My writing life.

I started my writing career in 1981. I was seven. In a style which I have later adopted in my poetry, my first novel didn’t have a title, it just had a giant R on the cover, which stood for Robert. I can’t remember much about if except that the villain was an entity known only as the Blue Moo. The Blue Moo was what I used to call my sister, because she wore a blue coat. Which is kind of cruel, seeing as though she was only five at the time.

I would write at school during playtime, whenever it was raining. It rained a lot, I remember, when I was a kid. I’d always get excited about rainy days because it meant that I could write. I still get excited shout rainy days, even now.
By 1984 I was at middle school and I used to fill notebooks with stories. I was encouraged to do this by my teacher, Mr Shaw, who would then let me read my stories out in class. The first of these was called Bully Bulldog’s Ship, and for reasons which I’m still not sure, all of the characters were dogs. And secret agents. The cover for Billy Bulldog’s Ship shows explosions and a radar screen and has he tag line, ‘Featuring car chases, underwater bases, kings and prime ministers and that sort of thing’. It was rubbish.
By 1986 I was still at middle school, but now I’d progressed to writing about humans. I wrote a whole series of short novels about a skier, called William Board, and his friend Ed Butf, and how they would get into all kinds of adventures during and after skiing tournaments. I have no idea why I picked skiing tournaments, but I did watch an awful lot of Ski Sunday back in the day.
In 1988 my grandparents gave me a typewriter, which I still use now whenever I’m Poet In Residence anywhere. By now William had left the skiing circuit and was a policeman in a small Surrey village called Englemede. I’d type up these stories and inject as much humour as possible, because this would make my English teacher, Mr Smith, laugh as he read them. This was probably a big moment in my adoption of comedy. The stories were still rubbish, but my grammar and spelling had improved.
By the time I got to sixth form I was still plugging away, and remarkably, William Board was still the focus of the stories, his ineptitude as a policeman and his promotion to detective providing much mirth. My magnum opus of this time was Impending Headache, set at a sixth form college in Surrey much like the one I attended. And in between chapters I’d write over the top comedic poetry.
By 1992 I had my first job and, amazingly, William Board was still my main focus. By now his detective work would take him to a supermarket in Surrey, round about the time that I worked at a supermarket in Surrey, in a novel called Bar Code Blues.
In 1994 I got a job in a village shop in the suburb of Englefield Green, and I wrote a new novel with a new main character, the trainee guardian angel Genre Philips. The novel was called Englefield Green Blues, and like Impending Headache, it would be influential on my writing career in that I’d re-use chapters and stories to form the novel I’ve been working on this year.
At this stage, I’d started sending novels off to publishers and agents, and one or two were very supportive but would ultimately say no.
By now I’d dabbled in comedy poetry, filling up notebooks with poems written with a pen I’d been using since sixth form. I’d stay at my grandmothers house in the hot summer, she lived on a hill overlooking the whole of London from the airport to Canary Wharf, and I’d listen to the jazz stations and just write whatever I felt like. This would form the basis of my one man show, Static, in 2016.
In 1995 my Grandfather passed away. I went to see the pathologist and watched as he signed the death certificate with a cartridge pen, and that afternoon I went out and bought one for myself. Amazingly, this is the same pen I use today for anything creative, and it has written every poem, short story, novel and play since 1995.
In 1996 I moved to Devon. By now I’d discovered Kafka, Camus, Beckett, and my writing became dense, impenetrable. I used my own system of punctuation which made even the reading of it impossible, and to further add to the misery, my novels had numbers instead of names. RD05, RD06, RD07, and so on. I’d send these off to publishers and I could never understand why they’d come right back.
I joined a band of local amateur actors and I would write short sketches and funny monologues for them, we’d rehearse and make cassettes, but never got anywhere near the stage. One of my monologues was about a rocket scientist who’d fallen in love with his rocket. Not phallic at all.
I came out in 2000. I didn’t write much at all for a while. I was busy with other things.
By now I had a job, and I’d studied a-levels, undergraduate and postgraduate at night school, so I didn’t have much time for writing. For a laugh, I got a part in a professional play, and while it meant I would never act again, (oh, it was so traumatic!), it led me to write a play called Fuselage. Amazingly, it won a playwriting competition at the Northcott Theatre. I remember getting off the train in Exeter thinking, wow, it’s my writing that has got me here. This all happened in 2008.
In 2009 I discovered performance poetry, accidentally, and kind of got in to that. Around the same time I wrote a short novel called Reception, based on an ill fated trip I took to Tokyo, but by now my main focus was performance poetry and spoken word, shows and comedy one liners. In 2010 I had my first paid gig, at an Apples and Snakes event in London, and amazingly, this was the first time I made any money from my writing since I was 8!
So that brings me up to date, more or less. I now write every day, still with the same pen, and I still use the same typewriter every now and then, though mostly for performance. And I’ve kept a diary, every day writing something about the previous day, which I’ve kept up since 1985 uninterrupted. It’s only taken 37 years to find the one thing I’m halfway decent at!

On memorising.

