Communist Poetry

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David in Atlanta
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May 20 2009 00:45
Liam_Derry wrote:
Whilst there is a working class
I am of it,
While there is a criminal element,
Then I am in it,
And whilst there is a soul in prison,
Then I am not free.

Poetry of the Class War

“Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

E. V. Debs
Statement to the Court Upon Being Convicted of Violating the Sedition Act
September 18, 1918
http://www.marxists.org/archive/debs/works/1918/court.htm

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Farce
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May 22 2009 14:21

Is Gorky any good? This is some good political poetry:

You know, it's the old glass box at the—
At the gas station,
Where you're using those little things
Trying to pick up the prize,
And you can't find it.
It's—

And it's all these arms are going down in there,
And so you keep dropping it
And picking it up again and moving it,
But—

Some of you are probably too young to remember those—
Those glass boxes,
But—

But they used to have them
At all the gas stations
When I was a kid.

posi
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May 22 2009 15:12
Quote:
...

As now I hear it, rising round me from Shanghai,
And mingling with the distant mutter of guerrilla fighting,
The voice of Man: ' O teach me to outgrow my madness.

Ruffle the perfect manners of the frozen heart,
And once again compel it to be awkward and alive,
To all it suffered once a weeping witness.

Clear from the head the masses of impressive rubbish;
Rally the lost and trembling forces of the will,
Gather them up and let them loose upon the earth,

Till they construct at last a human justice,
The contribution of our star, within the shadow
Of which uplifting, loving, and constraining power
All other reasons may rejoice and operate.'

...

WH Auden. Not sure about the title and only fragments of it are online.

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back2front
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May 22 2009 16:07

"Visions of Poesy" (An Anthology of 20th century Anarchist Poetry) edited by Clifford Harper and published by Freedom Press for those interested in the subject...

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Tart
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Jun 28 2009 22:58

First Hugh McDiarmid was a Stalinist and an obscurist with his made up "Scots" but he writes beautifully and about real things- OK a hymn to Lenin (yes a hymn to Lenin it is called that) shows his dyed in the wool Stalinist nature of his thinking and his elitism comes through in some poems and bugs the fuck out me but there is enough there to keep me coming back to his work for over 25 years now.
Tom Leonard is well worth checking out-His 'weegie language is a bit of a barrier but if you keep going (or hear him talk it) it is so good it hurts. http://www.tomleonard.co.uk/main-publications/intimate-voices/the-six-oclock-news.html
this didnt copy right but anyway

this is thisix a clocknews thiman said nthi reasona talk wiaBBC accentiz coz yiwidny wahntmi ti talkaboot thitrooth wiavoice likwanna yooscruff. ifa toktabootthi troothlik wanna yooscruff yiwidny thingkit wuz troo.jist wanna yooscruff tokn.thirza rightway ti spellana right wayto tok it. thisis me tokn yirright way aspellin. thisis ma trooth.yooz doant nothi troothyirsellz cawzyi canny talkright. this isthe six a clocknyooz. belt up.

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Jenni
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Jun 29 2009 16:45

we did that poem at school smile my bristolian english teacher trying to read it in a glaswegian accent was amazing.

Boris Badenov
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Jun 29 2009 16:54
Quote:
this is thisix a clocknews thiman said nthi reasona talk wiaBBC accentiz coz yiwidny wahntmi ti talkaboot thitrooth wiavoice likwanna yooscruff. ifa toktabootthi troothlik wanna yooscruff yiwidny thingkit wuz troo.jist wanna yooscruff tokn.thirza rightway ti spellana right wayto tok it. thisis me tokn yirright way aspellin. thisis ma trooth.yooz doant nothi troothyirsellz cawzyi canny talkright. this isthe six a clocknyooz. belt up

I can understand about 70% of that. what's "yooscruff"?

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Farce
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Jun 29 2009 18:46
Vlad336 wrote:
Quote:
this is thisix a clocknews thiman said nthi reasona talk wiaBBC accentiz coz yiwidny wahntmi ti talkaboot thitrooth wiavoice likwanna yooscruff. ifa toktabootthi troothlik wanna yooscruff yiwidny thingkit wuz troo.jist wanna yooscruff tokn.thirza rightway ti spellana right wayto tok it. thisis me tokn yirright way aspellin. thisis ma trooth.yooz doant nothi troothyirsellz cawzyi canny talkright. this isthe six a clocknyooz. belt up

I can understand about 70% of that. what's "yooscruff"?

you scruff.

Boris Badenov
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Jun 29 2009 19:22

d'oh!

