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Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Stephen Watts: Outline of Contribution to the Militant Poetics Conference

I don’t intend the below as an offensive against other possibilities but a possible widening of them.

(i)              Pasolini as a starting point (especially cf. Keston Sutherland’s outline) but also Nanni Balestrini & others. ‘Bifo’ Berardi’s essay ‘Pasolini In Tottenham’ & recent book ‘The Uprising : On Poetry & Finance’ of texts written during & after 2011. Ok, far more complex than this & only a ‘starting point’ & needing criticism : but vital presence.

(ii)            Cecilia Vicuña : ‘Split Temple : Selected Performances Of Cecilia Vicuña’ & Kirill Med-vedev ‘It’s No Good : Poems/Essays/Actions’ (both Ugly Duckling Presse NY & other books from same press) as examples of direction specifically involving performance & action. Many other practices of poets worldwide that could be ‘woven in’.

(iii)           Poetry of David Kessel : his work as radical poet & in mental health survival as crucial, yet little known to more academic radical poetries. Howard Mingham also (see review online of latter by Richard Owens). John Rety & Torriano as long-term activisms (strong links to Parliament Square protest) also uninvolved by more academic poetries. Poems of Sharon Morris (‘Gospel Oak’ 2013) & especially ‘Parliament Hill’ in that book. 

(iv)           Webs & strata of radical (leftist) experimental European poetry, both throughout C20th & also contemporary into C21st : also please to weave more into practice here. Also the range of radical non-English language poets living (in exile/otherwise) in London & UK. This argument I didn’t have time enough to elaborate during conference.

(v)             Essential that actions/writings/theory are open & expansive, peace-energised rather than violence-dictated (at least for me). This is complex & needs elaborating, but I’d have to encapsulate that ‘tenderness’ is a vital part/definition of revolution. That we need to be open to those we don’t agree with beyond our arguments. Concern that ‘militant’ poetry/actions may preclude such vital inclusions & warmths.

(vi)           Co-translation as a vigorous & exemplary example of the practice of ‘collective author-ship’ that was much discussed during the day. Again I didn’t have time to mention this.


(vii)          Example of Jack Hirschman. I recognise some negative/doubting reaction to parts of his contribution to 2012 conference : but remind that he was the person last year who did propose a ‘militant poets cell’ (even if people may not have agreed with his premises or taken him up on his suggestion). Jack also as astonishing exemplar of poet-translator-activist. Between 1971 & 2006 he published 62 book translations of radical & worker poets from Russian, Italian, French, Greek, Albanian, Spanish, Haitian Creole & many more books since. For some reason he didn’t himself elaborate on this last year (& I didn’t have time to even mention him this year) though we’d asked him to.

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