I froze up pretty hard in the face of this blog. I read them all the time but this is the first one I’ve written. I keep a journal, but I keep it to myself, and this one is supposed to be public, supposed to be given away, whether anyone wants it or not, because even if you read it you might not want it, and I didn’t know if I could pull off being out in the open without showing out or showing off. Actually, I know I can’t do it without doing both of those things which, when it’s just between me and my computer makes me the happy genius of my household but here might make me some special kind of fool. I don’t even know what to do with this at the level of storage (which presupposes that even though this is supposed to go everywhere, in a kind of absolute dispersal and diffusion, it’s also supposed to go somewhere, so that it can be kept, insofar as it’s being kept). Should I fold, or cut and paste, this into my regular journal or let it stand alone? Is this stuff the same as that stuff, which includes book lists, grocery lists, pieces of poems, anti-Obama rants and rants against the people who still love him and the people who still hate him, appointments, ideas for classes, ideas on classes, notes on sets, musings on groups, Lorenzo’s broken codes, topological drawings, silly pteranodons and Julian’s baby blues? Anyway, I’m all into the idea of keeping something public—not, to be more precise, of giving something away, but of keeping something that is (and already isn't) mine in common--open access to the point of sourcelessness and beyond, on the other side of messing up what I thought I knew about “mine” and “isn't mine,” of what I thought I knew about inner and outer depths, of what I thought I knew about value or values or the valuable in thinking and writing. I imagine that most folks who are reading this have already thought through all of this but I am a latecomer. Anyway, I don’t plan to remain all meta-bloggish, but I do have a plan, partly because I don’t think I could go on—or because I would, in fact, go on just like this—without one. Still, it seemed appropriate to start off with some thoughts on what I’m supposed to be doing here. So, the public/private thing, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, two questions: Is there a relation between thought, or between poetry, or between thought and poetry, and idle chatter (or static or murmur or drowned breathing)? Can there be sound (or, deeper still, noise) in thinking or is sound thinking silent, unmusical, the sharp, pure, bracing signal, disruptive of any tendency towards dance or flight or song or troubled sleep? Am I supposed to be trying to be wise? Am I supposed to be trying to play? I’m hoping that I can get at some of this by telling you about what happens over the next few months while I am hanging with my son, Lorenzo, and his friends at kindergarten and with the students of my experimental black poetry class, which this semester is built around trying to read M. NourbeSe Philip’s amazing poem Zong! Next time I’ll fill you in a bit more on the plan (and I promise to keep it short).

Originally Published: January 8th, 2010

Fred Moten lives in Los Angeles, where he teaches at the University of California, Riverside. He is author of Arkansas (Pressed Wafer); In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota Press); I ran from it but was still in it. (Cusp Books); Hughson’s Tavern (Leon Works); B Jenkins (Duke...

  1. January 8, 2010

    fred, as mr fama has mentioned elsewhere, i really hope you're not "giving" anything away here. blogging on a site supported by the uber-wealthy poetry foundation should net you at least 2 figures per post. and don't forget to mention your regular blog....

  2. January 8, 2010
     Sina Queyras

    Welcome. I look forward to your posts about Zong!, a text I have thought about a good deal and hope to foster a discussion of here and elsewhere. \r

    The first post really is the most difficult.

  3. January 8, 2010

    Welcome, Fred! It's great to see someone who still seems to be figuring out the public/private part of this blogging thing and is willing to talk about it openly. Honestly, a lot of the bloggers I used to follow seem to have figured out the exact equation and so there's this kind of fake display of privacy. Sort of what Craig was talking about with Facebook replacing blogs. Advertisements for myself, but not advertising any real vulnerability. Anyways, I hope this is productive for you. I admire your writing.

  4. January 9, 2010
     thom donovan

    so glad you're here Fred. I'm teaching your work next semester, maybe Bhanu's too, so its really like being able to publicly engage with two of my favorite writers. best of luck making the adjustment... --Thom

  5. January 9, 2010
     thom donovan

    I love this: "but of keeping something that is (and already isn’t) mine in common". what a great articulation of commons!\r

    as per what you do at Harriet, I think we need to keep in mind that we already have all this stuff on our plates, and we can fold that in to our public presence here. that is at least how I am thinking about being here. as a way to exteriorize my preoccupations/process to a different/more diverse/wider audience than I might typically have, and thus possibly expand the limits of my conversation (with whom I can speak; of what can we speak about in common). \r

    what else can we hope for? otherwise, as with anything virtual, we risk performing for a void, right? who is listening to "me"? who is out "there"? I really hope some of the folks I regularly correspond with and talk to are listening in as well, since they form a personal hardcore for that commons of which you speak... \r

    anyway, sorry to go on. excited, I guess, because I thought you had "folded"...

  6. January 10, 2010

    Hey, Fred! I'm interested to hear what your plan for the blog is. Will it be like me sitting in on your poetry course, long-distance? : ) Whatever you've come up with will be a ride worth taking, I know!

  7. January 10, 2010
     Fred Moten

    Naw, I'm not giving it away but I'm totally into the spirit of giving in the sense of just being out in the world, in common, being public, or publishing, but on the edge or over the edge of thesanctioned economy of publishing. I mean just to be a part of a collective project, which is what I'm always hoping for, while at the same time being a kind ofsecret, solitary late at night kinda mug. So I wanna think of this whole thing as a kind of chance for me. At the same time, a whole lot of the history of art is all the nastiness that accompanies the desire for naive giving. So I really do take what you wrote to heart and thank you for it.

  8. January 10, 2010
     Fred Moten

    Sina, I look forward to your comments on it too. It'll be cool to really get a big thing started on Zong!

  9. January 10, 2010
     Fred Moten

    Thanks Joshua! I might fall into that whole Mailer thing, too, however unintentionally, or surreptitiously intentionally (to myself). Even if you decide you don't want to keep something to yourself you still have to figure out what to keep to yourself. What's the limit of disclosure in order to make an authentic disclosure? I don't know. I have a new friend in England who's all into open access, beyond open sourse, so that his bill payments and vital stats and all that kinda stuff are available online, as the virtual embodiment of a kind of ethical and political imperative or principle. But there's still some stuff he keeps hidden and I think it's not only because that kind of absolute vulnerability is imprudent or dangerous but also because it's not genuine, somehow. Anyway, I'm just starting to think about all this so it's cool to have someone to think about it with.

  10. January 10, 2010
     Fred Moten

    Hey Thom! Thanks! No, I hadn't folded; I just took my time dealing myself in. But now I'm really glad I'm here, with all of you. It's fun and it got me excitedly thinking about a whole lot of stuff. I'm looking forward to it all and having fun and learning a lot reading your and the other bloggers posts. I'm about to start commenting on and replying to everything!

  11. January 10, 2010
     Fred Moten

    Hey Evie! Thanks. This is a class I should be taking from you. At the same time, I'm hoping that it'll be a class everybody can sit in on, the jam session I've always dreamed of, where we're studying how to play Zong! We'll see!