Sunday, 30 April 2000

From "Critique of the Gotha Programme"

By Marx.

According to the first proposition, labor was the source of all wealth and all culture; therefore no society is possible without labor. Now we learn, conversely, that no "useful" labor is possible without society.

One could just as well have said that only in society can useless and even socially harmful labor become a branch of gainful occupation, that only in society can one live by being idle, etc., etc. -- in short, one could just as well have copied the whole of Rousseau.

From "Critique of the Gotha Programme"

By Marx.

The bourgeois have very good grounds for falsely ascribing supernatural creative power to labor; since precisely from the fact that labor depends on nature it follows that the man who possesses no other property than his labor power must, in all conditions of society and culture, be the slave of other men who have made themselves the owners of the material conditions of labor. He can only work with their permission, hence live only with their permission.

Friday, 28 April 2000

From "The Second Treatise of Civil Government"

By John Locke.

[...] for no body can transfer to another more power than he has in himself; and no body has an absolute arbitrary power over himself [...] or over any other, to destroy his own life, or take away the life or property of another [...]

Their power, in the utmost bounds of it, is limited to the public good of the society. It is a power, that hath no other end but preservation, and therefore can never [...] have a right to destroy, enslave, or designedly to impoverish the subjects. The obligations of the law of nature cease not in society, but only in many cases are drawn closer, and have by human laws known penalties annexed to them, to inforce their observation. Thus the law of nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others.

From "The Second Treatise of Civil Government"

By John Locke.

IF man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to no body, why will he part with his freedom? why will he give up this empire, and subject himself to the dominion and controul of any other power? To which it is obvious to answer, that though in the state of nature he hath such a right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed to the invasion of others: for all being kings as much as he, every man his equal, and the greater part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very unsecure. This makes him willing to quit a condition, which, however free, is full of fears and continual dangers: and it is not without reason, that he seeks out, and is willing to join in society with others, who are already united, or have a mind to unite, for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates, which I call by the general name, property.

Tuesday, 25 April 2000

From "XL Prynne"

By Keston Sutherland.

[...] Once realism is discounted as radical illumination, the voice given to suffering is believed to be truthful both if it is successful on the terms of realism and if it is unsuccessful on those terms; and that is both what makes possible a moral anthropology untied from realism as its foundation and terminal emphasis, and what makes pathos so treacherous. The condition of all truth is unavoidably rigged up so as to be met in advance by a proleptic assent posing as “instinct,” because our belief in this truth is not a radical act, it is our definition of health. We cannot live without believing that some voice we know (and own) has been given to the suffering of others, and that this voice is truthful; and so what Adorno calls a “need” and a “condition” are worn through by us to a bare necessity, in the sense that food is a necessity: it is what we always buy. Or it is what someone else always buys for us [...]

Monday, 24 April 2000

From "Real Dreams People Have Had About Hilary Clinton"

At I Dream of Hilary.

Hillary and I were walking through my city, Toronto. A few paces behind us my boyfriend was walking with the woman Hillary had just announced as a running mate -- a cheerful, friendly young woman who looked like Hillary but prettier, with a blonde bob and the same orange makeup Hillary was wearing. It wasn’t clear who this women was. I had told Hillary that it was a brilliant political choice, though I wasn’t sure it was true.

From a letter to the Chicago Review

by Peter Riley.

But as it [poetry that developed through Cambridge in the 1960s and 70s] spreads and diversifies I find there are also worrying signals about what is happening to it, as if some people are stressing as central what were marginal or tentative positions, or not in the act at all, and most worryingly of all, acceding to directives from "the times." (We used to think in our humble way that poetry was one of the forces which created the times.)

From a letter to the Chicago Review

by Peter Riley.

The poetry that developed through Cambridge in the 1960s and 1970s [...] proposed a relationship of tensity between language and experience which was complex, subtle and of immense range, and fundamentally musical. It inhabited a threshold of great power because it gathered together the fullest possible versions of cognition neither wholly constructed nor wholly discovered, and proposed high and continual song as the great cohering and honoring force of this perceptual opening. The self in it was multiple, historical, regal or bewildered or excited or humiliated, but anchored on formative work, demanding completion out of its scatter by working through the material ruthlessly toward the final cadence, every poem an exercise in the form of mortality. It was a poetry which did not subserve anything but its own possibilities, spreading out over the world's categories. It had novelty only as it needed it, to regain the full content of the song from its history; innovation was a by-product. It was not a reaction to anything but the whole condition. Compared with most British poetry from mid-century it occupied a totally different scale of necessity, touching on grandeur in its vise-like grip on presence. In all the talk that surrounded it and among all sorts of disasters, the scan remained open and generous, refusing to disqualify any honest effort, and for all the complaining, guarding quite fiercely against resentment and aggressive impotence.

Sunday, 23 April 2000

From "Off the Grid: Lyric and Politics in Andrea Brady's Embrace"

by John Wilkinson.

[...] if the first person plural were always as fundamentally illigitimate as "Montani Semper Liberti" would imply, then could the deictics that seduce the reader into Brady's traps function any more collectively than to tap out an assurance that there is life in the next prison cell? But Brady will not allow the reader what has become a conventional exit route; for "we" is too often permissible when it is raised as "them" -- they who know no better on account of the collectivity which claims them.

From "Off the Grid: Lyric and Politics in Andrea Brady's Embrace"

But there is zero self-regard in Brady's poetry, an astonishing quality for lyric. It is as though the machinery of phrasal conversion flattens all irony, and phraseology is paid out by strips into a system of heartless consumption, construction, and exchange.

