Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Passion's my passion

I think passion is one of the most important areas when it comes to the arts. Sure there is technique, ability, timing, subject matter, hard work, originality, variety...a million other things at stake but really...when it comes down to it I think that for me passion is somehow the key to everything. But then I would say that, I suppose...I'm a passionate kind of a person.

Recently I've been listening to one of the most passionate English poets, Adrian Mitchell (1932-2008) because I got a double CD of him reading/performing for my birthday back in January ('The Dogfather' - cover above). He is so great to listen to – funny, thoughtful and yet bursting with enthusiasm and love for his work and the world – and I really would recommend you search out the CD if you're a fan (you can buy it here).

I have written about Mitchell before (here) and in the last post I was quoting him from the CD in the comments (his answer to 'what is poetry' – 'truth with a backbeat'). As I went cruising online afterwards to check that he wasn't quoting someone else in turn I came across a great (and very passionate) interview with him (here). For those of you who haven't time or inclination to read the whole thing here are a couple of quotes from the late and very smashing Mr Adrian Mitchell:

“Poetry isn't really important, it's necessary”

(On reading poems aloud)
“I want it (my voice) to be real. And I want it to use my own rhythms, my own speech rhythms, but I intensify them for poetry, and what I'm aiming at is somewhere between speaking and singing.”

“Poetry is a free country, a really free country: you've never been in such a free country.”

“When people ask me 'can I do this in a poem?' I say 'yes'.”

“You don't write for children in general because it doesn't work, there aren't any children in general. You don't write for adults in general, you write for your friends. Or your enemies, if you like. Write with somebody in mind. Because poetry is a gift, so the only point is to give it. I mean, just writing for yourself, well it may satisfy you, but it's no use to me or anyone else. Poetry is a gift so give it with open hands.”

There isn't much good Mitchell on youtube (just more and more versions of his most famous 'Tell me lies about Vietnam' poem 'To whom it may concern') but on his publisher Bloodaxe's site there are some video clips (here – scoot down to Mitchell...some other good stuff on the way down...). ADDED LATER here's a good page with links to Mitchell poems and audio versions.

All this makes me think that most of the blogs I come back to time and time again are ones where the writer has a passion (whether that be for poetry or nature or humour or films...or all of those things). Maybe next post I'll highlight a few of those passionate people.



Anonymous said...

The people I like best are the ones with passion. When it comes to reading (and publishing) poetry too, if it isn't passionate it doesn't connect with me. And Adrian was one of the best.

swiss said...

i like all those quotes but esp the one about poetry not being important. i've had a bit of an exchange on this very subject just recently - that quote would've come in very handy!

Rachel Fox said...

SD Colin - I know you are a man of many passions...not least promoting other poets like...

Swiss. Sorry not to have been more prompt. Go and read the whole interview if you haven't already. It's faberoony (to quote the Tweenies).


Rachel Fox said...

As for poetry being important...it's one of those tricky things I think. It is and it isn't.

Alan Burnett said...

I'm trying to remember whether I have ever read any of Adrian Mitchell's poems and, off hand, I can't remember any. Off to look some up now.

Rachel Fox said...

I suppose the ones you're most likely to have come across are 'To whom it may concern' (Tell me lies..), 'Back in the playground blues', 'Ten ways to avoid lending your wheelbarrow to anyone'...

I like 'Sorry Bout That' (and have my own sorry poem too...might post that some time soon).


Rachel Fox said...

Just found this page with lots of Mitchell poems/links. Enjoy.

shug said...

Ye read the anthology to celebrate Adrian mitchell's life?


I totally agree with you about the passion, at least about the passion to confront what you think's wrong. Poetry doesn't seem to engage with the real world and its issues as readily as it did in the 60s or 70s.

Rachel Fox said...

I remember you mentioning this book last time I wrote about him. Maybe I will get a copy (unless you've got a spare one lying around the house...I can't buy that AND your new book!).

As for engaging...poetry is so split into the 2 factions these days (the performance vs literary) and I think that is part of the problem. To me the best poets (Mitchell, your good self and many others) don't fit into either category and unfortunately right now that just means you slip between the cracks altogether! There are good poets who can write well and clearly about current issues...but where can they go with their work? Who publishes them? If Mitchell were starting out now the lit mags would all tell him he's too obvious and rude and to get well and truly lost.


