Boobs (2013 Remix)

Another of my older poems which I’ve started updating and making snappier. This old classic, which always used to get a great reception at Epicentre on those crazy Epicentre Nights, now confined to legend.


Anyway, as a bonus there are four new poems:


On boobs. (2013 Remix)

Haberdasher in custody.

Space is big.




Boobs. (2013 Remix)


I’ve never liked boobs.

I’ve never been in to them.

You can put those away, Mrs Palmer.

I’m not interested.

They cling on

Like limpets on the hull

Of a sleek yacht.


I have no fascination

In that area.

I’d much rather have a flapjack.


Why do they wobble

Like jelly on a washing machine

When you have a coughing fit?

What’s that all about?

My only interest is architectural.


My friend Mark goes all unnecessary

When he sees them.

I have to fan him with the Argos catalogue.

There’s only one tit in this room, I quip.


They make me feel


Thrusty busts.

Improper floppers.

Bulbous knockers.

Flame-grilled whoppers.

Burial mounds

Harbouring the last rotting remains

Of my heterosexuality.

Protruding impediments to intimacy,

I expect,

I’ve never really tried it.

I don’t see the point.

The points.

Of them.


Unnecessary full-frontal terrain.

Stop that, Mrs Palmer!

I was going to have dumplings later

But you’ve put me right off.

It’s like being nuzzled, simultaneously,

By two rather curious polar bears

And I don’t like it.


When you dance they sway like airbag pendulums.

You went to buy a bra

But the alphabet only goes up to Z.

When you were sunbathing

A passing helicopter hovered for eight hours

And then ran out of fuel.

When you wore that tight t-shirt with a quote from

Wordsworth on it

The town’s literacy rate improved

Particularly among teenaged men.

And then a man

Walked straight into the window of Costa Coffee.

I don’t want to see your cleavage.

I can do without your puppies.

I’d rather not make one with your fun buns.

Not for me your gazongas, your jambongas,

Your bosoms, your melons your twin honkers,

I don’t find them tempting,

I don’t find them teasing

It’s a wonder carrying those around

You’re not constantly wheezing

They jump up and down whenever

You start sneezing

But you can’t tempt me, you can’t capture me,

You wont get very far with me

Because quite honestly

I don’t get boobs and I never have done

I can think of other ways of having fun

They don’t do it for me

They make me feel quesy

I prefer knobs.


Haberdasher in custody.


They’ve arrested my haberdasher.

He phoned and asked me for bail money

But I had none.

I can’t just magic it out of thin air,

Mr Haberdasher,

And say ‘Abracadabra’,

Mr Haberdasher.

I’d cook a meal

But I haven’t got a potato masher,

Mr Haberdasher.

Nor am I a party crasher

Or an atom smasher, or a gravel basher, or a flasher,

Mr Harberdasher.

Nor will I start a fight

While saying how much I like Swedish pop

Surrounded by people who like other kinds of music,

I’m no music mish-mash Abba clasher,

Mr Haberdasher.

What have you been arrested for, Mr Haberdasher?

Did you really do it, Mr Haberdasher?

Or have you been stitched up?


Space is big.



It’s big.

And there’s lots of room.

It’s why it’s called ‘space’.

It’s in your face.

It’s all over the place.

You can disappear without trace

In space.

You can always find somewhere to park the car.

It’s got a vacuum

Unlike my flat.

It’s got no atmosphere

Just like my flat.

It’s bloody cold

Just like my flat.

It’s got galaxies and things.

It goes on and on.

It’s very persistent.

It’s existence.

It hasn’t got corners,

Like my flat,

Or a Specsavers.


It’s kind of like Dartmoor

Except without the ponies.




I once had a nightmare

That the world had been stretched out,

Nothing left, squeezed,

Elongated into a very thin line

Upon which I, the last man alive,

Must tightrope walk over the abyss

Of nothingness.


I woke sweating and,

Thinking it was real,

Pushed myself right into the corner of my room,

My sweaty palms flat on the walls

So that I knew they were definitely real.


Years later

I read about black holes

And what happens to things that get

Sucked in.




He anticipates his urges

And occasionally he purges

Himself of his urges.

His fascination with urges

Verges on the perverse.

As the pride inside him surges

He merges into the background

Of a world without urges.

Excited, he swerves

From urge to urge

As if his oeuvre

Is a scourge of those

Whose urges converge

Into one




Of anti-urge sentiment.

Then he has a bit of a lie down.

