poetry in motion (2009 – 2010)

 

Contributions to the supersession of poetry

This is a reproduction of part of a discussion on libcom that I had between November  2009 and February 2010 (here)

 

Samotnaf, Nov 28 2009 08:16 :

 

I find almost all 20th/21st century poetry that I’ve read pretty dire, particularly the political stuff, which is often far too worthy, tub-thumping. But if you have to have something that rhymes – this, a piece of graffiti written on a wall in Sheffield during the Gulf War of 1991, is pretty good:
“High-tech war kills and maims
The media shows us video games”.
(and no, I didn’t write this one)

Poetry as a specialist activity is a product of the division of labour – I prefer Lautreamont’s “Poetry must be made by all – not one”. Or, as an American Indian said, “In my tribe there are no poets. Everyone talks in poetry”. (quoted in Howard Zinn, “A People’s History of the United States”).
As Vaneigem said “poetry rarely involves poems these days. Most works of art are betrayals of poetry.”

Dec 13 2009 20:43

Edvard wrote:

Quote:

I think that poetry is, however, a craft. I think that one can learn to become a good poet through training and practice, and that everyone should be able and actively encouraged to write and read poetry. However, even if I spent a long time learning carpentry, I know that I would still make pretty inelegant and remarkably shit tables due to the fact that I’m massively cackhanded. Individual excellence in craft is something that can be celebrated as a communal achievement.

I find most modern poetry pretentious crap (apart from EJThribb) – it makes my stomach squirm, my teeth grit. It’s a specialist form of “communication”/monologue without anything daring about it. There might be certain exceptions, but in the West, as far as I can see, there’s nothing about it apart from being a career. Kid’s poetry, poems to someone you love, personal stuff, and even some jokey poems are different – but then they’re not surrounded by some aura of “”creativity”. The comparison with carpentry doesn’t bear examination (I’m not thinking of the modernist, sometimes surrealist or whatever, aesthetics of upper middle class cupboards and tables that you might get in Conrans or places like that): to make an equivalent of them, when their social function and the cultural discourse surrounding them is so different, is to ignore their very different place in the hierarchical division of labour . A chair has a real use, whereas most poems are only made for an image of sophistication (and if they say something socially significant, almost invariably this could be better said in prose, without recourse to the vagueness that most poems express). As for your cackhandedness – if it’s not a physical disability, I’m sure that could be overcome given time.

I quite like what Ken Knabb said in 1970:

Quote:

Poetry, as poets are fond of relating, originated from religious or magical incantations. The respect for the bard was due to the fact that his words mattered. Supposedly, the precise phrases and refrains were necessary to keep the crops growing, etc.

Literary poetry has lost this significance, and its most advanced creators know it. Rimbaud is the archetypal example of the attempt to recover the magical. He failed. And this failure was and is inevitable. The poem form precludes the possibility of the realization of poetry, that is, of the effective realization of the imagination in the world. The institution of poetry is itself a social relationship inimical to that project. It inherits the specialization of creativity, of authentic utterance, from its origin with the priestly classes, and it returns there. Even such a one as Rimbaud, for all his passion for freedom and the marvelous, ends by developing the conception of the poet as a new priest or shaman, a new mediator of communication. But the realization of poetry entails the direct creative activity of everyone, and hence cannot tolerate such mediation. “The problem is to really possess the community of dialogue and the game with time which have been represented in poetico-artistic works” (Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle)….

As with the spectacle in general, the communication of a poem is unilateral. The passive spectator or reader is presented with an image of what was lived by the poet. An open reading only apparently overcomes this criticism; it democratizes the role of poet, it shares access to the top of a hierarchical relation. It does not overcome that relation.

Of course, a certain degree of communication does take place, but it is communication in isolation, it is not directly tied to the real daily activities of the men and women involved. Since our daily activities are, in general, constrained and alienated, it is natural that poetic creativity (if it is not conscious of the project that supersedes separation, and hence literary poetry) in its own defense tends to retreat from daily life. It accepts an isolated realm where its partial game can play itself with a consoling illusion of wholeness….

Poetry that is conscious of its own fulfillment in its own supersession never leaves daily life, for it is itself the project of the uninterrupted transformation of daily life….”

(Excerpts from “Ode on the Absence of Real Poetry Here This Afternoon – A Poem in Dialectical Prose”)

Knabb read this out at an open poetry reading:

Quote:

…to the puzzlement and disgruntlement of the other poets present, who by the rules of the game had to sit there and listen politely to my “poem” without interrupting. (from ‘Public Secrets’)

Boris Badenov, Dec 13 2009 21:35:

Samotnaf wrote:

and if they say something socially significant, almost invariably this could be better said in prose, without recourse to the vagueness that most poems express

I’m not exactly sure why or how prose is “better”? more concise? more “to the point”? poetry is not about those two things necessarily, just like music is not necessarily about teaching you about sounds.
Making a utilitarian argument against poetry is ridiculous.

Quote:

Rimbaud is the archetypal example of the attempt to recover the magical. He failed. And this failure was and is inevitable. The poem form precludes the possibility of the realization of poetry, that is, of the effective realization of the imagination in the world. The institution of poetry is itself a social relationship inimical to that project.

Ironically, this is exactly the kind of grandiose “tabula rasa” bullshit that I hate about certain strands of modern poetry. In denouncing all poetry as a “social relationship,” Knabb is saying something as meaningless and unimportant as the hippest L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poet.
In truth, “high poetry” like Rimbaud et al, is neither decayed bardic mysticism or bourgeois pomposity; true, some, if not most, poetry is that, but just because poetry is written by a “professional” that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value for the “ordinary man.” I never studied poetry at school, and I was never formally taught how to read it, and yet a single brilliant stanza (whether it is Rimbaud or Wu Tang Clan it matters too little to me) can have more impact on me than all the mediocre and concise prose of the world put together. Is that experience false, because some Situ has-been says it is? Fuck that.

