Poetry has no relevance.

Poetry has no relevance. That’s what I hear a lot. Oi, knobhead! Your poetry has no relevence! That’s a hell of a heckle. From my publisher.

But it does. Poetry is useful. Honestly.

I was in an airport. Just minding my own business. Just browsing. Hanging around the arrivals gate with a sign reading JUSTIN BIEBER, you know, just on the off chance. When all of a sudden is call comes up. ‘Is there a poet in the building? This is an emergency! We need a poet!’

Turns out this plane was in trouble. The pilot had collapsed at the controls having had an allergic reaction to a Pot Noodle. And then the co pilot, on hearing that the plane was full of zither players on the way back from a zither convention, succumbed to an undiagnosed zither phobia and became a gibbering, incoherent wreck.

So I’m up in air traffic control and they’ve got a zither player in the cockpit and I’m relaying to him the types of controls that he should be operating.

The aerilon speed flaps are the colour of fine Devonshire cream in the early evening sun.

The throttle control knobs are kind of shaped like a veteran Shakespearean actor stooping to pick up a 20p coin

The rudder pedal is broad and flat like a clumsy child’s first attempt to draw a map of Utah.

The undercarriage lever looks like ennui.

And we did it, we landed that plane, between us, soothing it down to a very smooth landing lulled by sonnets and iambic pentameter, just a classy addition of enjambement on its glide slope, we landed it, oh yes, we did, and everyone was saved!

And at that moment I saw the potential of poetry in all its glory to affect the world as a power to be used for the greater good, elevating ordinary souls above the gods and deities, for are we not all messiahs of the modern age, we poets, we brave poets, pens aloft like spears of triumph!

Poetry. Is. Useful.
Hooray!

And then I got home to my normal life of crushing loneliness.

Things I think about when I’m working on a project.

Things I think about when I’m working on a project.

Lately I’ve been putting a show together. In the old days it was simple, it was a process known as ‘putting a show together’. Now it’s called ‘project management’. I’ve been to plenty of meetings where I tell people I’m putting a show together and they say, ‘oh, you’re project managing?’ And some even say, ‘Oh, you’re a theatre maker?’, which is something I’d not heard before and I had to go and look it up. But apparently I’m in project management now and the one rule for project management is that I shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

The second rule, apparently, is that I can’t just see the bigger picture.

You’ve got to narrow down and focus. But if you narrow down and focus then you lose sight of the bigger picture. So you’ve got to have one eye on the bigger picture while at the same time you narrow down and focus. Often though you may not even see the bigger picture, so you forget what the bigger picture looks like because you’ve been narrowing down and focussing, or perhaps the bigger picture has become another picture entirely while you were narrowing down and focussing, and now that it’s big picture which doesn’t even include the bits that you’ve been narrowing down and focusing on, and the bits that you’ve been narrowing down and focusing on are now out of the picture.

And then you get bogged down in too much detail. Is the bigger picture even a picture? Is the bigger picture portrait or landscape? Why am I faffing about with the narrowing down when the bigger picture needs attention too? And how big is the bigger picture and how much wider is it than the narrowing down? And if I narrow down how far can I narrow down before narrow becomes too narrow? And anyway, who’s checking on all this?

It’s at times like this that I just decide to give up and go and make a cake.

The Tea Philosopher

(Poem written for my show, Spout, but ultimately not used)

The tea philosopher

The tea philosopher arrived
And sat himself down in the middle
Of the tea shop.
Dressed entirely in black,
With a beret too,
Just like the philosophers you see on tv,
He was only charging five hundred quid
For a full days philosophising,

We kept the tea coming,
Of course,
Because that’s why he was there.
Here you go, we would say.
Socrateas.
He didn’t laugh.
And he sipped it contemplatively,
And every now and then,
Jotted something down in his notebook.

At opportune moments he would
Hold his forefingers in the air,
As if to say, quiet,
The truth is almost upon me.
And we dared hardly breathe.
And we crowded in.
And we watched as he worked
And pondered
And probed the human condition
And we could scarcely believe it
At the end of the day
When he put down his pen,
Stood up, and cleared his throat
And said,

Without the spout,
The tea
Will just stay in the pot.

He then
Gathered his belongings,
Took his pay check,
And left.

That was worth it,
Then.

