Thursday, 25 July 2013

Chris Gutkind: Individual and Collective word-work

I’ll try to keep this brief, much has been said already, here and in person and at the conference and elsewhere, and I don’t really want to repeat too much. I’ve liked the contributions. Some very much, there’s some good rigorous thought, and I think practical suggestions of how to go forward, what we might do etc., are the most vital right now. Please give my words some allowance, I tend to talk about these things in general terms, I’m not against specifics, the roots of things and the detail of what we might do, but I like to put things as simply as I can when it comes to politics. And I tend to think our collective work will have more impact if we think as simply and clearly as we can, which is not to say we won't be dealing with complex things and some of our endeavours will also be complex.

I start with the assumption the dominant and prevalent system most people are live in is full of suffering and degrading and not letting us live humanely or fulfilling us as far as we need or nearly as much as we can live, and that we all want radical change, something very transformational, so the question is how we get there and, specifically, how we can help. We are running out of time and vastly outnumbered though it is possible to change things and we have try.

We are meeting as a group so we are wondering what can we do collectively in some form. Already people do good artistic or informative or activist stuff individually and there is a place for that. There are a lot of different approaches in our group, poetic ways and life ways, and that should make us stronger collectively, combining things, as we see fit, as a whole or in various parts. The point is: we are pissed off at the suffering, the rulers, and the bullshit, like the bullshit of some baby the usual interests feel, and shout about right now, who is more important than other babies, and we are all good with words in our various ways, and we’ve all come together, so what are we gonna actually do, together, about it? Is there something we can actually do that might help, make a useful contribution? But together, since we’ve come together, and what is together anyway, what do we mean by that in our situation? I’m not sure myself but we gotta start getting together and talking about it. Some good ideas have been put out and hopefully we’re all thinking about it but I know my thoughts and determination and usefulness in this will be stronger if we talk together and try and figure things out more. We could really be stronger together. Isn’t that the old truth? Even though, and actually because, they are stronger together too, especially since most of them don’t feel they are so together, making oppression. The spectacle is so strong these days, candy-coated god-baby all over our screens, but we have the heads and imagination to anti it and help people consider other ways, what we’re missing and what is better.

I am also aware, though this is intuition, that there must be people like us but doing very different creative things, not word based, and that we desperately need to find these people and work with them as well. As well, there are many poets that have been in far worse societal-situations than us, and maybe we can learn from them, though I am fairly ignorant of the details of such ‘moments’.

And: what can we do that only we can do? So as not to repeat other efforts? Not to exclusivize us, or exclude us from other ways, but rather to work with what we can really do well etc.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Martin Bakero: Militancy of Poets

The first revolutionary action that people from the commune of Paris did in 1871, was to break all the clocks of the city. That action engaged the possibility to revolutionaries to go beyond all the limits that reality imposes upon us. Centuries before, the troubadour poets, the “Knights of Joyful Knowledge”, met together once a year to find a new word or neologism in the manner of an antidote for words that limited the freedom of people. One of them was the word “mors” (dead), the poet who were chose for that task, Truc Malec, returns the next year to propose to the poets of Trobar Clus the word “amors” (love or specifically “not dead”), inventing a new way to go beyond the limits of the human being. Those actions are examples of what we can do in terms of politically poetic actions. Open the borders of reality to bring more freedom to people.

Go beyond time. We must create associations with scientists, mystics, farmers, people who know how to work with materials, and then imagine new connexions of things in the world. To emancipate people from the slave condition of “meaning”. Words, syllables, whispers, colours, sounds...which will open poetry from its exclusively communicational function, to stop merely making sense so as to develop the experience of a more playful state of liberation of the mind and the flesh: to unchain the tongue of the signification system, in order to open the atom-sparks of joy.

The poet is the one who is supposed to know how to deal with the transformation of things, he is that one who has to be trained, all his life, into the guerrilla state of “déreglement de tous les sens” "the derangement of all the senses" (as Rimbaud, Nerval, Hugo, Arnim and Novalis said) and in that way she must take care of the power of capability of the creation of new ideas and explore constantly the possibilities for producing freedom in the world. The poet can connect things in a way to prove that the other can complete the self, the existence of oneself is nothing without the other, because the distance of the other one can show us a hidden part that we can’t see by ourselves.

