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Poems of the dead and living: lessons learned, by Arthur Cole

Poems of the dead and living: lessons learned, by Arthur Cole
6 Sep 2019

When I began my '50 Famous People' poetry project, I canvassed the members of my poetry Facebook Group 'Arthur's Poems and Anecdotes' I thought it would be a good idea, as there are over 500 members, and I know for a fact that they purchase my poetry books, together with the Terry McGuire Thrillers that I write with Nigel.

The Group members nominated those people who would go into the book. To say there was an eclectic selection would be putting it mildly. They ranged from famous actors like Anthony Hopkins, Richard Burton, J.F.K., Nelson Mandela to individuals like Jack the Ripper and Rasputin the Mad Monk.  

To write about those who are living, it's nice if you can get their permission to put them in the book. What I found with this was that some, who I sent emails to, never replied.

The book itself as you may have gathered is not purely famous Welsh people. A friend of mine, Daryl Jones, the son of 'GREN' the world famous cartoonist, knows many celebrities, and in fact when I told him of the project, I was pleasantly surprised when a few actually rang me. 'GREN' is in the book.  

The first person was Dame Sian Phillips, (who kept calling me 'Mr Cole'), and she was overwhelmed when I told her that I was writing a poem about her. Quote: 'Mr Cole, can you make it nice?' I was on the phone for over an hour with her, gleaning personal facts from her, which I used in the poem. Peter O'Toole obviously came up, he was the love of her life.  

The second person to contact me was Barry John, probably one of the greatest rugby outside halves ever. He told me that he was humbled that I had written a poem about him. My good friend Tommy Page had given him sight of the poem. Barry in turn read it to his daughter living in Australia, and she burst into tears. I recently met Barry in Cardiff, and presented him with a framed copy of the poem. What a lovely man. I call him 'The King' in the poem, because, he was.  

I later had a call from Sir Gareth Edwards: "Mr Cole, I understand you've written a poem about me?"
"Yes Gareth, I have called you 'The Prince of Wales'"
His reply: "Don't tell me, that Barry John is The King, I've no doubt," laughing all the time.  

I liaised with Roy Noble when I did the poem of Ray Gravelle, again he was so helpful, liaising with Ray's family, and getting their permission.  

I forwarded Max Boyce's poem by email to his agent, and within days he gave me permission, as did one of our best actors/comedians, Boyd Clack, of Satellite City and High Hopes fame.  

Tyrone O'Sullivan, who was the instigator behind the Tower Colliery buyout after the strike of 1985, was more than helpful when I informed him that he was in the top 50.  

Gethin Jenkins, who was probably one of our greatest Rugby Union props, was again more than happy to give his permission for inclusion in the book.  

All these celebrities were accessible, and humbled that a Caerau boy was writing about them.  Many of my other emails were never replied to e.g. Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Joe Calzaghe.

I did the poem for Elton John/Bernie Taupin, and sent it to Bernie's agent in America. I had a lovely reply, however because Candle in the Wind appeared, it would have infringed copyright. I replaced them with a fellow poet's husband, the late Tommy Cecil, who was the Rathlin Island ferryman in Northern Ireland. Tommy rescued Richard Branson when he crashed his hot hair balloon into the sea. Sadly, Tommy lost his life in a diving accident. His widow Mary, again was humbled that I had written about him.  

You learn all these things on your literary journey, but you must never let it get you down, my advice would be to write about the dead, you get no problem with them! 

Another important point is the biographies of anyone you write about. Amazon have been pedantic about my bios in the book, stating that they have been taken off the net. They were from Wikipedia, which is in the public domain. I'd also published some of the poems in my Facebook Group ahead of official publication. So, in future, no biographies with any of my poems, and they will not be posted on my poetry page, until the book is published.


Photo credit: Scott Webb on Unsplash


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