From "Off the Grid: Lyric and Politics in Andrea Brady's Embrace"

by John Wilkinson.

[...] they make art that exalts uselessness look exhausted, and its fortuitous mimesis -- blank plenitude -- seem repellant. Lyric expansiveness, which is the exquisite afflatus of uselessness, slides too easily into more or less disguised form of transcendence. The bind of what Lefebvre calls hypercriticism -- the rigor of thought that paralyses effective action -- overshadows the possibility of resolving this predicament.

From "Ten Poems"

by Lara Buckerton.

I Hate Hippies

“no, no, no, I say, our children are not our future; we are. the biggestmistake of the radical 60s is the current insistence on the generationmodel – that 60s radicals began what another generation can learn from,can carry on, can critique. the world is a displaced continuum, miasma ofdisparities – not a coherent structure of divided lineage. the truth of aman's or a woman's thought does not age, is never outmoded; the truth isalways already present, always unaccountable. when a torch is passed, thelight is out; when a torch is lit, it is lit for all.” Alan Sondheim.

turn in thy grave, till thou knock’st on the next.
larvae-musculature erupteth, & since
worm luncheon abutteth worm luncheon, flex
surgeth, till th’ light-rins’d flinch from morling grimace.
yo! flow up, thou funny sort of penance,
maggot-mutton spasming at its best pulse :
the foot-falls of the light-rins’d in Sunday bests.
nudg’d by the grume of thy vomitous mulch,
matter budgeth matter, yet po’ers lurk in gulfs,
bog gravies shimmer with ribcages turning
in ribcages like cogs, the slough ploughs itself,
yet murderers kept white to’ers, far from churning.

chances are none does touch, no dominos crutching.
yet turn in your graves, hypocrites, hippies, you, you cunts.

From "Off the Grid: Lyric and Politics in Andrea Brady's Embrace"

by John Wilkinson.

A cellular politics of cultural resistance has reemerged through the anti-war movement and in response to restrictions on mass assembly, circumstances that make ideological purity look narcissistic. Younger poets are ignoring fault-lines opened by previous disputes, including those separating Cambridge poetry from Language poetry; the struggle against US hegemony has accelerated détente with the US cultural opposition. The process began with Drew Milne and Simon Jarvis's journal Parataxis in the early 1990s, but the exchange became more intense with Keston Sutherland's journal QUID and Andrea Brady and Keston Sutherland's press Barque. Meanwhile as teachers in Cambridge, Milne and Jarvis were deeply influential, initiating a move from scholastic theory into a reenergized engagement with critique in the tradition of Hegel, Marx, and Adorno, a shift paralleled among post-Language poets of their generation in the US. Yet for all the strenuous critical and political prose accomodated by QUID and its entire lack of embarrassment with manifestos, a fierce attachment to lyric poetry persists as a declaratiely political practice, as the only mode of writing able to ward off its own corruption.

From "Off the Grid: Lyric and Politics in Andrea Brady's Embrace"

by John Wilkinson.

A cellular politics of cultural resistance has reemerged through the anti-war movement and in response to restrictions on mass assembly, circumstances that make ideological purity look narcissistic. Younger poets are ignoring fault-lines opened by previous disputes [...]

From "Off the Grid: Lyric and Politics in Andrea Brady's Embrace"

by John Wilkinson.

How radically do such poetic practices differ from a more debased lyric currency, which not without poignancy offers a set of signposts to the poet's untestable and external authenticity? These seemingly opposed practices may be less different than first appears, for the unknowable is their common resort. Gesturing toward the nub of selfhood may look preposterous as long as the reader resists the solicited identification. But however disingenuous its installation of self may be, this ultimate resort of self-expressive writing, like those poetic modes that would oppose it, yearns for transcendence in the communal. How much more admirable, how different the solicitations of the polysemous blaze as it primps for numinous effect? But then, what of the danger of paralysis when confronted by real offense, or when writing under the hypercritical sway of critical theory? Go for God, or shout the house down and kick the rubble gleefully? Or concede ruefully with Drew Milne that poetry's exactions reserve it as a separate pursuit?

From "Off the Grid: Lyric and Politics in Andrea Brady's Embrace"

by John Wilkinson.

The more art's uselessness has figured as an exalted reduction, the more lyric poetry has been drawn toward prosodic movement as primary, with analysis and argument conducted under the aegis of this last-ditch spirit -- spirit now lodged in the ruts of lineation and the angles of enjambment. For uselessness is merely a status, while spirit is its working afflatus. Above the spiritual mist, the dawn horizon trembles and shines, or as Allen Grossman has put it: "In the outlook of the lyric person the horizon has ceased to be a precinct and become a vortex." Uselessness gives rise to spirit and spirit to the tentative sublime. In the United States this recension can be frankly religious, in the work of serious poets as different as Fanny Howe and John Peck; or the sublime can be reinstated in the material by way of the body and its voice. Did someone say textuality? The MP3 file is the new poetic eucharist.

How radically do such poetic practices differ from a more debased lyric currency, which not without poignancy offers a set of signposts to the poet's untestable and external authenticity? These seemingly opposed practices may be less different than first appears, for the unknowable is their common resort. Gesturing toward the nub of selfhood may look preposterous as long as the reader resists the solicited identification. But however disingenuous its installation of self may be, this ultimate resort of self-expressive writing, like those poetic modes that would oppose it, yearns for transcendence in the communal. How much more admirable, how different the solicitations of the polysemous blaze as it primps for numinous effect?

