Saturday 11 February 2012
Craig Podmore Interview-
1- Craig…your new book differs vastly from your recent release, ‘Love Letters…’. From what I’ve read, there appears to be an angry compassion for man’s loss of nobility and ongoing disintegration which drives the poems. What was your impetus for writing the book?
CP: Well, this work spans from over 2 years of material, some pieces had the potential to be a part of my earlier chaps – ‘I am a Gun’ and ‘The Abattoir Heavens…’. However, the particular poems had a different strength to them. They, in a sense, preconceived a different direction.
In time, a certain perception grew within the pieces, I started to develop and explore the idea of the animal that is man. I then started to look at the degradations of its idealisms such as civilisation, society, consumerism, class systems, religion and pornography. All of these conventions intertwined, allowing me to have this broad horizon of ideas. I wanted the material to be some form of a wake-up call although not a preachy one. It is an angry book but I felt that it was necessary to be vehement in its tone and voice. Halfway through the collection, I came up with the title, ‘The Hell in Me, the Hell in You’ which merely states the fundamental sickness that we all apathetically take part in, that being a backwards society where moral is lost way under a red carpet veneer of capitalist madness, forgetting what we truly are, which is human.
Also, during the time of writing the manuscript for ‘The Hell in Me…’ an abundance of chaos hit the streets of the UK. Mass protests and riots, anger, resentment and class divisions as well as government ignorance and recessions; it was ironic, or, should I say, frightening to see that reality was mirroring what I was writing at the time. There is a piece in the collection that is primarily about the riots entitled ‘Unrest’, here I state:
‘Scarring the cities,
Pissing on the face of authorities,
Having a voice although incoherent
In the flurries of profanity,
The misunderstood rise
Due to boredom and broken sociability. ‘
There were numerous happenings that had happened during the creation of this collection, even the death of Osama Bin Laden inspired me to write a piece which is aptly titled (in a celebratory but sardonic manner) ‘Osama Bin Laden is Dead’. The insane downfall of Colonel Gadaffi, a Norwegian shooting spree and terrorist attacks, etc…The world has been mad these last couple of years or so, well, it has always been mad, but I guess that’s what motivates me to write in general.
In comparison to ‘Love Notes from a Soldier’s Diary’, ‘The Hell in Me…’ tackles the background of ‘Love Notes…’ (war and violence) on a more head-on, metaphysical scale. ‘Love Notes…’ was a character driven piece amidst the terrors of World War II. It’s an unflinching allegory of love conquering hate. I look at inhumanity to man on a microcosmic level whereas in ‘The Hell in Me…’ I look at it with a more pervasive outlook albeit the modern world, a different time and place, unfortunately though, there isn’t much love in this book, its intention is to give you black eyes and alarm bells with deafening notes.
2- Sex and parody intermingle in the book, at times almost to the point of ‘Snuff-Art’, creating a hallucinatory, almost psychosial landscape of brutality. Do you perceive ‘reality’ in terms of a general pornography?
CP: Yes, most certainly. I think just a stroll down a high street market bombards you with the most overwhelming sense of a sexual consumerism. Billboards of half naked (if not fully) men and women advertising perfume/aftershave or something even more obscure like a watch or a car. The obligatory use of mannequins, loud pop music about explicit sex emanating from the nearby shops, the fetishism of how products are exhibited/presented within the store(s), ‘perfect’ models eating disgusting take-away meals on glossy posters and the seductive bright colours enticing you to step inside the mall and shop until you lose your own identity becoming just another airbrushed figment of a fucked up underworld.
There are pieces like ‘Requiem (High Street Chain Deaths)’ where I explore ones death as irrelevant but the possessions are only what is left behind:
“A slightly charred
Photograph of a porn star,
One that I had wished
To have made love to.
A television playing
Human atrocities on repeat.”
The cultural significance of peoples’ lives that governs them during their lives also drowns their deaths. The flesh becomes nothing, although the porno, sex toys and guns have more of a meaning to them in the end because that’s how we’ve conformed to be, beings with little personification and character. I think people en masse are generally unaware that they are becoming a messy void of sex-hungry, self-absorbent pigs. We are obsessed with possessions and plastic identities. I think this is why social networks and cyber socialisation is evermore popular just due to individuals allowing themselves to be better in their own little world, perhaps even sexualising their image to an almost deluded perspective. With all that in mind, I think that the modern society is brutal and cold because our ethos is degrading fast. Soon we will no longer be ‘individuals’ or ‘beings’ as such but a species that has only an interest in eating each other. The book’s self-titled epic poem goes on to show who we really are in the end:
“Love has died.
