SOUS LES PAVES Sous Les Paves 3
sous les pavés, la plage
»beneath the paving stones, the beach«
SOUS LES PAVÉS
is a bi-monthly newsletter of poetry & ideation distributed by mailing list only and funded by the generous donations of its readers. To join the mailing list or to donate, visit the
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» SOUS LES PAVÉS «
March 2011 Number 3Jay James May Lara Buckerton
IN THIS ISSUE
Frances Kruk Susan Briante Francesca Lisette Goat Far DT
Richard Owens Sean Bonney Justin Katko Elliott Colla
Debrah Morkun Tomas Weber Linh Dinh Danny Hayward
Keston Sutherland Pocahontis Mildew Sommer Browning Collective Anon j/j hastain David Hadbawnik SOUS LES PAVÉS
… the past year has witnessed a resurgence of direct-action politics in the streets of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. These actions have taken new and surprising forms and have developed in ways that indicate immense complexities that are invariably distorted by the chatter of the mainstream media. In an effort to both register and understand something of these events beyond the usual clichés, the current issue is largely given over to individuals with first-hand experience of the protests in the UK and is entirely dedicated to the spirit of dissent and revolt. I hope that this issue takes some small step toward opening a productive dialogue and forging a lasting bond of solidarity between the US and UK poetry communities. May this be but the beginning … As always, this publication depends on the generous donations of its readers. A great many thanks to the following donors, past and present:
Jared Schickling, Charles Godwin, Projective Industries, Joel Calahan, Keith Tuma, Edmond Caldwell, The Chicago Review, Brenda Iijima,
Ross Sloan, Tim Earley, Alistair Noon, Austin Smith, William Sylvester + 9 anonymous donors. Our goal is to continue publishing and distributing SOUS LES PAVÉS on a bi-monthly basis … en perpetuity … but to do so we need your help. Please consider joining the ranks of those listed above by lending financial / material support to this effort …
To donate, visit the SOUS LES PAVÉS tab at www.interbirthbooks.com or send cash, checks, M.O., reams of paper, books or rolls of stamps, ink, staples, etc. to: Micah Robbins | 3515 Fairview Ave.
Dallas, TX 75223 Please support this effort by donating today. Note: send us your letters, especially when they engage with specific items from past issues, and we’ll print them on this page. This space is not, however, intended to be an exclusive domain of praise. If you want to challenge an assertion made within these pages or correct an error, please do so. If you want to sound off on the state of contemporary poetics, publishing, academics, politics, etc., write me or one of the contributors and we’ll try our best to include your message in this limited space.
What can I say? The second issue of Sous les Pavés is very exciting. Read it end to end this morning over a coffee—tho it might have been the first paragraph of Dale’s essay that woke me up! Great essay, and Brooks’ collage seemed to just magically fall into place at the end. Torregian’s poem for Rich is beautiful, and Rich’s essay is most insightful. David’s poem a blast—how does he ‘write’ those? And perhaps best of all is the open letters to the editor that you publish.
—KYLE SCHLESINGER My surprise on receiving the first number of Sous les Pavés was just redoubled by the appearance of the second: something about receiving these missives in the mail feels terribly intimate and tangible and real and reminds me of our overlapping communities, among those we haven’t met yet.
—ZACK FINCH In his piece in Sous les Pavés #2, “Skinner & Collis: Hasty
Notes on Their Use of Neglect,” Richard Owens explains, “In the northwest of North America blackberry brambles proliferate like a sort of weed.” He quotes Jonathan Skinner: “Blackberry brambles swarm over the edges of west coast cities—they are the marginalia of the urban and suburban city / text.” Of course, blackberries are not confined to the northwest, nor are they confined to what Skinner describes. I don’t mean to suggest any sort of error on the part of Owens or Skinner, astute observers that they manifestly are. The writers are focusing their attentions on one precinct of the blackberry, which otherwise overtakes the fringes of deciduous woods. Like poison ivy, blackberries like to crop up wherever the manufactured clearing exists, and they appear as well at the natural edges of shady forests, where the sun hits. They also seem, somehow, indomesticatable—the blackberry of the supermarket, though bigger and often seedless, is a bland variant of the seedy, gritty, tiny, potent blackberry of the Maine woods. (I’m not sure why; the wild, tastier blackberry would seem easy enough to grow, preserve, and ship.) I mention this as it seems to complicate some of Owens’s fascinating points regarding the lesson of the urban and suburban blackberry: “the conditions for their proliferation are willfully manufactured,” yet in possessing “no formal market value” they represent the detritus of hope, “the negation of enclosure” (Skinner), a “third landscape,” the “productive and destructive” fallout from our “reckless overinvestment.” Deploying a late-stage understanding of the toxicity of market-based societies (those which simply discard from their path whatever proves useless within systems of capital accumulation and circulation), Owens argues, “the logic of primitivist efforts that typically refuse the utopian possibilities contained within the thoroughly domesticated is itself part of the problem.” In this, and in the larger purview of the essay, I hear, “the logic of sophisticated efforts that embrace the utopian possibilities contained within the thoroughly domesticated is part of the solution” to capitalist overinvestment and its attendant, necessary neglect. Thus, welcoming into our gaze and affections the noxious cousins of the blackberry weed— “undocumented workers, the unemployed, the destitute, the homeless, the hopelessly criminal”—becomes an antidote to our violent, atrophic drive to eliminate the “grass growing up through the cracks” (Skinner). I would agree with Owens that this is true. However, I would argue, in contrast to certain points within his argument, that there is still the possibility of recognizing within and around the nurtured and neglected a “pure wilderness … a pristine ‘natural’ space untouched by human hands.” I would also add that an accurate conception of “wilderness” automatically “refuses to presuppose an edenic moment,” a time at which the paradoxical and natural coexistence of beauty with ugliness, health with disease, perfection with imperfection, life with destruction, etc., cannot be recognized. I would suggest that there exists, and always shall exist, a pure, unsullied space beyond human needs and concerns, an interior and exterior space that is actually “untouched by human hands,” an ever-present challenge and assault to humanist desire and affirmation. This would seem a healthy vitamin to swallow, insofar as Aldo Leopold’s case for the sustenance to be had by a “land ethic” still holds water: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” I mention this in relation to Owens’s brilliant and useful essay because, despite the environmental catastrophe our scientific communities more or less agree is at hand, the greatest ape has yet to fully embrace what reason lies in valuing autonomous nature as such—what reason lies in simply guiding, to the utmost extent possible, hands from the bounteous pot. In other words, I don’t think it is over the top to ask if the third landscape—that which presently follows, and will follow like poison ivy, from transformations of the first—will keep proving home turf on which to reconstitute human society.
Disclaimer: “the blackberries bit is wholly Stephen Collis’ & i’d hate to take credit for his work; my own brief essay was nothing more, i think, than an attempt to situate Stephen’s work & Jonathan’s in conversation—which is to say, you may want to refer to Stephen’s essay, which is really an incredible thing, a tour de force, something to behold. here’s the link to it: http://www.nonsitecollective.org/node/929” (Richard Owens, response to a
» POKED WITH A STICK
Rolls-Royce was kicked, splashed with paint and a window was cracked to chants of ‘off with their heads’. There were reports Camilla was poked with a stick, through one of the car windows as the royal couple made their way to the London Palladium. Mrs May told Sky News: ‘I'm not sure about the term “poked with a stick”. I understand there was some contact made.’” Less kettles, more tea—
THE NEW POLITICS
The Government and its police force now understand that we are at once intelligent and fearless. We do not rely on top-down leadership: the union is redundant and unrepresentative, the faded umbra of a dead ballot. We reject traditional structures of organisation and action. We reject nostalgia: this is not May 1968 or October 1917. Youvefuckedus. As I write, the web browser on my laptop is up. I search ‘student protest London 10/11/10’ on
Paul Stephenson vomit: “The officers who were protecting their royal highnesses showed very real restraint. Some of those officers were armed.” Peter Hallward: “In reality, the great majority of the violence has been suffered rather than inflicted by the protesters. In reality, given the calamity that confronts us, protesters have acted with remarkable discipline and restraint. In reality, although police justify the use of ‘containment’ as a means of preventing violence, most of what violence there was during Thursday’s rally began well after the vast kettling operation was set up”. The Hallwardian Real: in short, the stickwielders and paintflickers were lucky not to be shot to death in the road by the royal entourage. Lucky like Alfie Meadows, refused treatment at a local hospital after being bludgeoned by an armed cop. Lucky like Ian Tomlinson, killed for not moving fast enough at the G20 protest he was not even part of. Lucky like Jean Charles de Menezes, the plumber executed by cops on the London Tube for living in the same block of flats as a suspected terrorist. In the kettle there is commitment, community, humour, purpose and connection. We cannot sleep. We are defined by our presence within, distinct from those without. Our laws are different: we are truly one and the same. The cops say that they will let those who are not breaking outside laws go free, and we ask how they can tell. We can’t, they say. We are all thugs, vandals, criminals. To protest now means to break the law. The blend of gender, age, race and class is created by this environment in a way utterly distinct from any other. Those with no public voice express themselves through other means. Their discourse is the broken window. No longer will the tabloids feed us images of terrified teenage girls and expect us to swallow them. A riot horse throws its rider from its back and jumps on him. To avoid containment is to “deviate”. Barthes punctum “is that accident which pricks me... [t]he studium is that very wide field of unconcerned desire, of various interest, of inconsequential taste.” The mainstream print media in Britain have succeeded in cropping our perceptive field for us: all that remains is the punctum, yet social media scatters our shattered voice and gives us hope. Millbank was the white-hot centre of our desire, our interest and our taste, so visceral that it could not be edged, fudged, or fogged- out, burned-off. The sheer power of this creation, this coming-into- being of the new politics renders the Porter-led “marches” at once “unconcerned”, “various”, and “inconsequential”. Let them mourn the death of the status quo with their glowstick vigil. If it wasn’t for the “deviation” to Millbank, the protest would have died in the street. Whose streets? Our fucking streets. “We must be careful not to alienate the public”. No, let them sleep. Nick Clegg is in a
—JAY JAMES MAY
aura été pendu avec les tripes du dernier capitaliste
“l’humanité ne sera heureuse que le jour où le dernier bureaucrate
chants . A pink stormtrooper ambles by. Perhaps G.D. was right:
. Jeremy Varon on US New Left Violence: violence “may never have functioned as the voice of ‘the people,’ and neither were they even the preferred tactics of the antiwar movement. But they did seem to inspire fear among the political and military establishment of a popular uprising that would cripple the government and force intolerable degrees of national division”. We’re running out of
relationship with David Cameron. Gordon Brown likes this
errata!—fewer kettles, more tea . Metropolitan Police Commissioner
Google , then search “Poll Tax”, or “Toxteth”—I check my email. Books . I visit, say, Amazon, and as I do so, I leave the electronic
—for the Westminster Bridge Kettle I am no politician, and still less can I be said to be a party man: but I have a hatred of tyranny, and a contempt for its tools; and this feeling I have expressed as often and as strongly as I could. I cannot sit quietly down under the claims of barefaced power, and I have tried to expose the little arts of sophistry by which they are defended. I have no mind to have my person made a property of, nor my understanding made a dupe of.
