Saturday, 30 September 2000

From "Critique of the Gotha Programme"

By Marx.

The kernel [from the Gotha Programme] consists in this, that in this communist society every worker must receive the "undiminished" Lassallean "proceeds of labor".

Let us take, first of all, the words "proceeds of labor" in the sense of the product of labor; then the co-operative proceeds of labor are the total social product.

From this must now be deducted: First, cover for replacement of the means of production used up. Second, additional portion for expansion of production. Third, reserve or insurance funds to provide against accidents, dislocations caused by natural calamities, etc.

These deductions from the "undiminished" proceeds of labor are an economic necessity, and their magnitude is to be determined according to available means and forces, and partly by computation of probabilities, but they are in no way calculable by equity.

There remains the other part of the total product, intended to serve as means of consumption.

Before this is divided among the individuals, there has to be deducted again, from it: First, the general costs of administration not belonging to production. This part will, from the outset, be very considerably restricted in comparison with present-day society, and it diminishes in proportion as the new society develops. Second, that which is intended for the common satisfaction of needs, such as schools, health services, etc. From the outset, this part grows considerably in comparison with present-day society, and it grows in proportion as the new society develops. Third, funds for those unable to work, etc., in short, for what is included under so-called official poor relief today.

Only now do we come to the "distribution" which the program, under Lassallean influence, alone has in view in its narrow fashion -- namely, to that part of the means of consumption which is divided among the individual producers of the co-operative society.

The "undiminished" proceeds of labor have already unnoticeably become converted into the "diminished" proceeds, although what the producer is deprived of in his capacity as a private individual benefits him directly or indirectly in his capacity as a member of society.

Friday, 29 September 2000

From "Radcliffe and Guatemalan Women"

By Hannah Weiner.

Health care is a business
The army kidnapped or murdered their husbands
There should be something more human about it
Women have assumed responsibility for caring for children not their own
Today with jet planes filling the skies
Women participate along with men in village meetings
If we have any vision of a flourishing economic world
They do guard duty and set up traps for the enemy
When we were still emerging as a world power
Sabotage measures digging trenches; they devise warning signals and flight plans for the villagers
Our own economic policies
Women work in literacy campaigns among women
We can again take the offense seeking a global market
They care for the gunshot wounds of the villagers
In the aftermath of the last great economic crises
Hundreds of women -- with infants on their backs -- sabotaged several miles of the highway
But today we have a new generation
Definitive liberation from U.S. imperialism and local dictatorships
Confidence is the most precious asset
She helped educate the other women and children
To exercise strong supervision and regulation
In meetings with the women she would act as translator
The lessons of financial crises
There is a lot that women can do in this struggle, which is everyone's struggle
A strong sense of business integrity
She saw members of her family murdered by the army
To protect the public at large
She became a member of the popular movement
My own alma-mater since the days of President Wilson
I started working for a living when I was eight years old, on the plantations
Have shared that tradition
I could no longer bear the expression of pain on my mother's face. She was always exhausted
In the end it's a matter of respect
My wage, when I started, was twenty cents a day
The responsibility of government
When I was eleven, two of my little brothers died on the plantation from malnutrition and sickness
Bettering the lot of our communities
We used to get up at three in the morning
Stability and continuity
For breakfast we had tortillas with salt
Larger national purposes
Customs dont permit a young girl to walk alone
My concern is with economics as a responsibility of government
For us, the earth is sacred
We will succeed
When I was fifteen, in 1973, my father was arrested for the first time
They can call on a lot of PHD's for technical abilities
It was all the rich who persecuted us campesinos
Let's make the most of them
He suffered a lot of pain and could not work in the fields
For all those women throughout the world who are torn by political and economic revolution and by attacks against home and family
We taught the children how to guard the road during the day
A truly liberating education
Soon afterwards my father was killed...burned alive inside the embassy
With an appreciation of the humanistic worlds
My mother died three months later. The military chief raped her and tortured her like they did to my brother
I am very proud of the history of Radcliffe
They placed her under a tree and her body became infested with worms
Radcliffe has done so well, in fact
The troops stayed until the vultures and dogs ate her
Most Radcliffe women today
The only thing I can do is struggle, to practice that violence which I learned in the Bible
The studies to improve women's higher education
The rich and the army say that all of us Indian people are communists.... So for our own safety...we have stopped wearing our Indian dress
We are grateful to you alumnae
In 1970-71, when thousands of workers and peasants "disappeared" political assassination became a daily reality
It was an intimidating institution
The struggles waged by the teachers movement are intense
An outward veneer of academic success
Teenagers, as well as mature and even elderly women, take part in demonstrations
A lot more self assurance than I had at first perceived
The association of Families of the Disappeared was able to operate until 1974, when its legal advisor was assassinated
I redirected my career
Along with disappearances, kidnappings and torture, women (including girls of 14 and 15 and even elderly women) are raped
We are now reaching the point in our lives
Not only are women raped, they are also blinded
A woman should not draw attention to her achievement
Yet another form of torture is the firing of machine-gun rounds into the vagina
Those of us who pursued active careers
I know that a disappearance means almost certain death
In contrast we have been freed
People turn up badly tortured. They obviously suffered terribly before they died
It is clear that young women today
It was engineered, as we all know, by the CIA. I mean the CIA says this quite frankly
They are making far fewer early marriages
Peasant self-defence league--the CUC or Committee for Peasant Unity
The super woman approach places a tremendous burden
How old was she when she disappeared? Sixty five
We would like to be later-day Renaissance women
Indians in Guatemala are among the most down-trodden human groups
To work for the virtual irradication of tuberculosis
The supposedly democratic elections are nothing but an incredible farce. You have nothing except the right and the far right
I had such a wonderful life
We do not want American military aid to Guatemala renewed
This award is really a tribute
The CUC has local committees in small settlements, hamlets, villages and even in the city where there are poor people
And was I think a great teacher
We women participate equally with men
Learning was a wonderful background
4,000 peasants participated with us demanding this wage. Many of them were assassinated, kidnapped and threatened
He taught me what research was all about
How long did the strike last? It lasted a month or more
We're coming to the close of a wonderful afternoon

From "Repeat Reclaim Regurgitate!"

