riots and/or poetics [6/2022]

 

Nathalie Quintane | TOMATOES + Why doesn’t the far left read literature?
(Kenning Editions)

a poetic of montage + détournements. the piecing together of heterogeneous elements to arrive at new connections. to destabilise habits. to blur the boundaries of different genres. illuminating public discussions from remote, radical angles. the attention to new forms of coexistence. of social uprisings + a linguistic dissent. collective voices. the words + banners of political movements, the pamphlets. the minorities [who are constantly in the majority]. the restless revenants. an apparent continuity of uprisings. l’affair de tarnac, la ‘jungle’ de calais + notre-dame-des-landes. instead of the ‘grand evenings of silverware’ one reads various kinds of texts juxtaposed from modern urban planning, the cultivation of organic tomatoes, discussions between adolphe + auguste blanqui [wasn’t the storming of the winter palace foretold in the stardust of the milky way, this hellish, kaleidoscopic system?]. is l’éternité par les astres just as radical as the poésies of isidore ducasse? as if poetry were not a political act in itself. language in action. to evade official treaties. or festive occasions. we thus direct attention towards the object. in the spirit of francis ponge. in the absence of weapons, fruit ripens. there are the ‘poetic’ tools. the style that is understood as the enemy of [common] thought. but is the language of revolt a mute language? the material thus displacing itself from its original context. from the apocalyptic tone heard all too often. descends into disorder. sabotage of bourgeois idioms. the infiltration of dominant discourses. in which the choice of a form can mean taking a stance. learning its small lessons. it is the misunderstandings in poetry [things that appear to be in everyone’s interests / since everyone is a swine] that makes it impossible. thus, following jean-marie gleize, are we speaking rather of post-poésie or poésie action directe, as christophe hanna suggests? perhaps it is about relating the various strata [levels] + themes of a text to one another [obviously + subtly], to display its hidden connections or repulsions. because the really interesting books are those that are read by the police. so if nathalie quintane is meant to have written l’insurrection qui vient, who is the author of tomates? the bloodied eye of the needle through which one drives the poet. as if the words don’t lay bare who one is. you are running out of the air you need to concentrate on anything else. a poetry with a small p that, without cowering, is or can do everything.
[From my poem dreaming of one thing [subversive chronicle]]

 

Stacy Szymaszek | The Pasolini Book
(Golias Books)

To the Red Flag
you were waved in a fight / for the eight-hour work day / when that seemed humane // strung behind Medieval ships / to signal—will fight to death // your red has been the blood of calves // red flag / they’re packing our wounds with money / old wounds will bleed pennies // no—they are wounding us and stowing money / replicating wound banks // my shoulders a hedge of evergreens / between their party and my pantry // in a pinch you are the aftermath of a dry nose / and the poorest can wave you

 

Aditya Bahl | Mukt
(Organism for Poetic Research)

[…] in january, the comrade told us that / last year, during the month of may, // the steel workers of wazirpur // went on a month-long strike / with limited success // in february, the comrade told us / we should start preparing // because the coming may will be hot // the members of the Tronti Reading Group were the first to get the reference // creeping may 68/hot autumn 69 // everyone laughed / but no one got the joke // the joke, as the comrade reminded us, was / that even though wazirpur will // have its hot may // wazirpur is not mirafiori // tronti is dead // and so is balestrini / and so is ford // and so is nehru // in march, the latest dispatch of / bigul’s union newsletter / mocked the comrade / as a garrulous anarchist // at the meeting today, the comrade spoke at length about the members of the Quaderni Rossi journal, who, during 1960s, interviewed over one hundred workers in every sector of the Olivetti factory in Turin, trying to understand the concrete realities of both the factory work and the political composition of workers […]

 

Carla Lonzi | Self-portrait
(Divided Publishing)