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Tart
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Jun 29 2009 20:44

http://leonarduk.com/tom/audio/6oclocklow.wav
this might help

John1
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Nov 27 2009 13:20

euro-communist / a gucci socialist

for a modern home and cheap electricity streamlined functional neat simplicity put yourself on the slum clearance list dial a dialectical materialist find out what your net potential is get married to an existentialist don't doubt your own identity dress down to a cool anonymity the pierre cardin line to infinity clothes to climb the meritocracy the new age of benevolent bureaucracy i like to visit all the big cities museums and municipal facilities i strive for critical ability i thrive on political activity i'm alive in a new society i arrive quickly quietly the car that i drive is the family variety roman catholic marxist leninist happily married to an eloquent feminist a lapsed atheist all my memories measure the multitude's deafening density psycho citizens are my enemies crypto nazis and their remedies keep the city silent as the cemetery's architechtural gothic immensity a new name on the less-than-kosher list the euro-communist / a gucci socialist

John Cooper Clarke (un-released)

If you like,

Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt part

Linton Kwesi Johnson's dub poetry is also fantastic which has various communist themes.

Samotnaf
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Nov 27 2009 13:42

iirc Linton Kwesi Johnson wrote very contemptuously in The Observer in early 1981, about 8 months after a big riot in Bristol in 1980, of "white anarchists" who'd written something up something fairly poetic on the walls of Brixton, "Bristol Today - Brixton Tomorrow!", describing them as fantasists or something similar. Just a few weeks later this fantasy became a reality when true poetry shook the streets of Brixton in the biggest mainland riot since I don't know when.

I prefer this poem, written late 70s:

Now Is The Winter Of Our Poetry

Knowing:

How to wait
and
How to negate
When to use tact
and
When to act
When to smile When to bite
When to shine in the pitch black night
When to use the transparent door
Of a pompous metaphor
When to mime and When to shout
When to rhyme and When to grate
When to use a nice neat line
And
When to

Break it up

When to scan
and When to swim against the tide of bourgeois poetic rhythm
When to stop writing poetry
And when to live it
(and for you, dear reader,
when are YOU
going to
stop merely reading and word-playing and falling in love with
a nice phrase on a piece of paper and pissing around with
opinions you never do anything with and never doing anything
but?)

It's not William Blake or Shelley or early Brecht, but...

John1
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Nov 28 2009 01:02

Who wrote it? Ian Bone? wink

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JoeMaguire
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Nov 28 2009 01:44

Still my favourite wink

Quote:
Some men, faint-hearted, ever seek
Our programme to retouch,
And will insist, whene’er they speak
That we demand too much.
’Tis passing strange, yet I declare
Such statements give me mirth,
For our demands most moderate are,
We only want the earth.

“Be moderate,” the trimmers cry,
Who dread the tyrants’ thunder.
“You ask too much and people By
From you aghast in wonder.”
’Tis passing strange, for I declare
Such statements give me mirth,
For our demands most moderate are,
We only want the earth.

Our masters all a godly crew,
Whose hearts throb for the poor,
Their sympathies assure us, too,
If our demands were fewer.
Most generous souls! But please observe,
What they enjoy from birth
Is all we ever had the nerve
To ask, that is, the earth.

The “labour fakir” full of guile,
Base doctrine ever preaches,
And whilst he bleeds the rank and file
Tame moderation teaches.
Yet, in despite, we’ll see the day
When, with sword in its girth,
Labour shall march in war array
To realize its own, the earth.

For labour long, with sighs and tears,
To its oppressors knelt.
But never yet, to aught save fears,
Did the heart of tyrant melt.
We need not kneel, our cause no dearth
Of loyal soldiers’ needs
And our victorious rallying cry
Shall be we want the earth!

farmer
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Nov 28 2009 03:06

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Alive as you and me
Said I, but Joe you're ten years dead
I never died said he.
I never died said he.

The Ballad of Joe Hill, by Alfred Hayes and Earl Robinson

Try Shelley and other of the Romantics, Julian Beck, Hugo Ball, Tonu Trobetsky and some would say Henry David Thoreau.

Samotnaf
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Nov 28 2009 07:16

Richard wrote:

Quote:
Who wrote it? Ian Bone?

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

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

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Nov 28 2009 08:13
Samotnaf wrote:
iirc Linton Kwesi Johnson wrote very contemptuously in The Observer in early 1981,...

I like LKJ. I like the sound and rhythm of his work, and when I met him, very briefly and casually, but often, I used to be his postman, he was a very pleasant man.

Devrim

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Nov 28 2009 09:59
Samotnaf wrote:
Poetry as a specialist activity is a product of the division of labour - I prefer Lautreamont's "Poetry must be made by all - not one"

Just read Maldoror, fucking amazing book. My edition also had his poems at the back, but they were just mental and not in a good way. I like LKJ as well.

Samotnaf
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Nov 28 2009 12:37

Farce wrote:

Quote:
Just read Maldoror, fucking amazing book. My edition also had his poems at the back, but they were just mental and not in a good way.

