In case you didn’t know, I’ve got a new book out! : Thoughts on ‘Nice’.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’ve got a book out. Indeed, it is my first published book, my first proper collection from a real publisher, Burning Eye Books, rather than a self published effort. I can’t begin to describe how great it feels!          Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a published writer. While other kids would daydream and talk about winning some football match or scoring a winning goal, I would dream about there being a book out there with my name on the cover. I would repeat, over and over to myself on those long suburban sultry nights, the image of opening a box from the publishers and seeing all the books there inside, ready to go out into the world.

          It’s taken a while!

          Burning Eye are the most dynamic and wonderful company I can imagine. They’ve published all my favourite names in the spoken word community, such as Megan Beech, Vanessa Kisuule, Rob Auton, Salena Godden. I have devoured every volume over the years, and when the chance came up to send them some material, I didn’t hesitate. I heard nothing for a while and I thought, well, on to the next thing, then.

          Then last year, while staying in Bristol and supporting Vanessa Kisuule at the Hammer and Tongue event, I received an email from Clive Birnie inviting me to send in a manuscript, because he’d chosen me to be published! I was so happy, but I didn’t want to jinx it by telling anyone. The only person I told was Vanessa, and then I carried the secret around for months! 

          I cannot stress how incredibly professional Burning Eye have been. I’ve worked with editors and proofreaders, going through the poems and clarifying every last mark of punctuation or dodgy example of bad grammar. (Like this sentence). Hours spent enchanting emails about the rules on brackets and semicolons, hyphens, and the fact that one poem had to change its content in order not to be sued by a large film company which has a mouse shaped logo! Burning Eye were brilliant, it felt so good to be a part of their system.

          So, what is Nice?

          First of all, the title. I’ve always hated the word ‘nice’, because it’s so floppy and undescriptive, and it can be used sarcastically. But I wanted the book to be positive, to contain only funny or life affirming poems, and I needed a one word title that was positive in itself. The original title was ‘Nice One’, then I went with ‘Responsible’, and then back to ‘Nice’. I was also going to call it ‘Poems’.

          So, Nice is a collection of fantastic upbeat silly funny poems which don’t tax the brain and make no claims to literary excellence, but they are the ones that I enjoy performing the most and the ones that the audiences like. There are also one or two brand new pieces in there which I’ve not yet performed, such as a rap about fuchsias originally written for my music group Croydon Tourist Office, and another about, ahem, weird sexual fetishes. Indeed, a first read of the manuscript shocked me at the amount of sex mentioned in the book, although there was nothing exactly graphic. I did wonder what a psychologist might think!

          The cover is deliberately bright and clean. It’s based on the sort of design that you might see on a 1980s album cover, I wanted to create something simple and iconic, easy to replicate, and easy to put on posters. I think it looks clean and fresh, and the motif is repeated on the back. The colouring also could represent the rainbow flag, though this is not explicit and I only thought of it after I’d designed the cover!

          On the whole, Nice represents the last two or three years of my performances, and now it’s out there in the open for the whole world to enjoy, and I can go on to the next thing.

          I’m hugely proud of the book and the reception so far has been great. I’ve been working on it for a year and it still hasn’t lost its magic with me, so I hoping that this remains the case for the reader, too. The next step is a couple of events to help launch it, such as a book signing in Paignton in December, and a mini book tour taking in Torquay, Exeter, Bovey Tracey and Woking.

          You can buy the book here http://burningeye.bigcartel.com/product/nice-by-robert-garnham 

 

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Poem (People Keep Mistaking Me For Tom Daley) 

Poem

Got mistaken again last night

For Olympic diver Tom Daley.

That’s the third time this week.

The classically handsome features,

The tanned, toned physique,

That winning smile,

Just like Tom Daley.

A lot of people have said

We could be twins.

Coming out of Morrissons with a

Supermarket trolley,

Some yob shouts from the bottle bank,

Tom! Tom! Tom!

Tom Daley! Tom Daley!

It’s Tom Daley!

Swimmer bloke! Trampoline swimmer bloke!

Tom Daley! Divey swimmy divey divey

Swimmer bloke!

From the tv!

Oi!

Tom Daley Tom Daley Tom Daley Tom Daley!

He then peered at me closer and said,

Oh.

In the coffee shop,

Flapjack please and a decaf cappuccino 

The barista above the steam gurgle machine

Says, half heartedly, ‘hon haley?’

And I say, what?

And she says, 

‘hon haley? hon haley?

and I say what?

And she says,

‘hon haley.

Nothing, nothing

I thought . . .

Sitting in the coffee shop

Avoiding eye contact

Feeling

Awkward.

Tom Daley is one of my favourite athletes.

This is because of the way that Tom Daley dives.

Tom Daley climbs up the ladder and then

Tom Daley dives off of it and Tom Daley

Hits the water and then Tom Daley swims to the side

And Tom Daley climbs out of the pool.

You could buy Tom Daley an ice cream and Tom Daley

Is the sort who would say thank you for buying me

An ice cream because that’s the sort of person

That Tom Daley is.

I dreamed that he came round

And we chatted about Professor Brian Cox

And now his to shows, informative as they are,

Might be half an hour shorter

If he didn’t speak

So

Slowly

The cat wanted to go out and

Tom Daley volunteered.

Come here, Kevin, he says,

Come here.

The cats called Kevin.

Sometimes people mistake me for

Professor Brian Cox, too.

