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Broken Social Scene's Andrew Whiteman Talks Poetry Ahead of O, Miami Event

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On April 29, O, Miami presents Broken Social Spam, an experimental night of poetry and music with Broken Social Scene's Andrew Whiteman, and Andrew "DJ Le Spam" Yeomanson of Spam Allstars, at Purdy Lounge.  It promises to be the greatest Canadian-American fusion since Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee.

We recently caught up with Whiteman via the World Wide Web to discuss his upcoming literary date with the Magic City, how poetry reveals "the invisible world," and whether or not Pitbull is the greatest poet the 305's ever bred. Check out the interview after the jump.

Cutlist: Andrew Yeomanson tells me y'all have been friends for over 20 years, and have collaborated on several different projects, but is the upcoming Broken Social Spam event for O, Miami the first time you team up for a poetry reading?

Andrew Whiteman: Yes. Spam and I have felt the earth's pain and walked among the sleepwalkers, we'll see what come up during our collaboration.

The festival website describes Broken Social Spam as "a night of experimental poetry and music." Can you elaborate some? Will you be reading your own poetry, playing music?

Well, it's really quite impossible for us to know until I get down to the crib on the 27th. Ultimately, I view it simply as a poetry reading, but here's some ingredients we're hoping to add: some of the more bizarre records from Spam's vault, language stuff, American poetry that solidly comes from the lineage of The New American Poetry, primarily the late great Ed Dorn, but including (Ezra) Pound, (Alice) Notley, (Anne) Waldman, and (Charles) Bernstein.

I read an interview you did with Austinist a few months ago where you said, "I just find that poetry is a way of revealing the invisible world. Not everyone wants to be in the invisible world, but I do." At what age did you discover the invisible world, and what made you want to stay?

Invisible times came early.

I only know that poetry is something that everyone participates in, like eating and fucking, even if they don't realize it.

It could be the reading of the--ubiquitously awful--ad copy currently glutting our lives; it could be the actual fragmentation of the thoughts they arent registering consciously; it could be the effect of surfing the net; it could be the simple idea that our language is made up of metaphors, and we are constantly changing, and using it. Or, it could be that some people read it.

My take is that poetry makes me more alive, more conscious, more convinced, and convincing more connected. It can show us more of 'what to do, how to live.' We are animals on a planet, all-agreeing on our invented time-structure. We do terrible things to each other. It's not written in stone.

You're no stranger to Miami, right? If the city were a poet, who would it be and why?

I have deep love for M., been a few times thru the years, ever since Spam was picking guitar for Lavalas (Lavalas was a Haitian political roots group Spam started playing with in 1991).

If Miami was a poet, it'd be John Ashbery, poet of glittering surfaces, and with a reputation of a seedy underbelly.

Is Armando "Pitbull" Perez, Miami's greatest poet?

I hear them and they rap about the coke/
and the crack and the click to the clack/
but to me it's chit chat/
blam, motherfucker, take that, now
 - "Give them what they ask for"

Well, this is a tough one because I find there is definitely a divide between poems and lyrics--they aren't the same thing.

I don't know Pitbull's work, but if it's a slangin' thang, my money has to go to the Clipse. Hopefully, I'll get some education on Pitbull when I'm down there.

According to Wikipedia, your godmother's family lives in Cuba. Where about? Do you visit the island on a regular basis? Has any of your work been directly inspired by Cuba?

She is my godmother en santo, and the family lives in barrio Santo Suarez. Sadly, I haven't been back in over ten years. I do know someone from the hood, Marquito. He played on the Cooder/Galban album right before he passed away. He was a great bata man.

I'd say most of my inspiration from Havana comes from the way people live, and how they endure more then the actual rhythms, and scales, and letras, per se. The world could really use a lesson or two on re-using and re-cycling from the Cuban people.

You're working on a book of poetry, how far along are you?

Not far. Broken Social Scene is still working a lot. Plus, I have a new band (hopefully playing on the 30th) called AroarA with Ariel Engle--she sings in Montreal with a band called Land of Kush. We are singing the poetry of Alice Notley's In the Pines in a bizarrely concocted version of faux folk. But I do keep working away at it, so hopefully it'll be online by the end of the year. It's called Tourism and its about being on the road. I might read a couple of things.

When you're writing music, do you have the lyrics before the music, or does the melody inspire the words?

Never know. Usually I just sit listening to Sublime Frequencies records, or MF DOOM, and wish I was as good as they are.

With Broken Social Scene, the writing process tends to be a collective effort, what's that like?

Well BSS is like having dinner with your extended family, and it's a potluck, except everyone is actually a good cook, although often the dishes are served at the wrong temperature. And Kevin (Drew) makes sure they all cool off a happy luke-warm while he's delivering his 'happy-to-be-here' speech at the beginning of it all.

Broken Social Spam as part of O, Miami. Friday, April 29. Purdy Lounge, 1811 Purdy Ave., Miami Beach. The event begins at 9:30 p.m. and it's free. Call 305-531-4622 or visit purdylounge.com.

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