“My purpose is to make my soul rhyme with my mind” – Saul Williams.
Poetry is art. For poets… It is a lifestyle, a movement, a vision of freedom. It is social change, and the conscious architecture of reality. Franco Bifo Berardi published a book in 2012 titled “The uprising: On poetry and finance” where he described it as follows “Poetry is the voice of language, in this sense: it is the reemergence of the deictic function (from deixis, self-indication) of enunciation. Poetry is the here and now of the voice, of the body, and of the word, sensously giving birch to meaning”.
In a system where democracy is a questionable topic, and where freedom of speech has become a political circus of pretence policies and regulations; why is it that people still find the time and energy to invest against art? Could it be because art comforts the disturbed, and disturbs the comfortable? (as stated by Banksy).
Poetry has always been a part of social change. The BBC published an article in 2002 titled “How war Inspires the world’s poets” through which they stated that “The best known modern poetry in Britain must surely be that of the war poets, the angry, sad and bitter soldier-poets who fought in the First World War. The poems have become a grid through which that war, and other wars too, are seen.”
Moreover, the Chicago Tribune wrote an article on the 15th August, 2017 titled: ‘Why poetry?’ is like asking, ‘why pleasure?’, which explored how people’s connections and disconnections to this art occur. “It is both distressing and strange that so many people are put off by poetry, given that so many of our first experiences with language is with poetry — not only with children’s books like Dr. Seuss or ‘Goodnight Moon,’ but even with the earlier singsong of parents”
I had the pleasure of interviewing the director and founder of Versify in Plymouth, a movement that seeks to revive poetry in all its forms. Marion Clare’s perspective expands on how poetry can be used as a constructive weapon for social change, and how language has the power to build a better world.
Betshy X0: Why do you think Plymouth needs Versify?
Marion Clare: Because it provides a way for younger generations to learn and build on new skills. There are people here with stories to tell. People with talent. It is a way of encouraging them to believe in their dreams, and what they’ve got to say. It represents freedom of expression, and promotes speaking up, raising our voices as a community. You don’t have to be a polished performer or really confident to participate. It is about the artistic journey people experience, and how these natural talents can be developed in a nurturing environment.
– How can younger generations benefit from embracing their freedom of speech?
– A generation’s voice and story are the power they have, their self-identity. Often, these elements are sold or given away to the corporate facade. These are quite abstract, raw ideas that cause people to think about what really matters to them, and what they believe in.
Versify encourages participants to share those ideas with others, in order to create dialogue and conversation. It boosts people’s confidence and self-esteem. Raw poetry can make those ideas concrete, and visceral. That makes it exciting.
– What inspired you to initiate this movement?
– I wanted to help create a platform where people could try out new things, and unleash their creativity. I envisioned Versify to be a space where individuals could explore different styles of performance; and where diversity is celebrated. Moreover, I dream of breaking the barrier between poetry, music; and performing arts.
– Do you think Versify could become part of Plymouth’s culture in the future?
– If Plymouth had this culture of creating stuff together, that would be so cool. As my song “Fairy Port” says “this city is a low aspiration ferry port”. Participation in arts can raise aspirations, and challenge negative stereotypes.
It feels like Versify is growing and evolving from what was originally an idea, or a project… into a community. So yes, I think it has scope and life to grow further.
– I once read the quote: “Truth is like poetry, and most people fucking hate poetry”. Why do you think that’s the case?
– There is this successful spoken word event called “Bang Said the Gun” that put it well when they said: “Poetry for people who hate poetry”.
Poetry can be an effective way of speaking the truth to those in power, and that might not always be popular, or well-received. For instance – going back in history– the role of the jester was to entertain the king and make him laugh; but he was also able to challenge the status quo through humour.
Another reason why it is hated is because people think poetry is something that is dry, boring, over-intellectual and irrelevant to them. However, poetry can be as interesting or/and as vital as the person who is speaking and the story they are telling. Poetry can be funny; and the line between stand-up comedy and poetry is quite flexible. It can be fun.
Versify Plymouth: Official Website
BBC News: How War Inspires the World’s Poets
The Chicago Tribune: ‘Why Poetry?’ is like asking, ‘Why Pleasure?’
Marion Clare – Artist Page
Berardi, Franco (2012): The Uprising– On Poetry and Finance.
Goodreads: Banksy Quotes