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The Wonder of Punk Poetry Night
Friday, October 17th was Punk Poetry Night at Kreators in Mount Sinai, New York. I’ve yet to come across an event fully combines my two passions (punk and poetry). I’ve seen poets give readings during show sets, but I’ve never heard of a place or event that puts the poetry first. And not just any poetry but poetry with punk elements like blood, booze, and the radical, freedom-loving rhetoric that we know and love. (Well, those of us with good taste, anyway.)
Usually, the only poetry that I get out of the punk shows I attend are lyrics. After a show, I’m rendered lost in the dense fog of punk rock and good ideas. But I shall never confine my musings to my head, notebook, papers, or webpages, even to wonderful ones like Quail Bell where readers might appreciate them. There's something magical about live poetry.
By the combined powers of poetry and punk, I pronounced my wish granted when I brought up the idea of a punk poetry night to Robin Petersen Witt and Ken-e-Bones of Negative Reaction. Hey, Kreators is a place “where artists gather” and they welcome literary artists—as well as punks—with open arms.
Bringing poetry to the masses is a noble cause. As my native language, I’ve always felt that it was my duty to promote awareness to keep poetry from dropping off the face of our pages. Poetry is language at full blast. It blares into our souls like distorted guitars and drumbeats. Reading poetry by Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Baudelaire gives me a thrill and cynic brilliance that is akin to the endorphin-avalanche that crashes over me when I listen to punk. It is the ectoplasm that pours out of my eyes, nose, ears, and mouth upon coming in contact with other worlds. Like nervous urination, I can only contain it for so long until it gets out of control.
The problem lies in the perception that poetry is synonymous with introversion, only something that one can fully enjoy in solitude. It’s one thing to be alone with a poem, but at poetry readings, you are in the company of all the other listeners who are reflecting upon the words in the air, words that might otherwise live on the page alone. And some words are just meant to be heard. The sound of poetry engages the poetically-challenged while inspiring the poetically-inclined to hone their skills, share the wealth and recite poetry aloud. By organizing and performing at Punk Poetry Night, I took on that challenge.
I had a repertoire of poems selected, but the printer broke at the last minute so I wound up reading from my print editions of The Horror Zine. Reading poetry on a stage surrounded by Black Sabbath posters and drunken friendly faces is the answer to every poet’s prayer. I decided to organize an effort to band us together in the form of an exquisite corpse.
The exquisite corpse is a Surrealist writing technique that relies heavily upon collaboration. Each poet contributes lines to a poem without seeing or knowing the lines written before or after their turn. More often than not, people agree upon a set structure. Whatever happens, happens. I didn't want to set myself or the audience up for disappointment, so I took things slow and decided that grammatical anarchy was the best-suited policy. Exquisite corpses usually have an agreed-upon structure, but I wanted to K. I. S. S. the crowd that night because drunk people are drunk. The poets have anonymity superseded only by the “poetry” written on bathroom stalls, except an exquisite corpse is totally legal. It might turn out more like graffiti on the page, but it's legal nonetheless.
As I made my rounds about the bar, every person wrote a line without any knowledge of what the people who went before them wrote. I offered them the opportunity to receive credit. After all, it’s up to them if they’re willing to take a chance and commit their name to a collaborative poem written at a bar. Can you begin to ponder the possible outcomes if you hand a pen, paper, and a request to write the line of a poem to a random bar-goer?
Part of me excitedly wondered if I would be reading aloud a bunch of bathroom stall drivel or something substantial that, by virtue of randomness, would form a coherent poem, even if the interpretation required serious mental gymnastics on the readers’/listeners’ part. Kreators was the perfect place to experience, so as I unraveled the crumpled paper, I thought, “Whelp, here it goes!”
The exquisite corpse turned out to be just that: exquisite.
I decided to grant myself the liberty of choosing a title since I was already editing this fine piece of punk poetry. In the spirit of avant-gardism, I did not alter the structure of any lines; I am presenting them exactly as they were written. Each line on the page is a line of the poem.
Cat’s Claw of the West
Edited by Ghia Vitale
Known Contributors: Dan Clerkin, Tree&Metaknightt&Naz, DANNY, Robin Petersen Witt
He was the cat’s claw of the west,
I DON’T WANT TO KISS
BECAUSE YOUR LIPS TASTE LIKE STEEL
SAVE BY THOMAS!!!!!
to live without pain is to die without passion
for anything or anyone
If You Don’t Kill Me, I’m going to have to
kill you, you must decide, we’re out of time,
No place to hide, your choice not mine.
Fuck Obama, Guns, Titties, Murrica!!
dripping red… blood, wine? you decide
God damn you dirty bitch.
As the raven hair appears in the dark, I glisten
Thinking inquisitively about the consequences of her
actions, Lauren decided against purchasing the flower print leggings
(Translation of that last line: Peace [peace sign] Love [heart] Puppies [puppy face])
Cat's Claw of the West is the corpse of that night which we embalmed with our words. I love how abrupt and seamlessly the all-caps lines go together; lines 2 and 3 were not written by the same person as line 4.
I will be recording the spontaneous musings of people all around the world, but I’ll start here in Long Island and work my way over. If anyone is interested in transforming their event into a poem, let me know… I have so many ideas that I can’t wait to test-run. I shall take over the world, one Petri dish/venue at a time. Next time, I'll be bringing title elections and plan the event around more punk themes.
The next one will be next month (TBA for now). You have been warned.
Poetry is a power, an infinite resource to be shared. Power to the people!
#PunkPoetryNight #Punk #Poetry #ExquisiteCorpse #CadavreExquis #Surrealism #Kreators #PoetryMarkets
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