Reader beware whenever the publishers print on the front cover of any book the number of copies sold. Notice in the bottom right hand corner of the Penguin revised edition of The Mersey Sound, the yellow background with “Over 1/4 million copies sold”. Notice too, the 1/4 million and not 250, 000.
Matthew Arnold in his preface to Poems (1853), quoted as an example of what he considered nonsense that some people were expressing at the time, this opinion of a periodic critic: “the poet who must really fixed the public attention must leave the exhausted past, and draw his subjects from matters of present import, and therefore both of interest and novelty.” Arthur Clough expressed a similar opinion (that included Arnold’s work) that same year: “poems after classical models, poems from Oriental sources, and the like, have undoubtedly a great literary value . . . there is no question, it is plain and patent enough, that people much prefer Vanity Fair and Bleak House.” He went on to express the opinion that he thought poetry would have to deal with “more than at present it usually does, with general wants, ordinary feelings, the obvious rather than the rare facts of human nature . . . the actual, palpable things with which our every-day life is concerned . . . “
Clough aptly describes the short anthology of poems, The Mersey Sound (1967) that features the works of three of the leading Mersey Sound Liverpool poets: Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten, who were part of the ‘pop poetry’ movement of the sixties, who “revolutionized the traditional boundaries of the genre, bringing poetry down from the dusty shelf and onto the street” (from the back cover).
To give you a taste of the Mersey Sound, here’s the first few lines of one of Adrian Henri’s poems. The title is a pop reference to the sixties group, The Herman’s Hermits song, “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter”:
Mrs Albion You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter
(for Allen Gingsberg)
Albion’s most lovely daughter sat on the banks of the
Mersey dangling her landing stage on the water.
The daughters of Albion
arriving by underground at Central Station
eating hot ecclescakes at the Pierhead
writing ‘Billy Blake is fab’ on the wall in Matthew St
taking off their navyblue schooldrawers and
putting on nylon panties ready for the night
If you enjoy poetry that deals more with the “general wants, ordinary feelings, the obvious rather than the rare facts of human nature . . . the actual, palpable things with which our every-day life is concerned,” then The Mersey Sound anthology may be just your cup of tea – or should I say, latte?