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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Summer Program


The Next Objectivists is a free, open-to-the-public poetry workshop dedicated to the study & reproduction of the outsidereal. We take this term from the “Black Mountain” poet Edward Dorn & our name from the second generation modernist poets associated with The Objectivist Press. Although writers associated with the Objectivists and Black Mountain “schools” (Bunting, Creeley, H.D., Niedecker, Pound, Reznikoff, Williams, Zukofsky to name only those we've already studied) are prominent stars in our constellation, our objective is not to reproduce any particular style, mode or tradition, but instead to draw on many different ways of doing and making in order to isolate those practices of writing & publishing & above all those poetic effects which lead us out of the neoliberal present & the future it imagines.

The globalization of capital promises a precarious scramble across waste lands and perilously long lines at the checkpoints for the many, while offering the claustrophobic “plugged in for survival” interconnection of a gated community to the few. Very well. We have no illusions about the present. We see where this is headed. What's the point of scrambling to get another book onto your c.v. if they're not reading you in Gaza? Or to get at it from a slightly different vector—poetry written in the U.S. today that shows no palpable response to the fact of the Afghanistan-Iraq war (now the longest in official national history, so don't tell us you were just about to get around to it) is not serious to begin with. Are we to leave it to the soldiers alone to produce poetry in response to the war? Faced with unending war, unending downsizing, unwanted acceleration & a non-stop oil geyser in the gulf (the other gulf), poets must choose. Some will make a private refuge of their words, a fenced-off preserve of the literary imagination at its most rarefied (the somber & gossip-filled corridors of the tasteful). Others will insist that some outside to the present is necessary & that some other future is possible.

The new terms of the struggle are those of “privatization” and enclosure for a global elite—the owners of property and inheritors of national “democratic” circuitry of authority and force—and the preservation of “the commons” for the rest of us, who compose, in our radical heterogeneity, what Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri name the “multitude.” The multitude are the global poor, those for whom debt and death are the rewards of labor (when you can get it) and to whom democracy appears as governance imposed by violence. Between these antagonistic forces the remains of the world remain, and the future will be determined by whether or not we will privatize the commons and whatever other elements of nationalized public culture remain from the various modern projects of socialization. Much has been lost already (and the oil has only begun to spill). “And yet,” as Hardt & Negri write, “so much of our world is common, open to access of all and developed through active participation. Language, for example, like affects and gestures, is for the most part common, and indeed if language were made either private or public . . . than language would lose its power of expressions, creativity, and communication.”

The Next Objectivists defend this comonwealth. We seek the poetry of the multitude, the poetry that tears away from the rule of singularity proposed by elites. The multitude is that “more-than-one” which resists the totalizing organization of the global downsizers and contract revisers, the barrier builders & security contractors of the cultural pollution lobby. The texts we read & topics we explore offer glimpses of many different kinds of resistance to the colonization of the imagination.

We are absolutely not avant garde! We are not seeking to be ahead of anything! In a moment of perpetual crisis, when “shock doctrine” capitalism rationalizes necropolitics and a 24/7 “echo chamber” of the televisual blogosphere translates everything that happens into either farce or satire on an hourly basis, who would want to be out in front? We like bicycles, but we are not “yellow jersey” types! The Next Objectivists resist the speed up! We meet to slow time down. We don't want to get ahead, we want to get away from the present predicament & perhaps even find a few shady places along the way where we can all get along. Migration, then, and a trying again—but also rootedness—a refusal to leave the common ground, made more precious than ever by its erosion, behind. We would be a bulwark, a defense; not a wall but a ballast, a refusal to float away on the tidy fashions of the day.

As America celebrates another Independence Day, the B. P. oil well has been more or less successfully converted into a Lacanian “stain.” It background now, turned on its side to become another instance of the thing we cease to notice, enveloped into a new kind of normal. A register of the real which we'd rather would go away. With this in mind, the Next Objectivists announce a three-month long seminar on dreams.

During the months of July, August & September we'll be investigating the relationship between the poem & the dream. We maintain that dreaming occurs not only in our heads at night but across a billion screens of televisual reality each day. We will consider the poem as an objectification of dreams, and will write collective dreams, swap each others' dreams.