—William Hazlitt, ‘Preface’ to Political Writings (1819)
away from armoured riot police. I kicked the fence over in Parliament Square. I smashed into the Treasury. I cheered as teenagers smashed windows and burned benches. Eat the Rich. The damage is tallied in material value and straw-man public outrage. The only real outrage felt was by the party on the receiving end of kicked-in windows and occupation, and the media stooges that channel their meaning. The narcoleptic public, as always, slept peacefully. The issues are burned off using oxygen siphoned out from the discursive space. The cracked Millbank windows fill the void. A boy in a Soviet Ushanka waves a hammer and sickle flag atop the statue of Lord Palmerston. Shame on you for turning blue. Even The Independent, our so-called left-wing newspaper pines for the comfort of home, encapsulated in the black and white shot of a protester high-kicking the glass front. But we must build a new house. Same goes for the 24/11/10 protest: someone jabs a stick at Camilla Parker-Bowles through the open window of her chauffeur- driven car as it attempts to pass through a protest on Regent Street.
Impossible . Our desire has gone beyond its allocated configuration. Whose streets? Our streets . On 24/11/10 I fought with and ran
then they can be engineered. My desire is thus rendered a fantasy of transference. Perhaps what makes the London protest of 10/11/10 so remarkable is that in this commodity economy in which our behaviour is predicted before it happens, authorities have been forced to concede that they had not expected, that is, they could not predict what would happen. Demand the
predicted based on economic/mathematical models of behaviour,
trace of my existence and desire for objects—my coded reptilian dead skin. I leave it there as a testament to the voluntary labour of my “browse”: I dig the hole and fill it with the information that is central to the accumulation of web-based capital. From this well of information, my future manoeuvres can be speculated on, my desires bound up in code and sold back to me. Thus, control—at least in this respect—is predicated on desire. If my desires can be
The BBC and the mainstream print media fail to see the obvious hilarity in this moment, with Home Secretary Theresa May doing her professional best to exacerbate the situation. BBC vomit: “Home Secretary Theresa May has confirmed there was ‘contact’ between the Duchess of Cornwall and one of the protesters who attacked her car. But she did not confirm reports the duchess was poked with a stick during student protests on Thursday ... Several protesters launched an attack on a car carrying Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall as it passed along Regent Street. Their
milk is a blood product & we the blood of procedure quietly leaking to standards in responsible walls. What necessary things are harmless if we are thrown to the cow who will find its teeth first
Then the whole tape would play in reverse. Student swarms would polish that police van, shake away its dents and fill its windows with glass. Jody McIntyre would get up, and a police escort would walk him backwards to his wheelchair. The poop would scoot back into the poor Prince. Ashes around Trafalgar Square would blow together, kindle, and turn into a lovely exhibition of peace poems. If they actually looked.
(c) The majority of MPs in the Commons belong to parties who opposed tuition fees before the election.
(a) An independent commission was appointed. It was clear from Lord Browne Sugar’s report that he did not actually look at academia. He and his team worked by consulting a select group of stakeholders, and interpreting them according to an even narrower range of perspectives. (b) The parliamentary vote was conducted under a three line whip, as pimped as any hip hop artist ever did aver. There was the maximum possible constraint of personal judgement and individual consciences by party mechanisms.
Around the student struggle there is an aura of comprehensive relevance. Like Kate Middleton—not relevant to anything, just relevant. It certainly doesn’t emanate from the issue, which is enormously complex and not limited to access or to progressive versus regressive funding arrangements (for example, it’s also about independent and fruitful civil society). I think it comes from the unusually and acutely undemocratic way in which the policy took shape:
In a tight spot it was the best Nick Reneg could do. He bundled it with that other vaguely marketable bit of misinformation, that the policy would be progressive by raising the repayments threshold from £15,000 to £21,000. Now, that higher threshold is still well below median income in the UK. Allowing for pay rises and inflation to 2016, it will be about the equivalent of £16,000 right now. These facts didn’t really make it into the mainstream coverage, and I blame Posie Rider coming unannounced to stay at my house for that (but well worth it, Posie!).
Maybe—but I rather doubt that he and his team really thought everyone was rioting and everything out of mistaken economic self-interest. Others would overhear his plea however and, thinking it was meant for someone else, wouldn’t look into it too deeply. This kind of spectacle tête-à-tête, designed for eavesdroppers and onlookers, must be second nature to contemporary politicians.
What gives? Is it possible that he couldn’t make sense of us, because we mostly weren’t speaking from a perspective of narrowly economic possessive individualism, or whatever?
The DPM (Double Penetration Minister—fucked no matter which way he goes! Tee hee) was speaking in a context of pervasive, inevitably plural, and often articulate and detailed critiques, from students, academics, campaigners, media types and inquisitive ladies like me.
For Click Negg, it was just a big misunderstanding! He asked students—eventually he may actually have begged them—to “actually look” at the Bill before Parliament. If they actually looked at it—and not at Twitter or Drake or whatever—they would see that it “did not affect them.”
What of the tower and its broken glass? It sparkles. But not merely from the crushing and fire that tens of thousands of students gave it in London on 10 November 2010. That which makes it glitter is the blood on it. It is not only the blood of slashes to all levels of education funding (trebled tuition fees being only the surface issue), but also that of hospitals, libraries, public transport, social housing, financial assistance for the jobless, disability benefits, child benefits, adult home care, local council services. Even the uniformed filth that fuck protestors’ skulls with truncheons have their share of cuts coming, and the douchebag heart of this destruction lies in the Millbank Tower.
RIOTING A BIT
The short term task, for those who desire them, is not how to persuade me and millions like me not to be nervous when we contemplate such changes. It is to work out how to act together with us nevertheless. It is discovering coordination without consensus. Or maybe you could say, to win class war without consciousness. I don’t know. Woo-hoo!
Those to the left of social democracy may rightly perceive an awful lot of hegemonic ideology veiled within that word “realistically.” But wait! I don’t think that social democracy represents the end of a spectrum of realistic political organisations. I think that it represents the realistic core consensus of a movement in 2011 which is capable of far more radical changes—the kind of changes which make people nervous.
In 2011, students, workers and others will unite and fight. Posie and I are definitely in too. We will need some kind of core consensus. Realistically, social democracy is the only philosophy which can provide that consensus. I hope and believe it will be— has already begun to be—a new social democracy, a totally souped up, cool futuristic social democracy, incorporating historical lessons, vibrating throughout with original, exhilarating, vital thoughts.
I hope this will not be seen as an exception, but as a symptom of a social and political system which is unobtrusively undemocratic in the usual course of things. The anti-cuts movement as a whole will not always enjoy such palpable affronts.
(c)’ Nick Cledge even argued that popular sovereignty could be legitimately subordinate to the internal parliamentary arrangements. Why isn’t there this amazing YouTube clip of Paxman or someone destroying the guy’s career over this point? The coalition deal is no more a source of legitimacy than a coffee date with David. Indeed it is a sort of gruellingly drawn- out coffee date with David.
THERE IS NO OTHER CHEEK TO BE TURNED
when there was no longer what to say the events went random as a city dogs belted lungs powdered procedures move persons in common narrative of ribs
- – but I’m –
Description Shut. Indifferent as Sun. moving fast & like smoke it’s not a procession of isolated events it’s not fancies of numbers. It’s – Silence, Little Springing Fool - the white hush of pathological ellipses slammed into a fuzz
The static fuzz so loud there is no way to ensure the blankness of that blank continues. Not all of those students knew they were conjuring the spectre that never quite stopped haunting Europe, but fast like smoke it was acutely felt, it leapt from its exile in official hush. Throughout November and December the country blazed with unprecedented student action. Just off-camera, the usual government smothering of everything else, but visible noise rising this time, coming up alongside mass student organistion. Camera has no choice but to pan.
The result was more strikes. Town hall riots! Trade union flags trickling into student demonstrations. Students learning the picket line. A rising consciousness of the need for unity against David Cameron’s Pig Society, its smug underestimation of what it is attacking. What of the tower and its broken glass? It smashed itself.
the typeface sent me yes – no – skull can possibly escape the willing tools of the project for you are revolt & fog & goat sound ear to wood & ground & I am mythic ordinary people with hearts of plastic, wire & nail: Of Artificial Fires, Of Invisible Writing, we have known it colder.
By powder, by surprise the button waits the wire spits why, this is hell, nor am I of it
Nerves choke the atmosphere now. But the passing of the tuition hikes bill has not stopped the momentum. Rather, it has changed it in quality: the electricity running sharper blue between all of those who will/do suffer from the government’s cuts to human dignity. There is a drilling of tunnels, forward, running thicker cords, local groups and unions refreshed and inspired by broken glass, making their own ellipses as the possibility of general strike looms. At the core of ongoing student assemblies, they fuse teeth, cease tentative gestures and graft fully into the larger body of working and workless facing the next round of cuts. Fireworks being repositioned. May be rhetoric unstable, hope and doubt a single barbed tangle, naïveté, probably. But so is the government. Wires beneath their feet, hate under their houses. NO ONE WAY WORKS, it will take all of us shoving at the thing from all sides to bring it down (di Prima).
When I am the blood I will be behind your teeth & the Black Spot, once delivered is the wound that makes new time
(Rumours of international solidarity actions for strike in March. Invitation.)
—FRANCES KRUK JULY 29—THE DOW CLOSES DOWN 9870 more come, begin their lives here just as I prepare to leave, pull thumb tacks out of the wall tell the birds at the feeder the horses at pasture hold the phone away from the baby the air-conditioner cycles on and again in their nest sparrows open their mouths to porch light O sparrows you look so old and hungry, where has your mother flown today —and how do you feel wing to wing and hungry? —SUSAN BRIANTE
Symptoms blaze up in riled kettle-swell, mouse laser ground objective over the squeal of FACTS, prostrate gleams your black blow swindle decisive ‘Page after page of filthy poetry’ Stick to the FACTS. Repeat tie underbrush loosening sigh fist, the FACTS. National radio skyfill globule rape stupid violence the FACTS. Grimly siphoned history repudiates her darling blood-breasted poppy arrow justice stone wax figurine / drooping fungal. Transistor hup blue chest glow. Attention it prostitutes a molasses bleeding drink cunt entropy as happy anger miss the shields. This is what always happens. Language shifts to a welter of redundancy. More interest in a political career. Sell individual mass cum. Sell this fucking grey angel of smoke as it escapes my hand.