Samotnaf, Dec 14 2009 22:45

Boris Badenov said:

Quote:

Making a utilitarian argument against poetry is ridiculous.

I was specifically criticising “socially significant” poetry – which “almost invariably” falls into hackish didacticism at best (e.g. late Brecht, or considerably worse – the unbearable cringe-inducing Pinter bollocks). Your post seemed like typical ideological communication – mis-quoting or mis-reading things said – picking up on words out of context, because the argument jars with your own ideas and you can’t deal with it honestly. But maybe I’m mis-reading you – perhaps you could give me an example of a modern socially significant poem that had an impact on you.

And I wasn’t trying to make a utilitarian argument against all poetry – it was more a question of analysing the separation of function and beauty – a chair can be both, but poetry never is.

Quote:

“As William Morris pointed out, there came a time in feudal society when the functional and decorative aspects of workmanship became separated in both the object and the producer, craftsmanship and artistic production becoming progressively separate commodities and separate skills. So the time when ‘artists are craftsmen and craftsmen are artists’ comes to an end. Whereas products of labour had most often contained their decoration and aesthetically pleasing qualities as an integral, in-built component of their functional usefulness, many things now came to be produced as either predominantly functional or aesthetic in their use. The capitalist mode of production has kept design aesthetics within the commodity – one that there is status in judging and possessing (“to be admired for admiring”) but little joy in its producing, standardised and mass-produced as market competition necessarily makes it. So bourgeois aesthetics expresses as a virtue the division of labour in class society between these previously integrated components. Artistic activity is the reproduction of these aesthetic values.” (“Closed Window onto another life”)

This is certainly not to say that, for their time, Blake, Shelley, Rimbaud , Mallarmé etc. weren’t original and subversive. I too like a lot of Rimbaud – but Knabb’s take on him added something to an understanding of the limitations of poetry: he certainly wasn’t simply denouncing poetry as a “social relationship” (what isn’t?). Nor was he saying that what Rimbaud wrote was “false”. He was specifically criticising Rimbaud’s poetry, like poetry as an institution, as a social relationship inimical to “the effective realisation of the imagination in the world.” – that is, Rimbaud “inevitably” failed in his genuine search for the magical through poems. It’s not such a big deal. You can be moved by his poems or not – that’s not the point.

And the real problem is not to put Rimbaud, or any other ‘great’ poetry on a pedestal but to find the varied ways of expressing yourself imaginatively, originally and passionately as Rimbaud did in his own way and time, outside of the parameters of ‘poetry’. Besides, Rimbaud’s poems came from him trying to live daringly – and people often verbally or in other ways express themselves imaginatively without turning this expression into a product.

As for the “Situ has-been” put-down – ironically, the stuff Knabb puts on his site is so much weaker than his writings of 35 – 40 years ago in part because he’s so much more tolerant of artistic/ cultural/poetic stuff now than he was a helluva long time ago. For example, nothing of his recent stuff compares with his excellent “Bureaucratic Comix” of almost 39 years ago, which is still far better than loads of Leninist garbage that permeates the libcom site here and there. Sheer poetry.

Boris Badenov, Dec 14 2009 23:48

Samotnaf wrote:

I was specifically criticising “socially significant” poetry – which “almost invariably” falls into hackish didacticism at best (e.g. late Brecht, or considerably worse – the unbearable cringe-inducing Pinter bollocks).

I thought you were saying that poetry can’t be socially significant, even the stuff that is not “hackish didacticism”; I guess I missed your point. Sorry.

Quote:

Your post seemed like typical ideological communication – mis-quoting or mis-reading things said – picking up on words out of context, because the argument jars with your own ideas and you can’t deal with it honestly. But maybe I’m mis-reading you – perhaps you could give me an example of a modern socially significant poem that had an impact on you.

I notice this is something you do: someone disagrees with you, you start accusing them of “point-scoring mentality” and “ideological misquoting.” Stop doing that please. Maybe I didn’t get exactly what you were trying to say, but I’m NOT trying to defend any dogma. I just reacted to what I thought was a reductionist and grandstanding argument about poetry “being dead” or some rubbish like that; it has nothing to do with me trying to defend certain preconceived ideas.

Quote:

This is certainly not to say that, for their time, Blake, Shelley, Rimbaud , Mallarmé etc. weren’t original and subversive. I too like a lot of Rimbaud – but Knabb’s take on him added something to an understanding of the limitations of poetry: he certainly wasn’t simply denouncing poetry as a “social relationship” (what isn’t?). Nor was he saying that what Rimbaud wrote was “false”.

Ok then; thanks for setting me straight.
Of course poetry is limited, but if you enjoy it (and I personally enjoy it the same way I enjoy music rather than the way I enjoy reading prose, so I don’t think there’s any contest between prose and poetry, which is what I thought you were saying above), then there is something to it. IMO what Knabb was saying failed to make the distinction between poetry as formalism (a notion that does deserve to be criticized) and poetry as human activity, something that goes far beyond the “high” poetry of canonical writers; this is why I mentioned a rap group in the same sentence as Rimbaud. I don’t think they should be viewed as intrinsically different; only by putting Rimabud “on a pedestal,” as you say, does poetry appear to be a useless echo of the past.

Quote:

He was specifically criticising Rimbaud’s poetry, like poetry as an institution, as a social relationship inimical to “the effective realisation of the imagination in the world.” – that is, Rimbaud “inevitably” failed in his genuine search for the magical through poems. It’s not such a big deal. You can be moved by his poems or not – that’s not the point.

