Wedding Poem for Karen and Chris

I’ve just spent the weekend at the wedding of an old school friend who asked me to perform a poem at the actual ceremony. It was a huge honour. He asked that I base the poem on the wedding scene from the film The Princess Bride. I sent him the draft and he sent it to the registrar to make sure that there was no religious content and it got the all clear. I think it went down OK! Amyway, here is the poem.

Poem

On being asked to compose a
Ceremonial matrimonial poetic testimonial,
One isn’t inclined to monial,
Perchance, that I should inquire of Alexa,
‘Information on the word, wedding’,
That Alexa should reply,
‘A large town to the west of London,
Wobert’.

Is a wedding not the affirmation of love,
The elevation of love,
The joining of two souls,
Two lives, two personalities,
Two bank accounts,
Two different methods of placing cutlery
In the cutlery drawer?
(Spoons in the middle.
Any other method
In this poet’s opinion,
Is wrong, wrong, wrong),
Two families
In to one cohesive happy union?

Can there be no better encapsulation
Of wedded bliss,
Sealed with a kiss,
Than Karen and Chris?
How the years have passed since
The Chris we knew at school who,
With our trademark youthful exuberance
We nicknamed,
Well,
Chris,
Was already on a journey to love,
And Karen too,
Skipping on the wings of destiny,
Lifted by the angels of love.
(It says here ‘Insert RAF ground crew metaphor
But I didn’t do enough research).

For what is love,
But a reason to be alive.
What is love
But a force which keeps the world turning.
What is love
That without it one might be as useless
As a Lockheed Tristar K1 standard
Minus its Rolls Royce RB211 Turbofans.
(I did a bit of research).
What is love,
Baby don’t hurt me,
Don’t hurt me,
No more.

And thence that we should rightly acclaim
The wedded nuptials.
Marriage is what brings us together today.
Marriage, that blessed arrangement.
Marriage, that dream within a dream.
And love, true love,
Will follow you forever and ever.
So cherish that love.

Seaside Serenade (Poem from my new solo show, filmed at Paignton’s Palace Theatre

Last month I was filmed by director John Tomkins, performing my new solo show Yay! : The Search For Happiness, at Paignton’s Palace Theatre.

Here’s an exclusive extract from the show! The poem is taken from my new book, Yay!, published by Burning Eye Books. You can order the book here: https://robertgarnham.bigcartel.com/product/yay-book

A sultry seaside serenade

It must be hot,
My mars bar’s turned to mush,
The smell of melting tarmac
In the late night hush.
Bread in the packet has already turned to toast,
My neighbours pet chicken is now a Sunday roast.
Now I don’t like to boast,
Because I’ve got Brandon, oooo, Brandon
Basking on my bed in his boxers,
Both of us pining for something fresh
Other than the obvious
Like the steering freeze of truth,
The cool, cool wash of contentment,
Or a vanilla ice cream.

We’re making our way through this
Seaside town now, me and Brandon,
He’s promised something hot and long and sticky
The moment we get back.
It’s been years since I had a kebab.
Past shop clad shutters and graffiti denouncing
Tracey as a slag,
To the neon buzz moth hub
Of the prom prom prom
Tiddly om Pom Pom
Last night in bed he said
It isn’t very long
Tiddly om Pom Pom
And it’s very limp.

And I said,
It’s seen a lot of tourists over the years
And it’s prone to erosion
And longshore drift.
Half of it was swept away
By a giant squid.

The rash on the side of my neck
Is caused by Brandon’s stubble as if scrapes
Sandpaper scrapey sprapey scrape
When he gets distracted by
The cricket results.

And now we’re walking next to the beach and his face is
Lit up like that of a cartoon ferret on a box of cheap own brand
Rice Krispie knock offs
The spoon filled with ricey goodness
Hovering inches from his cavernous gob

And the salt air late night sea breeze
Caresses our manly frames
Imbuing in us all kinds of nautical hi jinx
Naval seriousness, merry little frigates,
Dolphin blowholes, bottom feeding mullets,
Whales both humpback and sperm,
First mate officers, salty sea dogs,
Able bodied seamen, bow thrusters,
Butt blocks in the rigging, man the head,
Bump head gurnards and bottle nosed lumpsuckers.
And chub.