The Queer Express

The Queer Express

A tinsel littered terminus on the greyest grey of days.
A gleaming marble concourse and a smoke machine haze.
Excitement builds in tight T-shirts, dressing to impress.
A train’s due in at platform six, it is the Queer Express.

The chuffing puffing mother huffing pumping disco train,
This gently swaying high heel sashaying, otherwise quite tame
Lip sync boa something of a goer power ballad queens
Leather clad sexy dad, this transport of my dreams.

Everyone is welcome as it thunders down the track
A destiny that’s shining bright, the rhythm of the clickerty clack.
Clones and drones feel so at home and big butch bears too.
Take a seat on the Queer Express, carriages L G B T and Q.

Our history is one of Pride and those who dared to stand
And fight the law and rise above let’s shake them by the hand.
And now there is sweet freedom sung amid the pumping beat
The rainbow flag flies proud for you, hop aboard and take your seat.

This sequinned rocket this tinsel train there is no quiet zone.
The ultimate community where no one feels alone.
I climbed aboard twenty years ago, never again felt like a loner.
A sexy hunk in the opposite bunk is giving me a
Reason to be here.

This all embracing heart racing Diesel engined chuffer.
This laser choo choo homo loco never will hit the buffer.
It’s thundering and building speed and passing through the night,
For souls in need who feel indeed that now the time is right.

There’ll be moaners haters zealous types and those who don’t agree.
The train is there for everyone and that’s what makes us free.
The point of life is that we live up to our history,
And if you can’t be what THEY want, you might as well just BE.

The Queer Express is said by some to be an urban myth.
Stand by the tracks on a foggy night and see its glow in the mist.
The train exists in every soul who’s felt the world’s askance.
Hop aboard the Queer Express and join this blissful dance!

welcome aboard!

I’ve gone back to writing short stories! (But I’m still doing comedy performance poetry).

All I ever wanted to be when I was younger was a writer. This is really the only ambition I’ve ever had. My mother had a small bookcase with sliding glass doors and because of this, I’d always seen books as special, and as soon as I could walk, I wanted to be around books and write them, too.

I’d write at first school, filling up pages of scrap paper with words during the lunch hours and break times in which it was raining. I’ve always loved racing days because of this, knowing that I would be able to write instead of run around a playground.

I continued writing short stories all through my teenage years. My initial style was comedy and silliness inspired by my love of stand up and comedy films when I was younger. However, around 1993, something horrific happened. The horrific thing that happened was that I discovered Frank Kafka.

This opened up a whole new world to me, and I now wanted to be an existentialist, a writer of worth and note. Proust, Camus, Borges became my heroes, and I would watch the Booker Prize the same way that my friends watched the FA Cup Final. The result of this was that my writing became ever so serious and worthy and deep and, frankly, unreadable.

This lasted up to around the year 2000 when I started writing comedy short stories again. I rediscovered the art of silliness and whimsy and the joy of going to a writers circle and making people laugh. I won a few competitions, too. Nothing major, but enough to make me feel that this was something I could actually do.

In 2008 I discovered performance poetry, and then spent the majority of the next ten years writing performance poems and performing them, and amazingly, making some sort of career out of doing so. I finally got published and even ended up on the TV and this is still a surprise to me even now. You all know what I do. I make spoken word comedy shows and I take them around the UK and I’m having a whale of a time.

But . .

I’ve just taken a month and a bit off from performing. It’s the longest break I’ve had in ages. During this time, with no gigs to rehearse for or deadlines, I’ve been rediscovering the joys of short stories. And it’s all come back to me! The joy of creating situations and characters, the art of narrative, and even the joy of sitting at a desk and writing, (as most of my poems are created while standing at a music stand). Indeed, is quite forgotten how much like going into a trance it is to write short stories, to become absolutely enveloped in the story and the scenario, at one with the characters and their personalities.

So this is my big declaration. I’ve gone back to short stories! Ok, I haven’t left spoken word and I’m still creating new poems and material, but it’s a reminder that there’s something else that I can do.

The biggest thrill has come with how easy it is now to submit work to magazines. Indeed, this is something that I never used to do at all. And I am very pleased to announce, too, that I’ve already had two stories accepted for publication.

