Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Weddings are the new arts festivals, collaboration with dead poets and anonymous copywriters.

I have a two page poetry comic in this new anthology of poetry comics edited by Chrissy Williams and Tom HumberstoneOver the Line.

I went to the first launch party  at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden, and the second launch party at Gosh Comics. I'm happy I got to go to both, like coming at the hybrid from both directions, although my foot is probably more obviously planted in the comics camp than the poetry one. I met some very cool poetry people and some equally awesome comic people at both events. 

It was fab to hear perspectives of poetic creatives reading and talking about their work, and it got me thinking about a lot of things. Poetry, labels, contexts and the cyclical nature of creativity.

Words go round in circles, in our heads and in our cultures, so do pictures.

Like these photo collages by Matthais Jung which he calls “architectural short poems” and says that "The composition of the individual elements correlates to a logic, as if in a dream."

This seems to chime so well with Williams' concept of cut and paste poetry comics, a lot of the work that goes on at her poetry comic workshops is of the collage variety - it's quick, it's democratic, hey you already know how much I love collage probably. It also lends itself well to thinking about composition and rhythm, how the former ties the latter together, in poetry but especially in comics. We read images in not all that different a way to how we read words, and the introduction to Over The Line examines how the grammar and syntax of that reading is built visually in poetry and comics to parcel moments of time into nuggets of meaning.

At the poetry cafe half of proceedings there was much talk of 'in collaboaration with dead poets', whether in this literal way of cutting up and re-organising others' work, or as poet and artist Sophie Herxheimer did in her project 'Coffee with Rosemary' taking a dead poet's name as a jumping off point for a poem made entirely from the letters therein. 

Whereas my contribution to the book is more of a collaboration with living but uncredited journalists and copy editors, my poem was forged from my ever expanding collection of interesting words from magazines. I have been making excellent use of the puzzle carrier my mother gave me for Christmas to put together new pieces of found text based comic work. 

To see the other page of my poem and lots of other interesting and brilliant interpretations of the theme, you shall have to buy the book.

Talking to Chrissy, we considered the place of poetry in contemporary society and how for many people it's something that happens at weddings but which they wouldn't expect to pop up in their daily reality feed. Which made me think, yes of the bloated aesthetic hysteria of what the wedding industry has become (my wedding was amazing by the way), but also of how our outlets for creativity and celebrating creativity get squashed by adult life, and how that force springs out of the gaps in the mundane in full force wherever we give it permission to. Working in a school I am aware of how many opportunities for self expression are given to (sometimes unwilling) children every day - they HAVE to write poems in English lessons, and the HAVE to draw in art, at least until GCSE in this country, you also HAVE to go outside and run around. But unless you latch on to that as part of your identity and make it your career or your passion, those opportunities dwindle when we leave education. 

I really believe people need creative and physical outlets, and if a wedding is the only chance you get to choreograph an awesome dance routine, read a powerful poem, make a thousand paper cranes or wear a ridiculous hat, then I say we need more weddings. Although it would be good if people felt less self conscious about doing all of those things in their homes and local church halls and social clubs too. So I would recommend joining the mailing list for the Poetry Cafe and GOSH comics. Or find something local to you. Don't wait for your friends to get hitched, get out there and make stuff. Play with boundaries, explore new mediums and hybrids, look for starting points and inspiration anywhere and everywhere and don't be afraid to collaborate. 

I once had a cordial exchange with Valerie Pezeron on a similar topic, where she posited that carnivals were an equivalent of performance art in other cultures, and I thought it was the other way around. Performance art is what modern western culture had to invent, to make up for a lack of carnival. If you've got an extravagant outfit wearing and political slogan shouting creature singing in your soul, it needs somewhere to come out. But sometimes we need an impetus, a spring board, a prompt; an excuse.  

Whether we're collaging to trick ourselves into becoming poets, starting with words and adding pictures, starting with pictures and adding words (many of the works in the book are actual collaborations between artists and writers, and some of their processes are this simple, though more are not); barefacedly pastiching our favourite creators and calling it a conversation, or lying to ourselves about the postmodern condition and claiming originality. I mean. Aren't we all collaborating with dead poets really? Not that that stops us from making brilliant art. 

I've been doing some more facebook portraits recently by-the-by, I've now completed the Johns. Here's the inimitable fellow StoryHandser John Riordan doing a scary face.

I'm also imminently moving house, so I've begun sorting through old boxes and files and have listed some old original illustrations on Etsy and some old (and new) bird paintings on Artfinder - more to come I expect as there's a whole stack of sketchbooks I haven't been through yet. Watch the space that is here.

I've never seen the Dead Poets Society, but I did hear some interesting stories about the Secret Cinema screening of the film, from some of the poets involved, in the pub near the Poetry Cafe.