‘Without language the only people the rebels can kill are themselves.’
― Kathy Acker

Kathy Acker - look her up. I first encountered Acker’s work through her collaboration with the Leeds punk band, the Mekons. Acker's ability to blend the poetic with the gutter, creating something playful, grubby, and beautiful, is what draws me to explore her work further, and the more I learn, the more I become a fan, and think more people should know who she was.

I recently discovered through the research of Melissa Tanti, a poet and academic, that not only was Acker incredibly well-read in the "Classics" and fluent in Latin, but also taught herself Persian and incorporated it into her play The Birth of a Poet and several other works including Blood and Guts in High School. Acker uses language as a site of resistance and a means to create something new. However, in the 1980s, when a well-respected avant-garde director from New York staged her work - he assumed the other language alongside the English was made Arabic and treated it as exotic and ornamental. This is orientalist, and downright sloppy work, but what is more baffling is that decades later, many writing about Kathy Acker’s work have continued to perpetuate lazy and prejudiced readings of it.

‘TEACH ME A NEW LANGUAGE DIMWIT. A LANGUAGE THAT MEANS SOMETHING TO ME…Verb. Me.’ Protagonist Janey in Blood and Guts in High School

This niche interest, a convergence of my professional and personal passions, was at the forefront of my mind as I made my way to Leeds this weekend. I wasn't sure if anyone would show up, but the one person who did was, of course, the right person. Local Leeds playwright Janet Alexander knows the Mekons well, and this is the point we leap off from. We talked about the Dada movement in the city (which Acker was also involved in), and bonded over our shared love of Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex. Janet shares her memories and experience of Leeds '77 punk scene, and I love to hear about the music legends that passed through the F Club at the polytechnic and her antics and involvement as we cackle with laughter over the vitality and mischief of it all. We discuss zines, and I give Janet one of my very own. We also talked about Janet's punk play that she's writing inspired by her life growing up and the Rock Against Racism movement.

I am very happy to have had the opportunity to bring Acker's name out into the ether in some small way and to continue finding my tribe of punks in theatre.

A parting motto from Janet that I'll take with me:

Punk spirit is the answer- Do no harm -Take no shit.