Street poets

Issue 

Street poets

By Peter Boyle

MELBOURNE — "The arts today are devoid of a framework, except for greed", says Tom the Poet — one of a tribe of artists who have banded together in a challenge to the elitist role ascribed to art in current society.

They perform/interact in a couple of inner-city pubs and cafes, sometimes busk in the street, are invariably found in demonstrations and do lots of benefits for progressive causes. They call themselves "street poets", "poet warriors" and "guerilla dancers".

"The arts per se now exist only to distract people", says Tom. The test of art, he says, should not be how much it impresses with wit or rhyme but how collaborative the "scripting process" has been, how much it challenges and how much it fortifies people in a struggle for freedom.

When Kate Goodwin scoured Melbourne's inner-city pubs and cafes, she found numerous "tribes" of artists bent on fighting for social change. She has organised them into four "mixed media" events for the Voices of Dissent Festival, which takes place April 16-May 3.

Each night up to 12 items of performance poetry, dance, comedy, music, songs, slides, sketches — some in sequence, some simultaneously — will challenge at venues such as Budinski's and Baker's Cafe in Brunswick Street or at the Lounge in Swanston St.

Together they deliver a powerful punch, says Goodwin. "But don't think you are in for an ideologically sound but boring time. All the performers use the most sophisticated and erudite concepts while remaining approachable. They challenge aesthetic conventions without becoming high-brow", she told Green Left. For more information, contact Kate Goodwin on (03) 596 5108.