Monthly Archives: October 2013

Dear excellent lover thinkers and dear haters too!

We’ve been posting things about poetry and/or revolution as we find them or as people have sent them to us. Thanks to everyone who wrote or thought. And who wrote-thought.

We now begin the moment of posting nothing more here, right now. We can’t maintain a blog! We’ve got no process for it. No skill for it. No aptitude.

But all encouragement to the debates to continue! We will be reading them. And enjoying them.

The conference made us happy and full of love. That most of the conversation seemed to be about love was said several times. And even when the conversations were difficult, still it has made happy and love, in us. Thanks anyone who was open to this with us.

Until next time. (This conference happens every year or so, right?)

Sincerely, the po-rev-ers, aka the and/or-ers

[A correspondent sends us the following proposal in response to the themes and problematics of the poetry and/or revolution conference]


Exhibition Proposal, Working Document
October 2013

“Where books are burned, in the end people will burn.”

—Heinrich Heine, 1821

Dear Curator:

As you are aware, the current state of affairs exists to conflate categories of thought such as poetry and social relations, public discourse and private wish-fulfillment, community and individual, art and criticism, and so on and so forth, until we are left digging graves.

As Marx said, there is no such thing as a metaphysical problem, yet here we are, mired in all this bullshit about the laboring subject needing poetry to overcome his or her subjugation to capital, whatever that means. What those of us who know what we want are after is precisely this system, transformed to serve our needs. Unfortunately, as Freud said, people are disposed to get off on their symptoms. Or, put differently, as Lacan said, no one has a theory about what happens beyond neurosis. Or, as Zizek said, what we lack is sympathy with thought. Or, as Joshua Clover said, we are living in this world. Or, as Josef Kaplan said, shoot the kids in the head. Or, as Big L put it, fuck love, all I got for bitches is hard dick and bubblegum.

This is as good a place as any to recall that Wittgenstein, the greatest of all billionaire Marxists, attempted to emigrate to the Soviet Union before coming to his beloved senses and remembering his fabulous life at Cambridge.

Our so-called “crisis” is a simple mechanism: the confusion of the order of things, the exile of materialism from thought. As in the mainstream public discourse, nothing is more taboo than materialism in the fantasyland of magical-Leftist, Harry Potter-Marxist poetry or philosophy. I for one would much rather have a drink with my friends on Wall Street, than with the so-called community of “progressive” poets, who are rightly perceived from the outside as a bunch of child-people.

But I digress.

In sum, I am after the acceleration of the exhaustion of idealisms in this society. That is the task I have set out for myself. No matter how resolute some of us have been in our attempts to murder poetry, it will not stay dead. I have racked my brain recently as to what, if any, critical work or symbolic act might bring about in this especially metastasized discourse the desired effects of silence, laughter, and most of all, the sense of getting-on-with-it.

I propose the construction and installation of incinerators for the burning of poetry books in as many art galleries as possible. These can take the form of modified industrial kitchen ovens with improvised conveyor belts. At present I am of the mind that the apparatus should be constructed in such a manner that it automatically collects the ashes of burned books in urns, so that poets may have a keepsake in which to drown their sorrows.

Poetry is dead, long live poetry.

Alejandro Ventura

Marianne Morris on trauma caused by activism

for the final panel of Poetry and/or Revolution, we were asked to give manifestos, responses, or proposals. as my contribution, i wanted to make this material available for distribution. my closing statement was in part related to the trauma caused by activism and/or other personal history. you may have noticed yourself tremoring after a fight-or-flight event (like this polar bear: ). tremoring is the body’s natural response to traumatic incidents; it releases the stress hormones created during times when the body is in fight-or-flight mode. for reasons unknown, this tremoring often does not happen in adult humans, and in these cases, trauma can have long-term effects. someone who is traumatized has trouble being in the world, being out of their home, making decisions in times of pressure, or in some cases, making decisions period. in order for us to remain able to work together and to think/act for ourselves/each other, we need a method of clearing this stuff. this PDF contains a section from a book on trauma, which shows you how to put stressors on your leg muscles to tire them out, which eventually induces tremoring. these releasing exercises have helped a number people i know who are coping with the aftereffects of trauma, whether from a history of abuse, activism, or living in war zones. they may be helpful for activists who have been in situations where ‘fight or flight’ takes over – running from police, witnessing/being a victim of police violence, watching friends/comrades being arrested, or being arrested themselves. one of the best things about these exercises is that you don’t have to talk about your experiences during clearing – it is a somatic process which releases the stress hormones that accumulate in your body during fight-or-flight episodes. the exercises are very simple, and the tremoring feels really good. they take about 40 minutes to complete.

