On Performing Poetry to People That Don’t Want to Hear It

Another poem inspired by the poems of Martin Stannard, but this time focusing on performing poetry to the public. Absolutely not based on my experience. Absolutely not.

On Performing Poetry to People That Don’t Want to Hear It

The performance poet stumbles on stage at the Comedy night
And mumbles that he is a performance poet
Wild applause in appreciation of this news
Does not occur
Instead an awkward glance is exchanged
Between friends in the front row and one man
A little louder than intended
Declares his need to urinate

The poet introduces his first poem
Performing one he is sure is most likely to get a laugh
It ends with a clever rhyming couplet
That turns the whole poem on its head
And even now draws a smile from the writer
Years after he penned it
He pauses for effect
He raises his head from the pages
And the audience
Realising that this must be the end
Shuffle a half-hearted clap
In his direction

Undaunted the poet flicks a few pages forward
Skipping the two he had set aside
To calm the standing ovation
And refocus the attention of the audience
On his clever wordplay

This next one is about Growing Old
He says
Something some of us know more about than others
He quips
Shooting a confident wink in the direction of a large white-haired male
Who looks like a Vernon
And now
Looks like a Threat


Vernon shuffles uncomfortably in his seat
The poet shuffles uncomfortably on his feet
Just as the first line begins
The man who needed to urinate
Bursts back through the door

This isn’t going well
The poet concedes
And proceeds
To read
His poem

He settles into the familiar first verse and
Midway through the second
Feeling a little more confident
He braves another glimpse at his crowd
He sees one person in the fifth row by the door
Genuinely looking inspired
And draws comfort from the possibility
That all is not lost
That poetry is not dead
And that even in this modern world
The spoken word
Can still be heard
And read
With power

A few unappreciated poems later
He brings his set to a close
With a quiet reminder that he is selling some booklets
If anyone is interested in those

He takes his seat by the side of the stage
As the MC tries to work the audience out of their stupor
One person seemed to get it
The poet thinks to himself
That’s one victory
And he refocuses as the host introduces the next comedian

Emerging from the back of the stage
With a cocky smile and a twinkle in his eye
Is the inspired member of the audience
And he proceeds to deliver twenty of his finest minutes
On the stupidity and self-importance of poetry
And poets

The comedian is loving it
Vernon is loving it
And everyone else feeds off their excitement
Everyone except the poet

He sinks in his seat
He stares at his feet
And he wishes away the minutes to the interval
And his escape

On Comparing Yourself to Others

Another poem inspired by the style of Martin Stannard, called ‘On Comparing Yourself to Others’.

On Comparing Yourself to Others

I find it staggering how often people
Compare themselves to others
People who in my eyes are already pretty fantastic
Looking at other pretty fantastic people and
Seeing all the types of fantastic that they are not
Or at least are not yet

Sometimes I find myself daydreaming about corrective eye surgery
Not because I am a corrective eye surgeon
But because too many people have warped vision
That clarifies the fantastic in the people around them
And blurs the fantastic in themselves
A bit like being long-sighted
But not a lot

Of course people are different
Some are really funny and some are really handsome
And some are really clever and some are really friendly
And some are really lucky in that they tick multiple boxes
But I think the really lucky ones are the content ones
That may not tick any box but also don’t mind being average
Because that’s all anyone is in comparison to everyone else
That’s how averages work

I once heard someone say that
The only time you should compare yourself to others
Is to make sure that they have enough
But I put it in Google and I can’t find who said it
So either I should write down quotes and sources more often
Or my friends understand the world on a much deeper level
Or I understand the world on a much deeper level
But I think it is the first of those three options

You have to remember that if everyone compared themselves to others too much
Then nobody would do anything because
They would all think somebody else could do it better or quicker or sexier
So nobody after Oscar Peterson would play piano
Nobody after Timothy Dalton would play James Bond
And nobody after Michael Johnson would run 400 metres or the
200 metres or the 4×400 metres
Apart from the other three people on his team

On Other People’s Thoughts

I have been inspired recently by reading Poems on Various Subjects by Martin Stannard. I love the way he writes poetry – it is very fluid and often contains no punctuation, making a sort of rambling stream of thoughts and ideas that, at first, seems like a messy clump of nonsense but once you train your eyes to find a rhythm and begin to imagine the missing full stops, commas and hyphens, it turns into something wonderful.