From "Off the Grid: Lyric and Politics in Andrea Brady's Embrace"

by John Wilkinson.

Evidently these poets [Douglas Oliver, Denise Riley, D. S. Marriott] are skeptical of the use of art's vaunted uselessness. As lyric has become specialised and distinguished from other linguistic usages, its saving grace has been perceived from every angle as connected with its resistance to profit, instrumentality, and material progress -- a perception that echoes all the way from conservative humanism to socialist melioralism, from religious authority to new theology, from formalist traditionalism to post-theory, Language-influenced poetics. Analogies could be drawn in the visual arts, where the later-embarrassing sublimity of a Rothko or Barnett Newman was succeeded by the elegant wresting of objects from their use-world, and in high-art music which is especially anxious to achieve distance from any vulgar physical stimulation.

From "Off the Grid: Lyric and Politics in Andrea Brady's Embrace"

His commitment to lyric was conscientiously provisional, although it is clear that he regarded lyric poetry as possessing unique cognitive attributes, more readily accessible through inherited forms than through high modernism's echoes.

From "Off the Grid: Lyric and Politics in Andrea Brady's Embrace"

by John Wilkinson.

In a 2006 radio interview with Charles Bernstein, Milne discounted the possibility of a politically effective lyric poetry. He argued that lyric could only influence the conditions within which critique might take place and deplored poetry committed to political intervention as "illusory escapism" that substituted for "messy pragmatic struggle." This position is not so far from W. H. Auden's when he contemplated the poetic attitudinizing of his youth.

From "Off the Grid: Lyric and Politics in Andrea Brady's Embrace"

by John Wilkinson.

Even when theory arrived with the successor Cambridge generation of Denise Riley, Ian Patterson, Martin Thom, and Nick Totton, the poetical working-through of sexual politics by these writers was associated with activism rather than academicism. Far from donnish, this was a generation of dissident and anti-institutional intellectuals surviving on the economic margins until very recently.

From "Off the Grid: Lyric and Politics in Andrea Brady's Embrace"

by John Wilkinson.

[...] in Britain, "theory" in its full institutional guise arrived after the inauguration of the materialist poetics represented by Brass [...]

From "Off the Grid: Lyric and Politics in Andrea Brady's Embrace"

by John Wilkinson.

Its [Prynne's Brass's] materialist poetics are the basis of a continuing distinction between British and American understandings of what a materialist poetics might entail. The materialism of Brass works at several levels. The first is epistemological. Prynne's writing drew on multiple ways of knowing, a characteristic fated to be misread as postmodern discursive relativism. In reality it was a truth-seeking by way of poetry, reconnected with the ambitions of Wordsworth and Coleridge. The second is political, refusing easy sentiment, disdaining spirituality, rooted in economics and biology, and intensely interested in the everyday signs of capitalist depredation.

From "Off the Grid: Lyric and Politics in Andrea Brady's Embrace"

In its origins, the Intelligencer was a Black Mountain / Buffalo outgrowth, a product of the Olsonian force-field. It reproduced the odd combination in Olson's thought of high modernism, deep history, and phenomenology, which in J. H. Prynne's Kitchen Poems and The White Stones achieved its too-magisterial synthesis, even as The Maximus Poems were collapsing into archival fragments and phallic flourishes. The Northern wing stayed largely faithful to the Intelligencer's founding moment, its Poundian right finding a religious haven (John Riley in Russian Orthodoxy), while Peter Riley, a Northern poet although resident in Cambridge, elaborated out of sixties phenomenology an ethics and a poetics of responsiveness testable against geological time, cultural displacement, and musical improvisation. According with general British cultural geography, the Southern poets, including Prynne, showed a greater urbanity, becoming aligned with a Gramscian New Left more exercised by cultural and sexual politics than with the entrenched oppositions of labor and business or of industry and pastoral. Some even were so unorthodox as to be women.

From "Don't Start Me Talking"

It's a risk for liars to improvise if people are going to ask them fundamental questions, and situational control gives all sorts of scope for manipulation. You buy a fish or a fruit, you can tell what you're getting: packaging dissembles (and what 'truths' they're forced to tell are data shaped by ludicrous anxieties about diet inculcated by the culture industry and government). Despite the phrase, nothing does what it says on the tin. In the 1980s boom, capitalist lies about profitability became epidemic, it actually ucked up their ability to function as capitalists! In this context, truth and immediacy become explosively subversive. I think the basic weakness in most mainstream middle-class poets is hypocritical sexuality and collusion in class society -- they wouldn't dare write automatically because of what it might reveal. They fear chaous because it'll make them look uncool. My plan was always to live a life I wasn't ashamed of so that everything that comes out is vital. That's why the idea of fiddling about with the words, desperately seeking substitutes and improvements -- 'polishing a poem' -- seems petty. I was pleased when Prynne mentioned he wrote at one blow, I'd thought his poems had that kind of gestural grace and unanswerability.

