Monday, November 02, 2009
from The Activist Press in Recent American Poetry
"Throughout modernity, there is also a vital tradition of the small press serving a politics, and doing so through formal exploration (form not given, but discovered through a situation, process, or event). The poem, I would argue, is a form of action; it does something in the world--to culture, to a readership--and is therefore active. The question of what poetry does recalls the Spinozan proposition: we have not yet determined what a body can do. That is, the limits of what the poem can do inscribe the limits of existence in its consequences. These consequences necessarily bear out a politics and a social purpose--however privately and uniquely. A press becomes activist where it cultivates political means (not ends). If I could perceive any major split within small press culture at the moment, it would be along the lines of action in the sense of how I am using the term. How can poetry support a political and social purposiveness without rendering poetry instrumental? How can an "avant garde" tradition of innovation and experiment be negotiated with real political, economic, and social struggles?"