Monday, 20 November 2017

Captain Beefheart Weekend

I still remember the first time I heard Captain Beefheart's music: the words ran like paint and stuck to parts of my brain I didn't know I had. In 2015 I discovered that Beefheart had first shown his visual art at the Bluecoat in Liverpool. I approached Bryan Biggs, the Artistic Director, who was well aware of this history (and a huge Beefheart fan), so along with independent curator Kyle Percy we began to hatch a plan to put on a Captain Beefheart weekend. We had two aims: to show the links between Beefheart and Liverpool and to explore Beefheart as a Total Artist, moving seamlessly between art forms and defying the borders between them.

My job was to focus specifically on Captain Beefheart / Don Van Vliet the poet. I organised a panel discussion with poets Patricia Farrell, Peter Finch and Sarah Crewe, who all selected a Van Vliet poem and shared and discussed this for the audience (you can read some of Van Vliet's poems here: ). The discussion moved through whether Beefheart's poems are different from his song lyrics, whether he used cut and pasted methods (no - because the poems rhyme!) and if he made good use of reading mistakes to write things that were more interesting than they first appeared (does 'Big Eyed Beans from Venus' come from 'Bug Eyed Beings from Venus'? - John Peel thought so!).

Peter Finch on the inner workings of Beefheart's poems...

Then to the poetry commissions. The poets behaved as I'd expect in any commissioned scenario but more so with Beefheart involved: they invented, subverted, did the unexpected.

Me, Doped in Stunned Mirages, introducing the 13 new poems.

Tom Jenks

Robert Sheppard

Vahni Capildeo

Jeff Young

Matthew Smith

Sarah Crewe


Patience Agbabi

Libby Houston

Patricia Farrell

Alan Holmes, performing with Zoe Skoulding

Zoe Skoulding

Peter Finch

Helen Tookey

And it wouldn't have been completed without the zine, put together by Matthew Smith and Jarg, it includes all of the poems and images form Blue Room. Available from the Bluecoat.

Click Clack: zine including all of the poetry commissions
More photos from the weekend, including the other symposium panels and the live music, can be seen on the Captain Beefheart blog here


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