Monday, October 11, 2010

Found Poetics

It's been awhile since I've been here. I've been busy... not least becoming a performer in a band! Not, you understand, a singer - I would not inflict what passes for my singing voice on anyone in the public. But as a poet in a jazz/poetry combo called Backchat.

Which is kind of weird - everyone I know wanted to be in a band at some point in their lives, but most of course never got to be. Now, past the age of 50, I'm in a band. A jazz band. It's probably not the most innovative of jazz bands, but neither is it trad. A bit like my poetry - modernist, fragmentary and all that it might be; but I'm probably not at the absolute cutting edge of anything. I go to The Other Room and Counting Backwards, and I'm always inspired by what I hear/see; but I can only go in the directions that mean something to me.

Last Counting Backwards, by the way, was terrific, including a wonderful performance of the Bricks, by a woman going under the moniker, Sonic Pleasure. Also, Stephen Emmerson's poetry and the improve sax/whistle/recorder/swanney whistle of Philip Bent (I think). A wonderful evening, sometimes intense, sometimes quietly reflective. I'll never look at a pile of building materials the same way again...

What I liked about her performance were the twin aspects of temporariness and recycling. She was re-using materials in new ways, and as she performed, some of the bricks were crumbling as she banged or scrapped them together. A lot of modernist writing incorporates recycled material and found text, in my case, over- and mis- hearings. The modernist technique par excellance appears to be bricollage: you find it in Eliot, in Pound, Olson, Williams; and in contemporary writers such as Frances Presley or Tony Lopez. Even Elaine Randell's poems are using the material of others' lives in her almost case-note like poems.

Although it is how you put it together that makes the poems work, the fact that so much poetry is essentially found, fascinates me. Perhaps all poetry is found; where else would it come from? Poets recycle the world around them, but it's true in other art forms too. Be-Bop tunes are often based on older tunes, or quote them speed them up, add more notes. Collage and installation use found materials. Now there's the basis of a thesis. All art is about finding.

Feel free to use and rearrange any of these words in any order...

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