Feature: Below The Line Poetry

Today, Joe Shooman bring us “Below The Line Poetry” – verses constructed from the comments sections of various papers. In this particular suite, the focus is Jeremy Corbyn’s recent victory in the UK Labour Party leadership contest, and the papers consulted for material are The Guardian, The Sun, The Canary and The Daily Mail. Before the poems themselves, though, Joe explains in his own words the rationale behind this exercise in comment-based cut-up…


“Below The Line Poetry” is a form of found poem which takes as its source material comments underneath newspaper articles. The writer / editor collects themed comments, either by sentiment / subject or by rhythm, and repurposes them into stanzas. Elements of modernist and postmodernist approaches are invoked in order to create a piece but there are no rules as to how a final piece should be. This also nods to the likes of Kenneth Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing as well as seeking to hold up a mirror to social media, interactivity and the anonymity (or otherwise) of comments. Pieces may rhyme, have rhythm, conform to existing poetical metres and forms – or to none. Here the poetry is in the eye of the editor as much as it is in the reader: this is the internet echo chamber effect in full force.

In all cases (particularly in this “Corbyn Wins” set) the commenters come from self-selected groups; sign-up to the publication’s website is required in order to comment on the articles, implying either that the writer (of the comment) broadly agrees with the site / publication’s own political stance and bias, or indeed that the opposite is true – that they have signed up specifically in order to disagree with previous commenters / the article.

There is an additional layer at play: the editor / compiler / poet is complicit in the message that gets put across in the final piece because editorial decisions are made throughout. In their raw state, the comments are already poetry of a sort, but applying metrical / poetic frameworks to them is central to Below The Line Poetry. The unedited raw material is too dense and repetitive to stand up in this scenario so frameworking is required.

In line with the concept and the nature of our postmodern / digital world, once published the poems – the words – themselves are subject to quotation / reframing / remixing in any way the reader / editor sees fit for their own purposes.

The Guardian: “The Summer Of Alphabeti Spaghetti”

Drawn from comments on this article from The Guardian

Posted 11.54AM:
Corbyn wins with 61.8% of the vote
Paddy Lillis, the chair of the NEC, is announcing the results.
Corbyn – 313,209 (61.8%)
Smith – 193,229 (38.2%)
Updated at 12.01pm BS

The Summer Of Alphabetti Spaghetti

The summer of Alphabetti Spaghetti.
Comrade Corbyn will be Leader for Life.
This is the socialist way.

He will be 71 in 2020
Perhaps embalming?
Mean life expectancy is around 77.
Corbyn is a poor leader.

Jeremy is like those bands from the ‘70s
Who go around the holiday camps
Playing their old hits
In front of groups of their adoring fans.
Another crystal ball soothsayer.

I revolutionised my last car
To a bloke from Slough.
It’s like a DFS sale coming to an end.
This has been just a silly election.
Camelot? ‘Tis a silly place.
Let us not go there again.

There’s never going to be unity
In a party that’s unelectable.
Let’s just rename it the Jeremy Corbyn party
And be done with it.

It doesn’t matter who leads Labour.
While they refuse to cost the unicorns
That they promise the lefties
And refuse to discuss immigration,
They will never have the working class vote.
The idiocy of the far Left
Captured neatly
In one sentence.

It’s down to you Jezza:
Personally I’d throw them in a Sarlacc pit.



The Daily Mail: “The Destroyer And The Chomper”

Drawn from comments on this article from The Daily Mail

Jeremy Corbyn left Labour conference to make his own lunch this afternoon despite his landslide second leadership victory leaving his party in a stand off.

The re-elected Labour leader made a surprise appearance at a tiny community cafe alongside Frank Field – an MP who repeatedly clashed with Mr Corbyn since his first win last year.
Mr Corbyn donned blue plastic gloves and made his own mushroom and cheese pizza, watched on by community activists.

The relaxed scenes at the Beaconsfield Community House in Liverpool stood in stark contrast to the main party conference which was left reeling by Mr Corbyn extending his mandate among party activists.

The Destroyer And The Chomper

Corbyn the Destroyer:
Hero of the Left and Right.
Like a virus they have accidentally caught
He will destroy that nest of vipers from within.

