Culture vulture

3rd October 2003 at 01:00
Classic western meets country as English teacher and poet John Clarke reveals the sources of his inspiration

Best book ever

As an adolescent I would have said George Orwell's Animal Farm because it made me realise that books can do more than tell a story. As a young man I would have said John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath because I got wrapped up in the symbolism in Tom's role. But for now it's East of the Mountain by David Guterson, about a dying man's last journey. It's deceptively simple, because it raises all the big questions about life, and it's a terrific read.

Best film ever

My taste is a bit retro, so it's got to be High Noon with close runners-up Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Commitments. I'm a member of Bradford Film, which I go to with my brother-in-law; we see a huge range of independent, mainstream, good and bad films. But High Noon (left) has stood the test of time. It's all those shadows and black and white photography, and the big moral issue.

Best recent outing

The Bootleg Beatles at Nostell Priory near Wakefield - a genuine tribute, but they were prepared to do self-parody. It was the summer holidays, we took a picnic and a bottle of wine. Deckchair rock 'n' roll at its best.

Best on the web

Cufc online (, the Carlisle United website, keeps me in touch with exiled Cumbrians and allows us to commiserate. My poetry website features my own and other people's poetry and has a poet of the month slot.

Something for school

Michael Brown, a poet from Boston, Massachusetts, performed in Wakefield last year. He was so impressive. He writes about people he has known throughout his life and there was a wonderful sincerity and intensity, without being over-earnest. I've booked him to perform to students at Balby and broaden their horizons.

Treat in store

Emmylou Harris's latest CD, Stumble into Grace. I like that style - a crossover between country and western and west coast rock - and she has a great voice, capable of so much emotion.

John Clarke, 47, is head of English at Balby Carr community sports college, Doncaster. See his website for details of his poetry performances and training for teachers and others. He was talking to Elaine Williams

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