Monday, August 15, 2005

re-claire the streets

Just back from several days with my family and their swarm of small children.

For a whole host of reasons I have chosen to never have children of my own. But just as I recognise cattle farming as an environmental catastrophe yet still adore the cows themselves, so it is that I can have a great time with kids. Anyone who can have a laugh simply by being dangled by the ankles or twatted with an oven glove is cool with me.

But I pity the parents. Their attention spans have been so heavily assaulted that even when the kids are all asleep their focus and priorities stay shifted. What sane individual could want to talk loudly about nappies when vintage Patti Smith footage is on TV? Who told them it was OK to be graphically describing the texture of baby shit while I'm eating?

Worse is when you're eating with Parent A and Parent B comes back. It's not just those descriptions from Parent A but the searching questions from Parent B about moistness and succulence. Really, try pushing a chip into curry sauce and raising it to your mouth while that's going on.

I attempted to. I failed.

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The more alert Badgerers may notice a newcomer to the other people's blogs section in the sidebar links. It's Re-Claire The Streets, the poetry blog of radical supergirly Claire Fauset.

Frankly the P-word scares me. Having been involved in small-press and zine publishing for years and years, I've had a lot of self-published poetry cross my path. Only the tiniest sliver of it has been something other than appalling drivel. No area of human creativity has produced such a high proportion of totally worthless crap, with the possible exception of 1980s poodle-rock metal.

Most of those poetry zines were the same uninspired, unimaginative, up its own arse whinging from people who should just get out more.

I'm not being cruel or callous here. You'd be the same if you'd had to read it in such volume. Most zine distributors I know have a no-poetry rule, otherwise a third to a half of what gets submitted is exactly that stuff I mentioned.

I'm really proud that some distros made one-off exceptions for the poetry Godhaven Ink has published. Mahalia's work is in that smallest fraction of self-published poetry that really means something, and Love is one of the best books I've ever read.

But away from the printed page, performance poetry certainly does ring my bell and tickle my fancy. Sure, it too has some codswallop, but a lot less. Performance poetry has a far higher strike rate perhaps because it is, by definition, done by people who do in fact get out more.

I first saw Claire Fauset as a performer at the open mic night of last year's Earth First! Summer Gathering. She did Between The Lines, a truly shocking piece about her lover who self-harms. Shocking not for any gory descriptions, but for its sensuality, the way it has all the enchantment and effervescence of being in love applied to a subject you only ever hear discussed in grave and/or judgemental terms. I sat there stunned, eyes welled up, as were the people I was with that night.

This June she turned up in the Speakers Forum at Glastonbury, as momentum built for the G8 protests, doing Make Poetry History, giving each verse an escalating gusto like the way key changes shift a song up a gear, powering out the poem so that the passion of the delivery matched the scale of the subjects covered and the whole thing engulfed the audience.

At Hammer & Tongue's poetry slam at the Big Green Gathering she did Art Not Oil, sharp commentary on the oil industry and sponsorship, cleverly unpicking the nuance of the evils of advertising, and which really needs to be heard (so read it to yourself thus) in that smiley-malevolent American PR voiceover tone.

The way she can tackle the personal subjects with the same captivating verbal dexterity as the political marks her out as a real talent.

On the blog, you have the words but not the delivery. It's the same difference as you get between reading a screenplay and seeing the movie. She herself acknowledges,

Without the tone, dynamics, pauses and gestures that give them life they're empty shells so you have to all imagine me jumping up and down in a big red frock and you might get some of the intended sprit.

She promises more to be posted soonly.

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