Robert Montgomery’s Poems

Here’s an interview I did on the subject of some wonderful pieces of poetic art by Robert Montgomery, who ‘works in a poetic and melancholic post-situationist tradition’. Check his website for pictures of the poems in full billboard glory and simplicity. These poems have been printed, with the poet’s permission, in the Occupied Times this week.

I was interviewed by Brian Leli, an American writer and photojournalist.

BL: Can you please tell me your reactions to the three poems and the three issues they touch on?

Poem One:
IT TURNED OUT THIS WAY COS YOU DREAMED IT THIS WAY, COS ALL YOU COULD DREAM IS WHAT YOU SAW IN MAGAZINES, AND THIS IS HOW IT FEELS TO WIN, AND HAVE EVERYTHING, ALL THE LUXURY AND POWER YOU EVER WANTED AND STILL FEEL DISGUSTED. RONALD REAGAN BLUES / A MILLION DOLLAR HOUSE IN L.A. / 50 FUCKING WHITE ANAEMIC STARS MY DARLING AND ALL THE BLOOD AND DUST OF THE WORLD ON YOUR HANDS

Me: This is the world I rejected twenty-two years ago when I stepped off the conveyor belt. I don’t think I had the wisdom at the age of twenty to know exactly what I was doing but my intuition or fate or the stars or perhaps my genetic inheritance guided me towards an alternative way of being. I ‘dropped out’. Spent the intervening years gaining the experience, knowledge and skills necessary to drop back in to the heart of the beast now. I don’t hate the people who have it all or those who want it all. I certainly don’t envy them. I’d like to remove their blinkers and walk them to a gentler, stronger, more joyous place.

Poem Two:
THERE ARE WOODEN HOUSES ON LAND IN FAR-AWAY PLACES THAT DON’T COST MUCH MONEY, AND STRINGS OF LIGHTS THAT MAKE PATHS TO THEM GENTLY, AND DO NOT TURN OFF THE STARS. AND 100 BLACK FLAGS OF ANARCHISTS HELD UP AT NIGHT 100 MILES APART / 10,000 MILES OF FLAGS AND A ROW OF TENTS IN FRONT OF THE CATHEDRAL GUARD OUR FUTURE. THERE WILL BE A QUICK SICKNESS, THE KIND THAT KILLS THE BODY BEFORE THE MIND KNOWS THEN THERE WILL BE A SLOW RISING

Me: The first sentence sends a tingle up my spine and makes the hairs on my arms stand on end because it speaks my truth. These places exist not just on the other side of the world but in the quieter, wilder, hidden places of Britain too. The ‘authorities’ try to squash them because they represent freedom from the rat-race that binds us into lonely dis-satisfaction. Simplicity is dangerous for those in power. How will they continue to squeeze us for their own benefit if we don’t need them or desire to be them, if we’re happy in our wooden, fairy-lit shacks in our communities? Ah… yes… that’s why they’re so afraid of Occupy. We’re re-learning the value of community, co-operation, resourcefulness. We’re rejecting their media, their feel-bad advertising. We’re over-throwing their system right in front of their noses for a change, rather than hiding ourselves in backwaters for fear of reprisal.

Poem Three:
BECAUSE YOU HAD TO GIVE NAMES TO EVERYTHING YOU FOUND, AND MAKE LOGOS FOR BAD IDEAS, AND CHANGE YOUR CAR EVERY TWO YEARS AND WAKE UP EARLY FOR CONFERENCE CALLS, AND IT TURNED OUT TO BE NO PROGRESS AT ALL / JUST A SHADOW FESTIVAL / BECAUSE OF THAT YOU WILL HAVE TO LEARN TO LOOK AT THE SKY AGAIN, YOU WILL HAVE TO LEARN TO EAT FOOD THAT GROWS WHERE YOU LIVE AGAIN, YOU WILL HAVE TO LEARN TO TOUCH WHAT YOU MAKE

Me: Yes. It’s that simple.

BL: Do you think it’s important to see pieces like this going up in public spaces, particularly now, when the tents themselves are coming down?

Me: Yes. Reclaiming public space, not just with tents – although tents are wonderfully symbolic as well as practical – is vital. Art, music, poetry, performance, debate, conversation… these are the things that bring us together, that lead us out of our isolation, that allow us – the 99% – to connect, to share and eventually, to mobilise. Every attempt to stimulate conversation regarding how we live now and how we could do it better is valuable.

BL: To the onlooker who’s perhaps not particularly concerned with the issues referenced, what do you think the potential impact is when stumbling across the messages on the billboards, or through a protest camp for that matter?

Me: Some will be too entrenched in the current system, or too ground down by it, to even see the poetry or the tents. Others will be baffled. They’ll ask “What’s it all about?” and “Why aren’t these people also ground down, why aren’t they busy struggling to fend off insolvency? Where do they get the time or energy to play with words and canvas?” Asking questions is the beginning. Questioning not just the artists and campers but one’s own self, the neighbours, the woman sat beside you on the bus or in the laundrette. “What’s it all about, these scruffy tents appearing everywhere? They want to change the world? Hah! What do they know? Do they know about my family’s problems, our debts, our poor treatment at the hands of an over-stretched NHS? They want to change the world? Well, hah, they’re not the only ones!” Eventually, I hope – oh how I hope – that these messages will help humans to realise we’re all on the same side and that we can change our world for the better if we act together.

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