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Before John Lennon realized his songs could include meaningful lyrics, he used poetry as an outlet for his more personal, introspective writing. He sent poems to his friend, Stuart Sutcliffe, and used them as an outlet for his emotions. When a friend accidentally threw out a book of his poetry, he was, naturally, devastated. She explained that he immediately broke down into tears. 

John Lennon wasn’t happy when a friend threw out a book of his poetry

When Lennon learned his girlfriend, Cynthia, was pregnant, he began spending long nights at bars, drinking away his fear and resentment of fatherhood. He also poured his feelings into notebooks full of poetry. His friend Bill Harry, the creator of Liverpool music publication Mersey Beat, saw firsthand how much Lennon’s poetry meant to him. 

Harry and his girlfriend, Virginia, packed up their small office to move to a larger space. As they prepared to move, Virginia accidentally threw out a large pile of notebooks filled with Lennon’s poetry. He’d lent them to her to publish some in Mersey Beat.

Stacked papers of John Lennon's writing  are on a black surface. A person's white gloved hand rests near the documents.
John Lennon’s writing | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Harry and Virginia later ran into Lennon at a bar, and she confessed what she’d done. 

“I crept over and admitted what I’d done with his poems,” she said, per the book The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz, “and he just started sobbing.”

John Lennon published a book of poetry and other writings

Not long after this, though, Lennon compiled enough poetry and writings to publish a book. In 1964, he released In His Own Write, a book of poems and short stories. The poems and short stories were largely nonsensical, with Lennon taking a great deal of inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland

While it may have confused some readers, it quickly became a bestseller. Critics praised Lennon’s writing ability.

“The book was an immediate bestseller,” Cynthia explained in her book John. “Bookshops that had ordered only a few copies demanded more and it was reprinted twice in the week it came out. John was pleased if bemused by the attention it got, and even more so when we heard that a Foyle’s Literary Luncheon had been arranged in his honour at London’s Dorchester Hotel. A Foyle’s luncheon was a great accolade for any author, and for John’s the demand for tickets was unparalleled.”

He caused controversy at a ceremony honoring his book

The book’s acclaim came to a halt after the luncheon. Lennon arrived hungover, tired, and misunderstanding the importance of the event. He was supposed to give a speech but, instead, only briefly thanked the attendees. 

A black and white picture of John Lennon wearing sunglasses and signing a copy of his book "In His Own Write."
John Lennon |  GAB Archive/Redferns

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“I looked at John and my heart went out to him,” Cynthia wrote. “He was ashen and totally unprepared. Never lost for words in private, a public speech was beyond him — let alone to a crowd of literary top dogs, with a hangover.”

The crowd began to boo him for not giving an appropriate response to the award.