Mingus says the shoes of the fisherman are some jive-ass slippers. On the other hand, The Shoes of the Fisherman is my favorite movie. A blog, I guess, is like an open session, a kind of tour of the sausage factory but without the divine intervention. Curtis Mayfield recorded New World Order flat on his back, phrase by phrase, crumb by crumb, singing in the absence of his voice, his guitar, which was in his hands, which he couldn’t move. You have to know all that to really understand how deep certain shit is: “Now is always the right time/To put something positive in your mind“ or “If there’s ever something bad you don’t wanna see/Just keep on walkin’ and let it be.” Nevertheless, divine intervention comes in the form of Aretha’s fills at the end of “Back to Living Again.” “Go ‘head, Mayfield!”

I want to see something else. Father Telemond, as he is questioned by the inquisition, says “Even God has not spoken the last word on his creation.” “I cannot renounce," he says, “this Christ I see any more than I can renounce the one on the cross.” The private revelation is a kind of gathering, a jam, a chapel. Logos is a block party. And the hope is that the revelation will have come more fully into relief by seeing how hard and how deeply you sought it out, the work you did in asking for it, the nastiness, the excess, the constant embarrassments (and I’m with Farid Matuk, who threads this up with pregnancy), the sklidge and bone.

I actually wrote Travis and Cathy to say I quit but then I started to feel bad, so here I am again, my apologies to them. People named Fred, and I know this from experience, have a tendency to wanna pat themselves on the back when they reveal another surreptitious instance of conquest, however fucking trivial. And this tendency is fueled, and even justified, by the serial denial of conquest, which can, evidently, take every possible form. I have no idea why this whole complex was, for me the last straw. I thought I was supposed to reveal the shit from which, for me, poetry emerges. But then I just got kinda tired of seeing the shit from which poetry emerges. Hopefully, no one will read this and, therefore, get the wrong idea. It’s not that the balance is so delicate in general, just for me. I have a mean streak wider than anyone who has ever blogged and the suppression of it causes too great an expense of energy or spirit or whatever. And I’d rather spend that energy making poems or, more generally, immersed in my enthusiasms. But whatever: the civil rights movement, the black freedom struggle, the unfinished project of abolition, was never so that black folk could be included in every stupid-ass thing, whether that be a collection of baby pictures or the white house. It was always, finally, about more than black people anyway, as history has deeply and constantly been bearing out since way before blacks ceased to be, by whatever narrow unit of measure, the largest minority in the U. S. It was about making another world; it was about the liberation of the other world in this one which, by the way, is what poetry is also about.

Originally Published: February 22nd, 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. February 23, 2010
     Vivek N

    Fred, your posts are things of beauty: this one too. They never fail to leave me speechless. I'm ready for more, honestly happy to know you'll be staying on. Just because the discourse gets so limited doesn't mean no one can sense the outside.

  2. February 23, 2010
     Don Share

    I want to second what Vivek said, and add that lots of people you never hear from or about have been reading and learning from your wonderful posts here. Thank you for them, Fred.

  3. February 23, 2010
     Kent Johnson

    Second to Vivek and Don. These posts *are* excellent. Some of the most elegant writing to appear at Harriet, or any poetry blog, that I've come across. \r

    And glad to see the mention of Farid Matuk, one of the very top and most dangerous poets at work. Bring him on to blog here with Vivek Narayanan.

  4. February 23, 2010
     Jeffrey Pethybridge

    Fred, to follow Don's point exactly about readers, I've followed your posts with interest not only for their energy, candor and intelligence but also because I've been reading Zong! (as well as other books from field of 'documentary poetics,' and because my son too is on the spectrum--it's hailing now in Austin--and because your stance toward the work of making poems is inspiring, please keep on keepin' on, thanks.

  5. February 23, 2010
     Sina Queyras

    Ditto Don and Jeffrey Fred. Love your company here on Harriet, and in reading and discussing all things poetic.

  6. February 23, 2010
     Henry Gould

    Hey, even I, Mr. Contrarian, enjoy your posts. So please don't skip before I find something to disagree with you about.

  7. February 24, 2010
     Kent Johnson

    I know this is a bit off-topic, but I'm really surprised not to have yet seen commentary on this article at any poetry site:\r

    The article appears in the latest issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education--also featured at the New Republic "The Book" site. So thousands of people are reading it, obviously.

  8. February 24, 2010
     james stotts

    an article about stranglers and clingers, rootless broomrapes\r
    and how to cultivate perennials (now hidden in the undergrowth, a beautiful city of z (or v!))

  9. February 24, 2010
     Don Share

    I commented on it here (click).

  10. February 24, 2010


  11. February 24, 2010
     Kent Johnson

    Sorry, I'm not up to speed on the texting lingo. What's TLDR?

