Saturday, 12 June 2010

Prizes | Mixtape | Mixtape III, To a Wolf

Music As Reading: Mixtape III, To a Wolf, after Luke Kennard

The Wolf and I visit the Arts Centre for the private view of Franklin Gewitz’s screen prints.

The Wolf signs the guestbook: Dear sir, I enjoyed your exhibition, but would have preferred it if all of the pictures had been of me. I suppose your meaning of life is different to mine. Wolf x x

Why is Luke Kennard’s wolf a wolf? There are clues. In the poem this mixtape takes its name from, the wolf reflects on the ‘rather circumlocutory’ novel the narrator has written about him: ‘Where are all the descriptions of my white-noise fur and bloody breath like the steam from a kettle?’ As if to confront the florid, melodramatic, vigorous connotations of the Wolf In Art head-on: feral, the opposite of a domesticated dog; Adolf, the most notorious name in the world (apart from possibly Lucifer) meaning ‘noble wolf’; Lycanthropy and Bram Stoker. And it talks! The talking wolf dressed up as Grandma in Little Red Riding Hood must be one of the most disturbing single images in all literature. Fairy tales, fables, parables. Wolf in sheep’s clothing. Boy who cried wolf. Three little pigs. I could go on. Musicians have, often.

Before shattering the very same connotations: ‘My girlfriend and I agree that the wolf should pursue a career – and there is just the position for him at Whitehall: WOLF REQUIRED, £20 per hour… ‘So what does the job involve?’ I ask, that night. ‘Nothing,’ says the wolf. ‘As I understand it, they mean to pay me simply for being a wolf.’’ Thus relegating the wolf to the mediocre-surreal, unambiguously middle class, two-dimensionally literary, academia- and ideology-deflating existence that all of the rest of Kennard’s characters enjoy. Modernity (in England, anyway) means a literary wolf is interchangeable with a literary centipede, fire, owl, Kennard’s poetic persona, Kennard himself – all have to deal with the same middle class absurdities, guilt, crises. The likes of the public-school-new-age-camp Patrick Wolf represent, I think, a similar joke. Others saw different potential in the shape of a wolf.

Luke Kennard’s wolf is such a brilliant, enduring (over three volumes already) character because he is a wolf, a creature laden with more mythological, monstrous, symbolic, humorous and pop-cultural baggage than, probably, any other. This mixtape offers an opportunity to get a widescreen sense of this phenomenon via a medium (guitar music) about which Kennard knows his shit – from the perspective of men and women from very different backgrounds writing at very different times, all of whom decided what they needed was a wolf. There are clashes here: what would Kennard’s wolf make of Peter’s wolf, Howlin’ Wolf, Three 6 Mafia’s bark (he’d definitely love Three Six Mafia)? From out of them, though, you may begin to understand: why is Luke Kennard’s wolf a wolf? Because of Duran Dumotherfuckingran.

(Luke Kennard’s wolf-poems can be located in all three of his volumes of poetry, all three of which are published by Salt)

Part one, The Wolf as Clergyman

Peter and the Wolf Op. 67, Introduction – Sergei Prokofiev
Howling Wolf – Muddy Waters
Wolf Like Me – TV On The Radio
Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts – Wolf Parade

Part two, The Wolf as Memoirist

Wolf in the Breast – Cocteau Twins
The Back Door Wolf – Howlin’ Wolf
Queen Isabella (She-wolf of France) – Patrick Wolf

Part three, The Wolf as Educator

Peter and the Wolf Op. 67, The Wolf – Sergei Prokofiev
The Grandmother Wolf – Pretty Girls Make Graves
Wolf Notes – The Fiery Furnaces
Wolf at the Door – Radiohead

Part four, The Wolf as Playwright

Crying Wolf Version – Lee “Scratch” Perry
The Wolf that Lives in Lindsey – Joni Mitchell
The Circuitry of the Wolf – Mew

Part five, The Wolf as Lieutenant

Peter and the Wolf Op. 67, The Procession to the Zoo – Sergei Prokofiev
Wolf Wolf – Three 6 Mafia
Killer Wolf – John Spencer Blues Explosion
Hungry like the Wolf – Duran Duran

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