I have loved Adrian Henri ever since I read him in my schooldays in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in the Penguin Modern Poets’ Mersey Sound. The slim red paperback with photo negatives of mop-headed young men on the cover, which included poems by him and two other Liverpool poets Brian Patten and Roger McGough, has sold half a million copies and remains one of the best-selling poetry collections of all time, said the Guardian in Adrian Henri’s obituary. He died in 2000 at the age of 68.
I dearly miss my Mersey Sound. Somehow I lost my copy and have never seen the book again. Even those who normally don’t read poetry but like pop music should read Mersey Sound if they can find the book. The poems are catchy and easy to understand just like pop music but experiment with verse and typography.
Adrian Henri was a free spirit in the tradition of Byron and Shelley, the Guardian said in his obituary and recalled a funny story:
He told me how, after a gig, he had gone back to a girl’s room in some desolate seaside town and lost his wallet. Forced to leave before breakfast in the morning, he walked by the grey waves and, hearing a seagull, looked up — and a piece of bread dropped into his open mouth.
The following poem is typical Adrian Henri, clever, accessible and humorous. Anyone young at heart will enjoy Adrian Henri’s updating of fairy tales and turning them upside down. It’s like those Monty Python movies though not quite so funny.
It can’t be hilarious but wry because this is a poem about hard times.
Any Prince To Any Princess
By Adrian Henri
August is coming
and the goose, I’m afraid,
is getting fat.
There have been
no golden eggs for some months now.
Straw has fallen well below market price
despite my frantic spinning
and the sedge is,
as you rightly point out,
I can’t imagine how the pea
got under your mattress. I apologize
humbly. The chambermaid has, of course,
been sacked. As has the frog footman.
I understand that, during my recent fact-finding tour of the
despite your nightly unavailing efforts,
he remained obstinately
I hope that the Three Wishes granted by the General
will go some way towards redressing
this unfortunate recent sequence of events.
The fall in output from the shoe-factory, for example:
no one could have foreseen the work-to-rule
by the National Union of Elves. Not to mention the fact
that the court has been fast asleep
for the last six and a half years.
The matter of the poisoned apple has been taken up
by the Board of Trade: I think I can assure you
the incident will not be
I can quite understand, in the circumstances,
your reluctance to let down
your golden tresses. However
I feel I must point out
that the weather isn’t getting any better
and I already have a nasty chill
from waiting at the base
of the White Tower. You must see
the absurdity of the
Some of the courtiers are beginning to talk,
not to mention the humble villagers.
It’s been three weeks now, and not even
a cold, black wind
howls through our empty palace.
Dead leaves litter the bedchamber;
the mirror on the wall hasn’t said a thing
since you left. I can only ask,
bearing all this in mind,
that you think again,
let down your hair,