I don't think his book "Poesies" ('Poetry") are really poems at all; read some of it sometime ago but can't remember much - but not all of it is mental in a bad way. Debord's thesis 207 from Soc of the Spec is: "Ideas improve. The meaning of words participates in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an author's phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea, and replaces it with the right idea." I think all of this is plagiarised from Lautréamont's "Poesies", if I'm not mistaken.

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Nov 28 2009 17:02

Yeah, "plagiarism is necessary" is def a Lautreamont line. It's possible that he was doing something really clever that I just didn't appreciate, but it didn't read that well to me.

Wellclose Square
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Nov 28 2009 18:12

Seeing as he'd be 252 today, here's a little gem from William Blake:

The Chimney Sweeper

A little black thing among the snow:
Crying weep, weep, in notes of woe!
Where are thy father & mother? say?
They are both gone up to the church to pray.

Because I was happy upon the heath,
And smil'd among the winters snow:
They clothed me in the clothes of death,
And taught me to sing the notes of woe.

And because I am happy, & dance & sing,
They think they have done me no injury:
And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King
Who make up a heaven of our misery.

And now to crack open a bottle of London porter for a toast...

ernie
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Nov 29 2009 01:18

Ah Blake! beautiful but at the same time so bloody obscure in places, But always worth the read.
Farce, who is Maldoro? I have vaguely heard of him.
Agree with Devrim and others on LKJ

Boris Badenov
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Nov 30 2009 12:37
ernie wrote:
Ah Blake! beautiful but at the same time so bloody obscure in places, But always worth the read.
Farce, who is Maldoro? I have vaguely heard of him.
Agree with Devrim and others on LKJ

The Chants of Maldoror is a long proto-surrealist prose poem written by the Uruguayan-French poet Isidore Ducasse (aka the Count of Lautremont)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Chants_de_Maldoror
It doesn't really have anything to do with communism, but it is a wildly original work (esp. for its time) and challenges conventional morality.

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Nov 30 2009 13:41

Weird, I hadn't seen this thread but was thinking about Blake today as a result of listening to a Fall song that (mis)quotes his "I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by another Man's".

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Nov 30 2009 13:56

Tom Wintringham wrote some lovely stuff, if a little formally niave, but from the English public school 'war-poets' tradition.

Mayakovsky I suppose would be the classic avant-gardist-

Quote:
And so they say,
"the incident dissolved"
the love boat smashed up
on the dreary routine.
I'm through with live
and [we] should absolve
from mutual hurts, affliction and spleen. .

who was, incidentally, a big influence on a lot of the German visual artists that followed Dada.

It depends what you'd call poetry but a lot of English/Scottish folk songs come from the balladeering tradition, originally an accompanied spoken poem. I like a lot of the stuff Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger recorded with folkways for their lyrical content. Blast Against the Blackguards is a current favourite-

Quote:
We have always treasured freedom in this country, but there are forces working in our midst today and they plan to overthrow the systems natural status quo by agitating, demonstrating, striking, picketing and so we feel the time has come to make our declaration in defence of freedom, property and nation.

Some are free to own the fruits of others labours, some are free to do a job and tow the line. Some are free to rig the races, free to deal themselves the aces, some are free to soldier on whilst others trample on their faces. It's a matter of survival of the fittest. And the fittest are the ones who grab the quickest.

Have you ever paused a moment to consider all the burdens borne by those who own this land? Each stock market fluctuation complicates the situation- keeping track of all that money is a full time occupation. For a nation cannot be described as healthy unless it's wealth belongs to those who're wealthy. When the Front is busy fronting for the Tories, and the cops are busy backing up the front, you must understand their function is to strike without compunction all those aliens from Bangladesh, West Brom and Clapham Junction. And by beating up all those in opposition, they're defending our most glorious tradition.

When a hero rises up and digs his heels in, puts the boot in in that good ol' fashion way, when he starts on union-bashing, you can bet he'll get the backing of Keith Joseph and his cronies, no assistance will be lacking in our heroes personal fight for liberation against the malcontent opposing exploitation.

But don't imagine we're opposed to all trade unions. There are some we look on with a kindly eye. When a union is controlled by leaders who've been bought and sold then its a treasure beyond measure worth ten times its weight in gold for they can always be relied on in a crisis to sell their members out at bargain prices.

When the day arrives that you become redundant, don't get angry with the boss and call him names. You must try to be objective, get the matter in perspective, see yourself as a component, just a cog that is defective. And with fortitude, accept the situation- that the junkheap is your natural location.

They have always treasured freedom in this country, that's provided that the freedom is confined to the few who bleed the nation, and, while preaching moderation, sit there belching after feeding on the working population.