This is very different to any poetry I have written before, and if you are looking for nice comfortable rhyming couplets I am afraid you will be disappointed. Maybe save yourself the hassle and skip it.

On Other People’s Thoughts

I find other people’s thoughts so interesting
That sometimes I beat my brain and ask it why
It is being so lazy if you want to be a poet surely you should
Be able to come up with good ideas more often and bad ideas
Either less often or not at all I could set up a recycling business
With the amount of wasted paper I produce or could have better spent
My time writing Christmas cards throughout the year so I don’t lose patience on the
23rd December and neglect anyone after
About forty cards have been written and even some of those are
Brief at the best of times and
Lacking in festive spirit

Some people’s thoughts are not interesting because of the content in fact
Some people’s thoughts don’t really have any content but the way
They come gushing out like river water and no sooner are they ending one point
Than they meander round a corner and shoot off down a distributary that has little to
Do with their last point and nothing to do with their first point
And then they have the audacity to ask me what they were talking about and
All I can think of is the story of Hansel and Gretel because I feel they
Have left a breadcrumb trail of their thoughts and they have been
Pecked away by birds in their imagination
And now we are lost

Sometimes I am just as impressed by people that have no thoughts
Of their own and are quite happy wandering through life
Thinking of nothing more than putting one foot in front of the other
Both physically and metaphorically and not really caring about
More than what they are having for dinner and who their football team is
Playing next it tends to be men who have such simple lives and basic thought patterns
But I don’t want to discriminate so I also acknowledge that many women
Share this mundane existence and enjoy football matches

Sometimes my wife asks me what I am thinking and it is like my head takes a laxative
And every single thought I have ever had is evacuated so I just end up saying nothing
So she probably thinks I am like the people I described in the previous verse
Maybe I am or maybe there are actually no people truly like that and we
All just suffer from the same problem

I think my problem is that sometimes I think and I can hear my voice
Saying things in my head which makes it easier to vocalise but
Sometimes I am thinking of things so abstract or insignificant that even
My brain says this is nonsense Martin
I am not going to let you share this with the world

National Poetry Writing Month 2014, Day Nine – Make-Down

The prompt for Day Nine was…

Today’s prompt was suggested by Bruce Niedt. Here’s Bruce’s explanation: take any random song play list (from your iPod, CD player, favorite radio station, Pandora or Spotify , etc.) and use the next five song titles on that randomized list in a poem.”

I changed the prompt a little, and decided to write a poem inspired by the first song that came up on shuffle. The song that came up was Thin Line by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and in it there’s a lyric that sums up a thought I’ve had for a long time that goes…

The greatest trick that the devil ever pulled
Was convincing women that they looked
Better in their makeup


I have seen you made up and made down.
I have seen the hours spent
plucking this,
tucking that,

blushing this,
brushing that,

curling this,
twirling that,

patting this,
plaiting that,

applying this,
drying that,

and all it does is hide what I think is true beauty.
And make us late to everything.

National Poetry Writing Month 2014, Day Eight – Reset the Clocks

I’ve fallen a little behind preparing for two weddings. The prompt for Day Eight was…

“Today, let’s rewrite a famous poem, giving it our own spin. While any famous poem will do, if you haven’t already got one in mind, why not try your own version of Cesar Vallejo’s Black Stone Lying on a White Stone? If you’re not exactly sure how such a poem could be “re-written,” check out this recent poem by Stephen Burt, which riffs on Vallejo’s. Happy writing!”

I went for a wedding theme, turning W.H. Auden’s ‘Stop the Clocks’ from a funeral poem into a more celebratory marriage poem. Hope you like it.

Reset the Clocks

Reset the clocks, repeat the vows you’ve heard,
Prevent the kids from talking with a quiet word,
Silence the wedding march and with shuffled bum,
Bring out the couple, let the marriage come. 

Let aeroplanes circle sweeping overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message They Are Wed,
Let them throw confetti, let flowers fill the air,
Let the bride pick all the petals from her hair.

