Two Poets — Ida Börjel & Amiri Baraka

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writing about work is a form of sabotage.

stealing, another: running off my poems on the company
xerox machine, or copying material about the union

saying the way things really are


sneaking words into the memory of the machine…

the concept of sabotage. the concept of telling the truth.


Karen Brodine


Ida Börjel

Ida Börjel is one of the most striking voices in contemporary conceptual poetry. Each of her much-praised and awarded collections forms a cohesively and rigorously composed whole that is always rooted in extensive research and a strong thematic principle. Her collection Miximum Ca’Canny: the Sabotage Manuals (2016) appears to be both a practical handbook and a philosophical study of the various ways the language of power and authority can be sabotaged, a recurring theme in Börjel’s poetry. Her best-known work, Ma (2014), responds to Inger Christensen’s iconic Alphabet and gives a poetic voice to the maligned conscience of the (political) world, with its streams of refugees, abuses of power, and environmental crises.
Poetry International


At once practical handbook and philosophical inquiry, Ida Börjel’s exploration of sabotage and its history throws a wrench into the machinery of contemporary language, generating strange affinities between wreckers, iconoclasts, and saboteurs of all types. Sourced from political pamphlets and factory workers’ diaries, and drawing out important connections between technology and poetic technique, Börjel’s poem allows for the most profound understanding of sabotage – technological, political, economic, and linguistic all at once. Silencing the machines, these sabotaged manuals allow us to hear new sounds and new possibilities for resistance.


All writing has a politics, but only some books actually propose forms of dissent. Swedish poet Ida Börjel’s proposition is this: make mistakes. Let your tools grow dull. Disrupt the efficiency of the workplace and you disrupt capitalism. Sourced from pamphlets and factory workers’ narratives, Börjel’s manual conceives of the saboteur as a goal-oriented mischief-maker. The word “miximum” in the title is a great example of what saboteurs do:

distort telegrams so that additional ones need to be
composed     sometimes simply by
changing a letter     from “minimum” to
“miximum”     then they won’t know if
minimizing or maximizing is at stake

Meanwhile, “ca’canny” suggests something like “canny cacophony”: the shrewd sort of chaos-making that’s at the heart of workers’ revolts—like nineteenth-century Scottish dock workers destroying cargo to agitate for better pay: “you cutta da pay / we cutta da shob.”

The Sabotage Manuals are rousing. They urge us to commit acts of anti-discipline. Equally, the book depicts the source of disaffection, the grim extent to which “the factory matrix” has colonized our bodies and our speech, so that we speak in “management rhetoric” or we “say something     in absurdum.” It’s a precarious balance between the clarity of instruction and “crackled language” that translator Jennifer Hayashida has to recreate in English, and she does so expertly. I am so moved by the stanza in which the command to “follow the manual to a T” is elaborated over several lines until it begins to stutter:

homelessness     rootlessness     childlessness
but in a present     but in a present     but
in a present that holds on in a present . . .

Terrifying and exhilarating, The Manuals offer historical example and present-day waywardness as micro-means to turn up the volume on dissent. So, if you want to “disturb / the automated gaze,” release three dozen moths at a propaganda film screening: “the film [will become] an agitated fluttering shadow play.”


What seemed urgent to me in rewording and sampling texts from these various sources (Elisabeth Gurley Flynn “Sabotage: The Conscious Withdrawal of the Worker’s Industrial Efficiency“, pamphlets, diaries, blog texts, conversations, memories) was not a simple whodunnit, but rather, how does one find and pick up that ”fine thread of deviation,” as Gurley Flynn puts it, in the present order of things? In the factory or at the office, yes, but also in factory life outside of the factory. In the prevailing social structures, in our daily lives… Do we speak, think, write, like in a factory? Leslie Kaplan, author of Excess– The Factory, asks this.

In the Fordist factory the workers were silenced by the noise of the machines. In the post-Fordist factory—I’m thinking of Christian Marazzi’s Capital and Language here—the factory is produced by and produces linguistics. A language that is politicizing us, quantifying us, desensitizing us, atomizing us. Changing the structures of our brains, the nerve paths, the responses of the synapses—into ersatz behaviour, ersatz sensitivity, ersatz stimulation. And there we go, trying to attach the little we have of ourselves to, trying to identify ourselves with the objects we buy or only dream of buying and then to move around in our homes. In a swirling circulation of triggered stimulus response where subjectivities turn into lubricators, it’s hard to get a grip on things.

