Archive for the ‘Writers and Politics’ Category

Prize-winning poet Brenda Hillman has been deeply engaged with war resistance, Code Pink, and the Occupy movements for many years. In this interview she discusses poetry and politics with terrific lucidity and deep knowledge.

One of the smartest statements on the need for an engaged poetics that I’ve read. Highly recommended.

Here are a few small extracts, but, really, go read the entire interview:

“We cannot wait for our engagement to be packaged by the State and sold back to us as corporate political parties. We have to use our great imaginations. Poets should be resisters and harridans when things are amiss in the State.”

“I now believe that our protests must involve the whole broken monetary system; society is not fixable under the current model, in that it cannot bring justice to a large number of people who are serving the few.”


Excellent article in the New York Review of Books by Michael Kimmelman on Gertrude Stein and her brothers, Leo and Michael. Kimmelman explores, among other topics,  Stein’s puzzling support of  Fascism.

“What might be called the inherent narcissism of modernist abstraction, with its inward-turning focus on its own formal means and devices, its willful divorce from the sort of close social observation and proletarian politics that caused writers like Dreiser, Zola, and Sinclair Lewis to be tarred as anti-modernists, is not incompatible with the clean-sweep radicalism promised by fascism… (nor) with the notion of a centralized, supreme… authority.”


“We may feel bitterly how little our poems can do in the face of seemingly out-of-control technological power and seemingly limitless corporate greed, yet it has always been true that poetry can break isolation, show us to ourselves when we are outlawed or made invisible, remind us of beauty where no beauty seems possible, remind us of kinship where all is represented as separation.” —Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

Excellent article by William Scott in The Nation updating us all on the efforts made to keep the Occupy Wall Street People’s Library going despite two police raids. Click here for the article.

“We’re still accepting donations and lending books just as we always have, but we’ve reorganized ourselves somewhat. We now have three mobile units staffed by OWS librarians, which we can take anywhere we want.”

Plus an amazing tale of poetry’s effect on riot police…

The People’s Library also has a blog–read  more and find out how to contribute books. Click this link.

Former Poet Laureate of the United States, Bob Hass, writes with his usual understated grace about his beating at the hands of riot police at an Occupy Cal demonstration in Berkeley, California last week. See the link to the New York Times article here.

‘Life, I found myself thinking as a line of Alameda County deputy sheriffs in Darth Vader riot gear formed a cordon in front of me on a recent night on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, is full of strange contingencies. ”

Highly recommended.

(Photo by Steve Rhodes.)

Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg’s office tweeted that materials seized from the Occupy Wall Street Library were safely in storage at a sanitation facility ready to be picked up. Today, intrepid OWS librarians made the trek to the Sanitation Facility only to find a just a fraction of the library materials intact and available. Missing, and presumably destroyed: thousands of books, laptops, wifi devices, stamps, tables and shelves, archival materials, personal belongings and much more. More on this story, including pictures, here. What comes next? Dunno, but never underestimate librarians.

The New York Police Department, under the direction of Michael Bloomberg, razed the New York Occupy Wall Street site last night. Part of their work was to demolish the OWS Library and to throw away more than 5,000 donated books and many records that might have made up a valuable cultural archive. Corey Doctorow writes about the raid here. Galley Cat has more news here. More than 150 people were arrested. OWS librarians state that books and other records were destroyed before they were thrown into dump trucks. A sad day. But online OWS-related libraries are springing up. See a list here. Presumably, these libraries, because they are online, cannot be raided and destroyed.

Poet and professor Dean Rader has begun curating a very interesting forum in the public uses of poetry, 99 Poems for the 99 percent, which will run 99 poems “that address the social, political, economic, aesthetic, and cultural realities of the 99 percent” in 99 days. So far, the site includes poems by Bob Hickok, Rachel Loden, Dana Levin, Derek Mong and Matthew Zapruder. The poems are good, with more to come, but what interests me is Rader’s cr-aa-aa-zy notion that poetry, of all things, might have some legitimate use in the public sphere. Now that’s a radical idea. Go, Dean! Highly recommended.

Occupy Wall Street is about protest, sure, but the people there are also really interested in modeling a new democratic society. And apparently one of the first orders of business for that society has been to organize a FREE library with donated books.  How cool is that? You can read about it here.

The library not only already has books; they also have a catalog, a scanning operation and they’re up on the web and on LibraryThing. These are proper librarians, ya’ll.

And you know what else they’ve got? A mailing address. They like getting books in the mail. And, hmmm…, so many of you that read this blog are authors and you probably have extra books laying around… Catch my drift?

The great Spanish poet, Frederico Lorca, was executed by a Nationalist militia firing squad during the early morning hours of 19 August 1936, at the very beginning of the Spanish Civil War. Lorca was 38. For many years, the world knew very little about Lorca’s death. Now Spanish historian Miguel Caballero Pérez has pieced together what happened on Lorca’s last night. See the link for details. The Spanish Civil War introduced tank warfare and terror bombing to the world. The execution of poets? Nothing new.