Alex Levene is a Bedford-based writer and poet who I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with at SFP many times (a serious mega talent!).
I first heard ‘Groan’ at Soul Food Poetry Bedford in April this year and have since been writing a response piece to it.
So for six months I’ve been writing and editing this, detailing my own perceptions of creative writing and who my inspirations are.
I saw the greatest minds of my year group destroyed by sadness – hysterical jaywalkers, burnt brazen, naked, lives laid bare
crawling their way through the social Middle Earths of Twitter and Instagram, looking for a million likes and retweets,
millennial media mongrels lusting for a human connection to the societies of open-air realities and sunlight, through text speak and Urban Dictionary
overdosing on hollow lies still high, sofa-sprawled students smoking in their custom-made sun loungers looking into their Mad Max-esque orange
haze screens, their incandescent tangerine shed-like space, killing each other for cash and capital in a scramble for power like it’s fucking Westeros.
Now begins my song of praise
bless me with your righteous gaze.
I pray you’ll concede that this world’s future
depends on the arts, creativity and poetry.
Poems weren’t always in my peripheral view
but what better way to talk to you
and read in front of all these faces
as poetry transcends colour, creed, sex and races.
I once wanted to be a police officer, a cricketer, you know?
Now I write poems, using rhythm, rhyme, meter and onomatopoeia
striking academia full of fear in their weekend boats
sailing full speed ahead from Lands’ End to John O’Groats.
But I’ll stand tall, like the walls
between poetry and spoken word.
They’re one and the same, haven’t you heard?
Should I compare you to a summer’s day?
The war cry – the poet that slips into words
like Thanos and The Infinity Gauntlet,
the Mad Titan who takes centre stage and flaunts it.
And I write this poem for those who will listen,
who will take heed of my words and their composition,
who will comprehend the poet’s vision.
People hate to hear rhythm and rhyme,
as words can allude, confuse and hypnotise.
Conveyors of myths and magic, incantations
that summon beasts. Tales of Merlin and Mordrid,
the Druids, Arthur, Guinevere, their feasts and fights,
don’t let these poets on the open-mic tonight.
See, there are issues with poetry;
most switch off – it’s lyrical,
the pinnacle of most great songs is poetry.
Way back in the day,
you’d read up on your Greek and Latin
bashing out odes and elegies
on bits of parchment
written with quills and ink.
But poetry has always been
for the people by the people,
a synergy creating a soulful energy,
sometimes read over the kitchen sink.
And the soul of creativity
has always been inside of us, in the heart,
regardless if that’s
poetry, prose, theatre or dancing in the park;
the poet is more than writing poetry,
it’s a mentality, it’s your mind-set,
life choices, your actions and your voices.
If prose is the bellow poetry is the murmur
in the corner people-watching
taking down each detail –
collecting everyone’s emotions and clout,
bottling it up and then raising it to a shout.
A howl, a growl, a snarl,
raging against the societal machine,
lies unclean, torn seams of childhood innocence.
And I will never cease rhythm’s use,
it’s not might fault. Blame Roald Dahl,
Spike Milligan, and Dr Seuss… and
“Augustus Gloop Augustus Gloop
The great big greedy nincompoop
Augustus Gloop, so big and vile
so greedy, foul, and infantile.”
Okay, I took that, but wasn’t it
Picasso who said, “Good artists borrow,
great artists steal?” – I think,
and these writers moulded my youth.
Poetry catches, snatches, captures, enraptures,
not just the town crier on stage proclaiming his love –
not just hope in the form of a holy white dove
but it’s a state of mind, a passion… it’s a want,
a hunger, a message, sometimes
a polemic attack against systems, governments
and institutions that manipulate and fashion.
For me, my Creative Writing degree was not a choice,
it was a chance for me to express myself and use my voice.
Every writer who has put pen to paper,
or finger to keyboard
was saving their sword for you to wield later.
I discuss race, class, politics and mental health,
children’s literature and capitalist wealth,
and the mysteries of my family tree,
stories of slavery and immigration
as I don’t know how I came to be me.
Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas, or tried to,
like how Stalin banned poetry and the Nazis believed
poetry came from the hands of the Jews.
The weapon that kills the fascists is not the gun or the sword,
it’s the lyrics, the bold art of playing with words from a chessboard.
Protest and politics is where it begins
friends and experiences poeticised in the form of a hymn.
From reggae through to science,
The Isaacs (Newton and Gregory),
you can’t lock them up in the speech penitentiary.
Byron, Shelley, Kerouac, Ken Kesey, Larkin
Sylvia Plath, Blake, Grace Nichols, writing mages
it’s the artists’ job to rattle society’s cages.
I implore you all to read as much as you can,
write your spoken words and stick it to The Man!