[-empyre-] Starting the Third Week: Michael Boghn and Jerome Sala

Michael Boughn mboughn at rogers.com
Thu Nov 17 00:08:41 AEDT 2016

I apologize for the delay in posting this, but I have had a lot of trouble
figuring out the system.

I am probably older than most people in this group. I first came to
computers when I was in my early 40’s and in grad school in Buffalo. I had
spent years working in various industrial situations, much of the time
organizing for what I later came to see as a communist cult but which at
the time was the vehicle for my passion about justice. The computer was a
Kapro and it belonged to the guys who lived downstairs from my friend,
Peter. You had to build those computers from scratch and they looked like
the grown up spawn of an Erector Set. I thought the hype was way overblown,
especially watching one of the guys play slo-mo pong, the lurid green dot
slowly moving back and forth between two moving lines on the black screen.

But then they started talking about MIT and about *going there* to *talk
with* some people and get some software. Going there? Talking? It was my
first glimpse of the possibility of a new mode of relation, of coming
together in intangible spaces for the purpose of talking and of being in
common. It wasn’t *very* common then outside small circles of computer
pioneers and pirates. But soon there were Compuserve chat rooms. And then
there was Facebook.

I can’t say *Facebook *without feeling physically my deep ambivalence. It’s
an enormous echo chamber where your friends endlessly broadcast their
political preferences to other people just like them, as if it mattered, as
if repeating their brand preference over and over was going to make a
difference. Meanwhile they sit at their desks in front of a screen counting
their likes. But I have also had some amazingly complex and important
exchanges on Facebook, exchanges that led to further engagements in, as
they say, the flesh. I have met people I would never have met otherwise,
and renewed old relationships that otherwise would have been lost forever.
So as much as the virtual community on Facebook is a narcissistic
echo-chamber, it is simultaneously a place of actual relation, of being in
common that has enriched my life.

I was thinking about that being in common when, together with Kent Johnson,
I launched the web site Dispatches from the Poetry Wars in April of this
year. Kent and I share a commitment to poetry as a particular mode of
knowledge connected to the writing Donald Allen brought together in *The
New American Poetry *in 1960. That relation to poetry has largely been lost
to a poetry “market” that arose within the neo-liberal counter-revolution
of the 1980s and 1990s. Poetry became divided between various careerist and
professionalizing tendencies that have dominated its writing and
distribution in the years since. The consolidation of a professional
avant-garde on the one hand (the “left” hand), and the rise of the
corporate funded and operated Poetry Foundation on the other (“right”
hand), dispersed and dispirited many ordinary communities of poets that had
been empowered in the years after Allen’s anthology was published.

Dispatches from the Poetry Wars was imagined as a popular, anarchist
counter punch to those two Offices of the Administration. Aside from the
satirical critique of the MFA/Creative Writing axis and the Professional
Avant-Garde axis, Dispatches is a kind of virtual pirate utopia or
temporary autonomous zone within which a previously unknown or lost
being-in-common is coming together, making itself known to itself. In the
past this would have been done in print publications like Ed Sanders’ *Fuck
You: A Magazine of the Arts*, John Clarke’s *intent.: a newsletter of talk,
thinking, and document*, Ken Warren’s *House Organ*, The Institute of
Further Study’s *The Magazine of Further Studies*, or numerous other under
the radar publications. The difference is that the space/medium that the
computer offers allows for almost instantaneous connection and
communication. Rather than waiting 3 or 4 months for the next magazine to
appear in your mailbox, the conversation goes on continually in its
immediate finitude. Actual arguments take place in nearly real time. Errors
are addressed and dealt with. It is immediately responsive.

In the last week, beginning with an announcement at Dispatches that went
out to 200 poets and was picked up and reposted to many more, we responded
to the Trump disaster with a call for contributions to an anthology of
poetry of resistance to the new fascist movement. Within three days, we
were inundated with positive responses. Using the speed of the internet,
the editorial group has now expanded to a broad and diverse group of 10
poets, each of whom has reached out to 10-20 of their friends. The book now
has 200+ contributors lined up. We hope to publish it as an INITIAL act of
resistance shortly after Trump’s inauguration. It is the sudden
crystallization of a latent being-in-common that this tool, this medium,
makes possible. We don’t need a central committee because we have the

That immediacy energizes the being-in-common in ways that intensify the
resistance to the Administration’s professionalized death formations (see,
for instance, The Poetry Foundation website, or The Great Philadelphia
Poetry Warehouse and Media Centre), and creates opportunities for further
proliferation of relation beyond the immediate, not only within the virtual
space, but beyond it in the creation of formations in the rough and tumble
world. The anthology then will become a kind of decentered centre which
will provoke occasions for coming together in the world. At a time when the
Trump Doom looms before us in its authoritarian darkness, such small
centres of life and thinking are what we have to hold on to to keep the
light alive and extend the resistance in more and more networks of
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