And here’s a little video I made today, too:

Robert Garnham on Frank O’Hara

Over the years I have been influenced and affected by many poets, and my own style, whatever that is, has been formed by immersing myself in the works of greater types. Those who have shown me how to express myself artistically remain as references, that I might ask myself how they have got round the usual problems we all encounter while writing. In the world of performance poetry, the humour and wordplay of Rachel Pantechnicon was an early indication of the joy and hilarity which exists all around us and how it can be applied to performance. And Byron Vincent demonstrates that words, words, words in all their brilliance, can combine with imagery, panache, performance, real life and deep humour to create something sublime of which I remain truly jealous.

Oh my.

But the biggest influence on my poetry is one which I seldom try to replicate. Frank O’Hara was a poet I’d discovered during my university years. Previous to reading him for the first time, I’d not been a fan of poetry, with the exception of Allen Ginsberg. O’Hara’s words – and the fact that he was seen as worth of study- had a profound impact on my understanding of what poetry is and what it can be about. His poems are about everyday life in a major city, meeting friends, parties, culture, gay society, relationships, sex, bonhomie, art, and enjoying life to the full.

O’Hara came to me at just the right time. Very quickly, I read almost everything he’d written, from Lunch Poems to Meditations In An Emergency, a line from which sums up my own feelings about metropolitan society. ‘I can’t even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there’s a subway handy, or a record store, or some other sign that people do not totally regret life’.

O’Hara’s oeuvre remains famous now mainly because of his so-called ‘I do this I do that’ poems, usually written during his lunch hour while he was working at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. These poems describe the minutiae of his life, details which incorporate both high and low culture. One of his most famous ‘I do this I do that’ poems is ‘A Step Away From Them’. (1956).

It’s my lunch hour, so I go
for a walk among the hum-colored
cabs. First, down the sidewalk
where laborers feed their dirty
glistening torsos sandwiches
and Coca-Cola, with yellow helmets
on. They protect them from falling
bricks, I guess. Then onto the
avenue where skirts are flipping
above heels and blow up over
grates. The sun is hot, but the
cabs stir up the air. I look
at bargains in wristwatches. There
are cats playing in sawdust.


Neon in daylight is a
great pleasure, as Edwin Denby would
write, as are light bulbs in daylight.
I stop for a cheeseburger at JULIET’S
CORNER. Giulietta Masina, wife of
Federico Fellini, è bell’ attrice.
And chocolate malted. A lady in
foxes on such a day puts her poodle
in a cab.
There are several Puerto
Ricans on the avenue today, which
makes it beautiful and warm. First
Bunny died, then John Latouche,
then Jackson Pollock. But is the
earth as full as life was full, of them?
And one has eaten and one walks,
past the magazines with nudes
and the posters for BULLFIGHT and
the Manhattan Storage Warehouse,
which they’ll soon tear down. I
used to think they had the Armory
Show there.
A glass of papaya juice
and back to work. My heart is in my
pocket, it is Poems by Pierre Reverdy.

This poem is filled with what some might describe as ‘low culture’, mentioning Coca Cola and cheeseburgers, neon, and builders with dirty, glistening torsos. But it also mentions abstract expressionist painters, many of whom were friends of the poet, Federico Fellini and Pierre Reverdy. It was this mix of different cultures, this self-curating, this very admittance that there really is no difference between one art form and another, or one way of living ones life and another, which struck me as so totally at odds with literary study and it’s cañon. It also helped that he was eating burgers and looking at builders with their shirts off.

If Frank taught me anything, it was how to end a poem. This sometimes seems the most difficult thing to do while writing, but O’Haras poems often end on the last line surprise, the stunning send-off. Every time I come to the last line of a poem, I always wonder WWFD?

I could write about Frank O’Hara all evening.

In a couple of weeks I shall be forty, which is the age O’Hara reached before he was wiped out by a dune buggy while walking in the dark on Fire Island in 1966. I hope to live for much longer. Like Frank, I’m surrounded by creative types and friends. Like Frank, I have to fit my poetry and writing in to the humdrum of having a full time job. Of all the writers and poets I’ve studied over the years both for university and college and for private interest, it is O’Hara whose life and philosophy seem most to mirror my own.


Koalas, apparently.


How is everyone tonight?

How‘s everyone doing?

I keep getting headaches.

You, Sir. I’m thinking of a number between one and ten. Can you guess what it is?

Four? You were pretty close. It was actually five.

Let’s hear it for the humble koala!

Did you know, Sir, that the koala bear is not actually a type of bear? Did you know that? Somehow makes them less cuddly to be part of the marsupial family.

Let’s hear it for the humble koala!

It’s all koalas.

