Some text in the Modal..

Ant Smith
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Interview with a Pariah

Thursday 26th July 2012 1:28am

I wrote a note, on FaceBook, about all that I have experienced on the London performance scene. The very best, and to a lesser extent those that are most challenged - in their ethos, politics, or just their propensity to exploit. It is the latter, negative side, that drew most comment and debate and that formed for me I imagine some that would consider themselves my enemy. I now have a fine collection of threats and gags. So be it. But I find myself questioning the value in which I am held. I went through a long thought process, of several weeks, asking "is this a thing I should be doing, this performance poetry malarky".

To that end, this morning I set myself three questions meant to drive to the heart of who I am as a member of the performing community. If you like, I asked "who is The GameCat?"... and should we put him down?

Here I'll present those questions and my first draft responses - perhaps in time these thoughts will change.

faux boxing match with enourmous boxing gloves

The truth it, is derisive - it erodes and corrodes

But why do you write? I mean why you rather than anyone else, what is your own actual, specific, individual and unique contribution?

I have this deep seated belief that my background, my up-bringing, my experiences are somehow uniquely horrific. That there may be a handful of tortured souls out there who have taken a closer walk with Satan than I but that their numbers are inconsequential.

That is to say, I have a clear intellectual understanding that I am as human as the next person.

Our world is filled with contradictions spurred on by an unreasonable demand for solid categorisation.

I feel unique, scared, alone, vulnerable, full of hate and distaste and disgust. And yet I love and I work and I party. I move in groups and make believe like I have friends. And unfortunately enemies. And mad idiots that dash from box to box like whirling dervishes of incomprehensible need and demand.

Reclining Bhudda, Thailand

Reclining Bhudda, Thailand

My life is a schizophrenic episode in the belly of a Buddha or the gut of some god whom I don't believe in and who doesn't believe in me.

I'm a roguishly handsome devil of an ugly man. I'm a brash and confident shyly retiring wall flower. I'm a technical genius with an aesthetic bent. I'm a fabulous lover of limited skill. I'm a generous thrift and a thrifty whore. I am all of this and I am both the less and the more.

I want to make pretty things ugly, in the prettiest of ways.

I do not want to reconcile all of these impossible obliques. I try to embrace them. Let them drive me mad. I try to make it okay to be a monster, or a loon, or an outcast.

I try to say "there but for the grace of a graceless god go I"

People say, mine is the poetry of hate. But it isn't. It's just the poetry of the unlovable.

What makes your writing valid? Why should the rest of us care to listen to your words? What have you got to say that has anything to do with me? I lived this life, you didn't, so what makes you think you can speak to me?

My first answer majored on what it is that draws us together as a species despite the uniqueness that is a single life - in essence a definition of the human condition: to be at once a self-serving individual and a co-operative member of a social structure.

Fishing nets, Greece

Fishing nets, Greece

The details hardly matter. They are a thing of illusion. In coming to terms with our lives it isn't a question of whose torment triumphs whose. Who was better raped or more successfully robbed. You don't have to write what you know. The questions that unite us evolve around where we are sitting in the individual versus social paradox.

So I don't need to or try to speak to the specifics of the lives of others. Nor ask others to see into my own aches and pains. I don't wallow and don't recant in dirges. I don't lay out my emotional baggage and embarrass audiences into appreciative teary sighs.

Instead, I typically take - an admittedly often gruesome - fragment of individuality and I expose it in a social context. I don't ask people to empathise with my experience. I don't ask people to imagine 'what if' or 'to think about'. Poetry performance isn't some intellectual ad hoc seminar or self help group for me.

I take some small unspeakable thing and I speak about it. The performance isn't about the thing per se. It is about the act in the room at the moment of utterance. The airing of the unspeakable. The socialisation of the private individual.

I'm not asking people to have empathy for, say, a necrophilliac - that would be ridduculous. I want them to experience, in the here and the now, the necrophilliac in person.Or rather to feel what it is like to have a grief that drives you to such acts. I only ask for, that people would feel.

My poetry is not about grand ideas for cogitation and debate. It's about the reactions that flare up from the friction provided by the interface of the one with the many.Certainly, it is Friction Fiction.

What do you imagine you're going to achieve with this great power that you've claimed? What do you imagine the world's going to look like then?

I'm not so egotistical as to imagine I could effect any kind of lasting material change. Somewhat disappointingly the truth is the exact opposite. If my work has any impact it will be to ensure that we get more of the same.

It is by agitating for change that we get suckered into the plot of Animal Farm. You know the same old pigs will rise to rule. Far, far better to simply expose things for what they are. Change makes it harder to achieve that. We didn't all realise that New Labour were Tories right at the outset - for a moment or two they looked like something different. Stuff change.

I once read a superman story (citation required) where he learned that if he did not sleep he would turn psychotic for it is the offline time wherein the mind makes sense of the constant barrage of stimulus. For me, art of all forms is to society what dreaming is to the individual. Art is the public dreaming that keeps society in a semblance of sanity (it would be more powerful, but that there were more of it).

So I guess with my public displays of disgrace I hope to help to keep us sane. To keep us from the scrabble for choice and the illusion of change. The more we settle to inspect our own reactions to each other, to come to terms with those and to breed tolerance, the greater chance of a deeper, meaningful and true transmogrification.

As the inestimable Calm Carl Chamberlain put it - I seek to "upset the quiet monotony of human denial".

But I won't achieve it. Does that even matter?

The Shard in construction

The Shard in construction

I would be interested to hear, any other practitioner's answers to the same 3 questions.

I would now refer you to my poem F*ck It In The Morning