A letter to Buzz Aldrin

Hello,

Here’s today’s poem podcast and it’s a letter to the second man on the moon, Buzz Aldrin. Because I know how he feels. I’m always late for the party myself. But he got there, didn’t he? He managed just as much as the other chap. Here’s a poem for you, Buzz.

<div style=”font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc;line-break: anywhere;word-break: normal;overflow: hidden;white-space: nowrap;text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif;font-weight: 100;”><a href=”https://soundcloud.com/robertdgarnham&#8221; title=”Robert Garnham” target=”_blank” style=”color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;”>Robert Garnham</a> · <a href=”https://soundcloud.com/robertdgarnham/a-letter-to-buzz-aldrin-wav&#8221; title=”Daily Poem 8 : A Letter to Buzz Aldrin” target=”_blank” style=”color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;”>Daily Poem 8 : A Letter to Buzz Aldrin</a></div>

Cocky

Here’s today’s Daily Poem Podcast. I hope you like it. It’s a poem about unrequited love and receiving a Facebook friends request from a figure from the past. It’s a brand new poem!

<div style=”font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc;line-break: anywhere;word-break: normal;overflow: hidden;white-space: nowrap;text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif;font-weight: 100;”><a href=”https://soundcloud.com/robertdgarnham&#8221; title=”Robert Garnham” target=”_blank” style=”color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;”>Robert Garnham</a> · <a href=”https://soundcloud.com/robertdgarnham/cocky&#8221; title=”Daily Poem 5 : Cocky” target=”_blank” style=”color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;”>Daily Poem 5 : Cocky</a></div>

You can tut all you like

You can tut all you like

You can tut all you like Mr Pinkerton
This queue ain’t moving any faster
Going tut tut tut tut tut tut tut
Ain’t gonna make the queue go faster

He’s an uptight tutter he’s a bread without butter
He’s a mean low thing who lives in the gutter
But he ain’t gonna get any place soon
By going tut tut tut tut tut tut tut

Tut tut tut tut tut tut tut
Tut kyaw tut kyaw tut kyaw tut
Tut tut tut tut tut tut tut
Tut kyaw tut kyaw tut kyaw tut

You can tut all you like Mr Pinkerton
I’m gonna take my own sweet tine
Going tut tut tut tut tut tut tut
I’ll make sure you’re still stood in line

He’s an uptight tutter he’s a bread without butter
He’s talking to himself and the queue can hear him mutter
But he ain’t gonna get any place soon
By going tut tut tut tut tut

Tut tut tut tut tut tut tut
Tut kyaw tut kyaw tut kyaw tut
Tut tut tut tut tut tut tut
Tut kyaw tut kyaw tut kyaw tut

Youuuuuuuuuuuuuu
Can tut all you like Mr Pinkerton
I’m sorry if I disappoint
Going tut tut tut tut tut tut tut
Mind you, he’s got a point.

Hes an uptight tutter he’s a bread without butter
It’s clear we’re in the way and they think we’re just clutter
And we ain’t gonna get any place soon
By going tut tut tut tut tut

Tut tut tut tut tut tut tut
Tut kyaw tut kyaw tut kyaw tut
Tut tut tut tut tut tut tut
Tut kyaw tut kyaw tut kyaw tut

Oh for goodness sake now one of them’s gone to lunch.

An interview with Laurie Eaves

Today I interview Laurie Eaves. Laurie is one of my favourite poems and he was due to be one of our headliners this year at the night I run, Big Poetry. Alas, the lockdown worked against that.

I’ve seen Laurie perform plenty of times on my trips to London and I was always struck by his mix of life, emotion, humour and the sensitivity and power of his words. His collection Biceps was recently published by Burning Eye and it’s an absolutely absorbing poetic description of a romance from start to end, a stunning piece of autobiographical poetry whose light touch belies the deep emotion behind its subject matter. It is a beautiful work.

I’m hoping still to have Laurie visit Torquay at some point, but for now, here’s an interview with him.

How did you get in to writing and performing poetry?

I started writing poetry way back in secondary school. My first one was called ‘Elephants Can’t Do Press-Ups’ and it was pretty awful – most of my poems at the time were just silly novelty rhymes that I mumbled too fast. In 2009 I moved to Norwich and found a very warm spoken word community. That’s where I first started performing proper gigs. At the time I did a lot of heavily rhythmic rap-style poems but over time I’ve moved further and further away from that – the new book, Biceps, couldn’t really be a lot further from that starting point. It’s very still, non-rhyming and more “pagey”.

