Some new poems I’ve been working on.

Check in desk one is closed

And check in desk two is closed

And check in desk three is closed

And check in desk four is closed

And check in desk five is closed 

And check in desk six is out to lunch


Check in desk seven

Is manned by a chicken.
Did you pack your bag yourself

Did you have your bag all the time.

Have you any liquids or

Small firearms

Did you book your ticket on line.

I’m still alive

There are so many things.

That can kill you

But none of them have

Killed me yet

Unless you’re reading this

In a posthumous collection.

I’m very much alive.
My chakras may be misaligned

Like wonky buses in the bus station

And my feng shui

Might be all too much feng

And not enough shui

But I’m still alive

And when I saw that chicken

Operating the airline computer

And issuing boarding passes I


Good for you.

Good for you, chicken.

Good for you.
And I want to live and I want to fly and I want to have a real good time and i want to make this life the best I can I want to be a real man that’s the plan 

I want to live the life ecstatic I want to be the absolute best I want to breathe the sweet sweet air I want to feel the wind in my hair.

I want to live.
At that moment.

A representative of the airline arrived.

And she said

Sorry, is this chicken harrassing you?

It doesn’t represent the airline or any

Of its associated companies.

We’re so sorry.

We’re calling security.
Check in desk one is closed

And check in desk two is closed

And check in desk three is closed

And check in desk four is closed

And check in desk five is closed 

And check in desk six is out to lunch

And now we’ve got to just stand here. 
Since you left me

I’ve been able to get so much

More done.
I painted the skirting board.

Put up a shelf.

Learned some rudimentary expressions

In Cantonese.

Cleaned the oven.

Planted some hanging baskets.

And I finally got round

To cataloging my cd collection.
I can’t believe

It’s been thirteen and a half years.
At night

The lighthouse syncopated flashes she translates

In morse.
Irregular yet beautiful words,

Strange juxtapositions,

Poetic devices and

Postmodern cut-ups

Beamed to her coastal cottage.
Who might be this

Mysterious lighthouse keeper?

This poet of the senses?

She strikes out across the shale

In a trance-like state,

Those breathtaking words 

Spurring her on
Only to find

An automated lighthouse

And a restless cormorant. 
My friend Ben is monotone.

He says things and they’re monotone.

He speaks to me he’s monotone.

He laughs at things in monotone.

When he has sex he’s monotone.

Unmoving and quite monotone

No tonal shifting monotone

Call him on the telephone

And wait there for the dialling tone

Then he comes on all monotone.

My friend Ben is monotone

He drives a Toyota.
My cousin Phil

Slipped at the top of Box Hill

Bounded end over end

In a never ending cartwheel

Right from the very top,

Then straight through the middle

Of a loving couple’s picnic,

Damaging a sausage roll

And two scotch eggs

Virtually beyond repair

Falling at such a velocity

His shoes flew off

And one of them clouted a nun

Who shook her fist at him.

He, er, he, huh huh, he died.
People always ask me

What I think

Might be

The meaning of existence.
I cheated on my eyetest.

I remembered every line.

I cheated on my eyetest.

The optician said I was fine.

I cheated on my eyetest

It felt so good to do it.

I cheated on my eyetest.

I breezed my way right through it.

I cheated on my eyetest.

This morning I walked into a bus stop.
They said it was full of monsters and guns,

Hot humid nights and mist hung over verdant valleys,

This ain’t no place for a stranger.

Scared out my wits in Burnsville. 
A one stop truck stop on a highway heading south,

Too hot to sleep in an un-air conditioned motel,

Nothing on the tv, no Ant and Dec

Scared out my wits in Burnsville. 
A glowing Coke machine attracts moths and flies,

Throws out its glow on the melted Tarmac road.

I’m probably thousands of miles from the nearest Lidls.

Scared out my wits in Burnsville. 
There’s a Bush in the White House

And bumper sticker pro-gun slogans.

When I ordered in a diner the room went very quiet.

Scared out my wits in Burnsville. 
There’s an ice machine on the motel verandah

And everyone’s drinking Mountain Dew, though

It’s a relief to see they still have McDonalds over here in the US

Scared out my wits in Burnsville. 
Country music on the radio, preachers on the radio,

Jesus is out to get me with his AK47

And now on channel 53 for some reason, ‘Are You Being Served?’

Scared out my wits in Burnsville. 
The motel laundry doors lit bright fluorescent

Shining hot shirtless lads operate the tumble dryers

I linger in the doorway just a fraction too long

Scared out my wits in Burnsville. 
Hot drip sweat rolls under my Arsenal tshirt 

A low moany groan emanates from the woods

I’m probably not going to get the latest cricket results

Scared out my wits in Burnsville. 
The highway sighs as if it’s all too much

The long grass crickets fill the night with sound 

The whole place seems to have a malevolent intent

Scared out my wits in Burnsville. 
The hillsides loom and

The neon buzzes and

The passing trucks growl and

The world smells of creosote

And disappointment,

Something sticky and

Unsettling in the

Heat of the night,

Restless dreams in wooden homes,

This covered fold, this

Hidden valley,

And I start to wonder, to empathise,

Try to imagine those who spend their lives

Hidden in closets and churches,

Daring to love only in their imagination,

Peering out through fly screen doors

At total strangers,

I, without that frontier spirit,

An ethos without a Jesus or a Bible,

Being different just by being,

Plus you can’t get a 

Decent cup of tea anywhere.

I’m scared. I’m scared,

I’m so very very scared,

Scared out my wits in Burnsville. 
The next morning

I had breakfast in a diner

And the waitress

Made me read her the menu

Because she liked my accent

And the man at the next tab,e

Asked if I knew his cousin

In Clapham.

There’s a circus in the town.

