Rap-battling teacher finds poetry in the classroom

Mark Grist, the rapping English teacher best known for vanquishing a teenage rap-battler with a succession of rhyming insults, has released a book of poetry dealing with the hardships, hassles and soul-lifting joys of school life.

Much of Rogue Teacher, based on poetry performed by Mr Grist during a one-man stage show, is inspired by his experiences as a teacher at a Peterborough secondary, where he previously worked.

So, in “The History Ain’t Bright, The History’s Miss Knowles”, he describes: “A teacher in our school./She’s more foul than Simon Cowell/and a dozen times more cruel…Feasts on the fear of first-years/like some blonde velociraptor.”

In fact, unempathetic colleagues are the source of a great deal of Mr Grist’s scorn and scansion. The poem “Why I’m Angry” describes a pupil who fails to hand in her homework, misses detention, turns up late to lessons and tells him that “I’m a fuck-up, Sir.”

But this, he qualifies, is not why he is angry. He is angry at the colleague who tells him: “That she’s a f*ck-up./A waste of time. Best to leave her./She’ll never ever get it.”

Another of the poems is specifically dedicated to “the AQA chief examiner, who told my students that ‘any poem turned on its side looks like nothing more than a poem turned on its side’.”

This poem, entitled “By Numbers”, is written horizontally across the page. Viewed vertically, however, it looks like a disembodied hand, with raised middle finger.

Mr Grist first came to public attention in 2011, when he took on teenage rapper Blizzard in a rap battle which became a YouTube viral hit. Viewed more than 4.7 million times, the battle shows Mr Grist deliver a relentless volley of rapid-fire rhyming insults, such as: “You w*nk off in sandals to pictures of Gandalf.”

(WARNING: the two videos below both include extensive swearing and could cause offence.)

Since then, he has completed a stint as poet laureate of Peterborough, and released a crowd-funded film version of one of the poems in Rogue Teacher, “A Teacher, Eh?”

Rogue Teacher is published by Burning Eye Books.

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