We are saddened to hear of the death of John Clarke, friend of The Poet's Voice. We'd like to remember his wonderfully wicked reimagining of Dante's 'Purgatorio' created for our 2013 MWF event 'Purgatorio: Australia Today' - a creator battling their way through the baffling world of funding. It is typical of John that while debunking funding nonsense he also captures the hellish deep structure at play. Classic Clarke!
Protocols for Abandoning Hope
‘And who are you?’ said a voice.
‘A pilgrim,’ I replied into the darkness. ‘One who seeks a true way.’
‘Have you come far?’ asked the voice.
‘Yes Your Majesty,’ I replied.
‘There is no need to refer to me as Your Majesty’ said the voice. ‘I am not majestic. I
have no rank. We are all equal and like you, I am a pilgrim. I am here to help you.’
‘Great’ I said, ‘can you tell me where I am?’
I became aware of a rustling sound and a figure emerged into the half-light. ‘You are in the fourth circle’ said the figure.
‘The fourth circle’ I repeated, trying to understand.
‘The fourth circle is a house of many rooms and among its delights’ said the figure ‘is that those who would tell a story must pass through this door behind me.’
‘Doesn’t every pilgrim wish to tell a story?’ I asked.
‘Indeed.’ and the figure smiled with understanding. ‘You will do well here’.
‘Thank you.’ I said. ‘I hope so.’
‘What is your story?’ said the figure, shifting its weight.
‘It is this story.’ I replied.
‘This story we are living?’ asked the figure.
‘Yes.’ I said. ‘This story I am telling now by being here.’
‘Yes,’ said the figure. ‘The story we all must tell.’
‘But do we all tell it the same way?’ I asked.
‘Your question is wise.’ said the figure. ‘You will do well here.’
‘Thank you.’ I said.
‘How do you wish to tell your story?’ asked the figure.
‘I’d like to tell it as film or television.’ I said. ‘It has a strong narrative, rich visual elements and should appeal to a wide audience since it is a metaphor for life itself. In fact the story only begins with the realisation that this is the case.’
‘What is the demographic?’ asked the figure.
‘Demographic?’ I asked
‘What is the audience for the project? Who will watch it?’
‘Everybody.’ I said.
‘Nobody makes a project which appeals to everybody,’ warned the figure.
‘Perhaps I am nobody.’ I responded.
‘Let me be clear,’ said the figure. ‘In order to obtain the funding to make the project, you must already have sold the project to an end user. In order to do that we must nominate a demographic. Who is your end user?’
‘How can you sell a story before it is told?’ I asked.
‘We sell the idea of the story. We describe the story in ways that will appeal to the end user.’
‘What if the end user doesn’t like the story?’
‘We change the story.’
‘If we change the story it stops being the story we wish to tell.’
‘Do you want to tell the story?’
‘Yes. I do.’
‘You are in the fourth circle and I am here to help you. Which famous stars have you got in your story?’
‘It doesn’t need stars,’ I said. ‘If it is told properly it will make stars of the people in it.’
‘The stars must be famous before they are in it.’
‘They will only be stars after they have been in it.’
‘They cannot be in it if they are not stars. End users want famous stars,’ the figure
‘Don’t stars add to the cost?’ I asked.
‘Cost is not a problem.’ I was told. ‘Do you see those people in that grotto over there?
Taking money from the pockets of passers-by and throwing it into the fire?’
‘Yes.’ I said.
‘They are funding projects of exactly the kind you want to make. And as you see,
there’s no shortage of money.’
‘But they’re burning it.’ I complained.
‘They’re investing it.’ corrected the figure.
‘Do they get much of a return on their investment?’ I asked.
‘You are in the fourth circle,’ said the figure. ‘The point is there’s no shortage of
money. The money comes in and is invested in accordance with rules and guidelines.’
‘They’re burning it in a fire.’
‘It keeps them warm.’
‘I don’t need funding to tell a story.’ I said.
‘You cannot go through the door without funding.’
‘A storyteller doesn’t need funding’ I protested. ‘A storyteller needs access to an
‘The audience is on the other side of the door’ said the figure. ‘We sell the story and
obtain the funding to make it.’
‘But it can be told for nothing.’ I said.
‘Your story has costs,’ said the figure. ‘All stories do. They must be paid for.’
‘You?’ I asked. ‘Why are you a cost?’
‘I am helping to produce your story,’ explained the figure. ‘Only through me can you obtain the money.’
‘But if you weren’t part of the project I wouldn’t need the money.’
‘Without the funding you can’t get an end user.’
‘And without an end user I can’t get the funding.’
‘That is the way of things.’
‘The purpose of my story is to generate money to subsidise the end user and pay you,’ I summarised.
‘And to maintain the fourth circle’ agreed the figure. ‘You are in the fourth circle and
I am here to help.’
I moved a short distance away to consider my course of action. On a wall in a small cave nearby was a screen and on it was playing a story. I was still slightly confused and although I realised I’d seen the story before, I couldn’t remember where. It featured a person walking along an unlit path, at night.
‘And who are you?’ said a voice.
‘A pilgrim,’ said the person into the darkness. ‘One who seeks a true way.’
‘Have you come far?’ asked the voice
‘Yes Your Majesty’, the person replied.
‘There is no need to refer to me as Your Majesty.’ said the voice. ‘I am not majestic. I have no rank. We are all equal and I, like you, am a pilgrim. I am here to help you.’
‘Great,’ said the person. ‘Can you tell me where I am?’
Suddenly we both became aware of a rustling sound and a figure emerged into the half-light. ‘You are in the fourth circle.’ said the figure.