The problem of Violence is the selfish accumulation of things only for private property, “Property is theft” says Proudhon, that is the terrible sentence that capitalism gave to us. But it’s the same about the creations or discoveries that poets keep for themselves without sharing them with the people. The poet only produces the half part of the poem, the rest is the reader or the listener. The power of poetry and its capacity to revolutionize and to propose new links between things, could become mere accumulation and a source of unnecessary violence, and of no help to human society, if we don't show collectively, to others, the free associations that traverse us. If we don’t show the way by the way that we poets we break free from the excess of reality. Reality indeed dominated by paranoiacs, politicians and economic speculators.

The principal enemies of freedom and the mutation of the world were, for Surrealists: family, nation and religion. They used to link Marx, Fourier, Freud and Rimbaud to propose the necessity of changing the world. Those concepts are now the basis of every liberal republic. The fixed aspects of those things don’t allow us the possibility to grow and feel the power of hidden marvellous destinies, and the combat against the fixed things is an old struggle of poetry.

Actually poets are engaged with the constant militant “discrepancy” from reality to keep ourselves free from capitalist misery and from being governed by people who only consider the singularity of human beings as a medium to achieve the accumulation of goods and not as a goal in itself. If the poet is able to have the courage to keep himself free from it in many ways, then he will able to return to reality to produce new symbols, articulations of beauty, symbols of transformation.

During these days the majority of artists deal only with their ego and try to put themselves inside reality without any criticism and to win lots of money and prizes, each one is under the slave position of their own personal ego as a master; to achieve a mission commanded by his or her own family, town or ideas of success. We forgot that we are always linked with all the “pluriverses” and we are connected to the multiple resonances of things, and in that way we cannot forget the destiny of human beings, animals, natures, stars and great transparent. We now that collective ideas can go farther than single ones. One of the topmost struggles in inner life is that one between reality and desire, and in that way we must need to create new spaces into reality to bring life to singular desires, individuals and collectives. We don’t allow repression of instincts, nor any oppression of freedom, but instead we are compelled to create Spaces where resonances of untried analogies could happen. To combat the control that the newspapers, television, and mass communication have over us, all of them absolutely under the political and business power control and we must display to the world that another kind of life is possible.

Like Charles Fourier’s attempts to create a new kind of organization of collective live, by the way of respect for passions, and spontaneous ways to express together those passions and desires. Without repression or mistreating the other. Not by way of adapting people to the idea of work in something that they don’t like, and the alienation that it produces to us. Instead we must propose new ways of organization in the sense of spontaneous associations and desires of the subject and community, to be shared with the others, and where every one could work in joy and freedom about the things that she loves, sharing them, and that will impel collective power. We must also propose new community rituals and awake the poetry of single existence in books or printed paper, to bring them into action. Like the pre-pythagorean poets who heal the cities and propose new solutions to individual and collective problems.

The speculation of poets with theirs own careers, managing only their single individual destiny, is maybe the most dangerous effect of neoliberalism in arts. We have no more anonymous actions of poetry, or collective creations. We accept to pay taxes, to read the newspaper, to watch television, without any action to deconstruct that. How we can continue to accept the discourse that produces fear and makes people more alienated and puts us into false necessity to respect political power, that television, pharmacy and newspapers determine and that tries to confine reality to all their business plans of weapons, invention of terrorism, legal drugs, politicians who bring more fear to the world, and fear is the enemy of joyful knowledge.

If we are not in the way of speculation, we must prepare ourselves to deal with the excess of sensibility of beauty and to learn how to do with it. We must create objects together that can witness and share our perception of things, we need to meet us like here to think together about poetical ideas who can bring happiness and health to the world. We must demand all the money that military, pharmacy and political power brings to weapons and to the dangerous idea of “nation”. We must demand that those resources must become free for collectives, poetic work to change the world, and not only grants to have more celebrity, more public, more money...

