'We're off to Never Never Land' by Matthew James is Poem of the Week

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The poem ‘We're off to Never never land - Paracetamol,  cucumber sandwiches and the lost rent boy Version 2’ by Matthew James is Write Out Loud’s Poem of the Week. Congratulations to Matthew for the longest Poem of the Week title by a country mile! He says he started writing poetry only in March this year, after feeling that he “needed an outlet”. Matthew, a trained illustator/animator, revealed more to Write Out Loud in this Q&A:


How long has poetry been an important part of your life and can you remember why it became so?

I'm actually very new to poetry. I started writing in March this year. I'm an illustrator/ animator by training and so I have always written, but with the intention to illustrate rather than it being about the words. I found myself getting lost in my illustration work, as my writing didn't match the quality of my drawing. I was also going through a difficult time personally and needed an outlet.

Louise Fazackerley had become a friend after a chance encounter the previous year. It was by watching her and other local poets that I was inspired to start writing and performing myself. I love it now. I write all the time for different purposes. Sometimes for myself to process thoughts, sometimes for illustration, sometimes just for fun.


If you could only have one poet’s work to read which one would you choose?

I'm not from a literary background at all. I have no formal training. I don't know who is a "good" poet. There are members of my family who write. My granddad always wrote poems about different things including my Nana. They were very special people to me. My aunt has followed suit and my brother has always written for pleasure. I love Roald Dahl and children's books like 'The Little Prince', 'Gruffalo' and 'Where the Wild Things Are'. To pick one though, it has to be Louise (and Victoria Garbutt) as she was the person who inspired me start writing. Partly through their work but also their support which I am so grateful for.


Do you perform your work and if so, what advice would you give to a young poet just starting out?

Yes. I've done it five or six times now, mainly at open mic nights, but also through the support of A Firm of Poets in Wakefield who provide some fantastic opportunities for aspiring poets. To advise young poets is strange for me because I'm in that situation myself with poetry, in spite of being 36! I've just kind of thrown myself into it. I just think to myself 'what's the worst that could happen' and if I humiliate myself completely I just laugh at myself and do it again. And I have completely humiliated myself. The first time I got up I got really nervous, forgot all the words and at the end I fell off the stage. Then I did it again ... And again ... And again ... To a point where I'm nearly ok at it!


What was the inspiration for this poem's title?

This poem is a genuine, true story of my epic failure of a first night out at a nightclub. It was a total disaster as you can see. In Blackburn there was a club called Never Never Land. It was above another club called C’est La Vie (known as Smelly V's). Both clubs were pretty rough. I eventually went there many times. It holds a strange mix of nostalgia and nightmare in my heart. The title of the poem is basically just a list of the random disasters that beheld me on that fateful night.




by Matthew James


Gav called me up. 

Him and Tolly were going out to Never Never Land in Blackburn

3 lost boys off on a curious adventure


Mi mum dropped me off at Gavs 'ouse ont' Shad estate

Gav got us a coke before we caught t' buz in

But 'e sprinkled in some white pewder

"What's this? Pixie dust?"

"It's summat to gi' you Speed" said Tolly

"just drink it!" Said Gav

So I did 


"2nd Star t' t' reet and straight on t' t' moornin'!"


But we'd bin sold crushed paracetamol 


So we just acted like we were fucked and lied to each other about ow buzzin wi were

But we weren't buzzin

Then we caught buz in

Waitin' for t' affects o' t' artificial amphetamine t' kick in

'N' we got t' Neverland

No mermaids 'ere

No pretty injun girls

There were a few blokes wi dodgy eyes n limps

But no no, no-n-no no, no-n-no no no no there's no pirates!

Just shitty plastic Palm trees

'N' townies in fluorescent nylon shirts 

No peacock feathered hats ere

Just steps n curtains n aggressive faces

'N' me wi' a bowl cut and trepidation 

Tryin' t' think happy thoughts


Surrounded bi freebooters, piccaroons, Buccaneers, filibusters and Rovers

Wi' their left foot, right foot dancing

And an eye on t' maidens

Sneering in our direction

Lost boys

That 'aven't grown up


I sort o' skirted round edges feelin' scared

Then went to sit at sides on an empty table 'n' hid


On t' next table were a nice lookin' couple o' blokes.

