When we think of ‘Punk’ most of us immediately have an image of safety pins, bright coloured ‘mohican’ hair cuts and simple raucous music. Add to that civil disobedience, aggression and anti-social behaviour and that’s Punk defined.
Whilst all those unsavoury labels are deserved and it is, rightly, most associated with Punk Rock music, it was also a complete subculture that featured visual art, literature, film, dance and ideologies.
It’s early influences ranged from the situationist artists and intellectuals of the 50’s and 60’s with their form of marxism to pop art, dadaism ,nihilism and the beat poets.
This article is concerned with only Punk poets. There’s a significant cross over between music and poetry in the punk scene with many poets being musicians also, such as Richard Hell and Patti Smith. This is perhaps why there is such an emphasis on performance poetry in punk, often highly rich in vernacular and slang, about both political and social issues and often delivered as a ‘rant’, fast, furious and powerful.
The Medway Poets and John Cooper Clarke are examples.
Below is a link to a reading by Linton Kwesi Johnson, not strictly punk, but similar political/social awareness but from the Jamaican community. John Cooper Clarke’s Beasley street, Patti Smith’s Oath and Atilla the stockbroker.
Punk poetry is still active, mainly written by performance Poets.