A Night in Burnsville, West Virginia

Poem

The car is big, brash and American,
As American as a baseball game,
And just like a baseball game,
It seems to go on forever.
The size of a frigate, this thing,
Burns enough fuel to power a small city.
You be navigator, my uncle says,
Which is easy as there’s only one road
Here in the mountains of West Virginia,
Even I can’t muck this up.
I catch my reflection in the rear view mirror.
You’re a long way from Basingstoke, sonny jim.

We’re on a road trip through America.
The scenery and grandeur are simply stunning
But I haven’t had a sausage roll in ages.
A teenage lad,
Overcompensating his obvious campiness
By wearing an Arsenal football shirt,
(I have no idea who Arsenal are,
I just like the fact they’ve got
Arse in their name),
And my uncle looks like Leslie Neilsen.
No wonder that diner back there
Went very quiet the moment we walked in.

And jeez, I’ve become so terribly English.
The Americans really seem to like it,
A waitress made me read from the TV Guide
And she couldn’t stop laughing.
And no, I’ve never met Benny Hill.
Why is everyone here obsessed with Benny Hill?

A muggy, huggy, humid day.
The moment I step from the car,
Everything goes Moist.
The constant heat has led to some serious chafing.
As the sun sets the highway announces
A small town called Burnsville,
We stop for the night,
Leslie Neilsen swings the frigate off the freeway
And we book into a small motel.

The adjacent highway sighs
As if it’s all too much.
The hillsides loom,
The Neon buzzes.
Passing trucks growl and
The world smells of diesel,
Melting tarmac and decomposing weasel.
It’s gritty,
But not in a Harold Pinter sort of way,
But in the way that grit is gritty.
There’s something sticky and
Unsettling in the heat of the night,
A bit Like finding half of a frog
In a packet of Quavers.
Restless dreams in wooden homes,
This covered fold, this
Hidden valley, and I,
Jolted up from hours of driving
And awash with hormones and teenage desires,
Suddenly turned on by absolutely everything,
Which I can only quell by singing
The refrain of a tv advert for Bran Flakes.
‘They’re tasty, tasty,
Very very tasty!
They’re very tasty!’

My room is hot.
I’ve seen these places
In so many films.
A bed, a bathroom, a bible.
I open the window and the moths fly in,
Thousands of the fluttering bastards,
Moths on the Tv screen, moths
Circling the lights, moths on the window frame,
And even the bastard moths are turning me on.
I try to bat them with the bible
But the bible turns me on.
I try to shoo them out the door
But the door handle turns me on,
And the door frame,
And the door turns me on,
And I turn off the light and then
Turn it on
But even turning it on turns me on,
And I realise that I have to get away,
Oh yes,
I have to get away.
I place my hands on my head and through
Gritted teeth I sing,
‘They’re tasty, tasty,
Very very tasty!
They’re very tasty!’

It’s warmer outside, and dark, so dark.
I walk down to a dried up stream
Behind the motel,
Turn and look at the wooded valley slopes,
It’s all so quiet and ethereal but bloody hell,
After a while it starts to turn me on.
I tell myself there must be monsters here,
Gun toting wild men,
World hating survivalists,
Angry war veterans, how masculine,
How beautifully masculine,
Sensuous and masculine,
How it turns me on!
I try to look for some natural splendour,
But all I can see is a Coca Cola machine,
Humming and electric and brash
And vibrating ever so softly, like a lover,
Which turns me on.
So I walk, I walk up to the main road,
The highway, long grass crickets chirruping,
Like the springs of a bed, (impersonate),
oh god!, back to the motel,
The motel where so many slumbering naked people
Have tossed and turned,
Oh dearie me,
How dreadfully even this motel turns me on,
And just as I’m thinking I should really
Get a grip,
I see the open door to the motel laundry room.