Our summer schedule of meetings will be:

8 July 22 July
19 August 26 August
9 September 23 September

Participants at these meetings are asked to bring:

  • a poem by someone else about a dream or dreaming
  • an account, in any genre or medium, of a dream you remember

We will discuss these poems, swamp dreams, and write together. All meetings begin promptly at 7:00 at the Mess Hall in Rogers Park.

As we enter the end of the oil age the basic resources of economic production have transformed to include not only fuels for industry, but water, food & clean air. The reproduction of life itself has become the predominant mode of capitalization. We see this also in the privatization of the commons which is language, information, affect, gesture, figuration. In a regime of production dominated by affective labor, poetry is a terrain of global struggle as it has never been before. Nothing less than a common imagination of worldly life is at stake. In the downsizing “first world,” educational apartheid and the emergence of “flexible” or temp labor at the highest levels of the workforce produces an increasingly enclosed academic system of part-time workers. Too often, aspiring writers respond to this climate by adopting an individualistic notion of writing and Candide-like optimism that results in a new phenomenon: cultural capital debt. We mortgage the possibility of future “success” (meaning what? a publishing deal or job offer well paying enough to wipe out years of education-based loans and a decade or more of credit card debt? Do you really think your post-Langauge poetry is going to get you onto the Oprah book club list?), creating a deficit of unrealized potential for each publication, each teaching gig, each new blog. With this kind of social valued attached to production from the very initial stages, the practice of writing itself becomes a form of personal entrepreneurship. Increasingly, each poet's “voice” is registered as a brand, each mode of writing treated as a trademark protected invention of the individual—who appears a “genius” to his friends and “lucky in the lottery” to the rest.

The Next Objectivists refuse to participate. Facing an increasingly privatized, individualized and apoloticized (yet always already “experimental” and “progressive”) field of poetry, we seek the actual and total death of the author. Until now the “author” as authority and autonomous creator has only been “dead” in theory, never in practice. Indeed, many of the previous generation's critics and poets have proclaimed the death of the author so successfully that we all know them by name! A poetics based on the deconstruction of predominant economic sensibilities has become capitalized upon in turn.

We must generate the language of a new kind of subjectivity—the language of the multitude. The theoretical discarding of authorship must be replaced by an actual anonymity. The poetry of the present—the “new hybridity”—must be turned over yet again, must become mulch for a new kind of blossoming. William Carlos Williams called it “loam.” At the core of his 1948 lecture, “The Poem as a Field of Action” remains a yet unrealized project: the total democratization of poetry:

We seek profusion, the Mass—heterogeneous—ill-assorted—quite breathless—grasping at all kinds of things— . . .

If any one man's work lacks the distinction to be expected from the finished artist, we might well think of the profusion of a Rabelais—as against a limited output. It is as though for the moment we should be profuse, we Americans; we need to build up amass, a conglomerate maybe . . .

Now when Mr. Eliot came along he had a choice: 1. Join the crowd, adding his blackbird's voice to the flock, contributing to the conglomerate . . . or 2. To go where there was already a mass of more ready distinction (to turn his back on the first) . . .

Stop a minute to emphasize our own position: It is not that of Mr. Eliot. We are making a modern bolus: That is our somewhat undistinguished burden; profusion, as, we must add in all fairness, against his distinction. . . .

The same choice is presented to us today, with consequences that are much larger than the egoism that concerns Williams. A new bolus—a multitude of anonymous heterogeneous polyglot poetries large enough to overwhelm the distinction industry is our project.

Through the summer, the Next Objectivists stage the first step in this new process at a series of public transcription events. Join us and help us to type the multitude into being! We encourage YOU to help us make poetry out of the idiom in order to take poetry away from the profiteers!

Our typewriters will be set up at the following locations:

Saturday 17 July
Red Rover Reading Series
“Poetics of the Multitude”

Friday 23 July – Sunday 25 July
Milwauke Avenue Arts Festival

Saturday 31 July – Sunday 1 August
Printers Ball

Saturday 21 August – Sunday 22 August
Glenwood Avenue Arts Festival

Join us! You may already be a Next Objectivist!

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