***A train could not possibly have any less agency, placid plug-out adults don’t / are trapped LOST clamped feeling your legs become a crushed tongue gathering steel pace shafted ken, sight ice in a suit OFFENSIVE licking never mind strength pupa numbed in-version. His spit-strangled ear X’d with state loathing the voice of LOSS prisms chase stuffed packet data the spectacle warps behind safety doors, capitalism in its right place might pickle your beliefs in shadow excrement or ace the cut-out burden of life you stuck a spine to beat with.
Materialism means attention to bodily harm, rigidity pays the price of dog-head bruntwhich slips thru the human shed clear as water, what right have you a phantasmic intellect jelly to reproach meltdown? Witness catalog a joke cast out of
oxygen, bodies scraped emphatic rodeo germinal commandants twitching in the anti-paralytic dock of iron gesture: pixellated testimonies crumble by the hour.
GOAT FAR DT EXCERPTS
or flux, pointing to a misty dawn in which society is based on ecstatic equilibrium of expulsions recycled by one’s fellow man as emetics—though who will build the dialysis fairgrounds? Of course, that’s too big a question for me to answer here. But when passion leads to bloodshed? Where’s the fun in that? And without fun, can you have critique? Am I saying that fun and passion are inimical, or that critique is inimical to itself? Of course not. In the end, it is the shifting possibilities of text that allows each of us to make and remake her or her own meaning. And since the poststructuralism evacuated the essential self, we are completely free to reshape our personal meaning whenever it comes into conflict with another which we truly judge using the first shape to be worth recognising. Is this nihilism, relativism? No. But in a funny sort of way, maybe it is the “war” over poetry itself that is where the true poetry lies. And this brings me back to my initial theme. As the queen and her counsels survey this divided landscape, what must they be thinking? To give to any one party would be to doom all to a famous bellum omnium contra omnes. The laureateship cannot be abolished. Unless the huddled “elite”—the Third Way of poetry I spoke of—can find among themselves a strong leader, someone capable of uniting those who wish to rise above faction, of overviewing the entire situation and seeing off assaults from the enemies of fraternity on all sides, there is but one option left. The people themselves must be made poet laureate.
NOTES ON BRITISH POETRY NO. 34
. If someone like Stevenson really cares about the irreversible corruption of the conditions which sustain life, he should consider deforesting less rainforest for the purpose of placardsmithing; he should move around a little less, breathe a little less, he should to less and fro less, because that wears down his soles, he should toss less and turn less, because that thins his blanket, he should shut his eyes because those suck up light, he should draw in his arms and tuck his knees up to his chest, so he takes up less space, he should be a pod, inert, starving, a non-meat, a block, a puck, a global flank, dead and self-kettled and silent as fuck. Either that or think about actually doing something worthwhile with his gifts like giving me the sucking chest wound dialectic blowjob-titwank I deserve for my poems.
—GOAT FAR DT
On the below chart, young students must tick which apply. You think I am satirizing. What am I, Kate Nash in “Flourescent Adolescent”? If you want mere topsy-turvy like horses whipping peasants, you better walk on over to some medieval marginalia—with the round poos, chuck. By the way, Florence & The Machine—Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) video must certainly be the best thing on Youtube today. It is amazing. I have been watching it all day. It is just amazing. However, I in no way advocate
(In which Goat Far DT offers advice to up-and-coming poets.) Up and coming poets, look how (Loony?) Leftism has failed partly due to its failure to take on board media training. Don’t let poetry go to the same grave! It’s not enough to strongly hint that your faction has won because it is more materialist or more prosodic. Even if it is true, most normal people do not care. It is no coincidence I use Excel to keep track of where I stand.
There’s nothing more laughable (I mean it: “ha ha ha ha” there I go) than a pamphlet exhorting me to recycle! Why don’t you just tell me, mate? They have everything backwards; I will swear I saw an anarchist at the so-called vigil on Thursday (what kind of “vigil” forces police to kettle it just to keep the peace, I ask you?) suckling a severed boob on a baby’s head which was immured in her chest. New Social Movements come Janus-faced as standard, so I’m not surprised their members have extra faces sticking out of them. At Cambridge, I knew a global warming activist, “Jonathan Stevenson,” at Cambridge, and I remember often seeing a light in his window late into the night. Even the energy he spends waving his arms around while he bores you could have boiled an egg for six months, which he would probably then eat because he is
What really winds me up, more even than how the praxis dudes act as if made rational by our system (taking state funding etc.) in order to dismantle it (rather than doing the right thing & sacrificing themselves absolutely to that system’s tendential slavery and homicide), is their litter. On Wednesday I even saw swathed caitiffs dragging metal partitions into the path of oncoming rows of brave truncheoneers! By their own logic, they should be stooping to clear their yoghurt pots and flapjack crumbs from under the boots of the charging law & order! These are certainly the same folks we see flying, driving or taking the train—not, at any rate, cycling—to their various Climate Change / Anti-War / Anti- Domination “conferences” (read: jollies) in exotic locations across England.
What the marchers, or “praxis dudes” as they seem to now be calling themselves, don’t realise is this. Effigies which get up and run around screaming are no longer effigies. The same goes for poets. ONCE YOU ARE THE EFFIGY YOU ARE THE EFFIGY.
As poets on fire (see para. 1 q.v.), we have more in common with the effigy, “galloping into colour” (R.L. q.v.) before the Bank of England—our role is to agitate the nostrils of the imagination, to sear the surface of history, to kindle debate with our coiling black skins and draw the steady *thwuck* *thwuck* of “hecklecopters” o’erhead. Our lives must be assimilated to that role, just as a City (hard-)worker, had he been accidently muddled with the effigy, must lie still as he burns, or else risk profound hypocrisy. He must judge as the effigy, plop over as the effigy.
March, if that’s your bag. Yeah man, put a pill in a pig. If you do, you will be no more a hypocrite than your proselytizing and spine-free (“friarweather” friends, if you will) “comrades”. Though “hypocrite” derives etymologically from hypokrites, the pretender, actor, and “hippie” from the fin de siecle Chicago underworld figure, Arty “Bricker” Von Hep, via hepcat, “jazz afficianado,” they are the same deal.
(In which Goat Far DT counsels restraint in these troubled times.) I went to Brixton to write this post. I’m there now—here. I just kind of wandered around a bit and looked at the people there, and even stopped and talked to some of them, to just like get a real sense of the place. So I guess it’s a kind of psychogeographical post. Place is very important to my posts, in fact the other day someone even described me as a forum poster of place, I don’t know how true that is, but anyway. The boiling irony is, I typed it thinking it was going in another place—on the POETS ON FIRE forum, but I can’t seem to register. Roddy Lumsden asked, “I’m tempted to join the protests but a fair amount of my wages come from the state—should I still shake my fist?” Roddy was part of an impressive line up at a tolerably half-full (“intimate?”) La Langoustine est Mort last night, & a little hollow birdie intoned boomingly to me that footage of his reading may soon appear on Openned. Roddy’s poem gathered from various fire prevention web sites might be interestingly compared with Andrea Brady’s Tracking Wildfire.
NOTES ON BRITISH POETRY NO. 44
« (OUR BUTTER STINKETH)
Defiantly pissing in the face of repression and wastefully pissing in the wind are two markedly different things. And I suspect Western efforts to map a revolutionary chic or barricades-qua-ghetto fabulousness onto internally complex political developments in the Arab world and elsewhere have the potential to be incredibly destructive. According to more than a few understandably enthusiastic but at times dangerously overinflated estimates, it is 1917 in Egypt, 1959 in Tunisia, and 1968 in the UK. Whether or not this is the case, we in America continue to reside in a chillingly liminal, Weimaresque time out of mind. In America we are repeatedly blindsided by the brute force of the Dodge Revolution.
On the question of Egypt, stock-in-trade Leftists repeatedly conjure the old clichés, over and over again, against a clear sense of their bankruptcy—against our own well-informed knowing better. Take recent statements by Slavoj Žižek, whose critical judgment appears to have been blunted by the dull edge of his enthusiasm for events in the Arab world when he writes: “The uprising was universal: it was immediately possible for all of us around the world to identify with it, to recognise what it was about, without any need for cultural analysis of the features of Egyptian society.” The revolution in Egypt, Žižek claims, “is clearly that of a universal secular call for freedom and justice…” Friedrich von Hayek, Milton Friedman, Francis Fukuyama—they, too, invoke these transcendental Dioskouroi, freedom and justice, to persuasive effect.
In an American context the conjuration of such battered concepts and clichés among the Left, however noble and well- intentioned, appears to be driven by a desperate, self-defensive confidence in the face of overwhelming powerlessness and stupidity, a confidence which is at once admirable and despicable. There are clear reasons we can never walk like an Egyptian—at least not with any faith in the twisted length of our bowlegged American stride. And clamoring to hitch our ideologically overburdened wagon to a star we can’t even see clearly through the fog will not throw into sharp relief a blueprint for better times.
America is indeed exceptional and the primary question is, on some level, stupidly simple: How does one account for the striking ideological distance separating the US from the rest of the world? In some sense it is wholly absurd to speak of an American Left outside that part of the Americas that resides in the global south, and this is specifically the case in the US where words like
socialism and communism are no longer operative concepts but
filthy words in politically and culturally conservative quarters and, worse, irrelevant concepts for progressives and liberals that underscore more than a century of failure. But to invoke notions of socialism—or a thoroughgoing critique of capital that presupposes a belief in the possibility of something beyond a market system— outside the US, without ironic effect, is usually not so absurd. And so I want to understand this distance between a place in the world where one can speak about socialism with a straight face and a place in the world, this place, where one must do so only under cover of embarrassment or grave reservation.
If we speak in terms of geography, we must speak in terms of psychogeographies, the topography and architectures of thought, of consciousness and of the unconscious. And if we speak in terms of history, we must speak in terms of the irretrievability of the histories we grope toward, reconstruct, reconstitute, reimagine, instrumentalize and strategically deploy.
SCRAPE THE ICE
Henry David Thoreau’s maternal grandmother, Asa Dunbar, participated in the Great Butter Rebellion at Harvard in 1766, the first American student protest on record. For want of unspoiled food the students chanted, “Behold: our butter stinketh!” A bread and butter issue in the clearest sense, however complicated it may have been by the undeniable privilege of the students. In May 1968 Ed Dorn—with his partner Jennifer Dunbar—stood witness to student riots in Paris. Writing as a sort of embedded journalist to Frontier Press publisher Harvey Brown, Dorn commented derisively on student efforts to align their struggle with French workers, insisting that French workers wanted nothing to do with the students, that they imagined their grievances differently, through a radically different set of concerns. What strikes me about Dorn’s comment to Brown is its utter refusal of zeal. Dorn’s observation is without question a crucial one, but I sense it is also a deflationary detail an American eye is specifically groomed to see. For all the things one might register amidst the chaos of Paris in May ’68, it is this Dorn chooses to see. And I wonder now—as the growing strength of the Tea Party keeps frightening pace with unrest outside the US—if such a seeing is in fact a choice.
