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shut it down / lv letter

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Just Buffalo made live a recording of my poem “The Wound,” read in front of Rust Belt Books. Flatsitter recorded it on a day the wind was blowing hard across Lake Erie (and edited the video). Buffalo’s Noah Falck had much to do with making this series (Lit City Voices) happen. It’s a sort of poetic geography of Buffalo, perhaps a counter map to the ones defined by consumptive tourism, that has more to do w/where ppl spend their lives and breath and the places their minds revolve around. The full roster is in the promo video. Poems by Kristianne Meal (that howl!) and Brandon Williams are already up. I believe in a poetics w/one foot in the municipal; this poetics is acutely aware of geography as it is, as its been made, the more just geographies and organizations and use of spaces that have been fought for and won and lost. I’m also interested in the places on these maps that are silent, left blank and how space might be made for them to speak.

When titling this poem, I was recalling the Octavio Paz poem “Dawn.” Which is one I carried w/me for a number of years in my twenties. It references, obliquely, an event a number of ppl I know took part in, singing over Buffalo’s arch-reactionary Carl Paladino, who had captured a school board seat and was pushing forward self-serving, community-harming privatization measures. This was part of a larger effort to shut down BPS board meetings until Paladino was removed. It worked. This poem is really meant to be a bridge between other poems charting, through this poet’s keyhole, on-the-ground organizing and activism in Buffalo between 2016-2018. A lot of ppl were working damn hard to draw the links between Buffalo’s corrupt, patronage driven ruling class (Democrats and Republican alike) and the people and (white-supremacist, settler, necro-capitalist, etc) policies of the Trump administration. I mostly think of these poems as for performance only, particularly for performance in Buffalo. Here, I thought, it might work if it’s a recording in Buffalo. City Hall is lodged in my ear in the still above.

 

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What are our options? // casa del popolo // house of the people // campaign infrastructure into shelter

Parable/Casa Del Popolo: in the early 1900s socialism was slowly gaining traction in Italy. In 1914 the people in Abbadia di Montepulciano elected its first socialist municipal councilor. Elites reacted against this minor socialist inroad. One form of this was their refusal to rent spaces to socialist organizations.

Socialists could win a little election but could not legitimately hold space.

Their response? We can’t know all of it. Probably a lot of flaming the local elite-friendly press. Probably a lot of pointing at elite hypocrisy in pre-twitter bars and cafes. But also this:

They decided to build their own space. They collected money, they bought materials. On Sundays and after work volunteers raised timber and laid brick. They did not wait to vote themselves into more and higher offices of the state. In 1917, they completed their house of the people. It included a library, a consumer cooperative, meeting rooms for youth and women’s groups. In the words of Margaret Kohn, “The house of the people was a site of recreation, socialization, and the realization of an alternative moral universe” (96). It was a place for the left to know and hold itself, a ground to hold and defend. 

It was the opposite of the plague house, a house on lockdown, the long wail typed into the ether. Other houses of the people included restaurants, adult education programs, theatres, bars, newspapers, spaces for affiliated cultural organizations, headquarters for producer cooperatives, bakeries of cheap bread. They sometimes made things free, served “communist soup.” They didn’t only train people, they made jobs. 

There’s a real danger that the energy and resources of electoral assemblages will disappear. Many people are asking what’s next. One way is to concretize the advances of a leftist, more just politics into a physical infrastructure for interlinked horizontal organizations, where people don’t have to wait for the realization of their values through the electoral process. What if we make spaces where we can live them–and which make life possible in the face of a death-driven state?

//

This is drawing from Kohn’s work on houses of the people Radical Space.

 

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New Review of My New* Book (*Old)

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THIS IS OLD TWEETING

Dear child that I was, that has split from my anxiety wracked, grey-shot self and is wondering the hallways of my memories as they slowly distend, split, and crumble into the void between synapses–so dramatic! lockdown!–tell me a story about 2018.

Sir, in 2018 you published a book. Do you remember? Do you remember how excited I am about your book then?

Yes, child, I do believe you. Though the world has changed. That book is an old thing. It does not matter now.

But it matters to me!

Yes, child, I suppose it did. [Blows the dust from laptop. Boots up Stardew Valley. Picks at scabs.]

HERE IS A REVIEW OF SOMEONE’S UTOPIA MY 3RD BOOK OF POETRY BY GREG BEM WRITTEN IN THE BEFORE TIMES THANK YOU GREG I FORGOT TO POST ABOUT IT

[Actually, I could use going back to thinking about Utopias.]