  12. February 24, 2010
     Henry Gould

    It means Trendy Literary Drivel Rug. You can buy them on eBay. They soak up blab like nothing. I was almost eaten by a TLDR myself (why am I here?). Cleopatra survived to become the heroine of one of Shakespeare's GPs.

  13. February 24, 2010
     Kent Johnson

    Well, I *do* know what LOL means...\r

    And MPAR (My Pants Are Rolled)...\r

    But not TLRD.\r

    I should probably get a cell phone.

  14. February 24, 2010
     Colin Ward

    I've seen an explication of "TLDR" but it was too long. Didn't read it.\r


    "Google is your friend."

  15. February 24, 2010
     Henry Gould

    Jordan is AWOL (A Whale Off Key Largo). You can always LIU (look it up) on Google, Kent. IT (it's there). \r

    - TDNNMFB (Three Dog Night Not My Favorite Band)

  16. February 24, 2010
     Chloe Joan Lopez

    tl;dr is (in my opinion) the funniest chatroom acronym on the Internet. The semicolon is essential. It stands for "Too long; didn't read." It's not the most collegial response; in fact, it's hard to be more dismissive. But sometimes it's the most apt critique possible.\r

    So then I was set to be all charitable to that Chronicle article, but my eyes glazed over by the third paragraph. Tl;dr was right! I finally had to read it backwards.\r

    I personally have to use for the "too many poets!" fear. It really will work itself out, as long as readers are discerning, tell other people about what they find, and it takes less time to read a poem than to write one. (When poems production is automated, then we'll really be in trouble.) More publishing is actually good, because it increases the chance that undiscovered good work will be found one day in a university library, instead of being lost to the ages. \r

    If MFA poet-critics or whatever are cynically narrowing their aesthetic horizons to get in good with the cool kids, or are more interested in prestige than art, that's a problem. But it's not a problem of too many poets.\r

    Poets and critics care about poetry. Even when they have a weakness for starfraking, they still want to find the poem that takes the tops of their heads off. A lot of hand-wringing about The State of Poetry Today takes the form of assuming that those guys over there are acting in bad faith. Not you. Those other guys. I've just never found that to be true.\r

    But I'm not in academia so maybe there are pockets of venality that I'm too innocent to know about. I doubt it. Let's face it: the material stakes of poetry are so small that no one in it for the money, the fame, or the prestige is going to stick with it for very long. Better to become a film director.

  17. February 24, 2010
     Chloe Joan Lopez


  18. February 24, 2010
     Chloe Joan Lopez

    PS to Fred: sorry about the threadjacking. \r

    I tried to go back to your earlier posts to see the source of your ambivalence about blogging, and I think I have some sense of it now, though I didn't see it in real time.\r

    For me, revealing process, especially as it happens, is death to process. It's like donating your body to science. If nobody did it, we couldn't educate doctors, but it's hard to see what you as a person get out of it. I could probably expound endlessly on Big Ideas of what art is or what it should or can do, but how it actually happens is super risky. Especially on the open Internet.\r

    One thing I've learned in twenty years of being online is that way more people read than reply. That's the trust all writers have, I think, but it's super important to remember in the immediacy of the blog.

  19. February 24, 2010
     Kent Johnson

    Just to return, in more serious tenor, to the above...\r

    Fred, have you considered a collection of prose meditations, or whatever the term would be, along the rhetorical lines of what you've been posting here, especially in the above post?

  20. February 24, 2010
     Thom Donovan

    "it was about the liberation of the other world in this one"... this is so beautiful Fred. a few years ago I was reading a lot of Henry Corbin on angelology in Islamic mysticism (Ismailis specifically). there is a similar intuition there--or discourse--that I have been thinking about for a while in terms of (meta-) politics. the importance of creating possible worlds. one of the finer tests of poetry. what worlds are we subtlizing/divining through our words?

  21. February 25, 2010
     Joshua Marie Wilkinson

    Hey, Kent: \r

    This is an excellent prose meditation.\r


  22. February 25, 2010

    I want to write a poem that sounds like this too. So much avant-garde is a starched shirt. There's no Preservation Hall in the avant-garde poetry world, is there? The next phase, transnational. As though poetry wasn't always already transnational. Hayden and \r


  23. February 25, 2010
     Kent Johnson

    Thanks, Joshua. \r

    Just had our little library purchase it!\r


  24. February 25, 2010
     Fred Moten

    Hey Everybody,\r

    I just wanted to say thanks for all the comments. I never meant to be such a baby and I had already decided to keep trying, but it's nice to get some encouragement. and I'm totally cool with the threadjacking, a term I think I love. Chloe, I think, I hope, that the revelation of process will change it, jack it, make it new, again. We'll see. Anyway, I'll be back in a little while.