Bright lit fluorescent glaring in the sultry night,
And two shining hot shirtless lads operating
The machines, nonchalant, slyly sexual, the
Glistening sweat causing their lithe bodies to writhe
And contort with an ethereal glow,
They’re tasty, they’re tasty,
Oh my, they’re very, very tasty,
They’re very tasty indeed.
And all of a sudden the motel is just a motel,
The moths, the crickets, the Coca Cola machine,
The doorway and the light switch,
They are what they are,
And I am what I am,
And the lads, oh mumma!
We all know what they are.
I go back to my room,
Boy oh boy,
Do I go back to my room!

Whooo!

The next morning we load
Our luggage into the frigate
And Leslie Neilsen asks me
What I’d like for breakfast.
For some reason I have
Sudden hankering for Bran Flakes.

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I’m Not Ken Bruce

I don’t want riches or acclaim,
I don’t want to deliver a Ted Talk.
I don’t want to be a big shot movie star.
I want to be Ken Bruce.

I want to be mellow,
A jovial fellow,
How comforting his voice, it’s
Smooth vowels
Oozing through the sublimity of my
Subconscious,
The ennui to which I’d been lately
Plagued, suddenly loose,
And all because of Ken Bruce.

I look in the mirror.
I’m blatantly not yet Ken Bruce
Though to be honest I don’t
Really know what he looks like,
He sounds like he should have a beard.
And when the phone rings I want to answer,
Hello, this is Ken Bruce.
Popmaster!
Seriously though,
It’s Robert.

My ex broke up with me
Said it was because I was nothing like
You know who
Give me the juice,
It’s the ultimate truth
He phoned up and said,
Are you Ken Bruce yet?
I said, no.
Not yet.

I want to strut like Ken Bruce,
Hold my head high like Ken Bruce
Feel that the only thing greater than me
Is the sky Ken Bruce,
Hold an informative chit chat with Jamiroquai,
Ken Bruce
I want the wit of Ken Bruce,
The passion of Ken Bruce
I want to be on nodding terms with
Paul Weller
Just like Ken Bruce
I want to stand in the middle of the
Supermarket and shout
Look at the dates on these biscuits,
They’re ONE YEAR OUT!

But I’m not Ken Bruce.
And I never will be.
And I’ll never own the mid morning
And I’ll never own a bus
And I’ll never hand over to Jeremy Vine
At midday
And I’ll never play
An incredibly long Meat Loaf song
When it’s time to go to the loo,
Because really, it’s the truth,
I’ll never be Ken Bruce.

Eccentricity, and Ivor Cutler

I’d been performing for a few years as a spoken word artist, oblivious to those who had come before. And I must admit, wilfully obvious. The only big names I knew, with the exception of Pam Ayres, were those who I’d seen at gigs where I was also performing. The reason that I was oblivious was because I didn’t want to be influenced by anyone else. I knew that once I saw poets I liked, I would start to emulate them, look at what they were doing and try it for myself, like seeing someone in a fashionable hat and thinking hmmm, I wonder if that would suit me? And sure enough, this happened. I would see poets and spoken word artists reduce a room to fits of laughter, or stunned, awed silence, and I would then look at what they’d done and try to analyse it. I became a spoken word nerd. A spoken nerd,

But this knowledge was only good for those who were active at the present time. And one day, after a gig, someone asked me if I’d heard of Ivor Cutler. They said that they’d seen parallels between my own oeuvre and that of Mr Cutler. No, I hadn’t heard of him, but that night, unable to sleep due to the pumping adrenaline of having just performed at an open mic in Brixham, I went on YouTube and iTunes and knocked myself out on anything I could find of his work. Needless to say, it immediately appealed, but much more, and in a very strange sort of way, Ivor reminded me of my grandad. Not only was there a physical resemblance, but the humour, which almost sways into surrealism yet always stays grounded in truth and the human experience. I was immediately hooked.

