I got your poem right here, pal. (A poem for New York)

From the Staten Island ferry

I got your poem right here, pal.
(A poem for New York)

The big pancake. The big muffin.
The big nausea. The big nothing.
The big fella. The smeller. The concrete devotional.
The cosmopolitan. The prostrate giant. Subway riders need sopial.
The metropolitan. The big breakfast.
The all-day lunch. You want fries with that?
The concrete funnel. The distorted mirror.
The seismic cherry. The licence to chill.
Everyone’s a comedian. The bright-lit scene.
The sidewalk dancers. The drama queens.
The big dodecahedron. The bastard. Tourists like sheep.
The bad boy. The stud. The lack of sleep.
Cavernous potholes so deep you’ll lose
Yourself for a week.
The big dependable. The three-way delicious.
The exuberant berry. The hungry papa.
The pumping beehive. The world’s biggest smurf.
The big glacial. The whole lotta crazy.
The big security. The big dependable.
The cuppa cappuccino. The big slice.
The clinging fire escapes. The big nice.
The big honker. The big foot long.
The oblong pretend. The same old song.
The big electric. Streets paved with bold.
The big eccentric. Do you what are told.
The rent controlled. The backstreet rats.
The big flapper. The cool cool cats.
The big big portion. The big punk.
The big leather. The big hunk.
Steam vent Charlie. The philosophic drunk.
The midnight caller. The big hallelujah.
The big quiche. The big what’s it to ya?
Shop awnings so coated in pigeon crap
It’s a wonder they don’t become fossilised.
The big apple. The big skyline.
The big apple. The big steaming.
The big apple. The big bouncy.
The big apple. The starstruck badger.
The big apple. The big deli counter queue.
The big apple. The human zoo.
The big apple. The big gold bit.
The big apple. Takes a bite of you
Before you can bite it.
The big apple. The big heat.
Sideswiped by a cyclist. My life is now complete.

I had to de-tangle the cable (Poem written for Tonic scratch night)

This week I took part in Tonic, a lovely spoken word night in which poets write new material from prompts. The one that I chose was ‘I had to de-tangle the cable’. This was my effort.

Poem

I had to de-tangle the cable
And then I’d be able to plug in
And bask in musical delights,
The earphones a jumble of wires as tightly bound
As the curator at the Museum of Spirit Levels
When I told him that I had no interest in spirit levels
And he hit me over the head
With a spirit level
But I guess that’s my fault for going
To the Museum of Spirit Levels.

And you, sir, you with your eyebrows,
Wondering why I don’t go hands-free
Bluetooth hands free wireless Bluetooth
Hands free wireless connection WiFi WiFi
Whacka whacka boom boom,
To which I might reply hey, buster,
You’ve got a point.

Last night Ben came round,
Ben with his quiff,
And I said, tie me up, big boy,
Benny boy, Big Ben, and do with me
As you see fit,
But he couldn’t untangle my earphone leads
And started to pick away at the knotted wires
And said, this might take some time,
So we watched Pointless
And then had a row.

I had to de-tangle the cable
That ball of wires existed only to mock me
When I wanted music to rock me
Mock me for being human
Mock me for shouting out ‘The Krays!’
When the pub quiz host asked which brothers
Undertook the world’s first powered flight,
Mock me for that time I said
‘I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous’,
Mock me for not saying to the curator in the
Museum of Spirit Levels
‘Are all your ghosts perfectly horizontal?’,
Damn damn damn,
That’s what I should have said.

I had to de-tangle the cable
Just like I did fifteen years ago
Which caused me to miss my audition for One Direction,
Which I was going to do dressed
In beekeeping nets
You know, with the big hood,
To which my partner at the time said,
‘That’s a very distinctly demographic you’re
Aiming for right there, Robbie Bobbie Doo Dah’,
And I said,
‘There’s a whole community devoted to it,
They call them Buzzers,
And by the way
My name is Sebastian’.

I had to de-tangle the cable
While standing at the bus stop
I looked at the bus times table
It said, once times bus is bus.

I had to de-tangle the cable
If Sheffield
Were the world’s first football club,
Then who the hell did they play?