By Emily Critchley.

The band came they came & they took all my food & replaced my money with this food-bashing venture they promised me theyd throw food around but instead they broke my glasses before venturing back inside the same 4 walls & replacing food whilst hiding inside food for a bit longer.

Thursday, 28 September 2000

From "Repetition"

By Søren Kierkegaard.

The exception explains the general and itself. And if one wants to study the general correctly, one only needs to look around for a true exception. It reveals everything more clearly than does the general. Endless talk about the general becomes boring; there are exceptions. If they cannot be explained, then the general also cannot be explained. The difficulty is usually not noticed because the general is not thought about with passion but with a comfortable superficiality. The exception, on the other hand, thinks the general with intense passion.

From "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism"

By Max Weber.

The conception of the calling thus brings out that central dogma of all Protestant denominations which the Catholic division of ethical precepts into command and recommendation discards. The only way of living acceptably to God was not to surpass worldly morality in monastic asceticism, but solely through the fulfillment of the obligations imposed upon the individual by his position in the world. That was his calling.

Luther [...] developed the conception in the course of the first decade of his activity as a reformer. At first, quite in harmony with the prevailing tradition of the Middle Ages, as represented, for example, by Thomas Aquinas, [...] he thought of activity in the world as a thing of the flesh, even though willed by God. It is the indispensable natural condition of a life of faith, but in itself, like eating and drinking, morally neutral. [...] But with the development of the conception of faith alone in all its consequences, and its logical result, the increasingly sharp emphasis against the Catholic evangelical recommendation of the monks as dictates of the devil, the calling grew in importance. The monastic life is not only quite devoid of value as a means of justification before God, but he also looks upon its renunciation of the duties of this world as the product of selfishness, withdrawing from temporal obligations. In contrast, labour in a calling appears to him as the outward expression of brotherly love. This he proves by the observation that the division of labour forces every individual to work for others, but his view-point is highly naive, forming an almost grotesque contrast to Adam Smith's well-known statements on the same subject. [...] However, this justification, which is evidently essentially scholastic, soon disappears again, and there remains, more and more strongly emphasized, the statement that the fulfillment of worldly duties is under all circumstances the only way to live acceptably to God. It and it alone is the will of God, and hence every legitimate calling has exactly the same worth in the sight of God.

From "The Second Treatise of Civil Government"

By John Locke.

Sect. 131. But though men, when they enter into society, give up the equality, liberty, and executive power they had in the state of nature, into the hands of the society, to be so far disposed of by the legislative, as the good of the society shall require; yet it being only with an intention in every one the better to preserve himself, his liberty and property; (for no rational creature can be supposed to change his condition with an intention to be worse) the power of the society, or legislative constituted by them, can never be supposed to extend farther, than the common good; but is obliged to secure every one's property, by providing against those three defects above mentioned, that made the state of nature so unsafe and uneasy. And so whoever has the legislative or supreme power of any common-wealth, is bound to govern by established standing laws, promulgated and known to the people, and not by extemporary decrees; by indifferent and upright judges, who are to decide controversies by those laws; and to employ the force of the community at home, only in the execution of such laws, or abroad to prevent or redress foreign injuries, and secure the community from inroads and invasion. And all this to be directed to no other end, but the peace, safety, and public good of the people.

From "Inverse Anthropomorphisms and Animistic Animals in Recent Literature"

By Derek White (& the link).

James Tate, return to the city of white donkeys:

  • In The Memories of Fish, the narrator Stanley mocks the very fishiness of fish.
  • In Suburban Bison, the narrator and his friend are on their way to go bowling and get distracted by a herd of buffalo.
  • In The Camel, he receives a photograph in the mail of himself riding a camel in the desert even though he has never ridden, let alone dreamed of riding, a camel in the desert.
  • In The Greater Battle, he is at an aquarium when a Great White shark, who evidently harbors feelings for him and starts ramming the glass walls of the tank.
  • When a fortune-teller in Half-eaten tells him that there is a cougar in his future and he starts to believe this, it almost causes his girlfriend to leave him.
  • In The Great Horned Owl Has Flown, he is haunted by a stuffed owl he buys at a tag sale, that eventually disappears from his mantle place on its own accord.
  • In the last, and most telling piece of the collection, The Search for Lost Lives, he is chasing a blue butterfly, something he had "known in another life, even if it was only in a dream."

Wednesday, 27 September 2000

A Note on "The Minimaus Poems" by Dell Olsen

Just on their title really. Tricksy, you go around trying to respond to Olson, you end up inventing Language poetry. So as well as the whole Maximus caboodle . . .

De minimis non curat lex -- "the law doesn't sweat the small stuff" slash "give a shit about Mini-Mouse" && so see eff . . .

"Materiality is a key concept from an audit perspective as auditors plan and perform the audit to be able to provide reasonable assurance that the financial statements are free of material misstatement. In designing the audit plan, the auditor must establish an acceptable materiality level so as to detect material misstatements. It is also key in determining the overall level of testing that is required in order to gain comfort that the financial statements are not misstated. Materiality therefore affects the sample sizes that are used in order to complete the substantive testing of certain balances and so can significantly affect the work load required to gain comfort."