Tories will be in office for at least another decade;
As a Marxist he wants total control of everything in the country.
I will never vote for Labour while this dictator is in the lead.
We now need Mr Farage to create a new party.

Welcome to the death of Labour.
He is now Labour leader for life.
It will all depend on how long Corbyn lives.
All socialism is is poverty, ruin and misery.

Diane Abbot should release those saucy photos
Jezzer was passing around his friends
And she might get more votes.
Diane Abott’s voice is so loud and irritating
And her brain is so small and confused.
Diane Abbott who despises wealth and private schools
But sent her children to a private school.
The KFC munching racist hypocrite?
The Abbottamus is a chomper.
We call her Dianne Mugabe Abbott.
You have to give Corbyn credit
He does have guts than any man I know!
After all he did climb Mount Abbot!

When you read Corbyn’s answer to “what is your favourite biscuit”
You realise just how incredibly unelectable he is.
Enjoy your frog supper Vivienne.
If you want a communist dictatorship to rule you
There’s always North Korea.


The Sun: “Halfwit Throwback”

Drawn from comments on this article from The Sun

THE majority of votes won by Labour loser Owen Smith were from long-standing party members according to a new poll – while Jeremy Corbyn swept to victory supported by those who joined AFTER last year’s leadership election.

According to YouGov survey’s for Election Data the defeated challenger outstripped Jeremy Corbyn among younger members and was also popular in Scotland.

But Corbyn enjoyed an overwhelming lead among members who joined Labour during and after last year’s leadership election – showing that the old guard were more in favour of having Smith lead their ranks than him.

Halfwit Throwback

When is the funeral?
RIP The Labour Party.
The man is dotty.
A nut behind a wheel.
So funny.

He’s surrounds himself
With ethnic faiths
Believes in opening talks with Daesh
Child rapists.

With his godlike status
He is allowed to be furious
At any sign of not agreeing with him.
Those Tories are tinkers,
Voting for Corbyn

There goes another General Election.
Load of Champagne socialists.
Nigel Farage “fought” for 20 odd years
For our liberty.
You Brits vote for this halfwit throwback to the USSR.
Best piece of news UKIP have had in months.

It doesn’t say much for Owen Smith
Does it?


The Canary: “Closing Time”

Drawn from comments on this article from The Canary

Jeremy Corbyn has held on to his Labour leadership position, despite a purge that may have prevented around a quarter of potential supporters from voting in the contest. Corbyn’s renewed mandate will bring the coup against him to a conclusion, for now.

Corbyn was re-elected with 313,209 party votes, amounting to 61.8% of the total vote.

Closing Time

It is now time for Owen Smith to finally go home,
Because he looks like a twat,
He talks like a twat,
And by God
He is a Twat.

Forgotten to take your medication again?
Your tears are delicious.
Jeremy is reaching out to you.
You need to reach out to him.

Biggest knob in politics ever.
Good triumphs over evil.
Evil??? So much for unity.
He is a waste of your energy.

Please go find a new rock far far away to crawl back under.
The people have spoken. Well done Labour.
20% of eligible voters did not actually bother.
What a fustercluck.

Resorting to personal snide comments
Simply means you’ve lost the argument.
Bit like the New Labour faction.
It’s time now for the real revolution
Where they overthrow themselves
And hand over power to their cats.


Joe Shooman is interested in the contemporary world’s own definition of, and relationship with, postmodernism and the possibilities engendered by our connections with each other, the world and technology. He is writing a novel which explores the ideas of multiple online and offline identities, societal structures and isolation. He has written for publications in the UK and USA as an author and has a background in writing that includes the publication of six non-fiction books on music, musicians and social media as well as a career in journalism that has taken him halfway around the world.

Based in the UK, he is interested in appropriation and recontextualisation of media and the language that constantly surrounds us, from the supermarket to the internet, from code to codex. He is as happy listening to Alabama 3, Iron Maiden, Eels or Dead Kennedys as he is reading the work of Kurt Vonnegut, Kenneth Goldsmith, Will Self or Leonard Cohen. His blog is at josephshooman.blogspot.com where he plays with language, from kids’ verses and limericks to Below The Line Poetry. His email is joeshoomanfreelance@gmail.com.