sous les pavés, la plage

»beneath the paving stones, the beach«

IN THIS ISSUE















SOUS LES PAVÉS is a bi-monthly newsletter of poetry & ideation distributed by mailing list only and funded by the generous
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Send mss. & correspondence to Micah Robbins | 3515 Fairview Ave. | Dallas, TX 75223 or email

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»SOUS LES PAVÉS«
March 2011 Number 3






Jay James May
Lara Buckerton
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,
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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.

—MICAH ROBBINS
CORRESPONDANCE


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.
—JARED SCHICKLING

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 «
THE NEW POLITICS
—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)
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
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
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
predicted based on economic/mathematical models of behaviour,
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
Impossible. Our desire has gone beyond its allocated configuration.
Whose streets? Our streets. On 24/11/10 I fought with and ran
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.
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
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—
errata!—fewer kettles, more tea. Metropolitan Police Commissioner
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
relationship with David Cameron. Gordon Brown likes this. 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
chants. A pink stormtrooper ambles by. Perhaps G.D. was right:
“l’humanité ne sera heureuse que le jour où le dernier bureaucrate
aura été pendu avec les tripes du dernier capitaliste”.

—JAY JAMES MAY
(with gratitude to Jane Elliott and Sebastian Franklin)

THERE IS NO OTHER CHEEK TO BE TURNED


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
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.
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
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
—LARA BUCKERTON
RIOTING A BIT

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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!).
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:
(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.
(c) The majority of MPs in the Commons belong to parties who
opposed tuition fees before the election.

– 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

10.12.10



Aftermath

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 brunt
which 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.

—FRANCESCA LISETTE

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 «
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
disgusting. 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.
» NOTES ON BRITISH POETRY NO. 44 «
(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.
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
—GOAT FAR DT

» SCRAPE THE ICE «
(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 !i"ek, 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, !i"ek 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.
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
Border—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.
—RICHARD OWENS


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.

—SEAN BONNEY
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
and translated in words, for it is also an act in and of itself. That is,

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.

POETRY AND CONTINGENCY

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.

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
Maximus Poems, Charles Olson writes, “My problem is how to
make you believe / these persons, who lived here then…” In
Maximus, 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,
shave your head & draw symbols on your head that only
your ancestors would know. If you don’t want to shave your
head, sit for a day with symbols painted on your third eye.

» Pay attention to your dreams, and literally do upon
waking what was done in your dreams. The dead speak
through dreams, & lead us to places where epiphanies &
inspiration can occur.

» 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
Remember that the beat of the maracas should be just as
repetitive as the dancing.

» Once the dance is complete, write the poems. The poems
will enact the dance.

The Saints travel in the head.
If the poem ends before the possession does, and you wish for a
clear head, drink a cold glass of water. If this doesn’t work (if
possession persists), wash your head thoroughly.

—DEBRAH MORKUN


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.[1] 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).[2]
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

—KESTON SUTHERLAND
[1] See: http://www.cam.ac.uk/univ/history/19c.html
[2] See the National Statistics reports on UK Service Sector and Public Sector Employment:
http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_commerce/UK_Service_Sector.pdf and http://www.statistics.gov.uk/articles/nojournal/PSE_final.pdf.

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



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.
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”.
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.
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.
So what were we doing? Anyone could write a book on the
matter. We were responding to a sense we had that something was
possible 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,
about society when one puts oneself in those situations, when one
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).
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
reciprocate or extend a gesture, without fulfilling it. One thousand
sheets of paper and perhaps one hundred conversations, at our end:
who could know how far they went, into which hands those
fragments passed?
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
and cause maximum disruption, launching an attempted attack on
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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

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.“

—COLLECTIVE ANON
* * *
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.”[1]
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.”[2]
Oh this etching then gnawing the exchanges—
by way of elaborate hand-made anti-balustrade!




—j/j hastain
[1] www.marxist.org, paragraph 1—Hegel’s Science of Logic
[2] Wikipedia entry for Quantum Field Theory
from 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.
—DAVID HADBAWNIK

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