"The de-minimus threshold represents the lower boundary for errors found to be recorded on the summary of unadjusted differences log maintained by the audit team. Errors found below this level will not normally be recorded by the audit team. If in aggregate the unadjusted differences breaches materiality then an adjustment would be made to the accounts for these errors.The de-minimus thresholds were set as 5% of the overall materiality as follows [...]"

Monday, 25 September 2000

From "Unfree Verse: John Wilkinson's _The Speaking Twins_"

By Simon Jarvis.

It quickly becomes clear that there is nothing corresponding to what could be called a ‘metrical set’: that is to say, there is no system of recurrences which becomes rapidly enough established for a skilled performer to relate it to some metrical design or other in which he or she might already know how to perform. For example, whereas a ‘metrical set’ would allow some disambiguation of metrically ambiguous monosyllables such as ‘all’ or ‘is’—and how often, in fact, the tension between rhythm and metre in metrical verse is repeatedly evoked and brought to bear centrally on the semantic content at precisely such monosyllables—there are in this poem even fewer guides to intonational melody even than ordinarily exist in a writing system which accords to intonation little more than the highly approximate sketches given by punctuation markings, or, as it used aptly to be called, by ‘pointing’. This, of course, is also often the case in metrical verse, because decisions about metrically ambiguous polysyllables are very often not disambiguated by metrical set, and so they become closely bound up with questions of rhetorical organization (one thinks of the word “so” in Milton) or of thematic interpretation (“all” in Shakespeare’s sonnets). Here in this poem, even the weak assistance offered by metrical set to intonational disambiguation is absent.

Sunday, 24 September 2000

From +|'me'S-pace

By chrstne werthem.


The method of litteral poetics attends to both linguistic characters and to the relations between them.

In English the relation of togetherness is marked by the character "+."

In English the relation of difference is defined as a relation of negation between an + its O-ther.

How then is this sense of negation articulated?


From "Natural Selection Before _The Origin of the Species_"

By Conway Zirkle.

The history of the concept of natural selection has generally been traced back through the personal development of Charles Darwin to Thomas Malthus, whose Essay on the Principles of Population gave Darwin the clue which led him to formulate the doctrine. Actually the conception of natural selection is very old, although originally it was not used to explain the origin of new species (evolution) but to account for the existence of adaptation. The survival of the fit organism, of course, implies the survival of fitness itself, and thus natural selection can serve as an alternative explanation of those facts which are generally cited as evidences of teleology. Natural selection was used for this purpose by Empedocles (400 B.C.), Lucretius (99-55 B.C), Diderot (1749), Maupertius (1756), and Geoffrey St. Hillaire (1833); but it was specifically rejected in favor of teleology by Aristotle (384-321 B.C.), Lactantius (260-340 A.D.), St. Albertus Magnus (1236), and Whewell (1833). Natural selection was used to explain organic evolution by Wells (1813), Matthews (1831), Darwin (1858), and Wallace (1858). As an explanation of evolution, natural selection involves a number of distinct though subordinate propositions, such as the existence of heritable variations, of popu- lation pressure, of a struggle for existence and the consequent survival of the fit or better adapted. A number of philosophers and naturalists recognized the validity of one or more of these propositions without however, gaining any clear conception of the implications of the whole doctrine. One such component, population pressure, was described by Hale (1677), Buffon (1751), Benjamin Franklin (1751), Bonnet (1764), Monboddo (1773), Herder (1784), Smellie (1790), Malthus (1798), Prichard (1808), Wells (1813), Matthews (1831), De Candolle (1833), Lyell (1833), Geoffrey St. Hillaire (1833), and Spencer (1852). The struggle for existence was described by al-JAhiz (9th cent.), Hobbes (1651), Hale (1677), Buffon (1751), Monboddo (1773), Kant (1775), Herder (1784), Smellie (1790), Erasmus Darwin, (1794) Wells (1813), De Candolle (1832), Lyell (1833), and Spencer (1852). Several eighteenth and nineteenth century scientists almost grasped the full significance of natural selection but just failed to recognize all of its implications. Among these were Rousseau (1749), Prichard (1808, 1826), Lawrence (1819), Geoffrey St. Hillaire (1833), Herbert (1837), Spencer (1852), and Naudin (1852).

From "The Elementary Forms of Religious Life"

By Emile Durkheim.

Up to the present there have been only two doctrines in the field. For some, the categories cannot be derived from experience: they are logically prior to it and condition it. They are represented as so many simple and irreducible data, imminent in the human mind by virtue of its inborn constitution. For this reason they are said to be a priori. Others, however, hold that they are constructed and made up of pieces and bits, and that the individual is the artisan of this construction.

But each solution raises grave difficulties.

Is the empirical thesis the one adopted? Then it is necessary to deprive the categories of all their characteristic properties. As a matter of fact they are distinguished from all other knowledge by their universality and necessity. They are the most general concepts that exist, because they are applicable to all that is real, and since they are not attached to any particular object they are independent of every particular subject; they constitute the common field where all minds meet. Further, they must meet there, for reason, which is nothing more than all the fundamental categories taken together, is invested with an authority which we could not set aside if we would.


Classical empiricism results in irrationalism; perhaps it would even be fitting to designate it by this latter name.