And you can’t reason with the unreasonable. The bullshitters do not play the same game as the liar and the truthteller does. But you might joke about them. As the students did on the placards in Parliament Square, UK, in December 2010 for instance. ”I’M SO ANGRY I MADE THIS SIGN.” As the youth did in the monstration (sic!) in Novosibirsk on May Day, from 2004 and onwards. Through applying a language of absurdity in their banners they passed the demonstration ban. That doesn’t mean they did not get arrested. Non-sensical? ”I CROCODILE…” read one of the posters, echoing samizdat publications in the sixties.


Sabotage from below is the material practice of counter-disposition. Dispositions, like counter-dispositions, extend beyond platforms and platitudes. Instead, they eventuate, and they seethe. Thus, resonant with moods and (revolutionary) counter-moods, as these have been theorised by Jonathan Flatley, dispositions and counter-dispositions channel struggle as poiesis – as contest over world-making. It seems appropriate then to glean the shape and feel of counter-disposition from poetics. Ida Börjel’s recent poetry manifesto, Miximum Ca’Canny The Sabotage Manuals, affords a vivid means of such gleaning. Börjel’s manual offers an orientation towards the objects of production that intuits their interconnected temporalities. In this short poem, the practice of disrupting the energic flow of capital is made consistent across formally distinct scenes of work, so that a worker’s insertion of an error or flaw begins to gum up the circulation of capitals across sectors like a great greasy grime:

metal dust or fillings     fine sand
shattered glass    materials for polishing
hard gravely substances

stick in the tip of a pen and bend
a small amount of corrosive acid    lacquer
linseed oil    regular spit

knotted balls of human hair
threads    dead insects
a fistful of hard grains such as rice or wheat

sawdust or hair
rubber crumbs from old rubber bands
or erasers

and if you can get a hold of sugar     pour it into
the fuel tank
honey and molasses work just as well

when the machine is paused you can make a
small hole in the fuel line
cover it with wax

a small cut in the wire insulation
loosen or remove rings and screw nuts
press in some grease    spill dust and dirt
make a small hole in the tank


as the engine starts up the wax will
melt    as it burns with the gas
a sticky goo forms and spreads

as it swells the steam is blocked
the air bubbles    the circulation    it
will need disassembling and

repair    soft scraped finishes
engines will gradually swell and
choke    break   burn

Sabotage plans its own multiplier effect down the line, to ‘gradually swell and / choke break burn.’ In a strike, the worker withholds her labour in order to resume work a little later. Sabotage takes the technical composition of her exploitation as the field of politics and pushes the disposition of her exploited energy to the point of contradiction. The many materials that make up her condition are turned into deliberate impediments to the energic consistency of capital. The contradiction turns the operative, the activity, the disposition, into the inoperative, the problem, the counter-disposition. The counter-disposition is the energic glitch or break out of which abolition is made possible and then durable. Sabotage is its means.


I. Etymology

sabotage is an internal, industrial

The world is taken from the French sabot,
wood clog, and the French mill workers’
manner of protesting against the new
automatic looms by hurling
their clogs into them. So they removed and
aimed, took off their only pair shoes and
threw them into the machine’s opening and walked
barefoot through nah

The word is taken from the Dutch
fourteen hundreds when impoverished workers
threw their clogs far into
the future because they had lost hope
for a better life for their children
or since they had just begun to hope for one

The word is taken from the act, from
the verb saboter, stomp with clogs,
slap together, neglect. A
saboteur is someone who drags
their feet
The word is taken from the late
eighteen hundreds, from the French
slang sabot for someone with their head
in the clouds, all thumbs
and shitty shoes. So saboteur doesn’t really
rhyme with amateur which etymologically is
she who loves something.

The word — the shoes
thrown at an old circus lion during
the international peace conference
in Copenhagen and simultaneously in
Moscow . . .

“No longer would oppressed people be sure that history was on their side. No longer
could they therefore be satisfied with creeping improvements, in the belief that these
would see fruition in the lives of their children and grandchildren. No longer could they
be persuaded to postpone present complaints in the name of a beneficent future. In
short, the multiple producers of the capitalist world-economy had lost the main hidden
stabilizer of the system, the optimism of the oppressed.

