Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Jayne Cortez

I take a bow to Jayne Cortez.

One of the central figures of the Black Art Movement, a relentless campaigner for Civil rights, a strong, outspoken African-American woman and above all an exceptional, musical poet and performer. Her poetry brought together the political, the lyrical, the surreal. In the anthology, Hoover calls her work “public and declamatory”, deeply rooted in the African-American tradition of jazz, blues and social protest.

For me it is the powerful mixture of political engagement and artistic practice which speaks to me more than anything else. Cortez once gave a summary of her understanding of her artistic work saying:
The arts are just a part of the weapons of life
Art can make us see and feel reality
and help change that reality
Art is revelation. Art is hard work
Art is a part of protest.
There it is… (http://www.jaynecortez08.com )

I definitely recommend listening to some of her poetry performances on YouTube – there is plenty to be discovered. Like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftrVsO4dP5o

My own dedication below.


~ - ~

For the poet (Jayne Cortez)

After today
another online petition share
newspaper blurb spoon-fed
in our follower’s mouths
not a drop trickling through the filter
bubble of complacency
singular existence of petty performers
as uniqueness builds battery cages
and we take pride in the shiny steel

After today
another 10 things we never cared about
but felt compelled because fomo stuck
as the urge contaminates our every
move towards crotch pocket
or fumbling under tables
scrolling along someone’s timeline
pixilated flat surface
in a world of gaping holes

After today
showing hashtag sympathy cutting
open scarred wounds with idle claims
of the good and the bad
black and white smugness
worn on virtual sleeves
as we catch the bus to work
blending smoothly in with the café
latte crowd of sugary froth

After today
Still waiting and waiting
and waiting and waiting
and waiting
and waiting and
waiting just
wait and always waiting
for something

your anger
your fucking roaring vicious anger
your cry-our-loud we-will-be-heard-standing-shoulder-to-shoulder pounding anger
your voice of sharkteeth and cockroaches
your voice of the poor the damned the dead
your voice coarse with pain and fever
your thunder of poetic wrath
just like in 77


Sunday, 22 February 2015


Postmodern is a fun term to throw around. It sounds kinda cool and nobody is really sure what it means – or more accurately: if you ask two people you will get three definitions of the term.

For his anthology, Paul Hoover uses the term “postmodern” – instead of “experimental” or “avant-garde” – for exactly this reason: it is an open term which allowed him to group together all the different poets included in the book. And indeed they are very different, there are Beats and Black Mountain Poets, performance poets, New York Schoolers, Projectivists, language poets and those who probably belong to several or none of these categories and schools. Some of them are united in their tendencies towards the vernacular, the personal, the mundane – away from the formal and impersonal regime of modernist poetry. These poets create a poetics of the everyday where spoken language plays a central role. But others seem to go in the opposite direction, removing the author almost entirely from the poetic work and focusing on the words on the page rather than spoken language.

I really like Paul Hoover’s definition of postmodernism in his introduction where he describes it as “an ongoing process of resistance to mainstream ideology.” He says, it “decentres authority and embraces pluralism.”

In this sense, the 103 poets brought together in the 700 pages of this volume are united in their passionate fight – against the mainstream, against established authority, towards pluralism. On the page and in performances and readings they are fighting for it. And I would dearly like to join them because to me it sounds like the fight for a better world on the whole.

Hoover claims that one thing which unites these postmodernist poets is their preference of “writing-as-process” instead of “writing-as-product” – and maybe that is also what this blog is about: The struggle with and through language, the development and exploration rather than the solution.

I am following these great writers in their footsteps and there is no way of knowing where it will lead me. I invite my readers to follow me – for one year.