From "Don't Start Me Talking"

It's what Adorno says about Beethoven (let's not beat about the bush eh?): the theme isn't the point (Mozart and McCartney's 'genius for tunes'), it's what you do with the social situation created by the first gesture. Dealing with it while it is happening (to quote Zappa's Hot Rats: Waka/Jawaka) is the art. So it's process, not product, and proceeds as an immanent dialectic rather than as a symbol within a pre-fabricated system. I'm not sure this 'justifies' what I do entirely, or rules out other approaches like cut-up or collage, but that is the impulse behind my 'improvised' writing. As you say, if i wanted something representational or argued, I'd write prose. I'm interested in what comes out, so it's like automatic writing, except I hope I'm more self-critical than the Surrealists, and also hope that my reading of other poets gives me a sense of a critical audience, a milieu. It's not launched into eternity but at various people I imagine reading it. I don't believe in the pure Id of Artaud and Dali, I think that's sentimental and leads to radical kitsch: I think this 'thing' in you must do battle with the super ego. As with Free Improvisation, a certain focus -- heightened attention, an audience of peers, a 'gig' -- elevates the art. It's amaving how quite dull musicians will play brilliantly with Bailey. So that's why, despite Punk Rock, I still consider myself a Cambridge poet and that what I write in that direction is different from other stuff.

From "Don't Start Me Talking"

To return to your question: Prynne's underground poetry connected to my general idea of REVOLT before I faced any political option or lifestyle choice. This revolt centred on my disgust that I was so oppressed / repressed that I couldn't talk about sex at home. Gradually it dawned on me that you can lob truth into a vile social situation and everything explodes! I wanted to be the satirist of my generation. When I went to university, I thought I was an anarchist. It was the practical nature of the SWP in organising the Anti-Nazi League which impressed me -- we went to shout outside the hotel where the NF were meeting, while the Communist Party went for an 'anti-racist' prayer meeting in the church. The anarchists sat around talking about acid trips. My friend Mike Laurence became an SWP member and a fervent Marxist, but I was a bit patronizing to him at first. I was reading Guy Debord and early Marx, he was an "activist". It took Martin Bennell in Leeds to bully me into joining the party.

From "Don't Start Me Talking"

[...] it depressed me no end to discover in later life that the chief way of grabbing people's attention is to be INCREDIBLY PREDICTABLE AND BORING, it seems wrong to my mind [...]

From "Don't Start Me Talking"

[...] one of which reappeared on the back of the pic sleeve of 'Pretty Vacant'. This always made me think that Guy Debord, and hence the Marx he filched all his best phrases from, was DEEP PUNK, whatever Johnny Rotten said in No Dogs. Actually, what Rotten said was great [OTL goes to his bookshelf and pulls out a hardback volume, riffles the pages]: Ah! Here it is . . . 'As far as the music being academic, at the time very littl. of it seemed so. The references to the Situationists -- I've only read about them in the last three years! Everybody knew about the Surrealists and dadaists, but who the hell were the Situationists? I don't know if Malcolm or Bernie ever talked to the Pistols about all of that, but I don't think it would have stuck. They would have gone down to the pub -- certainly, Steve would have." Steve Jones was a deriviste without knowing it! Brilliant.

So in a context like that, what you call 'High-Street' poetry held no interest whatsoever: it was middle-class, it was sensitive, it was about visiting churches and worrying about your bicycle clips.

From "Don't Start Me Talking"

When you're revolting against everything and wearing a bog chain around your neck and a flasher's mac with OUT TO LUNCH painted on the back and bicycling of te work washing dishes at the Cambridge School of Languages and gobbing at schoolkids on the pavement as a gesture of pop absurdity, as I was in 1978, poetry had better be absolutely mind-blowing or you're not going to sit still for it, are you?

From "Don't Start Me Talking"

Only an art of complete and unbowed subjectivism and irresponsible freedom -- shaped by its own immanent energies -- can become the object of truly scientific cultural criticism, everything else is prepackaged and collusive with power relations!

From "Don't Start Me Talking"

Your second question? The politics of small press poetry is petite bourgeois, of course. That's why one continually trips over liberalism and fascism. But the new social movements have demonstrated what Lenin said: the petit bourgeoisie is a vacillating class, and can be fantastic. I don't think José Bové has the whole answer but I'm on his side versus every trade union bureacrat and idiot stalinist sectarion.

From "Introduction"

by Rod Mengham.

Most (arguably all) of the writers in this volume [Vanishing Points] represent a strand in recent poetry that has stayed in touch with the agendas of modernism; they are not postmodernist, but late modernist writers. Each writer has a definite project, her or his work refers to a bady of concepts even if the literary method employed appears to be non-referential; each has maintained a significant degree of contact with the speaking voice, even when the manner in which the speaking voice has dominated the history of literature in English is challenged and complicatedq all are concerned with working in or against the grain of the literary forms and genres that have evolved in the course of that same history.

From "An Introduction"

by Sam Ladkin & Robin Purves.

The existence of the so-called Cambridge School of poets (or poetry) is one of the most contentious and misleading notions that dog the reception of advanced poetry in Britain. [...] Though informal networks have existed and continue to exist among some practitioners in the vicinity of the University, the principal function of the Cambridge School label is as a useful target attracting mostly hostile feeling and comment by poets and critics working in the mainstream. The label is held to stand for a deliberately inaccessible mode of writing, engorged with critical theory, often held to be "only language about itself" and written purely for the delectation of a smug coterie of reclusive adepts. This second-order gossip, though ill-informed and aimed at nothing that exists, has been persistent enough to obtain a half-life in the media whenever a "State of British Poetry" article is written in a broadsheet newspaper.

From "The Poetry of Keston Sutherland"

By Simon Jarvis.

