Preview to a 99 Percent Poetics
Immediately—no sooner than I start typing this, does “class” (as we say) “enter into it.” But what is “it?” The configuration and flow of social life—is one way to phrase it. But there “it” is again—the word, “it.” Perhaps “it” is a way of denoting the whole arena of social meaning-interaction, words primarily—these. But why do they (words, English words at that) have to “enter” anywhere? Aren’t they already “there,” as it were, “here?”
“How does class enter into poetics?” Monstrous question! (Mouth it: “how does class enter into poetics?”)
Why not, “how does poetics enter class?” But you know what, how does the notion of “class” enter the reality of “class” to begin with? Let’s begin there, let’s let poetics rove the dance floor awhile as we explore this: “How does class enter class?”
In the United States, class almost always gets talked about as an operative field of external barriers to be overcome. In other words, class, is something to think of as jumping out of. It is seldom thought of as a social-revolutionary means of “jumping out of” a bad situation. Any thinking that proposes reapportionment of the total social wealth produced by workers as something that is perhaps desirable, is immediately smacked down by the eternal rhetoric of The Individual’s sole responsibly (or lack of) for self-comeuppance.
For those portions of the (alert! red flag term) productive class (those that must sell their bodily / mental labor power to one market or another) encountering dominant cultural institutions (i.e. “quality literature” and its nasty little spin-offs), class enters class as a self-canceling postulation.
Productive class has to wheel around a personal guillotine to get on with the matter. Regularly scheduled self-executions are required to entertain the cultural arena's thirst for warm blood. One becomes one’s own inquisitor of “unruly habits,” especially of one’s speech patterns. In Spanish, people say, “no enseñes el cobre”—rough translation, “don’t let (your) copper show.” It means you should appear unscratched, like seldom used silver-coated crockery, you know, not too much used.
For the progeny of the one percent or of its adjunct cultural-aesthetic evaluators, class enters class by way of a space capsule with a conspicuously long parachute. The capsule is super-sealed and it is falling victoriously back to earth, back to “reality.” There’s a fleet of well-trained rescuers waiting there, “hold tight, be very still, and all will be well.”
But how does “class enter class” for those that must sell themselves to one aesthetic market or another? On their “entry” into the cultural “realities,” the parachute got tangled. What ensued was a dizzying array of “self-definition” chaotically twining around fragments of liberation dreams. It is a strange phenomenon that nonetheless we call flow.
“Flow” is motion within social motion. In the antique language of a postmodernist, it is the “subject” directed at its centermost breaking point (of course, it is impossible for anyone to hone in on such a point). In the flaunting capitalist cityscapes of fractured possibilities, flow turns into a very agitated dance. Structure vs. The Individual: it takes two to booty bump.
The improvised gyrations of the dance might have made a good “source text” for an ambitious poetic project if only it could be tamed in any way. But who is capable of restraining their own (or anybody’s) booty bump long enough to make art out of it? Flow if anything flows; it is a cheek-to-cheek encounter on a thunderous global dance floor of value trading and value obliteration.
Raised in southern California, experimental poet, playwright, and labor activist Rodrigo Toscano's experimental work often takes the form of conversation and physical movement that interrogates, and crosses, borders: the border between poetic and political action, between the made thing and its making, between speech and theater, between languages, between social...