“Nobody makes money from poetry” is a refrain often caught in the winds around underground bars, coffee shops, graveyards, opium dens, toy shops, and, well, anywhere you’re likely to find a poet or two slinking around in the shadows. It’s one thing then to actually write the stuff, but what about setting up a publishing house/ record label? We sat down with The Junkyard Procession (TJP) to find out about their D.I.Y. ethic, the struggle to keep going, and their hopes for the future. This is one wild ride through the night.
The Junkyard Procession has many faces (all represented by a single tireless figure), and one such face is the regular D.I.Y. ‘zine (a magazine that has featured many great and respected names from the art, poetry, and musical realms) The Junkyard Procession.
“The concept for the magazine was initially born 2011,” TJP explains. “I got ill. Long court cases still ongoing, and then I got put in a mental health hospital. The magazine originally was for people who suffer from mental health issues but that plan scrapped as I was not well and somehow people were reluctant to get on board. Anyhow fast forward to 2013 – I lost my job due to mental health issues and my house also. I restarted the magazine this year. I could not give up, even if people may be reluctant to submit some work.”
Despite the hardship of the past few years and the toll they have taken TJP hasn’t been content to stick with the written word as an outlet for creativity.
“I have decided to start releasing spoken word/music, noize acts as limited edition cds. Everything is handmade by myself. A lot of it is more underground than the underground and sadly that means they are difficult to sell. Currently I’m putting together the packaging for a release by a Belgian sound poet called Martin Lau.”
In addition to the magazine and the audio releases, TJP also organises live events, so it’s a busy old time. It’s clear that TJP runs on passion, and they kindly lifted the veil on where the seed for this passion was originally planted.
“I started reading poetry when I was 11 or 12 ,when I ended up back in and out of hospital again. I started with Sassoon and Owen really through English classes. I started writing when I was about 15 and at college. I was re-sitting English whilst doing a GNVQ. I was already working in HMV when one of the tutors, maybe out of kindness I do not know, praised a lot of my work. I started performing when I was 16. I was bored of myself, eager to try to get recognised. The only self-belief I had was in my writing. It was the escapism from the victimisation and bullying. I first started going to gigs when I was 16, and I thought “I can do that.” I started doing open mic sessions by myself and sometimes I’d get guitar players to back me up. My mental health deteriorated, the performances were never the same, they were done sober or in a manic state or completely wasted. After some time I got my first band together it was just meant to be for one performance but it lasted for a while. Then I moved to Leeds and started again.”
Finding performers who key into such primal parts of their character is rare, and when it’s genuine you can see that it takes a toll emotionally. One great example of that is Laurence O’Reilly, from here in York who could well be a spiritual descendent of TJP. As such it’s no surprise to find out that it’s rare to catch a live TJP performance these days.
“I do perform if I get asked to, but it is very rare that I do now. When I do perform, no two performances are the same. Being on stage and performing is my little pill of normality. It proves that I do exist in a world that otherwise chooses to ignore me. Writing allows me to write what I cannot paint. It’s a way of me emptying the mental cupboards.”
Obviously there is a wonderful kind of heritage of the punk ethic of DIY. We wondered how important that was to TJP or if it is purely a necessity that they run this way.
“D.I.Y. is all I’ve ever known,” he says matter-of-factly. “when I first started writing, putting out my own chapbooks, performing to putting out cds, never sold a single one and had to give them away, posters I made, it was all me. D.I.Y. is all I have ever known. People do not understand. Maybe it’s the conviction and belief I have. I find it very lonely, and frustrating, but it means something’s getting done; something is trying to be achieved. With D.I.Y. you’re not relying on other people. Maybe I’ve been let down too many times which in honesty is true. It’s therapeutic as well. I want people to come on board. I want other people to design stuff and designers to do stuff, but I have no money. In reality maybe I am just trying to offer myself a bit of normality to an otherwise mundane life. I speak of normality because I do not have a job. I lost my last job because of being put in a mental health hospital and that stigma has never gone away. Doing stuff D.I.Y. fills my time with positivity and positive results, even though things are not selling. It’s nice to know people do have that belief, but I am not a miracle worker.”
It’s a lonely life in the D.I.Y. publishing tent then it seems but, if Shrek has taught us anything (and you know it really has taught us a lot) it’s that you gotta have friends. TJP has already mentioned working with musicians, and the desire to have others come and lend their talents to the creative miasma of TJP. How important is collaboration to TJP then?
