Now that there is renewed hope that action can bring about change, are we going to see a return to explicitly political art?
I went to see the dance company DV8’s latest production, To Be Straight With You, which is described on their website as ‘a poetic but unflinching exploration of tolerance, intolerance, religion and sexuality.’
If someone described a poem that way, I would expect the worst:
too many abstract nouns and grand ambitions, and not enough appeal to the ways in which we are truly surprised and persuaded. And I would take ‘poetic’ to mean soppy, artless and ill thought through.
To Be Straight With You was none of this. Every word spoken on stage came from interviews with people who justified homophobia (often on religious grounds) as well as those who suffered from it. While the words made the truth unavoidably clear, the movement of the dancers was furious, entropic, spasmodic, as if their bodies were, like their subject, being suppressed.
The piece works because it is as serious about its art as it is about its intentions - as a poem should be, as anything should be that is, in a true sense, ‘poetic’.
My only beef: Poetic BUT unflinching? A good poem (even one about flinching) does not flinch.
Lavinia Greenlaw has published three books of poems, most recently Minsk. Her two novels are Mary George of Allnorthover and An Irresponsible Age and she has also published a memoir, The Importance of Music to Girls. Her work for BBC radio includes programs about the Arctic, the Baltic, the solstices...