Poetry News

New Responses at the Poetic Labor Project Include Dana Ward, Bhanu Kapil & ter Braak

By Harriet Staff


The Poetic Labor Project, a collective research blog centered around the discussion of poetics and labor, has some newness afoot. They've posted a third round of responses (also available as a PDF), this time around from Dana Ward, Bhanu Kapil, and ter Braak, who explains the appellation thusly: "This iteration of 'ter Braak' speaks out of a political need to stay private, a 'contra-literary' need to establish a defiant anonymity, and a private, personal need to function from discreet 'subjectivities.'"

Another update to the blog is a sidebar called the "Poetic Labor Library" that includes links to various "pretty amazing projects:" Amber DiPietra and Michelle Puckett's new working class reading series, the SFMOMA conversation around Shadowshop, and Mark Nowak's recent Harriet (Harriet!) posts, to start. A call for more: "If you could send us projects and resources to include in this library, we'd be much obliged."

As our own Garrett Caples remarked recently:

I was stimulated...in part by the Bay Area’s own Poetic Labor Project, run by Lauren Levin, Steve Farmer, Alli Warren, and Brandon Brown. This blog began last year as a Labor Day conference I couldn’t attend because I had to work, but the talks were recorded and you can find delightful things on the website like Cedar [Sigo] talking about his job selling cosmetics. While it doesn’t exclude participation by “professionals,” the blog is largely a well-needed reaction to the increasing professionalization of poetry. In its effort to reverse the stigma of working outside of poetry, the Poetic Labor Project seems to suggest that, not only are you not a failure for not being a professional poet, but you might actually be better off. This is not, however, to denigrate anyone for having an academic job of any sort.

Dana Ward's post alone, unsurprisingly, is worth a read, though we have the feeling he could go further. Having recently left his job to attend to his new daughter Vivian full time, Ward is preoccupied with malls, clocks, and here, the gas station-lotto complex:

Winning the lottery: There must be some kind of Marxist numerology one could employ to uncover a secret yet meaningful ratio between the current price of gasoline & that day's lottery jackpot. Their physical proximity on gas station signs suggests a deeper, occulted significance, some mathematics of extraction, risk, fantasy & labor, which, if discovered, might turn out to be the phantom denominator long thought to have been scribbled beneath Debord's famous graffiti "Never Work". Examined by experts in 20th Century insurrectionary forensics, the ink in which this ancient graffiti was written has been revealed to be the same ink used to print lottery tickets today.