Notes from a facilitator at the Hip Yak Poetry School (Run by the Hip Yak Poetry Shack for poets in the South West, May 23-6, 2019)
DIY culture. I was born to it. Methodists, cloggers. But often it’s not just DIY, it’s ask someone else and before you know it you’re all Giddens’ mobile, flexible workers together and no one has enough time to stop to enjoy the trees.
But I miss this, miss these tents of people who “entrain” (join together in unconscious rhythm, as Chris Redmond told us) in clapping, laughing and saying words. In-jokes, the celebration and acceptance of quirkiness, a counter-public. An alternative to “Zip Zap Boing”, a game for every performance workshop- the Eastenders version. Every game can be rewritten to include an “Oi!” but we get stuck on old tracks.
The sign inside the flush toilet said it would save water if you felt able to use the dry toilet instead, I never did. Maybe it would have taken longer than four days.
Funny poems used to win slams, that’s how I won them. Not now, apparently. Or do they mean trivial. Me and Scott Tyrrell laughed at the poets who fake-cried at the national slams at Stratford-East in 2005, but they were a coming wave. We stepped outside from the foyer into the guests at the comedian Linda Smith’s funeral. “Look- there’s Jeremy Hardy!” we said.
Pete Bearder (book on spoken word forthcoming from Outspoken) says that there’s a “crisis of the elders” in the spoken word community. They (we) move on to things that pay or value us. It was good to see grey hairs here. I kept circling back to my first tour in 2010 as if it was the scene of an accident or a crime, and my recent one as if it was a cake I had uncovered before I was supposed to.
There was a conversation about being tactically old, tactically white, tactically gay, tactically female. In my head I translated back into PhD terms: “Rhetorical marginality”, “Translocational positionality”. In a tent, I felt the feelings of two poets who do not primarily want to engage audience feelings.
Maya Angelou spoke to me in a stone circle and said I was more engaged when I said “We” can change things than “I” can change them. Bukowski and me worked out I wanted a quiet space and time, as represented by a house with a swimming pool. Kerouac somehow knew I wouldn’t want “To parent” written on my face. I told Adrian Mitchell to crack on, he had a logjam.
In the past I worked for free to get poets to join a union. I worked for free to get spoken word poets recognised and included in a publishing manifesto against harassment and power abuse in literature. I hoped the top-up would filter down. The calls for these things still come. I’m not in the places that need it so much, or if I am, I’m talking about my matching tights, Brexit, the politics of clapping. I’m not made for the long, slow, thankless slog of activism, though I suppose I’m still here.
I love the flat surfaces and the musty smell in my caravan. I can see everything I need, nothing gets lost.
I don’t say that poems about the climate emergency should become part of every stage backdrop, part of the poisoned air we might clean, but not always explicitly. I don’t say that one way to hope is to hope that species left to their own devices will recover from what we’ve done eventually. That the human-animal-plant hierarchy means as little to me as the funny-serious hierarchy.
People ask “Will I be heard?” and I say “Yes, I hear you wanting to be heard” and they hear me.
We take our shoes off and put them back on as many times as children. I worry that some need spoilers because we are opening gateways and not everyone has valves or can work out when they will be needed, without more information. Matt Harvey, whose kindness lasts like limestone and makes people cry, tells me about the Archimedes screw, which lets water through weirs slowly.
There have been, and will be birthdays, we marvel at how Liv is conducting us, at how she is an oak and are relieved (or I am) when someone else offers to take on the task of something like a strategy that has been imagined by us in our final yurt gathering. I think I have heard all this before, I think all of this is new. On twitter, separately, someone suggests in not so many words that poets telling other poets how to make a living as poets is a Ponzi scheme.
Slipping away to swim in a bath-hot pool was a need not a want, and easier to assert now than at the time this weekend reminds me of most. The time I call the “Yes-phase”.
I spot neuro-siblings (some of them) and we slip into a different language briefly, unnoticed. Other groups are doing this. Remember how we are belonging by not belonging, I want to remind everybody. The service station on the way home was a mistake. Liv says our souls will come back to us after we’re home, they’re following more slowly on camels…