So lately I’ve been trying to memorise my new Edinburgh show, Juicy. This would be quite an undertaking for me, as I’ve never successfully memorised anything I’ve ever written, and to be jones I probably won’t manage it. I can memorise whole Bob Dylan songs, all fourteen minutes of Desire, but I’m quite hopeless at anything I myself have written.
I did a scratch performance of Juicy at the Bike ashes Theatre in May. It was a daunting experience because I was surrounded by theatrical types, and to be honest I think they were looking at what I was doing more in the context of a theatrical piece than a set of poems. The feedback afterwards unanimously suggested that I should learn the whole thing, because this is what theatre is. Some of the feedback suggested I move around more. Which was quite funny on two counts, firstly because some of the feedback also said how nice it was to see someone who doesn’t move sound all the time, and also because the director I used for my last show told me to stand dead straight for the whole hour. And he was a theatrical director.
So I’ve set to work trying to learn Juicy, and after two months I’ve managed to learn six pages of it. Out of thirty. Now this may not seem like much, but for me, this is a small triumph. I’ve never managed to learn anything before, so six pages of Juicy is the ultimate achievement.
Last week I went to a gig in Totnes and I spoke to a fellow performer who I have lots of respect for. I told her about learning my show and she replied, ‘Why?’
And that got me thinking, why indeed? Ok, so if you’ve learned your lines you can move around more and have a deeper connection with the audience. But on the other hand I’ve always performed with a book, and it is a part of my whole repertoire. I look up from the book, glare at the audience, look at them all in turn. Which should be quite easy at the Edinburgh Fringe. In fact, I know the words, I just can never remember in which order the verses fall.
Make no mistake, it’s good to learn poetry and adds to the performance. And the fact that I’ve memorised six pages of the show means that now I can apply this to the three minute poems, and hopefully grow my performance. But I think I shall just relax on the memorising at the moment and concentrate just on the performance. That’s the main thing. It’s performance poetry, after all! 

Ant – A solemn investigation 

It has been apparent for some time that a solemn investigation were needed into the effects, physical and psychological, of an ant crawling on someone’s hat. Seeing it as upon myself, (the theme, not the ant), I set out, in a somewhat grave manner, and yet bravely, into such an investigation. 
The manner this investigation took soon revealed itself to be poetical in nature, and within a couple of hours I had completed a poem based on the theme of having an ant crawl on someone’s hat. Yet this did not fully satisfy me, and a further poem was written.
At this time, I was bitten by the bug, (again, not the ant), and more poems began to arrive. The theme of an ant on a persons hat soon took over my life and all of my creative output, until such a time arrived that I could think of little else. Indeed, the poems began to resemble a Groundhog Day syndrome, the same repeated themes, the same story with different outcomes, different languages and tones, until within a month I had thirty such poems.
The good people at Mardy Shark publishing soon recognised their worth and a pamphlet was soon produced, titled, simply, Ant.
Ant stands as the zenith of my creativity, a full flow measure of poetic and literary sensibility, all inspired by the horror and the bizarre situation of having an ant crawl on ones hat.
You can download the Kindle version of Ant here
Or you can send off for the physical version here

Ant – A new pamphlet from Robert Garnham

What is ‘Ant’?
Ant is my new collection of poems. Or is it the same poem? That’s for you to decide. Maybe it’s a new art form, the repeated refrain and compulsory ingredients leading to a strict regulatory poetic style which anyone might then imitate, play with, subvert. Or maybe I’m just having a laugh.
The Ant poems retell the same situation thirty times, that of a man with his uncle, who’s eating a bonbon, the nephew realising that his uncle has an ant crawling on the brim of his flat cap. It really is that simple. Only there are subtle variations, subtexts, tangents and asides, because life is never really as simple as we think. So many different things can happen, and do, that it’s quite impossible to come up with a definitive recap of the story.
I had great fun writing the Ant poems and I’m sure that you will have great fun reading them. You can download your own copy of the pamphlet at this link.

An Interview with Melanie Branton

One of my best friends in the world of spoken word is Melanie Branton. Best friends in that we chat about things that aren’t to do with poetry or spoken word. She’s a wonderful person who I really admire, and I also think she’s one of the funniest people I know. Her poetry mixes page and performance, and is widely acclaimed. She has been published by some of the top publications and has headlined at some of the top nights in the country. Not only was she the Hammer and Tongue regional winner last year, but she came second at the Bristol Poetry Slam the year before. Only the best spoken word artists come second at the Bristol Poetry Slam. The really, really good ones who everyone loves and admire come second at the Bristol Poetry Slam.

I was so glad when Melanie agreed to be interviewed because I wanted to get to the root of what it is that makes her such a distinctive, funny and heartfelt performer.
1. Your poetry is distinctive, funny and heartfelt. How important is it to draw on personal experience in your work?
Very. It’s been both very therapeutic for me in dealing with dark moments of my life that were still casting a shadow and a way of engaging with audiences in a deeper way. If you have the courage to expose something private about yourself, if you make yourself vulnerable before an audience, they will usually connect with you.