She is my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My talk, my song, my noon, my midnight;
I think this love will last for ever: prove me right.

The candles are wanted now: light up every one;
Bring out the moon and turn down the sun;
Dance away the night-time and sweep up the floor.
I don’t know if I could love you any more!

National Poetry Writing Month, Day Seven – Hansel and Gretel

I enjoyed writing the post from yesterday so much that I again ignored the prompt and did another children’s story! Enjoy…

Hansel and Gretel

The tale of Hansel and Gretel is blurred.
The truth isn’t like any story you’ve heard.
The two little kids are the cause of the trouble;
they ate half a house and reduced it to rubble!

They murdered a little old lady as well,
and yet parents think it’s a story to tell
to young ones at bed time for falling asleep
(whatever’s the problem with just counting sheep?).

Their Dad was a woodcutter – I guess that much is true –
and his second wife, Mandy, was fed up with his two
greedy young children who ate the house dry,
and she hatched a smart plan to get food-levels high.

She thought a few days with the kids out the way
would allow her to cook and feed her and Jose
(that’s the woodcutter’s name if you couldn’t have guessed).
His first wife was German and to her behest

she chose both the names of their two vile kids,
despite options of Rose or Juan (Jose’s two bids).
Alas, I get sidetracked. I’ve left you perplexed!
Let’s return to the story, and hear what happened next.

Mandy convinced Jose with persuasive talk;
they took both the children to the woods for a walk,
but Hansel was wise and he saw through the plan,
so he dropped some sweet wrappers and a trail began.

When they finally got kid-free and made their way back,
they heard Hansel and Gretel retracing their track
and upon reaching home, both the kids had caught up
expecting Mandy to make them some supper to sup.

Angry and tired, they waited until night
when Hansel and Gretel were asleep fairly tight,
and they carried both children to the depths of the wood;
a couple days’ forraging would do them some good.

When they woke the next day, at six in the morning,
picked sleep from their eyes, and finished their yawning,
they noticed the place that they’d just woken in;
they had bracken and heather stuck onto their skin.

They were lost in the forest; it all looked the same.
They shouted vile swear words I don’t want to name.
But then, through the thicket, they saw a surprise – 
what looked like a Sweet house in front of their eyes.

They made their way to it, rang the doorbell they saw
and an elderly lady came to answer the door.
“Hello there, dear Children. It’s lovely to meet
a couple of people who think my house sweet.

“I had kids of my own, but they left decades back.
They got fed up with beds that were made of flapjack,
and the sweetness of showers once powered by honey,
and the chocolate coins I gave as pocket money.”

The children said, rudely, “We don’t care about you.
We’ve just come for a nibble, and then bid you adieu.”
The lady was hurt by their nasty retort
and made off to the kitchen for a stiff glass of port.

The children were greedy and – as hours flew past – 
they munched through her aerial and radio mast.
By teatime they’d eaten the windows and doors,
and – a day after starting – ate the walls and the floors.

The old lady was livid. “YOU ATE THE WHOLE LOT!
And you know what the kids did? (It’s vile, mind you)
They killed the old lady and ate her up too.

Then Hansel remembered his phone in his pocket.
He keyed in the digits you need to unlock it.
In the palm of his hand was the key to survive;
he had all sorts of apps on his new iPhone 5.

He found Google Maps and stuck in his post code
and it guided them both to the end of their road.
While approaching the house, they saw Jose and Mandy
with a warm apple pie and a half each of Shandy.

The story ends gruesomely (I’ll just summarise it;
I can’t bare the ending, I simply despise it).
They burnt down their home with the parents inside,
and were heard by their cackles while both of them died.

They burnt down the forest as an insult to Dad
(and you thought that the Pigs from last poem were bad!)
They grew a new forest of long stinging nettle
(which I hate! Thanks a lot, evil Hansel and Gretel).

The last whereabouts of the two are unknown.
They evaded capture, and continue alone.
If you see two young teenagers, with one iPhone 5,
you’ll know now to run or you won’t stay alive.

And if you think that your children are awfully rude,
they talk with their mouths full, they play with their food,
take this tale as caution – be wise with deterrents
or you’ll suffer the fate of the two children’s parents.