The big tops on the green

There’s s circus in the town

The biggest one I’ve seen

There’s a circus in the town

But I am not so keen

There’s a circus in the town

The clowns are really mean.
Six of them this morning.

In the beach front coffee shack

Sadly stirring their cappuccinos 

With the face paint flaking

The whole place reeked of

Caffeine and stale disappointment.

One of them was reading the Daily Mail

And nodding in agreement with

The letters to the editor.

He’s trying to park his car.

Not getting very far.

He’s worked out all the angles wrong
He’s got

The car stuck in first gear

He’s getting nowhere near

The place he wants the thing to go
And now

The traffic’s building up

I guess he’s out of luck 

Drivers are shaking their fists
At him

They really are appalled

And now he’s gone and stalled

The sweat is rolling down his brow
And now

The satnav’s voice comes on

She says he’s got it wrong

And now it is recalculating

Cares not one iota

For his grey Toyota

He wishes that he had a bike
It’s like

His life is on the blink

He finds it hard to think

Things now are so complicated

The car into reverse

He couldn’t have chosen a worse

Moment to do such a thing 
He scrapes

His car against a van

It’s owned by a big man

With tattoos and a sour expression
That night

He gets home to his wife.


She pats the bed

Next to her and says,

Over here, big boy,

My brave warrior.

He leaps on to the mattress,

Misses, collides with the bedside cupboard,

The lamp stand slowly spinning around 

As he lands in a crumpled heap on the floor.
That dream again.

All hot and humid in the sultry night,

Me in bed, and he’s there,

The prince of darkness,

Olympic diver Tom Daley,

Preparing for a back flip on to the duvet

He’s wearing Superman boxer shorts and,

Inexplicably, a cowboy hat.
He comes often between the hours

Of two and three, 

Bathed in an ethereal glow,

imparts his wisdom,

Says things like,

‘The best way out of Basingstoke

In the rush hour

Is the A331 heading towards Farnham.
Love is an accident, pure chance,

A private dance

Skipping on fate 

And being brave, it comes

Deep from within.
We’re talking about professor Brian Cox

And how his tv shows, informative as they are,

Might be half an hour shorter if he didn’t 




The cat wants to be put out, and Tom


Come here Kevin, he says,

Come here.

The cats called Kevin.
Mists swirl and time does that thing it does,


I’ve only ever wanted companionship,

A guide through life,

A small banana farm in northern Queensland 

And Olympic diver Tom Daley

This afternoon I bought the latest

NewYorker and a packet of custard cream biscuits

And Tom immediately chided me for

Eating too many.
What an appetite you have.

Why is it so untidy in here?

When was the last time you went

Around with the duster?

That picture’s crooked.

When you walk wearing those trousers,

(Those ones, there),

I can hear a shushing sound.
Softly, dusk fell,

Just like the Ukrainian who

Tom defeated in the European quarter finals,

Yet without that big belly flop that became

An Internet click bait Youtube hit,

Dusk, hiding with it the pain and the paranoia

As well as his classically handsome features,

Trained, toned physique,

Winning smile, you know how

People have often said we could

Be twins.
When Frankenstein’s monster tore himself

From the angst and ennui of the

Mer de Glace in Chamonix he passed

Right through Surrey on his journey north,

Just like Tom Daley on his way from the

Bournemouth diving championships 

To an exhibition he undertook in

Milton Keynes

Whereat I nabbed a pair of his pants.
My friend Anne once opined that

True love is not caring when your sweetheart 

Leaves a floater in the toilet bowl

After having a dump.

My hand reaches out,

Fumbles for the custard creams,

Finds nothing there.

A busy week. And a new poem.

The week started weirdly and then it just got weirder as it went on. But that’s what happens when you’re a performance poet, apparently.

You know that crazy hazy place you inhabit just before you wake, when dreams and reality kind of combine until you don’t really know what’s going on? I dreamed that I was at a poetry night watching Simon Williams, and he was reciting a poem called ‘There’s A Penguin In My House’. It all seemed so vivid and real and I had his voice right thee in my head. And when I woke, I could still remember the words! So the first thing I did was to write them down.

Nothing like a parrot though I’m told
Nothing like a parrot though I’m told
Though it’s got a dainty beak
every now and then a squeak

There’s s penguin there’s a penguin there’s s penguin in my house.

The next weird thing to happen was that Chris Brooks phoned me at work to say that he wasn’t feeling too good, and could I take his performance poetry workshop that night in Torquay? I said yes, and then only afterwards thought how I could possibly get away with leading a workshop and professing to know something about a subject through which I have bumbled in the most part.

But the group was excellent and enthusiastic, and the next thing I knew was that I ha dispensed with the lesson plan that Chris had sent me. Indeed, we all probably had too much fun. Apparently there was a lot of giggling.

Tuesday morning I went to the library quiet room and had a good writing session, coming up with two great new poems which I shall no doubt perform somewhere, some time.

Wednesday passed without incident.

On Thursday, I was asked to do an unannounced three minute set at Chris Brooks’ comedy night, Jocular Spectacular. On these nights, I usually do the door for him, so to throw people off the scent I wore a t-shirt and shorts for my door duties before changing into my performance clothes once the show had started. Chris informed the audience that I was only there so that the comedy night could apply for an arts council grant by proving that it had other art forms. The audience was amazing, really receptive and warm, the two poems I performed, ‘Titanic’ and ‘Baton Twirling Eel’, going down very well indeed. The headliner was Mitch Benn. I’d heard of him. I sat in the green room with him after my set. He didn’t say anything.

I left the venue to find my train home was delayed. And then when I finally got home at midnight, I discovered that I was locked out! I had to go to the shop where I work and borrow blankets and pillows, and then go to the flat I’m currently moving in to and sleep on the floor all night.

