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Steve Kilbey on poetry and his favorite books

Steve Kilbey talks about his favorite poets and tells readersvoice.com his favorite books...

Steve Kilbey was sick of The Church‘s big hit, Under the Milky Way.
It seemed to have a life of its own, he said, and even though he had about 500 recorded songs people kept asking about Under the Milky Way.
People had come up to him and told him they’d lost their virginity to the song in 1988.

He had a dilemma about whether to perform it because people might think he was being provocative by not performing it, and he could see how people went to concerts expecting to hear all the hits of a band.
But he said the song had become “a stupid thing” and he didn’t like performing it anymore.
However, he said that when singer Jimmy Little covered the song he brought something out of the song Steve Kilbey hadn’t recognised before.
I went along to see Steve Kilbey talk at one of two sessions he appeared at during the Queensland Poetry Festival, last October.
Steve Kilbey made a number of interesting points about poetry and performing which I’ve tried to outline here, and I managed to ask him what his favorite books of all time were.

He also read from his book: Earthed, Nineveh and the Ephemeron, (Impressed Publishing).
If you like the music of The Church, the art-rock band Steve Kilbey has played in for around 25 years, you’ll like these elegant, dream-like, prose poems and pieces.
Just for a bit of background on The Church, the music of The Church is tasteful, guitar driven rock, with inspired musicianship and instrumentation, and exotic and electric lyrics.
Steve Kilbey has also released solo recordings and been involved in collaborations.
The first album by The Church was Of Skins and Hearts (1981). Other albums include The Blurred Crusade, Seance, Heyday, Starfish, After Everything Now This, Forget Yourself, and their latest: Beside Yourself.
During the session I saw him at he spoke about his favorite poets.
He said he liked the French symbolists Arthur Rimbaud, author of A Season in Hell, and Charles Baudelaire, author of The Flowers of Evil.

A bit of background on the Symbolists: Symbolism was a nineteenth century, gothic, darker form of Romanticism.

Romanticism was an artistic and intellectual movement starting in the late 18th century, which encouraged strong emotion, imagination, freedom from classical forms, and social rebellion. Poetry was more about the writer than objective reality or what they observed.
The Symbolists in the 19th century thought art should try to capture more absolute truths, and that these could only be reached by indirect methods.
So they wrote in metaphors and used suggestion, producing dreamlike works, and giving images or objects symbolic meaning.
Bob Dylan is a modern symbolist, with his songs full of symbols like jesters, jokers, Siamese cats, fools, riders, the moon.
Another poet Steve Kilbey liked was Dylan Thomas, who is part of the symbolist tradition.
But Rimbaud was Steve Kilbey’s major poet.
He said Rimbaud’s poetry was explosive, “kind of like what rock lyrics aspire to”, and psychadelic.
Rimbaud’s poetry said you could go anywhere and do anything. It was poetry that “fills your head with intangible things”.

On poetry, Steve Kilbey said poetry was a transcendant experience, and wasn’t about things like whether Labor should win the election (it was Federal Election day in Australia), to cite one of the examples he gave.
He said poetry was “a special thing” and “against the mundanity of all these other things.”
He said he never saw his poetry as something to be performed but as something to be read, for people to “hear words with their own inner voice.”
“It’s a very intimate kind of thing, I think.”
He said poetry, to him, was not about entertainment.
“The poetry I like is anti-entertainment. I don’t like entertainment.”
Entertainment was a passive process, where you didn’t have to think, he said. “What I’m after is active.”
“I’m looking for something,” he said of writing poetry.
“This hit, this high, this clue, this reason.”

He said he hadn’t always been anti-entertainment.
“I think once upon a time entertainment ruled.”
When groups like The Beatles came on the scene, he said, their music made you feel high and connected, made you feel immortal, and sent a thrill up your spine.
Another point Steve Kilbey made about poetry was that he wanted the reader to consider the poem only, and not to think about incidents from Kilbey’s own life, whether drugs or scandals or whatever.
He said the poetry was not about him. His name was on the book, and his musical profile brought attention to the book, but that was it.
He said poetry was something that “falls out of the sky”.
“I’m trying to remove myself from the equation when people read my poetry.”
Regarding performing he said that he never patronised an audience. He said that above all he hated being patronised, and that you could bore him and insult him but never patronise him.
He wasn’t big on audience participation either. He said he always thought he should just leave the audience alone and that they in turn generally stayed quiet and left him to do his thing.
But while he didn’t favor audience participation for himself, he had seen it done by others and liked it.
“I’m just not that entertaining type of guy, you know.”
After the session I asked Steve Kilbey what his favorite books of all time were.
He said The Bible (specifically the New Testament) and the Bhagavad Gita.
The Gita is one of the classics of Hinduism, and is a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Prince Arjuna on the eve of a great battle.
Krishna instructs Arjuna in spiritual wisdom and the means of attaining union with God. The Bible is a timeless book about God, Jesus and the spiritual world, and is a great source of wisdom and peace of mind.

Check out thechurchband.com for more info on Steve Kilbey, and The Church.

-copyright readersvoice.com.