November 7, 2015.
Contemporary Left Poets Read Poems About
The Revolution And Other Texts
(A Dramatic Poem)*
Some contemporary leftist poets
are reading poems about the revolution and other texts
they’re also discussing the connection between contemporary political poetry
and the revolutionary praxis of the past.
After the reading one contemporary leftist poet
suggests to the rest of the contemporary leftist poets
that they stage some performative action right in the street
or, better still, in a square
where everyone who wants to can join
they should loudly recite some poems or sing a revolutionary song
and afterwards, holding hands and singing the Internationale
they can head off to the nearest bar
I mean wasn’t it Godard who said or to be more
specific repeated after Brecht who in turn repeated after Mayakovsky
that instead of making political art we should make art political
equate the pen and the bayonet etc.
if you throw a real poem into the window of a police precinct or a fancy boutique it should break it etc.
a long silent pause hung over the leftist poets
and was interrupted by the most authoritative of all the leftist poets gathered there (although of course leftist poets tend not to recognize authority and prefer to speak of making a great contribution to the development of progressive art, which helps to de-alienate labor and liberate the proletariat)
he looked at his watch and quickly reported:
“friends I would love to participate in your performance
but I have two editorial deadlines to meet
I hope that you will tell me how everything goes”
the contemporary leftist poets exchanged awkward glances as if begging each other for mercy in the form of similar excuses about having two editorial deadlines
and before long, the excuses were found
“I’m sorry said another contemporary poet, stuttering a bit and speaking less confidently than his previous comrade, but holding a non-sanctioned reading in the square may result in some arrests. It’s not that I’m afraid of the police, but I cannot risk my trip to the U.S. as I have already signed a contract with the Slavic Departments in Princeton and Pittsburgh and my arrest may result in the revoking of my visa.”
all the other contemporary leftist poets exchanged glances of understanding and things went more smoothly from there on
“I have a small child, and my babysitter is done in an hour, so unfortunately I must leave you now,” said another contemporary leftist poet with a regretful tone as she got her things together quickly
“and we have a morning flight to a book fair,” jumped up two young contemporary left poets like two kittens that have been splashed with boiling water
“the most important thing right now is to establish complex mutual relations with the regions and to build grass-roots organizations for alternative educational work to fight against the hegemony of the stupefying ideology of hallowed literary canons—a hellish blend of bowdlerized classics talentless acolytes and apologists of the current government”
“performances and actions are very necessary as they can disrupt the regime of representation and transform the situation into a vis-à-vis of living presence that can overcome spectacularism in favor of experience and existence—actually we have a conference tomorrow on the concept of revolution – during the panel discussion we will talk about contemporary actionist practices as a form of maximal openness or to use Derrida’s terminology—maximal hospitality—to speak for the oppressed while being fully prepared to go to prison or even to lay down next to a leper and share his deathbed we must hurry to finish our papers in time comrades don’t miss the online broadcast of our panel”
The contemporary leftist poets all began to talk at once, and the space started to resemble a beehive
“Revolution is a pearl immaculately conceived in the womb of history its ideal body is composed of the bodies of the vanquished oppressed that’s why we cannot accelerate this process of crystallization but can only await the tiger leap into the past that will tear the pearl out of leviathan’s jaws,” spoke a particularly refined contemporary leftist poet who was a specialist in the early renaissance and often resorted to metaphors borrowed from Giacometti’s paintings
“I adore performances but why should we cast—to borrow the expression from our previous orator—our pearls before the petite-bourgeois swine? Wouldn’t it be better to hold a performance right here—since here
we can allow ourselves a more radical experiment with body and language?”
A few people nodded approvingly. True true, poetry should not simplify its language for ideology, and in general leftist art is not vulgar propaganda but a complex dialectical process of rejecting one’s own class
The crisis of contradiction passed and emotions began to wane
Two contemporary leftist poets separated from the rest and went to have a smoke, all the while gesticulating energetically. They had obviously struck upon an interesting point of discursive intersection between poetry and politics since one kept repeating that political actions must be well-argued and poetic at the same time and the other, ruffling his unwieldy forelocks, responded to the first with a citation from Jacques Rancière delivered in French which I won’t cite here but the gist was that the translator Victor Lyapitsky rendered the title of Rancière’s book incorrectly as Dissension, when it should be Disagreement
Now a leftist contemporary poet with real experience in party-work raised his voice and stated his opinion that Bolshevik radicalism in 1917 was adequate to the political situation in Russia at the time but making radical gestures and risking poets’ well-being today is meaningless especially since poets are already with each passing day decreasing in number especially the contemporary leftist poets of whom there are fewer and fewer with each passing day that’s why no petite-bourgeois anarchistic gestures will bring revolution any closer and will only convince the capitalists of the left’s utter impotence, and they will appropriate all our gestures, reinforcing in this manner the self-renewing system of cultural diversity
In the end everybody got tired and started to head home. Some could no longer stand up straight and their friends were hailing cabs for them. Some rushed to make it in time before the metro closed. A few more people ran to make it in time before the bridges were raised
But the two drunkest poets did in fact go walking down the street singing the Internationale with unsteady voices, and one of them even turned a trash can upside down and the other jumped on an expensive Lexus and for some reason started to recite a lesser known humorous little poem by Yuri Olesha that ends with the following words: “Moscow in those days equaled Ancient Greece plus communism.”
* the new left is justly accused of substituting direct political action with culturation. but even though they are stupid they still understand all this themselves. and so Roman Sergeevich Osminkin has taken the right course and directed the irony upon himself. however left irony can lead us to truth only through cura sui—or ‘care of the self’—left irony always needs the other, whose place the leftist poet can take up through a process of dramatic substitution, performing his multiple hypostases and revealing in this way his proper place in the void of the “left” signifier.
—Translated by Anastasiya Osipova
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