I say slept. I didn’t get much sleeping done. Hey fever, for a start. Secondly, it was damn uncomfortable. Thirdly, I’ve slept with earplugs ever since I was a teenager and I didn’t have any for the first time in years. All of a sudden I had superhearing. I could hear cars three roads away. Birds. Trees. It was very disconcerting.

Saturday, and rehearsals in Barnstaple for Spectacular Vernacular. Yes, it’s confusing being in two shows, one called Spectacular Vernacular, the other called Jocular Spectacular. In searing heat,I took the train to Exeter and shared the journey, by chance, with actor and comedian, star of stage and TV, James Cotter. We chatted about theatrical matters and it felt kind of good to hear about his career. At Exeter, he got off and Daniel Haynes got on, and so did fifteen drunk England fans, who spent the rest of the journey singing such classics as Minnie the Moocher and American Pie.

Rehearsals went well enough. A tin of tuna kept falling out of my flasher’s overcoat. That was the only setback.

Tim King offered a lift home to Paignton, and Saskia came along because she was going clubbing in Torquay. Tim’s sat nav diverted us into the sticks and, as the sun went down on a very hot Devon evening, we kind of drifted off the face of the earth. We passed a cheese factory. Then the road was closed for unspecified reasons, so we had to go back past the cheese factory. It was a very camp little factory. It had big chimney stacks. I wondered why a cheese factory should need chimney stacks, but there you go. By the time we got to Torbay three hours later, the streets were crowded with revelry makers, what with their being Football On and a UB40 concert on the sea front.

Arrived home knackered, and felt somewhat for Tim, who now had to drive all the way back to Exeter.

So it’s been a very busy week, and next week promises to be just as busy with nine shows over four days in Exeter, and a gig on Wednesday night too. But that’s the life of a performance poet, apparently.

Anyway, here’s one of my new poems.


For years
My parents didn’t know their neighbour’s names.
One day their neighbours walked past and said hello
And their dog got it’s head stuck in the
Slats of the gate.
My parents forever then referred to them as
Dog’s Head Stuck In Gate Man And Woman.

Oh look, they’d say,
There goes Dog’s Head Stuck In Gate Man And Woman
As the two of them walked past
Exercising their dog.

I thought how strange life is
And the certain barriers which we create
Such as names and other niceties
That this amiable couple should
Forever be defined, after a lifetime,
As Dog’s Head Stuck In Gate Man And Woman
Forever imbuing that one lame incident
With all kinds of semantics.

One day I visited
And Dog’s Head Stuck In Gate Man And Woman past
Without their dog.
‘Where’s Dog’s Head Stuck In Gate Man And Woman’s dog?’
I asked
And dad said, ‘it died, unfortunately’.
And I said ‘so what do you call them now?’
And mum said, ‘Philip and Beryl’.


Who are we and why do we do it? (Perform poems, I mean).

This week I was asked by someone who the ‘persona’ was that I adopt when I’m performing. The person asked this because whenever I perform I tend to wear the same shirt and trousers and I told them that this was my ‘costume’. The person I told this to is in the theatre so they took this to mean that I became a character whenever I performed.

Ah, I said.

And then I got to thinking that maybe she was correct, and that the person who stands up and does things into a microphone is not the same sort of person who does everything else that I do. The Robert Garnham who gets trains and goes to work and eats a flapjack and goes to the supermarket is not the same Robert Garnham who performs poems about orgasms and trousers.

The question then came up again during rehearsals for a show that I’m involved in. ‘Who is the narrator of this poem?’, I was asked. And to be honest, it’s not something I’d even thought about. (The poem is about orgasms).

Anyone who does anything performative it always a different person in front of other people. And yet this persona is bound to have qualities of the person underneath. Whether or not this is an unexplored side of that person, or an exaggeration, depends, I suppose, on the act itself. I’d always thought that my ‘character’ of ‘Robert Garnham’ was a bit of an academic buffoon whose poetry aims for the deep while accidentally provoking much sniggering and laughter. Which, I suppose, is a pretty fair summation of what I do, but also of who I am underneath.

I’m always saying the wrong thing.

I looked at all of my favourite poets and performers. John Hegley becomes somewhat school-teacher-ish when he does his thing. On the one occasion that I worked with him, he was a completely normal chap before he went on stage. (Mind you, we’d both got to the venue late because we’d both got hopelessly lost on the way). Rachel Pantechnicon is very clearly a constructed character who bares very little resemblance to the person who plays her. Yet there is still a slight resemblance of sorts. Both have taken aspects of their normal character and infused them into their stage presence.

But there’s also a form of wish-fulfilment. In the case of Robert Garnham, there’s a sense that he becomes the sort of person on stage that he wants to be in real life. He doesn’t usually get everyone’s attention in any situation apart from when he’s behind the mic.  He’s always the one who gets spoken over during staff meetings at work. Yet he’s always the one who’s proved right. He hates staff meetings.

So why does he do this strange performance every now and then? Because he can? Because there are underlying issues? Because he just wants to entertain? Because he’s always been incredibly jealous of Pam Ayres? It’s probably a combination of all of this. Plus, it’s really good when people laugh.

I told the theatre director that the persona I adopt himself has a persona which changes with every poem. There are many meta-layers and semantic possibilities within this. Robert Garnham becomes ‘Robert Garnham’ who then becomes “Robert Garnham”.  This explanation seemed to satisfy her and then she asked the same question to another poet.Image

Swindon Poetry Slam

ImageI arrived at the town of Swindon in a manner perhaps unbecoming of a poet, by hanging out of the window of the Intercity train as we pulled into the station. The church bells were ringing, which was weird. I remember thinking, hmm, that’s got to be some sort of omen. I kept looking around to make sure that nobody could see me hanging out of the window. I took my glasses off in case they fell on to the track. Nothing bad happened. Indeed, it was Quite Fun.

I booked into the Travelodge.

The reason for my visit was the Swindon Poetry Slam. For some reason I had signed up for it the moment I heard about it. There’s always something slightly comical about Swindon – and this is from a man who used to live within miles of Staines and Slough.

I arrived at the venue and was immediately comforted to see a framed photograph of Pam Ayres on the wall. Or Pam Ayres MBE, as the plaque so proudly declared. Yes, I thought. I already know what the audience will be like. They will be Ayresites. I should have rehearsed a poem about a cat.

The slam, as ever, was incredibly well run by Sara-Jane Arbury and A Man Who Wasn’t Marcus Moore. Spoz was energetic and funny and infectious and I immediately took to his shenanigans as he danced to the 1970s disco classics which were played every now and then between the rounds.

The first person to be picked from the hat was Nick Lovell, a friend of mine and a poet who I really admire, so it was a little sad to see him have to go first. Sure enough, the judges, not yet warmed up perhaps, gave the first three performers low scores, which in the case of Nick, I think, was totally unwarranted. He performed excellently and the audience loved his poem, and afterwards someone told me that it had been their favourite of the night.

I got picked to go up in the third batch and I let loose with The Straight Poem (which goes by the title of ‘Poem’). The audience seemed to like it a lot and I was selected from my group to go through to the semi final. There was a local poet, whose name, I believe, was Miles who had a considerable contingent of local supporters. He got a very good score indeed in his round, performing a poem about doing DIY while het up on caffeine, which I thought was the funniest thing of the night. However, amazingly, he did not get the highest score of his group.

Other highlights were a young lady by the name of Tina, who did a poem about poets and poetry and the whole meaning of it all, and a lady of advanced years and eccentric dress, who eschewed the microphone and performed to dead, purposeful and rapt silence. She was amazing.

Round two, then. And I started to panic a little bit. The audience seemed a tad conservative, and worse still, there was a small child in the row in front of me. I’d hoped to do the poem about sex. You know the one. With lots of references to rumpy pumpy and foreplay and things. And there was a small child in the audience.

I then remembered the poem I’d written during the April Poem a Day challenge about Swindon, which I’d re-written just a couple of days before. While everyone else went to the interval, I sat in the auditorium and hastily rewrote it, and used Wikipedia to check up on a couple of facts. It was the most frantic moment of the night!

For the next round, I was called up to go on third, and I did the Fozzie poem, known also as ‘Poem’. Oh yes, that old chestnut. My signature piece. By now I felt more relaxed and the audience loved it. Miles went next, to rapturous applause from his fans, and he did a poem which I thought was amazing. Then the Quiet Lady. Then Tina. And when they added up the scores, it was me and Tina in the final.

Oh my.

This was the worst part of the evening. I had no strategy. I could have done Beard Envy, but I didn’t want people to think it was a derogatory comment about the Austrian entry to the Eurovision Song Contest. (Seriously! That’s why I didn’t do it). Then I thought about ‘Camp Cat’, but the audience did seem rather conservative. The sex poem was out because there was a child there. So I decided to do the Swindon poem, which I’d only just written and never once performed.

I performed it well, I think, seeing as though I had no practice. The audience loved it. I think Tina thought it was some sort of cheap trick to ensure victory by reciting a tongue in cheek poem about how much I love Swindon. But then, perhaps it was. I was pleased with the way it went.

Tina won.

It was an excellent evening and I was very pleased with the way I’d performed. The highlight, though, was when a lady told me that the Straight Poem was the best one she’d ever heard, and another was when a young man told me that he’d cried with laughter during Fozzie. Such things made the whole train journey and the night in a Travelodge worthwhile!

I met the festival organiser afterwards. And in my usual jumbled manner I could only garble some nonsense about how nice it was that Nathan Filer would be there the next day.

And then I was interviewed by Radio Swindon. ‘What brought you to Swindon?’, the interviewer asked. ‘The train’, I replied, in a kind of Chris-Lowe-from-the-Pet-Shop-Boys manner.

It was a fantastic day. I rushed back to the Travelodge to watch the end of Eurovision.

April Poem A Day Poems So Far (Week Four)

April 14 Poem A Day 4


For the last few months
I’ve been
Poet in residence
At the paper clip factory.
I get five free cups of tea
And as many paper clips as I need.
( I usually use a stapler,
But I’m not telling them that).

Debs from accounts
Keeps giving me coy waves
From her glass partitioned office.
I pretend I haven’t seen.
Yesterday she offered to buy me
A prawn cocktail sandwich
In the staff canteen.
I found a paper clip in it.
Yesterday she thrust her
Bahzooms at me.

every morning
the cleaning lady vacuums
the offices
paper clips rattle and scattle
in the vacuum’s plastic tubing
rattle skattle clibber flibber
kottle skittle clatter clonk
clibber flibber skittle skattle
quite a pleasing sound, really.

A list of alternative uses for paper clips

A. Hanging Christmas cards.
B. Impromptu chain to keep glasses attached round neck.
C. Classroom projectile w/ elastic band
D. Tie clip.
E. Replacement zip pull.
F. To remove peanut from iPod earphone socket.
G. Attach notices to a washing line (like ‘Beware, Washing Line’)
H. Zip wire for an Action Man (also on a washing line).

All night long the automated paper clip manufacturing machines go
Each KLUMP resulting in a new paper clip,
Each CHING as it rolls into a big plastic tub
Which Phil empties the next morning.

Excerpt from the Chilliwick Corporation Paper Clip Brochure:

Here’s a photograph of two major celebrities endorsing the Chilliwick Paper Clip:

Kelly Jones (pictured, left), from the Welsh band The Stereo O Phonics, says, ‘I never go anywhere without a paper clip, and Chilliwick make some damn fine paper clips’.

