Poetry, the ancient art form of crafting words to evoke emotions, thoughtful discourse, and inspire, has indeed become a “lost art.” Yet there are modern practitioners of this craft who strive to fill the void left by the realities of modernism.
In an era dominated by social media, visual imagery via YouTube plus streaming videos—and not to forget a plethora of exceedingly short written prose—-some intellectual types and even academics would argue that an intertextual art like poetry has its work cut out for itself if it hopes to survive in Western culture and societies. When people talk about the death of poetry, what they really mean is its death in modern Western industrialized countries.
Yet despite the naysayers, one young 26-year old, Welshman RJ Arkhipov, has taken up the mantle of poet echoing in his own works that great by-gone era of poetry and classical literature from the late 19th century referred to as the Decadent Movement. That movement coupled with Symbolism and Impressionism reigned over, as well as dominated, the great salons of Paris and Europe.
Openly gay, Arkhipov moved to the French capital at the age of eighteen to attend the University of London Institute in Paris, where he studied French literature, cinema, and art history.
Today, RJ who speaks Welsh=, Spanish, French, and his native English, divides his time living between London, Paris, and Buenos Aires. A poet-writer, translator, and conceptual artist, he explores the male body and the homosexual experience through his poetry, photography, and performances.
Three years ago, Arkhipov wrote a series of poems in September 2015 using his own blood as ink to protest the blood donor ban on men who have sex with men.
On Thursday, June 14, World Blood Donor Day, Arkhipov released his first published book, Visceral: The Poetry of Blood: A collection of poems and photographs using his own blood as ink and artistic medium.
“Our current blood donor policy does not reflect a concern for public safety. If it did, our government would have implemented a truly individual risk-based assessment whereby each person is assessed according to their own personal risk. The banning of men who have had a sexual encounter with another man in the past three months remains very much rooted in assumption and prejudice,” Arkhipov said in a statement from London.
“Under the current policy, a gay man who has had a single protected encounter of oral sex with another man in the past three months is unable to donate his blood, despite there being no evidence of HIV transmission from protected oral sex. A heterosexual man or woman, however, with numerous unprotected penetrative sexual encounters faces no such limitation. Not only is the proscription irrational, it further burdens our community with stigma and deprives the NHS (The UK’s National Health Service) of much-needed blood donations.”
His book, released Thursday, consists of twenty-four poems and six essays and is illustrated with photographs by French photographer Maud Maillard in which the author’s own blood is again used as an artistic medium.
Arkhipov notes that Visceral explores an array of themes associated with the stuff of life including family, faith, intimacy, and violence.
“Blood is omnipresent,” he said. “While itself a symbol of life, pumping blood is a universal icon of love. Notions as diverse as heritage and violence course through it and whole histories of shame can be found in a single drop.”
“For the LGBT+ community, particularly, blood epitomizes the sacrifices made to achieve the rights we enjoy today,” Arkhipov. “Yet, it equally represents the violence we continue to face and the stigma we still suffer.”
Visceral: The Poetry of Blood by RJ Arkhipov (Zuleika, $40USD)
To order a hardback copy, visit Foyles: http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/visceral-the-poetry-of-blood,rj-arkhipov-9781999623203
Photo Credits: Maud Maillard