There once was a young man named Beckham

INTERACTIVITY is great, isn’t it? Actually, maybe it is. Here it is, popping up at the bottom of the BBC website’s report on the Poet Laureate’s poem about David Beckham:

There is something quite funny in the idea of Billy from Bognor Regis sitting at his computer in his back bedroom, thinking, “Yeah, I can do better than the Poet Laureate,” before dashing off some drivel that rhymes Beckham with Peckham and doesn’t scan. But if it gets more people to have a crack at writing poetry, then I’m all for it.

I think Duffy’s poem about Beckham is great. I would love to be able to write something as humorous and clever as that. She was smart enough to make a link between his injury and the legend of Achilles. She was witty enough to put in the references to sarongs and Posh Spice. And she even put a few rhymes in it, to please the sort of batty old fools who write poems about their cats and send them in to the local paper.

Sure, the tone of the poem is melodramatic in the extreme. But doesn’t that fit in with the melodrama of the Beckham story, played out somewhere between football pitches, front pages and fashion shows? As Duffy said in a radio interview yesterday, Beckham has become almost a mythical figure himself. Invoking the Greek myths of triumph and tragedy is a logical step in the retelling of his tale.

It’s a logical step too for Duffy, who has long held a talent for writing about the ordinary and the everyday (or the topical, as she does here) in an extraordinary manner. And it would appear she has a football connection too – her dad Frank apparently once managed Stafford Rangers.

But if you think you can do better than Duffy, go ahead. On the Guardian’s website, there have been a flurry of efforts. And although most of them have fallen into the “There once was a young man called Beckham” category, there were a few that made me smile.

I particularly enjoyed this one, for the thought that has gone into the rhymes (although the final line seems to be one syllable short of scanning properly):

Football and poetry are, for once, being allowed to mix. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to write a villanelle about Stockport County’s descent towards oblivion.


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