John Lennon at 70

December 8, 2010

John Lennon
Image via Wikipedia

The Beatles Story, a Liverpool Museum devoted to the Fab Four and that British city’s favorite sons, held a poetry contest this fall in honor of John Lennon.

John would have been 70 years old on October 9, 2010, had he not been gunned down by a psychopath 30 years ago today.

The contest rules were simple: 40 lines on Lennon for his 40 years on Earth.  I entered, but didn’t win the contest.

And although it may ruin my poem’s chances of being published in The New Yorker (to whom I’ve recently submitted it — forgive me, Paul Muldoon), I’ve decided that it’s important for me to share it with you on this day when so many of us are remembering John.

Here is my poem:


John Lennon at 70

“The streets are full of admirable craftsmen,
but so few practical dreamers.”
–Man Ray


Lennon, the boy, practically an orphan;

Chip on his shoulder, mad at the world.


Lennon, the teenager, the rocker, the mocker,

Hard-driven, jealous, troublemaker, and bold.


Lennon, the young man, an edge to his attitude

And confident swagger; “To the top Johnny!”


Lennon, maturing, tightening up, melodic,

But still biting, sardonic, coming into his own.


Lennon, twenty-five, songsmith; honest, open, real.

A turning point: meeting drugs and Dylan.


Lennon, experimenting, laying down tricks

Rather than tracks; quirky, artistic, obscure.


Lennon, twenty-eight, life changed by a “Yes.”

Branching out, becoming an Artist.


Lennon, approaching thirty, back to his roots;

Raw, stripped-bare, primal screaming J.


Lennon, early 30s, getting political in the N-Y-C,

Under the influence; message trumping music.


Dr. Winston O’Boogie, mid-30s, recapturing

Some of the old magic, putting aside mind games.


Mr. Lennon, “retired,” house-husband, baking

Bread and raising a son; “just watching the wheels…”


Lennon, stretching out, almost forty,

Enjoying writing again, for himself and for Sean.


Lennon at 40, middle-age for most, a new record out.

He’s done more than many at this age or older, even.


Lennon, talking to his audience of survivors,

“We made it through the seventies, didn’t we?”


Lennon, walking in Central Park with Yoko.

“It’s John Lennon I can’t believe it…”


Lennon letting his guard down,

A new sense of purpose, renewal, direction—


Lennon, at 40, dead in his doorway.

“I read the news today, oh boy…”


Lennon’s life: meteoric, troubled, brilliant,

Full fathom flaming—


Lennon at 70: would he be a grumpy old man,

Still on the stage — or both?  We’ll never know.


I read the news today and think: We need him;

Then hear John’s voice, singing “Love is all you need.”


–Scott Edward Anderson

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