THE ANTIPOET MANIFESTOallanboyd : perth west australia june2004
Anti – opposite; the offering of an antithesis towards synthesis...
Poetry – the essence of uttered, scratched words; playing with meaning and language structure in an effort to evoke response; responding to daily life as a textual canvas...
Yeah I know, It’s an intentionally provocative statement to suggest one is an antipoet or even the antipoet. But I’ve been calling myself this since I realised that poetry is dead. Since I discovered that bland is killing the planet. That nothing, or very little, of what I read or hear amongst poets themselves wants to tackle the deep critical issues facing us in this crucial time we inhabit. Indeed poetry written from a comfortable mainstreamed perspective will be a mere product of the money eating façade of the 21st century. And poetry should have impact. I think the best poetry is raw, should make you squirm. Its beautiful stark reality should even hurt you, make you laugh, make you flinch, force you to block your ears. Poetry should make you want to cry sometimes, smile fall in love with a poet’s mesmerising vocal delivery... Poets are messengers in love with the semiotics of words.
Inside Tom Collins House I write this document, sitting at an obsolete yet workable computer, in a stoic old house hand-built by the early Australian novelist Joseph Furphy in the early 1900s. I am here because I am the Emerging Writer in Rresidence and have spent the month of May attending to my writerly duties to produce as much work as possible in this time – of which this “manifesto” is the centre-piece. People have been asking me why I call myself the “antipoet” for a long time now. And so here I am writing this document in an attempt to explain my reasons for being such a recalcitrant, non-conformist bastard.
I relish this title of “Emerging” in that it embodies the idea that I will never be “Established”. To be established would mean either that my poetry has had so much resonance, that mainstream culture has become perfect – or in more realistic terms: I have been accepted into the machine I seek to critique and despise. As an established writer I would have become blinded by the apathy of consumer culture – indeed, an appropriated product of a hierarchical system. Yet, I digress.
I am a poet in the 21st century. I am a father of two children, I am a lover, a husband and a micro-capitalistic-credit failure. Now, in the pursuit of art as existence, I am on a constant mission to resist the lures of a petro-chemical credit-driven life. Over the last decade of writing and performing my anarko-art works and collaborations, it has become a steady realisation that all this “anti”-art is part of a lifetime commitment of refusal to adhere to long-established traditions of dominant cultural myths and languages of its poetic/artistic fashionista discourse. The notions of democracy and compassion are corroding under our well-shod, plastic logo feet. Its time for a change – and we need to wake up NOW!
As an artist I feel it necessary now to tear down the walls of deception and the structures of profit-greed through my language – through my art. Whilst I am very aware of that which has come before, and that nothing in art is intrinsically new, I am attempting, I think, to break new ground [in this time; in this place]. I hereby seek to challenge existing literary and artistic frameworks in order to critique current art produce at this time – within the embryo of this century – right now!
I simply cannot accept the blind destruction of my planet – I refuse wherever possible to maintain the wealth accumulation cycle of insanity. I consume little and consider every purchase. As credit-addicted consumers, everything has become remote, intangible. There is no apparent recourse to all this consumption and waste production. The great poets of our time, the advertisers and politicians, would have us believe that eating the planet bare seems to have no effect. We simply can’t see, or perhaps choose to ignore the crucial and resultant facts of inhumanity after inhumanity directly caused by ruthless, profit-driven corporate exploitation and government control. The human history of this earth is well littered with examples of corporate-fueled get-rich-quick disasters, hideously wasteful destruction and force-fed well-oiled democracy; of the imperial funding and training of genocidal terror organisations; the instillation of private security corporations...
The real meaning of the consumer culture makes no sense when you boil it all down – doesn’t ladder-climbing have an end point somewhere? If someone profits – someone loses. Indeed, truth, spirit, metaphysics, accessing the word-conduit, using this body, harnessing the inner energy of life – letting the words/images of the zeitgeist flow through arms and fingers to the page/canvas - all have become masked, tainted and defiled by layers of apathetic consumption, wealth accumulation schemes, mindless insecurity and desire for the sake of desire desire desire desire desire desire.
I am not by nature a divisive or antagonistic person, nor do I seek to confront for the sake of shock value. Its about the crucial need to speak about the ills of this culture – and the absolute damage we are causing to our lives in the long term.
Upon research as a writer, artist, media activist – involved with myriad ongoing culture jamming projects, it seems to me, upon analysis, that this mode of living without purpose beyond wealth acquisition is being ignored. And life without question is no life at all!