We must struggle against the idea of nation, “why should someone who was born some kilometres away from me be my enemy just because we are from different nations?”

Georges Bataille said that if we don't use the energy that grows into us, the product of exchange with the universe, it could transform itself into something that will destroy us and we will pay for that inevitable explosion. The nations of the world expend all their wealth into weapons to kill other humans beings, and that is the sad destiny of that internal entropy. If instead we eliminate the idea of nations and we use that energy for something else, where we poets share the mission of open the mind of the world.

We must build new societies with the same substance of dreams, to propose new political organization farther than democracies or totalitarianisms, poetic revolutions where people can follow their own singularities and at the same time respect and encourage the other ones. Without a master like “state”, who was the principal criticism from Bakunin to Marx. We can meet regularly to think and to create collectivities, because we can go together to more powerful and durable thoughts. To fight old symbolisms and fixed ideas and then propose to create new ones or to return to better ones that brings us more peace and joy, symbols that can develop analogies of apparently opposite things. Like by example in Mexico we must returns to the idea of “the plumed serpent”, more than the symbol of an eagle eating a serpent!

Let's go to break some tvs in front of parliament or the queen’s house.

Don’t read the newspapers, fight the idea of a so ugly reality.

Combat the idea of monotheism that doesn’t allow another gods or demons, why should we have to believe in only one god or one queen? How we could open the space to different kinds of thoughts and not impose on others our own vision of religion or faith.

Create new articulations of time and space. Go beyond the gregorian calendar, adopt new kind of organizations and definitions of time: “the time of a coffee”, “the time of sleep”, the time of making love, the time of reading a book, etcetera...

Create new kinds of association between people where we could be united better than by family who impose to us fixed ideas of ego or success.

We need places for spontaneous improvisations and to group us in troupes of action poets. Free association of human beings from the below to above, not the control of our wills that the State tries to impose upon us.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Michael Tencer: Critical Convocation (6 June 2013)

Danny Hayward's suggestion for a process of association & small group affiliation in the eighth point of his conference paper seems so basic as to hopefully be over-obvious to some of you by now, yet it's a sign of our austere, miserabilist, cubicle-infested times that radical poets & activists need to gather in the formality of a conference setting to seriously even advance that possibility. In the isolation of the individual career the poet's task is pathetically circumscribed, reduced to competitive word slinging & grading for congratulatory micro-readership; the same can be said for a gathering of such careers, based upon elective affinities, which is insufficiently rigorous in its inward & outward critical practice. The various poetic scenes do not form or hold together here by commitment to jointly organised purpose & visionary poesis, but are rather divided & marketed into 'merciless and mercenary gang[s] of cold-blooded slaves and assassins, called, in the ordinary prostitution of language, friends'; & in this moment as we've lately been witness to the keeling wreckage of the largest socialist organisation in the UK, we can also recognise some present-day poetic cliques drowning in personal, moral & economic compromise.

It's a good sign that there's a conference on militant poetics raising explicitly non-rhetorical questions, & a good starting point for poets to at least think thru the implications of a shared poetic militancy. But what are the forms this ought to take to make any fucking difference at all, to effect a reversal in the seemingly endless parade of abhorrences & loss of common rights? You know as well as I do that the precedents for such groupings are so distant today as to force an overly self-conscious appraisal upon an otherwise organic development of autonomous activism. (Just think of how absurd it feels to utter the compound 'militant poet'). There are grouplets of formidable militants already functionally organised today -- just of the few which demand to be mentioned in this context as practical models or theoretical allies I'd bring up the International Socialist Network & the Association of Musical Marxists, both disappointingly missing from this conference's roster -- but aside from these extremely encouraging developments that NOBODY READING THIS BELONGS TO, there are hardly any participants in this conference old enough to have directly experienced such a grouping as we agree is urgently needed right now, -- tho I think we'd also agree there are elements of particular groupings some conference participants at one time belonged to which no doubt deserve to be shared & built upon.

