Tuesday, November 12, 2013
I think I’m becoming slightly unwell. I’ve developed a real fear of the upstairs neighbours. Every morning they emit a foul stench of bitumen and bitter, moral superiority as they stomp through the corridor on their way to work. A while ago I told you I rarely leave the house, now I can’t, they’ve spun a web of 9 to 5 self-worth across the door, a claim on the law, moebus claws. I’m trapped. I keep the curtains closed. Don’t answer the phone. Panic when the mail’s delivered. I don’t know if this is normal behaviour, if anyone else feels the city as a network of claws and teeth, an idiot’s hospital, a system of closed cameras and traffic. I’m probably beginning to smell. In fact I know I am: a thick cloud of inaudible noises from upstairs, dank growlings from somewhere outside the ring of the city. I feel I’m being menaced by judges. Who the hell are they. What are they doing inside me. I can’t hear their voices, but each chain of wordforms solidifies inside my throat, inside my mouth, inside my own voice. It is no articulate sound. It is as if every verb had coagulated into a noun, and the nouns themselves transformed into something subterranean, blind and telescopic. I don’t know if I can even see. I think I injected my eyes with gold one night, or at least the idea of gold, some kind of abstraction, and ever since then I’ve only sensed the city, as a wave of obsolete vibrations and omens. The gold itself some kind of anachronism, a dull rock rolling backwards into whatever remains of historic time. Each time-unit manufactured by a sweatshop suicide somewhere on the other side of the planet. The entire history of London, from its origins as an occultist trading post right up to some point in the not so distant future when it will be inevitably sucked into the spinning guts of Kronos and, well. All of that manufactured by sweatshop suicides, the kind of people my upstairs neighbours will insist over and again simply do not exist. But what do they know? Each evening I hear them, walking around, stomp-stomp-stomping, tap-tap-tapping out their version of social reality on their floor, on my ceiling. It’s terrible. And since I can’t even leave the flat anymore, the ceiling might as well be the whole of the sky, and they’re tapping out new and brutal constellations. Here’s the sign of the surveillance camera. Here’s the medusa. Here’s the spear of Hades. Here’s the austerity smirk. Here’s the budget. A whole new set of stars. Astrology completely rewritten. Its like they’re the sun and the moon, or the entire firmament, a whole set of modernized, streamlined firmaments. What fucking asswipes.
Tuesday, November 05, 2013
Friday, September 27, 2013
2. That the “tradition of dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living” cuts both ways. There is class struggle among the dead as well. It is not merely that capital is dead labour, but that the networks of monuments that define and lock the official city – its cognitive aspects – are systems and accumulations of dead exploitation. Those monuments have their secrets: Cedric Robinson talks about just one of the many networks of ghosts they were built from: “the [slave-ships] also contained African cultures, critical mixes and admixtures of language and thought, of cosmology and metaphysics, of habits, beliefs and morality. These were the actual terms of their humanity . . . this was the embryo of the demon”. The demon reanimates the subjugated dead, makes them speak. Baraka’s “Leadbelly Gives an Autograph” rescues this dead speech from gothic metaphor: “The possibilities of statement. I am saying, now / what my father could not remember / to say. What my grandfather / was killed / for believing”. Speech as descent into unofficial history and non-cognitive cosmology. A statement that at one point would have been punishable by death is now the only thing worth saying. The tradition it speaks is one of brutality and murder, history a cocophony of wood and rope. The official world puts a ban on apocalypse – Baraka’s poem insists on it.