Do you see the ice cream van?
Do you see the ice cream van?
An oblong of light spilled out on the
Sand flecked concrete,
It’s refrigeration generator
Throbbing the sir with a sudden intensity,
Chugga chugga chugga
Do you feel it throbbing away there?
Chugga chugga chugga
Window stickers advertising all kinds
Of things to lick and nibble and crunch down on
Cool and ever so creamy.

The moon beams on high like someone from Dorset.
In the glow of it’s madness we dance.
Oh, Brandon, I want to do things
To certain bits of you
For most of the night,
Though I’m conscious you’ve got an early shift
At the Lady Remington Smooth N Silky
Cordless Rechargeable Hair Removal Facility factory
And the ice cream man,
Oh,
The ice cream man,
Did I mention he’s also a magician?
A sparkle in his eye,
He starts waving his magic wand at us, and

Poof!

All is gone.
The ice cream man is gone.
The ice cream van is gone.
The neon and the stats are gone.
And Brandon is gone.
None of them ever existed.
It’s just me, and the prom
On a sultry night in a sleepy coastal town,
And the kebab shop is closed,
And the rash on my neck
Is just a fungal infection
And Tracey is still a slag, apparently,
And I walk sadly home,
I walk sadly home.

Hamlet (Poem written for Exeter Pride)

Hamlet

Jack came from a long line of straight men.
He seemed prone to big thoughts in a small town,
How much else was wrong?
If this is what he shouldn’t be,
Then how did he become what’s not allowed
Without any conscious effort?
Did a fairy wave its magic wand?
Did he drink from a well that was cursed by witches?
Was there something odd in the sheep dip?

In the cattle barn, the ill-fitting roof tiles
Shot down solid beams of summer sun
In whose resplendent dust-flecked iridescence he’d dance
And imagine the laser flash and the subtle smile of a similar soul,
Lithe bodies contorting through the big city beats,
A glance of possibility, a look, the promise
Of love fulfilled.

Two years before they’d seen a male goat
Trying to have it off with another male goat
And the men had all laughed and said such things
And he wondered if the goat had been at the sheep dip,
The cursed well, the fairy with her wand,
Or perhaps he’d somehow passed it on, he, Jack,
The same way Janine got a splinter from the flaking paint
Of the combine harvester, the one they had to scrap,
And she had to get a tetanus.

One day, giddy perhaps on the silage,
He’d seen Jason on the neighbouring farm, shirtless,
Herding pigs in the summer sun, he couldn’t look away,
Jason, slapping each pig’s bum, lucky pigs,
He wanted to be with Jason, he wanted Jason’s palm
On his rump, Jason, on whom the gods had bestowed
Floppy blond hair and rippling biceps, ohh, Jason,
It made him feel dizzy, though not as dizzy as he felt
When rotating the crops, his knuckles whitened
As he gripped his binoculars,

Last summer his uncle’s prize ram, Kenneth,
Won first prize in the category Lincolnshire longhorn,
But six months before you wouldn’t have believed it,
Kenneth was a miserable specimen, a shag of a sheep,
Yet nature intervened and he transformed into
The finest woolliest puffiest fluffiest virile and thrusting ram
To ever set hoof in the ring,
Nature intervened and put things right,
And maybe this was just a phrase that he, Jack was going through,
Perhaps there might be a flash of light so blinding as to make
The cocks cock-a-doodle doo and the chickens bakurrrrrp,
And he’ll metamorphose and fall for some winsome lass
Whose coquettish charms will make him forget all about
Jason and his rippling biceps.

And settle down.
And have loads of kids.
And live a life in perpetuity
Hetereonomatively.

The rolling green fields and the warm summer breeze
Cannot calm at all Jack’s perpetual unease,
For places exist where communities thrive
In whose clamorous clasp he’d feel more than alive.
The isolation, the loneliness, the sense of forbidding,
The yearning, the heartache, the perpetual kidding
That the emotions he feels are oddly counterfeit,
A life so subdued will never feel complete.
Real lives are lived in rural parts,
Emotions are felt, the breaking of hearts.
He came from a long line of very straight men
Each generation, again and again,
And all the time came that one nagging thought:
Is he real as a person if his desires are worth nought?