How many koalas does it take to change a light bulb?


Because physically they’re probably able to but it’s not yet happened.

Unless the Australians are keeping something from us.

And it would probably take a while too. Probably quicker to do it yourself. I’m just saying that it’s very unlikely that a koala will get it done any quicker than a normal electrician.

I don’t know why you asked, Sir.

It’s all koalas.

Knock knock.

Who’s there.

A koala.

A koala who?

A koala who‘s actually former French secretary of state Dominique de Villepin.

That’s a cunning disguise.

A horse walked into a bar. So did a psychologist. The barman said to the horse, why the long face? And the psychologist said, yes, I’d be interested to know, too.

It’s all koalas!

A koala walked into a bar. It said, I’d like some eucalyptus, please. The barman said, I’m not going to serve you. I used to go out with a koala. She was very clingy.

Let’s hear it for the koala!

The koala said, you know, it’s a paradox. I can only eat eucalyptus. But the eucalyptus creates a toxin which means that I have to sleep for twenty three hours a day. And the hour I’m awake is when I’m eating eucalyptus. So you see, it’s an eternal paradox. I sleep to eat that which makes me sleep.

Hands up if you’ve ever had an existential paradox.

Here’s my existential paradox.

My friend Kevin runs assertiveness training courses. I asked him if it works. He said yes. Because if it works then someone’s going to be assertive. And if it doesn’t work and someone asks for their money back, then they’re being assertive. Which is proof that it works. Kevin’s on to a winner. Because if it doesn’t work then the people who want a refund wont have the assertiveness to ask for it.

Knock knock.

(Who’s there?)

A man brandishing eucalyptus.

(A man brandishing eucalyptus who?)

A man branding eucalyptus who’s fed up of being chased by koalas. Very slowly. And only for an hour.

The koala rested his elbows on the bar and said, ‘My friend Gerald puts on music evenings for those with short term memories. He puts all this money into hiring church halls and finding music. But if they’ve got short term memory then all he has to do is meet them the week after and say something like, ‘Fun last week, wasn’t it?’

Hands up if you have short term memory problems.

How many koalas does it take to change a light-bulb?

One. I told you already.

Do you like marsupials?

Do you?

Do you like marsupials?

Let’s hear it for the marsupials of the Australasian continental shelf.

Knock knock.

(Who’s there?)

A koala.

(A koala who?)

A koala who, bizarrely, can reach the door knocker.

What I’m going to do now, you see, is pretend, in order to extend this rather unusual pretext, that everything I’m talking about has been done by koalas.

Is everybody alright with that?

Anyway, a friend of mine, who’s a koala, has invented Cockney Non Rhyming Slang.

And one day the cockney koala was asked by a delivery man where he wanted the trampolines that Felicity ordered delivered. Now, in cockney non-rhyming slang, trampolines means lampshades. Obviously. So he pointed to a warehouse just next to the eucalyptus trees where they stocked lampshades. And it was because of that that my cousin’s trampoline did not arrive in time for her birthday.

Knock knock.

(Who’s there?)

Two koalas.

(Two koalas who?)

Two koalas who are looking for that other koala who was just here a moment ago.

My sister used to work in a newsagents. Every week a woman would come in and ask if her copy of Psychic News had come in.

I went to the sauna the other day. There was a koala in there. The koala said, every time I go to the supermarket I get the trolley with the wonky wheel.

I said, what do you need a supermarket for, you only eat eucalyptus? The koala said, I was trying out some new material. I said, you need to work on it. And by the way, what are you doing in a sauna? I get stressed, he replied.

And do you know what he said?

Do you know what he said?

Hands up if you think you know what he said?

He said, I’ve been trying to replace a light bulb for three years. An hour a day.

Do you mind if I open the door, it’s a bit hot in here.

It’s all koalas.

Knock knock.

(Who’s there?)

David Attenborough.

(David Attenborough who?)

You know, for a start I’d probably just peek through the curtains to see who it was. And then I wouldn’t need to ask.

I met a koala the other day. He was looking glum. I asked him why. I’ve put my name down for origami classes, he said. But they folded.

A koala went to the Doctor’s. Doctor, doctor, he said. I keep getting mistaken for former French foreign secretary Dominique de Villepin. And every time I go anywhere I‘m chased by French prosecuters who want to take me to court because of my role in several scandals under the previous president Jacques Chirac.

The Doctor said, stop wearing that ridiculous name badge, then.

Has anyone here ever eaten krill?

Knock knock.

Knock knock.

Knock knock.

Knock knock.

Must just be the wind.