I’m not Tom Daley

But if I was I’d probably

Wear a false handlebar moustache

In public

In case someone dropped their handbag

Into a river or a harbour

And a call went up among the throng,

‘Is anyone here an Olympic diver?’

Another invitation this week

To open a summer fete.

Just wear your swim shorts, the email said,

So we can put pictures in the staff magazine.

They thought I was you know you.

I’m fed up that

People use me just as a sex object.

Turned on the tv last night.

Diving championships,

Happened to be on.

Just in time to see Tom Daley

Clambering up for another

Rocket ship from the springboard.

And the commentator said,

‘And now here’s something different,

It’s performance poet Robert Garnham’.

A walk around rainy Brixham

Most weekends I come over to Brixham. You know, how Superman has his fortress of solitude, or the prime minister has Chequers. Or the president has Camp David. It’s a nice way of ending one week, beginning the next, catching up with The Olds, and catching up on reading.
Brixham feels like the end of the universe. It’s a town on a rocky escarpment which juts out into the sea ending with the sheer drop of Berry Head. It’s the end of the line. There’s nothing after Brixham except salt water and fishes.
Obviously the news the last two days has been depressing and the weather has been wet and windy, but today I decided to go for a walk and perhaps think of subjects to write poems about. The town centre was mostly closed due to the end of the tourist season, and sheets of rain could be seen blowing diagonally across the harbour where paint peeled row boats jiggled like shivering mice. In quick succession I saw:
1- A sign on a closed cafe which should’ve said ‘Closed due to our renovations being carried out’ which now read, having slumped down on its blue tack, ‘Closed due to our being carried out’.
2- A young teenaged man working in a themed restaurant, in an alleyway, dressed as a pirate, emptying a Hoover bag into a bin.
3- A sign on a shop which read, (rather inexplicably), ‘Due to staff illness, please use the other door’.
I went to a coffee shop to try and write an acrostic poem. I couldn’t think of anything to write an acrostic for. Normally a quite famous local poet is in there, holding court, and he once said to me, ‘I feel as if I ought to know you from somewhere’, but he wasn’t there today. I pondered on life and how lonely and cold Brixham felt, then stood up to leave.
Just then the door opened and my ex came in. He looked well. Sickeningly well. He looked fit and happy and for some reason was wearing tshirt and shorts. We exchanged pleasantries and I told him how weird it was to see him here, of all places. My fortress of solitude. He said that he was in a charity Zumba day at the social hall. Which was the last sort of thing I expected to be happening at a sleepy Autumn fishing port.
I walked home and wondered briefly what it was all about, and whether I should be doing something like Zumba, or whether it mattered at all, that such an ostensibly lonely walk around a shivering little town should leave me feeling strangely good about people. 

Some new poems I’ve been working on.

Poem
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

But

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.

Buck-aaaaapppp!
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

Thought

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. 
Poem
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.
Poem
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?
Enthralled,

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. 
Poem
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.
Poem
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.
Poem
People always ask me

What I think

Might be

The meaning of existence.
Poem
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.
Poem
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.

Poem
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.
Poem
Ben,

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
He 

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
Rams

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.

Coquettishly,

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.
Poem
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 

Speak

So

Slowly.

The cat wants to be put out, and Tom

Volunteers,

Come here Kevin, he says,

Come here.

The cats called Kevin.
Mists swirl and time does that thing it does,

Rewinds.

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’m only happy when it rains.

I’m writing this on a very rainy morning. It’s a Saturday. I’m writing this at my desk which is next to my window, with the windows open a little bit. The rain is beating against the window and I can hear the gutters gurgling and the remaining leaves in the tree roaring in the wind. It’s dark, murky, and misty. The surrounding hills are shrouded in mist as the rain pummels this little seaside town.
And do you know what? I absolutely love it. And I always have done.
Rainy days have always felt special for me. Ever since I was a kid, I knew that a rainy day would be a day when you didn’t have to go outside at lunch time at school, that you would be able to sit inside and be creative with bits of paper or, in my case, write stories. I loved writing stories when I was a kid and a day which passed without the opportunity to do this was always a sad day. Rainy days were special.
And as I’ve grown up, a really horrible rainy day has still felt special, even though I’ve worked in shops for years and rainy days are bad news for the retail sector. Every time it gets gloomy and starts raining, I feel an urge deep in myself to sit at a desk next to a window and just write. It’s what I’m doing right at this very moment.
I’ve often wondered why this is. I was never an athletic child, so I never felt the need to go and run around a playground, or play football, or to be all manly and masculine with all the usual accoutrements of the sporting elite. For me, true prowess came with a pen and paper and the imagination, and the rain helped me to do this. I’m like one of those formula one drivers who always does well when it rains, I felt. A rainy day has always been a special day.
I’ve always had an affinity with the rainforest. I’ve always wanted to visit that place in Venezuela where they have thunderstorms every afternoon. Not for me the holidays spent in the sun lying on a beach, I’d much rather be somewhere rainy, like when we were kids and we’d go down to Bognor and sit in a car on the edge of the beach, with the windscreen wipers wining, looking out at the angry sea as the rain fell. The rain pummelling on the car roof. Those were ideal holidays.
So that’s why I writing this. Because it’s raining. And soon it will brighten up, which is a shame. One of the songs I’ve always hated is that one which goes ‘I can see clearly now the rain has gone’. I’ve always found that a really depressing song.