They must o' bin good mates!

They were cuddlin' 'n' touchin' each other a lot.

Anyhow, thi got talking t' mi

Told 'em I'd not bin out before

"Ow old are you lad? 14/15?"

"I'm 18"

Thi sort o' laughed, dunno why

Then one of 'em offered me a cucumber sandwich

I thought t' mi sel'

"I dunno much about nightclubs but I dunt think folk normally bring cucumber sandwiches!"

But I were 'ungry so I ate it

Then I think 'e thought we were mates coz 'e were touchin mi leg

I 'ad to crow for Gav an' Tolly

They came in like Peter Pan and rescued mi and I set off for 'ome


I went to t' phone box n' called mi mum

Didn't know town reet well

So I waited for 'er outside o' mi old school

There were some scary lookin people on one side o't' road snappin at each other like crocodiles

So I stood under t' lamppost so I were int' leet an' t' cars passin could see mi

Felt safer like that

Time passed

Tick tock tick tock

T' crocodiles were lurkin

Each time a car passed I stepped out a bit

To look for mi mum

Drivers kept lookin at mi nervously n drivin off

Maybe thi thought I were a crocodile too

N they kept smirking at mi

Then some officers pulled up like privateers in their blue and white flashin galleon

Made us stand again t' wall as I asked for parle

'N' thi searched mi for treasure

Asked us if I pulled into port for rentin

"Rentin' what? I'm Waitin for mi mum."

"Aye cap'n! Hahaha! I'm sure you are! Dressed in tight little hot pants!"

"These aren't 'ot pants, they're chinos?!"

Then mi mum turned up an said "oh aye! This streets t' red light district!"

"Well bugger me!"


Never, never again... Until uni happened



◄ Write Out Loud Sale at the Waterside tonight

Deadline nears for Manchester cathedral poetry competition ►


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Matthew James

Wed 22nd Jun 2016 21:22

Cheers M.C.
Your assessment of my work is really great. Totally hits on what I was hoping to do. Thank you for putting such time and thought into your feedback.

Embarrassingly though, while I've obviously taken an element of artistic licence, there is far more reality in this than imagination :|

Thanks so much for reading :)

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M.C. Newberry

Wed 22nd Jun 2016 17:14

A real flight of fancy and the imagination - with the
intriguing possibility of something from real life meshed
in, all set to a speech rhythm that adds to the appeal.
Not my usual sort of material but somehow very
refreshing in its vivid evocation of the wayward experiences that youth can meet without always seeking
or understanding them.

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Matthew James

Wed 22nd Jun 2016 15:15

Thanks so much Suki!
Well hopefully I'll be able to get it videoed soon as I'm performing it on Saturday night at PaperCut in Wigans Old Courts and next Wednesday at unity Works in Wakefield. Feel free to come along and watch it

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suki spangles

Wed 22nd Jun 2016 04:04

Hi there,
Congratulations on winning POTW. I would love to hear this poem read by you. Is there any chance, when you have the time, to record this poem and upload it here?
This is a performance poem that is worth reading, but I bet would be amazing to listen to also. No pressure!

Cheers, and look forward to reading more of your stuff..

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Matthew James

Tue 21st Jun 2016 12:20

Thank you both :)

I live in Yorkshire now Steve and have 3 Yorkshirian kids so I've had to learn to tolerate their strange, foreign ways :D

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Dominic James

Tue 21st Jun 2016 11:54

Well done Matthew. I couldn't put it down.

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Steven Waling

Tue 21st Jun 2016 11:32

I just wanted to say how much I liked the poem. I don't know if you've read Ian MacMillan, but he too can use the dialect well (though he's from Yorkshire, poor lad...)

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Matthew James

Tue 21st Jun 2016 11:22

Stu, that post has spread honey all over my pot, not just the rim. And actually, I feel so loved up by you all now that it's as though I've been rubbed all over with honey, including my rim... Oooer!

