Poetry News

Davis Dozen Rejects Plea Deal, Sets New Court Date for June 1

By Harriet Staff

An update on Joshua Clover and the Davis/Banker's Dozen: Rejecting a plea deal for 80 hours of community service, calling the charges against them "a sham," the group entered their not-guilty pleas yesterday in Yolo County Superior Court and now have a new court date set for June 1 at 8:30 a.m., with the legal assistance of San Francisco lawyer J. Tony Serra, who has defended both the Black Panthers and Hells Angels in the past, according to The New York Daily News. They've just picked up the story. Alexander Nazaryan writes:

When I spoke to Clover earlier this week, he was less the combative revolutionary than a literature professor of clearly thought-out principles. He lives in Oakland and had, in fact, been involved in the tumultuous Occupy movement there. And he is concerned that the University of California is "shifting burdens onto students" with its tuition hikes.

"A promise is being betrayed," he says, when indigent students can no longer afford to attend schools like UC Davis. He feels that deals with private corporations like U.S. Bank are a misplacement of priorities.

In some ways, Clover, a California native with two volumes of poetry to his name, is reminiscent of poets like the Soviet Union's Joseph Brodsky or Chile's Pablo Neruda, for whom the life of the poet was inherently political. At the very least, they were not hidden away in MFA programs, but engaged with the real world and its all-too-real problems. While the American poet is often shy, poets in other parts of the world have had to be bold.

Clover, who teaches general literature, film and Marxist philosophy, says that one of the goals of an education is "trying to correctly identify where struggle happens." To further that mission, he teaches the work of Bertolt Brecht, Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde. But he also has a profound fondness for the modernist Wallace Stevens, whose densely whimsical verse could not be more thoroughly scrubbed of political conviction.

On a couple of occasions during our conversation, Clover returns to Percy Bysshe Shelley, the Romantic who once famously called poets "unacknowledged legislators of the world."

Clover points out that another Shelley verse – "rise like lions after slumber in unvanquishable number" – had become a rallying cry of sorts for the Occupy movement. And while he was reluctant to talk about the pending U.S. Bank case, he is clearly not repentant about his convictions.

"Putting the greatest pressure on your intellect is always political," Clover says.

Image from The California Aggie.

Originally Published: May 11th, 2012