3. “The forming of the five senses is a labour of the entire history of the world down to the present”. Marx describes the smooth transmutation of human love into stone, metal, money, information and power (the five senses of capital). The possibilities of statement that Baraka would seek to embody in his poem attempt a block on that trajectory, seeking to show that those senses were built from stolen materials, and that they have in any case been violently limited by the forces of capitalist need. In a recent essay Baraka has suggested that the limitation to five senses was produced by capitalist alienation, and that there may be infinite senses, reaching backward and forward into time “in modes, forms and directions that we do not even know exist”. It is at this point that Marx and Rimbaud can be read together: the derangement of the senses, the derangement of “all” the senses, is the derangement of the “labour of the entire history of the world down to the present”. Far from a merely poetic militancy, this is a negation of poetics forcing an active cognition, where Jarman’s non-cognitive aspects of the city come to determine the content and form of what can be known historically, culturally, politically and poetically. In the preface to The Black Jacobins, C.L.R. James said that “the violent conflicts of our age enable our practiced vision to see into the very bones of previous revolutions more easily than heretofore.” The bones of those revolutions can also be dug up to cast new light on our own conflicts. James goes on: “yet for that very reason it is impossible to recollect historical emotions in that tranquility which a great English writer, too narrowly, associated with poetry alone.” James recruits poetry for the revolutionary struggle. It forms a collective with other disciplines. The revolution doesn’t become poetic, poetry becomes revolutionary.
4. The basic truth of Aimé Césaire’s famous proposition – “poetic knowledge is born in the great silence of scientific knowledge” – has changed a little since the early 1940s. Scientific and poetic knowledge are no longer dialectically opposed, both have been sucked into the non-cognitive counter-vortex of corporate knowledge, in which there are no senses to derange, in which all is, as Marx put it, “devoid of eyes, of teeth, of ears, of everything”. This is not to imply that poetic knowledge, thought or writing has a special value due to its absolute irrelevance to corporate nihilism. It is not “the opposite of money”. And it is certainly not, as the fatuous Franco Beradi would claim, revolutionary on account of being a somehow authentic, unmediated communication, as if anything could be. There is, in any case, no more “authentic” communication than the corporate state’s power to refuse you food, shelter and life. Workfare and zero-hours contracts are the poetics of capital. Poetic knowledge, alongside scientific, philosophical, historic, political, militant knowledge are collectively the great silence, the great defect and instability at the centre of corporate knowledge. By virtue of that collectivity, and only though it, they still have their chance.
5. Walter Benjamin, at the beginning of the crisis of the 1930s, wrote of the need for a study of “esoteric poetry”, and of its “secret cargo”. His wager was that the forces of the crisis would enable such a study to reveal the rational kernal of poetic mysticism. “We penetrate the mystery only to the degree we recognize it in the everyday world”, he claimed, “and perceive the everyday as impenetrable, the impenetrable as everyday”. The “impenetrable” exists in two aspects: the invisible lives of migrant workers, benefit claimants etc, and the invisible workings of capital itself, only partially expressed in the lives of the very rich. Part of the intellectual struggle is to grasp these two “mysteries” in the mind at the same time, and to force into view their destructive unity, opening out into infernal history, into hidden constellations, Robinson’s demon. Poetry cannot do this alone, but it has its own way of contributing to the task. René Ménil, publishing alongside Aimé Césaire in Tropiques – an anti-fascist journal disguised as a magazine of poetry and Martinique folklore – wrote that “at every moment the poet is unknowingly playing with the solution to all human problems. It is no longer appropriate for poets to play childishly with their magical wealth; instead, they should criticize the poetic material with the aim of extracting the pure formulas for action”. To extract the magical wealth means that poetry’s intensities can come to match, and occupy the intensity of money. Wealth as Hades, as the accumulated dead labour and sensory reality of history, as the law that fixes reality as conflict, as the “silence at the top of our screams” that becomes audible with the rational clarity of what Hölderlin called “the eccentric orbit of the dead”: an alignment of the planets, the negation of the irrational din of capital itself. The task, as Bertolt Brecht outlined it in the 1930s, is hideous, massive and brutally simple: “we must neglect nothing in our struggle against that lot. What they are planning is nothing small, make no mistake about it. They’re planning for thirty thousand years ahead. Colossal things, colossal crimes. They stop at nothing. They’re out to destroy everything. Every living cell shrinks under their blows. That is why we too must think of everything”.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
the wealthier homes
have occupied my voice
can say nothing now, yes
my language has cracked
is a slow, creaking fire
deadens my eyes, in
high, contorted concern
fuses to protein and rent
because your mouth is bitter
with executioners salt, perhaps
when you die, perhaps
you will flutter through Hades
invisible, among the scorched dead
may you vanish there, famished
through the known and unknown worlds
Saturday, August 31, 2013
Sunday, August 04, 2013
a rewrite of this piece
Monday, July 29, 2013
For sale. Everything the management dictated. Celestial dirt and the western scale. The victory of the sailors at Kronstadt. The victory of the miners at Orgreave. The odour of sanctity. Fictional factories. Special discounts on bossnappings, modern landlords and the seekers of lice.