Indeed, recent research suggests that by 2020 mental health disorders will surpass death by all other causes – including heart attacks, road deaths and cancer; and further, that by around 2010 we will be facing the peak oil crisis - when oil demand outstrips supply. We’re gonna be face to face with the collapse of the petro-chemical industries! Why doesn’t anyone know this? Why do the shareholders of multinational mining companies openly consume sacred lands and fragile ecosystems without precautionary principles? Why do our governments resist the need for immediate change of human behavior? Why can’t we STOP and help the 20 million refugees who roam the planet seeking more than simple shelter when it is our western lifestyles that have ultimately created their plight? How is it that a billion people rejected the US recent invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan yet there are thousands dead? Why is it that global Defence forces continue to use cluster bombs and Depleted Uranium as weapons in a “just cause”? Just what the fuck are weapons of Mass Destruction?
So - WAKE UP! Why is it that nobody talks about these things? Why is this information buried under piles of shiny gloss and wasted words. Why do the great emerging poets of our time all write copy for Advertising companies? Why is it that a few men control a country’s media? Why is it that “reality tv” outrates current affairs shows? Why is it that we seek validity thru conforming to this unsustainable practice of corporate greed, habitat depletion, and eco-rape for real estate addiction? Why do we fill our micro-mansions with mindless crap, lock up our houses like a fortress for ten hours a day and work in places we hate? Why? Why? Why?
So, at the heart of this – an inherent need to expose these issues and situations – lies the reasons as to why I am the antipoet – I am not doing this for the sake of it! I truly believe that I must tell these truths; seek out the inner levels of things and bring them into the public gaze. Because it is my fundamental duty as an artist, as a word artist, as a poet, that I am an antipoet built to REJECT, RESIST and EXIST now. At some point we really must accept as individuals and as society, that due to this overt and willing hyper-consumption, that life as we know it, will be vastly different within a decade. The resources are running out baby! We must change the way we approach our interaction with this place, with ecological system management and with social interaction, with behavior and by DIRECT action. Blindly swallowing government and corporate propaganda is not doing a thing to solve the issues of a capitalism founded on slavery, inherent blatant racism, inexorable inhumanity and rampant greed-mongering facing us now, today – not solving the salinity deserts of Australia; or the sweatshops of Indonesia; not amongst the bodies of the 10,000 dead Iraqi civilians; or the children jailed for years on end in our isolated desert refugee concentration camps…
And so, I just cannot ignore these things I know. To do this, I believe, is worse than the atrocity committed. As the antipoet it is my job, my reason to do art to place these ideas into my poetry and art – and using the tools available to me via the digital and textual realms, theatrical techniques, film and television, music, sound-art and other forms of self-expression, I will challenge your thinking on the things I find necessary to think about and discuss in our time. NOW!
For those of us willing to accept the stark grey reality of the things underground culture is telling us (and our numbers are swelling via affinity groups and cellular organising networks across the global cyber-sphere), we are clearly witnessing the death of this planet’s underlying structures. There’s a distorted corrosion of freedoms at work in our lives and we are implicit in our own destruction by perpetuating existing forms. My inner voice, cultivated through experience, emotion and education tells me that: by writing poems that serve to celebrate our suburban existence, our “free” market dominance over other cultures, communities and individual people, we are simply perpetuating the system of greed/apathy that we support in our daily lives. I’m over it!
A mass cultural awareness is upon us the great Peak Oil Decline (ie Petrol is running out!) and its ensuing socio-economic ramifications within a decade. It seems that nobody is bothering to confront and reject the dominant cultural values undermining our planet’s sustainability – and our own human survival for that matter. Few are questioning the looming ecocide and social insecurity of the over-consumption SPIKE – indeed, the coming end of a supra-comfortable credit-driven lifestyle. Yet we cannot continue to ignore the massive disrespects we inflict on the biosphere, and indeed the manner in which we treat others – simply because they have less than what we have, or little access to the tools of economic rationalism, education, health, good food and basic quality of life. RIGHT NOW, IN OUR LIVES we need to examine the structures of oppression that mask us and challenge the way in which we talk about, think about and DO art. And even how we consume it…
Lets get this clear… I don’t entirely reject poetry as an art-form. I am not against poetry in general. I just can’t enjoy bad, cliché, empty, weak, banal, bland forms of poetry. Poetry that doesn’t play with language – that is empty of challenge! Okay so now I’m implying a judgment as to what is bad or good. So I’d better define what it is about poetry I like, and don’t like. In fact, I love poetry. I really do. So much, that I have been writing/performing/editing/publishing and organising the stuff for a decade. I love it so much, that I hate it when I read/hear poetry that simply regurgitates the dominant cultural façade. I want your words, your poems to fuck with my head. If you are observant, refuse the masks of white supremacy and patriarchal capitalism, and have a talent for writing poetry - you have a duty to explore language to discover new ways of expression and tell the world about these ills. You must – as a matter of species survival – write poems that tell me what the fuck is wrong here, today, right now on this planet, this continent, this state, this city, this suburb, this house, this screen… but hey, you better somehow make it interesting! Can you see where I’m going?
