January 11th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Historical rhetoric of the left is, as a rule, a thousand times better than the current stuff. Even when it’s basically content-free. Jim Cannon, via Ken MacLeod

That is the realistic perspective of our great movement. We ourselves are not privileged to live in the socialist society of the future, which Jack London, in his far-reaching aspiration, called the Golden Future. It is our destiny, here and now, to live in the time of the decay and death agony of capitalism. It is our task to wade through the blood and filth of this outmoded, dying system. Our mission is to clear it away. That is our struggle, our law of life.

The ultimate weapon

April 15th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Last night, to a reading by Catherine Hales. [a few of her poems — some of which she read — are online here, here, here, and here.

Back, and unsure about the whole enterprise. Hales seems to be pretty good at what she does — as far as I can tell, the poems work pretty well on her own terms, and the reading went much more smoothly than I would have expected.

But it makes me realise just how adrift I am when it comes to poetry. I go to readings from time to time, hoping to find something that will describe, explain or enrich the world. Instead I just end up feeling baffled, stupid, underread, and resentful about the entire enterprise.

Partly, this comes down to my old grumble that poetry would be much improved by footnotes. When I don’t understand the origin of a quotation, or the significance of an allusion, entire sections devolve towards being just patterns of meaningless words. There’s little way to know what you’re missing; just a requirement that you spend a lifetime reading the language whose fragments are regurgitated into the poetry. This I won’t do, any more than I’m willing to inhale the canon of Star Wars and Doctor Who so I can follow in-jokes on Livejournal.

It’s a different feeling of stupidity to what comes from not understanding science. There, every moment of ignorance has a solution; understanding some area is mainly just a matter of reading textbooks and papers until it makes sense. Maybe it’ll take more time than I’m willing to put in, but I always know that the answer is out there.

Whereas, poetry? [I mean, this kind of poetry, academic poetry. Poetry that gets listened to by non-poets is a different matter] I have the sense that the only way to understand it is through slow cultural acclimatisation, spending years bouncing around the English department of some anglophone university. And I have plenty of ways to waste my life already, without going down that route.

This shouldn’t irritate me as much as it does; I should be able to accept that poetry is just an enclosed, self-referential world, that I can amicably sidestep in the same way I do Warcraft players. But I can’t; I’m somehow still hooked by the cultural status, by the feeling that I *should* be able to grok poetry, by the wariness that people are doing things with words that I can’t even work out how to comprehend.

The saving grace is the knowledge that, even if I did acquire understanding, perhaps through years of rigorous training in some remote poetry-temple, it still wouldn’t do me any good. As CH describes her work:

‘Look in vain for (linear) narrative, for anecdote, for epiphanies, for messages, for making-the world-a-better-place: the world is a mess and language is messy and the world is language and any attempt to tidy it up with poetry is falsification. There is no utopian vision…’

But what is the use of a book (or anything else, for that matter), without epiphanies and making the world a better place? I’m well aware of the messiness and meaninglessness of the world; the challenge is to tie it into some kind of plausible structure, to give yourself a reason to carry on living. Catherine Hales, by her own aims, isn’t going to do that.

So, in the end, I turn back to rabble-rousing slam poetry. Not only is it easier to understand, but it hints at the possibility of a life not based on continual self-doubt and self-examination, where it is possible to change the world rather than just passively complaining about it. I prefer my poetry weaponized:)

January 2nd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink


A lot went wrong and my own sorry generation are largely culpable. Smug, lazy and intellectually self-satisfied; historically uneducated and therefore fixated on superficial understandings and re-stagings of the past; unwilling to risk seriousness, or rather, mistaking creative conservatism and po-faced self-absorption for seriousness; lacking sex, glamour, rage, resentment, a death drive, or anything vaguely fucking resembling a reason to make a mark upon the world – you, my peers, are possibly the most boring lot of Westerners since those born ‘tween the World Wars grew themselves up on Patty Boone and Georgia Gibbs.

Couldn’t agree more.

Brecht: if sharks were men

December 28th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Linked, because it has slipped my mind for almost a year, and because it’s highly entertaining (if a little obvious). If sharks were men:

There would, of course, also be schools in the big boxes. In these schools the little fish would learn how to swim into the sharks’ jaws. They would need to know geography, for example, so that they could find the big sharks, who lie idly around somewhere. The principal subject would, of course, be the moral education of the little fish. They would be taught that it would be the best and most beautiful thing in the world if a little fish sacrificed itself cheerfully…

December 20th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Shocked to see some fire in the Independent:

The only part of this deal that anyone sane came close to welcoming was the $100bn global climate fund, but it’s now apparent that even this is largely made up of existing budgets, with no indication of how new money will be raised and distributed so that poorer countries can go green and adapt to climate change.

By Joss Garman, who is apparently involved in Greenpeace and in Plane Stupid. I like him!

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