This all happened close to ten years ago, now. My other poetry hero at the time, and major influence, was Frank O’Hara. But now it seemed I had two poets whose works I could memorise much easier than my own, two outlooks on life which I could also adopt, two poets who I can ask, as I sit down to write or stand up to perform, what would they do?

Ivor Cutler’s eccentricity seems to be something lacking these days. I go to plenty of spoken word events where the performer wants to be cool, to be liked, to get a message across, to make people laugh while still retaining the veneer of ironic and knowing cool, yet nobody seems to be genuinely eccentric. Or if they are eccentric, then this is not something which then carries over into their everyday life. Sure, I might aim for eccentricity myself, but I don’t wear the pink feather boa while going about my daily chores, and the eccentricity stops the moment I’m in a supermarket queue or on a bus. But with Mr Cutler, his whole life seemed a performance, wearing his distinctive hats while cycling, or handing out stickers with mottos on them. His genuine mission seemed to be to spread joy all the time, while basking in his own personality of glum duty. The best YouTube videos, incidentally, are those in which his mask slips and he gets an attack of the giggles during a poem.

Ivor was influenced by many factors. His Scottish upbringing, while exaggerated for comic effect, and his Jewish roots assured him the status of an outsider. The communal songs of his childhood and his appreciation of folk music formed a love of music and singing. His job as a teacher gave him the ability to talk to people, and children, at their level without pontificating. Ad as a result all of these influences combined to create a very distinctive act.

The world is a scary place. Life is meaningless. There are people who spend their time adding to the stresses and inconveniences of others. And there are people, just a few here and there, who aim to add a little colour along the way. Artists and singers, poets and writers, comedians, all of which Ivor was certainly was. Yet there was a certain underlying tenderness and love of life to many of his works which certainly stands as an example to those who are struggling to make sense of the modern world. Mr Cutler certainly remains, and increases, as a personal inspiration, and I would recommend his work to anyone.

An Interview with Robert Garnham

(I was recently interviewed by a university student to help with her dissertation and I thought I’d share the text of her interview, minus the questions.)

It’s quite long, so feel free to read if at your own pace!

Interview:

I’d always written when I was younger. I wrote comedy short stories and silly little bits which made me laugh, and I continued writing these into my adult years. I then went through a phase where I wanted to be a deeply serious literary author. By the time I got to my thirties, it was obvious that this wasn’t going to happen!

I did literature at both A Level and at university and the courses covered poetry but most of it noted me rigid. It’s probably better to read such things for pleasure rather than to write an essay. The only poet who appealed to me was Frank O’Hara, who I didn’t even see as a poet, as his work seemed to talk to me.

When I finished my postgraduate degree, I decided that I needed to see more culture. The only problem with this is that I live in Torbay, so really there wasn’t much around. I looked in the local paper and it said that there was a night of performance poetry at the Blue Walnut Café. I went along, and Byron Vincent was the headliner. The whole night inspired me to have a go myself. I asked the host and he gave me a slot for the next week. Which meant that I had to go home and write something.

I wrote a couple of comedy poems and the next month, the audience laughed at all the right places, and that’s when I thought, wow, this is what I want to do!

As a kid my only knowledge of poetry was Pam Ayres, who my mother loved and whose books were in our house, and John Hegley, who I had seen on television. I also liked the poetry of Robert Service, as I was obsessed with anything to do with the Yukon.

My father was in to music and comedy and by some kind of osmosis, I got in to them too at an early age. The wordplay associated with comedy and stand-up informed my writing, and when I started writing poetry, it was to music that I turned, to pop groups especially and their succinct use of language. Neal Tennant, David Byrne, Bob Dylan, Morrissey, Kirsty Maccoll, Kate Bush, Jerry Seinfeld, Alan Bennett, Bob Newhart, these were the people who introduced me to poetry.

My knowledge of the poetry scene has always been somewhat sketchy. Naturally at college and university we studied a good array of poets, but the canon was always a bizarre array of straight, white old men.

