Poem about good manners

We asked Luke Kennard, our canal laureate, to write a few verses to explain the importance of having manners on the towpath and to celebrate our Share the Space campaign.

You can read Luke's poem below, or watch him perform it in the video above.

Luke says: “The poem 'Etiquette on the Canalside' is about how we conduct ourselves when we are walking along the towpaths. The first voice in the poem is a voice of instruction telling you to be aware and thoughtful in the way you treat other people, whether that’s to cycle slower as you’re passing others or to take your headphones out when you're running.  

"I wanted the second voice to be a pedestrian exploring the towpath who’s rather annoyed at being told what to do, and who has in fact come to the canal for the precise purpose of escaping the general regulations of day to day life. I wanted it to be a conversation, an argument within the poem, so the stanzas alternate between the two voices; it’s important to show the two points of view.”

The poem

New traveller of the shining towpath,

Please be mindful as you roam.
It’s not that you can’t speak, eat, laugh,

But this is everybody's home.
Let others too enjoy its use,

Be like the duck and not the goose.

Do not preach to the converted
Or assume we’re unaware
That dropping litter’s as perverted
As ignoring others’ cares.
Keep your homilies to yourself,
Leave your manuals on the shelf.

Sorry; it wasn’t my intention
To nag, cajole, instruct or bore,
Just eager that your intervention
Keeps the peace you came here for.
Adopt an attitude, at most,
Of simultaneous guest and host.

Just the kind of regulation
We came here to avoid:
A pelican’s regurgitation.
We sought escape, now we’re annoyed.
“Poetry makes nothing happen”:
A good reason to shut your trap, then.

A pelican sustains through vomit
All his or her offspring, so
Actually, your analogy, I hold it
A great compliment, and lo:
Even as it breaks the rhyme scheme
I grant myself the final word.


Luke Kennard Luke Kennard

Last date edited: 22 June 2017