Most of today I have been in the great magnificent aura of Etel Adnan’s and Alice Notley’s online reading for the Woodberry Poetry Room, a pilgrimage of about 500 devotées to the vapor of a digital grid to experience Adnan’s and Notley’s poems -- speaking, it seemed, from some utopia of words, whatever the utopia it is that follows an apocalypse.
We are in the final stretch of a devastating, incendiary year that has activated, astonished, extinguished, and finally occasionally acquired its own atmosphere and artifacts of humdrum. But I reject this normal, any calcification of anything today or ever into the sterility of habit.
The year 2020 seems in some ways to me a metonym for this particular four-year period we also find ourselves with some uncertain proximity toward, and the frank truth is that this four year period has been a metonym for the several centuries of this fictional nation, and its violences which have been so constant that they have performed on many of its residents a shocking inurement.
But not upon the poets. I am writing from the prior side of an election with the recognition this missive and issue of our Newsletter will fly into the world, a thousand broadsheet cranes, on the other side of the partition of this event.
Or is there horizon, or does the fabrication of a horizon make the present more endurable.
To my mind, the “election,” by which I really mean this specific stage of our infected “democracy” is as uncertain and continuous and truthfully viral as the pandemic: where we are is where we are. There is no cleaving it from where we were and where we’re going. The future doesn’t happen without a right now, and all I can account for is some fraction of the time of this writing.
The attachment to an election, within our particular two-party design, suggests some kind of glass half full or empty optimism or dread. But there are also those of us, the poets especially, who see the premise of the container for the artifice it is. The truth of our situation and of all time is oceanic, tidal, roiling, interconnected, fatal, and life-giving.
Rather than subject myself to the final presidential debate tonight, I decide to read Ann Lauterbach’s excellent meditations on time and memorialization in the new Siglio publication of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ photostats. Lauterbach: “History, a thing that constellates inclusion under the sign: what happened; the rest, ephemeral as candy sucked in the mouth of a child bored at the museum.”
Also Simone Weil, On the Abolition of All Political Parties: “A collectivity has no tongue and no pen. All the organs of expression are individual.”
You come here maybe for the news of The Project, for some news of what various revolutions and insurrections poets are effectuating. Well, we are dedicating ourselves to abolition, as presence, ethos, and objective. We are talking with and learning from friends like PavPu, an Indonesian spoken word collective expanding our sense of poetry’s activations and circulations within a community. We bring all of our humility and attention to the teachings of pleasure, grief, nourishment, terrain, and how they can change our experiences of self and relation, in reviews of work by Samuel Delany, s*an d. henry smith, Jameson Fitzpatrick, Etel Adnan, and more. We celebrate poems from emerging writers like Emma Gomis, selected this year for the Brannan Prize by Patricia Spears Jones; and from longtime friends like Michael McClure, who has gone off to the celestial, and who is remembered in these pages with a beautiful reflection from Garrett Caples.
Poets in their remarkable different lives have definitely been engaged as well in certain political work. But poetry the spirit and the material has no partisan allyship or affiliation. There is no amassment of power that functions within itself as a justifiably good end. As a means, the effort is both important and debateable.
Whatever outcome or future we find ourselves in, whenever and wherever this reaches you, we will need the defiance of poetry.