Chris Parkinson and Jimmy McGee (lead singer of the Bobby McGee’s) first met in 2005 whilst heckling at poetry nights. Together they set up the world’s first Poetry Brothel, which caused a furore as part of the 2007 Brighton Festival and went on to beat Gordon Brown to a Best Literature Award. The Bobby McGee’s’ first album, L’Appropriation Bourgoisie de le Bobby McGee’s is out in June – with Chris’s artwork in the inlay sleeve.
Chris Parkinson: So Jimmy, you used to be a wrestler. What’s the largest animal you’d be con dent of defeating in a wrestling match?
Jimmy McGee: This is one I’m asked a lot and it’s a tricky one. I’d have to go with a vole. I’m not as young as I once was and with the onset of age comes a natural decrease in my testosterone levels, which has a large part to play in the outcome of these events. Is a mango an animal?
CP: One thing I’ve always wanted to ask but never dared – is it true that you killed and ate a swan, blamed it on some gipsies and tipped o the Daily Mail?
JMP: It was a duck.
CP: What sacrifices would you make in the name of ‘art’? Would you, in theory, be prepared to play all your future gigs wearing a fox out t with creepy human hands and eyes?
JMG: In practice, yes. In theory – theory is a thorny area but one that will always be important to my music. I think the whole digital download thing has had a real impact on the theories we can work with ‘Certum Est, Quia Possible’.
CP: Cheese rolling contest – inhumane or a nice day out?
JMG: It will sound like a cliché, but I really do think this ‘credit crunch’ will have a real effect on the way we view these style of events – I am all for colloquial pursuits and am a definite proponent of the ‘quaint’, but Chris, people are dying.
JMG: Chris, you recently beat a world leader into second place to win a highly respected literature prize. Given your penchant for the political novella and biography, which other world leader would you enjoy beating?
CP: Well, it’s a little known fact that, back in 1994, I beat former prime minister John Major at Connect 4. We went best-out-of- five but I still won. I’d love to challenge Gordon Brown to a game of Monopoly. Or Pinochet/Cluedo, for that matter.
JMG: Music, the food of love. Poetry…?
CP: … it’s kind of a dip, if you’re going to extend that metaphor. In the Belgian sense of the word, where you have about 40 different flavours of dip. That’s poetry, and the reader’s just left holding a chip, enthralled.
JMG: You listen to a lot of what I can only describe as ‘dark metal’. How has it influenced your work as a poet?
CP: That’s quite a difficult question. Firstly, I think you have to be a bit more specific – ‘dark metal’ is a very broad (and often flaming) church – and so is poetry, come to think of it. All my favourite poetry gigs have involved doom metal, crowd surfing, and on one memorable occasion, pigs’ heads on sticks.
JMG: Towards the end of the movie Jaws, as his boat is filling with water and quite clearly sinking, Quint, shark hunter and ex crew member of the USS Indianapolis, hands Brody a small hand pump with the instruction ‘pump it out, chief’. How would your understanding of 20th-century poetry have helped you cope with this situation?
CP: Wendy Cope once said that most male poets couldn’t perform simple tasks and were proud of it. In his essay, Tradition and the Individual Talent, T. S. Eliot asserts that “the only good poet is a dead poet”. But could either of them patch up a leaky boat or make a re using two bits of wood and a block of magnesium? I doubt it.