“So Much More Than The Professor of Whimsy: Turbulence by Robert Garnham”. (A review by Ian Beech). 

Last year I wrote a collection of serious poems all based around one theme. It was great to get away from my usual whimsical style. Some of the poems had been running through my mind for years.

I decided I would only ever print twenty copies of the resulting book, Turbulence. And even now I consider it my masterpiece.

Every now and then I reread bits of it. Some of the poems have deep and meaningful content, they’re more like riddles than poems and their meaning is known only to me.

Ian Beech, poet and promoter, had this to say about Turbulence:

“So Much More Than The Professor of Whimsy:

Turbulence by Robert Garnham

 There may be those of you who know and love the hilarious Professor of Whimsy who will be surprised by his latest poetry collection, Turbulence.  Some of us have glimpsed his more serious side in the past and noted that he is far more than just Paignton’s Funniest Man. True, his comic poems often harbour hidden depths butTurbulence provides further evidence of his ability to write powerfully in a more serious vein.

 There are still wonderful, whimsical, surrealistic moments, as in the opening poem Ms. Lucy Wellington, but even that ends with the line ‘What goes up must come down’, hinting at the hidden subtext that permeates the book.  The book title, front and back cover photographs all relate to an event that occurred before the author was born but which has fascinated him for much of his life. He interweaves powerful, moving poems, detailing various aspects of the incident, with enchanting, revealing glimpses of his childhood and adolescence.  In West London Rain we see the fledgling author ‘safe and cosy with/My writing pad’, his ‘Dad with motorbikes/And Mum with her incessant gardening’ but also learn that ‘once/They saw something in the murk.’

 Nowhere does Garnham clearly identify the event he describes and draws on so eloquently. If you don’t recognise it from the poems, a little internet research should make things much clearer.  Indeed, a second reading having perused the Wikipedia article (shame on a trained librarian for heading there for speedy convenience) allowed me to fully appreciate the many detailed references the book contains.  Alongside those serious topics, and the deep reflections they induce, it is a delight to travel back to Garnham’s early days. Cuckoo spit  brings to life so vividly a moment of childhood shared with his sister, full of customary Garnham charm and humour. In defence beautifully explores his awakening sexuality, and, sadly in my humble opinion, his disinterest in football and his total inability to play the game.

 There is so much more to enjoy in Turbulence but be warned, Garnham is hardly a hard-bitten capitalist poetry entrepreneur. He has only printed twenty copies of this marvellous book and claims that there will be no more, holding to some typically bizarre notion that he wants the book to gain mythical, legendary cult status: people will have heard of it but never seen a copy, being left to question its very existence. Well believe me it does exist. My copy is under lock and key and I suggest if you cannot buy one of the other nineteen, you demand he drops this preposterous limitation on spreading his wonderful words.  Turbulence is not to be missed.

Ian Beech

Host of Poetry Island

at The Blue Walnut Café, Torquay



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