A poem for the day – Blue Lamp Disco

The title poem from my third collection. Not actually about a real blue lamp disco – we all remember those, right? – but a more or less true account of a night in my home town when I was young and foolish, to coin a phrase.

Is this a ‘political’ poem? I sort of think it is, but would be hard-pressed to say how. Personally, I just like the rhyme-scheme…

Blue Lamp Disco

We lay down for ‘The Queen’

and still escaped a kicking

until that Christmas when

they ambushed us in Mill Street,

loosening my teeth

and both your bollocks.

You nursed them in our booth

in Madge’s, as we sipped

an underage pint apiece

and a clunky drum-machine

accompanied the pleas

of a tinselled cowboy

RUC reservist

moonlighting on twelve-string,

lachrymose, half-pissed,

banging on about love.

  • PJ Maybe

    The lamp was blue
    And the cows went moo.
    “This is what I do,
    Write crap poems for you.
    Like I was back in form two”
    Shooby dooby doo.

  • Could you explain the rhyme-scheme to those of us who can’t see it?

  • Andrew,

    It’s the rarely-spotted Mooney Stanza System:


  • Andrew, it’s nothing special really. If you think of it as being put together from four-line ‘verses’, then the first and third line of each verse rhyme. The outcome is that you end on an unrhymed line. We’re trained (at least us English-speakers are trained) from early childhood to hear rhyme as a kind of closure, a ‘punch-line’, and we take pleasure in it.
    Ending on a non-rhyming word replaces that pleasure with a sense of bathos, and it felt interesting to attach that feeling of so-whatness to the word ‘love’ that the singer’s ‘banging on’ about. (And of course love is the central concept in both western lyric poetry and the modern pop song.)
    Our training in rhyme (nursery rhymes, lullabies, prayers, hymns, songs, traditional poetry) has led to a state of affairs (again, in English) where the more complete the rhyme, the more pleasure we take in (but the less seriously we take) the closure it offers – to the point where full rhyme becomes a medium for light verse, comic verse, or satire (see PJ’s piece above.)
    Moving away from full rhyme to half-rhyme or slant-rhyme, the scheme becomes less obtrusive, less noticeable. But even if the reader doesn’t see it straight away (or ever) it still gives the poem a scaffolding to build with.
    So, not that important to be honest. But I was pleased with it because despite all the ex post facto rationalisation above, it wasn’t intended. It just kind of happened as the thing went through various drafts, so it felt like a bit of a gift.   

  • Langdale

    ” But even if the reader doesn’t see it straight away (or ever) it still gives the poem a scaffolding to build with.”

    It’s just a pity that the scaffolding of your alleged poem is as ugly as that which holds up the Good Friday Agreement.

    I’m passing a biro and a piece of paper to my cat, in the sure and certain expectation (albeit with some catnip shoved up her nose) that she can produce a work of equal value.

    (Ten second pause)

    Hold on hold on—she’s finished already.

    Your poem is shit,
    Every single bit.
    That’s it for now,
    Miaow, miaow.
    Damn! It rhymes.
    Fuckityfuckfuck there goes the grant from the Arts Council!!!!!!!


  • oracle


    I’ll have to agree with Langdale it is very poor poetry from where I stand.
    I may not be able to tell the difference between good poetry and great poetry but I do know when I been served up the remnants of the dogs dinner with a few rhyming words thrown in as a form of garnish to aide with its consumption.

  • oracle

    **** What about this ****
    With sainsburys finest tin-foil wrapped on my head
    I have a conspiracy that’ll just knock you dead

    Sound in my mind that I’m not a crazed loony
    I know these poems are not by Martin Mooney

    The quality so poor it’s bordering on grim
    No mask required just a wee pseudonym

    The poems lack style or any crafted finesse
    Unquestionably the author is Martin McGuiness

    Pete Bakers posts must have taken their toll
    So the shiners have hit back with verse with no soul

    Perhaps the dupers have shown the shiners the way
    Moochin’s really Peter with the photo of the day

    Now it’s getting scary, I’m starting to feel sick
    At the thoughts that the Justice Minister is really just Mick

    The paranoia is rampant I’m all in a tizzy
    The concerns about Slugger are making me dizzy

    Time to wrap up I’ve made enough accusations
    And it won’t help Slugger with its community relations

    I’m hiding my fingers away from the computer
    And switching off the power that goes to the router

    You may find these lines a hit or a miss
    But more likely a case of just taking the piss

  • Mark

    The shortest poem on record ?