The fundamental proposition of the apriorist theory is that knowledge is made up of two sorts of elements, which cannot be reduced into one another, and which are like two distinct layers superimposed one upon the other. Our hypothesis keeps this principle intact. In fact, that knowledge which is called empirical, the only knowledge of which the theorists of empiricism have made use in constructing the reason, is that which is brought into our minds by the direct action of objects. It is composed of individual states which are completely explained by the psychical nature of the individual. If, on the other hand, the categories are, as we believe they are, essentially collective representations before all else, they should show the mental states of the group; they should depend upon the way in which this is founded and organised, upon its morphology, upon its religious, moral and economic institutions, etc. So between these two sorts of representations there is all the difference which exists between the individual and the social, and one can no more derive the second from the first than he can deduce society from the individual, the whole from the part, the complex from the simple sui generis; it has its own peculiar characteristics, which are not found elsewhere and which are not met with again in the same form in all the rest of the universe. The representations which express it have a wholly different content from purely individual ones and we may rest assured in advance that the first adds something to the second.

From "The Division of Labour in Society"

By Emile Durkheim.

[Spencer] believes that social life, just as all life in general, can naturally organise itself only by an unconscious, spontaneous adaptation under the immediate pressure of needs, and not according to a rational plan of reflective intelligence […] the conception of a social contract is today difficult to defend, for it has no relation to the facts... Not only are there no societies which have such an origin, but there is none whose structure presents the least trace of contractual organisation […] to rejuvenate the doctrine and accredit, it would be necessary to qualify as a contract the adhesion which each individual, as adult, gave to the society when he was born, solely by reason of which he continues to live. But then we would have to term contractual every action of man which is not determined by constraint. In this light, there is no society, neither present nor past, which is not or has not been contractual, for there is none that could exist solely through pressure.

If it has sometimes been thought that force was greater previously than it is today, that is because of the illusion which attributes to a coercive regime the small place given over to individual liberty in lower societies. In reality, social life, wherever it is normal, is spontaneous, and if it is abnormal, it cannot endure.

[…] higher societies […] have, according to Spencer, the vast system of particular contracts which link individuals as a unique basis […] Social solidarity would then be nothing else than the spontaneous accord of individual interests, an accord of which contracts are the natural expression […]

Is this the character of societies whose unity is produced by the division of labour? If this were so, we could with justice doubt their stability. For if interest relates men, it is never for more than some few moments. It can create only an external link between them […]

Saturday, 23 September 2000

From "Darkness in a Gold Frame"

By John Wilkinson.

Who shipwrecked retrieve their spars, the brands
we’ll expunge, a grille knuckles cross-wise to their ribs,

but our arms, ours, are fastened the other way round,
outstretching digits will go root through scarless skin,
a plastic, a material spirit at bidding heals & self-builds –
rearrange the skyline, come to think. We orectics bestow
on these mounted in our gold frame – employment;
what binds tight to their succession is weary as what
clothes labels call the authentic & genuine, the original.

But how they blunder about. Coherence is their snack,
entireties which would be worth having, but what’s this –
clasp the chest, eat the food, talk the tongue, food has lost
savour & whose words are hobbled, shoes clumped
with earth can’t fleet through interstices a city allows?
Clumsily they would forge whilst we scribble light.
Their violent politics would forge so to make the link

adamantine, their bulk is a residue they carry like a cross.
Idempotency – great stuff, kids. The stamp is a float:
what is skin-deep if not the structure? In sight of stacks
protected by their net warp, they look & chunter on.
That is a pivot poised by wrinkle & tug long-sightedly
Can’t be caught so doing. Better the devil you don’t know
in the midstream will arrest those who serve for a time.

We the orectics squeeze our organs through their purse
& feel something give. That is ripeness like dropsy
whose mini-explosions spit spores to the end of the earth –
not earth, not ends, but a glistening sphere. Why, the
filaments cover the globe out of one naked lightbulb.
Then these are ordained, the only way anyone might live,
3 million migrant workers are ordered home at a flicker.

Friday, 22 September 2000

From "The Second Treatise of Government"

By John Locke.

[...] Bread, wine and cloth, are things of daily use, and great plenty; yet notwithstanding, acorns, water and leaves, or skins, must be our bread, drink and cloathing, did not labour furnish us with these more useful commodities: for whatever bread is more worth than acorns, wine than water, and cloth or silk, than leaves, skins or moss, that is wholly owing to labour and industry [...]

From "The Paul Boncour Law"

By Benjamin Péret.

Men who crush senators like dog turds
looking each other straight in the eye
will laugh like mountains
will force the priests to kill the last generals with their crosses
and then using the flag
will massacre the priests themselves by way of an Amen

From "Le Cardinal Mercier est Mort"

By Benjamin Péret.

Cardinal Mercier mounted on a policeman
you looked the other day like a dustbin spilling over
with communion wafers
Cardinal Mercier you stink of god as the stable stinks of dung
and as dung stinks of Jesus

From "Prolegomena to a Third Surrealist Manifesto or Not"

By André Breton.

Though I am only too likely to demand everything of a creature I consider beautiful, I am far from granting the same credit to those abstract constructions that go by the name of systems. When faced with them my ardour cools, and it is clear that love no longer spurs me on.

From "Preface for a Reprint of the Manifesto"

By André Breton.

If a system which I make my own, which I slowly adapt to myself, such as Surrealism, remains, and must always remain, substantial enough to overwhelm me, it will or all that never acquire the wherewithal to make of me what I wanted to be, as ready and willing as I might be for it to do so.


By Bernadette Mayer.

