Marc Pietrzykowski is a New York based poet and punk. His poems and essays have appeared in Burnside Review, Fine Madness, Diagram, Alaska Quarterly Review, and others, and his book of poems ...and the whole time I was quite happy, is available via Zeitgeist Press. You can read his poems The First Lesson, and Get on with it in the upcoming anthology, Punk Rock Saved My Ass, from Medusa's Muse Press. Read more of Marc's writing on his website.
How do you personally define punk?
I’d rather not define it, since avoiding dogma seems part of the spirit of the thing, as does saying a hearty “fuck you” to whatever the murderously numbing pablum mainstream culture is offering people at the time… and thus the D.I.Y. impulse. If the instinct we name “punk” in this era is to reject mainstream culture, then making your own culture follows right along. The trick is to not become just as dogmatic and mindless and rule-bound as mainstream culture, not start excluding people because they don’t have the right ideas, make the wrong kind of art. I look at history and see the punk spirit everywhere, and it seems like it helps people live only when it doesn’t decay into something like Maoism.
What is NOT punk?
Any type of artistic expression whose genesis lies in the desire to satisfy the needs of a broad and generic audience. That sort of art is responsible for shaping audience expectations in a very destructive way. Audience is always important (don’t believe artists who say otherwise), but if that is the end of your art, you are not trying to challenge anyone’s ideas of what art can be. I think most people like, at least privately, to be challenged this way, but are trained to publically reject anything that challenges their ideas.
What punk song/band changed your life, and how?
Ah geez, too many to name; I remember hearing the Damned (“Love Song”) on a college radio station when I was 11 or 12. I was pretty much hooked. Or destroyed, depending on your point of view.
What has punk taught you about yourself and your life?
That being a fucking weirdo is not only ok, it is a virtue.
What surprised you about the punk scene?
I’m not sure what surprised me when I first discovered that there were other people who also liked this kind of music, and had this kind of spirit and attitude toward art and life, except perhaps that there were other people. And there had been throughout history: Harry Partch, Gerard de Nerval, Mary Shelley, Chuang-Tzu…
If a person is interested in learning more about punk/DIY, what would you suggest they do?
There are plenty of places to become more engaged in the culture, even if you live far from any significant mass of people; for example, the Center for Punk Arts. But the first step would be to throw your tv set out the window.