At more than 300 pages, Carla Lonzi’s absorbing and innovative Self-Portrait (1969) records her interactions with 14 different artists over the course of the 1960s. Now, for the first time, a welcome translation by Allison Grimaldi Donahue for Divided Press offers English readers the opportunity to read one of postwar Italy’s most eccentric and irreducible texts. Lonzi, who died in 1982 at age 51, would go on to make an even more prominent mark in Italy with her essay ‘Let’s Spit on Hegel’ (1970) and the volumes The Clitoridian Woman and the Vaginal Woman (1974) and Diary of a Feminist (1977) – all undertaken out of frustration with what she perceived as the country’s lack of contemporary feminist consciousness. Yet, before co-founding the group Rivolta Femminile (Feminine Revolt) in 1970 – and, indeed, before publishing Self-portrait – she had penned a good deal of art criticism and studied under one of Italy’s most distinguished art historians and critics, Roberto Longhi. When Lonzi turned on her tape recorder in the early 1960s, the vocation of the critic in Italy was a forbiddingly imperious one, anchored in academic bona fides and ideological self-righteousness alike. To be a critic was to be a tastemaker. For Longhi and an older generation, it was also to be a stylist, with ambitions that vied, in a sense, with the objects of their aesthetic study. With few exceptions, that ambition was singularly male. The same was effectively true for artists in Italy.
[from FRIEZE]

 

Jazra Khaleed | The Light That Burns Us
(World Poetry Books)

Words
I have no fatherland / I live within words / That are shrouded in black / And held hostage / Mustapha Khayati, can you hear me? / The seat of power is in language where the police / patrol / No more poetry circles! / No more poet laureates! / In my neighborhood virgin poets are sacrificed / Rappers with dust-blown eyes and baggy pants / push rhymes on kids / sniffing words / Fall and get back up again: the art of the poet / Jean Genet, can you hear me?
My words are homeless / they sleep on the benches of Klathmonos Square / covered in IKEA cartons / My words do not speak on the news / They’re out hustling every night / My words are proletarian, slaves like me / they work in sweatshops night and day / I want no more / dirges / I want no more verbs belonging to the noncombatants / I need a new language, not pimping / I’m waiting for a revolution to invent me / Hungering for the language of class war / A language that has tasted insurgency / I shall create it! / Ah, what arrogance! / Okay, I’ll be off / But take a look: in my face the dawn of a new poetry is breaking / No word will be left behind, held hostage / I’m seeking a new passage.

 

Vogliamo Tutto. Cultural Practices and Labor
Editors: Samuele Piazza, Nicola Ricciardi
(Lenz Press)

Vogliamo Tutto. Cultural Practices and Labor has its origin in the novel Vogliamo tutto (1971) by Nanni Balestrini, whose protagonist Alfonso Natella became the voice of an entire generation as well as the workers’ movements in 1968 Turin. In 2021, thirteen artists were invited to reflect on the change of labor in the contemporary context. The result is a sum of choral voices and practices, which together outline the peculiar transformative nature of labor and its socio-cultural context over a wide time span: from the impact of the Industrial Revolution to the post-industrial decline and the shifts of the digital era.

 

Steve Wright | The Weight of the Printed World. Text, Context and Militancy in Operaismo
(Brill)

The title of this book comes from an editorial that appeared in La Classe’s inaugural issue, dated ‘May Day 1969’. Unsigned, as was the usual practice with Italian workerist newspapers, the article opens with a pull quote that states:

The clash between workers and capital is approaching some fundamental turning points. In this phase, the weight of the printed word is essential for taking the decisive step. The leap towards organisation.

Anticipating the struggles looming in the coming decade, the anonymous author sought to foresee the strategy by which capital and the official labour movement were manoeuvring to defeat the working class. Demanding ‘more money and less work’, the working class for its part aimed for ‘the total negation of itself as labour-power: all social wealth (all power) and no work’. In order to be successful, this project

requires instruments of communication. Today political news [informazione] concerning the class struggle from the workers’ point of view does not exist. This instrument can become that: the paper [giornale] is the expression of struggles, and its political utility will depend upon what use the comrades engaged in these struggles make of it.

