Drunk With A Pen

13.5 poems about drink and drinking

People keep talking 'bout the shape I'm in
They say "Boy, you ain't a poet just a drunk with a pen"
Over and over, again and again
Oh but they don't know about the places I been

Hayes Carll- Hard Out Here

Drunk With A Pen is a book of illustrated poems about drink and drinking. It is entirely produced, published and distributed by Joseph J Clark (with a little help from his friends).

Proceeds from sales go to charity - mostly the amazing Clock Tower Sanctuary, but occasionally other Sussex-based organisations. See the Charity page for details.

A printed booklet is available to buy online.

About The Poems

I love a good drink: but like so many of us, I have quite a complicated relationship with alcohol. That's something I've explored in this collection: often personal, occasionally funny, and frequently sad. I have fun running with the theme and the title, but this really is a serious, heartfelt collection.

As much as alcohol itself, these poems are largely inspired by music. I don't really consider myself a poet (although I suppose I have to now), but I do listen to a lot of music.

My largest inspiration is the "outlaw" country music scene, originating from the Southern US states in the '70s. It's full highly literate, expressive and emotional songwriting - where the songs are hard to discern from poetry. It is championed by writers including Hayes Carll, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Chris Stapleton, Elizabeth Cook, Margo Price - and so, so many more. Among the songs of trains, murders, broken hearts and unfaithful partners, there is is a regularly occuring theme. It is perhaps the most unreliable partner of all: alcohol.

This music inspires me every day - and although Drunk with a Pen doesn't really have a direct connection, I am convinced it wouldn't exist without those artists. Of course, I know many, many great drinking songs which don't come from this scene. But those writers produce poetry as often as song, and they're a huge influence.

Anyway. Maybe you'd like to read on and discover some of the poetry and extras on this website. Or maybe not - that's cool too. Either way, thanks for stopping by.


The men they caused me problems, and the drinking caused me grief
I thought I'd found a friend, but I had only found a thief.

Margo Price-Hands of Time
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You can read three of the poems below. Keep an eye on the social media pages for previews and examples of the other pieces!

If you enjoy these, please consider buying a copy. You'll be supporting independent art and life-changing charities.

Sin & Tonic

Swirl me
Like the mint in your mojito
We can Pinot Grigio
Real, real slow.
Sweetheart, you be the brandy
And I will be your Alexander.

Shake me:
We'll tumble like lovers
Blur the lines of each other
Blushed, crushed, flushed:
Honey, you be the Martini
And I will be your olive.

Sip me:
Let me linger upon your lips
Together we can stoke the fires
Of a tale as old as time.
Angel, you be the single malt
And I will be your rock.

Submerge me:
Sharp like citrus I will slip in,
We'll make love alcoholic
As bubbles burst euphoric.
Oh, lover, you be the Brighton Gin
And I will be your tonic.

The Lonesome Hours

It makes him feel better,
This liquid comfort.
He feels his cares wash away;
He feels his loneliness fade;
He feels some heat in his veins

Without it, he is ashen.
He is grey.
The clock ticks endlessly:
Another tired minute.
Another lonely hour.

He knows that it is killing him
That it's blackened fingers
Are clutched around his organs;
That it's insidious whispers
Have settled in his mind.

But he doesn't care.
He doesn't care.

Because he doesn't have anything else.
The TV is his closest confident,
Though he knows it lies to him every day,
And he screams his frustration
At every banality,
At every judgement,
At every temptation.

He burned his bridges long ago.
Soaked the foundations in vodka,
Set a match to the rags,
And watched his life go up in smoke.

Now he sits alone,
(Save for his regrets)
Begs the bad memories to let him be
And clutches to the good ones
Even as they fade.

He has said all he has to say.
He has done all he has to do.
And so he waits.

War Stories

The streets are wide with swagger;
Raucous laughter is the fanfare
Of the soldiers of hedonism.

This perfumed infantry patrols the bars,
Watched by bouncers in doorways,
Former servicemen with guarded salutes.

Johnny’s dropping j-bombs;
Richie’s sinking the navy rum;
Stevo isn’t missing a shot.
The boys are out for blood tonight:
But real heroes befriend before fight.

Waging war with their wages,
Counting casualties in empty bottles,
They earn war stories under neon light.

Blue collars and white collars
But not a dog-tag in sight
For the bawdy heroes of Friday night.

Bobby ditched his bird at The Tap;
Gav glassed a geezer at the Geese;
Davey used a sink as a dunny.
The lads want trouble and won’t be denied
But real heroes aren’t born of pride.


These four wall blues
Are suffocating
My Earthly ambitions
And I am collapsing
Beneath the weight
Of a heavy heart.

I seek escape velocity:
A way out of this
Gravity unwell.
I want to travel
Beyond the mundane
And into the sublime.

I want to dance
Amongst indifferent stars
Carefree and careless.
So I pop another cork
And let this wine
Be my rocket ship.

Well there ain't no money in poetry
That's what keeps the poet free
And I've had all the freedom I can stand.

Guy Clark-Cold Dog Soup
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Where to Buy

Drunk With A Pen is available to buy for £5 a copy from live shows.

As of April 2017, Drunk With A Pen has re-located to Cambridge and has been mostly taken off sale. However, you can still find copies at City Books and Artista.

Drunk With A Pen was on sale at the following, most excellent, establishments in Sussex.


All profits from Drunk with a Pen are donated to charities in Brighton & Hove. Each book costs about £2 to produce and print - any surplus is donated.

Stay tuned here and on the Facebook page for updates and details.

Clock Tower Sanctuary

Drunk With A Pen is proud to support the Clock Tower Sanctuary, helping homeless young people in Brighton & Hove. The vast majority of proceeds go to this most excellent organisation.

In December 2016, £529.61 was paid to the Clock Tower Sanctuary (mostly through donated artist fees and launch party). Thanks to everyone who contributed.

Drunk With A Pen has also contributed to the following charities:

Starfish Youth Music (via The Lamb)

Drink it like you mean it, like the serious people do
If you're down and broken-hearted and you've got good reason to

Corb Lund-Drink It Like You Mean It
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For the latest events, please head to www.josephjclark.co.uk

Since October 2016, Joseph J Clark has taken Drunk With A Pen on the road. From the launch party, to solo festival shows, to opening for bands, and a whole load of open mics in between. As of February 2018, Joseph has performed in over 80 live sets.

Anyone who saw Joe's first open mic at the Duke of Wellington in Shoreham will be truly amazed that he got beyond the first two. It's amazing what the pressure of 500 unsold books on your coffee table will do for your confidence.

Upcoming Shows

Songs & Stories III - March 5 2019 - Cambridge

Joseph J Clark brings Songs & Stories back to Cambridge, this time at J2, The Junction. Featuring Sam Lewis and Dan Wilde. Click here for details and tickets.

Brighton Fringe - 4th-9th May 2019 - Brighton

Drunk With A Pen proudly returns to Brighton Fringe festival, with poems old and new.

Past Shows

Songs & Stories II - November 13 2018 - Cambridge

Drunk With A Pen returns to the Portland Arms for an evening of spoken word, blues and roots music. Featuring King Size Slim and Camisayo.

Cambridge Folk Festival 2018

Joseph J Clark was honoured to be invited to compere at two showcase sets at Cambridge Folk Festival.

And Now This - The Elm Tree, Cambridge

Featuring as part of The Elm Tree's esteemed monthly music night, showcasing local talent in one of Cambridge's most popular pubs.

Brighton Fringe - 5-13th May 2018 - Brighton

Drunk With A Pen proudly makes its debut at Brighton Fringe festival. More details over on the Fringe page.

"Clark bravely tackles the subject of alcoholism; not just his personal connections to this, but also in reference to community and wider society. I found these poems to be the most engaging of the evening. They were performed with poignancy and in moving detail, doing the spoken word genre proud by saying the unsaid"

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Voice Mag

"Clark commands attention from the get-go... an eloquent, talented performer and orator with some of his work demanding dynamic, linguistic gymnastics"

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Broadway Baby

Songs & Stories - April 3rd 2018 - Cambridge

An evening of music and poetry at the Portland Arms, featuring Hollie Rogers and Chris Fox. Click here for more details.