How it all began . . .

While sorting through my drawers the other day, I chanced across the first performance poem I ever wrote.

A long time ago, ohhhh, it must be late 2008, I went along to Poetry Island at the Blue Walnut and watched a bunch of poets. Chris Brooks was the host at the time, and he was endlessly enthusiastic and very funny. (He still is, of course). Apart from Ellie Davies, who I’ve know since the year dot through the Paignton Writers’ Circle, I didn’t know anybody there. Clive Pig, Jeff Sleeman and Tom Austin were all there, and I remember getting them all confused during the interval, because they were all slap heads and I couldn’t remember who had done what, but I’d enjoyed their sets. Bryce Dumont was also there, I remembered seeing him in a local bookshop.

I went home and I thought, I’d like to try this. So I emailed Chris and, amazingly, he offered me a slot at the next Poetry Island.

The only trouble was, I’d never seen performance poetry before, and I had nothing to perform. I set to work immediately, writing a poem which seemed humorous, and the idea of it came with its own logic. I felt rather happy with it, and when I performed it at the next Poetry Island, people seemed to enjoy it. Indeed, Chris asked me back the next month.

And I’ve been every month since, except for two occasions.

So what of the poem? I’m a little embarrassed of it now, but I re-read it today and I thought, Hmmm, not too bad. I remember a couple of months later somebody said to me, ‘I liked your earlier, funnier stuff’. Which was this poem, seeing as though there was nothing else! And I performed it again when I had my very first paid headliner a year or so later, just to remind myself how it had all begun.

So here it is. And it’s never really had a title, so I shall just call it ‘Poem’.


There is no hint of madness in my family.
We are all quite sane, incapable of oddness.
We are all most sober
And delightfully plain.

Except for Aunt Jane.
She once went to Spain
Bought a hat with a wide brim,
Balanced candles around the edge,
Impersonated a chicken
Balanced precariously on a handrail,
Tap danced, her formal, clumpy shoes
Beating out rhythms
And all within seconds of getting off the plane.

She was deported.
Whiskey was to blame.
And since the court case, she’s never been the same.

Or great Uncle Cecil, the solitary type
Won a stage of the Tour de France on a toddlers trike
Later stripped of his win by the clerk of the course,
Spends his days now writing haiku in ancient Norse.

Or cousin Freddie, a zoologist by trade
Insists to all who meet him that he invented muesli.
And the greenhouse. And the corkscrew. And the beret.
And the 50p coin. And the handlebar moustache. And the question mark.
He keeps the blueprints in a biscuit tin.

Or Uncle Russ, who once made a fuss
Because he missed the last bus
And wrote a letter to the Queen, who told him he must
Stop writing to her or she’d call the police.

My sister Felicity
Watches Dynasty
On box set DVDs
I get to my knees and say to her, please
At least watch something else for a change.
She’s now addicted to Family Fortunes.

Uncle Jeff is suing scalectrix
Because he fell over his son’s racing car set

Uncle James wrote his name on a rice grain
He sneezed and lost it and he’s never been the same.

Cousin Jed pretended to be dead
As a joke to play on his best friend Ted.
Teds friend Fred told Ted that Jed was dead
And to prove to Ted thumped Jed in the head.
Jed rose from his bed and said to Ted, ‘I am the undead’.
But the joke was on Jed. Ted died of shock instead.

My mad aunt Delores decided
To memorise the dictionary.
She got as far as the letter B.
When I asked her why she gave up she said
She’d worked her way back from the letter Z.

A very dear Uncle once bought a big van.
He drove it into a very large tree.
On being asked why he’d performed such a move
He said he was making a statement.
The local council also made a statement
And made him pay for the tree.

My cousin Kate
Once baked a cake
And included hake.
I said, for goodness sake!
What more can I take?
What else will you mix in due course?
You’re right, she said,
I should have included tartar sauce.

The madness that resides, continually
Is not endemic in myself.
I’ve lived a life of wilful sanity
And never once needed a cry for help.
But in my darkest moments it dawns on me
That a hole exists where something else should be.
It’s cold in the dark. And awfully quiet, lonely,
Bereft of all but that which scares me.
Every night, with the words creeping in,
Take on hands with outstretched fingers
I feel death as the meaning if life.
I fear existence. I fear myself.
The world gapes in like a chasm of my own invention.
I have no madness save that which is born
Where eccentricity is seen as the norm.

Great Aunt Sally
Once said to me
She had a penguin in her rucksack.
We knew she was punning
And laughed at her cunning
Until the zoo phoned and asked for it back.