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Chris Morris's Four Lions



There can be weeks when I find very little to engage on BBC2's The Review Show (formerly Newsnight Review, though the name change seems to have accompanied nothing more than the sickly new colour scheme of its redesigned set), so it was a pleasant surprise to see Chris Morris, Britain's foremost satirist and creator of series The Day Today (1994) and Brass Eye (1997), featured on the show this week, having finished his latest project, a darkly comic film about a bunch of hapless, amateur terrorists based in Sheffield.

I'd almost forgotten about the movie, having last read about Morris's current project when I stumbled across a letter, "The absurd world of Martin Amis", in the Guardian a few years back, in which Morris takes the bestselling author to task for "prowling the thickets of his research [into Islam and terrorism] like a demented flasher".

But as Morris's first film, and given his reputation for dealing with difficult topics (such as drugs, war, paedophilia, and AIDS) with biting satire, sharp observations and prickly wit, Four Lions promises to be impressive. In the meantime, I'm returning to DVDs and online clips from Morris's previous work, particularly the excellent The Day Today. For those who haven't seen it, here from the fifth episode of that series is Morris's rebarbative newsreader character at full tilt, deliberately sparking off a war after an unlikely peace accord in order to capitalise on the ensuing pandemonium with up-to-the-minute news coverage, invasive, sensationalist footage, and even (later in the episode) marketing a CD titled 'Our War', including pop songs inappropriately set to war footage.

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Liverpool FC and poetry have a lot of previous – from John Toshack’s Gosh It’s Tosh collection in the late 70s, to the verse of Dave Kirby and Peter Etherington in the fanzine Red All Over the Land, to the lines written by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, a University of Liverpool graduate, in the aftermath of 2012’s Hillsborough findings. Now there’s Ben Wilkinson, Reds fan and book critic for The Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement, who’s compiling a series of poems commemorating the club’s legends. “Football is part of the fabric of life, and anything that’s important to people finds its way into poetry,” he says. “Wilfred Owen’s poem 'Disabled' describes a soldier who loses the use of his legs, meaning he can never play football again. Philip Larkin’s 'MCMXIV' compares boys queuing to join the army to fans outside Villa Park. These poems have stood the test of time because t…

About the Author

Welcome to the website of the English poet and critic, Ben Wilkinson.
Ben was born in Staffordshire and now lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. He received his first degree from the University of Sheffield, and holds an MA and PhD from Sheffield Hallam University. He has won numerous awards for his poetry, including the Poetry Business Competition and a 2014 Northern Writers' Award
His debut full collection of poems, Way More Than Luck, appeared from Seren Books in February 2018.
He is a keen distance runner, lifelong Liverpool Football Club fan, and among other things he works as poetry critic for The Guardian and the Times Literary Supplement. You can find many of his reviews on this site.
To contact Ben about readings, workshops, or for any other enquiries, you can drop him a line at benwilko(at sign)gmail.com. Unfortunately, I am not able to consider unsolicited requests from authors for book reviews.

You can follow Ben on Twitter - @BenWilko85 - and on Facebook.

You can find B…

Way More Than Luck (Seren Books, 2018)

From the thumping heartbeat of the distance runner to the roar of football terraces across the decades, Ben Wilkinson’s debut confronts the struggles and passions that come to shape a life. Beginning with an interrogation of experiences of clinical depression and the redemptive power of art and running, the collection centres on a series of vivid character portraits, giving life to some of football's legends. By turns frank, comic, sinister and meditative – ‘the trouble with you, son, is that all your brains are in your head’ – these poems uncover the beautiful game’s magic and absurdity, hopes and disappointments, as striking metaphors for our everyday dramas. Elsewhere there are tender love poems, political satire and strange dream worlds, in an urgently lyrical book of poems that take many forms and modes of address: pantoum, sonnet, sestina; epistle, confession, dramatic monologue. All are united by a desire to speak with searching clarity about matters of the heart. Way More …