Friday, March 05, 2010

Working notes on political poetry // I don't talk to cops

Poetry aims at difficult meanings - Amiri Baraka

Neither abstract or descriptive, but to grasp what is collective within isolated images. Several will be working together at any one time, contrapuntally, in overlaying dimensions, tones, moods and shapes. Within these tensions the poem becomes an essay under pressure, on the cusp of several discourses with their differing relations, repulsions, attractions, contaminations.

An engagement, also, with ideas that have been erased from official discourse, but can still be activated. If it is incomprehensible, it is because certain ideas seem eclipsed in an epoch that cannot see them. Imagine a period when not only is, say, revolution impossible, but even the thought of revolution. On the other hand, most poetry is mimetic of incomprehensibility, rather than an engagement with it.

A tracking of eclipses in the constellations of ideas: Milton’s “visible darkness”, Shelley’s Prometheus and Demagorgon. Or is it too much to claim poetic thought moves counterclockwise to the irreality of our own historical period, which is papered over with a bourgeois myth that, though long dead, is still active and still fundamentally real in that it knows how to kill, and always acts from just that basis.

But if poetry might speed up a dialectical ‘continuity in discontinuity’, & thus detourne whatever is forced to be invisible via realistic speech (in a Brechtian sense), and where the lyric I is (1) an interrupter and (2) a collective, and where direct speech & incomprehensibility are only possible as a synthesis that bends ideas into and out of the limits of insurrectionism and illegalism, the obvious danger is that disappeared ideas will only turn up ‘dead’, or reanimated as zombies: the terrorist as damaged manifestation of utopianism, when all of the elements, including those eclipsed by bourgeois thought are still absolutely occupied by that same bourgeoisie.

The problem I have is how to make it talk back, how to make whatever it is that is trapped in aesthetics, idealism and in history learn to speak.

1 comment:

Simon Howard said...

Milton's "darkness visible" offers one possibilty (I guess it's also implicit in Adorno); that living as critically rather than knowingly (the world of 'creatives', advertising, etc.) as possible within negativity is to identify a route out of negativity: or, in a world of dead images & images of death dressed up as images of real life (cinema of blasting THEM away, etc.), blindness is a way to see & to create images of life (it's a very old poetic idea, as well. But that doesn't mean it isn't applicable differently, or less 'Ideally', now).

The terrorist as damaged manifestation of utopianism. Milton's Satan, perhaps? How to find any other manifestation: the bourgeois state relies on terror, which it calls anti-terror, & relies on terror to deploy anti-terror against. But how, effectively, do you oppose the state? Perhaps it is a matter of collating a set of actions, discourses, works, that run counter to those of the state & that do everything in their power other than the terror the state wants them to commit to refuse - not resist, refuse - recuperation.

I've been thinking about this, recently, through the figure of Gudrun Ensslin. Sorry, this is a ramble. It feels like no way out. But the way out is perhaps through doing the wrong things - writing the wrong way, not adopting the words of proper discourse - to always act in ways that the bourgeois state least wants you to (including, not be the kind of terrorist the state needs you to be) & to build cells of resistance as widely & diversely as possible (which isn't an argument for soft forms of political/activist pluralism).