Love to all of you x

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Stu Buck

Tue 21st Jun 2016 10:36

this is very evocative for me - its a bit spike island, a bit 'this is england' and a bit 'caught by the fuzz' by supergrass. it also reminds me a lot of me and my friend godfrey, who would routinely over-egg a can of fosters in order to impress each other. i agree with the previous comments about the dialect, to write with such strong diction (is that the right word?) but keep it readable is clever. you have also captured well the sort of adolescent safety glasses one see's through at that age. in fact, there is danger in the poem, but its all pushed to the background and replaced by excitement and wonder.

also, to spread honey on the rim of a broken plantpot (my analogy and i'm keeping it) i probably wouldnt have read it if it wasnt a) POTW and b) so heavily commented on. so there's a silver lining (or a honeyed rim if you see fit)

good job.

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Laura Taylor

Tue 21st Jun 2016 09:52

Good for you :) When I first started posting on here, I was offered some sound advice and critiques, some of which I agreed with and used to better effect in later poems, and some of which I didn't agree with and didn't use. But I feel thankful that it was offered and it did, without doubt, improve my poetry. Kind, specific and helpful - bang on!

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Matthew James

Tue 21st Jun 2016 09:46

Thanks Laura, this is the sort of supportive and encouraging comment that I have come to expect on here. It's really nice to know that I can write in dialect (and that some can also "hear" it) and that, as Graham said earlier, my rambling style is coming across as intended.
I also really want to say that any kind of constructive criticism that gives me areas for improvement is appreciated too. I'm not touchy about it if I've missed something and someone explains what and why they think I need to improve. It's all helpful. It's just about being kind, specific and helpful :)

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Laura Taylor

Tue 21st Jun 2016 09:29

I would like to add my congratulations, Matthew. It's difficult to write in dialect, so well done you for not only trying, but actually pulling it off. I too started writing poetry on here for the first time in my life about 5 or so years ago, and have found WOL to be absolutely invaluable in honing my writing skills. I am also pretty aghast at some of the responses here by fellow poets. This site has always been full of the most supportive people, and this kind of pissing on other poets' parades is repulsive. It takes real courage to post your poetry, especially at first, so please don't let this put you off.

In a world where women and children are raped and ruined on a daily basis, and man's inhumanity to man continues to spread death and disease, this focussing on such insignificance is breath-taking.

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Matthew James

Tue 21st Jun 2016 06:19

Thank you Greg and ElPintor. Your comments remind me of the wonderfully supportive place that I have always found the poetry community to be. There is nothing and no opinion that could stop me writing. I do it for me and I love it. But your ear and your kindness make it all the more valuable xx


Tue 21st Jun 2016 03:36

I would just like to say, as an American, I found this bit absolutely hysterical..I mean..maybe those with this particular accent (or something similar) wouldn't but I can sort of "hear" every bit of it..and, even more, it's an expression of the reality of youth in exploration..I enjoyed it very much.

Thanks, Matthew,

and besides, we should all accept that our work can never be judged upon absolutely objective grounds..this is why we write poetry, no?

Respect to all,

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Greg Freeman

Mon 20th Jun 2016 23:40

I am very sorry you have been subjected to all this, Matthew. No one ever asks to be chosen as Poem of the Week - and at this rate, most people may well look at it as a poisoned chalice in future. I commend you for the grace and good sense of your replies, and for sticking up for yourself.

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Matthew James

Mon 20th Jun 2016 21:44

Thank you Alexandra

Robert Mann

Mon 20th Jun 2016 21:43

Matthew - I didn't say that your comments were inappropriate, only that it would be inappropriate for me to critique your piece in the circumstances.

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Alexandra Rockwell Lorenz

Mon 20th Jun 2016 21:37

I would just like to say a big congratulations. You should be very proud of yourself and I think it is wonderful that your poem was chosen. Let's turn around the direction of this comment thread!

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Matthew James

Mon 20th Jun 2016 21:18

MY comments are inappropriate? No.

