Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Q&A With Chicago Based Poet Robbie Q Telfer

Robbie Q Telfer was recently voted best local poet in Chicago. However, he isn't really one to place himself over his peers... unless his peers are miniatures... or wrinkly dried up sausages.

He's an accomplished performer of poetry and prose, having published two collections through Derrick Brown’s ‘Write Bloddy Press’.

He's Co-Founder of The Encyclopaedia Show (Winner of a 2010 Orgie Theatre Award) and director of Young Chicago Authors. I was fortunate enough to hang out with him in Chicago and have been itching to interview him for the shapes and disfigurements blog since...

Also, Robbie described me as “the nicest Brit since Margret Thatcher” which I now use for my character references.

Q. Robbie! Now, in your book there is a quote which goes “I know that men are won over less by the written word than by the spoken word, that every great movement on this earth owes its growth to great orators and not great writers... The power which has always started the greatest religious and political avalanches in history rolling has from time immemorial been the magic power of the spoken word, and that alone” - that's a Hitler quote man... I quoted it on my facebok and it upset a lot of people. “RAY! Are you quoting Hitler to push your agenda as a spoken word artist? you MONSTROUS insensitive bastard, nazi, prick etc” can you explain your own significance of that “infamous Raymond Antrobus facebook status?”

A. well, as an american, i definitely have a different relationship to hitler than brits, so that could be part of the touchy nerves there. but i use that quote to put forward the idea that spoken word has great power, and because of who said it, that power can do some pretty horrible things if used unethically. in small ways, it's important for spoken word artists to remind themselves that they can manipulate audiences, and it's up to the individual artist to manipulate for good or for hitler.

Q. You describe many stand up comics as your major influences. Is there a relationship between you being a stand up and a poet?

A. well, i'm not a stand-up comedian. stand-up audiences are sometimes much meaner than poetry audiences. whereas poetry audiences generally want you to succeed, stand-up audiences dare you to succeed. you risk much less when you say "i'm going to make you feel" than when you say "i'm going to make you laugh." that said, my brother is a stand-up and i grew up listening to stand-ups on actual records. i believe i get much of my timing from comedians, and i think that the best stand-ups are artists like any other genre, and everyone is just trying to figure out how to move audiences. i feel like the best poets have the stage presence of stand-ups. 

Q. You say Slam poetry competitions are meaningless... isn’t that easy to say as someone who’s already accomplished in that arena? Isn’t Slam helping develop young poets / popularise spoken word as an artform etc?

A. i don't think i would say the competitions are meaningless ever. if you got me quoted as saying that, then i was probably reacting to something in the moment. i think that winning a slam is meaningless, especially in relation to all the other great reasons to become a spoken word artist. it just feels like to me that people who take the competition too seriously are delusional and uninteresting artistically. slam is a game, like scrabble, and although there are national competitions of scrabble, and there are winners, the function of playing scrabble is not to know who the best scrabble player is, it's to connect with loved ones and laugh together. i mean, there are definitely hardcore scrabble players, but playing with them is no fun at all.

Q. Name one object that isn’t a piece of art and tell us why that object doesn’t qualify as “art”?

A. hmmm, this feels like a trap. i'm not sure i'm concerned with "art" and "not art." there are things i like, and there are things i don't like. i suppose art need only proclaim itself to be art, which initiates a communication. it is up to me as audience, then, to apply my own perspective to deem the communication engaging or not. 

Q. Why should people still care about poetry? Surely if there is one group of people society doesn’t need its poets.

A. definitely. i would love to start over. a big flood where we wash all the poets away and fill a big boat with only the creatures needed. the L_A_N_G poets' ark invitations would get lost in the mail. its exhausting weeding through the politicians, opportunists, capitalists, charlatans, gate-keepers, and douche bags to get to the stuff that was created exactly for my particular tastes.

but you know, it's not THAT exhausting. poetry, this peculiar way of speaking, can jar your mind into new ways of seeing the universe, and the more ways you see the universe and (hopefully) feel your tiny role in that big place, the less likely you are to hurt another person. poetry has the capacity to claw at evil, and we need all the help we can get.

Q. Why is imagination important?

remember being a kid and you were brought to some kind of maddening playground apparatus? remember throwing your whole body into it with little regard for the physical repercussions, possibly because in that bizarre place anything could happen? you were untethered to the millions of sorrows and newton's laws that cling to our clothes outside that park. a lovely afternoon. you sleep hard that night.


Also, buy his book. Spiking The Sucker Punch. It's very good! - http://writebloody.com/store/

1 comment:

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