Poetry News

Coldfront Film Features Poets Reading at OWS

By Harriet Staff

Coldfront's newest and most essential viewing is a small film shot by DJ Dolack in Zuccotti Park in October, 2011, of poets who responded to an open call to read "poems that, for them, contextualized the Occupy Wall Street movement." The piece is introduced by John Deming, who reminds us of "Noam Chomsky’s statement that 'unless [the Occupy movement] continues to grow and kind of becomes a major social force in the world, the chances for a decent future are not very high.'” Deming also writes:

The video, shot and edited by DJ Dolack, features these poets [that's Kate Angus, Alex Cuff, John Deming, Christine Kanownik, Steven Karl, Paul Legault, Kendra Grant Malone, Filip Marinovich, Mike McDonough, Rebecca Murray, Martin Rock, Matthew Savoca, Justin Taylor, Melinda Wilson, Hitomi Yoshio, and Matthew Zapruder, reading poems by Mark Bibbins, Edward Dorn, Buckminster Fuller, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Hayden, Mina Loy, Campbell McGrath, Kiriu Minashita, Charles Olson, Jacques Prevert, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Delmore Schwartz, William Shakespeare, William Carlos Williams, Matthew Zapruder], as well as three others who provided us with voiceovers (thanks Paul Legault, Melinda Wilson and Matthew Zapruder), and contains a significant amount of footage from Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park last October. When Mayor Bloomberg ordered the clearing of Zuccotti Park in late November, he also condescended to OWS participants, saying, “now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments.” I don’t think I am jumping to conclusions by calling this, and Bloomberg’s response throughout the affair, thinly veiled hostility. At the very least, it is cavalier dismissal.

Bloomberg, in effect, is employing the Rush Limbaugh model—if you make a group and its ideas seem ridiculous by employing general terms (liberal) and a condescending tone (tree-hugger), you can dismiss the group without actually having to face its complaints. With OWS, the fallback perspective was that protesters wanted handouts and didn’t want to work for a living. In fact, a survey performed by the Baruch College School of Public Affairs in October showed that 50% were employed full time and that only 13% were unemployed, only 5.5 points higher than the current rate for the whole country. Also, the notion that all unemployed protesters are unemployed because they are lazy is an obviously pompous generalization.

It is true that the OWS movement is often unspecific and that its protesters often have differing viewpoints (see this on-the-ground dispute). This is in part because there is a lot that is concealed from the general population. For this, I refer you to the quote above from Shanna Compton’s poem “We the Blind Need Pushing.” A large population is capable of sniffing out a problem that perpetuates behind closed doors, even if that population isn’t made privy to the specific schemes underlying the problem. When the details are uncovered, it is usually too late. Bloomberg’s failure to govern is in his dismissal of a movement that reflects widespread cultural intuition, in his condescension towards a group that can’t tell him exactly how many jellybeans are in the jar.

Find it all here.

Originally Published: January 10th, 2012