A Neo-Dadaist diatribe from Brooklyn poet, graphic and performance artist billy cancel
“Some call me Syncretic Saint,” poet and performance artist billy cancel reports in his new collection Buttercup Tantrum Mutton Encore, but elsewhere he admits he is “quite // a bullshitter myself.” Why not both? In fact, the present moment may require that to be the former one must be the latter, because — as he also observes with massive understatement — “the future / is proving / indirect.” In this Dadaist diatribe, cancel witnesses our broken world and narrates it back to us in equally broken language: “with our / fangs out situational / awareness it’s just another / day of pattern seeking not / a case of getting it out of / our system this is / THE SYSTEM.” In the face of such manmade madness, he declares it “time to abandon / that search for clarity,” finding the best survival skill may be to be “cracked / in all the right places.” As an English-born transplant he wonders if he is “destined / to roam the US forever / dragging a mess of extension / cords & 1spot adaptors behind / me,” but this detachment serves him well as he surveys his adopted landscape: similar / tales exist in every SMALL TOWN some / gain traction others don’t.” It may be that his efforts “will turn / out to be another waste of bandwidth,” but all the same the journey here is worth taking — just brace yourself for a wild and breathless ride.
“Within billy cancel’s kinetic snarl lurks dystopian rebellion to counter the daily shiv into gothic viscera — ‘i was the wrong riff faced with the punch / line inadvertently flipped.’ These poems dare agitate your bod-swap for bop-lick, each single-page-powerhouse a realm onto itself — each gaze, a brilliantly restrained cataclysm. BUTTERCUP TANTRUM MUTTON ENCORE is ‘shacked up with a zigzag’ gigged out as a dingus-journal to smash through the positive-negative real space of language as cryptic-sayer, sooth-truther, ontologic wormhole — training us to do what a radical poetics is best at, to listen for secret passcodes gargled out of society’s backwash. In the seer’s role, cancel presents the cinematic sprawl of our burnt alignments with a glorious ear for language — untethering the incarcerated brain, page by page, as its own journey — ‘if you want this NICHE it’s yours.’” — Edwin Torres author of Quanundrum: i will be your many angled thing
“My first encounter with Billy’s poetry was through his chapbooks, which I would buy as soon as I caught site of them. I would seek them out upon every visit to my local bookstore in the East Village. I started reading his poems just as I was beginning my studies in archaeology, and they have been a constant aide and companion for me ever since.
My experience of reading Billy’s poetry is different from my experience of hearing him read them, and I find this discrepancy fascinating. When I read them to myself, I hear a soft, quiet, tentative voice—so different from the declarative form of their performance. Of course I find both appealing because it's the words that matter—they're undeniable.
I can conceive of Billy’s poems archaeologically and musically. They are assemblages of words, taken from the earth, thrown into the sky. They hover there in mid-air, touching each other and making sounds, melodies, tintinabula. Then they settle on the page to be studied and pondered over visually, like the archaeological matrix, all at once.
Sometimes I read Billy’s poems while looking into a mirror, sometimes I read them while swimming under water, sometimes while driving. Once I read his poetry while standing in the middle of a forest fire: there are puzzles, questions, and some rather serious problems to be addressed therein. I have taken Billy’s poems with me into the field.” — Jeff Benjamin
billy cancel is a Brooklyn based poet, performer and collage artist. His debut poetry collection MOCK TROUGH RASPING CROW (BlazeVOX Books) was released in 2018. cancel's poetry has been widely published, most notably in Boston Review, PEN America, and The Rialto (UK.) With Genevieve Fernworthy (Lauds) he makes up the noise / pop band Tidal Channel.