Why is that not the point? I think that is the only point. It doesn’t matter to me what Rimbaud failed at, what his personal vision and artistic ambitions were; the only thing I and anyone else have access to is what he left behind; this is what we should judge him by, not his failure to reinstill the magic element in poetry (as if that was a realistic project to begin with).

Quote:

And the real problem is not to put Rimbaud, or any other ‘great’ poetry on a pedestal but to find the varied ways of expressing yourself imaginatively, originally and passionately as Rimbaud did in his own way and time, outside of the parameters of ‘poetry

I agree with this, but again there must be a distinction between ‘poetry’ as a body of formal appearances and actual poetry, as something that is constantly evolving.

Quote:

which is still far better than loads of Leninist garbage that permeates the libcom site here and there. Sheer poetry.

any examples of what constitutes such Leninist garbage?

 

Samotnaf, Jan 24 2010 22:28:

The following limerick is certainly not as worthy as some of the previously quoted stuff, such as the poem about the National Guard’s Kent State murders in 1970, by Paul Goodygoodyman (how extraordinarily radical to denounce these killings) and I admit it’s not a really revolutionary critique of unions but it has some qualities lacking in the semi-social realist stuff (such as an absence of pretentiousness):

When the Bricklayers’ union struck,
Dear Old Freddy was having a fuck.
By union rules
He had to down tools;
Now that’s what I call damn bad luck

ajjohnstone, Jan 25 2010 11:28

If they hqaven’t been mentioned Oscar Wildes Ballad of Reading Gaol and Shelleys Mask of Anarchy

But there is D H Lawrence political poem collection published in 1929 in a volume called Pansies

O! Start A Revolution

O! start a revolution , somebody !
not to get the money
but to lose it forever .

O! start a revolution , somebody!
not to install the working classes
but to abolish the working classes forever
and have a world of men .

Kill Money

Kill money , put money out of existence .
It is a perverted instinct , a hidden thought
which rots the brain , the blood , the bones , the stones , the soul.

Make up your mind about it all:
that society must establish itself upon a different principle
from the one we’ve got now.

We must have the courage of mutual trust.
We must have the modesty of simple living.
And the individual must have his house , food and fire all free – like a bird.

Money-Madness

Money is our madness, our vast collective madness.

And of course , if the multitude is mad
The individual carries his own grain of insanity around with him.

I doubt if any man living hands out a pound note without a pang;
And a real tremor , if he hands out a ten-pound note.
We quail, money makes us quail .
It has got us down , we grovel before it in strange terror .
And no wonder, for money has a fearful cruel power among men .

But it is not money we are terrified of ,
it is the collective money – madness of mankind.
For mankind says with one voice : How much is he worth ?
Has he no money ? Then let him eat dirt , and go cold –

And if I have no money , they will give me a little bread ,
So I do not die,
but they will make me eat dirt for it .
I shall have to eat dirt , I shall have to eat dirt
if I have no money

It is that I am afraid of .
And that fear can become a delirium .
It is fear of my money-mad fellow-man.

We must have some money
To save us from eating dirt .

And this is wrong.

Bread should be free ,
shelter should be free ,
fire should be free
to all and anybody , all and anybody , all over the world.

We must regain our sanity about money
before we start killing one another about it .
It’s one thing or the other.

How Beastly The Bourgeois Is

How beastly the bourgeois is
especially the male of the species –

Presentable , eminently presentable –
shall I make you a present of him ?

Isn’t he handsome ? isn’t he healthy? Isn’t he a fine specimen ?
doesn’t he look the fresh clean englishman , outside ?
Isn’t if god’s own image ? tramping his thirty miles a day
after partridges , or a little rubber ball ?
wouldn’t you like to be like that , well off , and quite the thing ?

Oh , but wait !
Let him meet a new emotion , let him be faced with another man’s
need ,
let him come home to a bit of moral difficulty , let life face him with
a new demand on his understanding
and then watch him go soggy , like a wet meringue .
Watch him turn into a mess , either a fool or a bully.
Just watch the display of him , confronted with a new demand on his intelligence ,
a new life-demand.

How beastly the bourgeois is
especially the male of the species –
Nicely groomed like a mushroom
standing there so sleek and erect and eyeable –
and like a fungus , living on the remains of bygone life
sucking his life out of the dead leaves of greater life than his own .

And even so , he’s stale , he’s been there too long .
Touch him , and you’ll find he’s all gone inside
just like an old mushroom , all wormy inside , and hollow
under a smooth skin and an upright appearance .

Full of seething , wormy , hollow feelings
rather nasty –
How beastly the bourgeois is !

Standing in their thousands , these appearances , in damp England
what a pity they can’t all be kicked over
like sickening toadstools , and left to melt back , swiftly
into the soil of England .

Wages

The wages of work is cash .
The wages of cash is want more cash .
The wages of want more cash is vicious competition.
The wages of vicious completion is – the world we live in .

The work-cash-want circle is the viciousest circle
that ever turned men into fiends.

Earning a wage is a prison occupation
and a wage – earner is a sort of gaol-bird
Earning a salary is a prison overseer’s job ,
a gaoler instead of a gaol-bird .

Living on your income is strolling grandly outside the prison
in terror lest you have to go in .And since the work-prison covers
almost every scrap of living earth , you stroll up and down
on a narrow beat, about the same as a prisoner taking his exercise .

This is called universal freedom

WHY?

Why have money?
Why have a financial system to strangle us all in its octopus arms?
Why have industry?
Why have the industrial system ?
Why have machines , that we only have to serve?
Why have a soviet , that only wants to screw us all in as parts of the machine?
Why have working classes at all , as if men only embodied jobs?
Why not have men as men , and the work as merely part of the game of life?

