[This text, co-written with Merl Fluin, was read at the Doubting Dereks' Calamitous Cabaret 17 June 2016 at Ventnor Exchange]
You are on the brink of despair.
The life you want is not possible. You are struggling to achieve it, to find shortcuts that will allow you to believe you have it now. This can only go in two directions: an accommodation that will utterly destroy you and everything you have done so far; or abject failure.
This despair is always presented as a personal failing, but it’s not an individual matter, your fault. You are caught in someone else’s contradictions. This world is intolerable. Changing it is imperative.
No accommodation with it is possible. It’s not possible to ameliorate such conditions by personal compromise. Looking for a way out through patronage, commercial achievement, funding bodies, celebrity approval, is a deathtrap, the co-opting and crushing of poetry with the very conditions which make poetry impossible.
You’ll be told this is insurmountable: ‘If you want to make poetry you’ll have to cooperate … Resistance, opposition, is impossible …’
If that were true, poetry would be impossible. So demand the impossible. Recognise that it is impossible. Then let the impossible make demands on you, that’s when the cycle of transformation begins.
Poetry, the poeticisation of everyday life, all life, is a burning necessity.
It is an act of fury, of unrelenting revolt and love.
It is not consoling. It is not what you write about your feelings.
It is not self-expression, self-appeasement.
Poetry is what will be, what must be.
It will fail unless your very life depends on it.
Poetry is not a voice speaking words you already know in a soothing tone.
It is opening yourself to a voice you don’t want to hear, shrieking at you what you didn’t know, what you don’t want to know, the terrifying, the shameful, the incontrovertibly true.
It is tearing yourself inside out to become something new.
Poetry is the self-immolation needed for transformation.
A voice that must be spoken.
Poeticisation is not a retreat from the world, a cosy escape into fantasy. It is the necessary transformation of this actual, brutal, crushing world into its latent, potential other.
It begins with the material, with what is actually there now.
It turns it into something else.