Immanuel Wallerstein



II. The Sabotage Manual

In nineteen-sixteen
Industrial Workers of the World
(IWW) publishes the handbook Sabotage:
The Conscious Withdrawal of the Workers
Industrial Efficiency
authored by
Elisabeth Gurley Flynn

In nineteen fourty four
The American Office of Strategic
Services (OSS) publishes The Simple
Sabotage Field Manual
, declassified
in the year two thousand and eight

The human factor. To widen a
margin of error.

Intentional stupidity goes against
human nature. The saboteur may
need to reverse her thinking. If
before she made sure to keep her
tools sharp, she can now let them grow
dull. What was brightly polished will now
be scratched; what was carefully tucked away
can now be left out. The assiduous grows full
of indolence. The keen grows torpid,

the firm begins to give way.
When the saboteur
starts to think backwards
about herself and hers
she does not let the opportunity

out of her hands. Anything might be sabotaged.

What was firmly rooted
lies rotted. What was cast solid
is perforated. Into those openings the
saboteur sticks her fingers.

A certain measure of humor in the following
proposition helps the tension and
fear dissipate.

Commit acts for which a large number
can be held responsible. So that it could have
been anyone.

Do not be afraid to commit acts
you can personally be held
responsible for, as long as you do not do it
too often and assuming that you have a
plausible excuse   dropped the wrench
there   by that circuit   the little one cried
and kept me awake all night   I
must have been half asleep   well   so
I dropped the key





the saboteur’s weapons are the things she
typically walks around with    like the
materfamilias she is   like the
workforce she is   the arsenal
the kitchen shelf   the trash heap
childrens’ gear   the ordinary
tool belt   the primary targets of
the act of sabotage are objects she has
daily contact with   nothing
strange at all

another variant is presented by universal
general   eternal    opportunities to make
bad decisions   to adopt an un-
cooperative attitude and in
the blink of an eye make others do the same
in secret   alone
but together

so simple   to place something in one

spot instead of another
one control key instead of another





tear a three- or four-centimeter wide
strip off an A4 page and wrap two
or three times around the base of a
wax candle   wind more paper into loose
cords placed at the foot of the candle   twist
and tape möbius strips for the investigators

a clean factory is not receptive to fire
bit a dirty one

make sure it starts to burn only after
you have walked away





and other industrial activity
such as the silk factory where women
men and children work ten hours a
day for seven six dollars a week

week after week   everyone has been there
forever and done it the way it has always
been done   life in the factory is like some
strange religious sect   all the first and
second cousins once or twice removed
after being there for ten
I am still the new guy

scratch the tools used to cut


clean the files by knocking against
the vice or the work itself

a hole-puncher is made useless
by being fed more material than
intended   two metal discs
instead of one   two pages   two chips   two

metal dust or filings   fine sand
shattered glass   materials for polishing
hard gravelly substances

stick in the tip of a pen and bend
a small amount of corrosive acid   lacquer
linseed oil   regular spit

knotted balls of human hair
threads   dead insects
a fistful of hard grains such as rice or wheat

sawdust or hair
rubber crumbs from old rubber bands
or erasers

and if you can get a hold of sugar   pour it into
the fuel tank
honey and molasses work just as well

when the machine is paused you can make a
small hole in the fuel line
cover it with wax

a small cut in the wire insulation
loosen or remove rings and screw nuts
press in some grease   spill dust and dirt
make a small hole in the tank

after a turn by the machines that
produce the desirable at a cost of a
finger every now and then   a hand   an entire
life   we would watch a film   maybe sounds fun
we watch motivational films   one that sticks out
is Touching the Void with two friends who
climb a mountain   but things go wrong
one is forced to leave the other behind
unconscious   he continues the descent alone
down the mountain   breaks his leg   severely affected by
the cold   all he needed to do to quickly
end his misery was let go
release ten fingers
all of us wanted him to die because of
the suffering but in the end he survived
the moral is no matter how tough it gets
don’t give up   I hope it wasn’t
meant to be a prediction of life in
the factory

a piece of fine sandpaper the size of
half a stamp

sand mixed with grease oil
tar or paint that is smeared   that is

poured out between them

water   salt

coal or metal dust

an additional part tar

the entire system goes SOS and we
get to walk out into the courtyard
and the sun

as the engine starts up the wax will
melt   as it burns with the gas
a sticky goo forms and spreads

as it swells the steam is blocked
the air bubbles   the circulation   it
will need disassembling and

repair   soft scraped finishes
engines will gradually swell and
choke   break   burn





something to be sent express
from Paris to Le Havre ended up in
Marseille   after three days
the rail system was completely demoralized

