In Revelations the angel commands John the Divine Rise and measure! And thus begins
a prophecy a litany of calculations 40 and 2 months 2 witnesses 200 and 3-score days
2 olive trees 2 candlesticks in a singe of data John like a physicist scavenges for God 3.5 days,
4 and 20 elders, 12 stars, for the prophets to measure is to signify and separate “Rise and measure
the temple of God” they told him “but do not measure the court outside” something or some-1
is always left out 7 heads, 10 horns, 7 crowns accounting is frequently an exercise of power
(we ticker we financial officer) as in the story of the Samurai who falsely accuses his servant
Okiku of stealing 1 of his 10 delft plates his words spreadsheet she inventories 1 2 3 must be
4 5 6 mistaken 7 8 9 counts again her master will spare her if she fucks him an equation
she refuses he throws her down a well a well is a chamber of calculations an ear
a labyrinth of bone a darkness so seldom our habitat whence Okiku endlessly counts 1 2
my genre is cross-cultural 3 4 epic ticker 5 6 and genres fall 7 8 from office buildings 9
Okiku screams like mid-level managers in the 1930s equations spool through us pool storm
drains confirm the season in Revelations the angel never specifies standard or index or weather
a portfolio of catastrophe spirals round in times of stress as before a fall or angel or robbery
we see in hyper-reality innumerable pixels (my god my 401K my billfold) at gunpoint
in the backseat of my airport taxi my epic is national precarity the poet said his mind burned
with numbers—arithmomania—John’s angel commanded Measure! gunman barked Give me
your wallet or I’ll fucking kill you! to submit to another’s accounting is to surrender is to actuary
in a taxi where I hand over my money (so financial adviser so market crashed) not counting
Susan Briante is the author of Pioneers in the Study of Motion (2007) and Utopia Minus (2011). For her forthcoming collection, The Market Wonders, Briante started recording the closing number of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. She let those numbers randomly guide her to texts: plugging them into Project Gutenberg, Bartlett’s quotations, online versions of Paradise Lost and Leaves of Grass as well as various search engines. She allowed those texts to exert their influence over a series of poems (sometimes very directly, sometimes more subtly) much in the same way the closing number of the Dow exerts an influence over our lives.
“The word plasticity thus unfolds its meaning between sculptural molding and deflagration, which is to say explosion. From this perspective, to talk about the plasticity of the brain means to see in not only the creation of form but also an agency of disobedience to every constituted form, a refusal to submit to a model”
-Catherine Malabou, “What Should We Do with Our Brain”
Given the cultural, economic, and political realities of our time, specifically the failure of a Globalized Capitalist structure to address our most pressing existential issues, I find it difficult to reconcile my art practice as a painter and image-maker to these realities. How do you create an image that can stand against the overwhelming flow of images and market fetishization that permeates our culture? How can an image embody the nuance and emotion associated with the complexities that surround things like flowers, which might arrive as a very sincere gesture of kindness and beauty, yet also produce a nagging discomfort against the backdrop of an increasingly visible precarity and concerns about labor conditions and ecological impacts.
I want to believe that ideas originate in art and creativity and that, it follows, to embrace creative joy and expression is an act of defiance and an act of liberty that has the potential to serve as a model for resistance and change.
Appropriating the reductive grid of American Minimal and Conceptual painting, while referencing objects, places, and patterns from everyday, I open myself up to possibilities that arise through destruction of these forms. Fracturing, reflecting, negating, and refining, I am aiming for a raw simplicity and directness that is in the moment and informed through memory. In the most successful pieces, a tension is created though the attempt to insert personal and quotidian references that mark lived experience. The viewer is made aware of the delicate balance of his or her reading of the oscillation between the formal properties of the work and personal reverie.
“The conversation . . . about politics and poetry has become so predictable that it is mostly a reflex down an algorithm already preset and pre-scripted. You want to talk about political poetry? Show me new questions about political poetry and I’ll show a political poem.”
“What happens if we don’t territory?!”
—Danielle Pafunda and Reagan Louise
According to poet Todd Fredson, Issue 11 of Matter, on the poetics of intervention, seeks to explore what possibilities exist for poetry (in its most expansive sense) to challenge the neoliberal, Imperial project that “West” has come to signify.