Who were or are your major influences in poetry and performance poetry / spoken word?

I think my influences have shifted a lot over time. When I started out, I was mostly doing a semi-decent John Cooper Clarke impression. I was also thinking a lot more about the rhythms of my poetry than the meaning then and drew a lot on music for that. I was listening to a lot of hip-hop like Dream Warriors, Public Enemy and Kate Tempest back then but also nicking rhythms from prog bands like Tool, Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree and trying to emulate them with my mouth.

Music still hugely informs my writing, but in a very different way. Around the time I started writing Biceps, I got into a lot of US hardcore punk – bands like Minor Threat, Black Flag and the Minutemen whose songs each barely last a minute. You wouldn’t necessarily get that from reading the book, because tonally it’s not exactly raging punk… but the idea of trying to get an idea across efficiently and quickly is definitely there – very few of the poems go over one page.

Tonally, I’d say the book is closer to writers like John Osborne, Laurie Bolger or even Jarvis Cocker. The story is very intimate, soft and pretty kitchen sink. Caroline Teague described the book as “heartwarming and heartbreaking” which pretty much nails what I was going for.

How do you write? Do you have a specific method for writing? Do you write at specific times and places?

I do have a specific way of writing these days but it took me a very long time to discover it. I used to “make time” for my writing. I’d tell myself “ok, on Sunday you’ve got a couple of hours – let’s put that aside for writing.” Then Sunday would come and I wouldn’t do it. Something else would come up or I wouldn’t be in the mood or I’d just not do it. I didn’t have a lot of discipline around it. And after a while I realised I needed to snap myself out of that…

So in August 2017 I bought a tiny pocket notebook from Flying Tiger and started writing in it as a diary. I’d carry the book with me at all times and just write down what I was up to, anything unusual I saw, what I was eating – just anything. I burnt through the notebook in about a month and bought another. I’ve now got a big shelf full of those notebooks and I’ve written in them every day for nearly three years (except for three days when I was ill).

I know that 99% of what I write in the notebooks is rubbish. But there’s 1% in there that’s good and which I would have lost if I hadn’t written it down. So now when I do “sit down to write” or go to a workshop, I flip back over the latest notebook, see what I’ve written in there and use it as a jumping off point. The pen feels lighter because I’ve been writing anyway and I already have an idea to write about.

When did you decide to make a themed collection?

2018 was a year with a lot of change for me. On New Year’s Day, my partner and I broke up after seven years together. And my reaction to that was to write about it. A lot. It was a lot cheaper than therapy.

By April, I was still writing a lot. Not poetry really, just a lot of long free-writes, trying to process this new change in my life and starting to work out who I wanted to be in the world now. Then one Sunday, I went and had a pub lunch with my friend Laurie Bolger. I told her about all this writing I was doing. At the time I had no idea what this writing was – whether it was a play, a novel, a spoken word show, I just didn’t know.

Laurie said it sounded like it might be a poetry book and that I should go home, print out all these bits of writing and lay them out on my bedroom floor. So I did. Over the next few weeks I started to see the connections between all the pieces and that they basically fell into three categories: poems about making a relationship, poems about the relationship breaking up and poems about starting to rebuild as a new individual person. I started sorting them into those three piles “Make”, “Break” and “Build” and that structure stuck through to the final book. It’s your classic beginning-middle-end structure. Once I realised that, it became clear that I was writing a narrative poetry collection. It was very organic – I never sat down at the start and decided that’s what I was doing, I just stumbled into it.

Were the poems in Biceps written at around the same time, or over a number of months and years?

Of the 44 poems in the book, there are maybe four or five that existed in some form before 2018. By the time I consciously sat down to write the collection, the first poem “The Story’s Better When You Tell It” was a few years old. I knew I wanted that one in there because it fit the narrative and was also the first “page poem” where I felt I’d really nailed it. That’s why the collection starts there.

But the vast majority of the book was written in the first six months of 2018. It’s a very weird way to write a first collection. I think a lot of poets use their debut as a sort of “Greatest Hits”, which Biceps definitely isn’t. It felt risky – I know a lot of people who’ve seen me perform might expect a book of novelty rhyming poems – but I think the book is better because I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and focused on writing new material in a very different style.

Do you do a lot of rewriting?

Definitely. Honestly, I feel more like an editor than a writer at heart – I love pulling apart writing, seeing how it works, diagnosing problems and sticking it all back together. I love to edit for other writers and think it gives you a better understanding of how to improve your own work.

