Poetry and Afrikan Surrealism. An Interview with Anthony Anaxagorou (@Anthony1983)

anthony anaxagorou

Q. Your poetry cov­ers a vari­ety of top­ics from polit­ics, social and his­tory. Why do you think it is import­ant to speak on these top­ics in par­tic­u­lar?

Poetry for me has always been about explor­ing and excav­at­ing the human exper­i­ence. To tra­verse through themes that range from polit­ic­al struggles to soci­etal issues whil­st bridging togeth­er cer­tain his­tor­ic­al epochs I guess is some­what con­du­cive to the over­all pur­pose of poetry. As a writer I try to put little emphas­is on themes. I don’t really like the idea of writ­ing a ‘polit­ic­al poem’ or ‘love poem’ simply because the defin­i­tions of what polit­ic­al poetry should entail or what love poetry should entail are so del­ic­ately inter­linked that it’s wrong to make an attempt at stand­ing the two apart. For instance if I write a poem about a woman I love and in that poem I make ref­er­ences to unem­ploy­ment or a class/race struggle, how­ever nuanced it might be, then that auto­mat­ic­ally qual­i­fies the poem as being polit­ic­al. Love when dis­sec­ted prop­erly can prove to be a highly polit­ic­al act, so in truth the best poetry will forever be entrenched in the most poignant themes of the human exper­i­ence, irre­spect­ive of top­ic.

Q. When writ­ing your poetry do you have a cer­tain sys­tem that you fol­low for each piece or does it depend on the top­ic that you are writ­ing about?

I’ve always felt that I’m some­what of an organ­ic writer. I’ve had no form­al train­ing in the art and craft of poetry, all my know­ledge about tech­nique, form and meter I’ve had to acquire through study­ing the great poets, by read­ing their work repeatedly, see­ing how they man­age to con­geal abstract ideas with son­ic dex­ter­ity and lan­guage cre­at­ing one seam­less piece of art. Again I think as a writer it’s import­ant to remain as unin­hib­ited as pos­sible, and that means stay­ing form­less and unres­tric­ted in both style and voice. Most of my work derives from a feel­ing, usu­ally this feel­ing becomes so over­power­ing that I feel com­pelled to write, the same way some people feel com­pelled to talk to a friend or loved one when going through a dif­fi­cult time. When I read back over my vari­ous col­lec­tions I can see how it’s me who’s writ­ing but then each poem embod­ies a dif­fer­ent aspect of my char­ac­ter. It’s a bit like a per­son who wakes up each day to wear a new set of clothes, the body remains the same but what get’s put over it will always dif­fer in accord­ance to the individual’s mood and feel­ings.

Q. For any­one read­ing this inter­view and think­ing of start­ing to write poetry what tips could you offer them?

I think the most import­ant thing for any­one writ­ing or think­ing of writ­ing poetry is to first and fore­most read poetry. When I teach young people in schools and I often get asked to give tips in which I always find myself going back to that same old line of it’s vital to read poems, to listen to poems and to think about poems if you’re to cre­ate solid, ori­gin­al pieces. I think every­one will agree with me when I say that there’s no way Hendrix could have been as great as he was if he didn’t listen to blues prodi­gies such Robert John­son, Muddy Waters and B.B King. In the same way Sal­vador Dali wouldn’t have been able to paint such con­tro­ver­sial sur­real­ist images if he wasn’t influ­enced by Afric­an sur­real­ism. It goes on but you can see the point I’m mak­ing. The truth is most people are scared of poetry; I’ve always con­ten­ded that schools do to poetry what the media does to Islam. Our first intro­duc­tion is bland, mis­rep­res­en­ted, rigid and grossly irrel­ev­ant to our every day lives (or so we’re led to believe) but the heart­break­ing thing being that this couldn’t be fur­ther away from the truth. Poetry does not just con­sist of Chau­cer, Shakespeare, Lord Byron and an anti­quated con­sor­ti­um of oth­er strange look­ing White men who speak in an almost cult­ish, archa­ic ver­nacu­lar, poetry when elu­cid­ated prop­erly is a genu­ine reflec­tion of the human con­di­tion in all its dimen­sions and fre­quen­cies.

Q. Over the last few years we have wit­nessed demon­stra­tions across the Middle East on a scale not seen before. In your opin­ion what were the main cata­lysts for these demon­stra­tions and do you feel they have achieved their aims?