Spoken word and comedy performance poetry will continue to be my full time focus, naturally, but it feels like I’ve become more in touch with myself through writing comedy short stories, and more in touch with the dreams of the version of myself who would look out the window and see the rain and think, wow, I’m going to do some writing today!

Here’s one of my stories, on Ink, Sweat and Tears:

http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/pages/?p=20781

An introvert’s guide to performing

I’m not the most outgoing person. I don’t go out much and I probably have around two or three friends. I’m not a big drinker and I hardly ever go to pubs. And yet in spite of all this, I’ve managed to make something of a career as a comedy poet who stands on stage and does outlandish things and makes people laugh. How on earth did this happen, and how did it come about?

For a start I’ve always been what you might call an introvert and it’s probably still the same now. Part of working in the arts is having the confidence to put yourself forward for opportunities, and this is still an area where I struggle. I’ve never applied for funding or any other kind of sponsorship because, well, that’s not the sort of thing you do, is it? I hardly ever apply for big gigs or showcases, either. If someone asks, that’s great, and it makes me really happy for the rest of the day. But the idea of asking them gives me the willies.

The version of me who appears on stage is nothing like the version of me who exists ninety nine percent of the time. The persona I’ve created is just that. I don’t even wear the same sort of clothes on a day to day basis. And this is interesting, because for the ninety nine percent of the time that I’m not performing, the very idea of it also gives me the willies. It’s not my natural environment. Again the thought comes to mind that this is not the sort of thing that should be happening to someone like me!

Social media creates avatars, versions of ourselves that we want the world to see. I see poets and comedians in the real world acting more or less the same as the version of themselves that appears on stage, and to this day it makes me wonder where they find the energy. My other little rule is that I never mention my comedic poetic adventures in ‘real life ‘. I’ve never shown any of my friends any of my books or videos, and frankly, if I did, I’d feel very embarrassed indeed, and as for my family, well, Ive never even mentioned it to them at all. For a start, nobody is interested. It’s like living a bizarre double life, like some kind of poetic super hero.

But that’s what makes it so amazing. Right at this moment, reading this, I wonder how on earth I can possibly stand in front of strangers and not completely clam up. I go through a comprehensive sequence of preparation methods before I perform, including putting on a costume, doing my hair, changing my glasses, lying on the floor, doing breathing exercises, and then listening to very loud music. I think it’s fair to say that I’m not a natural performer!

Often, though, I’ll be on a bus, or doing my laundry, or walking home from work, and I’ll think of what I’ve done and what I’ve achieved, and it really makes me smile. Sure, it feels like it’s been done by someone else, but it’s a person I know really very well. This last year I’ve worked very hard on my performance and next I need to start working on being a bit more forthcoming and what my dad would describe as ‘pushy’. I’m like the kid in the corner who wants to join in but is too scared of the big kids.

I was chatting about this to another friend, who’s a poet, and she reckons it might be a class thing. I don’t have that middle class sense of entitlement that some of the bigger names might have, nor do I have the confidence that I have a voice that should be heard. I take great comfort in those who are naturally quiet, who seem to have made a successful career, and have done so through a mix of intelligence and luck, and I think, oh, I think, wow, I, too, had been really lucky!

This Year’s Advent Calendar (2019)

Today’s advent calendar picture is of Dame Thora Hird going off on one because someone has linked all of her paper clips together in a long chain and she needs a paperclip.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of a perplexed stoat.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of the smile on Norse god Thor’s face slowly fading as he realises that the argument had had in his improv group had been real.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of a puddle on the floor from a leaky roof, next to a Wet Floor warning sign, in a factory that makes buckets.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of Martin Scorsese being chased through Poundstretcher by a bearded blue Pokemon.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of Top Cat and his wayward brother Bottom Cat arguing with a nun over the last fake moustache in the joke shop.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of the world’s largest My Little Pony being ridden by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau in the fifth race of the day at Epsom. They are coming last.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of a moment of jocularity at the margarine factory as Bill on production lime fifteen puts his false teeth on a margarine tub and everyone’s laughing.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of a killer whale ironing Batman’s uniform while a semi naked Batman is nervously pointing out the window at the Bat signal but the killer whale is too busy watching an episode of Salvage Hunters on a small tv.