make train travel uncomfortable   make mistakes
when you issue tickets   print two
for the same seat   just before departure
they are slowly written by hand

announce arrivals as departures
and vice versa

make life disagreeable for
the travelers   make sure the food is bad
check tickets after bedtime
shout out station names in the loud speaker at
night   handle luggage as loudly as

mix up   sprinkle plenty of rock salt or
table salt over the power switches and on
the ground nearby

peel off labels

loosen nails all around

add a half liter of soft soap
replace or rotate signs at

when asked for directions give the wrong answer

bus drivers can drive past stops
taxi drivers can take the longest route
between A and B

turn on the lights in parked cars

pour one hundred to one hundred and fifty
cubic centimeters of vinegar in each cell

put a nail in a match box and
place vertically in front of the rear tire
when the car starts the nail will quietly
puncture the tire





increase time wasted

hide a large piece of steel or iron up against
the compass

while loading on and off   arrange for
the fragile to end up at the bottom and the
heaviest on top

Scottish dock workers eighteen hundred and
eighty-nine   we let the wine casks empty
out over the dock like the scabs did
we let cargo with delicate contents fall
in the middle of the pier like the scabs did
we will work as clumsily   as
slowly   as destructively

well   you see   boss   you cutta da pay
we cutta da shob





now and then when I want half a day off and
they don’t give it to me I let the belt slither off
the machine so that it doesn’t work and I get
my half day   I don’t know if you call it
sabotage   but that’s what I do

delay   give the wrong number   happen
to disconnect   forget

mutter   make conversations difficult or
impossible to understand

distort telegrams so that additional ones need to be
composed   sometimes simply by
changing a letter   from “minimum” to
“miximum”   then they won’t know if
minimizing or maximizing is at stake
a letter   a punctuation mark   to move a
comma   from “access denied, control” to
“access, denied control”

at the screening of propaganda films   place two or
three dozen large moths in a paper bag   bring
to the movie theater   place on the floor in an empty row
the moths will fly out into the theater
towards the light
and when they climb over the projector
the film becomes an agitated fluttering shadow play

so they will sound as though they were passing
through a thick cotton blanket with mouths
full of gravel
so that the line can no longer be used

so they do not move
but flutter   disturb
the automated gaze





























Samtidigt, Elsewhere


Is there something further to add?

A: No comment

Is there really nothing further to add?

B: Nah

Still, something?

B: How long is a string? Where is the line between sound accounting practices and unsound corporate finance? This has nothing to do with sabotage. It is a promotion. Kind of like the law of the jungle. We are the Fat Cats.

A: No, but you disappear. Make yourself invisible. You have no contact with the money, if not a briefcase with cash from Monaco. Your name is not on anything. A non-person. You grab your chance. Anyone can do it if you have a little bit of geld in the pot. A clever accountant is essential in this racket, it’s like poker, like Monopoly. You live in the Zone, you have everything. Like in Dubai, in the Zone, we have freedom of expression there, inside the fence you can say whatever you want but there are things you don’t talk about. It’s a code we have. In Dubai via Geneva, London, Luxemburg. Outside the fence you cannot think aloud. But inside the Zone you can settle in and retire with your tax dollars. You become unreachable. You can say whatever you want: Blueleaf, Google, Echelon. It’s a pretty simple life, really. A penthouse, a suit, a sports car, some meetings. Good doctors. Obviously. Good doctors, surgeons. You’re in the Zone, you have everything. But you aren’t somebody on a piece of paper. The Cypriot banks replace the Russian mafia’s lost currency with tax funds, sanctioned and assessed by self-appointed accountants and who at the behest of the state determine the rules of their work. The trick is to constantly praise transparency. We are invisible because we leave no traces, or else we are too big to fail. The Big Four. The Five, that’s the Bear, the Wolf, the Lion, the Eagle, and the Wolf. Or I mean the Moose, the Moose and Wolf. The Bear. The Lion. The Hippopotamus. The Hippopotamus kills more people annually than the Lion, as you know.

