Renegade Poets (in Adverts)

There is a current trend in advertising to use “spoken word.” I fell in love with live poetry because it was subversive and anti-establishment. It’s so depressing seeing that on adverts now.

I’m not blaming these young poets – there’s loads of people I know and like who have done adverts. I know the money is hugely tempting, but I think they should think long and hard about and doing it. The things I am most embarrassed by in my career are commissions I wrote about things I didn’t really care about, and now they’re out there on the internet for ever. If I could go back I wouldn’t have accepted those jobs.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a discussion around this on the live poetry scene, so I thought I’d try and spark a debate. And yes, I’m aware it’s a more nuanced thing that the poem suggests. Yes, there are shades of grey, but I wanted to write a good old fashioned rant like Aisle16 did in the old days. I’ve not seen anyone take this stance on it, so I will.

Renegade Poets (in adverts)

“Be renegade” the poet says
“where they lead, don’t follow
take to the streets, rebel against your state of mind
individuality doesn’t roll off a production line
without crowd or clique – you’re unique.”
mmm deep.
And why’s he saying this?
Because he’s selling us a fucking Jeep.
Hey, it’s the 4×4 car of the year!
How renegade!
Change hearts and minds, and then change gear.

Those babies start at 20k
that’s probably what he got paid
to take his anger from the street
and wrap it up all safe and sweet.

I thought a Twitter biog should be irreverent or rude
not “I’m a spoken word artist, my client base includes…”
and that’s a genuine example, hey we gotta get ahead
but if you wanna work in advertising, work in advertising instead.

McGough is doing Waitrose and Clarkey’s doing chips
and Murray’s done a cider ad and yes, they all sound shit.
Because nothing’s being said that wasn’t signed off by the board
and that kind of kills the art for me, Does the poet please, me Lord?

I know it’s not a new thing, Burroughs did an ad for Nike
but he also fucked underage boys and this one time: he shot his wife.
Woo! Great decisions, Bill! It’s moribund and sad
how when we listen to The Planets we think: Ooh, Hovis ad.

And yes, I know it’s hard out there, and yes I know the cuts
but if no one wants to see your show, it’s probably not good enough
and if it’s not, then yeah I get it, take the cash and run
but when you sell me interest rates – you sell out everyone!

Because I remember ’98 – an arts centre in Essex
the first time I saw verse spat out with love and snarl and menace
and everything about that gig said: we will not submit
that art is not a compromise, and if it is, it’s shit.

And that’s what poetry should do, not sell us mortgages.
Don’t be another corporate tool – say something to the kids.
So what if Iggy sells insurance, and Lydon flogs us butter
I preferred their early work, the greedy motherfuckers.

And everything needs sponsors now, it’s just the way of things
we’re probably all hypocrites, so why not just give in
but every time a poet sells their counter-culture slack
it cuts a bit off all of us and we never get it back.

And yes I’ve penned cheesy shit, that these days I can’t fathom
I wrote an awful wedding verse – I really wish I hadn’t.
And sure these poets are young and these are decisions are hard
but if you want to be a renegade – don’t sell me a fucking car.