Today’s Advent calendar picture is of Tony the Tiger being arrested for shoplifting in the kitchen utensils aisle of Poundland. ‘They’re grrrrrraters’, he’s saying, in a vain attempt to remind them of his fame.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of a pack of three rubber door stops, £1.99.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of Professor Brian Cox’s legs poking out the top of a haystack, next to a deflated parachute, and a man with an exuberant moustache wheeling a market barrow on which you can only purchase a pack of three rubber door stops, £1.99.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of an advent calendar picture showing today’s advent calendar picture which is a picture of today’s advent calendar picture.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of The Incredible Hulk about to go off on one because he can’t see how much battery life his iPad has due to a crumb from the baguette he’s eating having fallen on the battery logo, and he’s swiped it three times and yet still the crumb is there.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of Pam Ayres sneezing on a duck.q

Today’s advent calendar picture is of an elk wearing a flat cap.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of a hedgehog at an acupuncturist’s.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of a confused zebra on bin day.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of 1980s pop group Bucks Fizz arguing in the curtains section of Debenhams with the sales assistant, who happens to be The Emperor from Star Wars.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of a Fear of Abandonment group being told that their workshop facilitator is running late.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of Hilda Ogden just finishing cleaning the last step at the top of a lighthouse just as the door opens and Woking Football Club start running in and up the stairs with muddy boots.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of Sir Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein and Professor Brian Cox trying to figure out how to change the time on the clock on the cooker.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of the Easter Bunny in a hot air balloon with the Toilet Duck and they’re both taking selfies while Foghorn Leghorn operates the burner. Toilet Duck is doing the duck face. They’re about to collide with Lidls.

Today’s advent calendar picture is of a plate of six nuns fighting over the last custard cream biscuit which a squirrel has just nicked anyway.

Festive Greetings!

I’d just like to wish everyone I know a wonderful festive period and new year.

2019 has been mega for me and there are several things I’m proud of, such as my show about tea, (Spout), the little web series I made, (Unbearable Lightness), a little book I made of previous show scripts, (Gazebo), and other projects too, such as In the Glare of the Neon Yak performed with the jazz band Shadow Factory, and my one-off show The Moon Wrapped in String, which I performed with violinist Sharon Hubbocks. On top of this, I undertook my first tour of the UK, which was hard work but flipping amazing!

And there’s so much to look forward to for 2020. I’m putting another collection together with Burning Eye for 2021, and I’m working on a new show to accompany the book.

The other things I’ve been up to is that I’ve been doing a lot of writing. I got in to performance poetry more or less by accident and chance, and before this I’d always written comedy short stories and scripts. Lately I’ve been returning to these and finding my voice again as a writer. That’s the reason why I’ve been a bit quiet lately on the performance front, I’ve fallen in love with narrative and stories again and I’ve been busy working on short stories.

Naturally this is a time when you look back. The sad passing of Melanie Crump was a shock to the Torbay spoken word scene. We had a few lovely events including one at the Blue Walnut Cafe in honour of her and her work. I do believe that Torbay has the most diverse spoken word community in the country with the emphasis very much on comedy and humour, and long may this continue. It’s also incredibly supportive and friendly.

I’ve read a lot this year, as ever. I recommend books by the wonderful Melanie Branton and Becky Nuttall, Tom Sastry and the forthcoming collection from Tom Austin. Jason Disley’s CD is amazing, a mix of jazz and voice, and the DVD from Jamie Harry Scrutton showcasing his amazing animation. In fact, there’s so much good stuff out there that I’m sure I’ve missed something.

As a lowfi Christmas special, I’ve made a recording of my show, Spout, and you can find a link to it right here: https://youtu.be/EtBTc7ANM6M

I hope everyone has a great year next year, and thanks for everything. See you out on the road very soon!

Santa Fell down Sizewell B

https://youtu.be/-XD3nE4STd0

Santa fell down Sizewell B

There’s nothing under the tree
Nothing for you and nothing for me
At least not a thing that I can see
Since Santa fell down sizewell b

Rudolf has got the night off
And donner and blitzen have a nasty cough
The sleigh is now wrapped around a tree
And Santa fell down sizewell b

A large concrete chimney silhouetted against the sky
Santas dodgy tummy from a bad mince pie
He’s run out of tea and he needs a wee
And now he’s fallen down sizewell b

To the boy in the window who waved
To the elves in the factory who are all enslaved.
A Christmas elf dreams of liberty
And santas fallen down sizewell b.

