Many thanks to Ben Taylor and Alexander J. Smith of the Dead Beats who have given us permission to republish their cut-up poem ‘He Do the Police in Different Voices’.
Dead Beats is a “Sheffield-based, student-run publishing and performance poetry organisation, set up to cultivate literary sartorialism.”
Here is Alex describing the creation of the poem:
This poem is a cut-up amalgamation of an existing text by Ben Taylor entitled ‘Kontulan Nightlife’ and a report I wrote on the Abbeydale community, which was an assessed piece of coursework for the ‘Researching Community Stories‘ module. We created the piece during a workshop on William Burroughs, led by Nick Kilby (a local Sheffield artist) and Dr. Matthew Cheeseman and co-organised by Dead Beats.
To formulate the piece Ben and I began by folding random excerpts from ‘Kontulan Nightlife’ and my report into quarters, cutting along these segmented lines and then repositioning the two texts into a sporadic assemblage. Having done that, we deleted any grammatical errors or half words and then began to shape the poem to fit our agenda, blacking out words which we deemed extraneous or superfluous to the message we wanted to convey.
We also sought inspiration from other random extracts which people had brought in and recycled phrases such as ‘quivering racoon’s penis’. I think this augmented the erratic nature of the poem, but also engendered a greater and more literal idea of its intertexutality.
By naming the piece after T.S Eliot’s original title for The Waste Land and including the epigraph from Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, we grounded the poem in intertextual antecedents, obviously in a very tongue-in-cheek manner!
The cut-up technique is all about accessing the ‘otherness’, seeking the subliminalised and almost Lacanian messages buried deep within the text on the page. Moreover, it enables artists to challenge the tangible meaning of the original material, pushing its boundaries and configuring a new play on the words.
It’s also interesting to look at the ways in which it tests Saussurean structure; when a text has been cut-up, sign and signifier do match up but not in the ways initially intended, this presents a direct challenge to the structure of language and enacts an infinite Derridean extension of meaning.
He Do the Police in Different Voices
‘A revelation also trembled just past the threshold of her understanding’
Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
You pinch your nose and let out a sigh
Mary Douglas explores a man to your side,
Asking what the matter is.
You reply with a roll of your shoulders –
This is the case in Abbeydale, with the chair running
Down the street
Disseminating a quivering racoon’s penis
You stop; Abbeydale is a window
And is characterised by non-chain shops,
Where a cat is yowling in the moonlit high street.
Giggling, you set off all of the people we interviewed,
But you make barely 5 metres before
You drop to your knees
And begin to pound the pavement with your Guardian newspaper article about your left hand
Clutching your chest
As it heaves in the secret midnight.
The feeling subsides and you stand up,
Still panting down the urban corridor
Because a slight sheen forms on your forehead.
Abbeydale seems to be trailing the tips of your fingers
Near the Tesco Express supermarket on the
Concrete wall beside you.
A chain store opens nearby the sandy textured shop scorches with an orange blaze.
Yet this is not as crimson as the sky above.
This is testament to your legs,
Your fingernails and the eudaimonic friction of the wall.
You to stop to inspect the centre of an atrocity,
Holding it girlishly up to the
Original cut-up version of ‘He Do the Police in Different Voices’
Alexander J. Smith
The Beats are dead; long live Dead Beats.