b'POETRYW I T A N D W I S D O M 0 7 British poet Roger McGough talks to Gemma Billington about making poetry inclusive, and the inspiration to be found at Skibo ILLUSTRATION Elisabeth MochI n the list of professions defined as hard to makeMcGough studied French and Geography at the University a living from, poet would certainly rank highly.of Hull where, by chance, Philip Larkin worked as But Roger McGough is an exception to the rule.a librarian and shared the same halls of residence. The The Merseyside-born wordsmith first made his markteenage McGough felt intimidated by the senior and as part of the Liverpool Poets, a group of ambitiousslightly scary poet (I was very young and gauche and young writers inspired by New Yorks Beat Generation.I didnt know what to say to him), but was encouraged to In 1967, they published The Mersey Sound anthology,pursue his secret hobby after sending Larkin examples which has since sold more than a million copies. Forof his poetry in his final year. These were published in the the past five decades, McGough has cemented hisuniversitys magazine, which McGough read but found place as one of Britains best-known poets, appearingto be filled with references he couldnt make sense of.in countless anthologies and textbooks, and a regular slotI wanted to make [poetry] understandable and not on BBC Radio 4. Throughout the years, his trademarkexclude anybody. In a wayand this is what people have warm and witty prose has remained a constant.said about the movement in Liverpoolthe poetry in Although he didnt start writing until college,Merseyside broadened the boundaries of the genre. McGough admits he found his voice as a poet almostMcGoughs writing is inherently accessible; playful Amy Murrellimmediately. I wrote the sort of poetry that would beenough to appeal to the younger reader but with enough understood by my friends and family; I wasnt writingacerbic wit to occasionally go over their heads. He plays for a perceived elite, he explains.with and deconstructs words and indulges in puns that'