Why I am Not a Poet

My fellow poets, for some time now it has been evident that I have been moving among you, observing the way that you operate, and infiltrating your performances and book launches. Indeed, I myself have now been performing for almost ten years. I’ve been doing it for so long that I am performing in my sleep. Which is the exact opposite of the usual audience, who sleep while I am performing.

During this time, as I operate slyly and behind the scenes, I have been able to make the casual observer believe, thanks to my jacket, my book of verse, and the fact that I am single, that I am, indeed, a poet too.

Yet on closer inspection, even the most broad minded of literary critics will be inclined to point out that, no, this is not the case. My rhyming couplets have all split up. My found poems were hidden for a reason. Nobody has ever stuck around long enough to tell me what the Rhyme scheme of my poems might be. I have never once worried about enjambement, those I know that those who like it, do go on a bit. And once, I got very conceptual and sent off a blank piece of paper to a poetry journal. They wrote back promptly, congratulating me on my excellent blank verse.

Dear poets, I have moved among you. Yet it has to be said that you live in an environment in which I have started to feel at home. A poetry gathering is the kind of place where, for some reason, I suddenly feel very tough. I know that generally I am quite butch and masculine in any case, but I feel even more so in a poetry crowd. And when I took the money on the door of a comedy poetry night not long ago, I certainly made sure that there was no funny business.

I am the poetry interloper, a phantom who skulks the festivals and fringes, whose name creeps into journals and publications. Even my name helps with my anonymity, it’s such a plain, boring name with none of the more exuberant vowels or letters of the more exciting poet. My name makes me sound like a parking attendant, or a geography teacher. Google my name and the first thing that comes up is a former mayor of Cheltenham.

But I’m proud not to be a poet. And I’m even more proud to be thought of as a poet, usually by people who haven’t read any of my work. The delicious groan at a comedy night when I’m introduced as a poet is a good sign as it means that the audience has already lowered their expectations, after which, anything is a bonus.

So if I am not a poet, then what am I? Yes, there’s an existentialist crisis if ever there was one. But to be honest, I don’t even think about it. I am a. . .. performer . . .an entertainer . . . A performance artist . . I am none of these things. And do you know what? That makes me feel really happy!

Author: Robert Garnham

Performance and spoken word artist.

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