I'll try not to use words like "sell" or "buy" in this post (oops, it's too late) because it turns so many people off. But cutting to the chase, you can own any of these 6x8-inch prints (with varying sized borders) for $29 US plus tax and shipping. These are mounted on archival board and shipped in acid-free plastic sleeves. They're also available in larger sizes at different prices (write me). Take all five prints - bargain of the freaking century - for $100 US plus shipping, tax and the rest.
Order directly from me - email@example.com
This is one of a number of talks I'll be giving on my work and its connections to Norwegian Sociologist Johan Galtung's thoughts about structural violence. It's also my first ever appearance in Puebla, so don't miss it.
Put simply, direct violence is when a person or group attacks another person or group. Structural violence is more complicated but no less destructive. According to Galtung, it happens when a social structure or institution keep people from meeting their basic human needs. A lot of my photography deals with people who are arguably victims of structural violence, from Central American immigrants who can't earn enough to survive in their home countries and are forced to travel to the United States, to drug addicts who live in countries where neither drug education nor rehabilitation centers exist.
What interests me particularly is that while Galtung states that there is no "image" of structural violence - because it is indirect, and the institutions which commit it rarely come face to face with people and populations it impacts - my photographs certainly offer evidence of the existence of structural violence.
These issues are particularly important today in Mexico and Central America (though they'd be worth discussing in Boston or Chicago, too).
See you out there.
Steve Pottinger is a British poet. Which might make you think of Blake, Wordsworth and Lord Byron. It shouldn't. Pottinger rails (if one can rail quietly) against an economic system in which Starbucks Coffee, for example, pays no corporate tax, and he tells tales of love, loss, despair, and joy in a very contemporary England. His self-produced video-poem, "No-one likes an angry poet," has quickly become a cult classic, and offers a good primer on what Pottinger is all about. I asked Steve to let me interview him for Gone City months ago upon the release of his most recent book, Island Songs (published by Ignite Books). He quietly tolerated my endless procrastination and I'm too damned busy this week I'm sorry excuses for a very long time. But here's the interview, done by e-mail, which was well worth waiting for.
John Sevigny: Where are you from? What do you do? What do people think when you tell them you're a poet by profession?
John Sevigny: Where are you from? What do you do? What do people think when you tell them you're a poet by profession?
Steve Pottinger: I'm from the UK, but have moved around a lot. There's a beautiful and interesting world out there and I want to see it. My love of travel is one reason why I never settled for the 9-5. I just wouldn't be able to stick it - and I have genuine admiration for people who stay in jobs they hate because they need to put food on the table. I've spent many years working as a roadie, now a stage-manager, but in reality I'm self-employed, which is an incredibly useful catch-all term which means I'll do pretty much anything to cover the rent. I've been a motorbike courier, a Santa Claus, a shop assistant, and a kitchen porter. Among other things.
As for telling people I'm a poet, that's something I've only recently started doing to be honest. Maybe there's something about reaching an age where you think "sod it, I don't care what they think". Before that, I struggled quite a lot with what I thought people would think if I told them, so I didn't. If they knew, fine. If they didn't, I was more than happy to leave things that way!
JS: Tell me about the name of your book, Island Songs.
SP: I chose the title because it has multiple references, but one underlying theme. My granddad came from Orkney, which is an archipelago off the north coast of Scotland. Scraps of land in the powerful northern sea. I only visited there after he'd died, and with no expectations whatsoever, but was blown away by the sense of connection I felt. Secondly, the UK is another, bigger island, and - as someone living here - I also wanted to refer to that. Finally, I had in mind John Donne's quote "No man is an island..." (which appears in the book). The poems in this book are my songs, my laments and celebrations from my little island - be that Orkney, UK, or my self - sent out like messages in bottles in the hope they mean something to other people too.
JS: Some of the characters in the book are alcoholics, and many of them are regular people. Is it difficult to write about the "here and now"?
SP: Every poet has a 'voice'. We all write about things which intrigue or stir or move us. I find people - and the societies and cultures we construct around us - endlessly fascinating. So I write about that a lot. I hope that I encourage people to question their own pre-conceptions a little, but first and foremost the poem has to work in itself. No point in writing a tract and bashing people over the head with The Thing They Should Know.
As for the difficulty of writing... there's no hard and fast answer to that. Sometimes these poems come to me ready-formed, but they're more often the product of mulling something over, coming back to it from time to time, and writing something which - hopefully - will engage the reader/listener.
JS: The language you use contains very, very little of what most people would consider Brtish Romantic influence. Is that intentional? Where do the voices in your poems come from?
SP: Earlier this year, someone I met told me their mates had told him I was a poet "who writes poems for people who don't like poetry". I kind of like that. Because I find that a lot of poetry leaves me cold - it's beautifully crafted, wonderfully accomplished, but while I can appreciate the wordsmithery involved, it simply doesn't touch me. There doesn't seem to be much attempt to engage with the audience or reader. For me, that's a turn-off, and I know it is for a lot of other people too.
The poetry I love - as with the music and the bands and the literature I love - is all about a direct connection and communication. I enjoy work which speaks to me. So I try to create work which speaks to people. Simple, really.
JS: Tell me about the inspiration, making and the public reception of "Nobody Likes an Angry Poet."