A line such as “Down to the last tilt of the wish split head” could quite easily take its place as a finely subtle variant in the metrical set of the English heroic line. Its internal chiasmus and assonance would be nothing without the way its delicately judged melody of emphasis accompanies a kind of compressed thinking. This happens quite often in Milne; the line I quoted need not bear any specially symbolic burden of the kind that Coleridge took to be an inevitable feature of metrical language. The line does not stand for some order of value merely by virtue of the way it recalls some metrical set, whereas if such a line were to have appeared in the middle of one of Pound’s cantos it would have concentrated all the pathos of lost value upon itself.

Saturday, 22 April 2000

From "Capital"

By Karl Marx.

[...] Some people might think that if the value of a commodity is determined by the quantity of labour spent on it, the more idle and unskilful the labourer, the more valuable would his commodity be, because more time would be required in its production. The labour, however, that forms the substance of value, is homogeneous human labour, expenditure of one uniform labour power. The total labour power of society, which is embodied in the sum total of the values of all commodities produced by that society, counts here as one homogeneous mass of human labour power, composed though it be of innumerable individual units [...] The labour time socially necessary is that required to produce an article under the normal conditions of production, and with the average degree of skill and intensity prevalent at the time [...]

From "Dialogues concerning natural religion"

By David Hume.

It is in vain therefore, to insist upon uses of the parts in animals or vegetables, and their curious adjustments to each other. I would fain know how an animal could subsist, unless its parts were so adjusted? Do we not find, that it immediately perishes wherever this adjustment ceases, and that its matter corrupting tries some new form? It happens, indeed, that the parts of the world are so well adjusted, that some regular form immediately lays claim to this corrupted matter: and if it were not so, could the world subsist? Must it not dissolve as well as the animal, and pass through new positions and situations: till in a great, but finite succession, it falls at last into the present or some such order?

Thursday, 20 April 2000

The Onion has been in decline. Time was when it could deal with a Holocaust Vista or whatever without blinking; anyway my point is the editorial cartoons are still worth a look:


It's turned out foul after all.

Wednesday, 19 April 2000

From "The Concept of the Political"

By Carl Schmitt, trans. George Schwab.

The best example of this polarity of state and society is contained in the theses of Franz Oppenheimer. He declares his aim to be the destruction of the state. His liberalism is so radical that he no longer permits the state to be even an armed office guard. The destruction is effected by advancing a value- and passion-ridden definition. The concept of state should be determined by political means, the concept of society (in essence nonpolitical) by economic means. But the qualifications by which political and economic means are then defined are nothing more than typical expressions of that pathos against politics and state. They swing in the polarity of ethics and economics and unveil polemical antitheses in which is mirrored the nineteenth-century German polemical tension of state and society, politics and economy. The economic way is declared to be reciprocity of production and consumption, therefore mutuality, equality, justice, and freedom, and finally nothing less than the spritiual union of fellowship, brotherlieness, and justice [...] The political way appears on the other hand as a conquering power outside the domain of economics, namely, thievery, conquest, and crimes of all sorts. A hierarchical value system of the relation of state and society is maintained. But whereas Hegel's systematized conception of the German state in the nineteenth century considered it to be a realm of morality and objective reason high above the appetitive domain of egoistic society, the value judgment is now turned around. Society as a sphere of peaceful justice now stands infinitely higher than the state, which is degraded to a region of brutal immorality. The roles are changed, the apotheosis remains.

But this in actuality is not permissible and neither moral nor psychological, least of all scientific, to simply define by moral disqualifications, by confronting the good, the just, and the peaceful with filthy, evil, rapacious, and criminal politics. With such methods one could just as well the other way around define politics as the sphere of honest rivalry and economics as a world of deception. The connection of politics with thievery, force, and repression is, in the final analysis, no more precise than is the connection of economics with cunning and deception. Exchange and deception are often not far apart. A domination of men based upon pure economics must appear a terrible deception if, by remaining nonpolitical, it thereby evades political responsibility and visibility.

From "The Concept of the Political"

By Carl Schmitt.

If the different states, religions, classes, and other human groupings on earth should be so unified that a conflict among them is impossible and even inconceivable and if civil war should forever be foreclosed in a realm which embraces the globe, then the distinction of friend and enemy would also cease.

From "The Legal World Revolution"

By Carl Schmitt.

Humanity as such as a whole has no enemies. Everyone belongs to humanity [...] "Humanity" thus becomes an asymmetrical counter-concept. If he discriminates within humanity and thereby denies the quality of being human to a disturber or a destroyer, then the negatively valued person becomes an unperson, and his life is no longer of the highest value: it becomes worthless and must be destroyed. Concepts such as "human being" thus contain the possibility of the deepest inequality and become thereby "asymmetrical."

From "The Concept of the Political"

By Carl Schmitt.

There is no rational end, no norm however correct, no program however exemplary, no social ideal however beautiful, and no legitimacy or legality that could justify men's killing one another.

From "The Concept of the Political"

By Carl Schmitt.

The specific political distriction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy. This provides a definition in the sense of a criterion and not as an exhaustive definition or one indicative of substantial content. Insofar as it is not derived from other criteria, the antithesis of friend and enemy corresponds to the relatively independent criteria of other antitheses: good and evil in the moral sphere, beautiful and ugly in the aesthetic sphere, and so on.

From "An Introduction"

by Sam Ladkin and Robin Purves.