For me, the best writing communicates the thoughts in the author’s head into the reader’s head as clearly and concisely as possible. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the Biceps poems started as rambling free-writes, so they needed a lot of work to cut down. The poem “Hull” started out as a three or four A4 page piece. That worked fine for a three minute slam, but made for a pretty boring read.

So the first big challenge for me was boiling the pieces down – making them more condensed and getting the language to be more efficient. We touched on it earlier, but I was listening to a lot of hardcore punk around that time. I was really fascinated by the way those bands would create songs that communicated a lot, often in less than a minute, and wanted to apply that same philosophy to my writing. “Why waste words?” was definitely a motto.

About three months after the infamous pub lunch, I had a draft that I was happy for other people to look at. I sent it to four poets I love and used their feedback to start redrafting. I worked on the manuscript pretty consistently until November 2018, working on it most days, before submitting it to Burning Eye. By the time I sent the manuscript I’d been through 10 full redrafts and about 30 “mini-redrafts”. I’m definitely not the most talented poet I know, but I like to think I make up for that through hard work.

Burning Eye took the book on in early 2019. That year I worked on it a lot less: I wrote 6 new poems to go in, but mostly focused on touching up the way it looked on the page. Form and layout definitely aren’t my strong suits, but I had some amazing advice from Roger Robinson and Amy Acre that helped pull it up a few notches.

All of which to say: yes, I do a lot of rewriting.

Did any poems on the same theme not make it in to the collection?

Yes, there are a few poems that didn’t make it in. At one point I was toying with the idea of doing a pamphlet called “More Poems About Break-Ups and Tidying” with some of the off-cuts… but the poems I cut were all for good reason. Either the idea wasn’t quite there yet or they were too similar to poems that did make the cut.

I originally had a run of three poems near the end of the book that just didn’t quite fit the story. When I first started the book, I thought those three were the best examples of page poems I had, but because of that I didn’t push them as hard on the rewrites. So by the time I really had to make decisions about the book’s direction they were suddenly the weakest poems and didn’t really fit at all. They had to go to make the book stronger overall.

There’s a prose poem in the book called “Check”, which almost didn’t make the cut. It took me a long time to write that piece – I couldn’t quite work out how to make it work, but knew it was an important beat in the story. It went through a lot of variations – at one point it was a sonnet, then a pantoum… it went everywhere. Eventually I realised: I was writing about quite a dark part of the relationship. I was writing about behaviour that was ugly and that I wasn’t proud of. Trying to force an ugly theme into a lovely poetic form wouldn’t work, so it needed to be prose. I’m really glad I managed to eventually make that one work – it pushed me and I think the book is better for it.

How did you feel once the collection was complete? Was it a therapeutic experience to talk about the relationship?

Was it therapeutic? Yes. I definitely feel like writing the book gave me a sense of closure and thankfulness about the relationship. But also I think it’s very easy to write badly about a relationship after it’s broken up – it was really important to me that the book felt like it was coming from a loving place and not feel spiteful or nasty about the other person.

The very first line of the book is “the story’s better when you tell it”, acknowledging that this is only one side of the narrative. There’s another, better version of the story waiting to be told. And the final poem in the book ends on a sense of thankfulness for the relationship, which was very important to me.

As for how I feel about the collection being complete… I don’t know. The book released a week before the UK lockdown, so I’ve not been able to tour it and hear what people think of the poems live yet. In a way it’s still not complete and I’m not sure it ever will be…

What has the reaction been to the collection?

So far people have been really positive about it. I’m really glad that it seems to be connecting with people – I’ve even had a few people who don’t really read poetry tell me that they enjoy it which is a real compliment to the work.

It’s funny to see which bits of the book people enjoy most – poems that aren’t necessarily my favourite seem to speak a lot to other people and that’s beautiful to see.

What are you currently working on, and what is your next project?

I have a few projects going on right now outside of trying to re-schedule the Biceps tour.

I’ve just recorded all the poems from Biceps as audio and have put them out on a shiny red cassette tape over on my Big Cartel page https://laurieeaves.bigcartel.com That’s been really fun to put together – I set up a record label for it called Buried Vinyl and I’m starting to think about a second release. I’m planning on doing a vinyl compilation album of poets I love for the next release, so I’m starting to put that together right now.

I’ve also started some “pre-production” work on a second collection which for now I’m calling “Get Human!” I have a few ideas I’m playing with for that at the moment, but I doubt it’ll be quite the “poetry concept album” that Biceps is.