Robert Mann

Mon 20th Jun 2016 21:12

Matthew - First of all let me apologise for not congratulating you on POTW. It was ungracious of me to launch into questioning the judging without that acknowledgement I will also repeat that it was not my intention to offend you in any way, as your piece has as much right to be considered for this accolade as any other.
My questions, as you have probably realised from other comments are part of a back story regarding transparency and you have been caught up in the requests for explanation and understanding. Again, my apologies.
Had I wanted to critique this piece when you first delivered it I would have. So to ask me to now supply the same would appear inappropriate and I have to decline.
Keep scribbling and good luck.

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Matthew James

Mon 20th Jun 2016 21:03

When the argument you want to make becomes more important than the people it affects or their feelings, you've lost the point of your argument and you become the problem instead.

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Matthew James

Mon 20th Jun 2016 20:47

Seriously! What the chuff are you lot on about? Would anyone like to comment on my poem in a constructive way rather than arguing? I'd rather not be poet of the week than get involved in this rubbish. Talking about internal mechanisms? I've been writing since March. I'm not a known poet. I don't know poetry people. I don't have a clue who works at WOL. How am I in any way part of that?? I'm asked to "take stock of the words sent to me". Which ones? The ones that say "I'll ask the question that must be on everyone's lips, how was this poem of the week"? Or the ones that say "it's not earned a whole heap of favourable reviews"?

Please can I ask for your constructive feedback Lynn?

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Matthew James

Mon 20th Jun 2016 18:44

Hi Robert,

I'm interested in how you consider that comment not to be offensive to me? And actually to anyone who writes poetry. Would it not be fair to say that poetry is a form of self expression? And as such we connect best with whatever language and themes come out naturally? I agree, I don't get massive amounts of views and comments for my work but that's ok with me. These things take time. When I've been here a while I guess the comments will flow. I'm not here for a competition. I'm here because I love it and because I want to learn. The greater the exposure, the more I learn. Why should it matter whether work is chosen by one person or by committee? I'd rather it were chosen by one person anyway, because then the connection is real rather than cold, academic structures and balancing out of the varying judgements of different views on "what makes good poetry". To me, the Art community and the poetry community is best served by people who cherish each other's efforts and the diversity of what is created. I'm not a great poet. I don't claim to be. But I write genuinely and for genuine reasons. I think that by worrying about who judges this thing you're completely missing the point of why it exists. That reason being that it gives people a voice rather than reserving that voice for those within a culturally elite clique.

May I request your critique on my work Robert? That seems a more valuable use of the comments section for my work when I state on my profile the request for feedback. Positive or negative please, as long as it's said in a kind way unlike your previous message.

Yours with good intent, kindness and clumsy, awkward words that I enjoy writing,

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Graham Sherwood

Mon 20th Jun 2016 11:45

In order to prevent this article becoming yet another "who, why, where" slanging match, please refer to a newly created Discussion thread that I will be opening in a couple of minutes. Robert, I would respectfully ask you to transfer your comments there please.

Robert Mann

Mon 20th Jun 2016 11:24

Poem of the Week - I am not one to pull my punches, so I'll ask the question that must be on many people's lips:
How did this piece get chosen? It was only commented on by 3 people (not including the author) all week, and has not raised a whole heap of favourable reviews since the announcement. It begs a return to Lynn Hamilton's question as to who is judging. No offence is meant by me as far as Matthew is concerned and I wish to make it clear that I do not want any of my own pieces considered for this esteemed honour until I know who is behind it.

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Graham Sherwood

Mon 20th Jun 2016 10:44

We've all been there haven't we, although perhaps we choose to forget about it.

I just love the rambling on of the words, a breathless sort of rhythm.

Reminds me of the young bloke on the Harry Enfield series "weren't the Romans fantastic" etc.

There's been some commentary about using dialect in poetry quite recently too! I think this piece shows it well.

Great to see a relatively new poet in the spotlight too.

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Matthew James

Sun 19th Jun 2016 13:16

Thanks Colin!

<Deleted User> (13762)

Sun 19th Jun 2016 10:45

well done Matthew!

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