Poetry Shelf Poem: James Brown’s very funny ‘Janet and John Go to a Book Launch’

Janet and John Go to the Book Launch



Janet stands next to John.

Jenny is there. James is there.

Joy is everywhere.


Janet and John go to the drinks table.

Janet says, ‘Please may I have an orange juice?’

John says, ‘May I have a glass of beer, please?’

‘Here you are,’ says the man.


Janet and John listen to the speech.

‘That was a kind speech,’ says Janet.


The man adjusts the microphone.

The poet thanks many people.

He reads a poem. Everyone is quiet.

That was a clever poem, thinks Janet.


The poet reads another poem.

The boy in the poem has no raincoat.

Janet whispers, ‘That was a sad poem.’

John whispers, ‘Some poems are sad.’


The poet reads one last poem.

Everybody laughs. Everybody claps.

Janet says, ‘That was a funny poem.’

She tickles John. John spills his beer.


The poet reads one last short poem.

That short poem was quite long, thinks John.


Janet and John join the queue.

They buy the poetry book.

‘Thank you for coming,’ says the poet.

He writes in their book:


To Janet and Jon

The friend is mightier than the word!

Deepest regards forever,

The Poet


Janet and John leave the book launch.

‘I would like to write a poetry book,’ says Janet.

‘Don’t be silly,’ says John.


©James Brown 2016


I first heard James read this poem at the National Library’s poetry event in Wellington this year. It made me laugh out loud. I loved the nostalgic trip back to the Janet and John primers I recited as a child. I loved that awkward feeling that I get at book launches. The dead pan humour. Posting it made me laugh out loud again and that surely is a poetry tonic.

1 thought on “Poetry Shelf Poem: James Brown’s very funny ‘Janet and John Go to a Book Launch’

  1. Pingback: A poem from James Brown’s dazzling Floods Another Chamber and Gregory O’Brien’s launch speech (the envy of all poets!) | NZ Poetry Shelf

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