I am also the antipoet because the stuff calling itself poetry; the poetic works winning awards, getting publication and funding, seems to me, to be weak, insultingly patriotic, unquestioningly mainstream and merely seeks to perpetuate the disturbing myths of our time. Poets of our generation must seek change, must seek new ways of expression, using the language of now, the tools of now and the avante garde mutterings of those that seek radical changes in the way we tackle life.
Suffice to say, ALL poetry is self-expressive. That is, it is an utterance, a grasping scratching group of words by an observant human attempting to make sense of the mass of information that confronts every waking, dreaming moment. We write poems because we love language – we write them because we have words and truths and stories to tell. We seek to express these ideas through these gems of truths - yet truth in poetry is perhaps an illusion now. We fail to break down what is real in our poems. We forget to seek the source of our expressions. We write the words, we feel the meaning through our interaction on the page and then perhaps in performance if the poem is read off the page. But we don’t seek change – radical change. Far from it. Perhaps its just too hard to contemplate the reality of it all.
So if we are utterly unable to critique the dominant culture because we are confined to its reproductive systems we are not poets – I want change and I want to write poems that change the world. The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets were perhaps on to something. The LAST poets [fathers of pre-Hip-Hop culture] were too. Some of the underground and more experimental poets challenging the existing modes can be found in Perth, Melbourne and Tasmania. As I’ve stated before when asked who my favourite poet is: “the best poets in the world are right here in this room”!
Yet right now, using the standard model poetic devices, and telling the same stories about how fucking nice everything is, we can’t seek to change the world our poems describe. Our lack of ability to scream through the façade of 21st century life is stifling. So we simply surf the surface; regurgitate the distortions of reality in our poetry and in our approach to writing. I gave up writing nice poems a long time ago. I stopped listening to the corporate/mainstream/dominant vision of life. I sought a deeper meaning of understanding. I want to get to the root of this planet and examine where we can challenge the existing order of human things and why the language is sometimes extremely inadequate in describing this life.
Furthermore, copyrighted ideas and sentences, intellectual-property-protected words and samples we need to use in writing these poems of change are out of reach and range – so this obedience to authority in language reproduction is also very stifling. Lets get radical. And by radical I mean – examine the root, attack the source, discover for yourself just where the problem is entrenched…
In order to examine and critique a radical approach to poetry, and truth-tellings, perhaps we need to fully realise the contemporary time we inhabit; our 21st Century historical context; our extreme “NOWness?” perspective. The social and cultural framework we operate our day-to-day existence demands an addiction to wealth accumulation. We’re told by our parents, our teachers, our bosses, our co-workers, our mates and family, its in our narratives; its part of our communication; its our very language – it all reeks of capitalism. And that’s where the problem lies. Late-Capitalism is a slow dying beast. We are the products of this systematic destruction of the spinning rock’s resource. The Earth as we know it is near dead. And yet we deny this in our everyday actions. We “shop till we Drop” and venerate Retail Therapy as if it were a way to heal ourselves – when it is KILLING the planet!
By embracing and following the principles of latter-day capitalism; the mindlessness of consumerism and all its so-called rewards of plenty we’re simply denying our very human-ness. And I think perhaps that’s what poetry is – a written/spoken attempt at defining our humanity. If you write a poem celebrating this culture, or recreate words, meanings and speech that serve merely to represent the established regime of work/eat/sleep/die – you are propping up its excesses. And worse - you are writing a poem that kills the planet. As a poet [an observer of literary language and a practitioner of the expression of life as a human animal]? I feel that it is your duty, your moral right to grasp, fight and change the existing order of things. You must challenge the problems at a radical level. If you seek to regurgitate a mainstreamed version of life [ie corporate media-driven realities] then your poetry is fundamentally weak and doesn’t challenge a thing. It is imperative that we tackle the pain of corporatised families, workplaces, public spaces and leisure time. Lets all be anarchists and question the coercive hierarchical authorities that are ingrained to our psyche. Lets renounce our addiction to obedience. Lets get spray cans and write our poems on Freeway overpasses, on roads and footpaths and bus stops and advertisements. Lets take back our spaces – including our mental space. This is a message to the corporations: You cannot have my mindshare – my brain is not a market!
