I’ve had huge amounts of fun the last twelve years or so performing whimsical comedy poems at various poetry nights and comedy nights, festivals, fringes, theatres and whatnot. And while this is where I get my kicks, it’s often been pointed out that there’s something serious beneath the surface. For me as a performer, there’s nothing better than the reaction of an audience when you’ve said something funny, and it’s like a drug, it really does keep you going.
However, not everything I’ve done over the years has been totally comedic, and I have written and performed several poems which aim for something beyond mere comedy. And while I do like the dynamic of adding a serious poem in the middle of a set of comedy poems, they’re probably not as well known as what I would term to be my usual ‘bangers’.
A recent example would be ‘Nathan went for a walk in the rain’, a poem which deals with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts. This is not an autobiographical poem, though it is based on a real person. It also talks about issues of masculinity and social expectations. You can see the poem here:
Another poem which I’m proud of is ‘The doors’, which was written quite a few years ago now when I performed at Gay Pride in London. I realised that the event needed something serious from me. The poem came about when I read a Time Magazine article about gay rights in parts of the world like Nigeria and Russia, and how people felt living as LGBTQ in those places. The poem came to me in one amazing sitting, drawing on words and themes from that article. Here’s the video:
The next poem is both serious and autobiographical. I was asked to write a poem with the theme and title ‘a queer body’, which got me thinking about all kinds of things: body issues, illness, appearance. Naturally, for such a serious subject I felt I had to inject some humour, but it talks about health scares, Covid and other things. You can watch the video here:
The following poem is based on a real event, so I suppose this is autobiographical too, though it wanders off into an imaginary land. It’s about homophobic abuse shouted at me from a passing car while I was in Edinburgh a couple of years ago. I was just about to cross the road to go to the book festival when it occurred, and I didn’t think much of it at the time, but then afterwards you always get to thinking. Again. I injected some humour into this. The video is an early version of the poem.
This next poem was part of my Squidbox project from last year. The project dealt with the Brixham fishing industry and what it means both to the town and the people who worked in that industry.
And finally, this too is an autobiographical poem. In 2020, aged 46, I discovered that I was dyslexic, though I’d suspected so for some time. The world had always seemed ever so slightly off-kilter! One night I sat down intent on explaining how this felt, and I’m really quite pleased with the outcome. You can read the poem here.
There are more poems, of course, which deal with serious issues or have an intent beyond comedy. Most of these I’ve never performed, though they may eventually see the light of day, when I’m brave enough!