The following writers—Joyelle McSweeney, Bhanu Kapil, Sarah Vap, Fady Joudah, Khadijah Queen, and others—answer, elliptically, the questions posed by Fredson at the outset: is this project most adequately contested by those not yet swallowed in it, by “fringe” literature, as Ivorian poet Tanella Boni identifies such production that is marginalized in the marketplace? Do interventions such as genre defiance (think avant-gardists) or the inclusion of more voices (think translation) provide resistance, or are these simply gestures that ultimately demonstrate the appropriating efficiency of the global “free market” structure?
If global capitalism is characterized by smooth, uninterrupted elisions of power, repression of resistance, corporate and terroristic takeovers, and historical revisionings according to said colonial and imperial forces, are local expressions of precarity, as Fredson asks, bound to become complicit in the commodifying instinct? According to Joudah “ . . . subjectivity has become posture and algorithm today, a Houdini act, but one that does not honor its illusory roots and goes on to believe its own lies. Still this return of poetry to a public shared realm, where ‘originality’ and ‘canon’ are questioned, is also troubled with reproduction. It’s inescapable.”
As inescapable, say, as the cultural construct of “the commons.” Danielle Pafunda and Reagan Louise provide an epistolary commentary on the “commodifying instinct” as it relates to the desire not just to be, but have, in the domestic and transnational sense, from their book Bon Aire exploring kinship, radical love, polyamory, the couple state, sadness, security, and hilarity: “That/this/ he/she/it/I is mine,” from land, to human capital, intellectual property, to spouses, to one’s own corporeal body: “One of the ways in which nations, peoples, households, individuals secure themselves is through territory. Westward expansion, Stand Your Ground, the Soviet block, block parties, neighborhood watch, the high ground, walls, border patrol, wedding bands. This is the subprime myth of home ownership.”
A movement away from incorporation and consumption—struggle, intersectionality; the frissions of grassroots and guerilla movements; and the irreplaceable texture of locality, regionality, and place—is necessarily troubled, as well (a nostalgia or need for pre-foundational stability can easily become a fugue or post-traumatic state of mourning).
Pleasure is a component of aesthetics, something we can even demand of art, according to Stevens, but what happens when our desire to be pleased—to say nothing of having our consciences eased and critical thinking obliterated by cheap gaffs, empty academic syllogisms, and pop culture soma—overrides our desire to engage, reflect, remember, as in individual or from within the autonomic nervous system of world body/mind?
“Were we charnel ground attendants in — a previous — life?
Were we loved? Did we die next to the water?”
(Bhanul Kapil, “Mutations and Deletions: Ban”)
In an age of large-scale involutions of sense, authority, and structure, when the Platonic charioteers are driven by the horses (or even, perhaps, in postmodernism, by the chariot itself), it is difficult to truly understand into what, or from what, paradigm, we write, think, see. And, if there exists today no outside to capital, our task becomes that of creating an “outside” (or fractional other) to the prison house of language beyond even Derrida, Lacan, Kristeva, and other metaphors for double-consciousness (or double-speak), and to live and create within a “field of action,” or retain the aptitude, however bleak, for what Kapil haltingly calls “The courage./ To be alone. As an artist. To have the courage./ This kind of courage./ Despite./ Or within./ Communal aims.”
If a poetics exists that can confront the consequences of neoliberal expansion, globalized English, and the attempted graft of democratic ideals (Constitutional law and free-market principles) onto the world, it would necessitate the creation of a language in conversation with that of privilege and singularity, the monstrous One obliterating the differences of the many—a language whose emotional truth is understood by those who speak it, or believe that the narratives other people tell us about our humanity and history is not always “true,” as a constative utterance, or context-less, as a performative, nor, in the final frame, capable of defining who, or what, we are.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Reading Dante: Alabama, 1950s
- At the Bessemer Flea Market
- At the Scrub Board
- At the Junction of U.S. 82 and Alabama 25 & 219
- Pandemic, Profits
- Don’t Pet the Police Dog
“We Have Left Our Broken Home in Ecstasy”— (Harryman/Hejinian)
after Harry Gamboa, Jr.’s “Ismania” (1987)
“We begin with the free market system in which art is the commodity that is subject to the forces of supply and demand…Money is at the root of all eventualities…”
–Harry Gamboa, Jr.
Mickey “Give Me the Money” Mouse: “I don’t get it: what does neoliberalism have to do with you so-called ‘colon-ized’ minorities?”