The sleigh is all covered in tinsel.
The cars and the houses are covered in tinsel
I can’t think of anything to rhyme with tinsel
And now santas fallen down sizewell b.

Marjorie wants world peace
Dave wants an end to starvation
Gemma wants less underrepresentation in the media
Francis wants a more transparent banking system
Lisa wants a respite from the crushing oblivion which awaits us all
Jim wants a cheap pair of socks
But none of them will get what they need
Cos santas fallen down sizewell b

Plans for my Funeral

Plans for my funeral

I, Theodore Auberon Fricker-Fricker-Smith, being of sound mind and body, and willing to engage in matters pertaining to my future demise, and fearful not at all of the implications of such speculation, hereby, gladly and with enormous pride, give details of my funeral plans.

No-one shall wear black.

Black is the colour of mourning and it should not be worn at my funeral. I would prefer to keep in with the recent decoration of the family chapel, that those present should respect my wishes in wearing pastels, preferably lilac or lavender. Or Paisley. One has to make an effort in such circumstances not to fall into pathetic stereotypes and the stereotype of the grieving relative bedecked in black is perhaps one of the more tiresome for everyone else attending. Not everyone will be sad. Make an effort for the happy people. Pastels it shall be!

My coffin shall be carried to the church by six circus clowns, followed by two more, playing the flugel. At the same time they must be dancing, so that the coffin swirls and rotates around the church floor in a crazy rhythm as if almost celebrating the fact that I have snuffed it.
Preferably, the clowns must also be tap-dancing, though I am not too fussed about this. Oh, and they should be wearing pastels.

Sixteen massed zither players, flown in direct from the mountains round Salzburg, should serenade the guests as they file into the church. It possible, find a theremin and allow it to jam with the zither players for a while. The fusion of the two sounds, I am told, can be haunting and thought-provoking at the best of times and should fill the guests with a sense of peace, harmony and the innate goodness of man.

The vicar shall wear a Man United shirt. I have never been a fan of football, but, after having read the papers and scoured the news, I have noted that the average man worships football above all other, and Man United above all teams. Always one to go with the majority, I shall have my vicar wearing a Man U shirt. Surely, all those people can’t be wrong?

By the time the guest have arrived and the dwarfs have finished swirling and tap-dancing to the front of the chapel with my coffin, there shall be a sudden roar of music from speakers hidden in various locations around the room. Memflak’s Fifth Oompah in C Major (Rhapsody on a Theme of Tortoises) shall be fused with the latest release from the Faded Satans, ‘Granny’s Got Me In A Headlock’) – and shall be played as loud as the speakers permit. It would help if the vicar started break-dancing, in order to add to the solemnity of the occasion.

As the ceremony begins, I want a thousand coloured balloons to fall from the ceiling, each one inscribed with a word. The congregation should ignore the ceremony and, from these balloons, create a poem of deep meaningfulness and significance, which should then be proclaimed as my last final work. The balloons that are left over should be popped for no other reason than the fact that it will make such a satisfying noise.

At the commencement of the first hymn, the pipes of the organ shall be filled with jelly. Green, preferably.

There shall be no crying. Laughter shall emanate from all corners of the chapel. If there is not sufficient laughter to earn a rebuke from the nearby old folk’s home, then the zither players and the circus clowns should challenge each other to an impromptu game of It and the theremin player should be the judge. If this doesn’t work, then the vicar must be prepared to do host a spur of the moment tombola.
While this is happening, a small boy should be employed to crawi under the pews and tie together everyone’s shoelaces. And then, on the count of three, the vicar must announce that the person sitting on seat number 15c shall win a prize in the meat raffle, to which everyone will stand up and then fall over, therefore leading to the general sense of hilarity. If possibly under the circumstances, a fight should then break out.

I Theodore Auberon Fricker-Fricker-Smith, being of sound mind and body, cannot wait for this funeral and I shall therefore be attending myself, in person, before the event of my death. In fact, so tempting does this proposition sound, that the funeral shall be held next Wednesday, and I have already ordered the coffin. Bring your own beer.

Signed
Theodore Auberon Fricker-Fricker-Smith

Oh, and PS. I leave my stamp collection to the alligator.