Happy

This is a poem from my new collection, Yay, published by Burning Eye Books. You can order your copy right here: https://robertgarnham.bigcartel.com/product/yay-book

Happy

I can hardly describe it.
Often I get these moments
In which I’m able to stand back and
Look at my life as if from
A different vantage point,
And consider my journey
As a unified whole.
Boom, there it is,
I’m happy.
It’s almost sickening.
Take my friend Mark.
They say, well,
He’s only happy when he’s got something to moan about.
Well, he is!
You should see him!
You should see his little face!
Having a good old moan
Really makes his day.
And that also makes me happy.
And then there’s my friend Shane.
He’s always happy.
He looks like a grin
With a person attached.
I say to him, you alright?
And he says, yeah, I’m alright,
You alright?
And I’ll say yeah, I’m alright,
And he’ll say, 
I’m alright if you’re alright,
And I’ll say, alright,
Because neither of us are big conversationalists,
But he’s alright, is Shane,
And he’s happy.
My favourite anecdote
A glum theatre stage,
A set designer stands there
Having just decorated the scene,
Stands there with that gloom merchant
Crinkle faced Mr Intensity Samuel Beckett,
Turns to this existentialist deep thinker and asks,
Happy?
It’s a fluffy puffy feeling
It’s incredibly appealing
It’s like a lack of gravity
That puts you on the ceiling.
It’s a bouncy flouncy skip and hop
That makes your heart just flip and pop
Smooth as silk and warm like tea 
And sweeter than a lollipop
Oh my, 
Listen to me!
I’m not the sort to rise right up
And suddenly clap my hands.
I hope you understand
Cos this feeling
Is more a state of being
Than the status of this man.
Before you here I stand,
A soul enmeshed in mirth
And it’s been a constant feeling
From the moment of my birth 
That every day
When I wake I say
Yay.

No change in status

No change in status

Midnight in Tokyo, the hotel reception
Too opulent for jet lagged eyes,
This fool holds breath as from speakers,
The Blue Nile’s Tinseltown in the Rain,
An unusual choice in this disjointed dance.
I’ve hardly seen the neon and it’s almost
Tomorrow and there’s a problem with my booking.

Which makes me wonder who I even am,
Because the computer does not recognise my
Existence, and the receptionist explains that
Luckily there’s a spare room on the 36th floor,
No longer quite so happy so lucky so chipper,
And I’m admitted entry but I must promise to pay,
Mister, Mister, Mister . . . Sorry,
What was your name again?

The following day I begin to disappear, which
Makes shaving quite difficult, and I slide
Through the lift doors down across the marble foyer,
Find an adjacent supermarket and buy
I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE HECK IT WAS
For breakfast but it comes with chopsticks and there’s
A boiled egg plonked in the middle.

Ghosting through the Ginza several months
Too early for cherry blossom, I forget my name
In the crowded lanes, become translucent like a
Discarded thought in front of a travel agent
Advertising holidays in FUCKING PAIGNTON I KID YOU NOT,
And then in this city of technology and robots to a
Tourist office on the 15th floor of a skyscraper
Run by a Nanna and Grandad who pass me a free map
As if it were a precious gift and I bow on receiving.

The coffee shop patrons are taken aback.
You can see the coffee and muffin pass right through me.
It’s impolite to stare and it really doesn’t help matters
That I keep humming Tinseltown in the Rain,
Even though there isn’t any tinsel
And it was perfectly dry though somewhat overcast.

The wind sighs, ‘Have you ever been?’,
And I reply, ‘I am being now’,
And the wind sighs, ‘Are you being now?’
And I reply, ‘Have I ever been?’
And the wind sighs, ‘That’s only for you to
Decide, oooooooohhhhhhhhh’, and I really get it
That people think there are other worlds.

Isn’t it the dream of every spirituality to become
Nothing but a thought?
I achieved it so well that they might think about
Dedicating a place of worship in my honour, except
By now I had no name and I’ve never been a big one
For shopping, or drinking, or sexual conquests, so
I wasn’t even just another geezer on the Ginza.

A certain stylised frisky-whispered kitty cat in a bow tie
Explained via speech bubbles that the building to my left
Escaped being bombed by the Americans.
That thing I had this morning with the boiled egg in it was
Actually quite nice, and I texted a friend back home and
He replied, ‘I can see right through you’.