I didn’t always write like this. I started writing traditional light verse about “funny ideas” that were very far removed from me. But, 9 times out of 10, “funny ideas” are clichés, aren’t funny, and entrench dodgy, discriminatory world views (Mothers-in-law are dragons! Menopausal women are kooky and hysterical!) and it was a way of avoiding saying anything meaningful that might expose my own personality and history to scrutiny. Spoken word forced me to open up about myself more, take greater risks and made my poetry much better.
But that’s just me – not everyone has to write like this. Ultimately poetry has to be judged on its emotional impact and the quality of the writing, not its truth: I can’t be doing with all these “scandals” where slam audiences feel “cheated” when they find out that the poet they gave 10s to for his/her heartrending personal story doesn’t really have inoperable cancer/a dead twin brother/a history of childhood abuse (delete as applicable). Judge on the quality of the work, not on who’s got the biggest sob story, then maybe people won’t feel compelled to make stuff up.

2. You have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the modern poetry scene. In terms of page poets, who are your influences, and who do you admire?

Well, it’s more of a Dummy’s Guide-ic knowledge, actually.

There are some writers I admire and would love to write like, but know I never will (e.g. Emily Dickinson, Seamus Heaney). Then there are some writers that I used to read a lot of when I was a teenager. I’m not so into their work anymore, it’s not where my taste is now, but I can still see their influence in what I write (e.g. John Betjeman, Roger McGough).But there are some writers I love whose influence on my work is obvious – Selima Hill (who’s probably my favourite living poet) being a particular case in point. 

Writers I’ve been reading a lot of lately include Miriam Gamble, James Lasdun, Clare Pollard, Katherine Pierpoint, Penelope Shuttle, Philip Gross, but I have no idea if they’ve influenced me.
I lived in Poland for 4 years and I think I’m also influenced by Polish poets, from the stark attempts of Tadeusz Różewicz to construct a new poetics, after a Holocaust that had debased all that had gone before, to the playful, rather Dr Seuss-like absurdist, Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński

If this has not already become obvious, I am totally obsessed by poetry

3. And what about performance poets?

One of the first spoken word artists I ever saw was Stacy Makishi and I am in awe of people like her, who are multidisciplinary performance artists, not just poets. Chanje Kunda has massively impressed me, in that total performance way.

It’s unfashionable to say so, but I like the traditional, rhymey-rhymey, almost music hall performance poets, like John Cooper Clarke and Pam Ayres. And people like Luke Wright, who I suppose are keeping this tradition alive.

I very much admire both Anna Freeman and Harry Baker. I think Harry’s breathtaking, ostentatious technical skill is a welcome corrective in a scene where the content cart is often put before the form-and-language horse. And I like the fact that he writes about nerdy things that no-one else does, like the vagaries of the German language and the joys of Maths.

I also very much admire you.

4. You’ve had success both in slams and in publication. What plans do you have for the immediate future?
I never have plans – I bumble along in a permanent state of vagueness. But I have a hazy aim to get a collection published in the next year or so and to get enough bookings to at least be able to convincingly pretend my job is poet on my passport. I’d also like to have a go at putting a one-hour show together, possibly on the subject of language, which seems to be a recurrent theme in what I’m writing at the moment.

5. A lot of your poems are very, very funny. How important is being funny in a performative context?

Thank you! I rarely set out to be funny (and when I do, I’m invariably not). Because I have a reputation mostly as a comic poet, audiences often want to find me funny and will laugh at poems I actually intended to be serious. 

Then again, I think most really funny poetry has a serious core. I see that a lot with your stuff – the reason it’s so funny is because it touches on profound human truths and fears. Most of your poems have very serious ideas about loneliness, being afraid of not being good enough or not fitting in, or gay politics lurking somewhere behind them. Real belly laughs come, not from a clever pun or rhyme, but from people recognising something about themselves in what you’ve said.
I’ve been to some events where funny poems were clearly looked down on as being trite, unworthy, so last century, which annoys me. I think you can often make a serious point more subtly and effectively through comedy than you can through being all earnest about it. And even if it is just fluff, what’s so terrible about that? Writing effective fluff still takes a lot of skill and it makes people happy.

The poems of mine that get the biggest laughs are usually ones where I’m emotionally offloading. Like “Everything Reminds Me Of You”, which is barely a poem at all – it’s just random stream-of-consciousness. I was long-term unemployed when I wrote it, had just had a really harsh rejection letter for about the 50,000th job I’d applied for and was trying to take solace in a creepily intense, one-sided crush on a man I slightly knew and had friended on social media. It’s ostensibly about a crush, but it’s really about the thousand and one desperate, delusional ways we try to create some happiness for ourselves in a world where nothing good ever happens.
Both the best and the worst thing about funny poems is that it’s easier to gauge how well you’ve gone down. If the audience laughs very loudly, you know your poem hit the spot. If they receive it in stony silence, you know you’ve failed miserably. Whereas, with serious poems, it’s all a lot more mysterious. Is that silence the pregnant silence of an enraptured audience hanging on your every word? Or is it the silence of 200 bored people simultaneously letting their minds drift onto whether they left the gas on and whether Tesco Express will still be open when they leave the venue and if there’ll still be any cat food left?

