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Some Context for Joshua Clover’s Poetry & Politics

By Harriet Staff

Though it seems the only mainstream news source to pick up (sorta) the story of the so-called Davis Dozen is the Chicago Tribune, the arraignment for Joshua Clover and the eleven students facing serious jail time in the wake of the UC Davis/US Bank debacle is still set for tomorrow. So let’s maintain some connections between poetry and politics while they’re intensely tangible, shall we.

First, we might read Clover’s poem “Spring Georgic,” recently published in Lana Turner.

Patrick Durgin, poet and publisher of Kenning Editions, helpfully points us to some background on Clover’s other literary project before he got “distracted.” Clover has been working on, writes Durgin, an English-language edition of Jean-Marie Gleize’s Tarnac, un acte préparatoire. More:

There is little subtlety in the ironic twist that the first full collection to be available to Anglo-American readers–by Gleize, one of the most important poet-critics of the latter 20th and early 21st centuries in France–is based on the story of the Tarnac 10.

Here is a conversation published earlier this year between Clover and Juliana Spahr, on poetry and politics. Mind the scare quotes.

And here is an article on Gleize’s work.

If you are still wondering how to connect this all to poetry, here’s a bit from the aforementioned Clover/Spahr PSA piece:

And we would like to say that we think poets have been very involved in politics this last year or three, and we believe they have been involved and committed in part because they are poets but that doesn’t mean they have been involved only as poets. And this distinction seems crucial right now. It may be that the present situation asks us to give a lot of our time to other matters, and we write less poetry in this case, and that is the answer adequate to politics. But this is still what we do as people who write poetry — we are not renouncing this desire that is poetry by recognizing that politics sometimes wants other things of us. And it may be that we feel the need to engage the present situation with poems — that, again, does not make us more or less people who write poems. Maybe we are saying something as improbable as it is simple: that being a poet, if it is to be in any way meaningful, doesn’t mean being a person who engages the world through poems. It means being a person who is in the world and for whom writing poems is one possibility in trying to figure out what is needed. It means recognizing the political as the case, as the situation, before we have been captured by the question that begins, “As poets….” We ask first: what does the situation need to help it along? Poems are neither the answer nor not.

We can see how the work on Gleize might relate! From the abstract Durgin points to:

[Gleize] calls postpoésie attempts to write poetry as if from the outside, leaving behind lyrical verse, prose poetics, and all forms of essentialism. In the 1990s he developed and applied in his own writing concepts of littéralité and nudité that aimed at quietening down figures, expressivity and subjectivity to let the workings of language and discourse surface as more objective and potent poetic enigmas.

Clover has also responded directly to the Davis situation in “Reflections on UC-Davis: On Academic Freedom and Campus Militarization” at College Literature, if you have not yet seen that.

And as we post, there are 5,183 signatures to the petition

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Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.