While there is no acknowledgement of this in the issue, the editorial’s title is also a line from a Mayakovsky poem that similarly places the use of print at the heart of radical social change. Taking seriously the poet’s stress upon ‘the weight of the printed word’, the purpose of this book is to examine the historical trajectory of operaismo through the prism of the assorted documentary forms that its exponents created and drew upon in their activities. Of equal importance are the ways in which such efforts to communicate and organise through print can offer a better understanding of workerism itself as a practical undertaking, given that examining its means of expression and communication

represents a privileged way into militants’ ‘order of discourse’, to the manner in which they conceived political action, to their self-representation of what they produced. In other words, studying their discourses … offers the possibility of understanding both their terms of reference and representation, and their interpretative horizons, the expectations that they communicated through such means.

[From the Preface of The Weight of the Printed World]

 

After Marx: Literature, Theory, and Value in the Twenty-First Century
Edited by Colleen Lye, Christopher Nealon
(Cambridge University Press)

When Marx discusses how poems get written, he does so in terms that many would consider more romantic than materialist. He focuses on the creativity of the artist, a creativity that in his formulation is prior to the involvement of both the market and the state. He writes that Milton “produced Paradise Lost in the way that a silkworm produces silk, as the expression of his own nature” (Economic Work). This is why cultural production has what David Beech calls in Art and Value an “anomalous, incomplete and paradoxical commodification”. Creative content is not a widget and fits unevenly and belatedly into the M-C-M’ transformation that defines traditional commodities. The result, as Beech points out, is that there is no reason to understand – as Adorno does – that “market mechanisms will always dominate over discursive mechanisms or state mechanisms or scholastic mechanisms” (Art and Value). But the point here should not be to replace market mechanisms with state mechanisms and call it a day, as Lenin proposes. If nothing else, Marx reminds with this silkworm metaphor, cultural production has a moment when it is autonomous from the state and from capital. For a meaningful Marxist aesthetics, this seems a provocative starting point.
Revolutions, moments when the nation-state form is briefly cracked open, often produce literatures that are an expression of their own nature. I am thinking here of the literatures of the Russian Revolution before the Bolsheviks consolidated their power, and also of the mid-century literatures of decolonization movements. Farther back, the Paris Commune is another example of a fissure in the nation-state. At the level of genre and of language use, works from these revolutionary moments invoke tradition and question it, and move between assimilation and autonomy, just as much as they move between Lukács-esque realism and Adorno-esque avant-gardism, as if aware that there is no simple choice between either of these two categories. Jasper Bernes in “Revolution and Poetry” locates compression as the form par excellence for revolutionary poetry, and he is right to notice its power. But I would probably see it as one often-used register among many, in part to make room for the epic allusion that also often shows up in revolutionary milieus. But whatever the form, these literatures often appear to their contemporary readers as disrupted in form, because they are created within the cracks of the nation-state form. They tend to move between prose and poetry, tradition and innovation.
Take Arthur Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell. While it is unclear how much time Rimbaud spent at the Paris Commune, his allegiances with the Commune are made clear in the 1871 poems such as “The Hands of Jeanne-Marie.” And while A Season in Hell was written in 1873, it is full of the events of 1871, the year in which Rimbaud and Verlaine met. A Season in Hell pointedly opens with a refusal of national heroism (“It is quite obvious to me I have always belonged to an inferior race”), which turns into a rejection of national identity (“I abhor my country” and then into the narrator’s famous statement that he is a beast, “un nègre”. The imaginary community, to use Anderson’s term, that A Season in Hell proposes contains subjects that trouble coherent national and also racial identities. Many scholars have noted how A Season in Hell inclusively identifies with witches, serfs, and mercenaries, how it even has paragraphs written from the point of view of a soon-to-be colonized subject. And while it is written years before Bolshevik arguments that a proletarian literature is a state literature, it is in many ways a prefigurative rejection of this, a refusal of work, or being a worker, and thus of being a national subject. Rimbaud defines himself and his community as the queer, the stoned, the lazy, the adolescent, those “proud to have neither country, nor friends”.
[From the chapter Literature and the State, by Juliana Spahr]

 

Intolerable. Writings from Michel Foucault and Prisons Information Group
Edited by Kevin Thompson and Perry Zurn
(University of Minnesota Press)

