This poem was inspired by the strangest chat up line I?ve ever received. I?d done a reading, and then after the reading I?d gone to the pub with some of the people in the audience. Completely out of the blue, this bloke I hadn?t even spoken to at all all evening leaned across the table and said to me ?Do you know? I?ve never slept with a poet before?. It was the word before that particularly alarmed me. So, I wrote this poem.

Occupational Hazard

Occupational Hazard

He has slept with accountants and brokers,
With a cowgirl (well, someone from Healds).
He has slept with non-smokers and smokers
In commercial and cultural fields.

He has slept with book-keepers, book-binders,
Slept with auditors, florists, Pas,
Child psychologists, even child minders,
With directors of firms and of plays.

He has slept with the stupid and the clever.
He has slept with the rich and the poor
But he sadly admits that he’s never
Slept with a poet before.

Real poets are rare, he confesses,
While it’s easy to find a cashier.
So I give him some poets’ addresses
And consider a change of career.

from Leaving and Leaving You (Carcanet, 1999) ? Sophie Hannah 1999, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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