1996 World Darts Champion John Part said, ‘I always use a paper clip to clip the papers that I want to gather around me’.

Lately, we have hied a poet in residence, Rupert Grantham, (pictured right, with two paper clips). His commitment to paper clips and the paper clip industry are without reproach.

(They spelled my name wrong).

And nervous
As I unveil
My iPad.

I asked the managing director
What the sales forecasts are
For the next quarter
And he said, ‘Stationery’.

I bend round and round and I’m like
Zoo my round round bend back on
Myself in the abstract way that
I bend round baby right round.

Jubilation when an order comes in
From China
For a box of 1000 paper clips.
The boss makes everyone
Dress as Geishas in honour of this.
No one feels able to correct him.
Dave gets his elaborate kimono
Caught in one of the paper clip machines.
They took him up to First Aid,
He’s ok now.

A potential customer
Inquires whether he should leave
His email address
And an attachment.
Everyone laughs.

Oh crazy skin shot metal
Bendy raucous ravenous paper clip
Simple machine bendy new fangle
Dangled the simplest
there possibly could be.

Paper clip
Power trip
Paper clip
Cheesy dip
Paper clip
Orange pip
Paper clip
Paper clip
Coach trip
Paper clip
Back flip
Paper clip
Cheap trick
Paper clip
Pierced lip
Paper clip.


We had a day out in Okehampton.
In one of its more trendy bars
I met a winsome young lady who showed me
How to operate a milk churn.

There was a stillness in the air
And a crack of magic like static like thunder
As if the tops of the tower blocks
Might ignite
With St Elmo’s Fire.

Vibrant coffee shop etiquette.
Hyped up het up on caffeine
And over excitement at the Milk Churn Museum
And a sudden outbreak of giggles
Over the word ‘churn’.

We couldn’t remember which multi storey
We’d left the car in.
The one near the art gallery
Or the one near the cathedral
Or the one near the stoat sanctuary
And then we got side tracked by
The house Obama visited
During his state visit.
We found the car, eventually.

Peak mugging hours
Passed without incident.

I almost bought some trousers.

All the great and important issues of the day
We debated in the debating chamber of the
Elected representatives who we sat and watched
As they argued over the disabled parking bays
At Asda.

I almost won a tender on the lottery.

Dean said that the afternoon heat was
And that it was making him come over
All queer.
We hung out in Chinatown
Next to the chippy
And Dean drank a coca cola
And then said that he felt better.

I must a admit
I got a little tipsy
And announced that I wanted
To show everyone how to use
A milk churn.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Fran began speaking like a native.
Only been here five times, I said,
And you act as if you own the place.
I bought a stapler in the stationers.


A Saharan wind flaps the tent sides.
More like a marquee, carpeted, ten
Nomad poets enmeshed in a deep discussion
On how to defrost the refrigerator.

Subtle word play and the dance if language.
Exquisite, tender nature and the environment
A tradition handed down through the generations.
A second hand fridge bought from a bloke in Fez.

It judders and if shudders.
Someone’s left a bowl of fuchsias on top.
They jitter and they totter.
A camel moans outside, it can sense bad tidings.
The freezer compartment is getting bunged up with ice.

An elder tells a story
Of mystery and magic and the
Rotation of the planets.
It does little to address the
Situation beyond reminding the
Nomad poets that all this time
Faffing around with the fridge
Is time they could be writing.

The fridge is hitched up to a
Diesel generator
Whose black smoke stands stark
Against the blue sky, the yellow dunes.
It makes the camel cough.

It’s full of Sunny D
And Doctor Pepper.
The fridge,
Not the camel.

And there’s triangles of Laughing Cow
Bought from a man in a fez
For two haiku and a limerick,
‘There once was a man from Noualdibou’.

It is foretold in local mythology
That there will be a time of deep reckoning.
You see, if you turn the fridge off
You’ll lose all the stuff inside
Even though it blatantly need defrosting.

Plaintive camel honking.
Bloody things!

One of the younger poets,
Yet to lose his worldly wonder,
Bright eyed, tells the tale
Of a sultan who guilt a sauna
In the middle of the Sahara,
A place so gently hot he could
Raise his body temperature and then step outside
And feel cold for the rest of the day.
But one fateful morning a giant Eagle
Swooped down and ate him.
(It’s true, his story kind of fizzled out
At the end, and was full of holes,
And had no bearing on their
Immediate predicament).
‘Try kicking the fridge’,
He suggested.

The kettle is all furred up, too,
All that
Saharan hard water.


Advancing now
You can see the determination
And the way she slithers
Between the gaps.

The forest of
She’s getting nearer now
Looming like
Unwelcome weather.

Here she comes, ever closer,
Tedious in her intent.
No-one wants a part of this
Odd transaction.

She doesn’t want to do it.
We don’t want her to do it,
It isn’t culture and it isn’t social.
Just corporate ethos.
Pursing her lips, now.
Ever closer.

And here it is.
And here she is.
And here it comes.
‘Is everything all right
With your meal?’


Been struggling now
For various reasons
To get bus passengers to
Write haiku.

They point out that:
A- the bus journey is tedious enough
B- poetry has no relevance
C- leave me alone
D- there are no pens these days, just iPads.

The big burly bloke,
Whose licence they took,

Prancing up the bus aisle
Like a Stagecoach road nymph
A teenage girl
Describes exactly where I can stick my haiku,
In, admittedly,
The most immaculate, poetic language
I’ve heard all day.

Bus driver checks his mirror,
Shakes his head, sadly.

