Punk poetry doyen roadmap of era

"G'day ... it's john Cooper Clarke here," the voice growls down the phone.

It's the sound of gravel being poured into a English concrete mixer.

The high priest of punk poetry swaggers into town today, coincidentally - some would say ironically - on World Poetry Day.

"I've never been to Dunedin before. In fact, I don't think I've been to the South Island before. Is it warm down there?"

John Cooper Clarke is like a walking road map, held together with safety pins, of the punk rock era.

The 63-year-old performance poet rose to fame in the late 1970s, when he performed with the likes of the Sex Pistols, the Fall, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Elvis Costello, Joy Division and New Order.

"Punk was a return to core values; gritty two-minute songs, with no guitar solos and everything cranked up a few gears. Its influence has gone way beyond any record sales. It was basically a reaction against [progressive rock super group] Emerson, Lake and Palmer," Clarke says.

Tonight's Fringe show would be as abrasive and acerbic as the punks of yore, he promised.

"Think, witty raconteur; like Noel Coward, but heterosexual.

Acid observations and a fractured take on modern life. Like, I think it should be compulsory for everyone to conduct their daily affairs in rhyme. I think that's a terrific idea, although, the emergency services would obviously be exempt from that, of course.

"I don't think punk will ever go away. It's like rock'n'roll, which has became the folk music of several generations. I'm always going to be called a punk poet, no matter what I might think about that. It would be worse to be called nothing, I suppose. Know what I mean?"

John Cooper Clarke winklepickers on to the Sammy's stage at 8pm.

Sadly, we have been asked to remove the "Party Up Large" installation, at the corner of Vogel and Jetty Sts, from our daily Fringe guide.

The work was created by clients at Artsenta, a communal studio for people in the mental-health community, to share in the Dunedin Fringe Festival.

But, unbelievably, the papier mache installation was destroyed by vandals at the weekend.

"We chose the site as it's a very ugly bit of our city and we thought it could do with cheering up," Artsenta director Jill Thomson told me yesterday.

"We are all pretty upset by this here at Artsenta and we have consequently had to take what was left down. We'd like whoever trashed our work to come visit us and meet the creative people here."

nigel.benson@odt.co.nz

 

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