Dialect Rhapsody)

From under't canal like a watter-filled cellar
coming up like a pitman from a double'un, twice,
I said "Hey, you're looking poorly"
He said "Them nights are drawing in"

Down't stairs like a gob-machine, sucking toffees,
up a ladder like a ferret up a ladder in a fog,
I said "Hey, you're looking poorly"
He said "Half-a-dozen eggs"

Over't top in't double-decker groaning like a whippet
like a lamplighter's daughter in a barrel full of milk,
I said "Hey, you're looking poorly"
He said "Night's a dozen eggs"

Down't canal like a barrow full of Gillis's parsnips,
coming up like a cage of men in lit-up shiny hats,
I said "Hey, you're looking poorly"
He said "Half a dozen nights"

Under't canal on a pushbike glowing like an eggshell
up a ladder wi' a pigeon and a brokken neck,
I said "Hey, you're looking poorly"
He said "I feel like half-a-dozen eggs"

Over't night on a shiny bike wi' a lit-up hat,
perfect for't poorly wi' heads like eggs,
I said "Hey, you died last week"
He said "Aye, did you miss me?"


from Now It Can Be Told (Carcanet, 1983), copyright © Ian McMillan 1983, used by permission of the author

Recordings

Ian McMillan Reading from his Poems. (The poems on this tracklist are not currently available to download. You can purchase the full CD via the link below.)

Tall in the Saddle

1The Soft White Pillowcase Boys

2Pushed Home when the Clouds were still Raw

3From the Section Dealing with the Loss of Grace

4The Tennis Ball Factory Poems

5The Meaning of Life

6SF Novel

7What Really Happened To The Buffalo

8For Me

9Why Are You Ringing

10Two Miners Pass in Opposite Directions at Daybreak

11The Texas Swing Boys' Dadaist Manifesto

12Resident

13Sessions

14Pushing, May 1984

15Coalpicking, Broomhill

16Visitors, Armthorpe August 1984

17Propp's Last Case

18Action

19From an Evening with the Model of "The Venus and the Shaving Brushes"

20Move

21The Photographer's Subject

22Just the Facts, Just the

23Simple Story

24Man in Hotel Room with Stolen Fork

25Against Realism

26Some Poetry Presses I Will Certainly Set Up In The Next Three Weeks

27Landing Practice

28The Prince of Wales visits Alnwick

29Cracking Icicles in Totley Tunnel

31Kake Yourself Comfortable 32Why We Need Libraries 33Pit Closure as Art 34Lilian's Poem 35Husband and Wife

36Tempest Avenue

37Deaths from Ice-Cream

38Ted Hughes is Elvis Presley

39Visit 40Poem Occasioned by the High Incidence of Suicide amongst the Unemployed 41Song for Roof Building (Collected in South Yorkshire Light Industry Park, Barnsley) 42Moon River: Lives of the Great Comedians 43Henry's Skeleton, George's Leg 44Jesus Died from Eating Curtains 45Stone, I Presume 46Still Life Life 47Realism (Nothing Is Ever Finished) 48Dad, the Donkey's On Fire