Poetry Reads: Rat Race by John Agard

Now, I haven’t read The Puffin Book of Poetry for Children in its entirety, but a selection of poems from this collection appeared a few years ago in a daily tabloid complete with cute illustrations.

It was an unintentional, ironical moment for a tabloid otherwise known for its scandalous gossip mongering content and colour photographs of beautiful women in swimsuits. Children were clearly not their target audience. Anyway, I had cut out the selection and preserved the published verse in my collage book, which I unearth here. This poem is by John Agard, a Afro-Guyanese poet and children’s writer, presently living in Britain.

For starters, rat race is an urban term often used in relation to excessive, fruitless work done either individually or collectively. Positively viewed, it is a term meant to invoke reflection and change from a busy and stressful routine of toiling with the expectation of little reward. An article I had written on the ‘I am busy’ culture can be read here

Meanwhile, here is the poem.

Rat Race
by John Agard

Rat Race?
Don’t make us laugh.
It’s you humans
who’re always in a haste.

Ever seen a rat
in a bowler hat
rushing to catch a train?

Ever seen a rat
with a briefcase
hurrying through the rain?

And isn’t it a fact
that all that hurry-hurry
gives you humans heart

No, my friend,
we rats relax.

Pass the cheese,


(Article by Snehith Kumbla)

Leave a Comment