On November 10 thousands of British students walked on, vandalized and occupied Tory headquarters at Millbank. The closest analog to the Tory Party in the US is, of course, the GOP. And the thought of thousands coming together for any reason to occupy Republican National Headquarters is so wholly unreal, so wholly unthinkable, that it breaks the heart. This impossibility extends well beyond questions of political geography—beyond strategy or the threat of authorized force and state power—to the heart itself.
In Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune—a film that promises to be as poorly received in the US as Oliver Stone’s South of the
—one British critic smartly remarks, "Left wing politics was his career, but the thing to remember about Phil Ochs is that what was in his heart was not left wing politics at all; it was John Wayne and Gary Cooper." In America it is always high noon. Whether we like it or not, we all worship Clint Eastwood, and when we do organize it is most often in the form of a lynch mob. I mean, if the figuration of the lone gunman wedged at the center of the American imaginary was gunned down in cold blood, Americans would organize in a wave of revolutionary hysteria to hire a new gun—and the more progressive or radical we are the more lonesome he’ll be. We always go it alone. The question, I suspect, is one of ideology in the largest sense—where the hired gun stands as a self-righteous, stoically belligerent quilting point around which specifically American forms of consciousness are constituted, amended, enabled, unleashed. Scrape the ice and you get more ice.
NOTE FROM LONDON
On January 29th simultaneous demonstrations took place in Manchester and London, which were supposed to signal the continuation of the student revolts of November and December last year. It didn’t quite work out that way: the numbers were low, and the atmosphere was subdued. Having been up most of the night watching the Egyptian uprising on Al Jazeera, our own revolt seemed pitiful. It was like we were at a funeral, as if the events of last year had never taken place.
November 10th shocked everyone, when a standard demonstration—against cuts in university funding, threefold increases in student fees and the abolition of the Educational Maintenance Allowance—ended with the anarchist flag flying from the roof of Tory Party HQ, with bonfires lit in its courtyard, windows smashed, offices ransacked, and the end of at least two generations of political apathy. Predictably, the media complained about how a respectable (“middle class”, no less) demonstration had been hijacked by a small minority of “extremists”. But to the majority of demonstrators it was clear that if the demo had passed without incident, if Cameron had been able to congratulate us on our well-behaved expression of discontent, then it would have been a meaningless failure. As it was, it was the most meaningful demonstration in Britain for two decades.
The following weeks were wild. Chaotic demonstrations in most British cities, hundreds of newly politicised teenagers running wild down major London streets, universities occupied up and down the country, weekly mass meetings, Italian students rioting in solidarity. Messages of support were coming in from Greece, from France, from Iran. There were riots outside council offices. Massive demonstrations in Ireland brought their government to crisis point. A car carrying Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles was surrounded by an angry mob all yelling “off with their heads”.
When you meet a Tory on the street, cut his throat. It will bring out the best in you. It is as simple as music or drunken speech. There will be flashes of obsolete light. You will notice the weather only when it starts to die.
The mainstream media only talked about it in terms of violence. To be fair, they couldn’t do anything else: a full-scale revolt is outside of the comprehension of capitalist media except as violence, pure and simple. And as revolt, as demonstrations that crossed the line from liberal protest into militant illegalism, they were violent. After every demonstration the papers, the government, and representatives of the cops talked about how that violence had reached “unprecedented levels”. It was true enough: the government couldn’t let what had happened on November 10th go unpunished, and so the level of police aggression at subsequent demonstrations was astounding.
But the real violence—far more serious, and far more longlasting than smashing up a building—was the sense of lines being drawn. As the form of the demonstrations changed, so did the subjectivity of the demonstrators. The government, the entire economic system, became absolutely other. We were beginning to become capital’s impossible, its non-existent meanings, the ghost that's been haunting it for centuries.
Lines being drawn: this was expressed positively in the occupations, and the opening up of other radical spaces. Students from the Slade School of the Arts occupied the National Gallery. Teach-ins were held all over the place. The idea of education as learning for its own sake, everything that capital is trying to destroy, was forcefully asserted everywhere. These same lines were expressed negatively in the police kettles, in an intensity of police violence explicitly intended to make protest impossible. If the occupations were about opening spaces, and the positive rejection of thought as commodity, then the kettle was radical closure, the denial of the possibility of thought as anything but commodity.
Lord Browne, from politeness that particular thought is an opportunity, a response to that thievery, his silence – he is though, representative of certain constellations of order obvious studies of number, and the present apocalypse is a structural problem, this eschews metaphor, the enemy ‘is’, a defining molecule he is though, a childfucker a swarm of goldened thinking dead behind the rose trees.
It really did feel like that. It did go that far. But its likely it also started imploding from the beginning. What had, on November 10th, been a complex protest against capital’s demolition of the university per se, and which understood itself as part of a wider movement against the brutal austerity measures brought in by a government of millionaires, gradually allowed itself to become simply “the student protests”. The attack on Millbank had raised the stakes massively, but it also made it all too easy for the movement to become spectacularised. On the December 9th demo, when the cop violence reached delirious levels, it began to feel that we were just playing a part. Far from being capital’s incomprehensible other, we were its all too comprehensible sideshow freaks.
From the distance of a couple of months its clear that what seemed, for a while, to possibly be the end of the movement was inevitable and necessary. Today, February 12th, a mass meeting in London brought together groups from across the wider movement. Student militants were there, as were welfare rights groups, militant unions, socialists. That is, the student movement is now beginning to take its place within a wider, militant grouping with the explicit aim of bringing the government down. The events of last year have transformed everybody’s ideas about what could be possible.
The government’s attacks on the universities are vicious— but so are their attacks on the unemployed, on the NHS, on the public sector in general. A government that is capable of talking calmly about “social cleansing” of the poor—which ours did do— deserves everything that its going to get. If on November 10th we had burned Millbank to the ground, if on December 9th Charles Windsor actually had had his head cut off, it would be nothing compared to the stark violence these bastards think they can get away with.
December 2010. a high metallic wire. content exceeds phrase. slight shift in geometry / slight interruption in the flow of their / crimson & guillotined bacterial princes / shifted / rivets of history ok listen. theirs is a more stupid alphabet. sections to be rings and taken away. unspoken contradictions in their footsteps. a universe devoid of images. an october we thought we couldn’t have. external symbols within our sky. back now to our studies. negation of the negation. we will raise the dead.
The first conversation I had with the leader of my local anti-cuts union was sobering. “Its going to take more than breaking a few windows”, she said. Everything that had happened last year was suddenly compressed into a few pieces of broken glass. But it was clear from the meeting today that the traditional left is willing, is eager to learn from the creativity, the courage, and particularly the absolute disregard for the usual limits of protest that we showed last year. But the students also need to learn from them, about the hum-drum routine of grass-roots political work, about patience, about tactics. Last December things became so intense it was easy to start believing that everybody in the country was ready to take to the streets. Its not exactly the case.
Capital’s crisis has woken up a few ghosts. There have been general strikes and mass protests across Europe. Everyone is looking with amazement to Tunisia and to Egypt. A few months ago all of those scenes would have looked like messages from another planet to us, but now we look at them with a sense of what just might be possible, and a lived knowledge of just how rapidly things can escalate, and how quickly apathy can be transformed to militancy. There are major demonstrations planned for March. Things look set to get lively again.
LINES FOR A PROTEST SONG, AFTER 9 DECEMBER
Oh the Parliament has voted against the people, But the people be here today to say no; And behind us is the power of history, So you know that we've been here before.
Which side are you on? Which side are you on? Sometimes I wish that instead of their horses They'd call up the hold where they store their guns; And when they shoot one of us down we'll rise up stronger, For in the taste of our blood be remembered we are one.
Which side are you on? Oh which side are you on? —JUSTIN KATKO
[Note: Verses are to the tune of the verse of Jean Richie's “The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore”. The chorus is Florence Reece's, from “Which Side Are You On?”]
THE POETRY OF REVOLT
It is truly inspiring to see the bravery of Egyptians as they rise up to end the criminal rule of Hosni Mubarak. It is especially inspiring to remember that what is happening is the culmination of years of work by activists from a spectrum of pro-democracy movements, human rights groups, labor unions, and civil society organizations. In 2004, when Kefaya began their first public demonstrations, the protesters were usually outnumbered 30 to one by Central Security Forces. Now the number has reversed—and multiplied.
No less astonishing is the poetry of this moment. I don’t mean “poetry” as a metaphor, but the actual poetry that has played a prominent role in the outset of the events. The slogans the protesters are chanting are couplets—and they are as loud as they are sharp. The diwan of this revolt began to be written as soon as Ben Ali fled Tunis, in pithy lines like "Yâ Mubârak! Yâ Mubârak! Is- Sa‘ûdiyya fi-ntizârak!," ("Mubarak, O Mabarak, Saudi Arabia awaits!"). In the streets themselves, there are scores of other verses, ranging from the caustic "Shurtat Masr, yâ shurtat Masr, intû ba’aytû kilâb al-’asr" ("Egypt's Police, Egypt's Police, You've become nothing but Palace dogs"), to the defiant "Idrab idrab yâ Habîb, mahma tadrab mish hansîb!" (Hit us, beat us, O Habib [al-Adly, now-former Minister of the Interior], hit all you want—we're not going to leave!). This last couplet is particularly clever, since it plays on the old Egyptian colloquial saying, "Darb al-habib zayy akl al-zabib" (The beloved's fist is as sweet as raisins). This poetry is not an ornament to the uprising—it is its soundtrack and also composes a significant part of the action itself.
A HISTORY OF REVOLUTIONS, A HISTORY OF POETS
There is nothing unusual about poetry playing a galvanizing role in a revolutionary moment. And in this context, we might remind ourselves that making revolution is not something new for Egyptians—having had no less than three “official” revolutions in the modern era: the 1881 Urabi Revolution which overthrew a corrupt and comprador royalty; the 1919 Revolution, which nearly brought down British military rule; and the 1952 Revolution which inaugurated 60 years of military dictatorships under Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak. The first revolution succeeded in establishing the second parliamentary government on the African continent before it was crushed by foreign military intervention. In the aftermath of defeat, the British established a rapacious colonial rule over Egypt for more than 70 years. The second revolution was a sustained, popular uprising led by a range of pro-democracy activists from a range of civil institutions. Though savagely repressed, it did force the British to grant some concessions. The third revolution officially celebrated in Egypt stands apart from the first two in that it was a coup d’etat that went out of its way to circumscribe popular participation. In any case, it was accepted in the moment since it finally ended the rule of the royal family first overthrown in 1881 and initiated a process of British withdrawal from Egypt.
