Olly Todd – Out for Air
A Hello! towards the collection of Olly’s poems by Filip Tenšek
I remember seeing Olly Todd on screen for the first time sometime in the middle of the 2000s while I was still a teenager and thinking to myself that this guy looks like a poet and, surely, as it wasn’t a very educated mind upon which this impression was made, the combination of trapeze corduroy pants, a nice jacket and a scarf – or is it just a phantasm, perhaps, which I’ve conjured since – were enough to put me in a state of weird daydreaming, and this is only loosely related, sort of like when he does a nollie bs 270 on a bank that’s possibly in Paris, on which his former teammate and quasi-boss, Jason Lee, would later 360 flip and kickflip to fakie, Agent Jason Lee in Way Out East!, the hero of All Girl Summer Fun Band’s hit song Jason Lee – and the band, I assure you, in the best way possible, sound exactly as you think they would – in which he, Jason Lee is kickflipping in the dreams of the lyrical I, give it a listen, it’s really catchy and non-pretentious, so I was daydreaming not really in a romantic way, but in terms of some imagined references or by falsely interpreting others’ decisions which were, at least for me, quite effective while being very odd for that time in skateboarding, like that trick for example, nollie bs 270 on a bank or later a fakie ollie on a bank to 50 – 50 on a rail in Static III, and not to sound exclusively creepy by saying that I was daydreaming, I was also almost automatically plotting scenarios – which would contaminate and interfere with his skating, mostly in a good way – almost every time I’d watch his prior or future appearances in skate videos, and by those I mean scenarios in which, because he’d always seem as if he were on his way to do a chore somewhere in the city and as if the filmer would by chance run into him and film his trick which, also, suited the spot quite nicely, this guy Olly Todd who looks like a poet would in those scenarios which turn into parts and vice versa, like the character of the Doctor in László Krasznahorkai’s novel Satantango, he would then create a whole system of optimal movements and he’d put things in their final places so as to be able to keep his life in perfect motion in case he’d one day lose his memory, but I was only drawing literary references now, so even if I wasn’t exactly thinking all that back then, as it is merely an association which I would later fabricate and put in relation to my earlier impressions, I could even then sense both spontaneity induced by some fascinations with certain urban settings, city elements, maybe even ambiental and sensory qualities of spaces and a feeling of someone being on a personal project of sorts, in the similar manner in which, not for the very far fetched and suspect purpose of this long sentence, but because I would later feel it as well in his book of poems, Out for Air, poetry doesn’t have to be convincing in its relation to truth, you know, but only to language by using its material, that’s the case, although I would have liked it more if it was enough to silently exclamate YES within oneself while swallowing it from the intimacy of the space of the page which then folds somewhere in your metaphorical gut, and if it’s really good poetry, whatever that may mean, really good for you I mean, then your real gut as well, where you can celebrate the moment or the situation — and I think that the word situation is quite fitting in reference to the Situationist International, because Todd’s poetical motions, like those conjured up in The Fuel, for instance: Any but the one where speeding car / wing mirrors brush / T‑shirt sleeves or in Entonox: no attrition for our cupidinous fear / or the soles of our shoes, not the merest stroke of friction, they aren’t that unlike to dérives, psychogeographical spatial explorations which open up non-intentional situations — yes, moments which he created on the page, the ones located between the author, the solitary toil and his memories or thoughts of, for example, San Francisco, New York, the early Girl team in Low Tops or how he spent the day padded up / skating vert alone / at a leisure centre named Goshen in Leaving Goshen, perhaps to think about the constellation of the poetic voice in general is to stare into Las Meninas by Velasquez, in which he weaved a whole web of relations and perspectives which make us think about the fragile and unstable position of the one that’s really watching, prompting us to turn our attention towards the process of setting up the scene, a place where the poetic experience can take place, like in Now, in which the voice is writing standing up, / inverting the asteroid split / that clouds the open clouds. and approaches the calm, or rather forces us to really see it together with him, to break the windows with something, or takes us on a stroll which makes the contemporary flâneur of The Cool cry: we must think out, up — / which clouds are above / you now? In what state / will I have seen them / if it all?, describing the meandering thoughts provoked by buildings and household items while also bringing about the potential for the secular spirituality of urban terrains to happen, for instance in The Aircraft in the Space Below the Plane, in which aircrafts, helicopters and light craft moved like slow, black perforated lasers. / This was at least for lasers slow, black and perforated. / For anything else it was faster, whiter and more whole than anything., and in doing so Todd’s poetic voice can be quite serious as he often uses symbolist images, but without making it a fever-dreamish experience which can often happen with poetry which stems from cryptic, obscure modernist tradition, not that its place is exactly there, but somewhere in the general vicinity of its formal qualities and stylistic elements, going further by being more intimate and compelling in making familiar images unfamiliar, especially to the skaters’ milieu, and being incredibly interesting in motion-crafting, Olly Todd, that guy who looks like a poet, there is nothing more to be said.