True , we’ve got all these things
industrial and financial systems , machines and soviets, working
classes.
But why go on having them , if they belittle us ?
Why should we be belittled any longer?

The Mosquito Knows

The mosquito knows full well, small as he is
he’s a beast of prey.
But after all
he only takes his bellyful ,
he doesn’t put my blood in the bank.

DH Lawrence

mike-servethepeople, Jan 27 2010 06:23:

Many thanks to Devrim for acting as spokesperson for comrade 安藤鈴. [i.e. Mao-Tse Tung] I should have gone back and read the latter’s second post where he/she does indeed offer the clarification I sought, namely “I’m interested in poetry specifically about communist issues – trade unions, national liberation etc. Not just any old poetry which happens to be written by communists.”

And yes, Devrim comrade 安藤鈴 would probably share your distaste for Mao as a communist; nevertheless his poetry is highly regarded for its aesthetic standards in China. Could we see your own poetry comrade, so we may judge the elevated heights from which you sneer at a single translated piece?

Samotnaf, Jan 27 2010 11:24

mike_servethepeople:
I put a poem of my own (“Now Is The Winter Of Our Poetry”) on this thread, so I obviously have the credibility necessary to comment on Mao’s crap.

Although much of the time on other threads I am in complete disagreement with Devrim, I’m with him 105% on this.

mike-servethepeople (in his bossy affronted indignant tone ) said that Mao’s

Quote:

poetry is highly regarded for its aesthetic standards in China

Well, Rupert Brooke’s poetry used to be

Quote:

highly regarded for its aesthetic standards

in Britain, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t crap; taking a totalitarian capitalist country’s “standards” as your own shows how very far you are from anything “communist” (your own poem is not much of a great leap forward from the one you posted by that mass murdering bureaucrat Mao). But let’s have a look at this:

Quote:

ON EXPRESSING AN OPINION

I dreamed I was in the classroom of a primary school preparing to write an essay, and asked the teacher how to express an opinion.
“That’s hard !“ Glancing sideways at me over his glasses, he said, “Let me tell you a story —“When a son is born to a family, the whole household
is delighted. When he is one month old they carry him out to display him to the guests — usually expecting some compliments, of course.
“One says, ‘This child will be rich.’ Then he is heartily thanked.
“One says, ‘This child will be an official.’ Then some compliments are made him in return.
“One says, ‘This child will die.’ Then he is thoroughly beaten by the whole family.
“That the child will die is inevitable, while to say that he will be rich or a high official may be a lie. Yet the lie is rewarded, whereas the statement of the inevitable gains a beating. You. . .
“I don’t want to tell lies, sir, neither do I want to be beaten. So what should I say?”
“In that case, say, ‘Aha! Just look at this child! My word. . . . Oh, my! Oho! Hehe! He, hehehehehe!’”

Lu Xun, July 8, 1925, listed as a prose poem in his selected works, and a far more interesting example of Chinese poetry than any of the thousand blooming flowers written by that paper tiger, Mao (whose portrait dominating Tianamen Square, in 1989, was splattered with red paint by radicals who didn’t hold their nation’s “aesthetic standards” in “high regard”).

Since prose poems tend to be generally less jarring in form than the vast majority of post-surrealist non-prose-poem-type-poetry, will mike_servethepeople (on a platter with roast potatoes for the bureaucrat’s banquet..?) allow Devrim the choice of writing a poem not in rhyming couplets, which he may or may not feel would stick in his throat (I certainly can’t speak for him obviously)?

Here’s a poem of mine, written on the occasion of Mao’s death:

POETRY CORNER

In Memoriam Mao Tse Tung, poet and Server Of The People

So. Farewell
Then Mao
Tse Tung.

You died
Before mike_servethepeople
Could express his admiration for your works.

“running dog of capitalism”
Was
One of your
Charmingly poetic
Phrases.

“Power grows out of the barrel of a gun”
Was another.
I loved how you showed those uppity red guards turned anarchists in Shanghai the truth of that one,
Comrade Mao.

We will remember your
Scintillating verses
Forever.

You have put the po back into
Poems.

E.J.Samotnaf (71½)

If you liked this poem, you can download a selection of E.J.Samotnaf’s verses from www.sneeringfromelevatedheights.com

Devrim, Jan 27 2010 10:56:

mike-servethepeople wrote:

Could we see your own poetry comrade, so we may judge the elevated heights from which you sneer at a single translated piece?

You won’t be seeing any attempts a poetry from me. I am not interested in writing it at all. That doesn’t mean that I can’t have any opinion on others’ works.

Quote:

nevertheless his poetry is highly regarded for its aesthetic standards in China

Things like this tend to happen when you hold a certain position within the state. It is like people believing that Atatürk did everything perfect here in Turkey.

Actually, I live in a country where poetry is a living vibrant part of the culture. People still read and write poetry here whereas in the anglophone world, it seems, to a certain extent, to have become a study of things written long ago by people long dead.

Samotnaf wrote:

Although much of the time on other threads I am in complete disagreement with Devrim, I’m with him 105% on this.

I didn’t think that we disagreed on that much, but never mind.

Red Marriott, Jan 27 2010 18:00:

devrim wrote:

mike-serves people wrote:

nevertheless his poetry is highly regarded for its aesthetic standards in China

Things like this tend to happen when you hold a certain position within the state. It is like people believing that Atatürk did everything perfect here in Turkey.

