How to be a punk poet
In celebration of World Poetry Day this month, artist Robert Montgomery tells us how to use words as a two-finger salute to authority
In a world that feels more out of control every day, Robert Montgomery’s work is more poignant and necessary than ever. Using the environment that surrounds him, this modern day punk poet and artist rejects our status quo through indirect messages like “ALL PALACES ARE TEMPORARY PALACES”, presented visually in extremely stark and direct ways. “I put it on billboards and I set it on fire. Both are pretty unashamedly in-your-face tactics,” he tells us.
Often without permission from authorities, Montgomery borrows the familiar; our landscapes; our cities; our billboards and uses them as vehicles to deliver his messages through oblique and often ethereal language. In the same way, as temporal power is impermanent, so too Montgomery’s art is often ephemeral; a billboard in east London that can be covered up; a sign set alight in the gardens of the Louvre; an installation mounted on the back of a truck in Turkey. His words themselves are indirect, referential, evocative and require time to digest. Once they have been, however, the poet’s anti-authoritarian stance stays with us and continues to resonate.
On 21 March, to celebrate World Poetry Day, Montgomery will be acting as an ambassador for the #PayWithAPoem project. Turning consumerism on its head and reaching out through the written word, the worldwide project will let people pay for their coffee in exchange for a handwritten poem. “I love the playful freedom of that, I decided to do it because it reminded me of a poem I love by Allen Ginsberg, ‘When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?’” says Montgomery. With all this in mind, we spoke to him on how to be a punk poet in an increasingly authoritarian world.