However, as a performer on the national spoken word scene, I find it to be dominated overwhelmingly by much younger poets. Spoken word is a relatively new art form with its basis in YouTube and Slam or battle rap culture. I go to poetry events around the Uk and find myself, at forty five, to be the oldest person in the room.

However I have also been to events where I am the youngest person in the room, particularly those aimed more at page poets. I am often booked at such events as some light relief!

I get up early and I try to do an hour of writing between seven and eight. This is just playing around with words and ideas. I have used the same cartridge pen for everything creative I’ve written since 1995, mostly because I write out everything Long hand. At nine o clock I might do some reading or research, which is just a flimsy pretext to watch comedy or listen to music. At ten o clock I will have a very specific writing session for a couple of hours, working on whatever my project is at the moment. At lunch time I might go to the gym and when I’m walking there, on the machine, or in the sauna or the pool, I’m trying to memorise poetry or my show. The afternoon is for more performance related playing around. This can be the most rewarding time. My hero is the performance artist Laurie Anderson and she suggests being loose, going in to a session with an idea of being creative and playing around with props, ideas, words, performance aspects. From four till six I will work on admin, emails, submissions, online forms, all that kind of stuff.

If I have a gig in the evening I get very nervous and I have to lie on the floor for a bit or shut myself off from the world. If I have to travel to the gig, I’ll listen to music, in particular, Pet Shop Boys, or Sparks. Something that matches the effect I want to have on the audience.

If I haven’t got a gig, then there will be another writing session in the evening, which lasts until around nine PM.

Even after all these years, I love writing. The feel of the pen in my hand, and having bits of paper scattered everywhere with snatches of poem on them, which I then have to somehow glue together, and the really good feeling when you make that connection. My biggest motivating factor I to write something which hopefully I will find funny.

The weather also plays a factor. There’s nothing better than a rainy, gloomy day, and sitting at my desk with the rain streaming down, a window open, and being in the middle of a really creative period. Time seems to stand still and the words flow smoothly.

It’s very rare that I have a day off from writing, rehearsing, performing or admin. I think my work ethic is mainly to know that I’ve done a good job, or as much as I could. I do have lazy days, though!

I would read absolutely anything when I was younger, from Jack London to Dickens, Douglas Adams, biographies of comedians or astronauts, non fiction books about Canadian history or motor racing. I am influenced today mostly by the comedy books, from cartoons such as Garfield, which gave me a wonderful sense of suburban ridiculousness from an early age, to Woody Allen, Les Dawson, Ivor Cutler and the aforementioned Pam Ayres. I didn’t care who wrote the book, so long as it was funny, and this has translated to my work today, the urge to use the wonderful tools language and it’s effects to make people have fun.

I love to read contemporary novels, particularly Haruki Murakami, Ali Smith, David Mitchell and Paul Auster. Recently I read Dan Rhodes’ book, Gold, and I thought it was so funny that I was rationing the number of pages I read a day so as to prolong the process! The writers I like are those that take you away from the present moment but always ground their fantasy in the normal, recognisable world. The Spanish writer, Juan Goytisolo, who passed away last year, wrote the most mind boggling humorous yet political novels which played with language and the form of the novel itself.

I read a lot of contemporary spoken word artists, such as John Hegley, naturally, but also Monkey Poet, Byron Vincent, Vanessa Kisuule, Dominic Berry. It just so happens that too of my best friends are also amazing contemporary poets, Samantha Boarer and Melanie Branton, and both have amazing books published in the last year.

Writing is a form of artistic expression. I believe that most people wish to express themselves in creative terms. My sister paints pictures and plays the flute, and my mother is a flower arranger who dabbles in ikebana. My dad used to paint, too, and my grandad was an inventor who would toil away in his workshop like some kind of comedy mad professor.

I can’t sing, dance or play an instrument, though I have tried all three. Writing and performing are the two things which bring me joy and, in a funny sort of way, help me to make some kind of sense of the world and the human condition.

