Thursday, 20 June 2013

Jennifer Cooke: On the Militant Poetics Conference

These are the things I thought the most important about the day:

1. The structure of the day, with rolling papers that moved on after ten-fifteen minute discussions meant that no one voice dominated, no one set of ideas took the permanent stage. Instead, there was a feeling that ideas were being put on the table to be turned over, touched, tested, bounced about by participants of the day. The fact we sat in a circle and could have eye contact helped too. The way the day developed built trust that each voice that spoke into the space was valued and as ideas moved on, the paper-givers tended to abandon their papers and respond instead to the developing discussion. The affective dimensions of what this format produced was very valuable, in my opinion.

2. Danny Hayward's paper was a turning point in the day, I think, because of the practical suggestions it contained in terms of action. Danny suggested that it was important for us to know each other better - know the politics of those around us beyond just a broadly left-wing anti-capitalist consensus - and that to do that, and to discuss political events as they unfold in the public sphere and how we could respond to them, we needed to meet regularly in small groups. We could then discuss politics, political actions, and our poetry and this would build strong solidarities which could then be fed back into larger meetings of us all.

3. Francesca Lisette raised for me the most important poetic point of the day. Responding to a paper which had described a need to fuck capitalism in every hole in which it has fucked us, she said she wanted no part in a revolution which used rape as a metaphor. This widened into a discussion of the use of sex and fucking more generally in poetry, especially its metaphorics. This for me is a fundamental question which has both academic and activist dimensions. A recent group of female poets - international but many of us are in the UK - has just formed in order to precisely try to think about these questions in more depth, which has been a practical outcome of conversations from the Militant Poetics day but also many conversations and frustrations stretching back a long time before. It was fantastic for me to hear this issue aired so succinctly and passionately by Fran and the subsequent conversations that I've had with other poets, particularly women, around this matter have been extremely stimulating and important.

1 comment:

  1. Keston Sutherland20 June 2013 at 08:45

    Thanks for this Jen. I too especially enjoyed Fran's reaction to the paper and the wider conversation it provoked.

    Without meaning to be pedantic, can I ask (you or anyone else who may like to respond) what is meant by "revolution" in your third paragraph? Do you mean that revolution is like a subjective agent in command of its use of language? Do you further mean to propose it as a principle of revolutionary conduct, or a normative demand on individual conscience, that we should only participate in revolutions whose use of language we find acceptable? Or is your point that we ourselves are the revolution and therefore we must stop using reactionary language?

    I thoroughly agree not just that sexual language, but that sexuality itself in poetry should be infinitely more carefully interrogated than ever before. I share the hope that Fran voiced for a poetry of "revolutionary tenderness".

    But also I can't help but think of Marx's ironical commentary on the "ugly" revolution versus the "beautiful" revolution in the Eighteenth Brumaire. I wonder if there might be any lessons for us in that text.