Besides these three state-commemorated events, Egyptians have revolted against the corruption, greed and cruelty of their rulers many more times in the last 60 years. On January 26, 1952, Egyptians emerged onto the streets to protest an array of issues— including the corruption of the monarchy, the decadence, power and privilege of foreign business elites, and the open-ended British occupation. The revolt was quickly suppressed, though the damage to property was massive, and it set in motion an exodus of foreign elites—and the military coup months later. In 1968, Egyptian students launched huge and daring protests against the repressive policies of Nasser’s police state. In the early 1970s, Egyptian students engaged in sustained mass protests against the radical political reorientations of the new Sadat regime—and eventually forced the state to re-engage in military confrontation with Israel. On January 18-19, 1977, Egyptians rose up en masse to protest against IMF austerity measures imposed on the country by the corrupt, inept and ruthless regime of Anwar Sadat. The Egyptian President was already on his jet ride into exile before the Central Security Forces and Army finally gained the upper hand. In Egypt it is the Central Security Forces rather than the military who deals with civil unrest and popular protest. Yet, even this “solution” to the problem of recurring popular revolt has proven at times uncertain. As in the military, the CSF has been the site of mutinies, one of which, in late February 1986, involved 20,000 low-paid conscripts who were put down only when the army entered the fray. During the early 1990s, Islamist protests against the authoritarian rule of Mubarak escalated into armed conflict, both in the slums of the cities and in Upper Egypt. Hundreds of militants, soldiers and innocent civilians were killed before the revolt was finally suppressed. This list leaves out other significant moments of mass civil protest and contestation—like the massive protests against the First Gulf War, the US invasion of Iraq and Israel's attacks on Lebanon and Gaza—but even so, the tally is impressive: no less than 10 major revolts and revolutions in 130 years. In other words, despite what commentators might say, modern Egyptians have never passively accepted the failed colonial or postcolonial states that fate has dealt them.
Many of these revolts have had their own poets. 1881 had the neo-classical qasidas of Mahmoud Sami al-Baroudi. 1919, the colloquial zajals of Bayram al-Tunsi. Salah Jahin became one of the leading colloquial poets of the 1952 Revolution, and his patriotic verse became core material for Abdel Halim Hafez, who pinned his career to Nasser. From the same period, Fu’ad Haddad’s mawwals also stand out—and are still sung today. Since the 1970s, it has been Ahmed Fouad Negm who has played the leading role as lyricist of militant opposition to the regimes of Egypt. For forty years, Negm’s colloquial poems—many set to music by Sheikh Imam—have electrified student, labor and dissident movements from the Egyptian underclass. Negm’s poetry ranges from praise (madh) for the courage of ordinary Egyptians, to invective (hija’) for Egypt’s overlords—and it is no accident that you could hear his songs being sung by the leftist activists who spearheaded the first day of revolt on January 25. Besides these poets, we could add many others—Naguib Surur, Abd al-Rahman al-Abnoudi, Tamim Barghouti—who have added to this literary-political tradition in their own ways.
But beyond these recognized names are thousands of other poets—activists all—who would never dare to protest publicly without an arsenal of clever couplet-slogans. The end result is a unique literary tradition whose power is now on full display across Egypt. Chroniclers of the current Egyptian revolt, like As’ad AbuKhalil, have already compiled lists of these couplets— and hundreds more are sure to come. For the most part, these poems are composed in a colloquial, not classical, register and they are extremely catchy and easy to sing. The genre also has real potential for humor and play—and remind us of the fact that revolution is also a time for celebration and laughter.
HOW TO DO THINGS WITH POETRY
The poetry of this revolt is not reducible to a text that can be read the couplet-slogans being sung and chanted by protesters do more than reiterate complaints and aspirations that have been communicated in other media. This poetry has the power to express messages that could not be articulated in other forms, as well as to sharpen demands with ever keener edges.
Consider the most prominent slogan being chanted today by thousands of people in Tahrir Square: “Ish-sha‘b/yu-rîd/is-qât/in- ni-zâm.” Rendered into English, it might read, “The People want the regime to fall”—but that would not begin to translate the power this simple and complex couplet-slogan has in its context. There are real poetic reasons why this has emerged as a central slogan. For instance, unlike the more ironic—humorous or bitter—slogans, this one is sincere and states it all perfectly clearly. Likewise, the register of this couplet straddles colloquial Egyptian and standard media Arabic—and it is thus readily understandable to the massive Arab audiences who are watching and listening. And finally, like all the other couplet-slogans being shouted, this has a regular metrical and stress pattern (in this case: short-LONG, short-LONG, short- LONG, short-SHORT-LONG). While unlike most others, this particular couplet is not rhymed, it can be sung and shouted by thousands of people in a unified, clear cadence—and that seems to be a key factor in why it works so well.
The prosody of the revolt suggests that there is more at stake in these couplet-slogans than the creation and distillation of a purely semantic meaning. For one thing, the act of singing and shouting with large groups of fellow citizens has created a certain and palpable sense of community that had not existed before. And the knowledge that one belongs to a movement bound by a positive collective ethos is powerful in its own right—especially in the face of a regime that has always sought to morally denigrate all political opposition. Likewise, the act of singing invective that satirizes feared public figures has an immediate impact that cannot be explained in terms of language, for learning to laugh at one’s oppressor is a key part of unlearning fear. Indeed, witnesses to the revolt have consistently commented that in the early hours of the revolt—when invective was most ascendant—protesters began to lose their fear.
And having lost that fear, Egyptians are showing no signs of wanting to go back. As the Mubarak regime has continued to unleash more violence, and as it steps up its campaign to sow chaos and confusion, the recitation of these couplet-slogans has continued, as if the act of repeating them helps the protesters concentrate on their core principles and demands. Only hours ago, as jets and helicopters attempted to intimidate protesters in Tahrir Square, it seemed as if the crowd understood something of this—for with each sortie, their singing grew louder and more focused. It was difficult to determine whether the crowd sustained the words, or the words the crowd.
Anyone who has ever chanted slogans in a public demonstration has also probably asked herself at some point: why am I doing this? what does shouting accomplish? The question provokes a feeling of embarrassment, the suspicion that the gesture might be rote and thus empty and powerless. Arguably, this nervousness is a form of performance anxiety that, if taken seriously, might remind us that the ritual of singing slogans was invented precisely because it has the power to accomplish things. When philosophers speak of “doing things with words,” they also remind us that the success of the locutionary act is tied to the conditions in which it is performed. This is another way to say that any speech act is highly contingent—its success only occurs in particular circumstances, and even then, its success is never a given. Success, if it is to occur, happens only in the doing of it.
Since January 25, Egyptians have been leaping into the uncertainty of this revolutionary performance. They have now crossed multiple thresholds—and each time, they have acted with no guarantee of success. This is, I think, the core of their astonishing courage: at each point it has been impossible to say that victory is already theirs. Even now, six days into the revolt, we still cannot say how things will eventually turn out. Nor are there rules of history and previous examples that can definitively tell us. Certainly, revolutions follow patterns—and those who rise up tend to be the most diligent students of past uprisings. Activists in Cairo ask comrades in Tunis about tactics, while others try to glean Iran’s Green Revolution for lessons that might be applied now. Yet, in the end, each revolution is its own moment.
Those who decide to make their own history are, in the end, not only required to write their own script and build their own stage, they are also compelled to then play the new roles with enough force and conviction to make it cohere, even in the face of overwhelming violence. We have already seen one example of this re-scripting in the extraordinary, original pamphlet from Egypt entitled, “How to Revolt Intelligently.” The poetry of the streets is another form of writing, of redrafting the script of history in the here and now—with no assurances of victory, and everything in the balance.
—ELLIOTT COLLA [note: first published in Jadaliyya on Jan. 31, 2011]
THE POETICS OF THE POSSESSION DANCE
It is not new to say that poetry is the language of the dead. Many poets who have come before have said just this, and have engaged in practices to summon the dead to let them speak. I have lately been engaging with arts Afro-Caribbean in origin that have been working quite well. Some of these are inspired by Santeria, and some by Allen Kardec, noted to be the first to bring Spiritism to Latin America.
The most essential ritual to bring down the dead is called the “possession dance.” I note that the term “possession,” in our culture, often carries with it negative connotations. Some people want to cast it aside as something unreal—something that cannot be evidenced by practitioners of Biopower, and thus untrue. Others believe that only negative spirits possess; thus, the practice should be avoided. I disagree with both conjectures and argue that to invite the spirits of those who have passed into the body is an amazing way to receive transmissions that can become poems, once crafted & recrafted into images that the mind can see. To rationalize the experiences of dead-speak is short-sighted—to open oneself to the wellsprings of magic is the only way to engage the epiphanies that can cut through the material so pertinent to Capitalist production. Those who believe they are being “ridden” by the Saints or other spirits are generally difficult to control by normative means, and as such, do not have docile useful bodies.
POETRY AND CONTINGENCY
Thus, engaging with Spiritist poetic techniques is one of the most resistance-laden practices in the world.
In the Cuban mystical tradition known as Santeria, the possession dance is the most important of all practices. It generally occurs during a ceremony called a “bembe” in which practitioners dance in repetitive movements to summon the Saints (or the “orishas,” one in the same). The dances involve heavy doses of repetition because it is through this that the body enters a state relaxed enough to open for the Saints. Once the dancer is ridden (that is, “mounted” by the spirit), he/she goes into a trance-state & is no longer seen as mortal flesh, but as the Spirit itself. At this point, those unridden at the bembe run over to the Saint to engage him/her with life questions. It is said that the Orishas always answer, but often in tongues that include many languages—often the Yoruba dialect among them. This dancer is possessed by the Saint that has chosen to come down—& now he/she possesses all knowledge. It is especially important to note that the Saints travel through the head, in the same way that the unconscious is structured like language. The Saints are preserved in the heads of us. The Saints travel by water. They made their way to Cuba suffering in Slave Ships from Yoruba land. They made their way to the U.S. in the heads of many Cuban exilos. The Orishas are an active pantheon, and as such are very accessible. The Saints flourish because they travel in the head.
It is difficult for the average American to communicate with the dead because death is, for the most part, hidden from us. The typical funeral procession does little to satisfy the need for the dead to be fed & honored. In Santeria, you must give ashe to get ashe—the dead will always speak with a little prompting, especially if you offer ebbo. To propitiate the dead, it is essential to consider what they liked while living. A seashell for Aunt Esther, some whiskey for dear old Frank, a pack of Camel Lights for that guy who looked like Grover Cleveland. In some Spiritist circles, there is the practice of keeping a boveda. This is an altar for one’s dead ancestors. This should be kept in a room not normally visited by strangers, for the dead deserve respect.
