Above image of Vanessa Place. Image Source.
Born in American in 1968, Vanessa Place is a Lawyer, Novelist and a Conceptual Poet; known as the ‘The Dark lord of Poetry’ due to the melancholy content and approach she takes in producing her Poetry.
Place began the lecture without any introduction and proceeded to read out a poem “I’m going out on top”, a poem about suicide, the main content of it being about a suicide note. The poem was based on a true story of a man who had committed suicide in a police station car park in America. The poem depicted his story and the note. She read her piece really well, in a very haunting, bordering on psychotic tone, which made her reading a rather chilling performance!
To say that the poem was surrounding a very dark subject, also very controversial, I thought the poem and her whole performance was hypnotic, from the actual contents of the poem, knowing it was a true story to the way her voice slowly faded away towards the end of every sentence was totally breath taking.
Another aspect I liked about the poem is how precise and detailed it was, exact times, dates, places, people and events that went towards the man’s suicide, for example – wanting someone trained to cope with his death, the call to the police explaining his suicide and that he would need someone to find him – the fact that Place included all these details made it even more chilling and so realistic to the actual event.
After reading Vanessa Place began explaining her poem, the fact it was inspired by a true story and that the piece was not about her or related to her at all, which was quite interesting as she read it in 1st person, as though it was about herself which actually made the performance more disturbing to think it was a suicide note from her, as an audience.
Place then talked about her practice and other works, she mentioned the fact she engaged with the subject of ‘Violence’ a lot in her work (to the extreme in her work) using the fact “due to being American”, which she then went onto saying how Americans are obsessed with violence. She explained how she was interested in violence in language, how poetry connects with it as a subject, turning the ‘I’m going out on top’ poem into a language object rather than the story of the man.
Other subjects that she covered in her work included historical/sexual violence, jokes within violence and race. Her work also included a sense of humour which was actually quite tasteful compared to the subjects within her works and as a witty person herself actually toned down the depressing content.
Place then talked about the current piece she was working on, a piece that she started in 2009. She created a ‘twitter’ account and began to tweet the entirety of ‘Gone with the wind’ in 140 character instalments (due to the restriction on twitter), the aim of this project is to be sued by the Margaret Mitchell Estate who are the owners of ’Gone with the wind’ making it very apparent from this work and the previous piece that Place makes her work very controversial and that they are expected to create an uproar. The twitter page can be found here – https://twitter.com/vanessaplace
Finally Place mentioned further work she had done with ’Gone with the Wind’ where she had re-written the novel and taken out all the racist language and renamed it, ‘Gone with the wind, by Vanessa Place’, changing the book from 140 pages to 80 pages and again the goal of this was to be taken to court – but this time debate who owned the racist language again very controversial – bound to cause a commotion
Overall, I really enjoyed this lecture, as someone who rarely enjoys conceptual/written art, this lecture really changed my mind – I thought the poems true and disturbing content with Place’s thrilling performance was mesmerising and has changed my opinion on poetry as an Art, I feel she has won me over and I can appreciate this more.