Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Tell me the truth about love...

Photo by Suzi Corker for Apples & Snakes

So today sees my entry in a series of blog posts on the Apples and Snakes website concerning Public Address: The Soapbox Tour. I've used it to highlight something which people who've been following this blog for a while will know has been much on my mind lately: the idea that performance poetry was once something often mentioned in the same context as performance art and now, well - it isn't. I want to try and bridge that gap, to see how far you can add performance art elements to spoken word gigs until they become...something else.

There are various ways in which I'm doing that. Some involve me handcuffing myself to microphone stands, or stripping, while reading certain poems. And the piece I'm doing for Public Address, which Apples and Snakes describe as a 'fierce but fun poetry/live-art crossover' involves something else again. And it's something I need your help with.

Regular followers of this blog will know that one of the topics that has been obsessing me for the better part of the past year is the mercurial nature of romantic love. How do we define it? What behaviours constitute it? How well do these match up with the idealised version of said emotion which dominates our culture? What, with apologies to 90s one-hit-wonder Haddaway, is love

It turns out to be kind of hard to define. And that's why I'm asking you, readers, to define it for me, and to define it operationally. I don't want definitions of love in terms of feelings or vague abstractions: when you've been in a loving relationship, what has your partner done to show they loved you? 

And on the flipside of that, when you've been in a relationship that's gone terribly, terribly wrong - what did your partner do that proved it wasn't love? 

I've been asking people to provide answers to those two questions for months now. I'm using the answers I've got so far in the piece I've prepared for Public Address, 'Shotgun Wedding'. But I need more. And I want you to give me those answers.

The Public Address ensemble, plus guests: l-r Henry Raby, Justin Coe, Jasmine Gardosi, AJ McKenna, Shagufta K, Helen Seymour, Ingrid McLaren and Keisha Thompson. Photo by Suzi Corker for Apples and Snakes.

There's a twist, though: I don't want you to tell me which question you're answering. 

I'm asking for you to give me your answers via Twitter (my handle there is @AnathemaJane) using the hashtag #becauseyou... I want your answers to be concrete, to be specific, and - ideally - to be provocative. But I don't want you to tell me whether they're acts of love or acts of violence - the audiences on the Public Address tour will be deciding the answer to that. 

To get you going, here are a few submissions we've already had. Which side do you think these fall?

#becauseyou said you would sing at my funeral
#becauseyou say you love me in your sleep
#becauseyou taught me self-mutilation doesn't always need a knife
#becauseyou squeeze my shoulders
#becauseyou got me strawberries and nothing that I asked for

You get the idea, I hope. I'll be asking for submissions every day between now and the end of the tour. The answers will be randomised and will form part of the final piece. I'll also be tweeting a random reason from the list every day, and asking what you think. 

So please, spill it - how did you know it was/wasn't love? Because...

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