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Mick Guffan Poetry Collected By Tangerine
John Doran , April 9th, 2018 10:27

Inner London Buddha is definitive selection of 100 works by outsider poet and builder

Tangerine Press have just issued a "definitive" anthology of the poetry of the builder Mick Guffan.

Guffan, who was born in Cork, Ireland in 1953, came to England at the age of 18 and also worked variously as a taxi driver, airplane cleaner and carpenter. He died in 2006 due to "nervous exhaustion following a gun shot wound".

The poems tell of "loneliness, outsidership, failed, broken love, temporary homes, disturbing (all senses) neighbours, dependence on alcohol and drugs" and deal specifically with such uncomfortable themes as "unemployment, melancholia, The Wild Bunch, heroin, crystal meth, sex, pornography, celibacy, Tramadol, buddhism, James Joyce, the family, the construction industry, perverted landlords and love".

The short, minimal pieces spanning 1999 and his death in 2006 are sourced from a number of out-of-print chapbooks, unpublished collections, forgotten websites and obscure literary magazines.

The book is a beautiful edition published by Tangerine Press for £12 with an original illustration by Krent Able, more details at their website.

Here are three poems by Mick Gruffan.


I had long hair back then
enough to cover my face.
The Threadneedle Street grate
puked the smallest amount of warm air.
I curled round it prettily
without smothering—
my throat crack-swollen
slowly, I remembered.
Then the kicks came
hard and regular:
early hours camaraderie now long gone.
They all had a go
without saying a word.
I rocked with each hoof in the back.
And while this went on
Superman didn’t drop
from the sky
didn’t spin and return
to save anyone
from anything.
Faking sleep
playing dead—
it was the best way.

The Wild Bunch

There’s a scene towards the end—
its nighttime, a campfire between them
a pot of coffee stewing—
where your man Pike says to
Dutch (a lieutenant of sorts)
that after the next job he’ll
probably just take the money
and back off.
But Dutch spits out:
Back off to what?

No Conductor

A shame
all this
cos it’s a good feeling
despite the hurt.

That uneven balance—
the feeder
the winner
the game.

And my arms
curl, twist and turn
circles and return
again; I am no conductor
a bloodied orchestra
in my heart.

A solo bugle leans in
terrorises and teases—

As Wantling said:
‘to be without love is inexcusable’
and then
‘to love is the most difficult of all’

Yes, a shame
all this
the hurt
along the way—
to where?

Let’s leave it at that.