A short while ago I was pleased to have a poem included in the ‘Poems for Freedom’ collection, published in aid of the firebombed Freedom Bookshop in London. I certainly don’t consider myself a ‘poet’ and my contribution (which began life as a daft rhyme written to fill in the silence of a long car journey with a broken CD player) was a thirty-six line rumination on work and non-work called ‘In Praise of the Loafer’. The poem pondered the way in which we each understand and feel about work, what it does for us, what it does to us, how the promise of rich rewards for our efforts may come at a cost we often don’t see until it’s too late; it picked at notions of employment, welfare, social expectation, time-poverty, consumerism, jealousy and ideas about what constitutes a rich life. Unlike my work on social class in academia, poetry requires no real conclusion beyond perhaps a mildly dexterous finale, and for that I am grateful as my car-cockpit musings had reached none and had probably raised more questions than anything!

In Praise of the Loafer

Work is a bind

Of the most irksome kind

You need it and simultaneously not

A salary or wage

‘til you reach your old age

Helps to tick things on your ‘must do’ list off


But what of the loafer

With nothing to show for

His decades of idling, his lifetime of sloth?

You may think him thick

And that his list is un-ticked

But he never had such a list to kick off


You’ve no time to sit still

All those ticks make you ill

In a blur, not a second to sit and take stock

And think ‘do I feel rich?

Have I scratched very itch?’

‘Cos I tell you my friend I suspect you have not


Ensnared by the list

As it grows and it twists

You’ve a snowman in hell’s chance of ticking the lot

You slave and you strive

For the things you can buy

Whether holiday, telly or gold ocelot


Moral aspects eschewed

(you know, who pays for whom)

I long to be loafer, not hamster on wheel

But my nature’s been set

By school, family and friends

And my inner loafer won’t now be revealed


So I praise the loafer

But I hate the loafer

For why should he idle whilst I idle not?

Ensnared by my list

How it grows and it twists

A wise loafer knows not to worry one jot.


Whether this effort has achieved a ‘mildly dextrous ending’ or not I’ll leave you to decide! This and other poems by rank amateurs like myself and those well known in the field, including Iain Sinclair, William Rowe, Shirani Rajapakse, Pam Brown, Gavin Hudson, Ushiku Crisafulli, Cathy Bryant, Niall McDevitt and Heathcote Williams can be found in ‘Poems for Freedom’ by The Freedom Poets and can be purchased.