In the work of each poet there is an intermittent attachment to the more traditional idea of incoherence as the index of ungovernable feeling. The poetry frequently stages the disintegration of selves as coherent sets of managed needs and desires, one agent of which is anguish at the endless pleasures proffered this side of the capitalist equation. Ethics, in the US and the UK, tends to be experienced by most citizens as the freedom to exercise self-restraint in the face of all the opportunities we have to be bad (driving SUVs, all-you-can-eat buffets, crack cocaine, etc.). Meanwhile “love” and “life” are the two concepts most inassimilable to the system embodied and critiqued in this poetry. Increasingly, they are unrepresentable there, incapable of being idealized in poetic language, only able to be named, and only as words, in ways that merely underline their unnameable aspects. Poems smolder or burn up in mourning for the absence and impossibility of love, of life, and any unmitigated pleasures. Even as we read, words and things are lining up outside for their orgiastic combination, couplings sanctioned by the arbitrariness of their relations and accelerated by the sexualized excitement of those of us who can afford to own them, and the sexualized excitement of the rest who just sit around, wanting.

From "An Introduction"

by Sam Ladkin and Robin Purves.

The work of the four poets in this issue is among the most advanced and resourceful currently available for investigating the ramifications of these questions—the truth that our identities, as we crouch over a laptop or eat a clementine on the subway, are dependent for their making and sustenance on the catastrophic exploitation of the unfortunate inhabitants of other places. This is one reason for the poets’ concern with consumption in all of its forms, and especially the co-implication of digestive, commercial, military, and information economies. The apparently delinquent manipulation of the wordsurface here is emphatically not a celebration of the freedom to do anything one wants with language, and there is no sense that such a freedom would count, or could be taken, as significantly liberating in the wider world, a fact which immediately sets this work apart from the polemics associated with Language writing.

Tuesday, 18 April 2000

From "Stupid Things I Have Observed About Criminal Procedure"

by Gareth Tilley.

Why must a DTO be either 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 18 or 24 months long? Does a 14 month long sentence have bad feng shui?

From "Meditations"

by René Descartes.

How often, asleep at night, am I convinced of just such familiar events — that I am here in my dressing gown, sitting by the fire — when in fact I am lying undressed in bed! Yet at the moment my eyes are certainly wide awake when I look at this piece of paper; I shake my head and it is not asleep; as I stretch out and feel my hand I do so deliberately, and I know what I am doing. All this would not happen with such distinctness to someone asleep. Indeed! As if I did not remember other occasions when I have been tricked by exactly similar thoughts while asleep! As I think about this more carefully, I see plainly that there are never any sure signs by means of which being awake can be distinguished from being asleep. The result is that I begin to feel dazed, and this very feeling only reinforces the notion that I may be asleep.

Monday, 17 April 2000

From "Which Family Guy Character Are You?"

An invisible man in the sky, eh? I'd better be on my best behaviour.

From "Holiday in Tikrit"

by Justin Katko & Keith Tuma.

we sweet-talked our way into the Pentagon war room

From "Tracts"

by Sean Bonney.

personality multiplies
in social equations

From "Motion Study"

by Kai Fierle-Hedrick.

manifest as leftover

pillow on the cheek;
and much impressed, I brew coffee, digress
into newsprint, do let the ink cling

Friday, 14 April 2000

From "Mercier and Camier"

by Samuel Beckett.

It was chiming midday when they left the house. In the porch they paused.
Oh the pretty rainbow, said Camier.
The umbrella, said Mercier.
They exchanged a look. Camier vanished up the stairs. When he reappeared, with the umbrella, Mercier said:
You took your time.
Oh you know, said Camier, one does what one can. Are we to put it up?
Mercier scrutinized the sky.
What do you think? he said.
Camier left the shelter of the porch and submitted the sky to a thorough inspection, turning celtically to the north, the east, the south and finally the west, in that order.
Well? said Mercier.
Don’t rush me, said Camier.
He advanced to the corner of the street, in order to reduce the risk of error. Finally he regained the porch and delivered his considered opinion.
In our shoes I wouldn’t, he said.
And may one inquire why not? said Camier. It’s coming down, if I am to believe my eyes. Can you not sense you’re wet?
Your inclination would be to put it up?
I don’t say that, said Mercier. I simply ask myself when we’ll put it up if nwe do not do so now.
To the unprejudiced eye it was less an umbrella than a parasol. From the tip of the spike to the ends of the stays or struts was a bare quarter of the total length. The stick was terminated by an amber knob with tassels. The material was red in colour, or had been, indeed still was in places. Shreds of fringe adorned the perimeter, at irregular intervals.
Look at it, said Camier. Take it in your hand, it won’t bite you.
Where was it dug up at all? said Camier.
I bought it at Khan’s, said Mercier, knowing we had only one raincoat to our name. He asked a shilling for it, I got it for eight pence. I thought he was going to embrace me.
It must have come out about 1900, said Camier. The year I believe of Ladysmith, on the Klip. Remember? Cloudless skies, garden parties daily. Life lay smiling before us. No hope as too high. We played at holding fort. We died like flies. Of hunger. Of cold. Of thirst. Of heat. Pom! Pom! The last rounds. Surrender! Never! We eat our dead. Drink our pee. Pom! Pom! Two more we didn’t know we had. But what is that we hear? A clamour from the watch-tower! Dust on the horizon! The column at last! Our tongues are black. Hurrah none the less. Rah! Rah! A craking as of crows. A quartermaster dies of joy. We are saved. The century was two months old.
Look at it now.
A silence ensued which Camier was the first to violate.
Well, he said, do we put it up now or wait for the weather to worsen?
Mercier scrutinised the inscrutable sky.
Go take a look, he said, and see what you think.
Camier again gained the corner of the street. On his return he said:
There is perhaps a little light below the verge. Would you have me go up on the roof?
Mercier concentrated. Finally he exclaimed, impulsively:
Let us put it up and pray for the best.
But Camier could not put it up.
Give it here to me, said Mercier.
But Mercier had no better success. He brandished it above his head, but controlled himself in time.
What have we done to God? he said.
Denied him, said Camier.
Don’t tell me he is all that rancorous, said Mercier.
Camier took the umbrella and vanished up the stairs.

