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Human Material

December 17, 2016

[http://www.hansardgallery.org.uk/event-detail/240-poetry-british-art-show-8/]

The following poem is my attempt to respond to that knotty topic – ‘Materiality’:

(A dramatic monologue, if you want to get technical about it. A dramatic monologue, again! Like every bloody thing I do.)

Oh, I must get this gig, I must

I must, I must!

They only pay in snacks and a few drinks

But I’m used to that, it’s not about that

It’s for the glory of art and poetry, not about me

Though I am told I should get a job

And this temporary, unsalaried position might at least enhance my CV

With which to impress and attract any local agency

As once again, most tragically,

I’m obliged to offer myself as human material

Fit for exploitation by some local corporation,

Employer, or Trustworthy, creative, artistic foundation.

Okay, focus, what’s the theme? Materiality!

Materiality, that means nothing to me, a poet –

The material world is a heartless cruel enemy to the likes of me

It’s arts speak, artists and their endless blooming materials

A canvas, dragged to the beach, weathered and splashed on

In a style somewhat reminiscent of Pollack’s,

Old photos of ancestors and relatives, now forgotten

Screen printed, processed in some peculiar way,

And placed proudly on display

Backed by contextual notes, the relevance and meaning of which

Only a suitably qualified creator or curator would possibly care to say,

Not forgetting many exciting new works resulting

From the latest digital techniques and toys, three D printers and such

Applied to subjects that, hopefully, will resonate very much

With idle sorts like myself, pretentious poseurs

Who might be prepared to attend to my pronouncements

For a few precious moments.

Wait a minute! Wasn’t I just talking about something do do with materiality?

What was that phrase?

That’s it – Human Material!

That’s all we are now, a status we often embrace

Hoping that by working upon ourselves,

Building up a body that’s honed and toned and fit

Or at least still functioning and not ready to quit

We may find some USP, talent, charm, charisma in ourselves

Our record of achievements, boxes ticked in a life well lived,

Bank of beliefs, ideas, memories and hopes

So we have a face the world considers worth preserving,

Could prove at least as deserving, in some modest way

To be packaged and marketed as effectively

As, for instance, the first orange President of the USA,

Stand at the pinnacle of our race

An exemplary example of what can be made out of human material.

That’s all we are now, to be weighed and valued

Labelled, classed and passed around accordingly

Divided into ever smaller units of labour, rendered

Into any commodity that might turn a profit

Whether a winning personality or the tiniest useful cell,

Crafted and calculated by footfall or vote

Parked or dumped as surplus to requirements,

Polished and refined into a precious jewel

Or damaged, rejected and treated like a fool

With only some hope of being smashed and recycled.

Our materiality, then, suggests many possibilities

But you shan’t make a lampshade out of me!

Help yourselves to whatever you find useful

But remember, it cuts both ways

We are each the authors of our own reality

Universes connected only by our own materiality

And lines that only a poet can see.

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From → Critic, Poet

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