Sorlil said...

I really like the poem is a free country quote. I've not read much of Adrian Michell, will check out the links. Feels like I'm constantly discovering great writers, it's hard to keep up!

Rachel Fox said...

If you go to the page I linked to 3comments back, Sorlil, there are some audio files of Mitchell reading. They are a good way into his work - his spoken voice delivery is very powerful and unique really.


Anonymous said...

As always, Rachel, when it comes to promoting poets, I like to choose the best moments to get maximum impact.

And far be it for me to disagree with Shug, but I also like being passionate about the good things in life, like ( ) or ( ) or ( ) insert your preferences here.

Rachel Fox said...

Well, certainly my biggest passion (after man and girl) is probably music. Though there are other things.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Never heard of him before, but really liked his readings.I liked that love doesn't die it just turns a sadder colour and the Vietnam/Iraq/Israel/Afghanistan poem is deadly.He does it well.I would get that SO wrong every time..'Stick my legs in toffee, fill my ears with lego, tell me lies about Amsterdam' etc etc etc

nice one Foxo

Niamh B said...

Great post that I will be returning to, got a present of his last collection for my birthday, and it was great, really well illustrated too. He's an inspiring character, and yes it's all about the passion Rachel!!!

Rachel Fox said...

He's definitely one for you, TFE! Though of course you have plenty of your own poets in Ireland...who are you favourites, I wonder.

And Niamh - a good present!


McGuire said...

Passion without skill is a wild horse. I suppose I've been running for years. Passion and sincerity are good qualities...avoiding weightlessness is another...some see nothing others see stars. Blah blah.

Never heard of Mr Mitchell. Might look him up.

Agree that lot of potry these days gets squashed into performance I suppose all poetry can be performed...that is - read and in reading performed. I never thought of it as performance before, not any of the dross I've written, it was only reading it a few times folk used that term...I felt a bit odd with it.

Anyway. Passion, yeah, not bad at all, and a good doze of cynical optimism. And testicles or vulva, because the poet must never avert his eyes. Who has the courage to look into the dark places were there is nothing but feeling?

Passion fruit. Keep it coming. I'll be reading you.

Rachel Fox said...

Well, I had a volvo in a poem the other week...will that do? It was red.


Dominic Rivron said...

I saw AM read once, in Hampstead. I remember him doing On Beach in Cambridge. I'm not particularly fond of that one - I just remember it!

My favourite has always been Nostalgia Now Threepence Off.

Rachel Fenton said...

"Well, I had a volvo in a poem the other week...will that do? It was red."

This tickeled me - beyond words!

Thanks for those links.

I think all poems should be heard - they are, for me, meant to be listened to - that's where the quality of the words/language comes through. I always read out loud any poetry as I am writing it/when I've written it, to see if it sounds right.

Of course, there are poems which are fab just to read but then there are poems which look nothing on the page and barely move you - except to turn the page, but to hear them really sends them singing onto another stage...ramble, ramble, ramble...I sound like such a twerp whenever I comment!

But passion - am I not a Leo? Grrrr!

Eryl Shields said...

I've not heard of Adrian Mitchell so I'll follow one of your links and have a listen in a minute.

I agree about the passion thing, and am sure that most people have a passion even if they are too busy trying to feed the kids, or whatever, to follow it. People who have found their passion and are able to follow it are always really good to be around.

McGuire said...

;) Red volvo, and tickling...dear, dear, I ask for that, didn't I.

Ah well.

Rachel Fox said...

And sometimes, Eryl, the kids are the passion! In fact shouldn't they always be...at least a bit?


Eryl Shields said...

I certainly hope that anyone who has kids is passionate about them, definitely. I love it when someone starts talking about their children and their face lights up.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, I was thinking about this the other day...how when you meet grown-ups with problems it so often stems from some kind of lack of passion (for them) from one (or both) of their parents. And as a grown-up you can come to terms with it (that lack) but only to a point. It's always there.

But of course a parent can go the other way...and be so obsessed with their kids that they see no-one else in the world! That can be a problem too.

My, it's hard work!