The act of writing a poem after engaging in possession dancing allows for the dead to speak. In his poem Khurbn, Jerome Rothenberg writes, “it is in the scraps of language / by which the century is read to us the streets the dogs / the faces fading out the eyes receding / they are the dead & want so much to speak / that all the writing in the world will not contain them…” What once was still is. Trace elements linger forever. It is not merely a game of precious memory. I remember writing a poem for my grandmother just after she died. When I finished the poem, I heard a strange music playing. I went downstairs & found that my iPod had turned itself on, and was playing the haunting song “Handwriting” by The Rachels. My Catholic mystic mother always told me that when she sees a cardinal, she knows that the dead are speaking. That she is being visited. Once she told me the ghost of a little girl lived in the backyard of my childhood home. The trace elements linger. It is not merely a game of precious memory. Collect them, collect them, & put them in the poems.
There is an importance in searching for these trace elements, because some of them contain pieces of you that have scattered & need remolding. This is a different kind of encounter with the dead—a moment of eternal recurrence—a pattern of possession dancing that brings the self to light. Most often, though, this involves engaging with a philosophy of history—a Hegelian dinosaur chronotope in which only the most golden sepulchral will be enough to contain the remnants of time gone in the air. In The
Charles Olson writes, “My problem is how to make you believe / these persons, who lived here then…” In
Olson constantly refers backwards—to the past of Gloucester’s timeline—to demonstrate Gloucester’s present—which in turns elucidates the continual present. The poem is thus haunted, so to speak, with tons of dead people, the ground work of a Magic Opus. A dead woman plays a harp in the square.
Unfortunately, there is a very rich history in squelching death-awareness. This movement is conspiratorial. If we are aware that one day we will die & think about this often, we will live much different lives. These lives might not benefit the State, but they will benefit the Masses. When this death-awareness-squelch manifests in poetry, a sturdy hegemonic politics of appropriation is revealed—let the dead speak for the dead because they cannot speak at all. Let the poets speak for the poets because other poets are the only ones who understand. Let me categorically sift through the internet backlog of millions and selectively choose & publish it all again. The companies will then assign a grab bag price tag to my book of spliced together internet lines & you will read them regurgitated like vomit. I am uninterested in loan words, which are vomit words.
In this grave consequence—or consequence of the grave—there is a remonstrance—the wellspring of language of the dead—a pure poetic act akin to early sacred theatre—not only speaking of the death of the gods & how this manifests in modern tongue—American corporatese—but in the head of the young virgin who carries the carcasses in her chariot to the underworld— that which must be passed through—to receive the kind of epiphany immediately received when engaging in possession dance. In Khurbn, for instance, Rothenberg writes, “let them account the value of a body (the soul has no account) and let the / living refuse the living unless a price is paid.” In a true moment of resistance, a moment that cuts through like epiphany or ecstasy, the soul, which has no account, or no value, is unpedastaled. To break through, then, as in chora, the invisible must manifest & mount the poet, and from there, death-speak.
Jack Spicer wrote letters to Lorca, or Lorca wrote the letters. Spicer believed in poetry as dead-speak. “The poems are there,” he writes in After Lorca, “the memory not of a vision but of casual friendship with an undramatic ghost who occasionally looked through my eyes & whispered to me…” “This is how we dead men write to each other.”
To engage in the poetic process of possession, or, rather, in the possessive process of poetics—to ignite the possession dance that leads to poems, here are some steps to follow:
» First, announce that you would like to be ridden. Make this known. Say it aloud at least three times a day. » Create your own boveda. It should be in a room not often visited by strangers. Keep it in a backroom, or hidden in a closet. Leave offerings for your ancestors on this boveda, & tell them weekly to give you good poems. » Buy some maracas & wear white. All santeras, after making the saint, must wear white for an entire year. This attracts the Saints. It is also noted that Emily Dickinson & Mark Twain, two emissaries of American Literature, wore only white, and obviously received inspiration.
» Ask the dead to enter your head. To do this ritualistically, Remember that the beat of the maracas should be just as shave your head & draw symbols on your head that only repetitive as the dancing. your ancestors would know. If you don’t want to shave your head, sit for a day with symbols painted on your third eye. » Once the dance is complete, write the poems. The poems will enact the dance. » Pay attention to your dreams, and literally do upon waking what was done in your dreams. The dead speak The Saints travel in the head. through dreams, & lead us to places where epiphanies &
If the poem ends before the possession does, and you wish for a inspiration can occur. clear head, drink a cold glass of water. If this doesn’t work (if possession persists), wash your head thoroughly.
» Create a repetitive dance that allows for inner- mesmerization. Dance in this fashion until the words come.
Until you Chariot. Until the Saints are in your head. Finding a way to engage the maracas in this dance is helpful.
Long outlying coasts — living and loving at Lascaux each morning is darker but night gets more in common day by day, let's say, a claim to fall down for into the makeshift lighting of the facility basement where the speech will never move around its focus upon holding the closer council: ‘he swaps the Victorian prison for the Georgian mansion’, but this is history for your own safety, some new memory of this movement along the outsides of a building, the hatch is opened every five minutes because he is OK and because he must answer in the affirmative, candles blown open all night behind the iron gate outside this building, snowed in to future orbit around every opening that now needs to be held had not enough time shins covered mouths steam over with wet cloth the loss of the final exchange in the guestbook marked off shore nothing ever moves over the window you can see from the empty street, I loved you at the general assembly, night sticks to vespers from the step-ladder slow wind around the officer number caved-in to silver window from the remand centre has been burning ever since and ISS now so truly are you ours what every astronaut wants to unfurl your shimmering new solar wings with fierce love falling police helmet crashed into atmosphere at 17000 mph that’s the point voluntary wilderness response team sets out to radiate the fiscal meter in the microwave sets out together but were afraid to light the gas leak in the far corner of the cave, burning ever since from where we buried the solid day of the satellite image of today and who and where else is meant by that transformative pronoun shift take nothing with you but what you’d go onto newsnight with I’ve got your back a stack of fagots and Delia aflame the warm reasoned window and the poisoned rains, first fire on the street where the free in- direct occupies everything they’d never recognise riots past the projection room as the agenda all loved to ground with no markings across the skylight, bets on unguarded buildings but blue lights, say, left on all night
—TOMAS WEBER LIBERATION
—LINH DINH A FEW THOUGHTS ON LEISURE
By those on the “sharp end” of university cuts, or those on the sharp end just blunt enough that they have time to think and organise, it is sometimes asked what the university is for. This question usually follows into reflections, more or less shrill and paternalistic, about the value of “free thinking”. “Free” in this context usually refers to a pantheon of “free” thinkers whose innovations in cognition have brought about lasting if unquantifiable “benefits” for our society. It is then claimed, more or less apocalyptically, that the truncation of “free thinking” will stunt or diminish social progress.
I do not wish, in this short essay, to provide an extended discussion of this position, though I will conclude by issuing it some polemical challenges; I want instead to concentrate on the role of the English universities in establishing the social distribution of leisure. I propose that since the mid-nineteenth century, higher education in the UK has served two social functions; that these functions are in contradiction with one another; that the contradiction can be resolved so long as those functions are distributed across institutions serving discrete classes; and that despite the impressive class stratification of UK higher education (or, according to the unctuous euphemism, its “diversity”), these functions have not been so distributed. Finally, I will sketch a case for the value of the contradiction so identified.
The reforms to the British public school system in the mid- nineteenth century were designed to contribute to what Perry Anderson once called the “deliberate, systematised symbiosis” of the aristocracy and bourgeoisie. The production of this symbiosis, which for Anderson represented (and presumably still represents) the signal peculiarity of the emergence of capitalism in Britain, demanded a certain amount of deliberate, systematised education, though Bildung in the classics was necessarily supplemented by training in refined debauchery. These two disciplines were understood to be natural partners in the production of the interclass character, the gentleman, who, in the words of Cardinal Newman, appears to his contemporaries, as “like an easy chair or a good fire, which do their part in dispelling cold and fatigue, though nature provides both means of rest and animal heat without them”. More simply, the gentleman was to be a man so definitely exempted from the exigencies of social reproduction, and so complacent in his
entitlement to that exemption, that he would appear to his peers as
himself a kind of comforting superfluity. By the end of the nineteenth century, the category was understood to be coextensive with the graduates of the ancient universities.
However, the universities had another function besides effectuating a provincial class compromise between aristocrat and parvenu. The increasing “complexity” of the British Empire, including its growing domestic economy and its intensifying colonial adventures, required of an expanded class of civil servants; the Northcote-Trevelyan Report of 1854 was the first to demand the institution of a discrete class of professional civil servants, to be supplied by Oxford and Cambridge, both of which institutions had been provided with new (“modern”) administrative structures on the recommendation of the Royal Commission of 1850. The Commission sought to address what we might designate, using an anachronistic though apposite locution, a skills gap. Among their recommendations, the commissioners who were assigned to each institution called for curricula less overrun by the classics and therefore calibrated to the preparation of a professional middle- class. From this perspective, the universities were to produce functionaries, not gentlemen, and from the second half of the nineteenth century to now, reform in the British higher education sector has always attempted (whether intentionally or not) to exemption, both for social instrumentality in general and from wage labor in particular.
The unended history of the conversion of UK higher education into UK technical skills training is worth commenting on, not because it represents a successful process of capitalist functionalisation, but because it represents a miserably failed one. The twentieth century expansion of 'non-elite' sectors of UK higher education has been conducted under the flattened rubric of broadened access to 'higher skills'. This technocratic vision of higher education imagined a pastoral New World in which the capital processed in the financial services sector would radiate outwards towards a flourishing new economy, a glittering fountain of Intellectual Property Rights to be licensed out to the various toiling nodes of the global periphery. “We live,” wrote the modern day Corydon Peter Mandelson, then head of the state Department of Business, Industry and Skills, “on the knowledge frontier”. This was in 2008. Mandelson was to be ushered out of Arcadia a few months later, but his phraseology sponsors a conventional ruling class atopia: a fantasy of profit without domination, superficial and kitsch. Like the fish that leap into the fisherman's net in Elizabethan country house poems, the notion that an economy sustained by its financial services sector could provide satisfying opportunities for work to all of its citizens was never more than a conceptual convenience; and the whole theoretical architectonic of the new economy at last amounted to nothing more than a few buzzwords dutifully ululated by that economy's professional hagiographers. The fact that it was always opportunities for success that were promised is indicative: the modifier is in fact nothing more than a get-out clause: anyone who does not get satisfying work is and must be culpably indolent, because their opportunity is and must be equal by virtue of its definition.