So when some fat cat talks of freedom on the telly- don't imagine he means you- not on your nelly!

Obviously the tempo of the accompaniment gives it something....

Lastly I'd echo the sentiments above who said Brecht. My personal hero, he developed the earlier, sometimes crude possibilities of avant-gardist poetry and shaped it into a more cohesive political-aesthetic practice, theatrically in verfremdungseffekt.
Oh his theatrical work I like The Causcasian Chalk Circle and The Threepenny Opera, but most of all The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (once played by Pacino apparently), an allegory for the rise of the Nazi Party which puts the blame full square at the door of capitalism-

Quote:
Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.
Samotnaf
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Nov 30 2009 16:08

I really like Blake's Songs of Experience (1794) which are not at all obscure, unlike some of his other stuff - eg
The Garden of Love:
I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen;
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut
And “Thou shalt not,” writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.

Or this, from The Human Abstract:

Pity would be no more,
If we did not make somebody Poor

and most of the other stuff from Songs of Experience.

Apparently he participated in the destruction of Newgate Prison during the Gordon Riots of 1780.

Although I quite like "Dirty Old Town" and some other songs by Ewan MacColl, we shouldn't forget that he was a Stalinist, who wrote dreadful sick rubbish like The Ballad of Ho Chi Minh (which is well-known in Vietnam) and The Ballad of Stalin ("Joe Stalin was a mighty man and a mighty man was he/ He led the Soviet people on the road to victory").

And it should be pointed out that Brecht was pretty much a CP fellow traveller, and owed his theatre in East Berlin to the support of the Stalinist state. It’s well known that when the steelworkers rose up in East Berlin in 1953 and went to Brecht’s theatre to ask for help in supporting them he refused. Fear had nothing to do with his failure to support the steelworkers: Brecht’s international reputation put him in the unique position of having nothing much to worry about. What’s not well known is what my dad (who'd known Brecht a bit because he'd been an actor in Berlin up until Hitler came to power, and continued to keep up contact, mainly with Brecht's wife, I think) told me about him: he felt so guilty and ashamed after the steelworkers were crushed by the tanks of the Stalinist leader, Ulbricht, that his health suffered, and it led to his death in 1956, at the age of 58. If nothing else, this shows how a being a professional specialist in the culture of 'proletarian politics' usually has nothing to do with its practice, and that those who consider ideas as something separate from real life risk are pretty useless when it comes to any genuine struggle against this world.His only response to the uprising was to write a brief poem after it was all over -The Solution - which, though written in verse form, I reproduce here as a statement,because the verse form adds nothing to it: “After the uprising of the 17th June, the Secretary of the Writers Union had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee stating that the people had forfeited the confidence of the government and could win it back only by redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier in that case for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?”. Neatly put, but too little too late, and no use in stemming that dreadful feeling of self-betrayal, betrayal of everything he’d apparently held dear to him, that must have torn and worn away at him until death.

And, by the way, I remember, in 1968, seeing "Arturo Ui" when I'd just turned 18, in East Berlin's 'Brecht Theater', and that quote at the end of the play:

Quote:
Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.

was used by the performers as a warning against the rise of the ultra-right in West Germany, at a time when Ulbricht's soldiers were still shooting the occasional escaper from the East. The pot calling the kettle black.

As for Mayakovsky - the above poem (which is usually translated as "the boat of love breaks up on the reefs of everyday life", but I suppose the translator above wanted to keep the rhyme) was his suicide note.
For an interesting take on him, see: http://libcom.org/library/occupation-art-gentrification
"By 1923, when the success of private industry was seriously threatening the state's profits from the sale of their own commodities, Mayakovsky, a poet, and Alexander Rodchenko, a Constructivist photographer, combined to form an 'advertisement constructor' team to promote state goods. So for the next two years Constructivists dedicated themselves to not only promoting Bolshevik economic policy as a progressive force in the formation of a new social order, but also acted as an advertising agency with the state as their major client."

Rum Lad
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Dec 12 2009 11:35
Samotnaf wrote:
Richard wrote:
Quote:
Who wrote it? Ian Bone?

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

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

Samotnaf
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Dec 13 2009 19:43

Edvard wrote:

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

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

I quite like what Ken Knabb said in 1970:

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

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

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

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

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

(Excerpts from "Ode on the Absence of Real Poetry Here This Afternoon - A Poem in Dialectical Prose")

Knabb read this out at an open poetry reading:

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

Boris Badenov
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Dec 13 2009 20:35
Samotnaf wrote:
and if they say something socially significant, almost invariably this could be better said in prose, without recourse to the vagueness that most poems express

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

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

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

Samotnaf
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Dec 14 2009 21:45

Vlad said:

Quote:
Making a utilitarian argument against poetry is ridiculous.

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

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

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

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

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

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