Confirming Devrim’s comments on mike-serves people’s claims about the popularity of Mao’s poetry, here is what Simon Leys says, who wrote several very good books on Chinese culture, history and the Mao era;

Quote:

Let us have no illusions about the quality of Mao’s artistic creation. The fame of his poetry owes everything to his fame as a politician; if Mao had not played his particular part in history, his poetical works, which are slight and often clumsy, would not have stood out from the work of thousands of other amateur poets who flourish in each generation of Chinese scolars. Certainly the poet’s inspiration meets the politician’s experience to commanding effect in the poem “Snow” (to the tune of Ch’in yuan ch’un) which is memorable in the same sense as “Song of the Great Wind” by Lui Pang, the founder of the Han dynasty, or the poems of the military leader and statesman Ts’ao Ts’ao (even if, as gossip has it, Mao’s poem was corrected and reshaped by Liu Ya-Tzu). But this single example apart, it is not difficult to agree with Arthur Waley’s criticism, which used a pictorial comparison and rated Mao’s poetry “not as bad as Hitler’s painting but not as good as Churchill’s”. (Simon Leys, The Chairman’s New Clothes – Mao and the Cultural Revolution; Allison & Busby, UK 1981)

For what might happen if Mao disapproved of your literary efforts;
http://libcom.org/tags/yenan-literary-opposition

Samotnaf, Jan 28 2010 05:16:

Here, an original EJThribb, which I hadn’t realised existed until I googled it 2 minutes ago. Certainly up there in the top ten of my list of communist poetry:

Quote:

Lines on the Death of Chairman Mao

So.
Farewell then
Chairman Mao.

You are the
Last of the
Great revolutionary

Figures. You
And I
Had little in
Common

Except that
Like me
You were a poet.

Though how you
Found time
To write poems

In addition to
Running a
Country of
800 million people

Is baffling
Frankly.

EJ Thribb

Richard, Feb 4 2010 04:58:

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Samotnaf, Feb 4 2010 08:04:

Presumably Richard’s post above is one of William Burrough’s cut-ups (arbitrarily taking words cut out of an article or ten and sticking them together).

Well, just recently I downloaded some ‘Libertarian Communist’ software which included Burrough’s-type cut-ups, amongst its choice of “structural forms”, though I’ve yet to try the ‘cut-up’ form as it doesn’t produce anything remotely interesting (e.g. Richard’s “poem”).

This ‘Libertarian Communist’ software is an update of a very old “Theory-by-numbers” software from way-back when PCs were called “New Technology”, which the ICC and others have been using for the last 30 years or so (basically, it works like “Painting by numbers”: it’s structure is various correct attacks on Trade Unionism and Nationalism, with blank spaces for details like dates, bureaucrats’ names, countries, “revolutionary groups”, etc. which you ‘colour’ in with the specifics).

Anyway, this new version is “Left Communist/Anarcho-Communist/Situationist/Council Communist/Whatever-ist Poetry”, and it’s a lot more sophisticated, less predictable, than the old stuff from circa 1980. It can do any poetic form you want, adapted to various versions of your opinions. What you do is give a 30 word precis of your ideas about a given subject (e.g. Marx, Kronstadt, the CNT, etc.) and click on a poetic form and/or poet’s name. For example – I clicked on “Shakespeare, Macbeth” as one of the forms and “General Theory” as subject matter (having given my 30 words), and it came up with this:

Quote:

Tomorrow, and wage slavery, and forced passivity,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of wasted time;
And all our resignations have lighted submissive spectators
The way to dusty Capital. Out , out, brief candle!
Life in class society’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more; it is a lie
Told by the ruling class, full of sound and fury,
Signifying commodity relations….

Then I just changed it to “Hamlet” and this came up:

Quote:

To revolt or not to revolt: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in daily life to suffer
The Asbos and humanitarian aid of outrageous capitalism,
Or to take arms against a swamp of constraints,
And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep;
No more; and, by a sleep to pretend we end
The heartache and the thousand bureaucratic shocks
That our enslaved life is heir to, ’tis an illusion
Determinedly to be opposed. To die, to sleep;
to sleep: perchance to watch Eastenders; ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death those compensations which come
When we have finished the day’s wage labour,
Must confuse us with lies. There’s the respect for alienation
That makes calamity of so long a living death;
For who would bear the armies and ideologies of time which is money,
The oppressor’s delirium, the proud person’s degradations,
The pangs of a world without love, the law’s irrationality
The insolence of authority, and the spurns
That patient merit of commodities takes,
When he himself might settle his accounts
With a molotov cocktail? Who would hierarchies bear
To grunt and sweat under a weary pseudo-life,
But that the dread of something after the death of class society,
The undiscovered world from whose absence of boundaries
No revolution returns, this dread intimidates the will
And makes some of us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to possiblities that we know not of?
Thus consciousness without practice does make cowards of too many of us;
And thus the creative hue of revolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of impotent thought,
And adventures of great courage and historical moment
With this self-doubt their currents turn awry,
And lose the chance of anti-capitalist action…

The I did the same with William Blake and his poem “The Tiger” and this came up:

Quote:

The Ryot

Ryot Ryot burning bright
In the forests of the night:
What commoditys’ hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

On what street corner or street cries
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare we aspire?
What lucidity dare sieze the fire?

What the bricks against the chain?
In every furnace was they brain!
What new world? What clear grasp
Dare its lively tremors clasp?

When the kids returned to watch TV
Or Diluting life with SWP
Did the State smile, its work to see?
Did the powers that make them sheepish make thee?

And what molotov, beyond art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to thunder
What dread anger? And what dread plunder?

Ryot Ryot burning bright
In the forests of the night
What other-directed hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Not bad, imo.

These took about a minute each, but it can churn out some poetic forms at the rate of 60 per minute (e.g. the EJThribb I posted about Mao and mike_servethepeople above took just one second; same for rhyming couplets – I guess mike_servethepeople has the same software). Others it produces a little slower – about 6 a minute; the following limerick took about 10 seconds:

Quote:

There was an old prof called Cleishbotham
Need some old lies? – he’s sure got ’em
He treats critics with venom
Like his hero – dead Lenin
Who liked critics so much that he shot ’em

Likewise, this one:

Quote:

There was an old chanter – Baboon;
Not singing scat, he’d just croon
He knew just one song
And sang far too long
Far too slow, out of time, out of tune

Not King Lear, more Edward – but not bad for 10 seconds’ effort.

The Haiku (7 syllables, 5 syllables, 7 syllables), however, despite its brevity, is, on the surface, deceptively simple but takes a lot longer to create (about 10 minutes); e.g. this one about our favourite Left Communist international organisation and would-be party (not the all-night variety):

Quote:

The icy sea freezes all
Drowning in notions
Archtic. Sinking not thinking.

As I said, deceptively simple.

Anyway – it does everything – clerihews, for example …these two came up, the first, a fairly obscure one about Alf:

Quote:

C.D.Ward
Makes me bored

Unlike his hero HPLovecraft, he’s usually ‘correct’, safe and detached

Almost invariably writing in a flat prose few have ever mis-matched

and:

Quote:

Mr.Weeler
Wordsmith, spieler
Never a thing to say
But says it anyway.

Or doggerel – for example:

Quote:

Alas! Anarchism now mourns for her professor extinct –
The late and the good Prof Howard Zinn.
We hope his soul has fled to communism beyond,
Where are everlasting lectures of which we are fond.

Then there are elegies, sonnets, jazz poetry, acrostics, double dactyl higgledypiggledies, epic poetry, epistles, nonsense verse – you name it, it’s got it. And even poems in the style of virtually any poet whose style is predictable : e.g. e.e.cummings, Pam Ayres, John Hegley, Pinter, TSEliot, etc.
It also does song styles – rap, ballads, Bing Crosby (“I’m dreaming of a red and black Spartacusmas”), etc. (though it doesn’t do fairly unpredictable lyrics, say in the style of The Kinks,of whom Boris Badenov seems to be a fan).
But it does do nursery rhymes… this one came up:

Quote:

baa baa red and/or black sheep,
have you any wooly ideas?
yes comrade,
no, comrade,
300 rags full of cliches
260 for Master Lenin,
39 for Dame Montseny,
and maybe just 1 for the little proletarian who struggles along the lane to the end of alienation, following the straight and narrow path of alienation itself, keeping just one step ahead.

Brilliant, no?*

Download for free from: https//www.theresnopoetrylikelibcompoetry.com/

*No
Samotnaf, Feb 4 2010 22:43

mike_servethepeople said

Quote:

I entered uninvited
Forgive me my intrusion

etc.
Well the software from
www.theresnopoetrylikelibcompoetry.com (see above) has come up with this reply:

Not so much your lack of invitation
That caused such sarcastic irritation
As your senseless hero-worship of Mao,
Ignorance of Chinese women – and how!
Anti-imperialist? – don’t forget
The anti-Empire Mao made in Tibet*

Rhyming couplets are truly the best, no? Such a popular ‘easy listening’ form is essential – we must treat the plebs like Mao did with his Little Red Book, and like pop stars and others do in the West – as the childish peasants they basically are.

*(By the way, according to ‘Socialisme ou Barbarie’ , it was the Tibetan ruling class, with the Dalai Lama as part of them, that first ‘invited’ the Chinese State to quell social unrest there because they couldn’t control things on their own; only the Chinese State overstayed its welcome. )

And how about this from The Kinks –

Brown – you really got me going
you got me so I don’t know what your class is doing
Sarkozy – you really got me now
You got me so I can’t sleep at night

Yeah – you really got me going
You got me so I don’t know what anybody’s doing
Oh yeah, you really got me now
You got me so I can’t sleep at night

you really got me
you really got me
you really got me

Obomber – you really got me going
you got me so I don’t know what your class is doing
Chavez – you really got me now
You got me so I can’t sleep at night

Yeah – you really got me going
You got me so I don’t know what anybody’s doing
Oh yeah, you really got me now
You got me so I can’t sleep at night

See – wanna set myself free
Don’t wanna be takin’ false sides
Rulers, you really got me now
You got me so I can’t sleep at night

you really got me
you really got me
you really got me

Oh no…

(solo guitar)

etc. etc. etc.

Richard, Feb 5 2010 04:30 :

Samotnaf wrote:

This ‘Libertarian Communist’ software is an update of a very old “Theory-by-numbers” software from way-back when PCs were called “New Technology”, which the ICC and others have been using for the last 30 years or so (basically, it works like “Painting by numbers”: it’s structure is various correct attacks on Trade Unionism and Nationalism, with blank spaces for details like dates, bureaucrats’ names, countries, “revolutionary groups”, etc. which you ‘colour’ in with the specifics).

As for my poem…I was watching Dada – Europe after the rain documentary and nicked the idea from there, can’t get anything past you can we. My aim wasn’t for it to be deeply ‘interesting’ but to elicit some kind of response other than the poems on here had done up to this point. I think it kind of worked a little. Or perhaps it had none or very little effect?

Samotnaf, Feb 27 2010 07:21

Richard – been on holiday from libcom, but back to reality (or is it the other way round?).
I’m not sure if your “can’t get anything past you can we?” was meant ironically, since I attributed your cut-up to Burroughs not Dada, whose techniques Burroughs, hardly original, burroughed from. Should have sussed that – thanks for making me see the connection.