‘Hey, nob head.’
Pies up a precocious scamp of a lad
With trendy hair and an ironic t shirt.
‘You’ve got to subvert the strictures and rules
Of literature
In order to improve it for the next generation.’
He holds up a Mars bar and says,
‘This is my haiku’.

The bus goes over speed bumps.
I crack my head on the ceiling.

Doreen, deaf as a post,
Thinks I work for the council.

Syllable demonstrations
Mean nothing
In a traffic jam.

Wise-ass at the back of the bus
Says he’ll do everyone’s haiku for them
But he’ll charge
And he calls it ‘line rental’.

The little voice inside me says,
‘You’re getting somewhere, James.
With each insistent unsolicited lesson,
You speak to their souls and their lives
Fill with poetry’.
I have no idea why the little voice
Calls me James.

A youth with big hair
Takes a video of my on his smart phone
And it becomes an instant internet sensation
Not because of my majesty with words
But because I fell


Don’t you come at me with your hydrangea shit
Cos once you’ve seen a fuchsia then you know you’ve been hit
It’s flowers are prettier than a girl who’s quite fit
And they’re hardy annuals too so they last for a bit

I’m a hard ass gun and I don’t feel no pain
Like the petals of the fuchsia in the early evening rain
Like the same old song you hear again and again
My roots don’t go rotten if the compost’s well drained

So dig up that fuchsia man dig up that fuchsia
Cos you and me honey we ain’t got no future
Dig up that fuchsia girl, put it in a pot
Cos when I’m here with you girl I feel I lost the plot

I’m a kicking mother sparkler and I know how to party
Coming at you with the beats and a bottle of Bacardi
I don’t feel no cold cos I’m mostly frost hardy
So when you’re out and your chilling then you gotta wear a cardy

I’m a fit fat hip hop sexy damn mo fo
Hanging at my pad with my bitches and my hoes
And my trowels and my rakes and my petrol driven lawn mow
A big bag of mulch and some compost make me grow, yo

So dig up that fuchsia man dig up that fuchsia
Cos you and me honey we ain’t got no future
Dig up that fuchsia girl, put it in a pot
Cos when I’m here with you girl I feel I lost the plot

When I see you coming girl you light up the room
Like a late summer fuchsia as it comes into bloom
With its delicate petals, you make my heart boom
And not only that but I really like your bahzooms

In a world filled with pain and with hatred and with greed
I’m a delicate flower not a dirty stinking weed
Cos I’ve felt this ache inside since I was a little seed
I’m a funky mother fuchsia and I get what I need

So dig up that fuchsia man dig up that fuchsia
Cos you and me honey we ain’t got no future
Dig up that fuchsia girl, put it in a pot
Cos when I’m here with you girl I feel I lost the plot

I got delicate petals in the hue of summer fruit
And a purposeful demeanour from my sternum to my root
But when I look at you girl you really are so cute
Like the homies in my hood, you gotta be my side shoot

When I’m here with you girl I never question why
I just sit here in my border bed and gaze up at the sky
Try to weed me out girl, I’d like to see you try
You’re more irritating than a nasty case of greenfly

So dig up that fuchsia man dig up that fuchsia
Cos you and me honey we ain’t got no future
Dig up that fuchsia girl, put it in a pot
Cos when I’m here with you girl I feel I lost the plot

Dig it up
Dig it up
Dig it up
Change the pot

In da club
In da club
In da club
The horticultural society club


You press my buttons in all the wrong order
And because of that I miscalculate.
My figures are erroneous.
Your figure is marvellous.
Tippity- tappity, tippity-tappity,
The number of times you whisper sweet nothings
I work it out on the calculator.

The square root of this and a percentage of that,
One and one becomes two.
It’s the most simple addition that you can do.
Come over here and I’ll demonstrate,
Or shall we work it out on the calculator?

The divisible percentage of your longing.
Add to that an approximation of yearning,
Add to that the little smile you gave me just then
Add to that the deep deep
Vicious absolute soul-controlling pound pound fury of my heart
Add to that the ten minutes it took us to do it last time,
(Which, by the way, was a new record for me),
Tippity- tappity, tippity-tappity.
Hmmm, it just says ‘error’.

Last night in bed you did that thing
Where you turn the LCD screen upside down
And random numbers become words.
It blew my mind.
Ha ha, I said, very funny.
Right there on the screen if the calculator.

Subtraction is the cruellest blow.
Taking things away until you end up with nothing.
I want to work it out on the calculator.
What’s the to work out?, you asked, it’s zero!
Nevertheless, I figured out all the percentages
And I tried to do some sums in my head
And it have me a migraine
And now I know why you always say you’ve got a headache.


(An A-Z of the Large Hadron Collider)

A – And then it was decided
That there should be a large hadron collider.

B – Bravery is needed to operate it
As there might be a Black Hole
Or a Big Bang.

C- Catastrophic would be the consequences
Of a Big Bang.
It would wipe out everything
As far as Colchester.

D – Don’t ask me how to explain
The scientific side of it.

E – Everything’s all right with the world,
If you put your trust in science.
E =mc2
Still has to be explained to me.
Good old Einstein!

F – Few people realise
How big it is.
If you dropped a pencil clip in it
You might never find it.

G – Geniuses theorise.
Great things materialise.

H – Hadron. Hardon.
Ha ha.

I – It’s round.

J – Jambon is French for ham.
A seagull once dropped a baguette Jambon
Into it’s machinery.
And that’s why they couldn’t
Use it for a bit.

K – Can’t think of anything for K.

L – Large hadron collider.
Much larger than a
Average hadron collider.
But not as big as an
Extra large hadron collider.

M – Moon. (See P)

N – Nothing quite prepares you
For the sheer circumference of it.
Dave wonders why they didn’t build it
On the Circle Line.
I said actually, yes,
That would have done it.
I asked a scientist if that was possible
And he said

O – Is the shape of it.