The other big ongoing project I’m always working on is Dead Darlings Podcast which I co-host with Rebecca Cooney and Hannah Chutzpah. It’s a monthly poetry podcast with interviews, writing tips, book reviews and event shout-outs, which you can get wherever you get your podcasts. We’re coming up on our first anniversary and our latest episode has an interview with RikTheMost, who’s an incredible poetry tour de force.

I’m also starting to take on more editing work again at the moment – both for individual poems and manuscripts. If anyone’s reading this and is looking for an editor they can drop me a line on https://www.laurieeaves.com for a chat.

An ode to darts

Darts.
Nightly pub-sport spectacle.
Like rhinos line astern gripping tungsten spears.
Darts.
Chunky-reaching cheek-wobbling darts.
Beer belly a-quiver overhanging too wide tee shirt unsolicited stomach glimpse darts.
Spherical hysterical measures out in trebles.
Darts.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Cocky oche-jockeys crafty cockneys dressing sloppy.
Sports-upholding team mate-scolding beer glass-holding.
Carpet shuffling fart-muffling comes away with nothing.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Double-chaser bullseye-maker opponent-hater third-rather.
Forefinger fling-flourish free-form darts throw panache.
Board-seeker tip bounce wire hitting kerplink.
Unlucky, Trev.

Thud. Thud. Kerplink.

Great big belly-man darts-land Leviathan takes a stand.
Meaty meaty clap-hand (nurses darts like baby chicks),
Arrow-flinging darts board-singing double-trimming
Guess who’s winning?

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Trophy-doting low-score-gloating show-boating local scrote
Boozy-wobbling woozy-toppling lazy darts-fling treble twenty
Bar staff aghast, darts stars laugh, fast darts dance, last chance,
Bust.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Last game, the same again, self-same blame game.
In the team lean, seeming so keen, trophy a gleam, he’s a darts machine!
No pain no gain, no gain, no fame, oh, the shame!
Sudden-death shoot out, league-topping bullseye-aiming,
Thud, pretty nifty, scores a fifty, mores the pity,
Geddin my son quivering tentative there the dart itself hanging like a
Swan so graceful in its beauteous flight betwixt chubby
Sweating fingers slow-mo revealing the under belly wobble
Suspended in mid air aerodynamic like the philosophic truth
Writ large straight into the exact centre of the board!

Unlucky, Trev.
Unlucky, Trev.
Unlucky, Trev.

See you all next week?

Robert Garnham Delivers a Ted (Style) Talk

Welcome to my Ted Talk
(My clicker isn’t working)
Welcome to my Ted Talk
(My clicker isn’t working)

How are we going to solve
Various big big things?
Three golden rules!
(Shame about my clicker)

Coming in to the coffee shop
I’m the bastard looking for
A power socket
Charging up my laptop
Charging up my laptop
Charging power to power my
Power point presentation
I have the power!

If I do this
(:::::::::::::;;;:;;)
You’ve just witnessed me doing it
And that’s an example of
POSITIVE THINKING!
Three golden rules!

1. Achieve the continuous
2. Apply it like a haberdasher
3. Can be split into twenty four subheadings

(This clicker is not working!)

If I put my hand in my pocket
And wander around
It makes me look more relaxed!!!

You’ve got to understand
That people
Always make
The wrong decisions.

Welcome to my Ted Talk!
Smug!
Life hacks!
(Fourteen different subheadings)

You can usually work out EXACTLY where
The bus will stop
And this will save you
TIME and ENERGY

There are eight different things I learned
SMUG BASTARD
When I lost my luggage while backpacking
(This clicker is just not working)

If I do this
(;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;)
It’s an example of sonic dissonance.

Madam, when did you last knowingly
Have spaghetti?

MY BOAT SANK!
And I didn’t even get slightly wet
My life is charged with a new purpose
I learned twelve new things!
Twelve new LIFE HACKS
LIFE HACKS
LIFE HACKS
LIFE SUCKS!

(This clicker is getting on my tits)

1. Technology
2. Murdering people is generally frowned on.
3. The power of positive thinking!
4. This clicker this clicker this clicker this clicker
5. I know six people called Ted and they all talk

Power point presentation validate it
Power point presentation validate jr
Let’s just validate if shall we?
This is an aha moment

Take on me!

You!
You fiend!
You bastard!