For sale. Top people of all descriptions. Chewing lice, sucking lice, bird-lice. The victory of the rioters at Poundland. Ed Miliband fucked by lice. The defect in the law and the dream deferred. Cameron as nightingale. For sale. Wrapped in wire and torched. For sale. The gospel of saving and abstinence. The victory of the Mau Mau at St James' Palace. Infrageography. Microtomes. Tactical spectrums. Sudden harmony and affliction. The corrosive victory of the unemployed. A carbomb for the DWP.
versions of earlier pieces here and here
Monday, June 10, 2013
Friday, May 24, 2013
thought the recent explosions, the networks of racist attacks and so forth, would have made you adjust your interpretations just a little. How the hell do you think we can read the silent workings of the city's risible little head via slightly exotic walking tours, table-tapping and ghost stories. Like, we're the fucking ghosts, yeh. It's the signals from the future I'm interested in. I dunno, maybe its different for you. The fact you get paid, I guess, the fact that you're on a salary, does give you a point of entry that, for the time being at least, I don't really have access to. To be unemployed is to be a stowaway, at best. From where I'm sitting, all I can hear is a dull metronomic beating, sentimental rants about extermination and terror and the like. What are the psychogeographical signals set off by a fascist mob, for example, what galaxies and rhythmic swarms are they colliding with. Absolute magnetic compressions. History as a separable particle, a damp electric rag shoved down our kidnapped throats. I dunno, maybe I'm wrong. I wish you'd tell me. I wish you were capable of saying just one word that would convince me all narrative structures - including those of the so-called avant garde - haven't been reduced to something as basic as a crowbar, a massive memory lapse, a constellation of chemical dirt and bizarre melodies that no-one is dancing to. Sorry, I can't get to whatever it is I'm trying to say. I daren't, in fact. Every day I leave the house at least once, to go for a walk. Usually its just to the supermarket, but sometimes I go as far as the railway tracks. Its all overgrown down there, its kind of peaceful. A damp landscape of rust and brambles, where the signal-towers and voices can begin to seem like the components of some barely remembered dream. And actually, now I can remember, that was the dream I was trying to tell you about, that was its structure, that was all it was. I was in an abandoned station house. The silence was endless. And then I woke up. There was some kind of ticking in the corner of the room. I couldn't tell what it was. I couldn't see to switch on the light. What was that ticking. Why did it sound like it was coming from the centre of my chest. Why was I so helpless and afraid.
