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Voicemail from a Revolutionary Weekend

By Harriet Staff

ethno1

This just in! The participants of this weekend’s Revolution and/or Poetry Conference have started posting documents from this weekend onto the conference’s official homepage. There, you’ll find Jennifer Cooke’s poetry reading at Revolution and/or Poetry, notes and talks by Jill Richards, Tim Kreiner and Jasper Bernes, Chris Chen’s “Notes Toward an Abolitionist Antiracism,” writing by Joshua Clover, David Buuck, and Juliana Spahr, poetry by Wendy Trevino, Keston Sutherland, Sean Bonney, poetry by Mahmoud Ezzat, as well as Marianne Morris’s “I CAN HAZ NEW AESTHETIC ORDER?” which we discussed to some extent on these pages, here. Tune in regularly to catch future updates to the site. For now, here’s the beginning of Jill Richards’s talk from the last evening of the conference:

I wanted to start by talking about the political climate in Oakland right now. Some people call it a lull, which is perhaps the kindest word. I’ve heard other people describe the atmosphere as poisonous. We are perpetually talking about the infighting and denunciations between different left factions as a cesspool, dissolution, decay. Many people don’t want to be in the same room with one another, much less organize together. I don’t intend to get melancholic or propose an easy solution. These fissures are real. Instead I want to investigate this sense of mourning, of enemies at large, to quote a recent article making the rounds on the internet. This sense of mourning, for me, has little to do with the failure of a political movement. All of the actions I enumerated yesterday in the report back from Oakland—the Oscar Grant riots, the student movement, the building occupations, the freeway occupations, the Santa Cruz dance parties, the Bay of Rage, the occupy encampments, the port blockade, the January 28 arrests, the protests surrounding, Trayvon Martin, Alan Blueford, Kenneth Harding—either failed to achieve their demands or abandoned demands entirely. Of course “failed” is a tricky word, or rather tends to miss the point. But my sense of the political climate in Oakland now and the ways we tend to narrate this decay has nothing to do with the success or failure of any kind of demand imposed, reformist, revolutionary, or otherwise. What we seem to be mourning, now, is the loss of the communities that these struggles had built. I am suspicious of the word community, in that it seems overly romantic. Communities, by definition, are exclusionary. They can be entirely terrible. Thinking of Jen’s opening remarks, I like the word “solidarity” better, because it implies, to me at least, that you don’t have to particularly like or even know the persons involved.

Keep your heads up, chums– and revolution on!

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Posted in Poetry News on Friday, October 11th, 2013 by Harriet Staff.