Poetry News

Occupying poets report from Wall Street, Chicago, Oakland, and invoke Susan Howe while they're at it

By Harriet Staff

Today, we're keeping up with the Occupying Poets:

1. Poet, Lungfull! editor, and Acculorber forecaster Brendan Lorber has written "Why Occupy Wall Street Has Already Won: A Poet’s Report from the Trenches" for The Rumpus. Photo of poet Anna Moschovakis at Brooklyn Bridge taken by Nathan Cearley. More from Lorber:

But what Occupy Wall Street really wants, the reason it exists as a spontaneous uprising beyond the bounds of political or economic institutions, what it really wants is to break a system that is inherently heartbreaking. We want to replace the current system with one reflected in the very structure of the movement itself—an egalitarian economy where cultural equity is prized above capital, where coercion is unneeded because everyone is able to articulate their weird, loving, unapologetic and unafraid potential to be human. Will it happen? I hope so. And I’m optimistic because in one way, in one big way, it already has.

Within the movement this world has already been created and is only becoming more alive. It was created the moment two people showed up here at Liberty Plaza, the moment that people sat down in the autonomous zone beyond the standard normative constraints of life. The moment they arrived here to discuss the mechanics of the system in which we live, to realize their positions within the 99% and to explore what new telemetry they could plot. The people coming to the occupations around the world are more likely, because of this experience, to pursue engagements with social justice, the environment and creative pacifism, to better themselves by enhancing the lives of their neighbors, and to base their days and nights not on making rent but on performing meaningful acts.

2. At the home of Damn the Caesars, "A Third Fiery Flying Roule contains a love letter from Rosa Luxemburg, a letter from Chicago on the People's Mic by Adam Weg, photographs by Andrew Kenower and an apropos poem from Susan Howe's Souls of the Labadie Tract." Details:

Reimagining temporality is central. If through crisis political time is subordinated to the whims and unpredictable volatility of financial markets, then perhaps the people's mic offers us an opportunity to rethink our relation to one another from moment to moment, through the time required to re-sound one another rather than the unbearable moments meted out by an economically-oriented clock governed by the violent fluctuation of financial instruments. In this instance time is decidedly not money. Framing the people's mic as a technological instrument, Weg writes, "At the assembly I enforce the new technology — ruthlessly even. Is it the Law? A kind of orthodoxy? I don't think I know for sure. But I shout verbatim across the delinquent speaker, listening with their own words for the fine caesura and motivating my own aggression to the cited oblivion of the coming text. How else will we survive the chronicity of such a fine-grained political process?"

The editorial articulation of lines from Susan Howe's Labadie Tract with Weg's letter is stunning. Howe: "You can't | hear us without having to be | us knowing everything we || know — you know you can't ..." The heteronymous Bay Area editor encourages readers to print the...images out, back-to-back on a single 8.5" x 11" sheet, then fold down the middle width-wise and distribute as desired — or circulate otherwise.

3. There's also Part 2 of David Lau's Letter from Oakland, just up on the Los Angeles Review of Books blog. We alerted you to Part 1 recently; you can read that here. Lau catches us up on the action of the General Strike:

We had arrived in time for the Anti-Capitalist March. Think Seattle 1999, Greece 2008. A black banner with the slogan “Death to Capitalism” hung at the 14th and Telegraph intersection. At the front of the march another black banner read “If We Cannot Live We Will Not Work,” yet another, “Long Live the Do-It-Yourself Revolution” with accompanying Arabic translation. A group of black-clad, masked, and fast-moving demonstrators (sometimes called the “Black Bloc”) tore through ordinary matter like a quantum particle at the front of the crowd. They smashed up windows of a Chase Bank in broad daylight, and would later do the same to a Bank of America. These anarcho-communists and ultra-leftists were aware of being raised to the level of big capital’s spectacular montage as they chanted: “Fuck the property of the one percent.” (Those wanting everyone to show their face should remember the lesson of campus struggles two years ago, the site of occupation movement’s origins: avoid detection, avoid punishment. Any actual political resistance will have its rendezvous with domestic intelligence services.) Whether stunned or ready for the rowdiness, the large march trailing them kept on.

Their next target: Whole Foods. New at the checkout line alongside the rare chocolate and digestible good conscience: a left-wing action against liberal PC consumerism. With a mix of white spray paint and paint balloons, the groupuscule hit up the front of supermarket with an enormous graffito: strike. They made their way to the large side windows of the store and after repeated attempts at bringing the window down, the right deviation’s “peace police” began chanting “peaceful protest” and did so threateningly enough to force the “Black Bloc” on to their next target. “Union busting is disgusting,” the left-wing demonstrators chanted back to them.

The current hegemony of “peaceful protest” has kept property destruction contained, but the growing sentiment on the march seemed to be: Fuck it. Give me a rock, or better yet a dense D battery. “Though we wanted to pave the way for friendliness, we could not ourselves be friendly,” wrote Brecht. The rightist argument also goes that building occupations, property damage, and other radical tactics will only attract the cops and provoke an attack on the broader movement, necessarily limiting participation. First proviso: don’t misapprehend the police, an active rather then merely reactive force. They will come to building occupations and other attempts at expropriation in the middle of the night, when the crowd thins or tires, when they can maximize their comparative advantage in weaponry and discipline. In deep-blue-state California, repression is well organized. Second proviso: don’t forget the actual history of struggles, remembering only Martin Luther King Jr., while forgetting both Malcolm X and Robert Williams. Thus the left-adventurist subject — the product of conscious revolutionary study and mobilization — reared up in the crowd.

Originally Published: November 9th, 2011