Saturday, September 12, 2009

You Know You're a Poet When... -13/09/2009



Then again, if it was me reading, that would be a pretty good hook. But that is the point... and the problem. And yeah guys, they're always has to be a problem, okay? Like I told Alex flippantly (and erroneously) the other night: I'm a better poet than him because I'm nastier, moodier, pettier far more egotistic and have a magnitude-more beefs with people than he does (if indeed he has any). You could tell me I'm joking by virtue of not really being funny... if you want. But yes, problem, this poet resides in a perpetual problem state. (the sound of one keyboard shrugging)

Okay, so here goes: I was in the novel position of having to write a short 'bio' for myself the other night, because a gig promoter/organiser needed it for his website, and incidentally, here it is:

"...approximately 15 billion years ago for unknown reasons a point of infinite singularity exploded and the universe was formed. Then not much happened for a while. In 1980 "The Empire Strikes Back" came out and Randall Stephens was born. Somewhere a lot of fairies died, all at once.

I got started in poetry in 2007, by writing a love poem about my bicycle. I went away travelling in mid 2008, and returned to Melbourne a few months ago with a pile of notebooks, and a safari hat. While travelling I discovered a new enthusiasm for performance poetry, entering a few slams in New York and London. Since being back I've done a couple of features in Melbourne at the Dan + Passionate Tongues, and openers for a few plays and music gigs. Recently did my first interstate feature in Adelaide, which coincided with the completion of "Product", a CD of live recording from some of the above mentioned stuff.

I don't know how to categorise what I write, certainly varied in subject matter, sometimes funny, other times I really try and expose darker subjects, but always personally. Emphasis on substance over form, and it's all fairly raw and crude, and I try to make it entertaining and give it a broader appeal, unashamedly.

I'm defiantly more a stage-than-page poet, but I do keep a blog at http://"

... I don't know. Reality check. I really really need one. I have no idea how I became a poet, and still wake up sometimes (particularly in the delirium of this fever/flue I had recently) and gone... what the fuck? A poet?

I mean, yeah okay, 2 things here:

1) Obvious quip: yes Randall~ you're stunted because, well you're not really a (fucking) poet -ha ha! And for all intents and purposes, and in the deepest held social/vocational sense, yeah I agree. Moreover, my fondness for poets, or lack thereof, is made clear at any avail, miserable nasty cunts. The few exceptions know who you are (and indeed big hugs go out to all a y'all). Nonetheless: 'poet' or not, I go to venues with established poets, get up in front of collections of them, and say werdz in a laboured or rehearsed and organised series of statements, and engender some reaction to that. Quacks like a duck... sorry to all the elitist folks out there, but I am one.


2) Yes, I pride myself on exceptional recall of date, document and circumstance and could illustrate with any required degree of detail the precise incidents and seminal moments over the last twenty six months that "have lead you inexorably... here".

But still, in an earnest and deeply ontological sense, after being asked for my bio, I am stopping here to ask: WHAT THE FUCK? I used to... monitor my superannuation, wash my car, snuggle up with (girl) on our actually-store-bought-and-paid-for couch in front of my huge LCD and watch alotta DVDs... man. Now, I work scant days of the week, often walk around mumbling to myself in public trying on all these permutations of phrase, trying to find gems to recite later, I... record my own voice and study it like a lab technician, I rehearse blinks and pauses, so I'm then prepared for spending weeknights telling assembled strangers and nutters my problems, in the vainest and truly most futile attempts known to civilisation to -get- love, fame, money, sex, recognition or at least a nod of complicity when I fall off stage afterwards. Fucking poet!

I mean... I'm really struggling with articulation here without being verbose, but, there is only a relatively to my position anymore. I believe I've truly forgetten how to objectively conceptualise 'poet' as other, the way the word "electrician" or "police officer" or "woman'" or "African" are all identifiers of -something- for people that I am utterly distinct and removed from, enough so as to say: yeah right, that's what they are, operate and/or represent ~ and I have little sympathetic experience of them, I understand they are phenomenologically beyond me.

"Poet"? ... after writng that bio something in my head screamed that the descriptor still should fall into the same category. But increasingly, on hearing the word "poet", I autonomically respond: "yeah what? I'm a poet... what do you want to know?"

Ah man, I don't know ...maybe this discourse has no value, and is just me talking circles around stuff to keep myself awake during this night shift I'm working... but... I don't think so. Anymore than when a child asks their parents: "why am I me and not someone else?"

I don't know about you gentle reader, but I never got a truly satisfactory answer to that question. So I hold little hope of really satisfying this one either: Why am I a poet? Why am I still being one?

It sure as fuck hasn't helped me get laid or find love (surprise). It has not helped my need for the emotional, spiritual or humanistic reconciliations I desire from the past few years. It has not made me any money. It brings me no wider social recognition (the way my welfare work can, by comparison) and often after big events ~not the least tonight, I'm left feeling absolutely lonely, frayed, spent, angry, impotent and foolish, and I don't see any of the above ever changing. Poetry is, in many respects, an anti-social, pessimistic and rewardless exercise, guising as catharsis through art. But... I love it... I hear words stringing themselves together everywhere, I think of things to say, as near to 'instinctual' as that word is useful, and I hunger for more.

I imagine this will flag this because of the title. And so somewhere a bunch more experienced and seasoned poets sit (assuming they would bother to read Randall even now) will be shaking their heads, thinking I'm wrong on all counts above, and I represent some adorably (or hideously) naive take on this whole thing, embarrassed on my behalf for actually putting this musing up here where it can be freely accessed. Furthermore, they will be less impressed by my flippant attempt to second guess them herein.

Well fuck guys, I am again four years old looking up to you my progenitor and asking why are you-you and not someone else?

And you have no real answer. Because now: I have a bio, and sell CDs and am travelling interstate express for this and just tonight got to compete internationally, and I spend business hours writing and writing and my family has forgotten that I even do in fact have a professional job and (fuck me dead) occasionally so do I! I wake up in the morning and my assignment for today: write about last night finally kissing the woman on the playground in the rain after a whole day of sexual tension... and THAT is what I see as work.

I mean, here I am. And please do not misinterpret this discussion: I love my life, my execution of it, and furthermore love WELL PERFORMED poetry, either as audience or medium. But... thinking back to how the world worked for me all my prior adult life, and how I worked it, completing this bio was like taking a break from trudging up a winding staircase, then looking down for the first time in a while and realising that the ground, and all its intrinsic comfort, is nowhere near you.

But here I am, and all I can think to do is keep heading up...



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