Photo: BY-ND outwithmycamera
The mural above, which until a couple of years ago graced a wall on Portobello Road in London, is one of my favourite pieces of street art. Beckett stares straight out at us from his wall, a perfect example of street art coming upon us when we least expect it. The joy of turning a street corner to find this or this or this is not for everyone — I completely understand why some people might not be fans of the form — but I think we can all agree there is something incredibly visceral about graffiti. It can’t help but provoke a reaction, even if that reaction is a muttered profanity.
During the review phase of every issue there are always two or three pieces which are identified right away as straightforward ‘accepts’, and for issue eight one of those was a story by André M. Zuker called The Words of the Prophets. It is, in Zuker’s words, “a story about being in your 30s, putting up graffiti in Brooklyn and being chased by the 81st Precinct”. We took it for granted it was going in. Here’s an excerpt:
The smart ones ducked into the alleys, climbed gates and jumped behind dumpsters. Those who turned onto Fulton Street slammed right into the waiting police cars. Uniformed cops chased them up the streets while their partners waited around the corner waiting to do the full-speed tackle. This was standard operating procedure for a foot chase.
I snaked my way through the corners and alleys of the 81st Precinct. The lights of Brooklyn were in front of me and the distant towers of Manhattan loomed over us all. I could only hear the yells and screams coming from Fulton Street.
The 81st Precinct Vandal Squad was out in force tonight and got the drop on us. I had a beautiful piece of wall and fresh cans. It seemed like such a waste that tomorrow a street cleaner would be putting all the cans in a garbage truck. Eventually the tag would crust over with dirt or be whitewashed away. Such was the cycle of our words.
I’ve been vaguely aware of the Pushcart Prize for a few years now, but it occurred to me only relatively recently that we should start making nominations.
The Words of the Prophets seemed like the perfect way to begin.
We’ve just published issue eight on-line — we’ll make a proper announcement in a day or two — so if you would like to read the Pushcart-nominated story right now, head over here. I think you’ll like it.