The Prisons Information Group was a crucial part of Foucault’s political trajectory, but it was an intensely collaborative project between intellectuals, prisoners, and their families. Expertly translated and introduced, this is the definitive collection of the group’s writings. Although the focus is France, the texts also illuminate other European countries, while the Algerian war opens up questions of colonialism, and the group’s links to the Black Panthers make it important for an understanding of the politics of race. A significant book that is both long overdue and a timely intervention in contemporary debates about police and prison abolition and reform. [Stuart Elden]

 

Marius Loris Rodionoff | Objections. Scènes ordinaires de la justice
(Éditions Amsterdam)

Entre 2015 et 2019, Marius Loris Rodionoff s’est rendu dans les tribunaux de grande instance de Lille, Paris et Alençon pour assister aux audiences publiques de comparutions immédiates. Retenant dix journées d’audiences, à raison de cinq affaires par jour, il a composé la cinquantaine de textes que contient ce volume. Le dispositif choisi est brut et sobre : la transcription des faits incriminants – vols à la roulotte, trafic de drogue, violences conjugales, insubordination sociale – donne à entendre la parole du juge, de l’avocat, du prévenu ; puis l’enquête de personnalité, vies minuscules de jeunes hommes, immigrés pour la plupart, écrasées par la société ; enfin le prononcé de la peine, sévère toujours. À  travers ces scènes ordinaires de la justice, Marius Loris Rodionoff fait œuvre d’écrivain public. Mais il décrit aussi en ethnographe le fonctionnement d’une institution de reproduction de l’ordre social. Au moment où la comparution immédiate se politise et sert à réprimer massivement les mouvements sociaux, ce livre lève un coin de voile sur cette machine à punir et enfermer.

Un livre de Roald Dahl
Mohamed Waphil fouille les poubelles
Parfois il inspecte des voitures
Mohamed Waphil sort d’un véhicule Kia
Son ami Chadi rentre dans un fourré.
C’est lui qui a utilisé le brise-vitre
Dans un grand sac ils ont tout mis
Un mac book et un blouson noir
Des lunettes Ray-Ban et un manteau HH
Un passeport suisse et un porte-clef
Une housse de marque LAG
Et un sac rouge triathlon Genève
Des baskets Nike et une guitare
Une housse de marque LAG
Un livre de Roald Dahl
Et des bris de fenêtre

Mohamed Waphil est né à Alep. Il ne parle pas
français ou peu. Sans enfant, il est en situation
irrégulière. Il est venu par la mer à 20 ans. Il
loue un appartement à des amis à Roubaix.
Il retrouve Chadi Abd el Raiman rue de la
Loire. C’est le lieu de rendez-vous quand ils
vont au marché. Le juge le condamne à 1 an de
prison ferme.

 

Pasolini-Bachmann | Gespräche 1963-1975 Vol. 1 & Kommentar von Fabien Vitali Vol. 2
(Galerie der abseitigen Künste)

Er »hasse Interviews«, behauptete Pasolini. Umso erstaunlicher ist, wie viele er davon dem deutsch-jüdischen Filmjournalisten Gideon Bachmann (1927-2016) in den Jahren von 1963 bis 1975 dennoch einräumte. Vielleicht weil es sich nicht um klassische Interviews handelte? In der Tat sind die von Bachmann auf Ton aufgezeichneten und hier zum ersten Mal einheitlich in Textform veröffentlichten Begegnungen mit Pasolini einzigartig: Es sind Gespräche, ohne zwingenden Anlass und offenen Ausgangs. Das künstlerische und politische Werden Pasolinis, von seinen ersten Filmen (AccattoneDas 1. Evangelium Matthäus) bis zu den »Freibeuterjahren«, seine Haltung zu den tiefgreifenden gesellschaftlichen Veränderungen in Italien und Europa, sind hier nicht Gegenstand eines geordneten Diskurses. Die Bachmann-Gespräche nähern sich Pasolini über Umwege: in Form unbefangener Unterhaltungen, die umso reizvoller sind, als sie Eindrücke vermitteln vom Menschen Pasolini: von seinen Überzeugungen, seinen Unsicherheiten, seinen Widersprüchen, seiner Suche.

 

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