A Poem a Day
Antosh Wojcik wasn’t always a fan of poetry. In fact, there was a point in time where he didn’t like it at all. He describes himself writing ‘self-deprecating’ lines on pieces of paper that were eventually stashed beneath his bed. Poetry was never something he connected to or engaged with. In school he was treated to a feast of war poets – whose worth is extremely valuable he admits – but they were inaccessible at the time. ‘We study poets from older generations that almost don’t exist anymore,’ he says and when you’re young that can be a very daunting task. No 14-year-old stuck in a classroom can relate to the claustrophobic terror of being trapped in the trenches.
It was only in his second year of university that Antosh caught on to what is now his passion. He watched a video of acclaimed spoken word poet Anis Mojgani performing ‘For Those Who Can Still Ride In Airplanes’ and was immediately blown away. Watching Mojgani, he knew it was something he would love to do. ‘There’s so much dynamism in poetry when it is spoken aloud. It blew the fog off my eyes.’ Soon he was performing at a local poetry night and a love affair with the art form had begun.
He cites his major influences from across an array of platforms: artists who have done something unique with their craft. ‘William Burroughs and Philip K. Dick – people who tackle big issues in very different ways. Burroughs does things with language that I’ve never heard anyone do before.’ The trend of original artists that Antosh admires is evident with the mention of poets such as Alan Ginsberg and Frank O’Hara. In referencing the American poets he says, ‘they all write very differently while tackling similar subjects. It’s almost like they haven’t been informed by anyone before them.’ It is this that Antosh strives to do – to make it so that his poems sound like nothing his audience has ever heard before and to make it so that listening to him is an active experience you are forced to participate in. Art is best when it is collaborative – an exchange between artist and audience that leaves you changed.
While Antosh’s intent seems quite intense, he admits his process as a writer is a bit ‘all over the place.’ He writes everywhere and anywhere whenever inspiration hits but particularly on trains (mostly because he spends so much time on them!) where he can listen to the conversations around him. Antosh also describes himself as a ‘perfectionist’ meaning he never believes anything is truly done – ‘I’ll take things apart and put it back together in different ways. I do toil over things.’ While this can be quite stressful, it also means he never compromises or settles when it comes to the quality of his output.
This year Antosh was named a winner at Roundhouse’s Poetry Slam. ‘It was the best slam I’ve ever competed in,’ he declares. He discusses the friends he made and the amazing voices he heard – it is obvious that he cherishes the experience. However on the day of the final, Antosh arrived feeling low and wondering if he’d be up to performing at all. ‘It was the day after my Nan’s funeral. I’d never lost anyone before and she’s a massive part of why I write. ‘ He performed ‘My Invisible Friend’, which he confesses to be a ‘personal and quite upsetting poem’ but the pain seemed not to hinder him and though at points he felt on the verge of tears, the audience was left moved and entranced.
I asked Antosh about what advice he’d offer to other young aspiring poets and he responded with a laugh, not knowing where to begin. ‘A poem is never finished,’ he starts, ‘take it as far as you think it will go and then take it out to people; read it to people. See what they say and then leave it for a bit. Forget about it, write different things and then go back to it and see what is sticking or what could be changed. The whole poem could be wrong! Don’t be scared of cutting and editing because it will come back in a better way. Keep writing. I try to write a poem everyday even if its rubbish. It doesn’t matter. You need to exercise the muscle.’
As for Antosh himself and where he hopes to be in the future? He’ll keep writing and he’ll keep performing – the art seems to be an extension of him as a person. And maybe soon he’ll find a way to introduce poetry as he now knows it to the masses of school children disillusioned by the words of Wilfred Owen. I’m sure the Antosh Wojcik of years past would be grateful.