POETS: Spray paint your Poetry into the streets, the footpaths the concrete page.
Art festivals are mostly funded by companies advertising products or seeking tax relief, thereby denying true social responsibility (and lets face it: a profit driven machine does not feel anything, and seeks at all times to increase itself) and the only opportunities we have for distributing our poetry are given to us by corporate funding, therefore branding of our art - then we have become brands, products of capitalism ourselves. “Poetry is brought to you by BrandX?” the best poetry money can buy. Poetry then has become more commodity art and less human response expressions. Less artifact and more market-driven.
Mainstreaming art and cultural reality – making it easy to promote and consume product; to make stuff that’s popular – if people like our stuff they BUY it, seek to own it, and not so much experience it, but consume it as property, then maybe we have failed. If all we do is seek recognition by mass audiences [ie create a highly consumable product]? we have failed. I want my art to reach people, sure. But, because I say the things that threaten the comfortability of a the vast majority of people living in western culture – I am attacking the very essence of what you hold dear and protect securely. So you see, I can never be successful. But to me that is a good thing. Indeed, send me an email and I’ll GIVE you my music, my art, poetry. At performances I regularly cut up the poetry I have just performed and distribute personally to each member of the audience. I want to share your human-ness – not sell you a piece o’ me! Gimme a call. Lets collaborate and not compete.
ME: I don’t own a car; no credit card; no real estate ambitions; I rarely wear shoes; I don’t have a 9-5 job; I don’t buy products on a whim; I do not wish to support the system that is destroying the people we exploit as rabid 21st century consumers, consuming products without considering effect is purely blind ignorance and extreme apathy. Mate, I cant do it anymore and we should all – every single one of us - just STOP right now, and think and talk and share the problematic details, without the ideological consumerist insurance facades. We need sit down under a tree and tell each other what’s wrong and why the people in charge of our lives do not represent us anymore, if they really ever did! Democracy has its merits, sure, but when a minority is left unheard, misunderstood and disenfranchised – surely then democracy has failed in its goals of a people’s government? My poetry then is all about these things.
But is Advertising the poetry of the 20th Century? Perhaps. If advertising copy is about brevity and the essence of language, the language of capitalism, then its really about poetry – and perhaps then, advertising is the most successful poetry – in that the metaphor [something standing in for something else] is king. A car is NOT freedom, a car is a planet killing life taking death machine. The resources used in building and maintaining a car are vast and continuous. A car relies on the burning of fossil fuels [of which oil is in ever-dwindling supply something that is completely overlooked in the face of ecocide] a car relies on roads to operate; a car needs people to drive it and the time invested in maintaining and fueling is a 9-5 addiction. Our lives are consumed as fast as the petrol burns. We need a well-paying job to own a car; we need constant access to money to run it; we can’t possibly afford to buy a $20,000 vehicle up-front, so we need credit to buy them. In order to get credit we need assets and income. So, we need to work – mostly employed in work not of our essential choice, thereby denying our real freedoms, as we wage-slave away to maintain our credit, our job, our non-stop consumption-cycle of everything.
So it’s a lie. The poem of advertising cars is telling lies… A car can’t really be freedom – yet its metaphor suggests so. Its emotive content is clear: Buy this car and have unlimited freedom to drive anywhere you like, whenever you like, and don’t consider the consequences – your family will love you and you will be beautiful. Whilst the Literati may dismiss my definitions of Poetry as advertising, in this sense poetry is highly successful – its 30 second brevity, its strong imagery, its humanity all considered and manipulated through language codes means accolades when the product is consumed… Yeah, whatever!
But surely this is an inherently flawed concept. We live in a planet with limited/finite resources, yet we carry on as though the place was a bottomless pit of wealth and prosperity. We forget that our every behavior is at the expense of the bio-sphere, our ecosystem. We forget our place in it, in the scheme of deep ecology. We don’t think in terms of the effect we have on the intimate details of life itself, of the planet’s ability to sustain us. We are supposed to be the “dominant” species on the planet, the rate we’re going there won’t be much to “dominate” soon!
So then, what is it I am really trying to say? Maybe I’m saying that when we write/perform and read/consume poetry, we cannot remove ourselves from the notions of the systems we inhabit. Yet we must attempt to do so in order to facilitate social change for the betterment of humanity – and the great ecosystems we operate within. Werd.
Let your poetry be the struggle. And that is why I am the antipoet… maybe? Fuck knows – you tell me!
Love and respect, The antipoet
allan boyd - may04
perth indymedia - open publishing