Preamble

In 1988, I published an anthology called WRONG SIDE OF THE RIVER: Voices of Lewisham Poets. Even though I received a grant from Lewisham Arts, it was a financial disaster. I wrote most of the poems myself because (remarkably) I had great difficulty finding any contributors at all. I ended up giving (or throwing) most of the copies away. The printer was a complete bodger too, but that’s another story. One contributor - whom I never met - was Dave Woods. His sole submission - which I always did like - was the poem below.

There is an unfortunate endnote to this. Five years later, I received a phone call out of the blue from his daughter, Elizabeth. She had found a reference to the anthology in his papers. He was long term unemployed, and had committed suicide aged just forty-one. I took her address and sent her a copy. All very sad.

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FREEDOM TO CHOOSE

Room to rent.
Ring 999/0999.
Do you work?
No.
Will not let.

Do you have a girlfriend?
Will not let.
Do you have 6wks rent?
No.
Will not let.

Sign this.
No rent book?
No.
Will not let.

No dogs, no children,
no pictures on the wall,
no people to stay
If you want this room.
I will come in to inspect,
especially if you are not there.

But I only want to rent
a bloody room.
But I only have
200 rules and regs.
If you want this
beautiful room.

1 broken down bed,
1 flea bitten carpet
furnished from the skip,
decorated about 1933.

Bathroom, toilet
Stinking dirty.
6wks notice to quit
and any damage comes out
of your deposit.
So it is your choice
if you want this room.

[On the original sheet, the poem was signed “Dave Woods, unemployed”].


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