My weekend: Adam Taylor

Times Online, July 20, 2007

Adam Taylor, a London lawyer, has published poems in national newspapers and the poetry press, and on occasion takes time off from the law to perform his poetry.

If the law offers more by way of financial security, wandering lonely as a cloud has its own rewards – not least in being an escape from his day-to-day existence. “Writing poetry is a fantastic release from the law. It’s something completely different from my work. I’m used to standing up in court but performing poetry is something else. It’s you who’s on the line.”

Taylor has found time to perform his poetry on BBC TV and radio, at the South Bank and at arts festivals including the Ledbury International Poetry Festival. He can still recall his debut on the London performance poetry circuit: “It was nerve-wracking. I went to a club on the other side of town where no one knew me.” He has also performed at other literary and cultural events, comedy clubs and schools. One might assume that he was enamoured of the iambic pentameter at early as his teenage years, or that he hails from a family with a long-established literary tradition. Neither, though, is the case.

“My mother wrote children’s books, but I never really paid much attention to poetry when I was growing up,” says the 45-year-old graduate of Trinity College, Dublin. “What opened my eyes was seeing John Hegley perform at the Edinburgh Festival ten years ago. He thoroughly demystified poetry for me and it was inspirational. I realized that poetry didn’t need to be inaccessible and obscure. He was so witty and engaging that I thought ‘I’ve got to have a go at that.’”

Fast forward a decade and Taylor himself is looking forward to performing at this summer’s Edinburgh Festival. Listeners will find a mixture of irreverent yet striking poems on themes ranging from Messerschmitts to Messiahs - via evil, evolution, mystics and psychics - not to mention the nature of Englishness, Jewishness, the mafia and atonement. None, according to Taylor, takes itself too seriously.

“My poetry is meant to amuse and entertain,” he says, adding that while not a conscious decision he has thus far maintained a distinction between his persona as a lawyer and that as a poet. Adlex’s website makes no reference to Taylor’s double life, but the law appears as a theme in at least some of his poems. In The Defendant, for example, Taylor’s protagonist refuses to recognise the court. “That’s pity, said the court/because we recognise you/and the eye witnesses do too.” The defendant quickly grasps his fate: “In that case, said the defendant/I’m very sorry/and I won’t do it again.”

If not on the Adlex site, Taylor’s poetry can be seen at Contract lawyers might find themselves drawn to the poem entitled Disclaimer. Although it is not conventional to end a piece such as this with a poem, I hereby cite the spirit of Disclaimer and reproduce it here with kind permission of the man himself:

If you’ve been affected

by any issue

in this poem,

please send

a self addressed envelope

to yourself.

Consult a doctor

if you must

but don’t call us;

we won’t call you


having taken

legal advice

this poem

reserves its rights.

Any reference

to anything comprehensible

is entirely


and all characters

are fictitious

including you

and us.

Adam Taylor is appearing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 12 to 15 August 2007 at the C Central Cabaret Bar (Carlton Hotel, 19 North Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1SD, venue 54). God's Face In Your Gazpacho is published by Troubador.