Awp 2015 - presentation

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I am a black poet who will not remain silentwhile this nation murders black people.I have a right to be angry.#blackpoetsspeakout

Luxury, then, is a way of being ignorant, comfortablyAn approach to the open marketof least information. Where theoriescan thrive, under heavy tarpaulinswithout being cracked by ideas.

-- Amiri Baraka, Poet +

:: INTRO ::

Here I continue the conversation.I hope youll join when were finished.Ill present some ideas that have sustained me and my ongoing reimagination of political poetry and meet/precede them with short poems from my finishing collection, Consequences of the Laws of Thermodynamics.

Once were through, these poems are yours, whoever you are who comes to choose one.

It is not an abstract, distanced issue out there that just affects all those other unfortunate people. Racism begins with you and me, here and now, and consists in our tendency to try to eradicate each others singularity through stereotyped conceptualization.

Adrian Piper, Artist + Philosopher

Third Law

Each September, we suck coffee down like arsenic.

Tony vanishes through the annex bowel. Again.

Chain split vowels give me away like television.

Each caf blazes to approximate ash.

Teevees rush the streets on their own two feet.

Air pockets meet hush meet crush meet moan.

We eat our phones.

Of course there is a real need for thought and language momentarily to focus attention on one thing or another as the occasion demands. But when each such thing is regarded as separately existent and essentially independent of the broader context of the whole in which it has its origin, its sustenance, and its ultimate dissolution, then one is no longer merely focusing attention, but, rather one is engaged in breaking the field of awareness into disjointed parts, whose deep unity can no longer be perceived.

David Bohm, Physicist + Theorist

Seventh of all. The sheer scale of the misanthropocene. Our minds feel small and inert. Once every fragment seemed to bear within it the whole. Now the whole being too large for the mind to see stands before us always as a fragment.

Juliana Spahr & Joshua Clover, Poets +

Right and Title

if you aint gon get down then what you come here for?

what they bring your ass up in here for if you aint gontear shit up? if you wasnt just as happy to be here as you was

to come then what you gon do, simple motherfucker? the salve trade

Fred Moten, Poet +

You think Ill be the dark sky so you can be the star? Ill eat you whole.

Warsan Shire, Poet +


I step from the airplane. My hair melts dead air. I walk quickly: click-clunk, click-clunk, click-clunk. Barbara Jordan, bronze and sober, glasses poised, the last like myself Ill see for three more days and three more days forever. Outside I slow the click-clunk to a three-sound crawl: click-clickclunk. Click-clickclunk. I am a woolly mammoth waiting at the cab stand. I am a woolly mammoth stuffed into a cab. I bear the long silence of my extinction through the rear view. My head on the back seat, horns akimbo, I melt dead air. Humans shoulder blame for the loss of large mammals like me, a new study finds. The cabbie is my cousin. My cousin carts my husk to my diorama. The radio says: "The tide is high. The radio says: I'm gonna be your number one."

There is a type of political poetry that seeks not so much to marshal forces but to dramatize societys forces as they are marshaled, to reveal through a manner of approach, the effective ramifications of living-in-the-world.

Stu Watson, Poet +

Zeroth Law

Brother I dont either understand this skipscrapple world

these slick bubble cars zip feverish down rushes of notcorn of notbeets

notcabbage and the land and the land

you should know, man, nothing grows down here anymore except

walloped wishes and their gouged out oil cans. Where notbloodroot spans us

sit towers land mined in the sand.They twist us. They tornado us. No

Do spring breezes bring the scent of smelt?

Remember? Even on strike our mother gathered smelt by gross fingery bagfuls

and fried them whole. I wish I knew how she did it. It was almost enough.

It was a difficult and painful process of sorting out my own dislocation, understanding how my own displacement has been translated by others and represented in the official narratives of power. So I understood and still understand my translation and writing work as a decolonizing act.

Don Mee Choi, Poet + Translator +

second law

Who was warned about these things:the neverhush, the maddening chafe sliding down a reddened bridge, printdisappearing disappearing?

Who was told how to brook it?The houndstooth stench of olding.That time just runs itself out. Thatwe Sisyphus ourselves to glasses, hobble wreckage down stair after bricky stair.

That once we leave homeits gaseous oventhat once we walk the same slow steps as our hide-and-seek sun that once we face our anti-lovers anti-gaze: bright, open, later, now eyes smolderedcoats swept open to flash our own scarred bellies our own hot hands ablaze with spent matches with burnt-out love

Who remembers love?

How it loosed its jaw to our kisses?How it unhinged us? How it tried us

like so many keys like so many rusted locks? How it missed its target despite its kicking? How maybe its force could kill us?

Without it whats left day after dayto trundle our legs? Whats left to pushbreath ragged and torn from our lungs?

Who was warnedhow these solar winds would leave usbrown and bruised as apples over- -ripe host and blowsy seed dis-appearing disappearing?

Were you?

Me too.

Poetry as well implies community and relationship but the question I ask is: Is it more accurate to say that poetry generates community and relationships. Is, perhaps, its greatest social function its apparent lack of social function?

M. NourbeSe Philip, Poet +

A Small Matter of Engineering

The old water tower once storedevery drop we lived on. Its walls

dark-capped brick beige as supermarket pantyhose still rise

erect astride the main drag where our road splits between

opposing camps. On this side everything gone as long as anyone

remembers and winter still cold as its ever been. On the other side?

Listen. Youve always had the broadest swath of the river, friend. Thing is: were

still here. Whatever else youve got leftwelllet us stay parched. Ghead, I dare you:

:: Thank You ::