In the interest of clarity, & attempting to avoid the kind of extensive reference material which can hamper or muddy the immediate discussion, I'd like to critique some of what has been said, & propose some of the specific elements I think we can learn from the past which could be generalised & expanded upon in our current work together.

1. Underground newspapers are better than 'journals'; DIY fanzines are better than blogs (tho blogs allow wider distribution of timely information, except of course under internet 'blackouts'). The platform to create right now is the one you want to stumble onto accidentally & ecstatically & co-create on impact, it is not the one that you're assigned to (or, yeh, assign). This isn't some market research tool, this is taking seriously immediate subjective satisfaction as a necessary beginning on social change. Liberation is never boring, & you don't have to sacrifice your sense of pleasure to appeal to anyone's education, taste or posterity.

1b. Political newspapers began to die when they ceased to feature COMIX. The anarchists, in creativity, are beating the living shit out of marxists today because they're the only radicals putting on paper their sense of a living liberation. You know this every time you pick up another propaganda rag at a rally & yet again find yourself sifting thru the same pat answers for the ostensible good of the uninitiated prior to lining your birdcage with it or pawning it off on some other schlub: We can do better by simply talking. Say what you will about lifestyle anarchism, the active anarchist groups today are producing a means of expression appropriate to their ideas, & no matter how many Kenny Goldsmiths hatch from the scanner/OCR, expression remains the prima materia of militant poetics.

2. you HAVE TO MIX outside your scene, HAVE TO, full stop. this is OBVIOUS. You cannot make in 2013 a revolution of predominantly university-educated white guys. Important steps are being taken in finally INTRODUCING poets of black liberation, of feminist & LGBTQ  & working class militancy to the 101, & relearning the history of the medium thru them -- but history, while NEEDFUL, is never enough, it must be lived right now or you've got yourself a corpse in your mouth. The corpse may indeed be yours. You already know this; David Grundy's paper usefully examined this. Let's do something about it.

2b. International organised resistance is the only effective means of combatting an international system of unfreedom. Exclusively local organisation is no longer a sufficient strategy for even exclusively local change. With the resurrection of the EDL & a concomitant rise in Little Englander values among all the shades of Parliament, we cannot afford to collaborate with, or produce & distribute to, exclusively British poets & activists. It seems like an obvious point, but the conference was almost entirely British. It's something to think about & easily correct.

2c. Contrary to Justin Katko's proposal, developing an 'emergent code-writing, particularly useful for speaking in a language that the enemy cannot understand', would not constitute a helpful development for the purposes of political change. First, as already mentioned, most poets are already only reaching other poets today: Poetry is already code. Revolutionary organisation necessarily entails working with people who aren't already militants among us, or we will fail miserably to alter anything beyond our self-image. Particularly when it comes to illegal or violent forms of protest, an exclusionary militant minority is the Leftwing's kiss of death: let us recall the Angry Brigade or Earth Liberation Front or Red Army Faction or any cute bunch of urban guerillas who succeed in 'speaking for' the masses as they valiantly alienate themselves, speeding up the process of division among prevailing mass movements & laying out the red carpet for state paramilitary force reaction. Rather than code-writing, in fact, successful militant actions thruout radical history have entailed the use of multiform & inclusive languages among all the various constituents. Consider, for instance, the Wobbly-organised Lawrence Textile Strike 101 years ago, in which 25 different languages were spoken among the factory workers: interpreters were organised for every language spoken, allowing workers from all backgrounds decisionmaking agency. This is a markedly different approach from that of a code-language, & unlike a group of poets talking secret words to each other, can actually work in facilitating sociopolitical change.

3a. I think the particular questions about demonstration tactics, e.g. What can we do with slogans, what about pranks, etc., are tangential concerns for the present time, meaningfully developed as they are only collectively & contingent to unfolding events. The question of slogans, tho recurrent thruout the conference, is truly a minor one: after all, does anyone really believe that a slogan, rather than a committed collective built upon past achievements & struggles, tips the scale towards winning political gain? Moreover, why should poets be any better at creating slogans than any other protesters?