You jerk you didn't call me up
I haven't seen you in so long
You probably have a fucking tan
& besides that instead of making love tonight
You're drinking your parents to the airport

I'm through with you bourgeois boys
All you ever do is go back to ancestral comforts
Only money can get--even Catullus was rich but

Nowadays you guys settle for a couch
By a soporific color cable t.v. set
Instead of any arc of love, no wonder
The G.I. Joe team blows it every other time
Wake up! It's the middle of the night
You can either make love or die at the hands of
the Cobra Commander


To make love, turn to page 121.
To die, turn to page 172

Thursday, 21 September 2000


By Catallus.

O FVRVM optime balneariorum
Cleverest of all clothes-stealers at the baths,
Vibenni pater et cinaede fili
father Vibennius, and you, his profligate son,
nam dextra pater inquinatiore,
for the father has a dirtier right hand,
culo filius est uoraciore
but the son has a more voracious anus:
cur non exilium malasque in oras
can't you piss off somewhere
itis? quandoquidem patris rapinae
nasty? since the father's plunderings
notae sunt populo, et natis pilosas,
are known to just about everybody, and you can't sell,
fili, non potes asse uenditare.
son, your hairy arse for an As.

Tuesday, 19 September 2000

From "The Mind Doesn't Work That Way"

By Jerry Fodor.

Here's a provisional merger between rationalist psychology and Turing's account of computation, of which the following are the main principles:

The Computational Theory of Mind (=a rationalist psychology implemented by syntactic processes)
i.Thoughts have their causal roles in virtue of, inter alia, their logical form.
ii. The logical form of a thought supervenes on the syntactic form of the corresponding mental representation.
iii. Mental processes (including, paradigmatically, thinking) are computations, that is, they are operations defined on the syntax of mental representations, and they are reliably truth preserving in indefinitely many cases. 


Sunday, 17 September 2000

From "Corrupted by Showgirls"

By Dell Olsen.

And is what is safe static?

From "On The New American Poetry"

By Reginald Shepherd.

John Ashbery was, after all, a Yale Younger Poet (and Frank O’Hara almost was, in the same year), and the revolution which interested him was what Julia Kristeva calls a revolution in poetic language largely inherited from such forebears as Raymond Roussel and Gertrude Stein, what he calls in the title of his Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard “other traditions” (including Thomas Lovell Beddoes, Laura Riding, John Brooks Wheelwright, and David Schubert). It’s important to note that Ashbery has cited such canonical figures as W.H. Auden and Wallace Stevens as among the poets who most shaped his poetic idiom.

The “Statements on Poetics” at the end of the anthology give a sense of the poets’ interests and motivations. Very few refer to politics, though several refer in rather large and general terms to society and the world at large, and many refer to consciousness in various ways. Ferlinghetti writes that “I am put down by Beat natives who say that I cannot be beat and ‘committed’ at the same time.” He’s scathing about the disengagement of his fellow Beats, with the exception of “that Abominable Snowman of modern poetry, Allen Ginsberg”: “the ‘non-commitment’ of the artist is itself a suicidal and deluded variation of…nihilism” (413). That Ferlinghetti found it necessary to say this indicates that social transformation or even social intervention was not an agenda item for many of his fellow “New American” poets. In his essay “The New Modernism,” Paul Hoover points out that “the style of [Ferlinghetti’s] poetry is virtually mainstream in its transparent use of language and narrative tendency” (Fables of Representation 142): another refutation of the commonly assumed conjunction between “progressive” aesthetics and “progressive” politics.

Michael McClure, for example, writes in “From a Journal” that “The prime purpose of my writing is liberation. (Self-liberation first & hopefully that of the reader.)” (423). In his 1961 essay “Revolt,” McClure clarifies this statement: “There is no political revolt. All revolt is person and is against interior attitudes and images or against exterior bindings of Society that constrict and cause pain.
“(A ‘political’ revolution is a revolt of men against a lovestructure that has gone bad. Men join in a common urge to free themselves.)” (Poetics of the New American Poetry 437).

Charles Olson’s project of transformation was to reconnect man with his primal being, to forge or reforge a truer relationship with nature: as he writes in “Projective Verse,” “the use of a man, by himself and thus by others, lies in how he conceives his relation to nature, that force to which he owes his somewhat small existence” (395). In The New Poets: American and British Poetry Since World War II, a crucial text in the academic legitimization of “the New American Poetry,” critic M.L. Rosenthal points out that “The activist Marxian perspective implicit in the [French-language] Mao quotations is somewhat modulated by Olson throughout ‘The Kingfisher’ toward a more purely qualitative notion of dialectical process and change [“What does not change / is the will to change”]. Yet he too is programmatic, though not politically so. His attempt is to isolate and resurrect primal values that have been driven out of sight by the alienating force of European civilization” (Rosenthal 164).

The project of bringing modern man back into congruence with his natural roots was Gary Snyder’s as well, on the most visceral and immediate level: “poets don’t sing about society, they sing about nature—even if the closest they ever get to nature is their lady’s queynt. Class-structured society is a kind of mass ego. To transcend the ego is to go beyond society as well” (“Poetry and the Primitive,” Poetics of the New American Poetry 399). As he wrote in his anthology artist’s statement, “the rhythms of my poems follow the rhythm of the physical work I’m doing and life I’m leading at any given time” (420). His poetry is deeply informed by Native American cultures and folklore, anthropology, his studies of Zen Buddhism, and his use of mind-altering drugs like peyote (a psychotropic specifically tied to Native American cultures). As Snyder writes, “At the root of where our civilization goes wrong, is the mistaken belief that nature is something less than authentic, that nature is not as alive as man is, or as intelligent, that in a sense it is dead.” Snyder’s Buddhist revolution is hardly one that Marx would have recognized.

