The Politics of Authenticity | Part Three

The Politics of Authenticity | Part Three

Sophie McKeand presents her discussion titled The Politics of Authenticity as part of Wales Arts Review’s first Artists in Residence series. Throughout 2017 these artists, including Sophie McKeand will take a leading creative role in what Wales Arts Review publishes, centring their skills on a challenging project over the course of a month. We were inundated with applications, receiving hundreds of emails about the positions, and it was no easy task whittling down all that talent to this final eleven. Our team of six editors debated long into the night, and in the end, we decided on a collection of people who we most want to work with, and whose work excites us. We think you will be excited by them too.

What is the role of a poet in modern society? Wales’ Young Persons’ Laureate Sophie McKeand excludes her exploration in the final instalment of ‘The Politics of Authenticity’ and her last contribution as Wales Arts Review’s Artist in Residence. 

The Politics of Authenticity | Part Three | sophie mckeand
The Politics of Authenticity | Part Three | Sophie McKeand

I’m handing over the Artist in Residency baton to Rory Duckhouse today so I wanted to write a final piece to tie up the time here. The overnight train from New Delhi to Varanasi seems as good a place as any to begin wrestling words into shape as it’s the wrong side of midnight and the contrary jet lag that had knocked me out for three hours has now dragged this brain to full alert with seven hours to go before we reach our destination.

The quick rhythm of the train: chuck-a:chuck-a:chuck-a:chuck-a is urging writing, along with a dream I’ve just woken from where a mysterious peddler insisted I eat a biscuit which, when chewed and swallowed, caused bright flowers to snake out of every orifice as well as from the naval, hands, feet and top of the head. I’m hoping this is a prophecy of emerging creativity rather than the infamous Delhi Belly I have so far successfully avoided.

The only plan for this month-long writing project was to allow form and content to gather organically so that I could channel them onto the page – a sort of wordy chaos-theory in action; a murmuration of starlings. The theme presented itself in December and began with the two blogs preceding this one, which was then followed by the residency poems (both new and previously written). These helped to progress and flesh out the ideas by providing the space to approach the topic from a variety of angles.

Dissecting the work further would devalue the poetry. I don’t feel it’s possible to explain certain elements of the argument in a more academic form – this abstract way of presenting ideas is the only way to approach it, I think. Much of what I’m trying to get at feels like it exists in the relative obscurity of the subconscious and so I’m limited to sharing and exchanging in this liminal space. I do not know what you’ll get from the work, if anything, I only know what I put in there, and what it means.

Encouraging the ideas to dictate the poetic voice in this way doesn’t create perfect poetry (whatever that is), but it does allow room for experimentation that might produce something that feels authentic to be coaxed out from the hinterland of the mental landscape. I’ve been reading Rabindranath Tagore in preparation for this Wales India cultural exchange and a line of his strikes a chord: If you shut your door to all errors, the truth will be shut out. And when David Bowie said in an interview that he’s not an original thinker but a synthesiser of ideas that resonated with me.

Huge thanks to the editorial team at Wales Arts Review for offering space and the opportunity to put forward this work. Special thanks to Gary Raymond for not having a complete heart attack when I told him on the 1st January that I hadn’t started any poetry as I was waiting for Awen; and for having faith in my approach (or at least for not attempting to foist a different approach onto the project).

Please keep an eye out for Rebel Sun, published by Parthian Books this May where I’m going to include the new poems from this residency.


Part One of this Politics of Authenticity piece by Sophie McKeand is available too. 

Part Two of this Politics of Authenticity piece by  Sophie McKeand is also available.

This contribution, as well as the other parts to the Politics of Authenticity by Sophie McKeand, is part of the Artist in Residence series.


Wales Arts Review would like to offer our heartfelt thanks to Sophie McKeand for all her work during her residency. If you would like to keep up with the latest from Sophie you can visit her website or follower her on Twitter and Facebook.


Title Image – Overnight train New Delhi to Varanasi by Sophie McKeand