The moment you pick up a pen and write something, then you’re a writer. There’s no ceremony or procedure. If you want to be a writer, then write.

My advice would be to keep writing and rehearsing, watch other poets, play around, be comfortable with your material, have fun as you’re rehearsing, try to be different, and most of all, write and perform to please yourself first and foremost. Don’t worry about what other people are doing, or what success it might seem they’re having, or what you think the audience might like. Just play your own game. And have fun. If you’re having fun while you’re performing, then the audience will have fun, too. And play around, and be loose.

I spent the majority of last year working on my first purpose written solo show, In the Glare of the Neon Yak, an hour long poem which I performed all over the Uk. I’m currently making a film of this with a film maker friend of mine, who is making his own interpretation of my work. At the same time, i am working with a jazz band to make a new stage version of the show, which is currently being written and will be rehearsed and finally performed probably towards the end of 2019.

My father passed away a couple of months ago, and I have written an hour long poem about his time working in the Australian outback, which I hope to perform just once, accompanied by a friend who is a violinist, it should be a good evening.

My new solo show for the festival and fringe circuit next year will be called Spout, and if is a set of poems and comedy material about the subject of tea.

On top of all this, as if I’m not busy enough, I’ve been working on two collections, one of serious pagey poetry, the other of upbeat comedy poems.

Nineteen (count them, nineteen!) short poems about Shire horses.

1. An uneasy sleep.

Up until recently I’d been
Immune to the sublimity
Of shire horses.
But last night I woke,
In a hot sweat,
Feverish,
Palpitations,
Images of these stately beasts
Imprinted on my brain.

2. Just calm down.

Heavy shouldered
Hoof tuft
Olde worlde hurly burly
Heft load luggers
Proud in tandem harness
Across deep ploughed furrows,
Somber yet somehow humble,
Nothing stirs the heart more
Than the sight of a shire horse
In full flow.

I bent over and I whispered
To Agnes,
Look at their rippling flanks!
Their mesmerising rumps!
And she said,
If you don’t mind I shall
Go and eat my luncheon
Elsewhere.

3. Make a living, the shire horse way.

They work, shire horses.
They work for a living.
They work work work work work.
Trudging and pulling heavy loads
And tugging and pulling and trudging
And pulling and tugging and trudging
And doing paperwork and things
Only with more trudging.
Jeff trained one to make
Sandwiches, rolls, cobs,
Baps, wraps, paninis
Only with more trudging involved
Than the average person whose job it is
To make sandwiches, rolls, cobs,
Baps, wraps, paninis.

4. But what are they really thinking, daddy?

Flared nostrils
As if permanently disgusted,
But they get on with it anyway,
Stoic beasts, the shire horse.

5. Memories of a suburban upbringing.

When I was a kid
Every year the school trip
Used to be to the bloody bleeding
God-arse awful boring
Shire Horse Heritage Centre.
And then I joined the scouts
And we had a trip to the
Shire Horse Heritage Centre.
And then my aunt came over from
Canada
And we went on a day out to the
Shire Horse Heritage Centre
And then a friend had a birthday
And as a treat we went to the
Shire Horse Heritage Centre
And yet when I informed my parents
That if should be called the
Shite Horse Heritage Centre,
Bizarrely,
It was me who was reprimanded.

6. The competition.

Every year the Shire Horse Heritage Centre
Took on the
Cart Horse Heritage Centre
In an impromptu game of curling.
And as the stone granite boulders
Slid along the ice,
They’d say, shire horses are better,
And the opposition would say,
Cart horses are better,
Shire horses
Cart horses
Shire horses
Cart horses
And it was all good natured and fun until
Aaron from accounts
Let off a fire extinguisher yelling
Cart horse Fart Horse!
And Debs from advertising would
Smash a window and yell,
Shire Horse Shite Horse!
And it all descended
Into ugly violence.

7. I’m not immune to failure.

I went to a poetry slam and the poets were brilliant and did poems about family, relations, drug addition, sexual abuse, the history of black culture from slavery to the present day, social issues, homelessness, countering the rise of the political right, immigration, and the trials and tribulations of being a youth in the twenty first century, and then I went up and did a poem about shire horses and I didn’t even get out of the first round.

8. Looming in the office.

My chiropodist had a shire Horse.
At the bottom of each left it had a tuft.
Now it’s dead but you can see it in her office
Because she’s had it stuffed.

9. General dimensions.

They’re taller
Than regular horse.
Shire horses,
Higher horses.

10. A Parisian misadventure.

The French avant gard,
Jean Jacques Coat,
Trained a shire Horse
In the art of mime.

It used to stand still
And not move a muscle
And not say a word.

And Jean Jacques would explain,
Now it’s impersonating a donkey,
Now it’s impersonating a zebra,
Now it’s impersonating a mule,
Now it’s impersonating a regular horse.

11. A general appreciation of shire horses.

You’re not a car
So you don’t get a flat tire,
Horse.
You don’t speak,
So you’d never be called a liar,
Horse.
You’re not in a circus
Performing on a tight wire,
Horse.
You’re not an actor,
So you’ve never worked with
Danny Dyer, horse.
You don’t do laundry,
So you’re not a tumble dryer
Horse.
You’re not near a naked flame
So you’re not on fire,
Horse.
You’re a shire horse.

12. Breeds of heavy working horse.

Shire.
Percheron.
Belgian.
Diligent.
Clydesdale.
Oldenburg.
Cleveland Bay.
Hackney.
Vintage.
Flopper.
Clippity hopper.
Honker.
Clippity honker.
Progressive honker.
Belgian honker.
Devonian crisp.
Beard poker.
Fat stick.
Unspoked clapper.
Subliminal pencil.
Polly.

And where might I purchase any of the above?
Any reputable dealer of cart, shire and working horse.

13. Height.

According to the website
The average shire horse
Is seventeen hands high.
Now I need to find out
The size of the average hand.
The lady in Morrisons said
They mostly sell Large size marigold
Washing up gloves.
But I didn’t have my tape measure.

14. Meanwhile.

Backpack Sam’s the flapjack man
He likes to eat them where he can
He eats them on the bus and gloats,
‘This is how I get my oats’,
Which is also what shire horses eat.

15. Icelandic interlude.

Shape shifting shire horse
Tireless worker beserker.
Norse legend.
Horse legend.

16. Advertisement poem with a very funny last line which will appeal deeply to those in the shire Horse community.

Have you seen those shire horses?
Those shy shire horses?
Those sly shy shire horses?
Those sly shy give it a try
Come and see them before you die
Why oh why not drop on by
And try a shire horse?
Come down to the
Shire Horse Heritage Centre
And you’ll see loads!

17. Repetition of the word ‘shire horses’
(To be performed while pouring custard over ones head)

Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses
Shire horses

18. The time of the shire horse is gone.

And in the time of the shire horse there
Would be shire horses aplenty,
And they would work and trudge
And trudge and work
And all that was holy
Could be found in the shire horse
And all that was sacred
Could be found in the shire horse
And all that was good for the garden
Could be found in the shire horse.

And the rustic sun would set
Over rustic rainbows rustic barns and
Rustic hedgerows
And the rustic shire horse
Would keep on working
And wheelbarrows left out in the rain
Would go rustic
And there wasn’t a
Youtuber in sight.

And the annual final of Strictly Come Dancing
Would invariably we won by a shire horse
Because they were so fucking talented
And farmers would lean on gates
And suck on straw and opine
That shire horses were totes amazeballs.

And people just got on with things
Even when their arms dropped off
Or their cowsheds fell down
And the ploughman was king
And nobody ever wondered what
Barn owls were called
Before there were barns.