I’d always wanted to be a nobody, but now I was a no body
And it was the most weight I’d ever lost in one go.
Maybe this whole thing would have been better if I’d shared it
With you. I’ve walked around so many cities solo, like
Prague, and Reykjavik, Singapore, Lancaster, and never
Once heard The Blue Nile played as if they were
Just like any other band, gotta hand it to them.

‘No change in status’, said the lady on reception,
By which time I must have been merely a
Distortion of reality, a blurring where my outline
Would have been, an opaque mistake, and I rode
The elevator to the 36th floor and someone was playing
Bagpipes and you know really it hadn’t been a bad day
With the exception of my gradual philosophical psychological
Complete super disappearance.

Yay! show diaries 7.3.21 – 2.5.21

7.3.21

Spent some time making a first couple of designs for the possible publicity poster. Then worked on a song with a Croydon Tourist Office backing track for the film, which I called ‘So happy’.

8.3.21

Line learning You Dunked a Muffin in Your Cuppa.

9.3.21

Worked on the publicity poster design and then line learning You Dunked a Muffin in Your Cuppa.

10.3.21

Rehearsal using the chair.

13.3.21

Sunrise rehearsal room, Brixham. Went through the whole show, no movement.

14.3.21

Sunrise rehearsal room, Brixham. Went over the various bits that I struggled with yesterday.

15.3.21

Back in Paignton. Went over the last half of the show, typed up revisions, did some admin with Guildford Fringe.

16.3.21

Wrote a new poem to finish the show which draws together happiness and identity, ‘Be Yourself’, which also has an element of humour. In the evening, headlined at ‘Leadworks’, an online gig, and debuted some of the linking material from the show as well as performing three poems in the set, Shakka Lakka Boom, Homecoming and Seaside Soul.

17.3.21

Line learning Be Yourself.

18.3.21

Line learning Be Yourself.

19.3.21

Did a complete run through of the show, including the new Be Yourself poem at the end. Came to 55 minutes.

21.3.21

Spent the morning working on an interview with Heather Moulson and talked about the show and its premise. Then worked on a blog with the publicity pictures and the press ‘interview’ I did with myself, and unleashed it on the world on my website and social media, changing profile pictures to the show poster. Afternoon, worked on an audio recording of the show mainly to help myself stay fresh but also as a possible future project.

23.3.21

Tickets for the Yay show on sale on the Guildford Fringe website.

25.3.21

Did ‘Shakka Lakka Boom’ and ‘Seaside Soul’ plus linking material at WonderZoo, an online gig based in Plymouth.

27.3.21

Rehearsed last half hour of the show in the Sunrise Rehearsal Studio, Brixham.

30.3.21

Rehearsed last ten minutes of the show, back in Paignton.

7.4.21

Rehearsed whole show. Chatted to filmmaker John Tomkins about the logistics of filming the show in Paignton’s Palace Theatre next week. Evening, did ten minutes of poems and linking materials of the show at Word Mustard, an online gig based in Weston-super-Mare.

14.4.21

Filmed the show at Paignton’s Palace Theatre with John Tomkins, sound engineer Clive and Sarah from the theatre. Filmed for five hours, filming the show twice from several angles, and also footage for a trailer which involved different poses on stage. Then home for the last proof-read of the collection.

19.4.21

John Tomkins made the trailer for the recording of the solo show, and this was put online on my website and various social media channels.

21.4.21

Had a meeting online with Fay Roberts from PBH Free Fringe about entering the show into the online Edinburgh fringe, then a meeting with John Tomkins to show me some of the edits of the show so far.

23.4.21

John Tomkins sent me a first edit of the show, watched it and suggested a couple of minor revisions.

26.4.21

John Tomkins sent me the second edit of the show, watched it and approved it as the definitive edition.

27.4.21

A box of Yay books arrived!

28.4.21

Spoke with Ludlow Fringe about performing the show in the same week as the Guildford Fringe / Taunton Live.

2.5.21

Full run through of the show at the Sunrise Rehearsal Room, Brixham. It’s the first time I’ve done the show since filming at the theatre, relieved that it’s still in my head!

Yay! : The Search for Happiness (Show trailer)

Had a great time with filmmaker John Tomkins filming my new show at Paignton’s Palace Theatre last week. The show is still being edited, but John has made this trailer, which I hope you like!

The show will be available to stream on various online fringe platforms over this summer.

But what is it about?

‘Robert is a poet. And he’s happy. Or is he? After the death of a favourite aunt, he decides to find out exactly what it means to be happy. He ends up as a poet-in-residence on a fish factory ship in a search for contentment on the high seas. What could possibly go wrong? Comedy and poetry collide head on in this new show from the Professor of Whimsy’.

Instructions for my Funeral

Instructions for My Funeral

My friend Anne has planned her funeral.
She wants bright colours,
All the colours of the rainbow,
Beach wear and party glitter,
Pink feather boas and dancing,
Cocktails and music and laughter,
Because, she says, ‘Life is a chase,
A dream; why not celebrate,
Obscure the hate,
Spread joy in the moment before it’s too late
To expose the beauty that lies deep within
Every pristine soul?’
Have you ever heard such bollocks?

I want sobbing at my funeral.
Uncontrollable sobbing.
Mourners dressed in black, sobbing,
In an austere church with such bad acoustics
That all you can hear is sobbing.
I want horses with those black tassels on their heads,
And I want the horses to look sad,
And if possible I want the horses to be sobbing, too.
I want dreary music, and just when it sounds
Like the dreary music is about to end,
I want it to start up again.
Dreary music and sobbing.

I want a sermon which goes on and on
And is so incredibly pointless
That not even the vicar knows what it’s about.
I want the vicar to be a droner.
A droner with a nasal whine,
Bad teeth and dandruff.
I want the vicar to talk about how
Meaningless life is.
I want the pews to be
Really uncomfortable.

I want my casket to be there, of course.
I want someone to throw themselves on it
And have to be dragged away.
I want some poor sucker to have to
Read some poem by a Brontë sister.
I want my gravestone to read,
Sleep brings no joy to me.
And I want the stock markets to crash
That very morning
Just because of my death.
And I want it to rain.
You know the sort of rain.
That wet rain.
And I want the pallbearers
All to get a slipped disc.
And on the way home
The mourners stop at a café
And order chips,
But the waitress says
That the fryer has broken,
So they order jacket potatoes instead,
But the jacket potatoes are still raw in the middle
And the salad is limp.

I want my death to come
At a period of maximum inconvenience
For everyone,
Right at a time of peak happiness
Or just before a long-anticipated holiday.
I want people to have to cancel things.
I’m laughing about it right now.
I want my death to be so, so miserable
That it reminds people of Worcestershire.
Oh my God,
That’s what I want.

Anne says she wants to put the fun
Back into funeral,
And she’s already bought a CD of S Club 7
Just in the off-chance.
But I, oh, I
Aspire to greater things.
In fact, it’s a shame
I wouldn’t be around to see it.