Ismaniac: “The modern/colonial world emerged from particular nations and their colonizing of particular lands (for theorist Walter Mignolo, modernity and colonialism historically go hand in hand). This early stage of modernity was transformed into global conquest and design at a particular moment in history.
The grand narratives (what he calls macro-narratives) of Christianity, secular enlightenment all occurred during particular moments of history in the midst of colonialism. These macro-narratives totalizing global history were formulated from the localized/particular perspective of, and this is key for Mignolo, those colonizing nation-states. Moreover, he locates the invention of the later macro-narratives of neo-liberal capitalism and, its contrary ideology, Marxism, in those nation-states in the midst of colonization. He writes, concerning capitalism and Marxism, “both models were put in place at the height of nation-state building in Europe, and some of these nation-states (England, France, and Germany) were at the same time involved in the second-wave of colonial expansion”. The particular European perspective these macro-narratives bear on each other, in Mignolo’s critique, comes from a space that does not account for those colonized peoples whose epistemologies and lives are fundamentally Other. After all, “What do you do with Marx if you come from the perspective of the history and experiences of Indigenous populations in the Americas or Afro-Caribbean French or British (ex) colonies?”.
Karl “the Conundrum” Marx: “Are you talking about me? What about me? I didn’t get a Valentines!”
Ismaniac: “And you aren’t going to get one! Remember, the indigenous populations experience of commodity production is experientially different from the European proletariat. The indigenous communities experienced/suffered modernity from wholly different political, economic, ontological and epistemological perspectives. Mignolo’s rhetorical question is apt. He states:
You need to understand and imagine possible futures beyond the proletariat experiences of capitalism since victims of capitalistic exploitations were also the Indigenous and African slave, it was and is not the same as the experience of the European workers in the European factories.
The communities exploited in the colonized periphery experienced modernity from wholly unique perspectives than those who suffered in Europe. Many, in some cases most, of the colonized peoples of Africa and the Americas saw their peoples, societies, and histories completely eliminated by the colonizers. This is vastly different from the experience of a proletariat in London at the rise of the industrial revolution. In Mignolo’s decolonial critical perspective there is theoretical deficiency in Marxism in its inability to account for the epistemologies of the colonized.
Mickey “The Conceptual” Mouse: “Decolonial-Schmalonial…The way you talk, you never gonna get the cheese…money ain’t got nothing to do with poetry and language.”
Ismaniac: “Mickey, wake up, Marc Shell in Money, Language, and Thought, an exhaustive study of the interaction of linguistic and economic production, states, “the apparently diabolical interplay of money and mere writing [comes] to a point where the two become confused [and] involves a general ideological development: the tendency of paper money to distort our ‘natural’ understanding of the relationship between symbols and things” (7). This distortion of the “natural” understanding between symbols and things should sound vaguely familiar to even the most basic of post-structural mice.
Harry “the Prophet” Gamboa, Jr.: “I’m certain that it’s the Isms that’s causing all these problems. The Ism makes it too definite, locking it into space and time”
Ismaniac: “The Ism is the business of the critic. The poem, in and on and of the other hand, acts as the signature of a particular historical moment. The poem achieves this through its emphatic focus on the particular. Adorno writes, “the collective undercurrent in the lyric surfaces in the most diverse places:…as the ferment of the individual expression and then…as an anticipation of a situation that transcends mere individuality in a positive way”. The focus on the particular, through this individuality of the lyric, raises the lyric above individual expression into the realm of (1) positing utopian vision and (2) being the signature marking and critiquing the particular inequities of its epoch.
Mickey “I’m the Mac” Mouse: “That’s just a bunch of fancy talk getting all daffy! Keep your utopia, Cube had it right “Gangsta, Gangsta”: ‘life ain’t nothing but bitches and money!”
Ismaniac: “Mickey, you sexist rat, listen up: literature, in its dissembling of the writing subject, also communicates something consequential about the physical subject within their world. The subject, the writer or “speaker,” communicates their conception of how they, as beings in the world, organize their sensibility. The poem’s singularity communicates its formal conceits/constraints, the language in which it is written, the semantic content alongside its singular notion of community. These posit not only the singularity of the creating individual but, in structuring such a view, also organize how that creating individual communicates to the reader. In other words, the poem is a communal event, an event structured out of particular geopolitical sensibilities. You gotta be conscious that even poems colonize!”
Mickey: “I think you’ve ruptured my colon.”