Frank O’Hara explicitly rejects any social role for his work. “I don’t think about fame or posterity (as Keats so grandly and genuinely did), nor do I care about clarifying experiences for anyone or bettering (other than accidentally) anyone’s state or social relation, nor am I for any particular technical development in the American language simply because I find it necessary. What is happening to me, allowing for lies and exaggerations which I try to avoid, goes into my poems. I don’t think my experiences are clarified or made beautiful for myself or anyone else, they are just there in whatever form I can find them” (419).

John Wieners writes in “From a Journal” that “A poem does not have to be a major thing. Or a statement?...Poems…are my salvation alone. The reader can do with them what he likes” (425). He goes on to write that “poetry even tho it does deal with language is no more holy act than, say shitting. Discharge” (426). Though not holy, shitting is, of course, absolutely necessary, so while Wieners seeks to demystify poetry (arguing against the Romantic/romantic cult of art and of the artist), he doesn’t trivialize it either. It’s one of life’s necessities, just not a higher level than anything else.

Robert Duncan, like the Suprematist painter Kasimir Malevich (who, though a supporter of the Russian Revolution, was eventually forced by the Soviet authorities to abandon abstraction in favor of Socialist Realism), was not a negationist but a visionary, seeking higher spiritual truths in and through his work, the hermetic/Gnostic knowledge. Though he wrote poems against the Vietnam War, in which he took up the role of a Biblical prophet, revealing the eternal laws of virtue “against the works of unworthy men, unfeeling judgments, and cruel deeds,” his was a spiritual, not a political, denunciation. Duncan’s friendship with Denise Levertov was destroyed by what he saw as her sullying of her exalted poet’s role with political involvement: “Years of our rapport [were wrecked by] War and the Scars upon the land.” In a review of The Letters of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov (Stanford University Press, 2003), David Shaddock writes that “Duncan’s argument with [Levertov] was that the poet can’t serve two masters—a poetry of political commitment yokes the imagination to a priori truths and concerns, thus limiting the power of the imagination” (“Opening the Gates of the Imagination: The Duncan/Levertov Letters,” Poetry Flash, 296/297, Winter/Spring 2006, 25)

But even Levertov writes in her artist’s statement that “I do not believe that a violent imitation of the horrors of our time is the concern of poetry. Horrors are taken for granted. Disorder is ordinary. People in general take more and more ‘in their stride’—hides grow thicker. I long for poems of an inner harmony in utter contrast to the chaos in which they exist. Insofar as poetry has a social function it is to awaken sleepers by other means than shock” (412).

Levertov changed her position later, seeking to become a poet of witness, and writing in her essay “Poetry, Prophecy, and Survival” that the poet’s role was to make the horrors of her time graspable by the human mind: “The intellect by itself may point out the source of suffering; but the imagination illuminates it; by that light it becomes more comprehensible” (New & Selected Essays 145). As Anne Day Dewey writes in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, “Whereas Levertov moved toward a romantic voice and a commonly understood language as the vehicles of protest poetry, Creeley and Duncan continued to maintain that political critiques and poetic originality emerged only from experimental poetry that challenged the norms of syntax and poetic form.” But Day Dewey also points out that Levertov never lost her focus on the individual imagination as the source of political change. In this regard, she was not so far from Duncan as their rather bitter break might indicate.

The transformations that Duncan sought were first of all spiritual and intellectual and only incidentally social. As he wrote late in his life, only the imagination knows. Aaron Shurin, a protégé of both Duncan and Levertov, with a background in both the 1960s anti-war movement and the 1970s gay liberation movement, has tried to merge the two, along with sexual and linguistic transformation.

Allen Ginsberg, who is practically identified with the Nineteen-Sixties counter-culture(s), writes in “A Word for the Politicians” in his “Notes for Howl and Other Poems” that “my poetry is Angelical Ravings, & has nothing to do with dull materialistic vagaries about who should shoot who. The secrets of individual imagination—which are transconceptual & nonverbal—I mean unconditioned Spirit—are not for sale to this consciousness, are of no use to this world, except perhaps to make it shut its trap & listen to the music of the Spheres” (417). Not much use to political or social revolutionaries.

In the Vancouver Lectures, Jack Spicer explicitly dismisses the idea of a political poetry, in similar terms to those used by George Oppen some years later: “you can start out with an idea that you want to write about how terrible it is that President Johnson is an asshole [RS: ah, those were the days] and you can come up with a good poem. But it will just be by chance and will undoubtedly not just say that President Johnson is an asshole and will really have a different meaning than you started with. I mean, if you want to write a letter to the editor then it seems to me the thing to do is write a letter to the editor. It doesn’t seem to me that poetry is for that” (The Poetics of the New American Poetry 231).

Saturday, 16 September 2000

From "Aristotle's Art of Poetry"

By Lodovico Castelvetro.

The Word […] to Eat , is a proper Word, and consequently more common and mean, wherefore Euripides changed it, and put into its place [...] a Metaphorical Word […] signifies, to feast, to devour, to feed : When Virgil speaks of the Serpent which devoured Laocoon's Sons, he says,

--- Miscros morsu depascitur artus.

And renders the Expression much more noble by the compounded Word.

15. We should destroy the Beauty of most part of Homer's Verses, if in the place of those choice and noble Terms he has used, we should put proper Words.] Aristotle quotes two of Homer's Verses, which I have not Translated, because our Language has not figur'd Words to express them: But Homer is full of other Examples, which may be put in the place of those I have suppressed: We need only open his Book to find them.

Friday, 15 September 2000

From "The Daily Mail"

How Highpoint is better than Wandsworth

By Bill Griffiths.