    Muhummad Ali … – ” Me , We ” .

  • Alias

    I take it that the pint wasn’t chilled? If it was, I’d be impressed if you drank it with loosened teeth.

    Also, how could a poem with a croppy lie down reference not be political?

  • Alias, the reference isn’t to croppies lying down: it was a kind of infantile punk gesture common enough at events back in the 70s – God, well into the 80s maybe – when they were brought to a close by the national anthem. Especially provocative, we thought, at blue lamp discos when the place always had a cop or two to maintain order and confiscate quarter bottle.

    But I do take your point and it’s one I’m interested in: it’s really hard to use ordinary language here and not find it saturated with references to our poltical predicament. Just that sometimes people want or expect a ‘political’ poem to be presenting an analysis or making an argument. There are enough analysts and arguers, I’d hope poems could do something different.

  • Alias

    I don’t understand what ‘lay down’ means if not a croppie reference. Unless you lay prostrate for the national anthem to mock it, which would amount to the same thing? And who did you escape ‘a kicking’ from by that action? The ‘still’ would imply some provocative act on your part and some unexpected tolerance on the part of others. I guess I am biased in reading it in that I would configure the context from what is assumed about NI by a ‘Southerner’. I would assume that the attack was sectarian, and that the attacked party were young Catholics. It would just as easily be Protestants being attacked for sectarian motives but that wouldn’t be my main assumption from reading it. So I would think that you are relating that to make a political point since the sectarian issues are political rather than religious. It might be none of that but I would read it as a political poem even if you didn’t ask that question. I admire your creative ability, by the way. I can write prose without undue embarrassment but I have no ability at all to write poetry – that is, to inject any meaning into it or to allow the reader to project his own meaning into it.

  • Alias, yes, the teenage protagonists literally lie on the floor when the national anthem plays – the expected behaviour was to stand at attention, so it ‘deserved’ a kicking in the local etiquette. The act was a gratuitous provocation, but sometimes back then the motivation didn’t have to be informed by nationalist ideas, just as the punks who chanted SS RUC weren’t necessarily making a republican point, just winding up a stiff and reactionary establishment (and being teenagers!)

    And yes, the beer hurt! (Hence the nursing…)

    Cheers for the kind words.

  • pippakin

    Poetry doesn’t have to mean anything and often the meaning can be different to individual readers. I’m enjoying the series. I think perhaps that those commenters complaining, especially the other er, poets… are also enjoying it.

  • Oracle, I’ve had the privilege of hearing the DFM (dFM?) read his poetry. To an audience that included Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley. Did feel a bit weird 🙂 what if the poets and MLAs swapped places for a year?

    Erm, or maybe not…

    Sorry you didn’t think it was much cop: I liked yours! ( Though rhyming ‘finesse’ and ‘McGuinness’ is a bit of a stretch?)

  • Pippakin, I hope they are!

  • steviemcs

    I am the other half of the we in the first line of the piece. The lying on the floor was entirely a spontanious anti-everything gesture assisted by no small amount of illicit Kulov vodka and Tuborg Gold. It was at a time of political high anxiety and just after the punk revolution. We did have a ‘fatwa’ for some time (Marty is on a level with good old Mr Rushdie there) leading to the Christmas inconvenience. Two observations though, with hindsight we were perhaps lucky only to suffer the reported injuries and secondly it amazes me that whilst I have often recounted this story in general banter, Mr Mooney was in fact translating that into the poem we are all debating. Whilst I could retaliate with a rhyme of my own like the bestof them, we didn’t live it, think it and write it in the first place, that is what I believe sets the artist apart!

  • oracle


    You’re a loyal friend and a hearty sandbag

  • I deny the Tuborg gold…

  • wee buns

    We all deny the Tuborg Gold, Martin….