It’s a unifies mental model, Mrs McGough
It’s visual interaction.
It’s.
The.
Same.
As.
Every.
Damn.
Ted.
Talk.

This clicker
Definitely
Is not working.

Thank you.

I only love him when he sulks

I only love him when he sulks.
He looks so masculine and tough.
I can’t get enough
Of when he’s off in a huff.
He does something to me deep within.

He’s a normal bloke
And we do normal blokey things
But when he gets in a mood
It makes my heart sing.
He starts a thing he can’t stop
When he gets in a strop.
When a frown overtakes his complexion
I get an immediate . . ..
. . . . . . . Sense of wellbeing.

Be my hunk, be my daddy,
Do it for me, throw a paddy,
Come on big boy let’s have some fun
Please, I’m begging you, go off on one.

Your brooding gets me in the mood
And I’m only in the mood
When you’re in a mood
And when I’m in the mood
It gets you in a mood
Because I’m in the mood
Because you’re in a mood.

I deprive you of burgers
Not for the sake of your health,
But because
You’re never so manly
As when you’re hangry.

In bed last night
It stayed with a low, sultry moan
Only the moan was about
Chunky kit Kat’s not being
As chunky as they used to be.
And then you got that frown
The frown that never gets me down
And I said,
Don’t give me sultry,
Give me sulky,
And you said,
What the bloody hell are you on about?
And I said,
That’s it, just like that.

Juicy

https://youtu.be/KUP7KC3r-ZY

This is the show that I was supposed to have toured the U.K. with this year. Alas, it was not to be.

Life can be so juicy at times. Juicy like a sweet apple, filled with goodness. It’s the small things that make it so ripe for exploration, for prodding and poking. Robert Garnham’s new show is an hour or so of performance poetry and spoken word, comedy rhymes and whimsy by the bucket full.

With poems about life, LGBT issues, being envious of beards and the pitfalls of fancying a surfer, Juicy culminates in an extended theatrical piece about love and lust set at an airport departure lounge.

Multiple slam champion and longlisted as Spoken Word Artist of the Year in 2016 and 2017, Robert has performed everywhere from the Womad Festival to London Gay Pride. He has recently featured in a tv advert campaign for a U.K. bank.

Robert Garnham’s 17 Golden Rules for Getting the Most Out of Life!

Robert Garnham’s Words of Advice

1. No one is ever worth writing a poem for, though every now and then you’ll meet someone who’s worth a limerick, particularly if they come from Chard.

2. If someone tells you that they love you, it’s not always a test, it’s an affectation of the status quo, a joy delivered in the beauty of a relationship which actually works, so it’s best not to answer with, oh, that’s good.

3. Shrimp will always give you raging guts ache.

4. Hold on to your nostalgia, otherwise you’ll have nothing to be nostalgic about, except possibly for the time you used to be nostalgic about things, so maybe you can be nostalgic about that.

5. Look at your life. Isolate your fears, your demons, and anything else that gives you the willies. Engage with them and dance, and banish them with a smile and a wave and a cheer. Unless, of course, the thing that scares you the most is crushing loneliness.

6. It’s never too late to learn. It’s never too early to forget.

7. Only concentrate on that which requires no thought.

8. You might not ever mention the elephant in the room, but you can certainly wonder how it got through the door, and up the stairs.

9. Look at the mirror every morning and say, I am loved, I am loved, I am loved. At least this way you’re prepared for any other bullshit that comes along.

10. Everyone you see or meet or talk to has been born. Even Avril Lavigne. And if you think being born was difficult, try getting a mortgage.

11. Go on, help yourself to the last cake in life. Living is all about grabbing the last cake. Go on, have it. Enjoy it. The dog licked it.

12. Get up early one morning, when the dew is still on the grass, and go for a walk barefoot in the park. Let me know when you’re doing this so that I can come round and borrow your vacuum cleaner.

13.Do something that excites you every day. Subvert the rules. Turn things on their head. Naturally this does not apply if you’re an airline pilot.

14. How do we know that opening an umbrella indoors is bad luck? Who was the first person to discover this? How many similar things do we do which are good or bad luck without us knowing? Brandishing a vase on a Thursday? Sitting on a pouffe just after lunch? The mind boggles, Mrs Henderson, the mind boggles.

15. Give as much joy to the small things in life as you do to the large. Which is why me and my ex split up.

16. If at first you don’t succeed, then maybe catching bullets with your teeth isn’t the job for you.

17. If you don’t think you can get it out, why the hell did you put it in there in the first place?