This #thirtydaysofbrexit / thirtydaysofbrexit by Sophie McKeand piece is part of the new Wales Arts Review ‘Artists in Residence’ line-up 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.
Sophie McKeand is a writer of water and earth, of migration and roots. These threads of poetry are woven throughout McKeand’s life in celebration of the kaleidoscopic forces that make up the unnameable essence of being.
#thirtydaysofbrexit / thirtydaysofbrexit began on the day of the referendum result as a part of a desperate effort to try and understand what happened. I voted remain, everyone, I know voted remain (aside from a couple of family members) so it came as a shock. A three-hour train journey to a meeting in Cardiff that day meant I was unable to concentrate on anything but the result.
The Saturday newspapers were bought with a plan to create a series of blackout poems from that day only. I’d had reservations about our mainstream media’s portrayal of Brexit (across the board) for some time and so decided to take solace in defacing them, confident that whatever I created would be less absurd than some of the headlines I’d read in the lead up to the Brexit vote (anyone still thinks we’ll be spending £350million a week on the NHS now we’re leaving the EU? No. I didn’t think so).
This is the first time I’ve regularly bought newspapers for a couple of years and it soon became a depressing task (I was a lifelong reader of The Guardian until recently but have had to switch to the Independent, The Canary and Al Jazeera). Thirty days of reading the same right-wing-establishment-rhetoric helped me to understand just how we ended up voting leave, but that didn’t make life any easier. Even the papers who promoted Remain created such hysterical, apocalyptical noise it made me feel seasick.
I decided to go with thirty days as that seemed like a reasonable length of time to establish a reliable picture of the fallout. That was a mistake. But honestly, I’m not sure I could cope with reading the news in this format every day. Am I better informed? Yes. But not in the manner envisaged. The entrenched right-wing bias of our entire media was shocking to discover. This project removed a comfortable social media echo chamber, forcing me to face the truth of the extent of our media’s establishment bias.
#thirtydaysofbrexit / thirtydaysofbrexit then evolved into a multimedia performance with me riffing off the papers saved from those days along with soundscape artist Lauren Evans.
This poem Paper News was also written for the live show:
Blackout/cutup/punk poems created using the newspapers on the day they were printed. All poems and design by Sophie McKeand using an iPhone 6.
The blackout/punk poems originally appeared on Sophie’s Instagram blog.
Click on the image to open the gallery.
*A version of this first appeared on the Goglife blog.
Slave to Nothing
by Sophie McKeand
we are not slaves.
Edged straight –
no gated timezones
or borders to navigate
no dead-end maps
or refugee camp padlocks
or sinking to be told
we are not slaves
one day a bear of a thought
will swipe you
across the face
onto two healthy legs
you were born with
two healthy legs –
the rot had set in –
you were taught the rot
who did not know that:
The clock is not your friend
The government is not your friend
The newspapers are not your friend
The nine-to-five is not your friend
The fat salaried 90hr week is not your friend
The endless working for a pension you will probably never see – is not your friend
get out of line
stop waiting to die
hunt the stag
become the stag
hunt the stag
become the stag
Be. Slave. To. Nothing.