One thing I like to do is to switch to a serious poem after a string of comic ones. Audiences usually hate this. They start off laughing, because they assume I’m still trying to be funny, then as the penny drops, the laughs start to dry up and they look deeply, deeply uncomfortable, because they can’t work out what I expect of them and they feel stupid for having laughed in the first place. And this is exactly how I want them to feel. Because if I’m doing a poem about my mental illness or having been raped, I damn well want the audience to feel uncomfortable – I don’t want them to be sitting there having a feelgood moment, smugly congratulating themselves on how right-on and compassionate they are, which I feel happens way too much in spoken word.

6. How do you rehearse and memorise your work?

I don’t rehearse enough – I spend a lot of time on trains and much of my rehearsal consists of running through lines in my head while on the Taunton to Bristol Parkway line. Or pacing around mouthing the lines sotto voce on a draughty platform. 
Fortunately, I have always had a near-photographic memory, so memorisation has rarely been a major challenge (although I have dried on poems I knew well when nervous and the first outing for any poem is often a hit-and-miss affair). It helps if the poem is a narrative one, especially if it’s in chronological order, because it’s pretty obvious that C comes after B. Rhyme ought to help, but it’s also much more obvious when you get wrong.

7. What would you say was your best gig?
That’s a hard one to answer, as every gig is special in its own way (unless it goes badly, in which case it’s hideous).
The Bristol Slam in 2014, where I came second, has a special place in my heart, though, because it was about six months after I had taken up spoken word and was the first event where I felt I got taken seriously as a poet. I’d done a few slams before then and even won one of them, but I’d never felt I’d had more than a lukewarm reaction from the audience and the last couple had gone very badly (as in, I got given 6s when everybody else was getting 9s). I was on the verge of accepting that I just didn’t have what it takes and giving up. And then I turned up for one last hoorah, expecting to come last and totally humiliate myself again, and it was like a fairy tale (or, at least, a cheesy made-for-TV movie) – the audience treated me like a rock star, the expert judges gave me incredibly flattering scores and people seemed to assume I was a pro who knew what I was doing. It was the first time I really believed I might be somewhat good at this. I was so overwhelmed, I kept trying to hug the woman sitting next to me, in the emotion of the moment completely forgetting she was a total stranger. 

Both times I’ve appeared at Raise The Bar have also been amazing. Danny always manages to attract an enormous audience. It’s also a very young audience – I felt a bit like Ronald McDonald – but an insanely enthusiastic one and one which really listens and thinks about what it’s heard and is open to all kinds of poetry. It’s definitely my favourite night in Bristol at the moment.
8. What would be the overriding theme of your poetry, if there is one?

I’m probably best known for my poems moaning about my epically rubbish lovelife. I do write poems about other things, but those seem to be the ones that are the most popular.

9. How do you write? Do you have a specific time and place and set of procedures, or do you wait for inspiration to strike?

No, I don’t have any kind of system. I usually just wait for inspiration to strike, but I do sometimes give it a helping hand – I attend a brilliant poetry group where we’re given a set theme every month; if I know there’s a write-in at a café near me, I’ll try to go along; and I find that nothing coaxes the muse out of hiding like a deadline, so I will look up calls for submissions and force myself to produce something by the cut-off date.

Some of my poems come very easily, others take months of agonised tinkering.

10. One of your poems is a hilarious critique of slam poetry styles. Do you see a certain dominant style at such events? Does it help to be distinctive?

People often interpret that poem as a damning critique of slam poetry, but I actually wrote it when I was preparing for a major slam and was putting myself under enormous pressure to come up with the perfect poem, that would tick all the right boxes. Of course, I produced nothing but shit during this period, as I wasn’t being myself – I was trying to manufacture poetry with cynical, mercenary intentions, and be who other people wanted me to be. That never works. It’s not so much a critique of slam poetry as a critique of my own Machiavellian ambition and cackhanded slam tactics.
That said, there are things in slam poetry that piss me off and it does come out in that poem. In particular, I hate the amount of virtue-signalling that goes on at slams – people writing safe, anodyne poetry that preaches to the converted and doesn’t attempt to tell people anything they don’t already know. Yes, there are too many racists and homophobes in the world, but by and large they don’t attend spoken word events, so if you’ve come to tell people racism and homophobia is bad, you’re probably in the wrong venue.
Going back to your question, I think it helps to be distinctive with expert judges and with promoters and publishers, who are heartily sick of seeing Tesco Value versions of Kate Tempest and Shane Koyczan and want to see people who have their own things to say.

Some slam audiences, though, really don’t want you to be distinctive. If you don’t sound like a carbon copy of every other slam poet they’ve ever heard, they think you’re doing it wrong. That’s something that frustrates me. Fortunately, though, those audiences are in the minority – most spoken word audiences are very embracing and eclectic.


