Last week, Naropa hosted the inaugural Symposium on Violence and Community at which four writers presented an installation/event, read poetry, and participated in a panel discussion. I missed the installations/events on Tuesday but was able to attend the reading and subsequent panel discussion on Wednesday.
Each participant displayed the hallmark style of poets associated with Naropa and the avant-garde; a panoply of images, concepts, and tropes radically juxtaposed to provoke and transmit. The flow of language, intense and heady, was contagious. Automatist inflected writing–reminiscent of mediums and soothsayers–doesn’t want to convey information but to impart states of mind. In other words, the poetry was mind altering, and my notes reflect this.
Melissa Buzzeo submerges lovers in an ocean, down below the coral reef, among crustaceans and piranha. Refugees from an ancient forest, the lovers are simultaneously sacred and pariah. (shout out: Agamben) A sea change is possible in this context, and meaning becomes lost. The images are rich and strange; I’m not sure she says what I hear. Writing is like waste. Language excretes from our bodies the way a spider spins, a pathetic fallacy, a dead metaphor. We swim in language and drown in non-meaning.
Kate Zambreno writes on gendered language and how it is used to censor and censure. “He do the police in different voices.” (shout out: Eliot) Hysteria and gossip devalue certain types of speech and undermine certain speakers. Irony, though, can subvert these pernicious effects. (shout out: Judith Butler) The language of violence reveals the violence of language.
On the other hand, to say violence is gendered is to misapprehend the interpenetration between violence and masculinity. One is saturated with the other, so that one is indistinguishable from the other. To enter into the realm of violence (from any direction) is strictly masculine and results in one’s body being treated as masculine, that is to say, violently. As masculine, the body can be fodder for the war machine, can be incarcerated, and is valued for its ability to perform work.
On the other hand, society condemns violence against women as amoral; the horror of the act is that it treats a girl’s or woman’s body as masculine. Likewise, women who commit violent acts must also enter the masculine domain, and their bodies are treated as masculine—mitigated by a vague rule of thumb limiting the sanctioned level of violence.
On the other hand, the bodies of men and boys are masculine—are violence. Masculine bodies don’t experience trauma but rites of passage. Violence inures boys to a life of violence.
Reed Bye intervenes with a brief description of the Buddhist concepts equanimity and dependent co-arising. Categories of experience result from interpretations of causality, a web of karmic (cause/effect) connections that perpetuates violence.
- Violence results from attachment, aversion, or ignorance.
- Equanimity is the antidote.
- Understanding dependent co-arising generates equanimity.
David Buuck calls on an army of lovers–animals of the ancient forest–to save us from future violence. Beast and beloved commingle as we flee the same torrid blaze and gather outside a supermarket, probably a Whole Foods. Duck and rabbit occupy the same semiotic system but never both at the same time, kind of like Superman and Clark Kent. You see what I’m saying? See what I mean?
As a writer-activist in a culture where the value given poetry is dubious, he creates poethical forms of representational art and does activist work with Occupy Oakland. Writing fiction and eating toxic dirt are part of the same semiotic system. “He do the polis in different voices.”
Gabrielle Civil’s focus is on intellectual violence. She holds up to the audience a Lite Bright “Fuck You” in blinking rainbow colors, making manifest her erudition and panache. “Knowledge is to cut.” (shout out: Foucalt) The writer evokes Poetic Justice and says, “sometimes the cop is racist to you.”
In her own words, she makes a claim for the avant-garde desire that “art is to be integrated into the praxis of life.” and incants the phrase used to open the slave narrative, a phrase identifying the necessary and sufficient conditions for suffering:
I was born… I was born… I was born…
The symposium asked, “What happens to language in a time of violence?”
Happens: Supplicant’s hands split open. Desire multiplies.
Language: FUCK YOU
Time: We swallow language, and it swallows us. The Ouroboros drowns in nihilism.
Violence: Narcissus shows us meaning, and we claim it.
“…true art is unable not to be revolutionary, not to aspire to a complete and radical reconstruction of society.”
(shout out: Trotsky and Breton)