According to Wikipedia, the word on the street of the internet, ‘graffiti is writing or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place’. Lest we think of graffiti as a modern phenomenon we are reminded of the presence of graffiti in ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt. Graffiti may be politically motivated, part of Hip Hop expression, an art movement, or a statement of subculture (queer, marginalized peoples, subterranean, gang, or youth culture), It occurs throughout the world within oppressive regimes and democracies and influences art, fashion, photography, advertising, product development, and public policy. Today we’ll look at street culture using it as inspiration for the subject of poetry and/or use its precepts to influence the creation of poetry. My name is Anna Montgomery and I’ll be your host today.
The aesthetic of graffiti is one of collage and decomposition; pop art and graphic art; stencils and spray paint. Its look is grungy, urban, outsider, underground. The themes range from disintegration and deterioration to reclamation and liberation. It may address consumerism, political systems, music and art, or street knowledge. At its most fundamental it is multi-ethnic, multi-disciplinary, and multi-media. Blurring boundaries between public and private; high and low art; and mainstream and alternative, graffiti questions and prods the establishment. Like the urban environment it comes from it can create intense collisions. Associated with parkour, streetball, Hip Hop, art toys, skateboard culture, and punk rock it creates a feedback loop of influence, creation, and dialogue about the concrete jungle.
Here you’ll find a large number of examples of graffiti poetry and here the underground world of London bathroom poetry. Hush, Lady Aiko, Chloe Early, Bansky, Taki183, and The City Loves You will provide you with some inspiration from around the world. (To avoid any copyright violations here at the Pub, the links will take you to the images and words). As King Adz points out in his book Street Knowledge: ‘This visual language is an ever-changing montage of retro and futuristic images. The cyclical nature of the culture means that looking back is just as important as looking forward.’
When I ran a nonprofit arts center with locations in downtown Denver and Aurora, Colorado I was involved in street culture and the subculture of urban artists. Housed in a former anchor and bolt factory (Denver) and a former police substation (Aurora), we encouraged the public to reclaim gallery space as public space by holding open shows, providing arts education to historically underserved populations, and supporting local artists with studios and professional skill development. The outreach into the community created events like Art Parties where families made work together in an all-day creative extravaganza. More focused efforts involved providing art therapy to vulnerable and marginalized populations. Time and again we saw the benefits of giving people the tools for self-expression as they participated in the empowerment that followed. From creative problem solving and increased economic self-sufficiency to using their voice to affect change participants gained a stronger sense of community involvement.
Today I am asking you to consider graffiti as a subject, to write a poem influenced by the aesthetic or purposes of graffiti, to graffiti the work of another author by sourcing copyright free material at the Gutenberg Project, make your own graffiti for your post at the free Graffiti Creator, go all out and make a multimedia piece, and/or any combination of these. You may even want to have your own urban adventure, absorbing the sights, sounds and smells before writing. I hope you enjoy the freedom and challenge and even have a bit of wild fun (I won’t tell on you). (psst . . . you could always leave a bit of bathroom graffiti art here in the pub restrooms, just don’t tell the staff I gave you permisssion ).
• Copy the direct link to the URL and paste it, along with your name, in the Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post.
• Engage in community building, a primary principle here at the pub, by investigating the work of others, reading and commenting. One of the best ways to become a better poet is to read and reflect on the work of your peers. Please provide positive, constructive feedback and appreciation. It’s how we show respect for one another at the pub.
• Share your work and that of others on your social networks. Encourage other poets to join us here at the pub.