Drunk With My Friends

In Brighton, July 10th 2017, Drunk With A Pen and Long Way Home Music staged an evening of music and poetry at the legendary Latest Music Bar, Brighton.

Featuring music from Hollie Rogers, Chuck SJ Hay, yourgardenday and Michael Bowerman.

Brighton Source were there - read all about it!

Hove Grown 2017

In March 2017, Drunk With A Pen was proud to host two solo shows during Hove Grown festival.

Both shows were held at Artista, tickets £5 advance or £7 on the door. Proceeds from the show went to the Clock Tower Sanctuary.

Broadway Baby were there and gave the show a very positive three-star review.

Launch Party

In December 2016, a launch party was held at the Blue Man in Brighton. You can see pictures on the Facebook page (no sign-in required). There was poetry, music, drinking, and people actually turned up.

Other Shows

Drunk With A Pen regularly hits the Open Mic and Spoken Word circuit of Brighton & Hove. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for updates.

We'd sit out on the screen porch
White winos mom and me
We'd talk about her childhood
And recap my carer
When we got to my father
That was when I'd switch to beer

Loudon Wainwright III-White Winos
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Each of the 13.5 poems of Drunk With A Pen has been illustrated by an artist with a close connection to the author: be they drinking buddy, writing cohort, videogame survivor or gig attender. Arists were given an (almost) free reign in their designs.

Each artist was offered offered fair payment to contribute to this project, although many of them donated their fee to charity.

AC Godliman
Alice Parsons
Ana Baltova
Here's To It
Bryony Devitt
The Lonesome Hours
Carrie Leaver
Danny Baldwin Alder
The Last Whiskey
Fabian Vercuiel
Maybe This Beer
Jim Best
Jules Langran
Social Drinker
Assorted illustrations
Kylie Halley
Take The Night Off
Liz Henwood
War Stories
Nat Cooper
Drinking Games
Reverse cover
Rasha Al'Najjar
A Eulogy Of Empty Words
Rosa Carbó-Mascarell
Take The Night Off
Front cover & design

Special thanks to Rosa Carbó-Mascarell and Carrie Leaver for their skills and wisdom in designing the book; Trudy at One Design for going the extra mile (time and again) on the print; Jules for the extra artwork; and Michael and Becs for the support (and elf-eyes). Thanks also to Hayes Carll for permission to use his lyric in the title.

But now I know that there's a time
And there's a place where I can choose
To walk that fine line between
Self-control and self-abuse

Steven Page / Stephen Duffy-Alcohol
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Because in this day and age, it isn't enough to simply release a book.

Drunk with Facebook

The Facebook account is the best place to keep up-to-date with news about the book, notice about public readings, and the occasional rambling drunken post.

Drunk With Spotify

Drunk With A Pen is largely inspired by music - songs about drink and drinking, largely from the deep South of America, but from all over the place really. Some of the songs which inspired the book can be found on this public Spotify playlist. Type "Drunk With A Pen" into Spotify, take a shot of whiskey and it'll probably come up.

One's a liar,
That helps to hide me from my pain
And one's the long, gone bitter truth
That's the difference
Between whiskey and you.

Chris Stapleton-Whiskey And You
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About the Author

Joseph J Clark, or Joe to his friends, is a programmer and writer living in Hove, of the People's Republic of Brighton & Hove, on the south coast of the UK. Drunk With A Pen is his first printed, published work.

He doesn't actually write much poetry, which is probably for the best really. He claims to have found these fourteen at the bottom of various bottles.

Joe wrote the script and story for PC typing adventure game Epistory - Typing Chronicles, and is currently writing the story for Mighty Tactical Shooter, a turn-based SHMUP, out 2017 on Steam (probably).

See below for contact details.

Selected Works

You can enjoy some of Joe's other writing for free on various corners of the internet. See deviantART for a more complete portfolio.

There's an answer in one of these bottles
There must be something they forgot to mention
There's an answer in one of these bottles I know
So I'm gonna drink until I forget the question

Caitlin Rose-Answer In One Of These Bottles
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Tonight the bottle let me down
And let your memory come around
The one true friend I thought I’d found
Tonight, the bottle let me down

Merle Haggard-The Bottle Let Me Down
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