Friday, 25 April 2014

Post punk teenism

Over the past couple of weeks I have been writing to my friend and fellow poet Ryan Ormonde as my 17 year old self, from 1994. He has been responding as his 17 year old self from 1999. We are using the amazing new technology called electronic mail which I have hitherto only encountered as a thing in the future in my Business Studies GCSE.

Having discussed it with with Ryan last night, as we recorded the first two episodes of a series on experimental poetics for Resonance FM, we are both loving the opportunity to write autobiographically but still "in character" as ourselves, but a past-self. And most of all we are both finding it cathartic, and surprising. It's enlightening to know that we were actually pretty cool in our own different ways, that we weren't as sad and pathetic as we thought we were, and we should have given ourselves a bit more of a break.

Music was always incredibly important to me since about 12, and by 17 I was thoroughly immersed in 80s-90s rock and heavy metal, as well as having a good grounding of prog rock from my dad's music collection. But it took until I was 16-17 for my first boyfriend to introduce me to punk. In 1993 he took me to see Henry Rollins in one of his spoken word concerts, though I had no idea who he was, this intense, tattooed man in paradoxically sensible shoes. I do remember, vividly, walking straight past him on the way in, and then feeling like he was talking to me when he launched into a story about how really waster guys get great girls. I really thought he was talking about me and my boyfriend because he saw us on the way in. Was there ever a better example of how it's all about you in your teens?

So, I became a Rollins fan, and soon after heard the Dead Kennedys and The Damned and fell in love. From there it was just a short spit, jump and a pogo over to Jello Biafra's solo career, and his album with Canadian rockers DOA is still in my top five.

You've gotta love Jello, and if his politics sounded paranoid in the 80s - hey, they're looking pretty spot on right about now. Here he is parodying himself on Portlandia.

So, all this to say is that this week I read a great YA novel which reflects my own current trip down memory lane, and plays the tunes that played then and now - I Wanna Be Your Johnny Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert - who is, coincidentally (OR NOT) based in the capital of hipsterville and home of US punk/grunge, the pacific northwest. Her character Emily Black is a cool girl with impeccable taste in music, and her own punk band, that goes on a voyage of discovery about her own music-loving, absent mother. It's a great coming of age story and I love that it's all about being the weird punky strident feminist girl in a boring small town. It reminded me a little of one of my favourite YA reads, Joanne Proulx's Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet, which is also about music to some degree, and, in its excellent first person voice, was an inspiration for my main character Danny in Crow Moon.

So, though punk is supposedly over, we are still riding its eternal three chords to glory.

1 comment:

largehearted boy said...

Stephanie Kuehnert also contributed to the Book Notes sereis at Largehearted Boy: