We are a bit late for National Poetry Day - but consider this our contribution...
Since the Disappear Here project began way back in March, we have collaborated with a range of artists working together to produce a series of poetry films; some of whom are established poets, others developing their writing careers and some artists who are almost entirely new to the form!
The same can be said for several of our film-makers, some of whom are straight out of university, and to offer them their first paid commission into the relatively unknown and niche sub-genre of film-poems. It has been a thrill and a joy to support them in exploring their potential in past work and ideas for the future
It is important and encouraging for DH to find new poetic voices emerging all of the time, and as much as the “business” of writing is about pain, rejection and suffering (plenty of source material there already) part of this process about throwing your heart and ideas out there, in some cases baring your soul and connecting with other human beings (et al) through universal language that challenges, shocks and offers an empathetic branch of shared experience – see Sylvia Plath’s fierce musings on depression, for starters...
So we were jubilant and surprised to see a swathe of public poetry cut its way through Coventry on a recent sojourn on the ringroad’s heavenly, grumbling underbelly. Around junction 9/0 several sides of supporting pillars have been tagged and scripted in a mixture of lyrics and verse, both about Coventry and Poetry itself (the perfect twinning) – who is the mysterious SCUL or BIAS - tags seen all over the city...
The nicest reflection from this is to imagine that it might be one of the Disappear Here poets going rogue; equally, it could be a citizen, chatting about the market and the obstacle/spectacle of the ringroad as “concrete carbuncle”. It doesn’t matter who and why has done it; poetry can make what appears to be an ugly, empty space, rich and full with new meaning, but also evoke a sense of the place that lots of people had already thought but had never seen written out before them, certainly not in arts-funded installations – and yet there are precedents – see the sanctioned words of Andrew Motion’s poem, What if? that greets you on exit from Sheffield train station:
For many, graffiti is a public nuisance, street art the sanitised more accepted version, but words rarely get a look-in; and yet we commonly accept, or are made to accept advertising billboards blocking our views, demanding our attention in an already hectic and increasingly distracting world, yes they bring revenue – but at what cost? The faux spectacle of promoting a better car, better lifestyle and a better You can fuck off – poetry is good for the soul – it can be both the salve or the distruptive element that comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable (as the phrase goes), the equivocal answer to perennial questions, and questions, from unheard voices, talking about things that really matter.
There was a brief romantic flourish of verse on a construction billboard around the council’s Friargate development (what happens when local authorities make tons of cuts and build white-washed, ultra-corporate palaces to themselves – Ozymandias, much?). Of course it was removed - but it was authentic and uncensored and said so much more about reality than the prescribed and ultra-positive messages of feel-good generic “Coventry is great” slogans plastered across the boards. This is one example of citizens being given a voice, which is great, but also very controlled and controlling as the blandest of propaganda – there is no room for counter-culture here. Larkin is also listed on the boards; but no living artists feature – why not commission new works from living poets who live in Coventry?
For our money, more people expressing themselves creatively in the built environment; making art out of nothing, can only be a good thing, if the Disappear Here project is instrumental in that, then we will have fulfilled our role, said and done everything that was needed of us – let’s have more poetry in public!
POETRY IS ALL AROUND (AND WITHIN) YOU!