P – Peter was convinced that
The large hadron collider was a giant magnet
Designed to pull the moon closer because
The moon’s orbit is significantly further away
Than it used to be.

Q – Queues to get into the large hadron collider
Have started diminishing now that
The excitement of it has started to wear off,
Though there’s a nice little gift shop.

R – Right, there are several theories of what might happen, some theorised by Higgs Bosun (which I should have included under H in this list) and it’s all to do with the bits that break off from the initial impact of the matter that’s fired around the collider. Or at least that’s what the man on Horizon said. At least it wasn’t Professor Brian Cox And His Hair. He seems a nice enough chap but he just seems to speak. Too. Slowly.

S – Stephen Hawking
Would be the man to call
If there should suddenly materialise
A black hole.

T – Ten years after divising his theory that the Large Hadron Collider would, on it’s first run, result in the sudden appearance of ten thousand Tina Turners, Professor Terrance Tipkins burst into Tears when it Didn’t Happen.

U – Underneath Switzerland.

V – Very interesting if you’re
An astrophysicist, probably.

W – What the hell
Do we do
With a Higgs Bosun particle
The moment we get one?

Waiting . . . Waiting . . . Waiting . . .

X – X +/- n= 4

Y – You spin me right round
Baby right round
Like a record baby
Right round round round

Z – Zurich is nearby.


Dear Goldilocks.
We are investigating reports
Of a break in
And malicious damage pertaining to
Some porridge, a chair, a bed
And a Toyota Yaris,
Which took place in the residence
Of the Three Bears
In the magical forest
Near the mystical fairy land brook
Just outside of Guildford.

Your actions provoked
Psychological damage on two of the victims
Who wish to remain anonymous
Though a third member of the family
Did maul the chief detective.

Our investigations are keen to ascertain
Who, in the words of the victims,
Has been sitting in my chair,
Has been eating my porridge,
Has been sleeping in my bed
Has been shuffling my iPod,
Has been detuning the Freeview
Has left the sunroof open in the rain
In my Toyota Yaris
And generally stealing my wifi
Without expressed prior consent.

It is also alleged
That at the same time you did
De friend the entire family on Facebook.

Ms Goldilocks.
The nub of the matter.
The crux of the issue.
The whole angle on which
This investigation rests
Is the degree by which
Your actions were motivated
And provoked by the facts
That the victims were bears.
Was this some sorry of hate crime?
Have you recently joined UKIP?

The bears do not wish to sue
But Mummy Bear is undergoing counselling
And Daddy Bear
Has had to disinfect the bathroom
And put some extra locks on the front door
And Little Baby Bear has told his mother
That when he grows up
He wants long golden hair now, and a pretty
Summer dress.


Today I went to a meeting
In which the main topic of discussion
Was what we will talk about
On tomorrow’s meeting.

It was decided that tomorrow’s meeting
Would begin to reading the minutes of the last meeting,
The meeting before this meeting.
The last meeting had also begun
With the minutes of the previous meeting
And the meeting before that
And this will be included in the minutes if the last meeting
And also the minutes of the meeting
Of the meeting tomorrow,

So we finished our meeting about tomorrow’s meeting
And we decided that someone should take
Some minutes of this meeting
So that tomorrow’s meeting would feature
The minutes of this meeting as well as the minutes
Of the previous meetings,
The minutes containing nothing but the minutes of the meetings
Previous to this meeting and the meeting today,
In tomorrow’s meeting
(And all subsequent meetings).


Contents of poem:
1. No
2. Making a living, the shire horse way
3. Poem
4. Memories of a suburban upbringing
5. I’m not immune to failure
6. Looming in the office
7. A Paris misadventure
8. Poetic justice (Literally!) and Tim Vine
9. A general appreciation of shire horses
10. Breeds of heavy working horses
11. Height
12. This just in
13. Meanwhile outside of Keflavik
14. This poem was sponsored by
15. Repetition of the words ‘shire horses’
16. The time of the shire horse is gone

1. No

I will never be a proper poet
So long as I can’t appreciate
Shire horses

2. Making a living, the shire horse way

They work, shire horses.
They work for a living.
They work work work work work
Trudging and pulling heavy loads
And tugging and pulling and trudging
And doing paperwork and things.
Jeff trained his one to nick microwaves
From Currys
And to get refunds under false pretences
Without receipts.

3. Poem

Flared nostrils
As if permanently disgusted
But they get on with it anyway.
Stoic beasts, the shire horse.

4. Memories of a suburban upbringing

When I was a kid
Every year the school trip
Used to be to the flipping bleeding
God-arse awful boring
Shire Horse Heritage Centre.
And then I joined the Scouts
And we had a trip to the
Shire Horse Heritage Centre.
And then we had my aunt come over
From Canada
And we took her to the Shire Horse Heritage Centre
And yet when I informed my parents
That it should be called the ‘ “Shite” Horse Heritage Centre’
Bizarrely, it was me who was reprimanded.

5. I’m not immune to failure

I went to a poetry slam and the poets were brilliant and did poems about family, relations, drug addiction, sexual abuse, the history of black culture from slavery to the present day, social issues, politics, countering the rise of the right, ill treatment of animals, ill treatment of immigrants and the trials and tribulations of being a youth in the 21st Century, and I did a poem about shire horses and I did really badly.

6. Looming in the office

my chiropodist had a shire horse
at the bottom of each leg it had a tuft
now it’s dead but you can still see it
because she’s had it stuffed

7. A Paris misadventure

The French avant gard
Jean Jacques Pipe
Trained a shire horse
In the art of mime.

It used to stand still
And not move a muscle
And not say a word.

