Rhondda MP Chris Bryant defends his poetic licence

Published
Image caption, Chris Bryant's first work, Autumn, was written for National Poetry Day

A Labour MP has defended his poetry after running into what he describes a "ungenerous" criticism over his literary efforts.

Rhondda MP and shadow justice minister Chris Bryant's verse chastises political opponents and ponders the effects of cuts on public services.

His work appeared on the website Labour Uncut, where one comment urged: "Don't give up the day job".

But he said whether it was good or bad, it had attracted lots of attention.

Mr Bryant had written some verse before, and composed To Autumn for National Poetry Day in October.

It began: "Season of trysts and pomp-full conferences / When politicians, in three hordes uncouth / Assemble in up-market hotel foyers / To gossip, flirt, conspire and take the hand / Of every willing voter in the land; / To argue for their version of the truth..."

It was this which prompted the comment on Labour Uncut: "As a poet since 1992, may I recommend you don't give up the day job? And, if you stop writing such stuff, the day job might just chose to not give you up!"

'Poet laureate of cuts'

Another effort, called Supine, offered his thoughts, as he swam in local pool, on the effects of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government's spending cuts.

On Twitter, the political columnist Daniel Finkelstein re-tweeted his work, commenting tongue in cheek: "I think that, quite possibly, Chris Bryant MP has gone mad". Another political writer, Andrew Rawnsley tweeted that the MP had tried and failed to be "the poet laureate of cuts".

In response, Mr Bryant thanked Finkelstein and others for re-publishing his poems and told Rawnsley that generosity is "not your middle name".

Mr Bryant told the BBC News website he was surprised by the reaction.

But whatever his critics make of his poetry, it has a serious point, and he pointed out that his local council, Rhondda Cynon Taf, will have to make £20m cuts.

Mr Bryant, a former Europe minister, noted that some people were "so ungenerous".

School study group

"I think, 'all right, well you write something'," he said and plans to send back their replies with their mistakes corrected.

He has had a request from a school study group to use some of his work, and Supine has won support from staff at the Rhondda swimming baths which inspired it.

He writes in iambic pentameter, but one criticism was that he failed to stick to 10 syllables per line.

He responded that neither did Shakespeare, whose Hamlet's "To be or not to be, that is the question..." has 11 syllables. However, he was quick to emphasise, that "I'm not equating myself to Shakespeare in any way... (but) rules are there to be broken".

He said that while he did not know "if it's good or bad verse" it has had a lot more attention than "the loads of speeches I've made in the last few weeks".

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