The violent carnality of the men
Then devour each other,
Beating each other slowly
To a mesh of a sexless nothing.”
In regards to the notion of ‘Snuff-art’, I didn’t necessarily have it as a direction; however, I have always been inspired by the works and philosophies of Georges Bataille, the transgressive idea that the transcendence of a sexual act can be something of an immense ecstasy as well as intense horror is an interesting hypothesis, I think ‘The Hell in Me…’ could well be a direct descendent of this theory. Possibly, even, I think, it could well be the main drive of the book, a subconscious print within its ink.
3- You’re quite obviously not a flag bearer for organised religions, Christianity in particular, your attacks being quite Nietzschean/ Sadean. What do you perceive to be man’s -if any- saving grace, or are we all condemned to this bankrupt slaughterhouse?
CP: Well, Nietzsche was right when he proclaimed that ‘God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.’ So, if there was to be anything god-like or salvation as such, it’s most certainly dead now, you’d find more grace with whiskey in a strip bar these days. God was a good idea I guess, hypothetically harmless until it was abused by the populous and its deluded subservient. In the collection, there is a poem entitled ‘All Business Men in Suits Love the Crucifixion’, it directly addresses the idea that religion is no longer something of a blessed ideology: “another wound proclaims its omnipotence on a liar’s throne.”
Man has made religion infallible in relations to the great greed of bourgeois philosophies. It is this perception that I do maintain throughout the book. Above all else there isn’t much but the hungry jaws of maggots without sounding too melodramatic! I think we are all more interested in the fascist consumptions of our culture and the rat race of devouring nonsensical deviations of lack luster fame and fortune. We’re all fabricated machinery on a conveyor belt, obsessed with ourselves until we hit the perpetual abyss.
4- Do you perceive people merely in terms of aggressors and victims? Someone almost always appears to be getting fucked (over) in your work?
CP: Well, we as human beings are all manipulators and what comes with manipulation is cause and affect. I think that we are a malignant species, and yes, there are wonderful people too in this world, although there are at times when even the most benign individuals can demise to points of cruelty. Most of Jeffrey Dahmers’ neighbours stated how such a nice guy he was until his true identity was revealed to the world as a cannibalising, serial murderer of gay men. I think even if I was to write about a nice guy, I’d have to rule his fate as something of a tragedy because to me life is full of it.
So, yeah, aggressors and victims could be a perfect definition of society because, who doesn’t get fucked over in the end?
5- Who/ what are your main influences?
CP: Damn, there are so many! In terms of writers I’d say (obviously) Georges Bataille, JG Ballard, George Orwell, Hermann Hesse, William Burroughs, Charles Reznikoff, Vladimir Mayakovsky and De Sade. Artists - Van Gogh, Pollock, William Blake (and poems), Francis Bacon, George Grosz, Egon Schiele amongst many more and in terms of music I love PJ Harvey, Radiohead, Joy Division (I could mention more but I wouldn’t want to bore you!)
6- You are also a film-maker/ photographer. Is your experience in these fields also an influence? Your work is very -if not bitingly so- visual…
CP: Out of all art forms, film is my biggest influence and inspiration.
After I finished university studying the production of film, I was looking desperately for jobs in the industry but it proved difficult. I was also deprived of facilities / tools in order to make films, etc. Many visual ideas were always coming to the surface so the best I could do was to write them down. They were just notes at first, little bullet points. With not being able to make any films I then started to form the notes into more literary structures. It was from here that I commenced ways and means of conducting my ideas into a different language, finally evolving into poetry. Scenes that were potential to be little films slowly became poetic fragments.
In a sense, poetry has become a substitute for my love of film though poetry and prose have both become important in my life, it’s a possibility now that I love literature just as much as the art of cinema if not more.
7- Any recommended reading?
CP: I’m currently reading ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver; it’s a haunting insight into the mind of a young teenager whom slowly develops a psychotic hatred for people that has been ignited by the emotional rejection of his mother and family. It’s powerful stuff, a film based on the book has not long been released, and the great Lynne Ramsay who also directed Morvern Callar and Ratcatcher directs it.
8- Where next, then? Any other projects on the horizon?
CP: I’m hoping to get on with a novel. My recent novella, The Symmetries of Pain, has spawned a character (Anton) that I’m looking to write about much more of. I’m drawing again so who knows what will become of that. Hopefully, I’ll gets some film work done too along with more photography but nothing is really set in stone as of yet. ‘The Hell in Me, the Hell in You’ has taken a lot out of me. Maybe I should write a rom-com about a necrophilliac’s relationship with Jane Austen’s skeletal remains, who knows? Haha…
'The Hell In Me, The Hell In You' is available here