I was just one day in Wanno.
And they come at me.
What screws animal
screams feed?
you gotta placate/plead
they know
you get to yell for them
an ear to hell
they pass words/mind
break me to black music
add a agony up sufficient
tomorrow more.


Then they seen the state of my hands
and moved me.


We were cuffed right hand to right hand for the coach
so if we bolted we would run in circles
it made it hard to roll a burn.


I said I don't care what job
but I'm not doing jam
I'm not machining denim, OK?


This guy leave a packet yeast under the counter,
forget about it I guess.
In the servery it was.
An some foreign prisiner come up,
don't know what it was,
sez is this cheese, can I have it?
An I sez no, it's not cheese.
Then I find the guy it belongs to, hand it back,
an tell him 'the least
you can do is give me a bit of it eh? I mean
since, I save it for you, didn't I?'
An that was how
I got to brew hooch
to start off with.
Mostly it woz sugar.
I flavour it with a bit of lemon or orange maybe,
it was better than some of what the drink you get
outside and
it only take 3 day or so te brew.


Letters are safe.
They are sealed, taken to Cambridge and posted.
It's better and quicker than Wanno.
The letters come in,
and if there's one for you,
your name's posted on a noticeboard so
you know to go
and collect it.
They open it in front of you,
for to see if there's any drugs or stuff that's not allowed
but they don't actually read
what's in your letters.
When your posters come in, Bill,
the screw looks at them, sez to me,
Jeez you ain't gonna put them up are you?


Our side is all cells.
The other side is dormitories
and the guys are longer term, not
high category or nothing
they can do a lot what they want,
there isn't much check on them really.
I never got put there cos they claimed I was category C,
but they never told me why I was made that.


That's Orion (on the video as a logo)
see, I know the stars
but I give them my own names - great.
Like the Mountain Bike, the Hamburger, the Wedge of Cheddar
yes, it counts, I know them OK,
there's one just like a cart
or a plow or a bear
what does it matter
it's a dot-to-dot business
all you have to do is join up the points.


If I were a ghost there'd be
some sorry people around I'm telling you.
They would soon be in a mental home.


There were
two escapees used this big pip
that led out.
Only the screws were waiting for them.
I dunno how their surveillance works.
We never heard any more.


So I had a pal
I teaed up with a spanish guy
so we could smoke together
an one day I tossed the empty twist cellophane bit
out the window.
He yells., "There's in that!"
So we leg it down, get out,
search good.
An this low-grade screw saunters up,
not older than me really,
they'd put him on an easy job,
keeping an eye on the outside
he come over and said what're you looking for
so I said I lost an ear-ring
and he bent over and helped us search
but we never found it


to brew
put in warm water, sugar, yeast
for 3 days
but first it tasted of Lenor
had cleaned it out properly I thought, but...
it got better
sitting in my cell I could smell it OK
even the screws must have


There was an
alarm panic button
but no one would hit it
so if there was a fight it could be serious
but instead it was sometimes hit for fun
that really annoyed the screws
they said stop it or we'll stop your brewing...


Come on, let me tell you
the effect of the radios.
Suppose several were all tuned in the same,
one same song playing on them
and you stood in the doorway
for a listen.
Well, was the whole music roll
about the landing,
a proud sound,
something tinny and from wherever the bass
and running round and round the ears
I am a cat-god at play.
my own captured air.
in the vibrant pipe palace.
but no church.


Well, you told me things are better outside london.
So I went to Liverpool that time.
I was in touch with this scouser.
He give me a ride in a car
turns out to be nicked.
Nothing obvious.
A little broken side window.
But the bill spotted us
and they give chase.
Swerved down a side road
a dead end
pulls over
and he legs it
and so did I.
But we was caught
and then he said it was me driving.
I was charged.
He was let off.
I did not say anything though
as I know I cannot drive.
They was being silly
and it ended up
they just had to drop the whole case.


Battery watches / stop watch capacities
are forbidden every way in Wanno.
So I had a loan of Bill's wind-up.
Unlucky for him.
See entry coming up day 43.
OK he got my super digital marvel a loan
but is gonna have to hand back just the same...


Can I joke
to play?
No, hard on the hand.
It sides -
I a habilis.


The peach-weapon woman.
I roll about.
You see such wonderful things to see
if you could
if you could fire to.
There would be so much debris
if they tangled
it kicked off
single sleepers it dreams.

Thursday, 14 September 2000

From "September 12"

[...] Corseted in his cross-hairs for her caveman pockets,
something goes off in her hand and something
goes very dark. He’s a mission to come on her open
territory. She prays upside down as he plays God
away on business, fingering her laptop trigger [...]

Wednesday, 13 September 2000

From "Straplines"

By Andrea Brady.

[...] All life is here, under the slaughter-
houses with their shined tourist traps.

I could choose to say anything about
a life made particular by gerrymandering
memory and I do [...]

Saturday, 9 September 2000

From "There aren't enough minds to house the population explosion of memes"

By Daniel C. Dennett.

[Contribution to Edge forum, What's your dangerous idea?]

The intergenerational mismatches that we all experience in macroscopic versions (great-grandpa's joke falls on deaf ears, because nobody else in the room knows that Nixon's wife was named "Pat") will presumably be multiplied to the point where much of the raw information that we have piled in our digital storehouses is simply incomprehensible to everyone–except that we will have created phalanxes of "smart" Rosetta-stones of one sort or another that can "translate" the alien material into something we (think maybe we) understand. I suspect we hugely underestimate the importance (to our sense of cognitive security) of our regular participation in the four-dimensional human fabric of mutual understanding, with its reassuring moments of shared–and seen to be shared, and seen to be seen to be shared–comprehension.

