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- GENERATION TXT - A POETRY ANTHOLOGY.
voices in contemporary poetry
In a world of dumbed-down media and incomprehensible
text-speak, six of the most talented young
writers speak out. This is a must-have anthology
for anyone interested in the future of poetry.
"It's been a long time in preparation
but you can finally get your hands on a
copy of Generation Txt featuring Joe Dunthorne,
Inua Ellams, Laura Forman, Emma McGordon,
Abigail Oborne and James Wilkes."
Get your copy from:
Let me start with
a caveat in the form of a brief anecdote.
In November the novelist and poet Iain Sinclair performed
at my regular event in East London. On the day of the
gig another poet I know sent me an email, slamming Sinclair
for his description of graffiti as ‘part of a
vibrant urban discourse’.
Wouldn't he just love it if he awoke one morning,
went for a stroll in the garden of his Georgian terrrace
house and all over his walls were garish examples of
this 'vibrant urban discourse.' “Oh, look darling”
he would say, rushing through his panelled hall, come
look, “It's wonderful!”
No. Graffiti is a defecation, an aesthetic
corruption of property, both private and public and,
especially, of the London brick of Victorian buildings.
A lot of grafitti is 'created' by working class White
and Afro-Caribbean adolescents. Sinclair knows this,
but his politically-correct mindset/agenda - the fascism
of which blinds him - sees what they do as a 'celebration'
of what he'd probably call their disenfranchisement,
their attempt to be 'empowered' - Oh, PLEASE!
|Now, I’m just
as cynical as my correspondent about the fetishisation
of graffiti, something prevalent in certain middle-class
circles long before Banksy and his ilk made the practice
mainstream (and marketable). But I also admit to being
a sucker for the ‘urban discourse’ line advocated
by Sinclair. As a writer, I’m interested in the
possibilities of extending writing practice beyond the
page. Can graffiti – which after all derives from
the Greek -afe- ‘to write’ – mean anything?
Can it be … literature?
The found object – Duchamps’ urinal or
Picasso’s bicycle handles – is considered
art because the artist claims it to be so. Intention
is everything. But what about the graffiti writer, clandestine
in railway sidings, slipping over walls? The illegality
of the act requires anonymity, but inversely graffiti
culture is obsessed with naming. A world away from champagne-quaffing
art parties, these midnight scrawlers create their own
alternative celebrity culture by obsessively marking
their names – tags – on walls, roadsigns,
railway carriages. The results of tagging are rarely
pretty; its purpose is more territorial than artistic.
|But what about that
breed of wall-writing unconcerned with tagging or street
culture, that returns graffiti to its roots?
Hiking three years ago in the Peak District, I came
across this startling piece of graffiti in an underpass
on the outskirts of Chapel-Le-Frith.
does it mean? Is it a political statement, an attack on
the present government? If so, why summon a historical
figure in such a way? Why the txtspk abbreviations? And
not a hint of the metropolitan irony of Banksy & co
(it’s Chapel-le-Frith after all).
This kind of graffiti generates more questions than
answers, and the anonymous Peaks scribbler is not alone.
Wander south of the reconstructed Globe Theatre in London
and you might stumble across the site of the earlier
Rose Theatre (whose remains were uncovered by archaeologists
in the 1980s). In Rose Alley I caught this apocalpytic
scrawl as a cycle courier flew past.
a lament for forgotten buildings, the secret history of
the Rose Theatre dwarfed by its big brother, themepark
Globe? Or is it the cry of a desperate individual, lost
in a city too vast to care? It certainly strikes a chord.
Unlike the graffiti condemned as vandalism by my email
correspondent, this works with not against its surroundings.
The context here is key.
Back on my home turf of East London, there’s
a rich vein of wall-writing to be found (and not just
Banksy). In one of the tiny alleys that characterise
the area between Bishopsgate and Aldgate, I discovered
This is the edge of the City, pinstripe territory.
But it’s also where Jack the Ripper struck and
even now is a dark and murky area to walk at night.
This is a chilling text, even if we don’t know
who – or what – it’s addressed to…
And it recalls an earlier piece of graffiti that was
scrawled in chalk in nearby Goulston Street during the
Ripper murders of 1888, and then notoriously scrubbed
off by the Metropolitan Police to avoid increasing racial
tensions in Whitechapel.
JUWES ARE THE MEN THAT WILL NOT BE BLAMED FOR NOTHING
Finally I’d like to return to Iain Sinclair’s
assertion that graffiti is part of ‘a vibrant
urban discourse’. In any given discourse –
from poetry to roadsigns – it takes two to tango;
the response of the reader/viewer is as important as
the intention of the writer/artist. Some may interpret
graffiti as a means of challenging political and social
disenfranchisement, but in form it is rarely more than
a crude marker of territory and status. The examples
I’ve given, however, stimulate; they ask us to
think. Yes, graffiti can be ‘a defecation’.
But it can also represent ‘a vibrant urban discourse’,
pushing literature outside of dusty books and into the
street, forcing us into exciting and dynamic encounters