“To me personally as somebody who cannot play an instrument it is very important. Performing poetry can be a hard task, especially if it’s dark and gritty. Live collaborations are exciting as you never know what will happen , or the sound you will create. People feed off each other’s’ vibes, and performances have been intensified by certain mental states I have been in. Through collaborating though you learn how to work with others. You create something which would never have happened. I’ve done weird, punk, dub, noise, but never been commercial due to the fact performing live people have never understood it or are weary to buy something they do not know. Collaborating has given me experiences I would not have had otherwise. Collaborating, art-wise, you never know the outcome, especially if two artists use completely different methods. I suppose you can say the magazine is a collaboration between myself and people in society to a degree, as you never know what type of material will be sent in. Each previous issue has never been like its predecessor. In honesty the ‘zine is not about something nice and glossy, it’s about getting people’s work out there. It may not go far or people may not read it cover to cover but if they read a piece they like that leaves an impression and that’s great.”
The Junkyard Procession itself certainly is a striking publication, so we pushed to find out more about the ‘zine and its creation. “The Junkyard Procession began in 2011. It’s taken three years to get to this stage. It may only be a PDF, which may not look much, but I put in a lot of hard work and effort as there is only me doing everything junkyard related. It was meant to be a move away from the previous Silent Revolution magazine that was quite successful which was in print, it was also limited. The aim of the of The Junkyard Procession was initially centred within and around mental health to showcase and promote people’s work, words and art. Originally it was going to be a physical magazine I still want that to happen, but at the moment I cannot get a team together. With The Junkyard Procession I tried looking at different funding options. I tried tapping into various organisations. I hit too many obstacles I could not overcome. Anyway, there were a few ideas, a few meetings, then people stopped getting in touch. Jump to 2014 I had to get the junkyard back up and running, I had to try and do something positive for myself.”
It certainly appears that TJP has had a tumultuous existence so far, but it’s a genuine hit of positivity that one man’s vision and downright belligerence and refusal to lay down has led to TJP still being a part of a much-needed punk-spirited selection of ‘zines still snarling away on the fringes.
“I was prompted to start the magazine again because I tried started building my confidence up submitting work to competitions and publishers. My material is never suitable. Always too dark. I only write what I know, what I have experienced or what I am experiencing. I am not going to write beautifully crafted lies. Yet although I do run the magazine, the live nights and such forth, my work is never included. It is not about me. The magazine is fuelled I suppose by this non-acceptance of my work by others. With the junkyard it’s inclusive for everybody regardless. It’s not nice, nor glossy, nor over-worked, over-produced. It is what it is, a magazine which does not suit everybody’s taste. Even the CD audio releases are not straightforward spoken word audio releases. Unfortunately nobody is buying them, which is a shame.”
As a performer, the mystery man behind TJP is highly respected and recently was a guest performer at Poems On Tap in Leeds, an event that has had guests such as Helen Mort and Michael Symmons Roberts in recent months. We query how the gig was, and if there were any other particularly memorable performances that stick in the memory.
“Yes that was a spot I completely blagged. The gig was brilliant, a wonderful atmosphere and the poetry performance went over a few folks heads which is okay. For some reason it was daunting and I was nervous. It was quite draining, nowhere near as draining as usual performances though. My performances are quite energetic and manic with their delivery such as the one earlier this year at Leeds Met’s creative writing performance end of year celebrations. I gate-crashed. I was dripping with sweat, half naked, crawling and rolling around the floor. I have performed many times but I never reflect on them. I have played gigs where the police have turned up at performances, played in college canteens on a lunch time scaring various folk whilst eating their dinner, and one gig last year I stripped off a skeleton onesie only to smash my insulin. I only realised the next day, so was trying to rally round in Manchester for insulin which was hard work. There were recent gigs where rooms have been emptied, or playing right up to the audience as there has been no stage, so the audience become part of the act or performances. Usually though people walk away not knowing they just witnessed or how to react but are left wanting more.”
Before we left the wild man of words and noise we asked if he would be kind enough to share any advice he had for anyone else trying to get noticed in the world of spoken word.
“If you write, write and do it for the love. If you perform do so because it’s already in you. If you want to do it for money then you need to find another profession. There are so many shows and events, there are so many releases, so many little or D.I.Y. labels struggling. Go and invest in the releases, all the junkyards audio releases are all hand made by myself because I cannot find anyone crazy enough to come on board. That may be its downfall, but if you want to do something do it for the right reasons. We all need support regardless of what scale, there is no competition, work together.”
And so it was that we parted ways with the intense and tireless mastermind behind The Junkyard Procession. You can check out the musical releases of TJP here: http://diyconspiracy.net/thejunkyardprocession/
For more information about TJP’s monthly night of performance (open mic if you’re up for it) and to have a look at the ‘zine and maybe even submit some work head over to the Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/thejunkyardprocession
See you in the Junkyard people!