The link you gave – Dada – Europe after the rain – was kind of interesting, though it’s like yet another repeat of anti-art turned into art – subversive during and after WWl, hardly subversive almost 100 – 40 years later (see “Closed window onto another life“, which I co-wrote; see, especially the chapter “Taste and Tasteability: Taste – ancient and modern”, but also some of the other stuff – particularly the bit on the attack on Duchamp’s “fountain”/urinal – is relevant to a critique of dada). Also, I highly recommend Vaneigem’s A Cavalier History of Surrealism, which is an excellent counter-balance to the uncritical pro-surrealist video, and includes a lot of interesting takes on Dada, Breton, Artaud, Peret, etc.

Of course, Dada, particularly German Dada, as the “Dada – Europe after the rain” video shows, was a lot more radical than any of the tame Tracy Vermin or Damien Hearse dada imitators. Even the sound poems are funnier than anything modern dada imitators produce (though I’m certainly not recommending better imitation). However, “True dadaists are against dada”, they declared – but that too can become an ideology. “Dada has no pretensions”, they declare – but that too became a pretension.

The video recounts Breton meeting a patient in hospital who claims that the war is a fake, bodies taken out of morgues and placed on the battlefield for the cameras, etc. Reminded me of a guy I knew who said, after the April ’81 riots in Brixton, “It was all done in a studio”. He was already past the half-way mark to madness, and had been very into Vaneigem’s take on nihilism (which critically appreciates Dadaism as part of nihilism) – and it seems that the fall into subjectivism as a reactive rebellion can all-too-often lead into madness (eg Artaud). Perhaps “cut-up” is a form of madness made into art – because it leaves everything to chance, and submitting to chance might seem ‘open’, but it’s like being an open sewer – ( Tom Lehrer said, “Life is like a sewer – what you get out of it depends on what you put into it”, but really it should be “what you get out of it depends on what the various forms of external authority put into it”, but that’s not at all funny ). Cut-up is as determined by this sewerish life as anything else and isn’t a genuine opposition to the material base of the rigidity of linear thinking, any more than de Bono’s lateral thinking is. Like all techniques and methods, its use is totally dependent on the aim of its user, and dadism’s/surrealism’s aims of trying to destroy the stifling atmosphere of dominant life and culture by cultural means ended up in reinforcing/reforming what it hoped to oppose. Surrealism’s reactive ideology against “reason” probably comes from the oppressive “rationalism” of French post-Revolution culture, which never had the same power in anti-rational Britain (hence ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and Edward Lear have always been perfectly compatible with the dominant nonsense, which is not to say that there aren’t some good bits in both, just as there are in Monty Python, which can be used in a subversive way).

The video you mention quotes Hans Arp as saying that his former dada friends, turned Stalinist, “conscientiously … mix poetry and a 5 year plan in one pot”. That almost sums up some of the poetry recommended in this thread. Yet maybe we should consciously mix “poetry” (the subjective) with an objective attack on the various “termite state”s that Arp refers to. Cut-up is a technique, but like all techniques, in order to use it radically against external authority (if you’re not to be determined by whatever crap external authority arbitrarily flushes your way), you have to use it with your semi-conscious thoughts and desires – to try to push yourself against this chaotic cut-up world/life in a determined way. It’s a bit like automatic writing – sometimes you come up with some funny expressions you’d never come up with by just writing in a normal ‘theoretical’ way, but on their own they communicate nothing to others other than some vaguely “poetic” aesthetic nonsense; used more consciously (having found such expressions by chance) they can make your critique more striking, poignant, more hitting home than just the standard objective way. Though some people go overboard with this subjectivity,often losing sight of what they really want to say by getting stuck in clever clever language games (I’m thinking of some of the Tiquun-influenced stuff being produced now in the States) . It’s a delicate balance between ‘objective’ research and subjective expression. And that shouldn’t just be applied to rigid writing habits or fixed methods of ‘theoretical research’ (e.g. the standard University-prescribed methods of Aufheben’s articles) but to the practice that theory should be part of – life, and the struggle against the life the “rational” forces of the commodity imposes on us, has to be an interaction between rational choice and chance encounter, between conscious decision and seizing fairly arbitrary chances (e.g. the way people fighting the cops will suddenly find a practical interesting use for the things around them that they would normally have just seen as things “out there”). Subverting the way we cook and eat, our sex lives (if we have one), our walks round where we live, our travelling, our conversations, our daily practical habits in all aspects of our lives – subverting by the experimental interaction of chance and conscious choice, depending of course on the different margins of freedom our different situations in this world permits us – should be as much part of our attack on this world as experimental writing.

By the way, since St.Valentine’s day, this is the Chinese year of the tiger (metal tiger, not paper or electronic one) – so Blake’s poem, as a development of his proverb from hell in his book “The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell” (a beautifully subversive title for its time), “The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction”, seems worth producing here:

THE TYGER (from Songs Of Experience)

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

(1794)

I reproduce it here because I’ve looked at it a couple of times over the last 2 weeks. What’s your (or anybody else’s) interpretation of this? It seems that, despite the fact that Blake inevitably (given his epoch and his geographical location) believed in some kind of God, there’s a kind of critique of God, particularly as some absolute fixed thing, in this – though saying this hardly says enough. I’ve never managed to read E.P.Thompson’s book on Blake, hardly getting past the first few pages, because it seemed so academic and unnecessarily clever clever, but maybe other people here have gleaned something from it, or from other analyses of Blake…………?

Don’t want to get into a spectacle of erudition, as a friend said libcom forums encourage – but these long rambling thoughts tend to come to me at this time of the morning after a strong cup of coffee……….

