"Art at its most significant is a distant early warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen." - Marshall McLuhan
"When artists are given freedom of expression they contribute to a climate of intellectual and political freedom for the whole culture. It is no co-incidence that the ugliest, greyest and dullest parts of the world today are places where people have been persecuted for their ideas," - Franky Schaeffer, Sham Pearls for Real Swine 1990
"...receive with meekness the engrafted (planted) word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers (performers or specifically poets) of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving (contradicting/cheating) yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer (performer or poet), he is like a man looking at himself, who goes away and immediately forgets what sort of person he is," - James 1:21-24
"To get to the eternal strength of
things and fearlessly to make strong songs of it, is to my mind, the mission of that (person) the world would call a poet"
- Edwin Arlington
By Keith Newman, September 2003 (Revised
Jan 04. First posting
In the past few decades poetry as a force for social change has been sulking in the shade, sidelined in the half light while the seemingly unattended spotlight continues to fall on dusty textbooks of a bygone era.
As the giddy pace of technological and social change gears up exponentially it seems there are few who can distil this constant churn to give us the still points needed. Where are the wise word wielders who can see beyond technophobia and bring perspective to information tsunami?
It's time for disaffected outsiders, edge walkers, closet ranters, and those who have paid their dues to the 'rejection slip brigade' to stake a claim, get a sense of place, and report back from the fringes.
There's a change in the air - a stirring, a fluttering, an
unfurling of coiled tendrils, a sense of expectancy as
the sap begins rising again. It is springtime for new poetry - time for creative souls to take up
pen, pad and keyboard and rise to the challenge of the open mic, the corner pub literary gathering, the world of self-publishing,
performance art or collaborative expression.
than sitting back and leaving it to the old school or those who have
hijacked the mainstream publishing machine, it’s is time for passionate
poets to claim the ground that is rightfully theirs. New voices, having
honed their craft and mastered the digital tools, must step up to the
As the poet opens up to the reader, revealing their own soul struggles
we gain a glimpse into our own affairs. As the reader hungers for
human warmth in a clinical world,
where religion, ritual and legalism have displaced mystical revelation the poet labours to unravel ancient truth
and restore the key to life to the seeker.
Champions of truth
Poets can provoke radical shifts in the mental
process, which filter down into the heart and come back up again for the
reader, renewing the sense of destiny. The writer of prose and poems
is a champion of truth, defender of justice and freedom
of expression, listening to the heart to get to the heart of the matter.
I see your there scribbling down little notes and insights on the park bench, in
cafe and alone in the bedroom wrestling with concepts, contradictions and
conflicts, linking observations, experiences, feelings and conversations
into a new fabric of symbolic layers.
The poet is the new prophet in the information age, a forecaster of the times, making words rise above the usual, the normal, the average to reach their fiery potential as darts aimed at the human heart and mind. The challenge is to express the poets heart with fervent passion through the amazing opportunities now available through the computer: publishing, movie making, recording and presentation.
So where are the underground tracts, the seeds of the new revolution
using the amazing tools now opening up unimagined possibilities for creative people. Where is the merger of poetry, art, music, drama, movie making and
other performance styles?
Poets and artistic people can easily be undermined by their own fragility and the great walloping machine that weaves clouds of dread over the creative spirit. We must battle that awful voice in the grayness of uncertainty, whispering in our most vulnerable moments: ‘who do you think you are?’, ‘What makes you think you have anything new to add?’, ‘Pull your head in’, ‘Leave it to the published big names, the literary underworld who’ve won copious awards and accolades’...'Walk away'.
My advice is to choose which voice you listen to. If you are passionate and determined you will find a gentler, wiser voice, quietly affirming your gift despite rejection slips, cruel criticism and self doubt. With patience and persistence you will pay your dues, hone your craft and find your voice.
Submit work to poetry book compilations and websites looking for contributions. Treat rejection slips as a challenge to improve and get past their defences. Find out where the poets rant and rave, if you’re brave enough join them. They’re not all idiot savants or heavy hitters in beatnik berets looking down on newcomers.
If you believe your work requires an audience to
evolve then hold that thought as you walk in the door of a live poetry
gig. Survey the scene quietly, observe the person with the open book in
front of them and gently ask if there’s room for you to read tonight. If
the book’s full ask if you can pre-book for next week or next month. Arriving early ensures a place and first time readers are mostly
When likeminded people gather together something bigger than the
individual is aroused – a sense of community and common purpose. Being
in a room where ideas and insights are freely shared and encouraged
invigorates and refreshes performer and audience.
Push the boundaries, try new things. Don’t wait to be discovered. Discover yourself then let your friends discover you. Hang out with people who will encourage and offer constructive criticism.
So if you were invited to provide an item at your social club or church
service, be a guest artist at a cushion concert or café night, to perform
between bands at a concert, or asked to submit something for a book would you
Be prepared. Be an ambassador for your craft – volunteer for the next concert or get organise one yourself, and involve likeminded people from across the arts to make it a multimedia extravaganza.
Of course you’ll need to make sure someone handles the marketing and promotion side so you actually get an audience. Pass out photocopies of your work to provide take-away value.
Don’t give up. Keep active and involved in the various forums for performance and publication or risk losing momentum. Sometimes it takes years for the writer or artist to gain recognition. It takes discipline and downright dogged effort.
So transcribe those literary gems from your dog-eared notebooks onto a
computer file. Play with them, refine them, toy with typefaces and layout,
print them and share them. As you add each new piece and weigh the
feedback from your test market look for the telltale signs that suggest a
pamphlet of your outpourings or even a book might be in the making.
- What strange fabric is this?
Poetry links and resources
Poetry - Queen of the Arts - A how-to for budding poets
Quotes about poetry by poets
|Cleaning Out The Garage,
© (book & CD $20 for
Interactive multimedia CD featuring 17 new compositions
Buzz Words - rhythm 'n verse with Kiwi attitude CD-Rom (1997) $20
The 1984 hard copy book Heartwars also available,
only $NZ5 (with Buzz Words total only $20)
Soul Searching - a fresh look at the big questions in life
(based on the radio series of the same name)
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