Ida Börjel; The Sabotage Manuals / @ 2016 Commune Editions



Amiri Baraka

Shortly after the 1965 publication of his novel The System of Dante’s Hell, Amiri Baraka – then still named LeRoi Jones – wondered in an interview whether the energies he had put into writing it might not have been better used to ‘devise a method for blowing up the White House’. Perhaps he was right. But while the whole of Baraka’s work might not add up to a manual for creating a revolutionary movement, it is still among the most exacting and vital expressions of the struggle to create a militant poetics written in the ‘English’ language.
A key force in the intense constellation of African-American creation that emerged from the Black Liberation struggles of the late ‘60s, together with writers and artists such as Henry Dumas, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, Jayne Cortez, and Sonia Sanchez, Baraka produced some of the most confrontational art of the Twentieth Century. The Black Arts Movement was the major avant-garde movement of the 1960s, a dialectical shift in the relation between form and content as mode and address. This was a poetry that was no longer an artistic representation of speech, but speech itself: ‘We wanted an art that was revolutionary. We wanted a Malcolm art, a by-any-means-necessary poetry. A Ballot or Bullet verse.’ It was actively revolutionary, and it was intended for the people who were capable of making that revolution. Lorenzo Thomas recalls a Baraka reading from around 1967:

We walked through the cold quiet streets a few blocks to a union hall or community centre sort of place where Amiri Baraka was reading feverish political poems to a few cheerful working class black folks [. . . ] Baraka was dressed in a flowing big-sleeved dashiki and a Moroccan knit cap. He was shouting and singing his poems [. . .] The audience, just like a church congregation, said ‘Amen’ when the poem was finished [. . . ] Ishmael Reed and I sat there with our eyes bugged out, wondering if the brother was mad. Talking like that. Talking that talk [. . .] The people were saying ‘yeh, uh, huh’, laughing and bopping their heads. Like in church. I was amazed at what the poems were doing.

It is a poetry that is un-interested in only speaking to aesthetes, one that refuses a distinction between artistic work and revolutionary activism. ‘The artist and the political activist are one’, wrote Larry Neal, in the afterward to the Black Arts anthology Black Fire, edited by himself and Baraka in 1968, ‘they are both shapers of the future reality’. But in no way – as the caricature of the later Baraka goes – was this a sacrifice of complexity. The relationship to the content of the work, as well as to the audience, was transformed. Artists summoned images and histories inaccessible to the comprehension of the racist enemy, that were both educational – they were committed to art as pedagogical street communication – and revolutionary, in that the world being proposed was one that was entirely other than the one in which they were made to live.

We brought street-corner poetry readings, moving the poets by truck from site to site. So that each night through that summer we flooded Harlem with new music, new poetry, new dance, new paintings, and the sweep of the Black Arts movement had recycled itself back to the people. We had huge audiences, really mass audiences, and though what we brought was supposed to be avant and super-new, most of it people dug. That’s why we knew the music critics who put the new music down as inaccessible were full of shit. People danced in the street to Sun Ra and cheered Ayler and Shepp and Cecil and Jackie McClean and the others.

Baraka’s later work was criticised by more than one reactionary avant-gardist for being one-dimensional and didactic. It’s a stupid (and sinister) criticism, deliberately dismissive of a large and complex body of work that included music criticism, drama, fiction, musical performance and political organisation as well as a wildly various body of poetry. And while t nhese different aspects of the work were obviously distinct, they were also inseparable, feeding into and informing each other. The didacticism was intentional, and never simplistic, but rather the development of a new poetics – the poem as political speech, the political speech itself as music, the slogan as essay, the essay as poem etc. ‘We can learn more about what poetry is by listening to Malcolm’s speeches, than from most of Western Poetics’, claimed Larry Neal. If that is true, then it requires an absolute transformation of what is expected from poetry, and of how it is to be judged. And that is not to say that militant poetry must simply become crudely utilitarian. Quite the opposite: the transformation of poetic energies into revolutionary energies requires, at base, a transformation of our understanding of the imagination itself.

