Poetry News

Saturated Now-Time: OWS Poetry Assembly Covered by WSJ, HuffPo, The Observer, and More

By Harriet Staff

There's more and more press taking interest in the poets at Wall Street (unlike Occupy Oakland [where there is also a weekly poetry reading], journalists in New York have not been instructed to turn off their cameras). Huffington Post, the Observer, and GalleyCat are all turning to "Stephen Boyer, 27, a former model and paid dominatrix, and Filip Marinovich, 36, a sometime associate professor of poetry." The two are the unofficial official poets leading "one of the greatest open mic reading series NYC has ever fostered." They've also created an anthology for the library. The Wall Street Journal notes that "[u]p to 30 emails a day have been streaming in from people in the park and at protests around the country, as well as from recognized poets like Eileen Myles, Michael McClure, Adrienne Rich and Anne Waldman." Says HuffPo's Feliz Molina:

As of now three copies of the [Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology] are handmade by Stephen and Filip and can be found at the People's Library. This is sincerely a communal project that reflects the camaraderie and spirit of OWS in that no poems are rejected. All are welcome. All are accepted. I especially love that non-poets are sending in poems. Its sort of a dream that such a kind of anthology is in the making, one where a big chunk of the world could fit in it if everyone from the 1,500 Occupy cities sent in a poem. The OWS Poetry Assembly convenes every Friday at 9:30pm near the People's Library.

Boyer has more on the library and the anthology:

SB: The People's Library is an amazing radical library. It's run by a great ever-evolving group of volunteers. Some of the librarians make it once a week, others practically live in it, and we even had "real life" librarians fly in to join in the fun for a few days of OWS vacation time. It's insane, the amount of books and donations the People's Library has received. It seems everyone agrees that a library is always something every community should have so it seems no matter how people feel about OWS they can agree to love the library. We have parent's bringing in children and all sorts of adults browsing the many different books we have onsite. You can see the books we have if you look up "the People's Library OWS." And we've even started to send boxes of books to other occupations so they, to, can have libraries. Every community should have an amazing library! And the People's Library is the coolest. One of our librarians claims that he went to every bookstore from the Village down and we're the only place you can get Trotsky. We also have authors sending us their books first! Not only can you get it from us first, it's free! It's like the Internet has become materialized. And if you really need the Internet you can get that too! We recently got Wi-Fi hooked up.

The anthology came together really spur of the moment, like I said. It kind of happened just moments before the second Poetry Assembly. The demand for it is immense and poets far and wide from all over the world ranging in age and style are sending me their work. It's beautiful. I asked that we create an anthology that is massive enough to physically occupy Wall Street with poetry and if we keep growing the way we've been for the past two weeks it seems inevitable that all the banks will have to replace their money stash with printed poems!

And GalleyCat spied a star:

Poet, author and rock star Patti Smith visited the protest site over the weekend, donating ten copies of Just Kids to the library and reading the anthology...

The Observer article is the one that gets to the gritty. We heard that reporter Aaron Gell spent over an hour talking with Boyer and Marinovich, and you can tell. They chat about sex, Sherwood Forest, drugs, Walter Benjamin:

Mr. Boyer used to suffer from anxiety. He used to do drugs, sometimes hard ones, and drink every day. In his three weeks in the park, spending hour after hour meeting people, talking about ideas, reciting poetry, he’s felt free of that. “There’s this hunger inside for the kind of community that I am now having access to,” he explained. “Since that wasn’t available to me, I’d partake of drugs to kind of numb that desire, because there was such a void in me. A lot of people are in the same mindspace.” He added, however, that some were actually using more, maybe because they’re so disoriented and exhausted. Who knows? It was hard to pin down exactly what was going on for the people who’d entered into this experiment.

Mr. Marinovich jumped in. “This is nonlinear time, saturated now-time,” he explained, “‘time shot through with the presence of the the now,’ as Benjamin called it.” We had to look that up. Now-time was a long time ago for us. The reference was to Theses on the Philosophy of History, which Walter Benjamin, the German-Jewish literary critic, wrote in January 1940, as the Nazis prepared to invade France. Eight months later, after fleeing to Spain, Benjamin learned that Franco had decided to return the refugees to Paris. He swallowed a handful of morphine pills.

Anyway, that was history. This was now-time. Jetztzeit. The revolutionary moment, the messianic age, which might extend forever, or not that long, but was somehow ever-present.

To contribute to the anthology, send your work via email to stephenjboyer at gmail dot com, with “occupy poetry” in the subject line. Or to take a look at the handbound effort yourself, head downtown. For those outside New York, the poems will eventually be digitized.

Originally Published: October 26th, 2011