Today has been a bit nuts – a tweet I shared last night has gone mildly viral! As it seems to be resonating with folks, I figured I’d share it on the blog as well.
It’s election season in Scotland (and, very excitingly, the first election I’m eligible to vote in here due to extended enfranchisement!) which means that on a daily basis political party leaflets are pouring through the letterbox. Yesterday I got a particularly reprehensible one promoting the Scottish Family Party. If you’re unfamiliar, this is a tiny ultra-conservative party which makes the Tories look like socialist tree-huggers. They’re openly pro-conversion therapy, against any form of abortion, against sex education, and in one particularly ridiculous Twitter post claimed to be against “rights.” Just, you know, in general.
Here’s their flyer:
So my first instinct upon reading it was to burn it. But then I thought there might be a more creative ways to work out my frustration with this bigotry. So I got out my scissors and made this:
The text of the collage poem reads: ‘protect and respect transgender children / demand good sex education / protect free abortion / oppose hate / vote the vulgar and corrupting stale old / Scottish Family Party / into the void.’
Aside from just being fun and satisfying to cut up this hateful leaflet, I think there’s real value in using cut-up and collage techniques with political speech. There’s a long tradition of artists taking clips of text and re-working them to subvert, update, or shine a new perspective on them. One of my favourite pieces of found poetry is former US Laureate Tracy K Smith’s powerful piece “Declaration,” which you can read here. In this erasure poem, Smith uses phrases from the Declaration of Independence to highlight the hypocrisy of the document: it celebrates freedom and equality in a new nation being literally built by slaves.
It is deeply empowering to re-work words of hate into words of love, equality, and resistance. I love poetry because it reminds us that language is not fixed; rather, it is fungible, fluid, and ours to shape. We don’t have to just sit and fume when bigotry comes through the letterbox: we can pick up our tools to actively transform it, and therefore resist it.
Some folks have replied to my collage on Twitter with their own versions of cut-up political leaflets (such as this, this, and this), which is brilliant! If you want to make your own, all you need is scissors, a glue stick, and another sheet of paper to stick them to. If you’d like some creative guidance, I also have a free workshop on creating found poetry, specifically erasure poetry, that you can take here:
If you take scissors to your political leaflets, have fun, and happy writing! And if you’re voting this May, please support parties that aren’t stuck in the 1950s. Cheers! —K