From "Mercier and Camier"

by Samuel Beckett.

Conclude nothing from those idle words, Mercier and Camier were old young.

From "Mercier and Camier"

by Samuel Beckett.

This was the moment chosen by the rain, acting on behalf of the universal malignity, to come down in buckets.
It’s stuck, said Camier, don’t strain it whatever you do.
Mercier used a nasty expression.
Meaning me? said Camier.
With both hands Mercier raised the umbrella high above his head and dashed it to the ground. He used another nasty expression. And to crown all, lifting to the sky his convulsed and streaming face, he said, As for thee, fuck thee.

From "Mercier and Camier"

by Samuel Beckett.

I trust an only child, I was born at P---. My parents came from Q---.

From "Mercier and Camier"

by Samuel Beckett.

The barman rattled off a list.
Mine will be a button-fish salad, said Camier, with Dutch dressing.
Not on today, said the barman.
Then make it a hopper sandwich.
Just finished the last, said the barman. He had heard it was better to humour them.
You keep a civil tongue in your head, said Mercier. He turned to Camier. What kind of kip is this? he said. What kind of trip is this?

From "Philosophy as Stand-In and Interpreter"

By Jurgen Habermas.

There is no denying that pragmatism and hermeneutics represent a gain. Instead of focusing introspectively on consciousness, these two points of view look outside it: at objectifications of action and language. Gone is the fixation on the cognitive function of consciousness. Gone too is the emphasis on the representational function of language and the visual metaphor of the "mirror of nature." What takes their place is the notion of justified opinion, spanning the whole spectrum of what can be said -- what Wittgenstein and Austin call illocutionary force -- rather than just the contents of fact-stating discourses. "Saying things is not always saying how things are."

[...] Do these considerations strengthen Rorty's interpretation of pragmatism and hermeneutics, which argues for the abnegation, by philosophical thought, of any claim to rationality, indeed for the abnegation of philosophy per se? Or do they mark the beginning of a new paradigm that, while discarding the mentalistic language game of the philosophy of consciousness, retains the justificatory modes of that philosophy in the modest, self-critical form in which I have presented them?

Thursday, 13 April 2000

From "Doublespeak"

By William Lutz.

[...] "Winter Relief" was a compulsory tax presented as a voluntary charity; and a "straightening of the front" was a retreat, while serious difficulties became "bottlenecks." Minister of Information (the very title is doublespeak) Josef Goebbels spoke in all seriousness of "simple pomp" and "the liberalization of the freedom of the press."

Nazi doublespeak reached its peak when dealing with the "Final Solution," a phrase that is itself the ultimate in doublespeak. The notice, "The Jew X.Y lived here," posted on a door, meant the occupant had been "deported," that is, killed. When mail was returned stamped "Addressee had moved away," it meant that the person had been "deported." "Resettlement" also meant deportation, while "work camp" meant concentration camp or incinerator, "action" meant massacre, "Special Action Groups" were army units that conducted mass murder, "selection" meant gassing, and "shot while trying to escape" meant deliberately killed in a concentration camp.

Monday, 10 April 2000

From "Homo Sacer"

By Giorgio Agamben.

Just as sovereign power is presupposed as state of nature, that is then maintained in a relation of exclusion with respect to the state of right, so does it separate itself into constituent and constitutive power and still relates to both by placing itself in their point of indifference.

Sunday, 9 April 2000

From "Modernity, labour and the typewriter"

By Morag Shiach.

Friedrich Kittler places Nietzsche as a central figure in the development of the discourse network of 1900 largely because of his demonstrable connection with the typewriter. Nietzche bought a very early version of the typewriter in 1882 and Kittler says, "Nietzche as typist -- the experiment lasted for a couple of weeks and was broken off, yet it was a turning point in the organization of discourse." [...] deteriorating vision [...] One or two passing comments are the sum total of evidence Kittler can find for this transformative moment. In a letter to Peter Gast of 14 August 1881 Nietzsche writes: "I have had to delete the reading of scores and piano playing from my activities once and for all. I am thinking of acquiring a typewriter, and am in touch with its inventor, a Dane from Copenhagen." [...] Then, in a typed letter of 1882, Nietsche reflects on the relations between writing materials and thinking [...] He wrote about the experience only in passing [...] We do have evidence from his childhood of his very strong involvement in the process of writing by hand: "What he enjoyed most of all was writing. His handwriting was extremely neat, and his poems, his lists, and the memos he wrote for himself all show that he took pleasure in forming letters and laying lines of handwriting out attractively on the page." [...]

Saturday, 8 April 2000

From "Essays on Several Subjects"

By Sir Thomas Blount.

