BRITISH P(oe)Ms by Dave Drayton


Dave Drayton was an amateur banjo player, founding member of the Atterton Academy, and the author of E, UIO, A: a feghoot (Container), A pet per ably-faced kid (Stale Objects dePress), P(oe)Ms (Rabbit), Haiturograms (Stale Objects dePress) and Poetic Pentagons (Spacecraft Press).


British P(oe)Ms continues a poetic/political exploration that started with P(oe)Ms (Rabbit Poetry, 2017),  which collected a beau present for each Australian Prime Minister and continued with the United States’ Beaux Pres(id)ents. It employs a non-fictional, onomastic poetics to look in new light and ways at the past and present leaders of the United Kingdom. A beau present (also known as a beautiful inlaw) is a poem composed using only the letters in the name of the addressee. For example, a beau present about Robert Walpole must only use words that can be made from the letters R, O, B, E, T, W, A, L, and P. 

Where possible, the formal elements of each poem have been informed by the addressee such that the poem for Robert Gascoyne-Cecil takes the form of a modified periodic table, and the poem for Andrew Bonar Law takes shape by following a Knight’s Tour on a poetic chessboard. 


David William Donald Cameron
2010 – 2016

All in all Dave did arrive, a call came in: More weed?
Dave, now cornered and alive, will cower and cede
An O (no O level or camera in a dorm)
Will in need roll weed, indeed, once and now a norm.

Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill
1940 – 1945 / 1951 – 1955

To the House I present blood, toil, tears and sweat. 

We will encounter a horrid ordeal.

What are our policies? To pursue war on sea, land and air, with all our sinew and the wellies the lord presents us: to pursue war with a swollen terror, unsurpassed in the pitch, wretched cache that lists our sins. These are our policies.

What is our aim? I can answer in two words: To win, to win at all costs, to win despite all terror, to win, no concern how spread out and hard the road is, as without the win there is no Us.

Praise for the Author

​​”The language of poetry is everywhere and anywhere, even in the names of our maligned and so-called leaders. What Drayton has reaffirmed is that any language of power can be repurposed to undermine that power. It can be reinvented or cut up into pieces, “A head here / A head there”. Off with their heads!  There’s so much fun to be had!”

Toby Fitch, Poetry Editor of Overland and author of Sydney Spleen, Where Only the Sky had Hung Before, and others.

“​​British P(oe)Ms continues Dave Drayton’s ingenious and witty reinvention of the biographical poem. Devised according to formal constraints, this creatively unconstrained collection takes the reader on an imagined tour of a portrait gallery’s Prime Ministerial wing. Reconfiguring the frame in every instance, these poems revel in the lesser-known facts and foibles that haunt each figure in this long line of British leaders, shining a humorous light on the absurdity that accompanies the drive to govern or to rule.”

Jessica Wilkinson, founding editor of Rabbit non-fiction poetry journal and author of Marionette, Suite for Percy Grainger, and Music Made Visible.

Background image and cover design by Michelle Moloney King.
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