Imagination, or rather, the work of the imagination, becomes the summoning of historical energies, be they ones officially documented by the dominant culture, or ones concealed by the forces of that domination. The work is a gathering, a summoning, of the energies (dreams) of oppression and the resistance to that oppression, to condense those energies into a confrontational poetics and art whereby the hidden history of subjugation is revealed, at times apocalyptically. The content of the militant poetics of the Black Liberation Movement, then, is to activate historical data, and to condense that data into energies and intensities that can give those who hear it the strength to act (a method for blowing up the White House). Frantz Fanon called it the ‘literature of combat’. For Baraka it was the struggle to express what he called ‘struggle images’, where the imagination is solidified into a counterimage intended to challenge and overcome the image-networks of the dominant culture, that system of lies that provides an alibi for the idiot barbarism of the civilized west, a system of lies that Baraka felt extended even into the work of so-called ‘radical’ poets, who in a late essay he referred to as having ‘the good manners of vampires’. And poets, to steal an image from a later group of radical African- American artists, must be ‘fearless vampire killers’.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Writer and leading figure of the Black Arts movement in the United States, Amiri Baraka died this January, aged 79. Before 1966, when he changed his name from LeRoi Jones, he was a celebrated avant-garde poet and playwright, an associate of Ginsberg and the Beats, and New York poet and art curator Frank O’Hara. As the sixties progressed he began to question his association with such figures, and, following a trip to revolutionary Cuba, his work, and attitude towards what poetry was, became increasingly radicalised. With the murder of Malcolm X he placed himself at the forefront of militant, separatist black cultural politics and poetics. His output in the 1960s was extraordinary: poetry, short stories, a novel, political tracts and Blues People, the first book on African-American music actually written by an African-American, and still considered a key work of jazz criticism today. After 1966 he was also a prominent activist, spokesman and organiser, setting up the influential Black Arts Repertory Theatre / School. Much of the work of this period was characterised by a revolutionary rage unmatched by any other poet of the period. In the 70s he rejected Black Nationalism, and became a Marxist-Leninist, a political position he retained for the rest of his life, and the later poetry constitutes a major contribution to the traditions of twentieth century Marxist poetry. In his later years his importance to US African- American history was increasingly recognised: his work was increasingly included in surveys of 20th century poetry and he was awarded various literary prizes and fellowships. But despite this seeming acceptance by the establishment, he remained committed to grass-roots, politically radical arts organising, un-mediated by literary and academic restrictions.



Stop Killer Cop

Gun flash beats the child’s head in,
maniac teeth dance in a bloody grin
blue lies, badge confessions, yng dude dead
just beyond his mama’s arms, In our hallways,
and cocaine boulevards, where joe the cop and
mike the cop have disappeared and work for
scag benny and normie the nark, or have nazi salutes
sparkle in they grubby brains going distractions of
hipper uniforms they drool to wear. When they finish
jerking off in the police car in each others mouths
and got nothing else to do, slept all day to get
the semen level high enough to blast off in tiny
dry dribbles of sickness. the yankee game went off
as background music to their hot lurches, the hoodlums
have another gorge in heat to rise into their nose
they hear another cry to set their stashed joints
in smokeless blaze, a yng brother a live, a young
black dude with broke down black jeep hat, and
denim jacket with a fur piece around the neck.
The world he walks in throws ground glass zoom
into the face of the dying cops, they wipe the
jism off their mouths, and open the door, a
group of black youths strolling by, a fire
lit by david rockefeller hisself, when he ran
these unfortunate cop creeps through the pavlov
machine, so that when the bell of our stride
bangles against they knots, dickless pigs grab
they revolvers to imitate the hot spangle of playboy
early evenings under the station house garage. John
Warhol and Andy Wayne, come together in one blinding scream
of the state in anger that we want to live
Ford and Rockefeller know the state must live off violence
none of us want to be poor and oppressed so they pay
their souped up hit men to patrol our lives with murder
His uniform soaked wet to his skin, fly hung open, and
the blue black weapon whipped in freakish frenzy
to come in the blood from the youth’s ripped head.
How sick is this killer cop? How sick is
this government? how sick is capitalism?

Amiri Baraka; HARD FACTS (1973-75)




Black Art

Poems are bullshit unless they are
teeth or trees or lemons piled
on a step. Or black ladies dying
of men leaving nickel hearts
beating them down. Fuck poems
and they are useful, wd they shoot
come at you, love what you are,
breathe like wrestlers, or shudder
strangely after pissing. We want live
words of the hip world live flesh &
coursing blood. Hearts Brains
Souls splintering fire. We want poems
like fists beating niggers out of Jocks
or dagger poems in the slimy bellies
of the owner-jews. Black poems to
smear on girdlemamma mulatto bitches
whose brains are red jelly stuck
between ‘lizabeth taylor’s toes. Stinking
Whores! We want “poems that kill.“
Assassin poems, Poems that shoot
guns. Poems that wrestle cops into alleys
and take their weapons leaving them dead
with tongues pulled out and sent to Ireland. Knockoff
poems for dope selling wops or slick halfwhite
politicians Airplane poems, rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr . . . tuhtuhtuhtuthtuhtuhtuhtuhtuh
. . . rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr . . . Setting fire and death to
whities ass. Look at the Liberal
Spokesman for the jews clutch his throat
& puke himself into eternity . . . rrrrrrrr
There’s a negroleader pinned to
a bar stool in Sardi’s eyeballs melting
in hot flame Another negroleader
on the steps of the white house one
kneeling between the sheriff’s thighs
negotiating cooly for his people.
Agggh . . . stumbles across the room . . .
Put it on him, poem. Strip him naked
to the world! Another bad poem cracking
steel knuckles in a jewlady’s mouth
Poem scream poison gas on beasts in green berets
Clean out the world for virtue and love,
Let there be no love poems written
until love can exist freely and
cleanly. Let Black People understand
that they are the lovers and the sons
of lovers and warriors and sons
of warriors Are poems & poets &
all the loveliness here in the world