[...] An ill Dream, or a Cloudy Day, has power to change this wretched Creature, who is so proud of a Reasonable Soul, and make him think to day what he thought not yesterday. The Learned Dr. Henry More. says, That our Imagination alters, even as our Blood and Spirits are alter'd; And therefore, says he, as Dreams are the Fancies of those that sleep, so Fancies are but the Dreams of Men awake; And these Fancies by Day, as those Dreams by Night, will vary and change with the Weather, and present Temper of the Body. But to proceed; Others are of Opinion, that this great Diversity proceeds from another Cause, to wit from the Climate [...]

Friday, 7 April 2000

From "Poetics"

[...] the mystification of real social conflict disguised as demotic reasonableness [...]

From "Poetics"

[...] Impasse for Schultz is not just writer’s block, the poet fetishizing her own impedence, but a stage of productivity, an obstruction to be exploited for its truth content, and a modality of silence valuable or even necessary for composition. In this she follows Lyn Hejinian, whose definition of impasse—“both language’s creative condition and its problem” [...]

From "Poetics"

The purpose of the term impasse as a description of contradictoriness during or before acts of writing is to provide a new optic for the interpretation of individual poems and authors, an optic that reemphasises what “formalist” criticism uninterested in psychology might decide to pass over in silence, namely, the ways in which a poem can be read as frustrated, as incompletely expressive, and as a window on “the momentum of the poet’s mind.” (40). This seems more accurate—which is to say, less sympathetically fallacious—than taking the poem in some sense to be her mind, and more accurate too than dismissing or suspending the problem of minds altogether. Contradictory, then, because the silences or contortions and shortcomings of poetic language are read as part of the poem; and contradictory too because those silences and contortions are representative of what is sometimes the specifically ethical work of generating and sustaining, or failing to generate and sustain the momentum of lyric.

From "Poetics"

Barthes is not an ancestral impasse for Language Poetry but a transhistorically exploitable source of intellectual capital. For so long as his ideas can be used to corroborate the theoretical positions of Language Poetry and to vex its institutional opponents, there is no great pressure to supercede him.

From "Poetics"

By Keston Sutherland.

[Bernstein, according to Schultz] takes “all the ways in which the language has been mis- / Used, misplaced [etc]” and combines them “in a kind of rococo / Salad that reinvigorates the discourse.” All the ways is a lot of ways indeed, particularly as language which creatively reduplicates solecisms and mendacities must presumably be itself an example of “misuse”, however ironic; the poet would therefore need endlessly to recombine his own language in such a way as always to reinvigorate that formidably indefinable thing, “the discourse” (18).

From "Poetics"

By Keston Sutherland.

[According to Schultz,] Bernstein is “radical” because he is one of those postmodernists able “to reject [his] mirror image and to yearn for dispersal rather than for a totalizing image of the self.” (68). Narcissism bad, Roland Barthes Trans. Richard Howard good: those of us whose mirror images are obstinately unrejectable will perhaps be the among the most admiring of how Bernstein yearns.

From "Poetics"

By Keston Sutherland.

The common mythical description of what Bernstein is may be hard to swallow, but it does at least work as a kind of elaborate metonym for what poets and critics think poetry ought to be able to do. In other words, it’s useful as an example of what thinkers so extremely unlike as Lukács and Adorno agree in calling “idealism,” that is, the reconciliation in performative abstract of real social contradictions (“adman and artist combined”) that stands in for proper demystification of capitalist social relations and even anticipates that demystification at the level of affective response.

From "Poetics"

By Keston Sutherland.

[...] an example of what thinkers so extremely unlike as Lukács and Adorno agree in calling “idealism,” that is, the reconciliation in performative abstract of real social contradictions [...] that stands in for proper demystification of capitalist social relations [...] Language poetry theory has always been idealist in this way, from its beginnings to its present recapitulation in the work of Schultz, Juliana Spahr and others; and it has always been most conspicuously idealist when it has tried to claim the symbolic capital of European Marxism (both eastern and western) by declaring that it has subverted the conditions of false consciousness through subverting normative assumptions about language. In reality, of course, the conditions of false consciousness are economic conditions and are not vulnerable to subversion by poetry, whilst normative assumptions about language are almost infinitely vulnerable to subversion, but only because normal language itself is preeminently immune to whatever effects may be stirred up in the field of aesthetics by performative subversions of our assumptions about that language. Like capitalism, normal language is not just the sum of oppressive and false practices (“transparent” signification, “subjectivity,” “Robert Pinsky” etc) set over against all the community minded and theoretically informed things that liberal poets do before they get tenure in the Ivy League. Normal language, like capitalism and of course as a constituent part of it, is transcendentally hospitable. It is Whitman’s cosmogonic melos and Judith Butler’s infinitely promiscuous selfhood in perfected carbon burlesque: everybody’s autothanatography. It always eats Shklovsky’s Defamiliarization Salts for breakfast.

From "Poetics"

By Keston Sutherland.

[...] anyone who reads philosophy and not just the derivative slogans that stand in for philosophy in Language poetry theory is at risk of becoming terminally dysphagic over Schultz’s and Bernstein’s use of the word “subjectivity,” which has been so conscientiously excoriated of its history of significance as to mean something like “being reactionary and narcissistic in the manner of Robert Pinsky.”

From "The Metaphysical Poets"

By T. S. Eliot.

We can only say that it appears likely that poets in our civilization, as it exists at present, must be difficult. Our civilization comprehends great variety and complexity, and this variety and complexity, playing upon a refined sensibility, must produce various and complex results. The poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into his meaning.