New York Poems 

New York 1.
They say that Manhattan is a state of mind

But I’ve looked on the map

And it’s definitely there.
It doesn’t stop,

Not even in the dead of night,

The rumbling, the growl,


No wonder they look so angry.
I went into Starbucks at five in the morning

And there was already a queue.

Shuffling jittery city dwellers,

The insomniacs and the early risers,

The boy who cannot sleep in

The city that never sleeps,

Nothing more offputting than a

Mardy pre-caffeine New Yorker.
Don’t take coffee, I take

Well actually I do take coffee,

Thanks for asking,

And maybe one of those tarts.

I’m English, you know.
Sitting in the window and watching

The cyclists,

Weaving, open-mouthed.

Stop lights mean nothing to them,

Life seems so tentative,

These two-wheeled mosquitoes,

How many of them end up 

Plastered on the front of those

Big-assed delivery trucks that you see,

Or some nobhead’s Humvee?
I thought the barista was only being nice

When he asked me for my name.

He repeated it with a smile, all

Rhotic on the consonants,

Elongating the vowels in a way

They don’t normally get pronounced,

Making my heart all fluttery

Until I notice he’d written it on my cup.
It’s the familiar things 

That make me feel at home.

Crushing disappointment,

And the fact that they

Also have McDonalds over here.
New York 2.
I need one with a shot of espresso.

You’re the newbie, you’ll need this.

There’s a whole bunch of confidence there.

She never told anyone

But she likes attention.

She’s like that with every guy, trust me.

And then she can cut him out, say uh-oh,

It’s like oh, it’s bad, she’ll go far,

She got green locker room doors,

She won’t try to apologise.

I don’t have an issue with her.

Every time I told her she gave me the one two.

I used to consider you a friend

And I was your friend whatever.
(Found poem, three NYPD police women chatting in a coffee shop at the next table).
New York 3.
The way he’s sitting

And what he’s wearing

And his hair

Those are the definites.

His sensitive eyes

His long eyelashes and the

Way he just looked 

At that jogger,

Those are the peripheries.

And the hoodie,

American Dance Theatre,

Alvin Ailey,

Whatever that is.

(I will google it later).

It’s all mostly symbolic

I feel

I know him.
New York 4.
She took my hand and danced with me

Amid the noise and clamour and cacophony 

Of Times Square 

As the skyscrapers whirled in their

Concrete and glass delirium,

She yelled

Above the engines and the horns and the

Shouting and the hooters and the sirens and the roar

And the buzz and the energy and the excitement

And the rush and the glee and the pulsing rhythms

Of the city in all its brash omnipotence,


I thought you were my husband.
New York 5.
(Amid the Abstract Expressionists, MoMa)
He, who isn’t here

Would have haunted these

Very pictures,

Broken nose to canvas

And a ready opinion.

Losing himself

In the Pollock

And it’s intricate action,

Felt a spark of the very now,

And would have known everyone

On first name terms.

Jasper. Jackson. Elaine. Robert. Mark.
The boy with the red trainers,

A sly flitting nonchalant phantom

Who will blond my dreams

With his purposeful demeanour

Right now here and

F would have approved.
New York 6.
I’ve only got one joke about denim.

A one liner about crinoline.

I’ve only got a couple of puns about nylon

And a quip about silk


I’ve run out of material.
New York 7.
(Written in Tom’s Diner)
I wasn’t sitting near the window.

I was at the counter.

But it was still the diner on the corner

And the burger was mighty fine

On a drizzly Manhattan Saturday.
And there’s a ball game on the tv screen,

Notre Dame are playing NC State

And I’m not sure what the sport is

But they’ve all got helmets and shoulder pads.
There’s a picture from a magazine

Of Jerry Seinfeld on the wall and he’s

Kind of looking at me imperiously

As I eat my burger which,

As I said, is mighty fine.
I’ve got that tune in my head now,

You know the one.

The Seinfeld tv theme music.

I probably wouldn’t have come here

If it wasn’t for, you know,

These two things.
New York 8.
The Staten Island ferry 

Everyone is merry

They’re all waving at me!

Am I a celebrity?

Have I been recognised?

Am I famous here?

No, they’re

Wiping mist from the windows

Of the inside seating area.

I’m depressed now.
New York 9.
She purred

Hold on there, honey,

I’ll just put you through

On to line number three.

There was barely a click.

No static.

She’s such a

Smooth operator.
New York 10.
I want to go out with Rhys.

I want to have a date with Rhys.

I want to spend quality time with Rhys.

I want to get to know Rhys.

I want to be with Rhys.

I want to make out with Rhys

I want to express my love for Rhys

I want to have relations with Rhys

I want to be at peace 

With Rhys.
I say to Rhys





Please please please

Rhys Rhys Rhys


Come on

Don’t be a tease

Put me at my ease

I haven’t got flees

You are the bees



What do you say?


What of it, Rhys what of it, Rhys what do you reckon?

You and me Rhys please Rhys what do you think Rhys

Me and you Rhys you and me Rhys us together Rhys 


Us together Rhys us together Rhys us us us

Together together together 


Rhysie babes.