And Jean Jacques would explain,
‘Now it’s impersonating a donkey.
Now it’s impersonating a zebra.
Now it’s impersonating a mule.
Now it’s impersonating a regular horse’.

8. Poetic justice (Literally!) and Tim Vine

Tim Vine had already done the
‘Shyer’ horse joke.

But he nicked a joke off me
About Cadbury’s Wispas.

And now it’s in his show.
Ironically he was beaten

At a one-liner competition
By an acquaintance of mine, a poet

Who had his own Cadbury’s Wispa joke
Which was much funnier.

In honour of this I am not going to repeat
The ‘shyer horse’ joke.

9. A general appreciation of shire horses

Shire horse.
Never tyre horse.
Such a tryer horse.
Never dire horse.
Keep matches away
So seldom on fire horse.
Could be taller,
A little higher horse.
Looks nothing like
Danny Dyer horse.
Tells the truth
Seldom a liar horse.
Doesn’t so washing
So not a tumble dryer horse.
Or cook chips
So not a deep fat fryer horse.
A little bit bashful
Couldn’t be any shyer horse.
Shire horse.
Shire horse.
Shire horse.
Shire horse.

10. Breeds of heavy working horse

Cleveland Bay
Clippity honker
Progressive honker
Regular honker
Devonian crisp
Old cabin
Beard poker
Unspoked clapper
Subliminal pencil

Where might I purchase any of the above?
Any reputable pet shop.

11. Height

According to the website
The average shire horse
Is 17 hands high.
I asked a shire horse breeder
How big one hand was
And he said
About as big as your hand.

12. This just in

Both Jeff
And his shoplifting shire horse
Were accosted
In Costcutter.

13. Meanwhile outside of Keflavik

Shape shifting shire horse
Tireless worker berserker
Norse legend horse legend
One moment Icelandic
Gray bray pulling heavy loads
The next
A real kick ass impersonation
Of Allen Carr.

14. This poem was sponsored by

Have you seen those shire horses?
Those shy shire horses?
Those sly shy shire horses?
Those sly shy give it a try see one before you die
Why oh why not give it a try shire horses?
Have you seen those shire horses?
POP along to the Shire Horse Heritage Centre
And you’ll see loads!

(A little in- joke there for the shire horse community in that last line).

15. Repetition of the words ‘shire horses’

Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
From the shire.

16. The time of the shire horse is gone

And in the time of the shire horse there
Would be shire horses aplenty
And they would work and trudge
And trudge and work
And all that was holy
Could be found in the shire horse
And all that was sacred
Could be found in the shire horse
And all that was good for the garden
Could be found in the shire horse
(Or at least in their manure)

And the rustic sun would set
Over rustic rooftops rustic barns and rustic
And still the shire horse
Would keep on working
And nobody ever thought about

And the annual final of Britain’s Got Talent
Would invariably be won by a shire horse
Because they were so fucking talented
And none of the shire horses
Were foreign.

And people just got on with things
Inspired by the plucky shire horses
And the ploughman was king
And there was shire horse manure all over the place

And you couldn’t sodding move for sodding shire horses
And if you made a joke about “shite horses”
You’d end up in the stocks.

And there would be shire horses in the fields
And shire horses in the barns
And shire horses in the cottages
And shire horses in the farms
And shire horses in the municipal swimming baths

And everyone would say
‘How great and mighty Britain is
Because of all these here shire horses’
And then someone came along with a tractor
And someone else said
‘At least tractors don’t poo everywhere’.

And then the decline of Britain’s society began
And then Ant and Dec turned up
And it’s all been downhill ever since.

Performance Poetry : performing from the page or from memory

There’s been some debate of late about the merits of reading from a book verses performing from memory, and whether one has any advantage over the other.

The easy answer is that both methods are performative, though performing while using a book can easily be construed as reading from a book. This in itself could be a performance so long as there is some audience engagement.

I always read from a book. Indeed, the book has become a part of my whole persona. It is a character who comes with me on stage. It also suits the character that I’m trying to give myself while performing. There’s something old fashioned and comforting about having the book there, and it helps that the book has been around a bit. It’s been there at every poetry gig I’ve performed at for the last three years.

But there are poets who perform from memory. This is a liberating experience and allows them to concentrate on their delivery and on their performance. I have only been able to memorise two of my poems, Somerset and Plop, while The Straight Poem, Fozzie and The First Time are very nearly memorised. (I can do them in my sleep. Just not on stage). Having the words locked in allows the poet to move around and inhabit the words.

Perhaps this is something I could work on. However, there are several factors mitigating against this approach, for me personally. The first is that my poems do not rhyme, mostly. Therefore learning them is harder. There’s no rhythm either, just a line followed by another line. Secondly, my work rate is such that there are too many new poems coming through to memorise. I try to write one performable poem or piece a week, except during April and September, when this goes up to one a day. The best I can do is rehearse, rehearse, rehearse until I know not only the poem, but the piece of paper it’s written on, the font, and the way it sits on the page.

As you can see from the picture, I have notes and ideas written next to the poem which I have taken in during the rehearsal period. (The picture is of a poem I have performed frequently, and also in Germany, hence the scribbled German translations next to the text!)

I have spoken to many poets about reading verses memorising and most have a similar approach. Matt Harvey, Jackie Juno and Johnny Flufffypunk all use a book as a back-up and as a part of their performance, with the added bonus of having a permanent on-stage advertisement for their latest publications. People see the book and they want their own copy!

But there’s something mystical about memorised poems. Perhaps it goes back to the days of the shamen, the travelling storytellers of old, the odd man ranting in the street, speaking in tongues, the very origins of poetry itself. It gives the performance that extra kick. It puts them up there with rock stars and preachers, politicians and orators, conjuring words as if from within. One just has to watch Pam Ayres to see how effectively this can be done.