July 7th – August 3rd 2016

Day 27

August 2nd 1997
Death of William S. Burroughs

“Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact.”
– William S. Burroughs

The SydArthur Festival, in search of the Ur-Elders, resounds with a Burroughsian truth that rock’n’roll only in its later years has become able to comprehend: that the statement of the True Artist will be made when it is made, and not when the money of the patron dictates that it will be made. Burroughs was 43 when his first book was finally published. Like the 59-year-old T. C. Lethbridge, whose visionary works tumbled forth at a remarkable bait; like the 78-year-old Grandma Moses, whose art commenced only upon her becoming a septuagenarian; William Burroughs appears to the outside world to have been something of a late starter. Outrageous untruth! No career author, he. Burroughs’ place in the SydArthur Festival occupies some kind of granite sub-flooring in the basement. He was like Lenny Bruce: dirty, obscene, amphetamined-up, low-lifed-down: behaviour that was preparing the world for rock’n’roll. Who can think of another non-rock’n’roll figure who plays such a role of elder statesman to rock’n’rollers? Nobody! Patti Smith sat at his feet. The Velvet Underground paid homage to him in ‘Lonesome Cowboy Bill’. He hung out with everyone from Genesis P-Orridge to Lemmy.

It was the renegade ways of his experimental writing that revealed to the outside world that Burroughs possessed nothing less than Odinist powers: he dared to dictate new methods with new rules. And his methods captured the voracious imaginations of the hippies, of the punks, and all the rest of the unreconciled refuseniks of the world. His methods were charming, useful and very carefully laid out. Judicious use of these methods by other artists would bring forth in them something of the spirit that Burroughs prescribed, delivering from that artist something holy, yet wholly of themselves. A lawmaker! Ironic, considering Burroughs had, in 1952, fled Mexico and a homicide trial, making himself a literal outlaw. But, in the West, the law moves in mysterious ways. For Burroughs, it gave him an authentic appeal. Queer was as much the work of a hermaphrodite as it was of a homosexual. Gender fluid before his time, William Burroughs was Bonnie and Clyde. He was Verlaine and Rimbaud. He was Sid and Nancy. He lived the life of a perpetual adventurer and psychic explorer, hung around with great men, and influenced remarkable people. A true unsavoury genius.


Today let’s practice cut-ups. Make Burroughs proud by tearing first a page from the Bible, second a page from the Koran, third a page of Cosmopolitan and finally a page from any appliance instruction leaflet. Cut strips of text and on your kitchen table sort them out into poetry.



Thu Thursday
Fri Friday
Sat Saturday
Sun Sunday
Mon Monday
Tue Tuesday
Wed Wednesday
Day 1: Thursday Jul :7th
Death of Syd Barrett
Day 2: Friday Jul :8th
Death of Percy Bysshe Shelley
Day 3: Saturday Jul :9th
Day 4: Sunday Jul :10th
Day 5: Monday Jul :11th
Day 6: Tuesday Jul :12th
Henry David Thoreau’s Birthday
Day 7: Wednesday Jul :13th
Day 8: Thursday Jul :14th
The Storming of the Bastille
Day 9: Friday Jul :15th
Roky Erickson’s Birthday
Day 10: Saturday Jul :16th
Day 11: Sunday Jul :17th
Day 12: Monday Jul :18th
Death of Nico
Day 13: Tuesday Jul :19th
Full Moon
Day 14: Wednesday Jul :20th
Death of Dieter Moebius
Day 15: Thursday Jul :21st
Day 16: Friday Jul :22nd
George Clinton’s Birthday
Day 17: Saturday Jul :23rd
Day 18: Sunday Jul :24th
Robert Graves’ Birthday
Day 19: Monday Jul :25th
Day 21: Wednesday Jul :27th
Day 22: Thursday Jul :28th
Day 23: Friday Jul :29th
Suicide of Vincent Van Gogh
Day 24: Saturday Jul :30th
Day 25: Sunday Jul :31st
Day 27: Tuesday Aug :2nd
Death of William S. Burroughs
Day 28: Wednesday Aug :3rd
Death of Arthur Lee