In other words, the expansion of the universities—and therefore the expansion in “higher skills”—has occurred in advance of the expansion of higher function jobs in the UK economy (and in fact that second “expansion” is negligible in absolute terms also, since public sector employment has shrunk somewhat since 1991 and the largest “growth area” in the UK service sector, absent financial services, has been in transport and communications). The disparity is predictable, and provides one of the less stated because less palatable purposes for the new UK higher education fee regime. Since state spending per capita has decreased in inverse proportion to the total student population, many students are not only mathematically (and therefore, of course, also really) no more than participants in an industrial reserve army for the “graduate jobs” market, but they are also offered a rationalised education that involves markedly less teaching than the programmes into which their Victorian ancestors genteelly matriculated. These are the movements in twentieth century UK higher education, in broadest outline: more pupils receiving less teaching at lower per capita cost, and graduating into an economy that is not creating more or more “desirable” jobs. In these terms, the right wing animus against this system makes perfect sense, because it becomes increasingly evident that UK higher education has become, in spite of the intentions of its reforms—and due to their congenital economizing—an ocean of “free time” for a large portion of the island's “young” population; though it should be noted that diminished financial support has meant that around 40% of undergraduates take part-time jobs during term-time in order to remain subsistent.
Why do I compress all this data? Because I hope it begins to constellate into a political argument. Universities have acculturated in their students a significant measure of deviancy; this much is evident from the recent flare-up of student protest, now glowering in remission (whether temporary or permanent remains to be seen). Why have the universities done this (or rather, how, and how can the inculcation be curtailed)? Many people in Humanities disciplines argue that it is because of Humanities themselves incorporate and urge “critical thinking,” which is understood to be corroded by the kitsch overtures of commerce. This is a remarkably uncritical account of critical thinking. For decades critical theory has proven itself endlessly recuperable into the most effectlessly orthodox forms of education: Agamben is perfectly liable to be modularised into neutrality alongside courses on book publishing and advertising theory. Critical theory does not impel critical thinking except where the material conditions of life conduce to it; and when conditions are defined by high-intensity theory cramming, as is the case in many prestigious Humanities- subject departments in the US, conditions are the opposite of conducive. Ditto the new UK model, which will not delete critical theory or literature from the great cornucopia of Humanities syllabi but will drastically alter the conditions of their “delivery,” by introducing much higher costs and (increasingly) higher intensity two-year programmes. What is defensible in the failed professionalisation of the UK higher education system hitherto is its successful exemption of a large number of predominantly middle- class students from the pressures of compulsory wage labour, which, I have argued, has emphatically not succeeded in arriving at any new frontier besides a new frontier in tedium. The exemption of those students is not “just”. It is, if the term is to be used at all, profoundly unjust. We can leave aside for a moment the issues of “perceived benefits” and future wages. The point is that UK higher education inculcates in many students an intolerance for wage labour, and it has done so in part because it has been reformed to provide nothing more than training in higher skills. The attempt to regulate superfluity within the universities has collapsed back into the provision of new forms of superfluity; and for that reason the attempted regulation has contributed—and within one of the cores of the capitalist heartland—to the production of social
contradiction . Nothing attests to this more radiantly than moral
outrage at the lassitudinous as it is currently asseverated by our political class and its media outlets. Disgust for the inequitable distribution of free time is, when it comes from these sources, always an expression of disgust at the idea of “free time” itself, calculated to divert the passions of those who have never had free time in which to do critical theory and who never will have it or almost anything else. And yet even that “misdirected” hostility is progressive insofar as it maintains what Adorno would once have called a “negative relationship” to truth: the desire to abolish the privilege that a particular group is afforded is almost always a tacit acknowledgement of the value of that privilege, and as long as the desire persists, the worst danger is deferred. The worst danger is that we arrive at a state where the cordon sanitaire that I have here attributed to the Right has been stretched so taut around the whole perimeter of a particular mode of existence that no one bothers to waste the breath required to traduce it.
In the UK, since the first announcements of sustained “austerity,” there has been much enthusiasm on the Left at the responsive shudders of social protest. This enthusiasm has confounded our political thinking. Higher education on this island is not yet and has never previously been a universal right, whatever the Universal Declaration might seem to suggest; it is no more a universal right here than it is a universal right in Somalia, which is to say that state ratified moral commitments of this order continue to be so much tinsel for state prosecuted war efforts. Critical theory does not in itself inculcate critical thinking, except where critical thinking is redefined as the ability to parse bovine internal documents pertaining to your day job. Identifying the value of higher education in the national context must involve, among other things, the identification of the historical dereliction of the system of higher education when measured against the standards set up for it by its overseers. Those standards are merely the corollaries of an imperative of accumulation that for centuries has been untouchable in its paramountcy and that under current conditions can only be met at the greatest expense to all other social goods and forms of life. Identifying institutional failure, or recognising the tendencies that produce social contradiction, is the alternative to settling for the ecstatic abandonment of those contradictions in favour of paeans to assailed humanity.
—DANNY HAYWARD PERORATION What does the fire endure that makes the ashes we live as scatter, what holds fast to passion latterly an inferno, past all remission and enlivening? Sex shops are a way of establishing that reality can only be kept up by the irony of custom for its opposite, for prostitutes trading in Bush for Obama, after the era of auras is twilight; no man in his senses ever thought otherwise. Pimp my hearse. Conceive the world repaid a hundredfold, the people making their laws with cum and blood scribbled in bold; but not yet. For all night I wait for you, bathed in the light like a baby in liquid steel, aimlessly immaculate and hardly dying but still dying to fuck you til I cry; what binds this to a single exit into memory is the fire blind, face up deeply buried in flesh, the economy peaks like a snowman’s boner hotting up. This at least you allege, following the words you just did then to this one next at the end, where in your straining heart communism makes amends; I am still here, and so long as I am I am the fire blind in sunlight, burning out the entire sky, orgasm of immortality, and the finance aristocracy who own the freehold for morality will fry, not in hell but in the blackest oil understating their bonuses; it is that simple to say, so say it, now say it again and watch the novelty wear off.
—KESTON SUTHERLAND  See: http://www.cam.ac.uk/univ/history/19c.html  See the National Statistics reports on UK Service Sector and Public Sector Employment: GONVILLE & RASS CLOT Rampart storm in Cambridge, told ourselves: We could take Paris with those tusks, But we’d need a panel of at least 80,000 guy-gals. Gender-changing room was crowbarred elevator. Righteous shit talk. PC Kennedy is believed To be of at least two NPOIU spies; NPOIU: an agency monitoring so-called domestic extremists; The other certainly Jefferson Toal. Kennedy He told friends each deep cover spy cost £250,000 a year.
Our anarchist spy, Rupert, costs £9.50, private sector, Must know how to speak down to the right people, As long as they are not behaving as humans, But as role-automata. We demand role suicide.
Got told: I would catch a grenade for you, Play a game that was lame for you, Sift through human remains for you, If you’ll do the same. Rampart storm in Cambridge : New felicity of midnight football On the Senate House lawn. Didn’t play. Pushed Caius porters around instead. Told them: I would lick up some sap for you, Put my lip on a bap for you, Reciprocate Son! Take the drugs, clean the dragon. Told you: I would scrounge off the mole for you, Lift up my soul for you, I would pound your wet role for you,
You had to wellies in there to swim through the Tim Dog and Don Maclean Or however you spelt it – Homeless guys made to leave. Confident new porter-selves emerged. Beat-boxing to alarm tests. Weird electricians glancing through Heames’ jokes, Can’t remember who went singing: I would catch a grenade for you, Throw my hand on a blade for you, I would dance on her grave for you, Told them about our new sound bomb And how it would only affect those in penguin suits Who ask to address the group from on high.
We didn’t read the eviction; put bike locks around the door arm bendy things instead,The liason coppers followed me to the coffee shop, desparate to know When would the shit kick off? Pressed against the windows.
They would never get in that way. They told me: That ecstatic, we’d get half that From angel dust baked concession stall bagels ate just off the park our dogs Walk us in, and coke fries – We tell ourselves: We get all that just Regaling pixie mission lock-on chainsaw sparks our pigs wait to frogmarch Us from gleams in one eye – Hearts first, then whatever fist you want. Things have changed. We need weapons too.
—POCAHONTIS MILDEW —SOMMER BROWNING WHETHER AND HOW AND WHEN AND FOR EVER OR A DAY:
10 DAYS IN A SATELLITE TOWN, AND AN AFTERMATH
sheets of paper and perhaps one hundred conversations, at our end: who could know how far they went, into which hands those fragments passed?
“He who becomes absorbed in a destiny finds himself on equal footing with those who share it. The experience of friendship is the sweetest effect of such discipline. I regard having made alliances and friendships with several hearts capable of great affection and great sacrifices like a conquest; it is an ability that
So far as we don’t know—and whereof we may not speak— we pass over in silence. We’re tired out and drained. But we’re closer to each other and we’re learning to manoeuvre. The blog we initiated gained some standing in the first 10 days—the demo-account was quite widely read—but has not been updated and is off the radar now. It took too much attention, the group was too small. But we’re just waiting for a friend’s next gesture. The whole period was a mad response to an obscure gesture: Millbank. Is Millbank gone? Probably. And it’s not clear how new chances arise. But they arise.
So far as we knew, for sure, what we accomplished was only to encourage a few small cliques of the most mobilised and political—in the colleges too—to dig their heels in and keep going in those few days before the 24th. Our friends weren’t the most militant there and had mixed feelings about the way the demonstrations went.
A mob of 400 became a machine for the production of mad gestures. An attack on the police station and economic sabotage, debate and decision, movement. Uncommon in this country in the recent past. What relation to our intervention? None, maybe, or some, maybe. Except for this: both operated in an unusually pure way at the level of communication. The formalism of our intervention and the cosmopolitanism of that mob—which found itself obscurely and recognised in the face of each friendship and alliance, drained of resentmen—could at least be claimed to operate in the same field, be part of the same process.
the police station before heading to the roundabout at the pier to block it. There, the momentum failed and the police successfully kettled 100 of the slowest.
and cause maximum disruption , launching an attempted attack on
Well, what happened? That first demonstration—which we wrote up in detail on the blog—was astonishing. 2000 people, 90% school- and college-students, marched: they ignored the designated end-point for the demo and set off on a volatile and cheerful meander, with periodical attempts to block roads. When the police attempted a kettle it was broken: of those who broke the kettle and didn’t disperse, 200 went to take refuge in the new occupation at the other, less “political” university, where they were refused entry—then went into the bobo shopping streets and got kettled. 400 (school and college kids mainly, with a few cheerful homeless guys) went off mob-form to attack vodafone, then looted poundland (“I got three toblerone”), before arriving cheerfully at the other, kettled group. The police crumpled under the strategic pressure— they were outnumbered and uncertain—and released the group they were holding. The 400 then set off expressly to block roads
After Millbank, like everyone else, we met in a confused and excited gaggle at a pub near a train station to receive friends on their way back and talk about what was possible, what could be done. From the beginning we assumed our excitement was symptomatic: the same thing everywhere. We wanted to think about the real and possible relation of our excitement to the moment but didn’t get far. A nice drink, an agreement to meet next week. Meanwhile a premature and tiring occupation at the local “radical” university which enacted a defeat, the end (temporary) of the relevance of occupation as a form in that context. Worn out after last year.