–J. Michael Martinez received the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of
American Poets and he is a Ph.D. Candidate in Literature at the University of
Colorado at Boulder. His latest book, from the University of Arizona Press, is “In
the Garden of the Bridehouse.” He is the Poetry Editor of NOEMI Press and his
poetry has been anthologized in Ahsahta Press’ “The Arcadia Project: North
American Postmodern Pastoral,” Rescue Press’s “The New Census: 40
American Poets,” and Counterpath Press’ “Angels of the Americlypse: New
 Ibid, Pp. 8.
 Ibid, Pp. 9.
 Ibid, Pp. 9.
 Mignolo takes issue with the conception of the postcolonial for he finds a new manifestation of colonial ideology (what he calls the “coloniality of power”) in neo-liberal capitalism; he writes, “it is the market that is becoming the global design of a new form of colonialism, a global coloniality, that is being analyzed as ‘the network society’ (Castells), ‘globalcentrism’ (Coronil), and ‘Empire’ (Hardt and Negri) (Delgado 8).
 Gamboa, Jr., Harry. Urban Exile. ED Chon A. Noriega. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1998, pp. 253
 Adorno, Theodor. Notes to Literature. Columbia University Press, NY, 1991, Pp. 46
The whole country was ravaged by a broken economy in the 1930s. President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, designed to bring relief to the poor, provided only measured assistance to black farmers. Beginning in 1933, Roosevelt’s Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) made subsidy payments available to large Southern farms. However these subsidies were siphoned off by white landowners who never got around to distributing disbursements among their sharecroppers and tenants.
Also in 1933, Roosevelt created the $500 million Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) to help poor, rural Americans. Black farmers applied for relief but did not receive it as often as whites. In June 1934, for example, there were 84 applications from blacks and 49 from whites. The FERA accepted 24, all from white farmers. The average total relief for whites was $19.51 and for blacks, $15.17. Preferential treatment of white farmers was endemic throughout the South; the rationale was that blacks could survive on less.
In 1935, in response to the unfair practices of the AAA and FERA, black and white tenant farmers and sharecroppers joined forces to form the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, which, at its height, numbered could tolerate neither unions nor cooperation between poor whites and blacks, targeted the group with violence and divisive tactics that stirred up old racial prejudices among members.
Finally, in a small window of opportunity from 1937-1942, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) was created with one-fifth of AAA’s holdings, to make loans to tenant farmers . This was the first widespread government assistance to black farmers since the Freedmen’s Bureau during Reconstruction. It allowed thousands of blacks , like Charlene Gilbert’s grandfather Fred Mathis, to purchase small farms . GrpwLegal Loopholes For
widespread widespread every acre gained by black farmers under FSA, thousands more were lost to a new threat – heir and property laws – as blacks continued to vacate the South in the 1940s and 50s. Many black landowners chose not to leave wills , so ownership of hard-earned property was often distributed among generations of family members no longer living on the land . Lawyers, large landowners and developers used tax and property laws as their new weapon to return black land to white control. If one portion, then the sale of entire property could be forced , since it had not been legally apportioned to the other heirs.
This practice has continued to the present.
Khadijah Queen is the author of Conduit (Black Goat/Akashic Books 2008), Black Peculiar (Noemi Press 2011), and Fearful Beloved, due out from Argos Books in fall 2015. Her chapbooks include I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On (Sibling Rivalry 2013) and Exercises in Painting (Bloof Books 2016). Individual poems and prose appear or are forthcoming in Fence, jubilat, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Memoir, Tupelo Quarterly and widely elsewhere. She is the winner of the 2014 Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women Performance Writers for her verse play Non-Sequitur, with full production to be staged by NYC theater company The Relationship in late 2015. Visit her website: khadijahqueen.com.
— for Kate Zambreno
On January 6th, 2015, Nightboat Books published a set of notes – rough,
overlapping arcs – that constituted: Ban. A durational or smashed work,
something resembling a crumpled-up bit of aluminium foil. A novel in
another form: Ban en Banlieue. And if the novel is the cosmopolitan
unit, the thing that can be bought and sold, then what was this and what
was it for? What I noticed, when the book arrived one morning and I
held it in my grubby paws, was that 97% of it remained: dormant/real:
unseen but felt: felt but never seen. On the blog. Or in the wire cages.