And there would be
Shire horses in the barns
And shire horses in the cottages
And shire horses in the dairies
And shire horses in the kitchen
And shire horses in the municipal swimming baths
And shire horses
In the shire horse Heritage Centre.

And then some bastard
Invented the tractor
And people said how wonderful tractors were
Because they didn’t
Poo everywhere like shire horses did
And you could see the really sad look
In the shire horses eyes
Because he knew that it was the end.
Such a long face.

And the sun began to set
And everything went pear shaped
And they built the M25
And shire horses weren’t even allowed
In the slow lane
And I took the hand of the man I loved
And I whispered,
Be a shire horse
Just for me
And he went downstairs and just
Stood in the back garden
Looking really sad.

19. Finis.

And I slept
Really well.

Poem

You’ve got a cuckoo in the kitchen
Got a cuckoo at the cooker
You’ve got a cuckoo cooking cookies
Kindly keep some cookies for me
You’ve got a cuckoo cooking cookies
Out of coco going cuckoo
You’ve got a cockney cuckoo cooking
With a cock eyed cookie cutter
You’ve got a cuckoo cookie cooking cuckoo
My god it’s such a coup
That the cockney cuckoo cookie cooker
Is not a cockatoo

Why I am Not a Poet

My fellow poets, for some time now it has been evident that I have been moving among you, observing the way that you operate, and infiltrating your performances and book launches. Indeed, I myself have now been performing for almost ten years. I’ve been doing it for so long that I am performing in my sleep. Which is the exact opposite of the usual audience, who sleep while I am performing.

During this time, as I operate slyly and behind the scenes, I have been able to make the casual observer believe, thanks to my jacket, my book of verse, and the fact that I am single, that I am, indeed, a poet too.

Yet on closer inspection, even the most broad minded of literary critics will be inclined to point out that, no, this is not the case. My rhyming couplets have all split up. My found poems were hidden for a reason. Nobody has ever stuck around long enough to tell me what the Rhyme scheme of my poems might be. I have never once worried about enjambement, those I know that those who like it, do go on a bit. And once, I got very conceptual and sent off a blank piece of paper to a poetry journal. They wrote back promptly, congratulating me on my excellent blank verse.

Dear poets, I have moved among you. Yet it has to be said that you live in an environment in which I have started to feel at home. A poetry gathering is the kind of place where, for some reason, I suddenly feel very tough. I know that generally I am quite butch and masculine in any case, but I feel even more so in a poetry crowd. And when I took the money on the door of a comedy poetry night not long ago, I certainly made sure that there was no funny business.

I am the poetry interloper, a phantom who skulks the festivals and fringes, whose name creeps into journals and publications. Even my name helps with my anonymity, it’s such a plain, boring name with none of the more exuberant vowels or letters of the more exciting poet. My name makes me sound like a parking attendant, or a geography teacher. Google my name and the first thing that comes up is a former mayor of Cheltenham.

But I’m proud not to be a poet. And I’m even more proud to be thought of as a poet, usually by people who haven’t read any of my work. The delicious groan at a comedy night when I’m introduced as a poet is a good sign as it means that the audience has already lowered their expectations, after which, anything is a bonus.

So if I am not a poet, then what am I? Yes, there’s an existentialist crisis if ever there was one. But to be honest, I don’t even think about it. I am a. . .. performer . . .an entertainer . . . A performance artist . . I am none of these things. And do you know what? That makes me feel really happy!

Juicy

Happy Christmas one and all! If you’re looking for something to watch, here’s my solo show from last year, Juicy.

It was filmed before a packed audience at Torquay’s iconic Blue Walnut Café, just before I took it to Edinburgh and ended up on BBC Radio Five Live and in the Guardian Newspaper because of it.

It will only be available a few days over the festive period, so have a butchers now before it disappears!

All the best for next year,

Robert

https://youtu.be/xp-mnfrFWM8