What is Happiness?

Since April last year I’ve been working on a show called Yay!: The Search for Happiness. Over this time I’ve written and rewritten the script and the various poems and I’ve gone through several different poems to end the show. This week, at the Guildford Fringe, I finally got to debut the show in front of an actual audience, and afterwards I felt happy, though I worried that the last poem of the show, called Be Yourself, wasn’t ‘Garnhamesque’ enough, and had none of the characteristics of a normal Robert Garnham poem.

‘Be Yourself’ is an earnest and heartfelt poem and I worried that it was a somewhat ‘limp’ finish to the show, ending with earnestness instead of humour. As an experiment I sat in my sister’s back garden in Woking and recorded myself performing the poem, which I then put on Facebook, and the comments were positive from those who watched it. I still didn’t feel comfortable with it, so the next morning, while sitting in my hotel and then on the banks of the Basingstoke Canal, I wrote a new poem called ‘What is Happiness?’

A couple of days later I performed at Taunton Live’s LGBT Pride event. During a set of upbeat comedy poems, I performed ‘Be Yourself’, and the response was amazing. Indeed, it got the biggest applause of my set and some encouraging remarks from those around me. I then decided that maybe I should leave ‘Be Yourself’ in the show after all.

So what of the new poem? Well, it might not ever make it into the show, but here it is:

Happiness is . . .

The Dalai Lama says,
The purpose of life is to be happy.
My friend Doug says
Happiness is a mighty meaty pepperoni pizza
And a dvd box set of Dallas.
If I could spend time with either,
Sure, there’s the pristine simplicity and
Purity of thought of the Dalai Lama,
But that mighty meaty pepperoni pizza sounds
Awfully tempting.

I googled happiness
And this is what the philosophers said:
Happiness is a smile from a friend.
Happiness is more than just doing fun things,
It’s doing them with loved ones.
Happiness is not out there, it’s within.
Happiness is being the reason for
Someone else’s laughter.
Happiness is a mighty meaty pepperoni pizza
And a dvd box set of Dallas.
(I don’t know how Doug ended up on there).

Happiness is a smorgasbord when you were just
Feeling peckish.
Happiness is a mallard duck in a cowboy hat.
Happiness is a man with boxers on his head
Dancing to Mambo Number 5.
If he gets out of breath, I guess he’ll be panting.
Happiness is realising there’s free coffee refills
When you were just thinking, hmmm,
I could do with another coffee.
That’s what happiness is.

Doug said to me,
Hey,
What’s happiness?
And I replied,
It’s a fluffy puffy feeling
It’s incredibly appealing
It’s like a lack of gravity
Which gets you on the ceiling.
It’s a flouncy bouncy skip and hop
Which makes your heart just flip and flop
It’s smooth as silk
And warm like tea
And sweeter than a lollipop l
Oh my,
Just listen to me!
And he replied,
Sorry, I didn’t catch any of that,
I was distracted by the man
With boxers on his head
Dancing to Mambo Number 5.

Happiness is fumbling for change at the car park
To find they don’t charge after six.
Happiness is how I feel when my nephew says
Mum, uncle Robert just said ‘bum’,
And my sister says
For goodness sake don’t be so easily shocked
You’re 24 years old.
Happiness is minusing one number from another
and knowing you made a difference.
Happiness is someone saying
‘You’re not that old, Robert’, and that split second of bliss
Even if it is followed by, ‘you only look it’.
Happiness is an unexpected wotsit
In a packet of Quavers.

Happiness is buying some wood and the carpenter asks,
How long do you want it?
And replying, to keep.
Happiness is when you can’t remember the name of
A railway line going through a hill, and a friend tells you,
And you say, thanks for that cutting remark.
Happiness is seeing a sign at the barbers,
Haircut £10, beard £6, and saying,
One beard please.
Happiness is other stuff as well.

Happiness is the encapsulation of positive ruminations,
The elevation of elation,
The promotion of unkempt emotion,
The teetering tottering tower of total delectation,
It’s free glee, it’s Albert Einstein going wheeee!,
It’s more for euphoria, it’s the treasure of pleasure,
It’s a mighty meaty utterly completey fizzing kiss of bliss,
And it sounds something like this,
That every day it gets in your way
And causes you to say,
Yay!

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