I had to de-tangle the cable
A friend asked if I’d like some chocolate
From the shops.
I said, Wispa?
He said,
(Would you like some chocolate from the shops?)

I had to de-tangle the cable
Www.sexybeekeeperoutfits.co.uk

I had to de-tangle the cable
I’ve got seals and a walrus
And a narwhal
But my life lacks porpoise.

I had to de-tangle the cable
I had to de-tangle the cable
I had to de-tangle the cable
In the shower in the bath
In the shower in the bath
And now
The end is near
And so i face
The vinyl curtain.

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.

Chorley Lodge and the 1984 Olympics

The other day I was in a second hand bookshop when I came across a Ladybird book of the 1984 Olympics, and all of a sudden I was transported back to a time when I was ten years old and a long, hot summer seemed to stretch ahead. My mother had bought me a copy of the same book, in which there was space to write in the winners of the various competitions. Now, you know me. I’m not exactly in to sports, and the idea of sitting there and watching the whole thing was not exciting, but I loved the idea of filling in these pages. But then with dread I realised that I would be away at Cub Camp for the first week of the Olympics and I would miss all the action. The joy of filling in all the blank pages would be denied and the book would never be complete.
I was not looking forward to Cub Camp. It would be the first time in my life that I would be away from home without my parents and I was sure that I’d be missing out on something, or that my family would be having loads of fun without me. Sure, I’d be with my friends, but I didn’t really know most of them, not really. They were just kids, and I tolerated them at the best of times. Indeed, being the 1980s, we all had the same bowl cut hairstyles and probably looked indistinguishable to the outside observer. But I much preferred being at home.
Now I say ‘Cub camp’, but we would actually be staying at a place called Chorley Lodge, which was a converted outbuilding on a former RAF World War Two airfield, on the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire. I hadn’t thought about this place for years, but the other night I watched a documentary about the natural history of the New Forest and I got to thinking about Chorley Lodge. I did a quick Google search and there it was, in all its glory. A plain concrete hut painted green with basic 1940s functional windows and probably enough asbestos to wipe out half the planet.
I remember hating it from the moment I arrived. We were looked after by a scout leader from a different troop to our own, who had this very weird idea that we should all go for a jog every morning before breakfast, but do so without our shirts, which in retrospect seems borderline dodgy. So we’d wake at sunrise from our austere bunks inside this palace of concrete blocks, and run through the adjacent pine trees which bordered what had once been the airfield, home to a hearty breakfast of puke inducing porridge.
The rest of the day would then be spent doing all sorts of wholesome blokey things. We would be split into groups of about four and assigned to some expert in their field who would do their best to teach us survival techniques or handy blokey pursuits. Orienteering was one of these, how to read a compass, how to pack a backpack, how to light a bonfire. But it always seemed that some other group would be doing an activity which was much more exciting. For example, a friend of mine had a brilliant young instructor who ran a half day practical workshop in building rockets, because apparently this is something that comes in handy if you’re ever caught in the wild. While my group had a half day workshop in Morse code. We’d be sat in a clearing dot dot dot and dash dash dashing while I could hear my friends out on the former runway launching rockets and whooping with excitement. ‘Robert, you really must concentrate. Now, what was the message I just sent you?’. Whoosh! Whoosh! Ha ha ha! ‘Erm . . Elephant knickerbocker dustbin Aunt?’ Whoosh! Kapowwww!
I think the whole week instilled in me several things which have lasted till this day. First, my hatred of communal sleeping arrangements probably stems from all thirty of us in one dorm and not feeling able to be myself. Secondly, my absolute revulsion at porridge. But thirdly, my love of forests, airfields and old buildings, even this weird cranky old concrete shack, which apparently has now been demolished, probably due to all that asbestos.
On the last day we all made wooden blocks with the name of the lodge and the date, and mine has been on the wall of my bedroom at my parents house for the last forty years. So that week at Chorley Lodge has remained in my memory, along with nighttime camp fire sing songs, outdoor eating and the vaguely kinky excitement of running semi naked through a forest.
But I never did get to complete that Ladybird Olympics 1984 book.

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’.