EWI STUDIO: Paul Hawkins aka Bob Modem
Unit 18, The Broadwalk Centre Bristol BS4 2QU


A word on Poem Brut



“How vain is it to think that words can penetrate the mystery of our being. Rightly used they may make evident our ignorance of ourselves, and this is much.”

– P.B. Shelley


Becoming involved with a project (school of, movement, whatever) called Poem Brut has had an exciting and profoundly positive effect on developing new ideas about how, what, and why I make things. Poem Brut takes it’s cue(s) from the COBRA movement, whose main focuses were: abstract art; the use of vibrant, brilliant colour, fierce brushwork and contorted human figures – often inspired by naïve, primitive folk art, non-western tribal art; the creative art of children and outsider art (with an emphasis on neurodivergence); experimentation with materials, methods and forms were also essential, radical elements.

Poem Brut is an exploration of artistic creative writing (poetry and colour, handwriting, composition, abstraction, scribbling, illustration), a project that affirms the possibilities of the page, the pen, the pencil in a computer age. It’s curated by SJ Fowler, and has, to date, generated over a dozen live events; nearly 100 commissions; exhibitions at The Museum of Futures, The Poetry Society and Rich Mix; and a series of brand new books. Poem Brut has offered an alternative understanding of 21st century literature, collaboration and performance since 2017. 

Personally, I’d been feeling a growing dis-ease with the more mainstream, traditional forms of an overtly Parnassian Poetry, to the extent that unlearning these ancient rules became all-important to me. In All Religions Are One, William Blake complained that he couldn’t express himself in verse: “No man can think write or speak from his heart, but he must intend truth. Thus all sects of Philosophy are from the Poetic Genius, adapted to the weaknesses of every individual.” Furthermore, Blake’s Doors of Perception was an opening up, a personal revelation. Poem Brut was beginning to open doors of expression for me.

I’ve been fortunate to be involved with Poem Brut, either as a performer, an artist, an audience member, as a collaborator or as a publisher, since 2017. This new Poem Brut-ish approach gradually developed (and is still developing) through engaging with poets/ artists/performers, such as: Khaled Hakim, Jacqueline Ennis Cole, Julia Rose Lewis, Mischa Foster Poole, Saradha Soobrayen, Patrick Cosgrove, Sarah Dawson, Michael Sutton, Stephen Emmerson, Martin Wakefield, Iris Colomb, James Caley (and many, many more). It began to feel right, exciting, inspiring, supportive. It became a rich site of collaboration and imagination. I stopped following so rigorously what I had learnt and felt a sense of satisfaction. Of coherency. And that’s important to me.

I admit to having to regularly remind myself that poetry, artistic creative writing, Poem Brut etc. should not be taken too seriously and certainly by itself is never going to change the world for the better. Let’s not kid ourselves. And it isn’t the only or even the main way I attempt to communicate how understand the world. Far from it. But it does play an important role, like a pressure-valve does. I’m no stranger to the mental health industry: I have a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, which impacts hugely on how I understand the world, how I engage with it, how I operate within it and with other humans, other structures. So it follows that it impacts on how I make art in the chaos of the 21st century. I tried to put this into words in the introduction to a book I wrote called Place Waste Dissent around 5 years ago, that this re-calibrating, this re-wiring is ongoing, it’s a work-in-progress ... (that) there is, in the main, discordance, with moments of incredible excitement, possibility and beauty; a negotiated, collaborative, experimental serenity (however momentary).

See below a selection of my own Poem Brut inspired works that were published by Knives Forks & Spoons Press in 2020 called EACHWHAT Vol. 1. I’m confident that EACHWHAT Vol. 1 won’t be widely read, but don’t let that stop you. I’m proud of it.

More info: www.eachwhat.com | www.poembrut.com




Paul Hawkins aka Bob Modem: