Ken Cumberlidge

62 year-old prize-winning* poet and recovering actor Ken Cumberlidge was born in Birkenhead and cut his performance teeth on the Liverpool pub poetry scene of the 1970s.  His work has appeared variously in print and, more recently, in numerous online journals.  Since 2011 Ken has been based in Norwich, but can be lured out of cover by good company and an open mic – a proclivity that has led him to become an habitué of the fetid underworld that is the slam poetry/spoken word scene.  He likes it.  A lot.

Ken’s poetry on Soundcloud:

Ken’s YouTube channel:

* the prize was a chocolate cake.  He guessed its weight.

Dear Napoleon

There's a difference between
buckling down and knuckling under,
a distinction to be drawn:

between self-sacrifice and being sacrificed;

between the lengths we will go to and the
limits beyond which we're being pushed.

Call us what you like
– key workers, heroes,
   holy fuck... Stakhanovites! –
but don't take us for fools.

We did that Orwell book in school,
have not forgotten

what became of him.



let's take off, get lost,

tip-toe the rails the mile or three

of track to the old factory

beyond the edge. Just you and me,

a bottle of cheap cider from the offie on the corner,

two bags of Ready Salted and a crafty lifted Twix,

get pissed

wrap fists round chunks of brick

and waste some daylight breaking glass,

set fire to shit and run for it,

make a game of fuck-all-else-to-do

and then

       as it's just us ‒ just me and you ‒

       and seeing as how you know I'm minded to,

       I'll take you in my mouth

       and we'll forget.

That way he has

The woman with the leaflets and sensible all-weather ensemble was insistent: keen to know whether I had embraced Jesus.

Disinclined to embroilment I forged ahead, fixed on the only form of salvation that made sense to me in that moment, given my paucity of funds: a bargain meal deal at Greggs.

Sitting at the window-counter negotiating a baked good that, in one bite, had comprehensively re-written the dictionary definition of “bargain”, “meal” and “deal”, I considered the question.

Surely, I thought, any such engagement would be heavily context-dependent, wouldn’t it?  At the end of the day, when it comes to embraces ‒ whether given or received ‒ it’s a matter of informed consent.

I didn’t tell her this as I passed her again on my way back to the bus. Didn’t put her right about Jesus: about how, notwithstanding a lifetime’s atheism, I know him quite well, really; how he turns up at my door from time to time selling packs of dishcloths, oven gloves, ironing-board covers; asking if I want my gutters clearing, the garden tidied.

Different faces, of course, but it’s him alright. You can tell by the grubby trainers and bitten fingernails, and that way he has about him:  cheerful;  chatty;  worryingly vulnerable.


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