As with any form of civil unrest the main cause is always a break in the power-struc­ture chain. In the Middle East as in South Amer­ica and parts of Asia and Africa we have see time and time again that when people are reduced to dire liv­ing con­di­tions, unequal job oppor­tun­it­ies, overt dis­crep­an­cies in the leg­al­ity of vot­ing and mass pover­ty, all will in turn boil over into an atmo­sphere of heavy protest. Regard­ing the Middle East and the Arab Spring we have seen a group of people finally stand­ing up to West­ern set­tle­ment, neo­lib­er­al policies, Brit­ish and US sanc­tions as well as a vol­ley of oth­er strategies and policies imple­men­ted by the West in order to main­tain their eco­nom­ic con­trol over the region. If the end res­ult to any form of mutiny is that people are able to live at a more lib­er­al means, with less oppres­sion and less dic­ta­tion from for­eign author­ity then we can say that the cause was just and revolu­tion regard­less of its intens­ity is a much needed for­ce in the battle for glob­al equal­ity.

Q. Through­out his­tory there has always been gov­ern­ments and lead­ers who have profited off the death of their own or oth­er people but since the emer­gence of imper­i­al­ism this seems to have hugely increased, why do you think this is?

I don’t think the emer­gence of Imper­i­al­ism has increased. The very idea has been around since time imme­mori­al. We need to under­stand that Imper­i­al­ism is simply the com­mon ideo­logy that accom­pan­ies an Empire as it moves into loc­al or more for­eign ter­rit­or­ies in their endeavor to con­trol and sub­jug­ate the indi­gen­ous people. The real prob­lem I find exists with­in in the mul­tiple facets of Empire; pre­dom­in­ately cul­tur­al and racial superi­or­ity, hege­mony and the staunch effort to erad­ic­ate a peoples’ his­tory and tra­di­tion so as to enfor­ce some­thing ali­en and ill-favored through the use of viol­ence and decree. Lead­ers will always require a cer­tain amount of object­ive scru­tiny if they’re to be under­stood prop­erly. There are and have been many nobel, social­ist lead­ers who have ris­en to rep­res­ent the pro­let­ari­at but as the nature of polit­ics reveals the good are usu­ally removed by the crudest of meth­ods by the major­ity who’s interest is steeped in pro­long­ing and uphold­ing the status quo, regard­less of how per­ni­cious and det­ri­ment­al that might be to the future and sta­bil­ity of a nation.

Q. You recently trav­elled to Viet­nam and Cam­bod­ia. Were there any exper­i­ences that have made you look at your­self and people in a dif­fer­ent light?

Abso­lutely. It’s more or less impossible to travel to parts of the glob­al south and not come back to the West with a dif­fer­ence in per­spect­ive. To wit­ness pover­ty in it’s raw and des­per­ate form is enough to leave any West­ern­er with a tat­tooed taste of guilt in their spir­it. I met some incred­ibly beau­ti­ful people dur­ing my time there, all of which were mostly illit­er­ate, liv­ing in cor­rug­ated iron shacks but yet pos­sessed a sequen­tial under­stand­ing of his­tory and events. I can’t think of any­thing more hor­ri­fic than liv­ing on less that $2 per day and know­ing the West, as well as oth­er intern­al factors, are the cause of all suf­fer­ing. Cam­bod­ia is the poorest coun­try in South East Asia which I found sur­pris­ing as I pre­sumed Viet­nam to be due to the Amer­ic­an war, how­ever that atro­cit­ies com­mit­ted by the Khmer Rouge (in a coun­try of 8 mil­lion 3 mil­lion were murdered in just under 3 years) have res­ul­ted in a very slow rate of recov­ery. Viet­nam on the oth­er hand is extremely anti-West (and quite rightly so) with a deep com­mun­ist­ic nation­al char­ac­ter and a healthy trad­ing alli­ance with China. When you’ve seen and lived among­st a real­ity that is as urgent and ser­i­ous as what theirs is, it becomes dif­fi­cult to come back to the West and cheer on a foot­ball team, or con­cern your­self with the latest fash­ion trends or music fads. Our life in Bri­tain isn’t per­fect but when com­pared to the life of oth­ers all I can say is that some people have real prob­lems.

Anthony Anaxagor­ou new col­lec­tion of short stor­ies is avail­able to buy from from all good book retail­ers and online.

anthony anaxagorou

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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rish­ma Dhali­wal has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rish­ma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.

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