A friend had the relevant idea that salvaged us for something novel: a newsletter for circulation at the sixth-forms in town, where he’d heard rumblings and where we speculated there’d be more— and outside the tired parameters of university-based “student radicalism”. So this little gang tried to get together material on the basis of “editorial” meetings involving all interested parties.
Empirical experiences like that can make us happy—even if only at a disaster averted—but can’t justify the activity. They allow an activity to continue—for instance, the group-formation to continue to flex, enjoy itself, grow stronger and wiser—but they don’t bring it to an end. Redemption or exhaustion or the passing of the movement do that. On the other hand, other gestures—whose connection to one’s own can never be fixed or assessed—can
by making a gesture, in public, towards generalisation, organisation, honesty and anger, without being able to be sure that what we were doing would be worth anything or go anywhere. And, naturally, what we encountered—empirically, if you like— didn’t refute us: what we circulated was welcomed as an object, and we as circulators were accepted, too: talked to, argued with, smiled at. Naturally, in different degrees (one learns a lot, again, puts oneself in those situations, when one puts oneself at stake like that, off comfortable ground. And remembers a lot, too, about a time before cliques and smooth social movement).
So what were we doing? Anyone could write a book on the matter. We were responding to a sense we had that something was
We had some friends at one of the colleges that wanted to get going after Millbank, and we specifically wanted to support their efforts to underpin a process of mobilization—but the thing was for broader circulation too, at the other colleges and even, a little at the universities. Our friends—politics and english students, smart kids with nice houses or without—were thrilled with the thing, and it became, for a few days, quite a desirable object: they were approached for copies a few times, and the thing was discussed in class (that means, the sympathetic politics teacher used it as material in class. He was also signing people in for EMA and so on. Quite widespread.) 400 copies at that college, 300 at the technical college to a fine reaction, 200 or so at the IB college to a modest reaction. At the tech college: “give me more, I’ll give them to my friends.” A French girl: “are we going to block roads?” (comme evidence). Real interest, friendly gestures, long conversations: those handing out the objects thrilled to be giving away something people wanted. The same, pervasive excitement.
What did we intend by it? To produce an object that added fuel to a fire we assumed—as an axiom—was already getting going, and allow it to spread. That meant: not trying to impose a line or a special content, while at the same time producing an object that was smooth enough to circulate: well-written and clear, elegantly laid out, with correct typography. Some failures, some successes.
Scratch detailed commentary on the writing process. We produced—a few of us, in the end, in a marathon writing-editing- layup session which selected those with fewest commitments the next day from the larger group that turned up—a newsletter whose main content was an outline of the proposed cuts, with an editorial and a few smaller articles on France and “organization”.
reciprocate or extend a gesture, without fulfilling it. One thousand everyone has." Just as love falls under the heading of the romantic cesspool, friendship belongs to Blanquist joy. It is that rare form of affection in which the horizon of the world does not disappear.
Hannah Arendt says that "friendship is not intimately personal, but poses political requirements and remains oriented towards the world." Here beings belong to each other in a free state, that is to say, each belongs to the others as much as each always-already belongs to a destiny. If Cicero's Lelius foresees the dangers of secession that friendship poses to the City, it is because an unjust world, a detestable society, doesn't get forgotten in friendship as [it does] in the suffocating ecstasies of love. It still has the chance to orient itself against such a world, against such a society. To speak in blunt terms: today, all friendship is in some way at war with the
imperial order or it is only a lie.
“If the state of things is untenable, it is not because of this or that, but because I am powerless within it. Never oppose the necessities of thought and action. Remain firm in moments of ebb, when one must start again, alone, from the beginning: one is never alone with the truth.“
Instead of threshold being a site between two parts—instead of any inherent divide—and ever in place of the brink—
this borderless infinitum.
—this quantum cognizance. An evolving extent that both identifies and has myriad identities. But how we ask, are we to proceed as form without boundaries of selvage? Without duality? How will we not unravel and become non-specific, without polarist comparison? Without opposites to gauge ourselves against and by way of? In this essay I am interested in investigating the possibility of and the qualities of an unending, conscious foray of extant instants. I am interested in the possibility of a never-ending interval of inters— of non-polarities truly capable of continually producing applicable vibrancies. Yes, if only to vivify viscerally—to become by way of non-dogmatic creationisms. If only to enable a great orchestration of threading—which composes cosmically, beyond rational or linear structures that are relegated by logics of singular planes. Perhaps it is most plausible for us to emancipate in ways that are relevant to this borderless infinitum, by eradicating and refusing societal norms or perspectives that limit us. Perhaps we must vigorously transduce historicities and previously utilized either-or models, into relevancies—into relentlessly poignant germanes. In order for it to be possible for us to continually evolve along an enigmatic spectra rooted in the real capacities of space, time and relation, I propose that we engage infinity in whatever ways we can conceive of it. I propose that we invent—that we provoke—that we do whatever it takes to make contact. I propose that we refuse binary consciousness—and in its place establish things more adaptable and changeable—sacrosanct habitats—fields of seeping, sumptuous fractals—vibratory infrared blotches as they are smearing.
“Quantum is continuous with its beyond; quantum consists precisely in being the other of itself.” How else would we be actively involved in the literal composition of infinity—if not by way of becoming our own accessible beyond? If not by way of removing dualist structures and inducing restorations through creation and nourishment of indelible, sopping spans? For humans who do not fit into either-or models, dominant culture’s structures do not provide us a space. I want to speak deeply and authentically of the dilemmas of difference—of being categorically considered the “opposite” or the “other” in polarist systems—of the damage that this can do to pulsating, mixed, cyborg entities (of which I am).
Truly, how can we open, then evolve contemporary energies, ecstasies and enigmas that can come to us as we so robustly formulate out of our own fierce volition? And what to do with the pains and releases related to collapsing previously historicized models or modes that do not hold us? As reaction to breakage (instead of desperate clinging to structures and strictures that have been modeled by historicity), it is possible to increase breakage. I am saying that we can add wave to wave. I have learned (and it is like an embodiment-mantra to me) that one can actually go so far into the dis of any seeming dislocation, that we become a new kind of located—motile-located and that that located can act as a venerate-haven that can never be taken away from us. To me, constant compositions of and by way of the borderless infinitum, this embodied dis—is an alternate to being stilted—and deeply biomimics what could have been the way that the first single celled organisms (prior to stramolites) materialized (through yearning that is turned into a contemplative practice of reach) on earth as earth, over 3.5 billion years ago.
Never fixed but instead flexible, like an immeasurable divergent layering of softening shapes, intent to measure. Gaining each inert sequence of senses by attempting new inertias. This is a sort of assorted extruding signage: a galactic signature.
I am aware that you can die at the moment of dis. You can stop. But if instead, you decide to breed continuance in yourself, that is the beginning of being uncolonizable and unownable. The resources from which you draw (once the decision of conscious continuance is made) are no longer the place of your “given origin” but part of your cosmic, spherical, non-dogmatic originality. Your own unownable borderless infinitum.
I am trying to say that my origin is not based in or appropriately gauged by physiological history or genealogy, nor is it able to be understood by way of polarist systems. My truest pedigree is and has always been in the future, or to the side of, because its source is ether, only partly informed by form. All of this to say—please somehow to turn all exiles into eclipses.
All of this to say— I dream the hinge where the dove’s wing connects to the dove’s middle, as a site where the cosmic data of eternities and perdurabilities are stored. This matters because I have long implored the gods to reveal to me where the sodden data of the human’s experience of grief, longing, invention, ecstasy and alterity
are stored in the cosmos. The revelations reveal themselves by way of the borderless infinitum. Right now, I see this revelation as tight swirling flames in the pits of deified birds.
Oh this exigent work to create neoteric liberties—through ways and methods that are not related to formerly prescribed shapes that are based in binary or limit! If only to press into the places where an authentically human transparency and ulterior truths can converge— —this the body the book non-colonizable.
An entirely new logic wherein “the forces between particles are mediated by other particles.” Oh this etching then gnawing the exchanges— by way of elaborate hand-made anti-balustrade!
—j/j hastain  www.marxist.org, paragraph 1—Hegel’s Science of Logic  Wikipedia entry for Quantum Field Theory
THE WHITE ALBUM
I like sleeping alone. I like how quiet it gets and the bright light next to the bed as I lie there reading, and how hot it gets sometimes and even how there’s always a bug that flies around the light. I think what I like best is that moment right before going to sleep: when I lie there, too tired to think, but with thoughts still rattling around in my head. Not even thoughts, but the last few images and words going round in a drain, before falling away forever.
I always try to remember them, but they slip away, you know? There’s just something about that time of night. Sometimes I try to keep awake as long as I can, watching and waiting to see what happens. Sometimes I’ve sat on the roof and waited till dawn. Nothing happens. Something does, but it’s like trying to remember those thoughts— you can’t pin it down. It’s best when there’s heat lightning along the horizon, something to stir you up inside, but from a distance, like seeing yourself from afar. Then when you sleep, it’s good to stretch diagonally across the bed and let the sheets get tangled up in your legs and spread your arms out, like you’re spreading yourself real thin and flat as you can. And then to wake up, really early, not knowing where you are, who you are. Like one time I was in this motel room. I’d been hitch-hiking. I was stuck in Las Cruces, heading west. It was very late and I was tired and I walked over to this lousy motel and got a room. I took a shower and changed clothes and got into bed and slept. I woke up at some point and after a while, lying very still, I was able to make out the cracks in the ceiling plaster, lit up every now and then by the swoop of headlights from out on the road. Something strange came over me. A certain kind of peace I’d never felt before. I felt totally empty. I was just eyes blinking up through the darkness; what it was I was seeing I couldn’t name, I had not come from anywhere, I was not going anywhere, I just was. You see? More completely and simply than I ever had been or would be, I was. And somehow it had to do with not really being at all. I felt the roomness of the room. That thing that we’re always trying to escape, maybe—being seen by someone, even someone who loves you—maybe especially that—being known—well, I’d floated free of it. For just that moment, I didn’t see myself, didn’t know myself. I lied there, letting my eyes follow the cracks on the ceiling, feeling perfectly at ease with wonder. The moment I became aware of avoiding something—which started, I think, as an awareness of a tension on my forehead—I knew myself again with a certain disappointment, and it was over.