We want a black poem. And a
Black World.
Let the world be a Black Poem
And Let All Black People Speak This Poem




He came back and shot. He shot him. When he came
back, he shot, and he fell, stumbling, past the
shadow wood, down, shot, dying, dead, to full halt.

At the bottom, bleeding, shot dead. He died then, there
after the fall, and the speeding bullet, tore his face
and blood sprayed fine over the killer and the grey light.

Pictures of the dead man, are everywhere. And his spirit
sucks up the light. But he died in darkness darker than
his soul and everything tumbled blindly with him dying

down the stairs.

We have no word

on the killer, except he came back, from somewhere
to do what he did. And shot only once into his victim’s
stare, and left him quickly when the blood ran out. We know

the killer was skillful, quick, and silent, and that the victim
probably knew him. Other than that, aside from the caked sourness
of the dead man’s expression, and the cool surprise in the fixture

of his hands and fingers, we know nothing.




(for Blues People)

In the south, sleeping against
the drugstore, growling under
the trucks and stoves, stumbling
through and over the cluttered eyes
of early mysterious night. Frowning
drunk waving moving a hand or lash.
Dancing kneeling reaching out, letting
a hand rest in shadows. Squatting
to drink or pee. Stretching to climb
pulling themselves onto horses near
where there was sea (the old songs
lead you to believe). Riding out
from this town, to another, where
it is also black. Down a road
where people are asleep. Towards
the moon or the shadows of houses.
Towards the songs’ pretend sea.



The People’s Choice: The Dream Poems II

A comb or womb of what we lay down nightly
in. Sleeping there, outside the ordinary fact
of lie and death. But there, the tired cone
of black love, tilted heavy through head bone
cross and jack to lift the tired soul, crossed staves
of the daring failure’s history. Secret cove
of spirit waves of time and loss crack flesh
and dream, he turns there so, cracks simple things
like love. What I, a singer, have for the world
is simple, deadly darkness closing down so hard,
is simple, in defense, a yielded portion of grace.

As people in
my life
are common blankness: hugged in the womb
of the trees or night’s whispered geometries. As people,
to consider, Buddha’s child, a bearded drunk
considered, in my head of hair the dark is there
and light it lays against my tongue. I feel no thing
but word, picture, conditioning . . . black tomb of possibility . . .
heart, dreams of stinking feet. I feel no single
treachery but what you are having been these few seconds
something like my self.



The Dream Poems III

Sleep builds the picture world, widening
rubber fancies spread the walls of any
thing you’ve ever said. In bed, my head
is lead, and dead. I think of all the
people hearts and songs I need, call them
Flesh, its new but, Flesh, over here,
Flesh. And they drop against my chest.
Women shoes and money. Poems and cars.
Countries words and courage. The assembled
fates and human weights. And if I have none
of them, who am I, or you, if I am reader
you, your eye, are poet?