Wednesday, May 01, 2013
So I guess by now you’ll have recovered from the voodoo routines at St Pauls. Guess its nice that we won’t have to pronounce the syllables Margaret Thatcher again. It all seems very distant now, like when you’ve been up for four nights, finally get some sleep, and then you’re sitting there drinking a cup of coffee trying to remember what the hell you’ve been up to. Do you remember that feeling? I still get it every now and again. Though obviously not very often these days. Anyway, the thing I remember most clearly is Glenda Jackson’s speech in parliament, yeh, when all the rest of them were wittering on about Thatcher and God and the entire fucking cosmos and there was Jackson laying out a few home truths. But really, it's a measure of the weirdness of those few days how fearless that speech seemed: and, obviously, a measure of the weirdness that it actually was some kind of act of bravery. Tho the best bit was when the anonymous Tory MP started wailing “I can’t stand it” in the middle of it. Like, no, motherfucker, we can’t stand it either. We haven’t been able to stand it for years. Anyway, after listening to Jackson’s speech on youtube a few times, I went and checked her voting record in parliament - bit of a letdown, yeh. Abstained on the workfare vote, yeh. So that’s her, she can fuck off. She made a much better speech back in 1966, I think it was, playing Charlotte Corday in the film of Peter Weiss’ “Marat-Sade” - I guess you remember it, yeh, she’s up at the top of a ladder, going off her head, and screaming something along the lines of “what is this city, what is this thing they’re dragging through the streets?”. Christ, if she’d done that in parliament, I might have rethought my relationship with electoral politics. Well, maybe not. But seriously, what was that thing they were dragging through the streets on April 17th, or whatever day it was. Through that silenced, terrified city. I thought of Thatcher as some kind of rancid projectile, and they were firing her back into time, and the reverberations from wherever it was she landed, probably some time in around 1946, were clearly a more-or-less successful attempt to erase everything that wasn’t in a dull, harmonic agreement with whatever it is those vampires in parliament are actually trying to do with us. Firing us into some kind of future constructed on absolute fear. Or that future is a victorious vacuum, a hellish rotating disc of gratuitous blades, and they are speaking to you, those blades, and what they are saying is this: “one day you will be unemployed, one day you will be homeless, one day you will become one of the invisible, and monsters will suck whatever flesh remains on your cancelled bones”. And the grotesque and craggy rhythms of those monsters are already in our throats, right now. In our throats, our mouths, the cracked centre of our language transformed into the fascist syllables that are ring-fenced right in the middle of electoral democracy. Sharp barking. A geometrical city of forced dogs, glycerin waves, gelignite. What a strange, negative expression of the scandalous joy we were all feeling, pissed out of our heads in Brixton, in Trafalgar Square, all of those site of ancient disturbances suddenly blasted wide apart, as if for even one minute we were actually alive. We were the defect in parliamentary law on those nights. That is, we were absolutely lawful. I walked home and I wanted to spray-paint “Never Work” on the wall of every Job Centre I passed, but already that foul, virtuous fear was sinking back into me, taking possession of my every step. I was thinking about Blanqui, right at the end of his life, sitting in his prison cell, knowing full well that what he was writing he was going to be writing for ever, that he would always be wearing the clothes he was wearing, that he would always be sitting there, that his circumstances would never, ever change. I was thinking about how the work-ethic these days is evoked obsessively, like in some kind of ritual, and how that work is absolutely fictional, an invisibility blocking every pavement I was walking down. I wanted to cry. In fact I think I did. Oh shit. Ancient disturbances. Ghost towns and marching bands. Invisible factories. Nostalgia crackling into pain and pure noise. No sleep. No dreams. An endless, undifferentiated regime of ersatz work. All of us boiled down into some stupid, Tory alarm clock. A ringing so loud we can no longer even hear it. Oh christ, I’m sorry. You don’t need to hear this shit, I know that things are getting bad for you as well. I kind of think you should ignore this letter. But please, I need you to reply. I need to know there is life out there.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
For sale. Everything the management dictated. Celestial dirt and the western scale.
The victory of the sailors at Kronstadt. The victory of the miners at Orgreave.
For sale. The odour of sanctity. Fictional factories. Special discounts on bossnappings, modern landlords and the seekers of lice.
For sale. Top people of all descriptions. Chewing lice, sucking lice, bird-lice. The victory of the rioters at Poundland. Ed Miliband fucked by lice. Cameron as nightingale, wrapped in wire and torched.
For sale. The defect in the law and the dream deferred. All financial metaphors inverted. You will only starve when we tell you. An infrageography of microtomes and tactical spectrums.
For sale. The gospel of saving and abstinence. The victory of the Mau Mau at St James’ Palace.
Everything must go. The unspoken fantasies of electrical wire. 3000 subspecies of electrical lice. Sudden harmony and affliction. The corrosive victory of the unemployed. A car-bomb for the DWP. Exit wounds for specified customers only.