Oh dear!

Rhys has gone walking off.

Rhys has gone walking off.

Rhys has gone walking off.

Rhys has gone walking off.

Rhys has gone walking off.

Rhys has gone walking off.


Has called the police.
New York 11.
The big pancake. The big muffin.

The big nausea. The big nothing.

The broad one. The tall one.

The big fella. The concrete devotional.

The prostrate giant. The cosmopolitan.

The metropolitan. The big breakfast.

The all day lunch. The concrete funnel.

The distorted mirror. The seismic cherry.

The license to chill. The delicatessen.

The bad boy. The big bad boy,

Cavernous potholes so deep you’ll 

Lose yourself for a week.

The big dependable. The three-way delicious.

The exuberant fruit. The hungry papa.

The pumping beehive. The big badger.

The big glacial. The big crazy.

The big security. The big despicable.

The big beat. The big Apple.
New York 12.
No ghost dance

On these gentle hills

Nor ceremonial gatherings

On the granite outcrops, 

Central Park no wilderness,

Just the whisper of

Other people’s conquests

Too rooted in the now

To wander successfully.
New York 13. 
Melissa loves her new boyfriend

She was telling me 

He’s got it all and she’s fallen for him

And love is a tentative thing,

It makes her heart sing

That just a glimpse of him

Makes her all tingly inside.

Tell me more, said I.
His name is

It’s amazing,

It’s true love.

We haven’t actually been on a date,

But we shared the taxi home

From a Eurovision Song Contest party

And he was so nice.

He didn’t even touch me.

What a gentleman.

I’ve already changed my

Facebook relationship status.
He’s not like other men.

He doesn’t try to impress you

With a list of all the blokey masculine 

Macho things he’s done.
He’s ever so retro.

He likes antiques.

Old things. Ancient things.

He loves Cher.

He has a big droopy moustache

The kind that women in the seventies

Used to love.
He works on boats.

You never see him without his sailor’s cap.

But he also likes the countryside,

He loves camping.

And cottages.
He’s so manly

Yet he’s not afraid to show his emotions.

Just the opening chords of I Will Survive 

Has him in floods of tears.

He has the soul of a rebel,

And a connoisseurs appreciation

Of the female form

In all it’s beauty.

Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue, 

Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland

Barbra Streisand.


He’s a punk demon tearing up the road with his


Which I haven’t seen

But he wears lots of leather 

And he says there’s nothing better than a 

Big one throbbing between his legs.

He’s the man for me!
He’s so caring.

He doesn’t want to upset whoever 

Gave him the Tshirt that reads,

It’s Raining Men.

But he wears it all the time.

And on the back it says

He’s coming round tomorrow night,

I’m going to tell him the way I feel

Over quiche.

He says he’ll do my nails

And watch a box set of the Golden Girls.

I might put the football on.

He was telling me

How much he likes footballers.

And ball sports in general.

He’s the man for me!
I’ve got him some whiskey.

He says he likes a stiff one 

Before bed.
So what do you think?
And I said, well,

First the good news is

I can’t see any problem looming with his

Red blooded masculine urges,

And the whole time you’re together

He won’t even look at another woman.

He’s not the sort of man

Who’ll force himself on you

Unless you’ve got the latest issue of Vogue,

And he’ll make your flat spotless.

You’ll be up to date with all of the

Latest celebrity gossip

And he’ll be genuine interested

In how much you hate your work colleagues.
And now for the bad news.

There will be no kids

I can guarantee it.

Try as you might

You’ll never break his heart.

And be prepared to meet a lot of

Impossibly handsome young men who have all

Inexplicably missed the last bus home,

One by one, on consecutive nights.
It’s not going to happen, sister.

It’s not going to work.

Take your mind off this man, this

Aesthetically pleasing man, this sensitive

Teasing perfumed perfect

Moisturiser tube squeezing

Eyebrow tweezing 

Salad seizing

Wit so cold it’s

Almost freezing man

For whom the dance of life

Is to dance all night

With the kind of type

He likes to like

Which I’m afraid, honey,

Is not you.
That’s a shame, she said,

He’s coming round tonight to pick up his 

Black and Decker Angle Grinder.

Oh, I said,

In that case I take it all back.
I met a wizard, a sage,

A man of his age

Whose wage was to lift

His spells from the page,

Engage with souls and enrage 

As if locked in a cage,

Mix emotions, persuade, rampage,

Oh, how I would gauge

With a hint of outrage

As I performed on the stage,

He was an old man

So he wasn’t teenage,

His name was Adrian

But his friends called him Adge.
I said,

Wise man,

Tell my why people are suffering,

For when my heart is fluttering

I hear a low muttering,

It’s happening right now

Over the coughing and spluttering,

Like a YouTube clip

That won’t stop buffering.
Why is this world filled with hate and with

Torture, and hunger and greed,

People who don’t get what they need,

It’s like hatred has planted a seed

Which won’t go away

Until we are freed,

Plus a lot of people

Routinely lose their car keys,
And soldiers,

Dressed in their khakis,

So glib their humour, so sarky,

So cold outside, it really is parky,

It’s a lark, see.