Wellclose Square, Feb 28 2010 00:46:

Samotnaf – your reproduction of Blake’s The Tyger:

Quote:

I reproduce it here because I’ve looked at it a couple of times over the last 2 weeks. What’s your (or anybody else’s) interpretation of this? It seems that, despite the fact that Blake inevitably (given his epoch and his geographical location) believed in some kind of God, there’s a kind of critique of God, particularly as some absolute fixed thing, in this – though saying this hardly says enough. I’ve never managed to read E.P.Thompson’s book on Blake, hardly getting past the first few pages, because it seemed so academic and unnecessarily clever clever, but maybe other people here have gleaned something from it, or from other analyses of Blake…………?

I won’t offer an exegesis of The Tyger, but some random thoughts around Blake’s ‘kind of critique of God’ which tend to come to me at this time of night after a few glasses of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and Grolsch Weizen.

There is a kind of critique of God, evident when you look at poems like The Chimney Sweeper, which chides those who ‘are gone to praise God & his Priest & King / Who make up a heaven of our misery’. The Garden of Love describes ‘Priests in black gowns… binding with briars, my joys & desires’. Blake believed in some kind of God – as Saree Makdisi puts it: ‘Blake repeatedly stresses an immanent conception of God, and hence a human potential for the infinite: “He who sees the Infinite in all things sees God. He who sees the Ratio only sees himself only. Therefore God becomes as we are, that we may be as he is” (from No Natural Religion)’ (Makdisi 28).

I think this is where the figure of Urizen comes in. He’s depicted by Blake as the classic white-bearded, transcendent God, sat up in the clouds, clutching a pair of dividers, in the picture known as The Ancient of Days. The name Urizen, I think, was intended to evoke the finitude of the horizon, as well as – in an anticipation of txt-spk – ‘Your Reason’, that is, the rationality of the emerging industrial world, of which Urizen is the God. He is “the great Work master,” who absolutely dominates an industrial and commercial mode of productive organisation in which “each took his station, & his course began with sorrow and care / In sevens & tens & fifties, hundreds, thousands, numberd all / According to their various powers. Subordinate to Urizen” (The Four Zoas) (Makdisi 117-118). Urizen’s role as ‘work master’ is inseparable from his self-proclaimed role as God – “Am I not God said Urizen. Who is Equal to me”. A “Conqueror in triumphant glory”, Urizen builds his universal empire:

First Trades & Commerce ships & armed vessels he builded laborious
To swim the deep & on the Land children are sold to trades
Of dire necessity still laboring day & night till all
Their life exctinc they took the spectre form in dark despair
And slaves in myriads in ship loads burden the hoarse sounding deep
Rattling with clanking chains the Universal Empire groans.

E P Thompson speculated that Blake came from a Muggletonian background. In fact, it’s since been found that both Blake’s parents were members of the Moravian Chapel in Fetter Lane, off Fleet Street, which was destroyed in the raid of May 10th 1941. Blake is likely to have drawn much of his religious language, symbolism and inspiration from here. On a bit of a tangent, I think the Moravian connection – between Blake’s outlook and Afro-Caribbean radicalism from the 18th century to the present (the ‘discourse’ on Babylon, for example) – would be worth investigating. That’s prompted by reading the obituary in today’s Independent for the actor, Cy Grant, who voiced Lieutenant Green in Captain Scarlet, amongst other things. The great-grandson of a slave, he was born in British Guiana in 1919, one of seven children of a Moravian minister and a music teacher. His minister father impressed upon him that Toussaint l’Ouverture, who led the revolution in Haiti, was a great leader. I remember one of those Who Do You Think You Are? TV programmes where a black British athlete (Colin Jackson?) went to Jamaica to see where his mum had come from and there was a plot of land owned by the Moravian church which had been given to freed slaves.

PS The Makdisi book is William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s Uni. of Chicago Press 2003 – reading it still ‘in progress’ (though rewarding) – E P Thompson is a doddle in comparison.

Richard,  Mar 8 2010 08:35:

Samotnaf-

I was being slightly snide to be honest but it could be seen as kind of a compliment, alluding to your impressive general understanding and critique of a wide range of subjects that pop up around here. I had already read your Closed window…I’ve been trying to work through your uploads since you made some insightful comments about the nature of some of the discourse around these parts. I also recognise the role some posters take in closing down discussion, others putting their ‘seal of approval’ and some posts which are left of the left if that is the right term? Being shot down before they even get a conversation started. I have further criticisms but I won’t go into them here. They certainly combine to put people off posting, including myself especially if you are not as well read for example. I also enjoy the situationist style of writing if I may call it that which you often delve into. It tends to cut through the bullshit so to speak without losing its relevance. However, I recognise others disagree entirely. I agree with your criticisms of ‘my’ cut up, it clearly means very little to anyone apart from myself as I was able to read it in its original form even though my intention wasn’t to be ‘artistic’ it was to stimulate a reaction. Your points about using techniques, their limitations, aims etc are interesting and a useful guide. So thanks,I appreciate someone putting in detailed effort to what was essentially a mediocre post at best by myself. So, my new and improved Revolutionary soap powder:

We revolve in the historical
and the temporal.
Convulsed between Samotnaf’s
subversive.
And the sleight of bourgeois individualism.
One ends up in cultish, esoteric shamanism.
The other, The Icey Sea.
We dance and we slog…
and therein lies the separation.
The freedom of our collective labour,
will be won through struggle!
In the Bedroom!
In the Kitchen!
And in the Forums!

Bedrooms, Kitchens, Forums!

I’ll post the ‘annotations’ in a while…
If this comes across as infantile/utter shite so be it.

**************************************

 

Though the thread continues, my contributions haven’t.

SamFanto (Samotnaf), beginning of September 2017

See also

“now is the winter of our poetry”

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