Of the butcher’s block. In the Portuguese alcove. Of my home. What is a
home? I thought I should make a list of the sentences I did not write. Or
that were written. But, unhomed, as they say: did not – could not – be
written down. In that other real form. What the book turned out to be.
What the book was in those final moments. Before the wall came down.
Or the glass came down. Or the sky came down. And someone I never
met before. Said click.
Notes for a novel never written.
A novel of the race riot: BAN:
1. I glimpse Ban through a dense indigo London fog.
2. Even as I attempt the next stage of writing — which is not a stage — a line comes right down — and that is Ban — and it shatters — the founding materials — of the stage.
I assess the line.
It is a meteor in the form of a human being.
Something alien and cobalt, like a vector, about Ban.
The soot crystallizes and that is the cobalt. It is like hard, shiny glue that has a weight you would not have predicted it to have.
I studied physics until I was 18.
The word for that is — atomic mass?
Gold, cadmium, vanadium, argon, carbon, silver, europium.
Ban goes right through and out the other side, with the force and animal “grace” of lava.
Meteorite Ban. Is not interested in the new book.
In bodywork, in the space where the table is set up, there is a moment when the energies that accompany or hold a person’s life make eye contact with you, the person holding that person’s — feet — let’s say — or shoulder, or arm. And you continue to work with a sense of being in agreement, of working together.
Something like this happens in writing.
A way that the energies orient to the person writing them.
Ban’s orbital is like a cobra, rearing up — and swaying — as I type.
But it’s time to go to sleep now, so let us put aside the bassoon/sex novel of the mid nineties — and agree — that tomorrow — we will continue with our — particular work.
Were we charnel ground attendants in — a previous — life?
Were we loved? Did we die next to the water?
3. Copies of cells.
Objects are attracted to a secret, central place in the roadside reliquary — bits of cloth, a collage of feathers. Sometimes, the reliquary is re-built in a room lit with Danish modern lamps. I liked lying down on that dank, non-violent sofa: Ban. I tried to learn from that part of life, its triangular formations and bleak dark avenue beyond the pale white net curtains. Was it that obvious? The light-dark contrasts that resembled an airport, airport culture?
Today I saw a white horse and in the mud beneath it was a sentence written in gold ink.
4. Having exhausted Ban.
Having completed Ban.
Having made the animal in Ban.
Before cutting Ban up.
On the butcher’s table that a desk always is.
That the butcher’s table is.
I have never written at a desk.
And as the rhythms of life unfold.
And as unguents are released.
And as the days increase in their sensitivity to each other.
A newborn in my arms. Or other arms. Other human factors. This is life. Stop complaining about life.
As life unfolds.
I write anyway.
That I can only write here.
When I am faced with my notebook, I am like a baby myself.
Holding the pen like a fork.
How can it be that this is my notebook now?
And that only here.
Can I think.
I must become Cesar Aira with creamy paper and ink pen in cafe in Argentina.
Very hard to become a South American man when you are a British-Indian woman with spikes.
Trans-global life is spiky.
When Laynie wrote with her questions about Ban, the poet’s novel — and so on — I would normally — have taken myself off.
To the cafe.
As I did that.
To write myself out of one life.
And into another.
But this time.
I could only do it here and save it as “Draft.”
I notice that a lot of writing is happening like this, that I never publish — but which.
Holds the valence of.
That writing life.
And so, only here.
Can I write to Laynie.
Then cut and paste my response.
Into an email.
I wanted to cut and paste it here.
But I have written.
And want to.
Now that it is morning.
And I have my tea.
To return to bed.
In my notebook.
It is time to begin.
The day with all its.
And company. Define: company.
Having exhausted Ban.
As a topic.
As the thing that can be written.
I wanted this.
So that I.
The real work.
No, what happens next.
Is as yet.
Unknown to me.
In the after-life of the scene.
That is always the body.
I will never win a prize.
I will never eat turkey drumsticks in Switzerland.
But I can tell you.
That I will always.
Find my way back.
No matter what happens.
As I said to my students.
And which I say to myself.
To be alone.
As an artist. To have the courage.
This kind of courage.
Bhanu Kapil is a post-colonial writer who holds to the maxim: “Shame may be fatal.” Nevertheless, her books enact a not-writing or never-writing as much as they do: an arrival of monstrous form. Her most recent book is centered upon the riot and how the body receives [emits] the energy of the riot: “Ban en Banlieue” (Nightboat Books, 2015).