'What is Punk?' One author tries to answer the question for kids | St. Louis Public Radio

'What is Punk?' One author tries to answer the question for kids

Sep 19, 2015

Eric Morse first heard the term “punk” as a child while listening to the radio with his parents during the Christmas holidays.  His response was instant.

“I remember saying’ I don’t know what punk is but I don’t like it’” said Morse.

But now, years later, Morse has worked in the music industry for decades and the punk has become one of his favorite genres of music. He considers it more of an ethos than just music or fashion. Morse loves the genre so much he decided to write a book chronicling punk’s history for his children titled "What is Punk?" The book is published by Akashic Books, the small press that produced the viral children’s book “Go the F**k to Sleep.”

Morse hopes his book will appeal to parents as well as children. The author is in town Sunday to promote his book with a reading and punk sing-a-long at Subterranean Books in the Delmar Loop. Here are some quick facts about “What is Punk” and its creator.

  • The book idea came to Morse when he misread the title of children’s book “This is Pink,” and thought it said “This is Punk.”
  • Morse has 4 children.
  • A Clash cover band played a party at Morse’s “private, religious” high school in St. Louis.
  • Morse considers Fugazi a gold standard of the punk movement. “Ian MacKaye in particular came into this ultra-masculine, macho scene with what was really a Feminist point of view and an inclusive point of view.”
    Eric Morse, author of What is Punk?
    Credit Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio
  • Morse lived in Olympia Washington, a key community for the evolution of punk music and the Riot Grrrl movement. He refers to the experience as bizarre high-school. “It empowered people who were interested in creating, not interested in climbing some sort of social ladder or looking cool.”
  • “What is Punk?” is illustrated by artist Annie Yi who has a blog portraying the Ramones at heyho-letsdoh.tumblr.com. He knew instantly she was the right illustrator for the book. ”It was just that moment where the cloud’s parted and the sun came through, and I was like “this is amazing!”
  • Morse wanted the book and images to appeal to many generations. “It was important to me to have for the illustrations to have a feel about them that was kid friendly and fun but also represented this punk energy as best as possible,” said Morse.
  • Morse originally thought he would self-publish “What is Punk?” before Akashic Books agreed to release it. “Being able to sit here and hold my book in my hands is an amazing victory.”
  • The author liked St. Louis bands Pale Divine and The Urge during his high school years in the city.  “But, yeah, I wasn’t walking around St. Louis with a mohawk or anything like that.”