Swan and Butt are not beatniks
Patrick Swan and Spencer Butt aren’t the kind of poets that you’ve studied in your English classes. “It’s really hard to explain to people who haven’t heard what we do what exactly it is we do,” says Swan, who resides here in the Queen City. “You really just got to see it. The common reaction I get is ‘Oh, that is not what I expected at all,’ which is nice.”
“People always picture snapping fingers and a black beret, and it makes you cringe. There’s definitely a taboo when you tell people you’re a performance poet,” the Toronto native Butt remarks. However, anyone who has ever heard either Patrick Swan’s or Spencer Butt’s performances know that they are the furthest thing from the beatnik stereotype that is often associated with poets. “You just got to tell people to come see it. I’m about as far from a beatnik as you can get.”
“The worst is that we both come out of a scene where there is an adopted poet sound, where people adopt voice and deliver their poems. Once people see [our shows] I don’t find it hard to get them excited about it,” Swan explains. This is most likely due to how Butt describes their shows as “a full body explosion of craziness”, and seeing Swan’s and Butt’s boisterous style of performance poetry that’s filled with cacophonous yelps and punchlines about “…Mel Gibson getting drunk/and talking shit about Jews/while he tells Hollywood cops/that he owns Malibu” will eliminate any prior apprehension audiences might have about going to listen to poetry.
The dynamics and presentation contribute to the meaning of their work as much as the words on the page. “I think it’s neat to get stuff published. I have stuff that is published by other people, and it’s neat to see how they’ll format it to the page, but I’d prefer it for someone to come and see it live,” states Butt. Although, he hopes that readers will get something from it. “They might not love it, but they’ll get something from it.”
Swan affirms that most of his work “is written with the intention of having to say it out loud at some point in time. I’ve always had a weird thing where a lot of my stuff I feel it lacks something when someone just reads it on the page. In the field we’ve chosen, I think something on the page is just kind of expected at this point. If you do poems, you should have your poems in a book for people to read. People buy my books, and I get a lot of ‘Oh, when are you going to put out a CD?’”
Having a record of his performances is important to his audience, Swan says. “I also get a lot of people who will watch me perform and get a book and talk to me later and be like ‘I really like having the book after so I could reread and process the stuff I couldn’t keep up with while you were ranting like mad onstage.’
“It’s a standard that a lot of people hold up too; like, ‘Oh, have you been published yet?’ Well yeah, but that’s not important. It’s not a big deal,” Butt recapitulates. “It’s cool to meet someone like Patrick because we’re from opposite ends of the country, but we really have the same point of view … just when I started getting sick of it in my neighbourhood, dudes like [Patrick] are doing really honest, genuine, original stuff. It’s cool because sometimes [I’m] just like ‘Maybe, I should just stop doing this? I don’t know. I don’t sound like any of these dudes. Maybe I’m doing it wrong?’ Oh, no. We’re doing it right,” Butt concludes.
Butt just finished the Saskatchewan leg of his western tour and is headed out to the west coast. He has three books released, titled Sometimes I Wish Raptors Existed So I Could Get Disemboweled and Finally Spill My Guts to Someone, My Name is Scientist, and Better Weird Than Dead. He can be found at www.myspace.com/thirtysecondblurbs. Patrick Swan has two books out, Texas Hot Talk and Aesthetically Absurd Young Drunk Moments and can be found at wwww.myspace.com/patrickswan.