Poetry in Motion

Book Review  by Steve Davis

It is an often heard compliment when discussing music to describe someone’s lyrics as ‘poetry’, but in the case of Scroobius Pip’s it is a pretty apt description. Best known for his collaborations with Dan le Sac, Pip started life as a spoken-word poet, performing at poetry slams up and down the country. This first collection of his verse is a collaborative effort, with the poet-cum-rapper recruiting artists and designers via submissions on his Myspace page to illustrate his words; it comes off more as a comic book waxing lyrical than your typical poetry anthology.

The results are varied – in a literal sense: eclectic in style and design and their use of Pip’s material. His verse, falling more toward spoken word than hiphop, works best when from the tongue, less so from the leaves of a page. However there are a several poems here where the collaborations work together very well, mostly Pip’s narrative work, such as the biographical ‘100 Words’ and ‘Waiting For The Beat to Kick In’ in which he imagines himself wandering through near-deserted cityscape taking life lessons from a collection of classic film stars such as James Stewart’s Elwood P Dowd from Harvey (his cotton tail friend appears in silhouette) and Walter Neff from Double Indemnity.

The collection of web-recruited artists are certainly inventive; a few illustrating literal representations of the lyrics in a comic strip and laying over the verse as narration, others using a montage of images, and in the case of Pip’s theme song ‘Thou Shalt Always Kill’, simply transcribing the lyrics. This straight forward approach provides another of the book’s highlights, the pages splattered with Pip’s raging counter-culture manifesto that made the song so interesting first time round. Illustrator Ben Williams even finds the space for psychedelic likenesses of the namechecked Danny Glover and Stephen Fry tucked into the margins.

Occasionally though the book feels as if you’re reading the album liner notes rather than a standalone work. It’s difficult to go through this book without reading it in Pip’s voice and sometimes it’s better to, his rhythm and rhyme frequently reliant on his distinctive Essex flow.

"I never really read that much poetry as a kid" writes the Scroobius Pip in the introduction to his first collected work, "I prefer to watch or hear it performed by the poets themselves". In the end you, like Pip, might prefer your rhymes from the horses mouth but these visual additions made to Pip’s lyrics are at the least an interesting experiment and most will find something here they would enjoy.