Performing in Berlin, 2014

During my spoken word career I’ve performed in some wonderful cities and places where I ordinarily wouldn’t have gone unless I had a gig there. Lancaster, for example, or Newquay, or Petersfield. Lovely places which I’m glad I got the chance to look around because I wouldn’t have even thought about going to them. And of course, London, New York, and Barnstaple.
About eight years ago I decided to have a few days in Berlin. I’d always been fascinated with Berlin having studied twentieth century history for my A-Levels, and it seemed a place imbued with the mystique of Cold War intrigue, wartime shenanigans, the excesses of the 1920s, and of course, the basis for Bowie’s mid-70s albums. So I booked into a lovely hotel near a small park and a lake, a short U-Bahn ride from the city centre, and set about having a good old poke around.
It didn’t take long to wonder if there were any spoken word open mics. I’d heard from people such as Mighty Mike McGee that there was a thriving spoken word scene in Germany and that they were very accommodating to English language performers. Indeed, I do speak a little bit of German, yet people soon lapsed into English when ever I opened my gob. A quick check of Google showed that there would be a slam in a venue not far from my hotel.
Incredibly nervously, I turned up at the King Kong Klub for their poetry slam. And the host greeted me, he was incredibly welcoming and made me feel at home, and I sat with his friend, who was taking the entrance money on the door. I’d already emailed to say that I was coming and they both seemed happy for me to take part. I’d spent part of the afternoon perfecting my finest three minutes.
The King Kong Klub was a bar with a kind of shabby chic demeanour. Or perhaps it was just plain shabby, it’s difficult to work it out, these days. And when the show began I soon realised that my limited grasp of German was not going to help me, as the host spoke very quickly and then at one point started throwing bananas at the audience. This, apparently, was a tradition at the King Kong Klub poetry slam. One of them ricocheted off my head.
And then the competition began. The first thing I noticed was that the performers, who were all performing in their home language, didn’t seem at all rushed. Indeed, they were doing slots of ten, fifteen minutes. And they didn’t follow any of the conventions of slam that I’m used to. Some of them had props. Some of them danced. Some of them did several poems. And after each had sat down, they were given scores by members of the audience, just like a slam ‘back home’.
And then it was my turn. I did my tidiest three minutes. Expecting not to be understood, I was relieved to hear the audience laugh at all the appropriate places, and then when I went to sit down the people at the bar told me in English that they’d loved the poem.
Now, due to my insistence on not looking at the scores, I had no idea how I’d done. The next performers came up and did ten, fifteen minutes. And then there was a break, and I was too embarrassed to ask the host if I’d made it into the next round! I remember going down a spiral staircase to the basement toilets and trying to pluck up the courage to ask, while at the same time wondering how long the building had been there, and which part of Berlin it had fallen into during the Cold War. So it was something of a pleasant surprise when the show restarted that my name was called again! Indeed, not wanting to look too presumptuous, I’d put my performance book away in my bag so I had to fumble around to get it out. I’d also nabbed one of the bananas. ‘For later’.
My second poem also was well-received, and I only knew I hadn’t made it into the final when they actually did the final. I do remember that one of the lads in the final did a set of poems which seemed to be about a toy car that he was using as a prop.
It was a wonderful night and I chatted with my friend on the door, as we had a beer, (I don’t usually drink beer, but he was nice enough to come back from the bar with it), and we both clinked bottles and said, ‘Prost!’, at which point he informed me that apparently I’d come fourth!
It was a lovely night, and I really do want to go back to Berlin once the world is a little safer. I made some new friends that night!

All about my new book, ‘Yay!’

Robert Garnham’s new collection Yay!, has just been published by Burning Eye.

Yay! , is a selection of what Robert calls ‘upbeat, happy poems for a world in which there doesn’t seem to be much to smile about’.

‘When I first started planning this collection, I decided that every poem would be something positive and optimistic, yet with depth, a serious undertone beneath the surface, and yet a positive outlook, something cheerful which might take people away from the humdrum. There’s also an undercurrent referencing mental health, and an acknowledgement that a lot of people are struggling at the moment.

Of course, I started planning this book in 2018, just before things suddenly became even more depressing, with the global pandemic and human rights abuses coming to light.

I initially saw the book the way people might see a pop album, something bouncy and cheerful which colours their summer and brings back happy memories. Like Proust with his madeleine. It’s also something of a ‘concept album’ with a deliberate seaside feel. The first two poems, and the last poem, are all about living in a seaside town. The rest of the poems are about LGBT issues, relationships, superhero pug dogs, scratch ‘n’ sniff Egyptian hieroglyphs, and a rap about tea.

I took two weeks off in 2019 and took a scalloper to an Icelandic peninsula, and there, in a low stone hut with a turf roof, I laid out the poems and tried to whittle them down to a collection’s worth, but only ended up writing more poetry! It was there, with the scent of sulphur from the volcanoes on the breeze and the sound of the sea crashing on the hardened lava floes, that I wrote the poem about a young man on a double decker bus trying to use his mobile data to watch porn.

I then went down to the Amazon, to the city of Manaus, and stayed in a wooden cabin on the outskirts of the jungle itself. And there, amid mosquitoes and with the sound of the rainforest a constant buzz, I laid out the poems on the forest floor and decided on their order. Some of the pages got squashed insects on them, and the air was so humid that the ink began to blotch. And yet still the muse was calling to me. Surrounded by such biodiversity and the pungent aroma of the peaty earth, I wrote the poem about being trapped in the toilet at a motorbike museum.

I am so looking forward to unleashing this book on the world! There will be a show to accompany the book, and book launches planned both online, and for real!

You can order a copy of the book here : https://robertgarnham.bigcartel.com/product/yay-book

(The book will be accompanied by a new solo show, Yay!: The Search for Happiness, which you can find out more about here : https://professorofwhimsy.com/2021/03/21/yay-the-search-for-happiness-2/