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Poem of the week - A mystery smile

I hope everyone enjoyed National Poetry Day and that you had as good a day as I did. I spent the day helping bring a smile & a giggle to primary & secondary school children in Blackburn. So much fun!

One of the poems I shared as one of my own favourites is below - but it’s caused a bit of a stir...

As has been well covered in these posts - we live in a post-truth age as any canny politician will tell you. ‘Experts’ are a thing of the past, ‘Facts’ are now mixed freely with opinion, while the internet has opened the world up for every man, woman and his or her pooch to comment about everything and anything.

The sharing of words is not immune to this and on days like NPD when they are being bandied about for fun - who said what and when becomes really important - especially when the theme for the day is ‘truth’.

To put that in context, in one of our sessions yesterday I was put on the spot. I shared the below ‘Smile’ poem with a group and one pupil later asked me “Who’s it by?”

Knowing it was a matter of contention I copped out and said the first thing that came into my head - despite the furore I knew was taking the place on line over the piece.

Because the truth is up for debate everywhere - even with a poem it seems. For such a brilliant piece that has been so widely shared, it is strange to think that we could be in a situation where we still don’t really know it’s origin - or that somewhere out there, someone is a missing out on a big old royalty - yet it’s true.

Google the poem and you’ll find it accredited to many. I was (like many) under the impression that the late Spike Milligan had created it, till I was roundly told off by a fellow poet who swore blind that it should be accredited to the wonderful author Jez Alborough. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find it claimed by Karen McLendon-Laumann as part of a seminar series she was running around 30 years ago.

Many sites simply credit it as ‘author unknown’ - which is a really sad case of affairs. What is the truth? Maybe we’ll never know....


Smiling is infectious,

You catch it like the flu,

When someone smiled at me today,

I started smiling, too.

I passed around the corner,

And someone saw my grin.

When he smiled I realised,

I'd passed it on to him.

I thought about that smile,

Then I realised its worth,

A single smile, just like mine,

Could travel round the earth.

So, if you feel a smile begin,

Don't leave it undetected,

Let's start an epidemic quick,

And get the world infected!

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Jez Alborough commented on this in a video on YouTube.

I understand he has copyright


Hello Paul. I've been looking for how to claim my rights to this poem since I saw a neighbor publish it in 2016 in a local magazine. I wrote it when I was in care at the age of 14. I'd sent lots of poems off to a publishing house in Lancashire. They wrote back saying they would publish them for a small sum of money. However, being in care and only 14 I had no money so forgot about it. I wonder if anyone could help me establish this. Thanks for raising the debate x

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