Oh wise man, I beseech thee,

You could teach me,

I’m out of reach, see.

If I was a germ you could bleach me.

Oh wise man, unleash me.
He opened his mouth to speak, see,

Thought about it deeply,

Cleared his throat and said,

And I said,

Give me all your learnings, I’m yearning

To feel that burning

And the world turning,

Life is unfurling

Like ideas thrown in the air

I’m hurling

Concepts at ya,

What philosophy can we capture,

Or otherwise enrapture.

Tell me wise man,

Have you got it beat?

Is the street your retreat to make

Your life complete

Like a celebrity reTweet

Tell us why

Life ain’t so sweet.
He pondered and said,

The trouble is
And I said,

I crave the truth quell the horror in my brain,

The souls I fear who die in their millions,

The humanity of which we are all a part,

I no more fear the truth, let it blaze like a bonfire

As it wells from deep within, for I cannot help but cry

At all the lies that blind us,
And he said, the thing is

And I said,

Blinded by the clap trap,

I’d rather eat a flapjack,

Drive around in a hatchback,

Wear a backpack,
And he said, if I might interject

And I said 

Back catch

Sack crack



Luggage rack

Quarter back



And he just walked off. 

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.


I felt incredibly privileged, yesterday, to sample the fantastic array of poetry in Manchester, and to perform a feature slot at Evidently.

I’ve been to a few vibrant poetry nights up and down the country, and Evidently is definitely one of the best. The show is hosted by Kieran King with such energy and gusto as to be wholly infectious. His enthusiasm for every single performer radiates out and ripples across the audience like a Mexican wave. Every open mic poet is greeted with cheers and clapping and whoops, which must be especially exciting for a first-timer. How wonderful it is to see fresh talent being encouraged in such a way!

The venue is amazing. Google Maps sent me to a light industrial estate somewhere in Salford. I wondered if there had been an error, and as the mist began to roll in from the moors, (or wherever the mist rolls in from in these parts, as I’ve virtually no knowledge of Manchester or it’s geography), a strange magic overtook the night. Neon became blurred, the tower blocks loomed like tombstones, late night garages glared fluorescent light out into the gloom, and then, all of a sudden, the Eagle Inn appeared.

A beautiful old pub, preserved against the neighborhood, with brown tiled walls and architectural flourishes, fireplaces and flagstone floors, the place seemed perfect to evoke a Manchester of the past. As if to reinforce the image, a jukebox was playing The Smiths, and a young man at the bar was singing along, every now and then apologizing to me by saying, ‘They’re just wonderful, the Smiths, and this is my favourite song’.

Evidently is held in the back room of the pub. The back room has a stage and a balcony. The magic is reinforced by the subtle lighting of the room and the way it fills with souls coming in from the dark to spill their words to an appreciative audience. You could smell winter clinging on to their overcoats as the room filled to the brim. Others went upstairs and watched from the balcony.

My own set was a typical blend of Surrey whimsy and pink puppet shenanigans, the audience seemed to enjoy it very much. And then the open micers came on.

One thing that always strikes me about my own local scene in South Devon is the sheer variety. I’ve been to other towns, and each one seems to have its own style, but little variety. In London there’s rap, and it’s good rap, but after eight or nine rappers you begin to tire a little. In Bristol there’s the three-rhymes-per-line lets-all-be-nice-to-each-other style which is also very good and very effective but a little wearing after a while. But Evidently last night was different. It had variety, it had energy, it had humour and it had serious poems.

I wish I’d taken some names down. A poet did a wonderfully effecting piece about civil rights and police brutality which almost made me want to video it and show it to everyone. A young lady of 17 made her debut and recited a fantastic poem about what it means to be 17 and finding your place in the world. There was a chap called Alabaster (I believe), funny and engaging. Jamie Harry Scrutton was hilarious and energetic and I just wanted to take him home with me. Indeed,there were too many to mention here, and then to top it all off, Tony Walsh did a quick set about empowering women and women’s rights. Fantastic stuff!

Rose Condo did a brilliant set, too. Geography, the human spirit, bus stops, Winnipeg. She was hypnotic, truthful, she made me see the world through different eyes. In fact, everyone did.

So my first experience of Manchester was certainly positive and I feel that I should spend more time there. And yes, there was much derision over the fact that I flew up, further demonstrating that this poetry malarkey is just a glorified hobby for me rather than a business, but it only added to the sense afterwards of having had a very perculiar and very pleasant dream.

Here’s a poem I wrote while I was there.


I’m writing this poem in Manchester.
I’ve never been here before.
I didn’t know what to expect
But I wanted to find,
While I was here,
The real Manchester,
Something tangible and local that I
Can build on
As definitive proof,
(Apart from this poem), that
I have been to Manchester.

I found a Starbucks.
I found a Waterstones.
I saw on Google Maps
That there’s a Weatherspoons.

A man on the train said he was
‘going down tut pub’.
I saw another man
And he was wearing a flat cap.
I saw an advert for Yorkshire puddings.