3b. Also, to those who advocate putting aside our poetry in favour of 'pure' activism: why not simply join activist & political organisations already formed rather than start from scratch with a mangy bunch of poets in tow?

4. Keston Sutherland is Wrong: for attempting to set down an esthetic programme of social realism, despite his expansive radical humanist definition of that otherwise insipid genre & despite being correct about how useful such a 'revolutionary subjective universality' in poetics would be. The greatest strength of poets is their ability to take in the whole world & to process it in absolutely divergent valid ways. Poetry is the quintessential art of exception -- you're not doing poetry or politics any favours by declaring what we poets 'need' to, 'must', do poetically. Even as I may agree with the values of poets who achieve the criteria which Keston Sutherland lays out, -- if I recognise the potential gains to be made from a poetry fully cognisant of the range of liberatory desires as well as slights & limitations, steadily sensitive to internal & external pressures upon the subject as well as the effect & character of any change or stasis over time, -- I disagree that it would be effective for a poetic organisation to develop as the arbiter of any poetic mode. As a previous manifesto on the dialectical interplay between politics & esthetics once put it: 'Our aims: The independence of art -- for the revolution. The revolution -- for the complete liberation of art!'

5. I think that imagining the miserable futures we can deduce from present miseries is not a useful or even interesting activity. In many ways, learning & discussing historical precedents of resistance & rebellion, & comparing these precedents with the present moment, creates a more meaningful vision of the future (if such a vision is needed at all -- some might be more interested in discussing this history as uncovering a more meaningful vision of the present). Certain important militant poetic precedents have already been discussed at the conference & its internet environs, for instance, the work & collaborative relations around Mayakovsky, Brecht, Vallejo, Diane di Prima, Amiri Baraka, Nazim Hikmet, Pasolini, Raul Zurita, & the free jazz musicians David Grundy obliquely references, as well as recent experiments in collaboration like Wu Ming or Jow Lindsay's multiprong attacks. But one example which seems to have largely gone unremarked beyond summary gestures of acknowledgement or dismissal -- & which I'll contradict myself to reference directly -- is the International Surrealist movement, which remains, regardless of what you think (or think you think) of their work, a model of political engagement & worldwide esthetic collaboration, continuously exemplary after nearly a century's development. I strongly recommend to the participants of the conference struggling to materialise an appropriate organisational form a reading of Surrealism Against the Current: Tracts and Declarations, particularly Michael Richardson & Krzysztof Fijalkowski's introduction, 'Surrealism as a Collective Adventure', on the critical appraisal of group structure. Many others have written more extensively on the theoretical basis of Surrealism in relation to the history of resistance against exploitation & oppression -- just among fairly recent publications, cf. Donald LaCoss & Raymond Spiteri's Surrealism, Politics and Culture, Michael Löwy's Morning Star, Robin D.G. Kelley's Freedom Dreams, Penelope Rosemont's Surrealist Women anthology & Ron Sakolsky's anthology Surrealist Subversions -- but for a specific view towards organisational forms appropriate to militant poetics, I think this would stand as necessary reading even for those with persistent allergies to the unconscious.

*Also, just before I send this, & in keeping with the unrevised chicken scratch spirit of these enblogged proceedings, I remembered another precedent which could prove quite relevant for the purposes of the conference: Derek Bailey's Company Weeks. Contra any lingering taste of party-pooperage above, I would wholeheartedly support the establishment of games & creative collaborations. It is literally impossible to avoid the element of play in the context of radical association; that is an aspect of our work I think that we should FLAUNT.

I believe the first importance now is to experiment with organisational forms & see what's feasible in each incarnation; & to look around to other groups & individuals, artists & activists, with whom we might associate. Beyond that there's plenty room to build thru collaboration, inquiry & critique. I am partial to beginning from the dialectical analysis & clarity of Jennifer Cooke's 'Statement of Contradictions' -- this seems to me the document most central to proceeding, a necessary form of thinking if we are to build unburdened by misconceptions.

Keep me in touch with the developing work in the UK, & I will add whatever I can towards bridging the gap from NY.