Thursday, July 26, 2012


Since the penultimate fight scene in the soon-to-be-released Gangster Squad features a violent shootout between police and mobsters in a crowded movie theater, the so-called Batman Massacre that left twelve dead and more than fifty wounded in an Aurora, Colorado cinema has compelled Warner Brothers to push back the release of the film to January. The Olympic torch received a royal welcome earlier today as it took a valedictory lap around London. Riots erupted in the heart of Disneyland (Anaheim, California) during protests responding to the 21 July 2012 murder of an unarmed Manuel Diaz by police. I hear that James Holmes, a PhD candidate in neuroscience at the University of Colorado, was working on forging a link between genetic predisposition and various psychological disorders. He seems to have completely dismissed the determinate force of the social, as the "hard" sciences are so often apt to. But the space of relation between rage, psychological well-being and the social seems to have not escaped Colleen Hind and Pocahontis Mildew who, in We Are Real: A History (Critical Documents 2012), write:

Unfortunately you are also real. This is an important psychological point. You mingle with the people, using the natural contagions. Crude mathematics go a long fucking way. But more force is needed. Before reaching the intersection, the line is converted to a wedge. The geometry of our childhood is falling beautifully to ruin. So our use of it begins. Every damn black of us. Ape shit on nothing. The governing classes have exploited every hoax for the domination of the masses. Note the sky. Plato taught us everything. We expect collared spines of pure white criminality if a single finger's lifted, which explains why you drove yourself around the City limits. You, and yourself, to whom the Rimbaud Unkant is your nemesis, you reapply the lime scale to the integrity of our deaths in the polar kettle, e.g.: "This is not the image we want to portray! We are safe in all sorts of indicators, but this is a terrible advert for the capital, particularly, as you say, in the run up to the Games!" Motherfucker this is the Games. 

If, as Wittgenstein claimed in a depressingly influential philosophical instant of gratuitously imbecilic self-indulgence, language functions like a game, then running for one's life from the police is likewise a game, just as whimpering for mercy at gunpoint is a game, just as pissing on freshly murdered Afghan corpses is a game, just as the slaughter of children in Houla is a game. Or this was never a game. This is the games.

Such a delicate veil separates the crippling grimness of Cormac McCarthy's Road from operatic bliss like that moment of pure jouissance in The East is Red, "The March of the People's Liberation Army." When Hind and Mildew refer to "Rimbaud Unkant" they appear to be gesturing toward Sean Bonney's Happiness: Poems After Rimbaud, a collection brought out last year by Unkant, the publishing organ of the London-based Association of Musical Marxists. The Games are of course the 2012 Olympics now taking place in London and the quoted utterance toward the end of the passage, though I can't now trace it, reads as an official response following the August 2011 riots intended to reassure viewers and athletes planning to attend the event. And when Hind and Mildew frame We Are Real as "a history," this appears to be a brief history of the UK riots, like a brief history of time collapsed into an elusive quantum instant of total abandon when finally the senses do become the only reliable theoreticians capable of guiding us (this, I believe, is Happiness). Conditions in Anaheim are congruent, even if the scale of rioting there is far more modest and news coverage is limited to local media outlets and a small gaggle of what most working people in the US might misguidedly regard as a nagging choir of left wing cranks. And who can tell how many American working people happily await the lone gunman in all of us to come out into the violently deluded haze of a politics determined by Desert Eagles and Winchesters in the Deadwood of a completely dystopian free-for-all. In the meantime I'm gonna hang for a spell with some O'Hara lest I miss another grotesquely banal allusion to Meditations in an Emergency during the next episode of Mad Men, because there's nothing I love more than following the fantastical but complex lives of corporate executives conjured out of thin air. Don Draper we love you. Get it up.     

Thursday, July 12, 2012


8,500 workers in NYC were locked out by Con Ed on 1 July 2012 as a preemptive gesture against a possible strike over the company's decision to shift pensions to 401(K) plans and increase co-payments on healthcare. Despite a court injunction against the decision, Scranton mayor Chris Doherty has cut the hourly wage of public sector workers, including police and firefighters, to the minimum wage, $7.25 an hour. When John Judge, a firefighter and president of the International Association of Firefighters, Local 60, found his pay cut from $1500 every two weeks to less than $600 (less than $300 a week), he charitably speculated in an interview with NPR, "maybe we're not going to be able to go on vacation."

Basil Bunting, his introduction to Joseph Skipsey's Selected Poems (Ceolfrith Press 1976): "Joseph Skipsey was born on the 8th of July 1832 at Percy Main, near North Shields, in the midst of a turbulent strike. The pitmen wanted two shillings and sevenpence a day and a twelve hour day (with waiting time at the shaft that would make at least thirteen hours on most days) but the coal owners got the help of special constables to club such extremists back to work. Joseph's father, Cuthbert Skipsey, overman at the pit, stepped between one of the special constables and a man he was bullying, and was shot dead by the constable for his intervention."

J.H. Prynne, from "No Universal Plan for a Good Life" (published in Nepal, dated 10 May 2010): "I believe that there is no universal plan for a good life. Each person makes individual choices within the condition of what is possible during a span of life, and each person can also reach out beyond the currently possible in the direction of hope and in the continuing effort to bring hopes closer to reality. I myself believe that hope is not just for the future, and is not some general desire for happiness or utopia. For me it is concerned with true understanding and small advantage, step by step, in relation to what is real in the world of human life, so as to think and act in accord with one's principles and to keep these principles directed towards a coherent aspiration."   

Monday, July 02, 2012


Beyond reaching out occasionally to friends through correspondence, or hastily intervening in public challenges to the integrity of the intellectual work I support, I find myself shaken and walled into a paralysis by the brilliance and generosity I have encountered in recent months. For weeks now I have wanted more than anything to sit down and sketch out comments on the seemingly illimitable warmth and kindness I keep coming up against, but repeatedly encountering these generosities has productively embarrassed me, alerting me at times to shameful weaknesses and latent impulses within myself toward what I can only understand as brutally destructive self-indulgences that, however normative among certain poetry communities, are indulgences I have never been able to bear, i.e. the barbaric lust for recognition that market systems build into us or the desperate maneuvering some engage in to situate themselves on the fast track toward some vulgar imagining of success. In so many instances Jurassic hegemons driven by an irrational fear of extinction dominate the landscape, their efforts mobilized only to vigilantly police and extend the heavily militarized borders of their enormously self-satisfied but bone-crushing mediocrity.  And then there are others, those whose bounding warmth and intelligence enables and even invites us to move among one another as comrades stomping in solidarity on the ruins of that vertical axis far too many poets are unabashedly hellbent on shimmying up. Over the past couple of months I have had the good fortune of moving among some of these others, of bearing witness to both their human kindness and the blinding splendor of their intelligence, and I would like to share with them not only my endless gratitude but also the extent to which I have been usefully shattered back into a debilitated state of total humility by the overwhelming force of their work. I mean this. As for the pandering climbers and self-congratulatory chimeras, this much must always be clear: poets and critics darkly illumined by the vampiric glow of celebrity look like a mass grave in the sunlight.