Everyone sounds like
Daphne’s mum, from Frasier.
I feel like I’m
A long way from Guildford.

Ps, bit late now, but I’ve only just worked out why the night was called Evidently.

Which Performance Poet Are You? Take this quiz! You just have to look at what happens next!

OK, the title of this post was misleading. I just thought I’d mess with ya. It’s just my blog. That’s all it is.

So it’s been a mammoth of a week full of exciting things. The highs and lows of performance poetry. On Tuesday I performed in Exeter at the Bike Shed with All Of Our Poets Are Musos. I really enjoyed the variety and mix of music and spoken word, even if I did have to look up what a ‘muso’ was. The highlight of the night for me was the wonderful Chee, who makes me laugh somewhat uncontrollably with her excellent and funny songs. She’s amazing and I think I’m developing a non-sexual crush on her. My own set was accepted with laughter and hilarity, which is kind of what I wanted. And afterwards, she leaned across to me while the next person was performing, and she whispered, ‘You had sex with an octopus’.


On Thursday I hosted my last ever Poetry Island. It’s been an amazing three years, but I knew that I couldn’t do it forever. The nights are fun and brilliant and euphoric, but there’s so much organisation goes in to the promoting and administrative side, and then I get incredibly nervous before hosting. I have to lie down on the floor of my flat and stare at the ceiling. I’ve never really told anyone about this nervous side of me before, but it becomes almost crippling. Ian Beech will be taking over, he’s a great chap and has an encyclopedic knowledge of performance poetry, as well as many contacts. The nights will be amazing under his control.

It was an emotional night, full of good humour. I did the dance for the last ever time. We put the poets in the cinema because there were so many people wanting to come in and watch, and it was great to listen to their reactions from the other room! I will certainly miss hosting, but I wont miss all the other things that go around being a host and promoter.

On Friday night, Tim King and I drove out to Salisbury to appear on the main stage at the Rest Festival. We got lost. Then we hit a kerb. Then we almost hit a rock. Then we got stuck in a traffic jam. Then we got stopped by the police. We finally arrived with about ten minutes to spare, to find the act before us was an amazing band, and when it was announced that the music had stopped for the night and that next up were two poets, the crowd kind of drifted away. Quite quickly. Nevertheless, we performed very well, even if we did scamper away as quick as we could! Got back to Tim’s house in Exeter at three in the morning. We had cheese on toast and red wine.

So that’s been my week. Oh yes, and I did that dreaded ice bucket challenge thing. The results were too embarrassing to broadcast, but if you want the video I can always send it. It was cold. Obviously. And I was not very manly.



Edinburgh Fringe, days three and four

Well I’m starting to get into the swing of it now. The rhythm. Leaflet and smile. Leaflet and smile. Poetry death match, madam? Leaflet and smile. And then go to someone else’s venue and leaflet and smile. Poetry death match, sir? And then get to your own venue and hope they damn well turn up.

‘Yes. Sounds great. I’m busy today but I will definitely come along tomorrow’. That’s what they say. But then they hear that there’s an act at the same time involving tightrope walking badgers. How can poetry possibly compete against tightrope walking badgers?

We had our best audiences over the last two days, six at a time. Yesterday was weird, though. Two of them left before the end, and one of them fell asleep. That’s never a good sign, is it? Mind you, she looked absolutely pooped. And I know how she feels. Festival fatigue set in yesterday and I just had to go to a book shop for a bit and pretend I was elsewhere. Just for a bit.

I’ve seen some really good comedy, though. Ever since last year I’d wanted to watch John Kearns, and sure enough he was brilliant, funny, inventive, harmless and likeable, and I was very glad that I went even though everywhere I go I have to lug around a big cardboard envelope containing the shows props. You have to stow it, you see. Stow it in the corner whenever you get to someone else’s show.

But the funniest thing I’ve seen is a comedy motivational show by Ken Do. Hilarious stuff, physical, character driven comedy which made me laugh like nothing else I’d seen for months. I wanted it to go on for much longer than it did even when Ken invited me up to help him illustrate some of his confidence building measures.

Everyone should go and watch this show, it’s at Pivo at seven each day.

Been performing elsewhere, too, at an event called Jibba Jabba. The audience is generally bigger than ours. It’s a confidence thing, you see.

There’s something weird happening, too. I mean, weirder than walking round in a tshirt which has a picture of your own face on it. People keep saying, ‘I’ve seen you before, were you here last year?’ And someone asked me if I was married to Sarah Millican. I’m not. I did a Google picture search on ‘Sarah Millican’s husband’. It was scary. Try it.

One day to go, now. I feel for my fellow poets who are here for the month. Jack Dean, Rob Auton, Tina Sederholm, Dominic Berry, it must be so, so tiring and emotionally draining. On the plus side, they’re probably not staying in a tent. Forty year old and I’m camping. Never again!

Home tomorrow. I’m typing this at a picnic bench on a campsite at seven in the morning. How I long for simple comforts, like doors and a roof!