Since I started ‘performing’ poetry up and around and all over the place, I’ve used the same notebook. It has become a major part of my stage persona because it is the one thing that remains the same whenever I get behind a microphone. And as such, it has become an integral part of my image, and been prodded and cooed over by a wide variety of people from all over the country. Vanessa Kisuule got all unnecessary over it during an Apples and Snakes event in Exeter. Jack Dean held it, almost lovingly, while we shared a drink at a bar in Edinburgh. Other people have held it, stroked it, and even taken photos of it. Indeed, the damn thing has become more well-known and adored than its owner could ever be.
It started life as a weather diary, but I only bought it because I liked the fabric cover and the fact that I could glue poems on to the page. They seemed to stick really well, no matter what kind of glue stick I used. Oh, the hours I would spend cutting out poems and glueing them in! I stuck a label on the front with just the one word – ‘Poems’ – just in case I forgot which notebook they were in. As I advanced through my poetry career, this label became a source of amusement. Of course it’s got poems
The book is filled with corrections and amendments. When a poem was no longer seen as worthy enough to be performed, it would be carefully removed and a new poem placed on the page. Some of the pages were torn because of this. When I took part in a slam in Berlin, I had to write my name in phonetic letters ‘ GARNUM’ written in big letters on the inside cover. Then I had to make the poem German-friendly by removing elements that only English people would know about. Top Gear. Nick Clegg. That sort of thing.
There were stage directions, too, from various performances and productions. Scribbles, question marks and hasty revisions. The Swindon poem was mostly written during the interval while I waited to appear in the final of the Swindon Poetry Slam. (I lost to Tina Sederholm). There’s a funny smell to the cover, having put the book down in a closed shop doorway while doing outside street poetry. And it’s been battered by five years of travel up and down the country to various venues.
And then one day, a stern warning from a fellow performer at an event in Barnstaple. ‘Are there copies of the poems in there?’ ‘No’. ‘Then do you realise that if you lost that book, your career is doomed?’ Touchingly, he added, ‘I’m very worried about this happening’.
Saskia Tomlinson bought some pink zebra print gaffer tape for me and I covered some of the cover with it.
So yes, the book has become an integral part of me. But now it is full up!
I went out searching for a new book the other day and I found one. It’s smaller and more durable but it just isn’t the same. Nevertheless, I have already stuck some new poems in there, and it seems redolent with the promise of a new year, a new me.
The book will continued. It has a buddy now. Someone to share the workload.
To celebrate this fact, here’s one or two of these new poems.
Prevarication at the counter.
Putting it off and prevarication.
Damn its cold so cold and in here there are
Lazily thrown cushions
In the coffee shop where I now am
When I could have gone into work an hour early.
It’s the coffee shop with the quote on the wall
From jack Kerouac
In the coffee shop where I now am
In the coffee shop where I am now.
Talk about the weather.
Talk about the cold.
Talk about attempts at fashion with scarves
For it’s probably the first truly cold day and
Scarves are still a novelty
In the coffee shop where I now am.
Slyly slyly slyly
They take serviettes from the dispenser
On noses which drip drip drip
And people cough like it’s a
Doctor’s waiting room
Which come to think of it
Could easily be the case as
The Doctor’s is just around the corner
I put my hopes and dreams
In the washing machine.
Whizzing round on the prewash spin,
A life of lost causes trundling within.
Contentment, opportunity, chance,
Caught in an endless dance.
Life so brilliant, a life of knocks,
Future hopes, and pants and socks,
Winners and duds amid the suds, and
There, tapping on the glass,
A dream that wants to get out
Before it’s cleansed of all that
Residual realistic grime on which
Our personalities are dependent
And define us as human.
Some dreams are too delicate,
And these have to be done by hand.