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Joshua Clover Intros Sean Bonney & David Lau as Part of U.S. Poetry’s New Insurrectionary Turn

By Harriet Staff

Over at The American Reader is an excerpt from a portfolio of political poetry curated by Joshua Clover (the entire bit is published in their current print edition). “The Insurrectionary Turn” features a brief essay/intro from Clover; and poems from Sean Bonney and David Lau. Clover’s piece uncovers a certain turn for U.S. poetry, citing both Chris Nealon and Percy Bysse Shelley while noting that there has been, in the past year or two, “a striking leap of poets into direct political antagonism.” More:

…Here I do not mean the taking up of political questions, but the taking up by poets of political tasks in the face of an intolerable situation, and the practical work of burning it down. I have seen nothing like it domestically for a good while; the only quasi-cognate is the broad entanglement of poets with the New Social Movements in and around the Seventies. (Writing this, how keenly I miss Adrienne Rich!)

Rather than the complex and current-crossed identitarian wave that crested in that moment, we have in our own a set of struggles articulated more particularly (but not exclusively) around anti-capitalist and anti-statist analyses. This is not so surprising in the midst of the perplexing and briefly optimistic apparition known as the Occupy movement. But that too is as much consequence as cause; the shift seemed to start before Zucotti Park’s encampment. We might name instead the global economic catastrophe which has delivered to the economic core and its poetry-consuming classes a taste of the precarity and misery familiar enough elsewhere. “This is the age of throwing down,” some poet said outside an Oakland bar last fall, between tear gas and rubber bullets.

Chris Nealon, a brilliant poet and scholar, has captured this complicated and uneven shift most eloquently in his masterwork “The Dial,” which I would include here if I could. A brief fraction will have to do.


You can read the Nealon fraction at the site. And to introduce the poems that follow from Lau and Bonney, Clover goes on to note that “[t]he poetry selected here comes from within this exposure, this opening, this Insurrectionary Turn. It is not clear, to state the obvious, who will be this moment’s Shelley or Césaire or Cecilia Vicuña. It is not clear if there will be one, or eleven dozen, or none. Or if such a thing is desirable. But it is clear that such things are a possibility again, which is to say: we live in interesting times.” Read it read it.

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Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, November 28th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.