Dear Jacob and Tom,

You blog post surprised me. Firstly, I believe it accuses me of something I didn’t actually say or express in my paper. The paper describes what happened at the Millbank protest in terms of how the crowd reacts. I think it is notable – which is why I wrote about it – that the crowd responded immediately and in condemnatory fashion. It expressed a judgement. I do not, in the paper, comment upon whether I think that judgement is the correct one. I point to it as an example of how crowds make ethical decisions (something often disputed in theories of crowd behaviour); how, in this example, they distinguish between an act judged as indiscriminate and potentially harmful to protesters and other acts which the crowd directly supported through cheers and other chants. Girard calls this way that a group operates to exclude a member to reinforce its sense of itself as a group scapegoating; my very brief allusion there to Girard is perhaps unclear and certainly too short. I was not advocating scapegoating but pointing to how it happens. I think it is very important for us to understand carefully how crowds behave.

What the crowd did in that moment is very different to what later happened to Edward Woollard, in the press and through the courts. My description of that event is not analogous or the same as stating that I agree with the attitudes of the judiciary. For the record, I can state that I did not agree with or support his arrest, his prosecution or his imprisonment, and nor do I now. In fact, I absolutely condemn it.

Yet, for me, no one, no crowd, no individual, in whatever situation (revolutionary struggle and protest included) is beyond criticism. Not all actions in a protest are revolutionary. If we want to think and act in ways which are going to further the struggle against the current State, then it is important that we analyse our collective and individual actions. To do so is not to align oneself with the State, who might also critique those actions but from a very different perspective and with different reasons. I personally think it is a shame that Edward Woollard threw the fire extinguisher towards the people below, which included both protesters and police. I’d have preferred he’d done something else with it, any number of things. I’m glad it didn’t hit a protester, for obvious reasons; I’m glad it didn’t hit a member of the police because they’d have tried to put him away for life and painted an even more vicious picture of the protests than they did, it would have given the Daily Mail even juicer headlines and it would have achieved very little to nothing in furthering what the protests were actually about.  I’d be very worried about a situation which forbade us to think critically about the actions we undertake, collectively or individually. Perhaps this is a genuine point of disagreement here with you, given what you wrote.

As to the other points you raise, I don’t have much disagreement with your political statements, although I have a problem with the rhetorical style in which you write. You tend to try to state what I say, then state your own position as different, and in doing so, caricature my position as one which apologises for police violence or denies that other emotions than the one I am focusing on are also felt on protests. This dismays me, for several reasons. It is so often that the left ends up fighting among itself, expending the precious resources we have on debates about position-taking and misrepresentation. I truly believe – and this was very much in the spirit of the Revolution and/or Poetry conference – that we are not at all best served by the denouncing style that this blog post is written in. For one, it made me feel like I simply want nothing to do with ‘Militant Poetics’, whatever that is. It made me feel tired. It is a form of grand-standing and, in an uncannily accurate inversion of your own accusation of what you think I am doing, excluded me from the kinds of militant position your post thinks we should be taking.

Of course we should criticise each other and each other’s positions. For example, I’d be interested to extend the conversation about the chorus that you raise briefly in the post. There is a historical, literary (dramatic) dimension to the chorus, of course, and there is also a very immediate need to discuss how chants and slogans operate on us, circulate among us, express our feelings or work to make us feel alienated. You say that the chorus is on the side of the police and negative community formation. I don’t agree that all chanting is just like a chorus or that it is all negative, in history and in practice, even though obviously some chants are. I’d like to explore this: I usually find chanting problematic. But everything about the way this blog post has been done has not at all been in the spirit of seeking dialogue or discussion. You know how to contact me. You didn’t. You just posted this to the web. You know my name – and I have met Jacob, at least, several times at events and on protests – yet you refer to ‘the author’ throughout. The ‘we’ that operates in your paper is quite obviously deployed in order not to include me.  

We should seek dialogue, to talk to one another about what we think the other might be saying, to be careful of one another and each other’s feelings. Today, I should be writing to a deadline. Had I done so, I’d have had more time to give to preparing for the strike which has been called for the 31st October 2013. This is a very real material consequence of how you’ve decided to engage with my paper and it makes me angry and makes me feel the impotence of how we conduct our debates. There were all sorts of options open to you to make this into more of a dialogue than a denunciation and yet you explore none of them.

It is precisely this issue of how we talk to each other and how we try to build lasting, inclusive conversations and solidarity that for me was the most important aspect of what was discussed at the conference in the Bay Area. I’m not sure what you intended to achieve with your response. But the effect has been to make me angry, baffled, despairing, and to feel as though the possibilities of us being able to organise anything among poets and activists in London in the way that the two conferences at Birkbeck hoped for are extremely far away.

Jennifer Cooke