Verse, as a form, is artificial. Poetry is not a form, but rather
a result. Whatever the matter, its meaning, if precise enough
in its information (and direction) of the world, is poetic. The
poetic is the value of poetry, and any concatenation of ele-
ments is sufficient to induce the poetic. What you see is as
valuable as what you do not. But it is not as meaningful (to
you). Poetry aims at difficult meanings. Meanings not already
catered to. Poetry aims at reviving, say a sense of meaning,
or meaning’s possibility and ubiquitousness.
Identification can be one term of that possibility. That is,
showing a thing with its meaning apparent through the act
of that showing. Interpretation can be another term. That is,
supporting a meaning, with one’s own life. That is, under,
standing. And using that position as a map, or dictionary.
Depending on whether you move or sit.
I write poetry only to enlist the poetic consistently as apt
description of my life. I write poetry only in order to feel,
and that, finally, sensually, all the terms of my life. I write
poetry to investigate my self, and my meaning and meanings.
But also to invest the world with a clearer understanding
of it self, but only by virtue of  my having brought some
clearer understanding of my self into it. I wrote in a poem
once, “Feeling predicts intelligence.“
But it is possible to feel with any part of our consciousness.
Whatever part of us does register: whatever. The head feels.
The heart feels. The penis feels. The penis is also, because it
is able to feel, conscious, and has intelligence of its own. No
one can deny that intelligence, or at least no one should try.
The point of life is that it is arbitrary, except in its basest
forms. Arbitrariness, or self imposed meaning, is the only
thing worth living for. It is the only thing that permits us to
The only time I am conscious of my limitations is when I
am writing. The rest of the time, there is no standard, at all
reasonable, for judging, in fact, what limitations are.

Year of the Buffalo




for Calvin Hernton and Ishmael Reed

The corrupt madness of the individual. You cannot live
alone. You are in the world. World, fuck them. World rise
and twist like you do, night madness in rain as heavy as stones.
Alabama gypsy talk, for peelings lips. Look in your mother’s head,
if you really want to know everything. Your sister’s locked up
pussy. Invasion of the idea syndrome like hand clapping winter in.
Winter will make you move. Or you will freeze in Russia and
never live to see Napoleon as conceived by Marlon Brando.
We are at the point where death is too good for us. We are
in love with the virtue of evil. This communication. Rapping
on wet meat windows, they spin in your head, if I kill you
will not even have chance to hate me




First, feel, then feel, then
read, or read, then feel, then
fall, or stand, where you
already are. Think
of your self, and the other
selves . . . think
of your parents, your mothers
and sisters, your bentslick
father, then feel, or
fall, on your knees
if nothing else will move you,

then read
and look deeply
into all matters
come close to you
city boys-
country men

Make some muscle
in your head, but
use the muscle
in yr heart



Will They Cry When You’re Gone, You Bet

You leave dead friends in
a desert. But they’ve deserted
you, and them-
selves, and are leaving
in the foot paths
of madmen and saints
enough sense to get away
from the dryness and uselessness
of such relaxation, dying in the dry
light, sand packed in their mouths
eyes burning, white women serenade them
in mystic deviousness, which is another
way of saying they’re seeing things, which
are not really there, except for them,
never to find an oasis, even bitter water
which we get used to, is better than
white drifting fairies, muses, singing
to us, in calm tones, about how it is better to die
etcetera, than go off from them, how it is better to
lie in the cruel sun with your eyes turning to dunes
than leave them alone in that white heat,




Banks must be robbed,
the guards bound and gagged.

The money must be taken
and used to buy weapons.

Communications systems
must be seized, or subverted.

The machines must be turned

Smoke plenty of bush
before and after work,

or during the holdup
when the guards are iced.



Word from the Right Wing

President Johnson
is a mass murderer,
and his mother,
was a mass murderer,
and his wife
is wierd looking, a special breed
of hawkbill cracker
and his grandmother’s
wierd dumb and dead
turning in the red earth
sick as dry blown soil
and he probably steals
hates magic
and has no use
for change, tho changing, and changed
the weather plays its gambling
tune. His mother is a dead blue cloud.
He has negroes work for him hate him,
wish him under the bullets of kennedydeath
these projectiles kill his mother plagued
by vulgar cancer, floating her dusty horoscope,
without the love even she thinks she needs, deadbitch,
Johnson’s mother, walked all night holding hands
with a nigger, and stroked that nigger’s
hard. Blew him downtown Newark 1928 . . . I got proof



Planetary Exchange

We are meat in the air. Flying into night space.
Meat complexified by evolution from the original
stuff. Re-evolved and retread, grown, bolted, hands
feet working, like they do, from slimy water, even now,
shot out the peter, through the crisscross round mileage
of speed and explosion.

I am.

Burst of the planet, burst through years I see on a hill
in electric your death and am puzzled. I am. I am. Milliards
of millions of no thing, blank, zero, indian time. To go.
And me. My feeling, and clicking brain. Zero. From nothing.
To nothing. Just speed and adventure, sensation. But truth,
real shit, where is it. I am. I am. Through the dazzling
lives of the planets and stars. I am. sings.

Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) | Black Magic; Poetry 1961-1967

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