From "The Role of Language in Intelligence"

By Daniel C. Dennett.

Supposing one might develop a good general theory of belief by looking exclusively at such specialized examples is like supposing one might develop a good general theory of motor control by looking exclusively at examples of people driving automobiles in city traffic. "Hey, if that isn't motor control, what is?"--a silly pun echoed, I am claiming, by the philosopher who says "Tom believes snow is white--hey, if that isn't a belief, what is?"

From "[...] HERCVLES OETÆVS [...]"

By Seneca, trans. John Studley.

O soueraygne Ioue wee wretched wightes this boone of thee doe craue,
No monstrous beastes, no noysome plagues, hereafter let vs haue:
With bloudy champions let the earth encombred bee no more:
Cast downe the hauty sway of Courtes: if ought annoyaunce sore
Shall cloy the earth, a champion to bee our shylde wee caue,
Whom as an honour of the Crowne his ruefull realme may haue.
(That stil will keepe his swerd from being taint with guiltlesse bloud.)

From "Portrait of a Lady"

By Henry James.

[...] If you're ever bored take my advice and get married. Your wife indeed may bore you, in that case; but you'll never bore yourself. You'll always have something to say to yourself--always have a subject of reflection. [...]

Friday, 8 September 2000

From "Playes Confuted in fiue Actions"

By Stephen Gosson.

I woulde Readers considered yt when they come to the view of any newe booke, they are bidde by their frend as ghestes to a banquet: at a banket if any dish bee before you, which your stomacke abhors, It is a pointe of good manners, somewhat orderly to remoue it: In bokes if any thing bee offred that you cannot rellish, curtesy wils you, with a thankefull kinde of modestie to refuse it. Our fathers forefathers in older time, were wont to place Mercurie in their Temples amonge the Graces, whose meaninge was, that as Mercurie was counted the God of vtterance: and the three Graces, the Ladies of Curtesy: so placinge the shrines of them together, might teach vs to know that speech is desirous of frendlye eares, and writers haue great need of Gentle Readers. When Gentlemen reade with a minde to barke, their throtes are no narrow that nothing wil downe; whatsoeuer we speake is too rounde or too flatte, too blunte or too sharpe, too square or too crooked, one waye or other it standes a wry.

Sunday, 3 September 2000

From some cheap article by Jeff Peline

“Two persons were hacked to death and three others wounded by a balding man shouting guttural sounds, who attacked several campers on Bear River at the Dog Bar Bridge last night,” The Union’s front-page article said on July 13, 1971. “According to witnesses the assailant ran amuck through three camp sites, then disappeared.”

“(A witness) told authorities that the man smiled constantly and made strange sounds as he chased and hacked at the people in the camps.”

According to later articles in our paper, Auburn resident Clarence Otis Smith believed “he was instructed by God to root out marijuana users and other evil-doers. He quit his job and fled to Mexico, where he was arrested by the FBI several weeks later.”

From "The Shape of the Signifier"

By Walter Benn Michaels.

That is, the redescription of difference of opinion (the difference between what you think that letter is and what I think that letter is) as difference in subject-position (the difference between you and me) makes the literary critical critique of intentionalism into the posthistoricist valorization of identity. More generally - beyond the question of intention - it is difference itself that emerges as intrinsically valuable. Because there is no contradiction between the fact that from a certain distance, at a certain angle, in a certain light those formations on Mars do have the shapes of letters and the fact that from another distance, at a different angle, and in a different light, they don't, there is no necessary or intrinsic conflict between these positions, no question of right or wrong, true or false.

[...] One name for this recourse to difference and (it amounts to the same thing) identity has been the end of history.

Saturday, 2 September 2000

From "The grand Tryal: or, Poetical Exercitations upon the book of Job"

By William Clark.

Then let us view the Heavens, and see what there,
Doth worth our admiration appear:
And first we may discern with little pain,
Even in that small phenomenon of rain,
No small appearance, no small demonstration,
O'th' God of Natures powerful operation,
In ord'ring on't: for he commands the Sun,
As in his dayly progress he doth run,
About the Earth, to suck up here, and there
What vapours moist, and unctuous do appear
Upon its surface which he gathereth
In several Clouds, and these distributeth
In all the quarters of the spacious Air,
Whilst out o'th' vapours he doth rain prepare.
That finish'd, and those clouds all mustered
Before him, ready, if so ordered,
With their whole force upon the Earth to fall,
And in a general Deluge drown us all.
As once they did loos'd by his mighty hand,
And would do yet, if he should so command:
He kindly doth their violence restrain,
And makes them only squirt themselves in rain.

So, that, as through a Seive, in little drops,
Those waters now do fall, and feed the hopes
O'th' Labourer, when he perceives his Grain
Spread out its ears, by th'influence of rain:
And every drop, which on the Earth doth fall,
In its due season prove spermatical.

Friday, 1 September 2000

From "Essays on Several Subjects"

By Sir Thomas Blount.

Now, from this Diversity of Mens Tempers, proceed the several Forms, and Constitutions of Government; and thence it is, that in the same Countreys we find little Variation as to Government, but that in all Ages they have still kept to much one and the same Form; the same Genius or Temper ever continuing under the same Climat: And whenever any Country, either by perswasion, have Voluntarily, or by force have been compell'd to quit their old Form of Government; yet in process of Time they naturally return into the old Channel.

From "qué alegres son las obrera (how happy they are, the workers)"

By Marianne Morris.

We are born in innocence, the nexus of our excuse.