‘A poet is a worker in language’: Debris Facility Interviews π.ο.

By and | 31 October 2021

DF: I like that you draw out the relationship of code to that of corporate data products, and particularly in regard to copyright. I wonder what your relationship is to copyright and tactics of appropriation both within and outside of cultural production? This seems both heightened and flattened in terms of digital reproduction of works, which is enabled and stifled through those tech corporate giants, so how do you navigate that?

π.ο.: What distinguishes The Number Poems from a lot of other poetry is that it is a poetry that has jumped ‘inside’ the machine (the computer), as opposed to what i call ‘screen gloss’ – when computers came in all of a sudden everyone had their own personal advertising agent at their fingertips to do their ‘surface’ bidding, which may have been of interest for “artists”, but for poets it merely represented a kind of ‘photocopying’ exercise, a ‘pdf’, write it, and slap it up on the screen, whereas the real poetics was what was happening within the ‘language’ inside the computer and its various ‘number’ codes, and ‘bases’. Shat pissed me off no end was how the computer big noted itself with its ability to ‘hypertext’ – it seemed to say it owned this ‘new’ technique, but poets have been ‘hypertexting’ since the beginning of time on earth, it’s what we poets call ‘metaphor’ – this isn’t here, it’s ‘there’, and it has an umbilical cord. I hate what the computer is doing to us. Now to the copyright question…as an Anarchist i hate that we have to connect ‘money’ to ‘art’ to ‘poetry’, but it does represent my ‘labour’ so where ‘labour’ is paid to others, i expect to be paid also – but because i made sure i separated my art from my work world, i didn’t have to ‘compromise’ it – you get nothing from me by upping the ante on how much you will ‘pay’ me (i’ve got enough coffee money), but i’m happy to put in, or even give it away free (which tends to be often) cos i’m ‘excited’ by a project or idea. With respect to appropriation, it’s very much more complex in that they are so context based, and as Pythagoras put it all a matter of ‘proportion’ – how much was taken, for what, when, and maybe even (as a political animal) why! I think the computer has dumbed down creativity (definitely poetry) i can’t tell you how many exhibitions of artists i’ve been to that are just plain banal and boring with their ‘digital’ masterpieces (and/or language use). I’m happy to talk on computer, but rarely supply it with ‘poetry’ – i don’t care how many clicks they get by being up there – its changed and changing our ‘reading’ habits into ‘scanning’ and ‘scans’ FUCK EM!

DF: Through much of your books Heidi and Fitzroy: the biography you bring in a huge amount of historical detail, especially in terms of early colonial impact and violence. This resonates through with other immigrant stories of appalling treatment by this country’s government. It’s an important task you’re taking on by positioning yourself within these colonial systems, and sharply critiquing them. There is such a sense of the heavy and senseless violence which is ever present. How do you approach this history, and how do you try and survive the colony’s current violent form?

π.ο.: Violence, is something most people don’t understand. They think it’s a one size fits all proposition. Its not. Violence is in the main a State run monopoly. Both the Left and the Right is the violence of the ‘disenfranchised’ classes as a bargaining chip to extract concessions to ostensibly install ‘themselves’ as their representatives, under the threat of unleashing said violence. I understand violence, tho i don’t always endorse it. I understand lashing-back, to make room for oneself. When it comes to poetry, it is a vital force essential to great writing. My basic neglect in poetry over the years has been precisely due to that linguistic violence: dialect poetry, fuck poems, number poems, information poetry, workers poetry, visual poetry, sound poetry – and even my name – seems nothing will satisfy them, but unless i do that ‘damage’ to the language there is no way that there is a space for me. Even 24 Hours (730 pages), and Fitzroy: the biography (740 pages) which i had to bring out myself, publishers balked at, that is until Giramondo (Ivor Indyk + Evelyn Juers) published Heide (554 pages) – total courage (may i add). I can imagine what the publishers who i sent those manuscripts to thought at my proposal i.e. ‘I’ve got a great book. And it’s all poetry. And it’s 730 pages!’ – their first thoughts are obvious – this bloke’s got tickets on himself. Yes, I did / I do. But not because i’m into self-aggrandizement, cos i got rid of that very early in my writing days, when i said I’m brilliant, i’m, fantastic, i’m great – after that i didn’t need the ‘i’ i could look at something else i.e. all those other things around me. Yes, this is a kind of violence to the very fabric of artistic ‘genius’, so be it. I’m happy to be a conduit filtering all the facts and figures of my world – am I original? Yes, but only because i aint.

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