SP: Here in the UK we're in austerity, which means budget cuts, and job losses and so on. Without fail, this translates into a whittling away of the support that's there for the most vulnerable and needy in our society. Hand in hand with that a blind eye is turned to the creative accounting by international companies like Starbucks and Amazon which means they pay little or no tax here. It's one law for the rich, another for the poor.
There was a good deal of media attention focused on this last autumn (2012). I found myself wanting to write something about it, but every approach I tried was either hopelessly simplistic or dry and dead as a manifesto. In the end, I gave up. This was simply going to be a subject I sounded off about after a couple of pints and felt utterly unable to influence, just like everyone else. Then I went up to Leeds for a gig. I stayed over at a mate's house, woke up in the morning somewhere I didn't know where I couldn't distract myself by surfing the net, and - as I lay in bed letting my thoughts wander - the poem arrived. Just like that. The first draft I wrote was - bar half a dozen words I altered - the finished deal. I read it that night at the gig, and knew it worked.
A lot of people reacted to it the way I do. It was a shot in the arm, an opportunity to look at the whole subject of corporate tax evasion in a way which said "look this is relevant to your life" and which allowed people to recognise that they both cared about it and understood it. My highest hope for the poem is that it de-mystified tax evasion and made people chuckle, all at the same time. And I was chuffed to bits that organisations lobbying for tax reform took it up
JS: I know you do a lot of almost informal readings in pubs and other places. How many public appearances do you make a year? How long have you been doing this? Has there been a buildup of "followers" over time?
SP: I've been writing poems forever, and I've learned a lot about the craft in that time. I've made a point of getting out and listening to other artists - poets, writers, and musicians - and I've learnt to demand more of my work, too. Years ago, I gigged a lot, buoyed up in part by the belief I could make a full-time living out of poetry. When I realised I couldn't, and had to find other work to pay the bills, I walked away from performance for a good long while. And then I found myself drawn back to it. So I've been gigging again for a couple of years, and really enjoying it.
It's really important to me to write poetry which talks to people (rather than at them) so it makes sense to take it to where they are - be that pubs or venues or wherever - rather than hide it away from them. Traditionally, the pub is where people meet and chat and catch up on gossip and sound off about what's bugging them while they relax and have a beer. I don't see why poets shouldn't be part of that too.
JS: Drugs, violence and alcohol are recurring themes in your work. Do you view people who fall into habits, or who turn to violence as tragic? Do you make any judgement of them at all?
SP: I think that within my work there's a desire to remind people that "there but for the grace of god..." One way or the other, at various points in my life, I've met people who are chaotic, untrustworthy, self-destructive, lost. I've probably been there myself. Any of us could be. And there's always a story behind what you see. Sometimes I've been amazed that the chaotic, untrustworthy, self-destructive fuck-ups are doing as well as they are after what they've been through, because in their shoes I'm not sure I could.
JS: As an independent artist (and isn't everyone these days) what are your hopes, professionally? Flipping it around, what do you hope your poetry will do or accomplish in practice?
SP: Listen, if someone turned round and threw some money at me for my work, I'd take it! That would mean I could get out and do more gigs and put my work in front of more people. At the same time, I revel in being beholden to no-one, in being independent.
I do this because I have to. If I was a musician, I'd write music. I love words, so what I do is write. I've been quietly surprised to find out how many of my friends - and they're a varied bunch - have some creative passion or other, and how important it is to them. I want to write poems and tell stories which entertain, provoke, and move. Which strike a chord with people.
As for what my poetry will accomplish, well... I did have a world-wide re-distribution of global wealth penciled in for next Thursday, but the deadline's looking tight.
JS: How much of what you do is about venting and how much is about teaching?
SP: I know it's a term I've used a lot in this interview, but... I hope it's more about engaging. I write poems about love and love of place as well as tax evasion! Seriously, while I write with passion, and want to evoke an emotional response - honest and open - in the listener/reader I try not to vent. I'm looking for something a little more nuanced, layered, and - again - honest. As for teaching.. no. More about reminding people of what they already know.
JS: What's coming next for you?
SP: More gigs, a couple of festivals, hopefully some more videos up on YouTube because they're fun to do. And the autobiography of a UK punk I've been helping write should be done and dusted this summer. That's been a lot of fun.
Other than that, who knows? I've never been much of a one for plans. Whatever it is I think I'll do next, I'm sure there'll be a couple of curve balls in there. Interesting tangents to meander off on. Life wouldn't be the same without them....
Of course, there's no lens correction profile for this lens with Lightroom. But the Nikon AF 35mm f2 profile fixes things up perfectly. When it comes to distortion I suspect the two lenses are about the same.
The NEX system is awesome, no matter what Ken Rockwell might say (and I usually agree with Ken). For a relatively low price, you get cameras that you can use with any lens made during the past century. And the results can be very good, or just plain crap depending on the glass you choose. This is not a scientific test, of course, and I make no apologies for the fact that I've cropped these and applied just a bit of Smart Sharpen in Photoshop. These are parts of any photographer's natural work flow and I can't think of any reason to test glass without running it through the same software and paces I always use.
It's probably not necessary to tell you this lens performs better, and is far better built, and anything currently made by Sony.