From The Consumption of Extremes

Ya:           THE MORAL:

               a rushing sensation tears into my 
               memories of pregnancy, of a moral 
               argument I lost. I wanted my language
               to be hard like base money. I realised
               that my past was a waste product
               that other people would struggle to 
               because nothing was capable of being
               refined from it; that my future 
               was a mirror in which my past was
               that my power of choice is only my
               power to tilt the mirror forwards or
                                I must back
               X     X1
               Y     Y1
               Xa   Xa1
               Ya   Ya1
               Xb   Xb1
               Yb   Yb1.
                                All the demands now go out. The fire in the soul
               will not stop burning, but it will go elsewhere, so that as 
               I step down with sad and tired steps, letting others bear  
               the weight that I reject, I know this, that capital will keep
               on circulating, and that who I am, the person I am made  
               to be, will go on being made in the image it decrees;
               and I know this, that as my head is bent beneath the 
               curve of the car’s hardened chassis, 

that the narrative in which I live begins and ends in mere fidelity to the starting point assigned to me; that the triumph that I can imagine is given me on condition of its agreeableness to the enemy I oppose; that I can desire a larger triumph only by capitulating to the form in which great triumphs exist in this society, as the festivals of its reason, calculated to make over to me an immortality bought with the imaginary earnings I get in exchange for the spectacularised losses endured by other people. Where is the fun in all this, they say. Do they scratch their heads with ointment. We go on, sub forma pauperis, waiting for the climax. I am Ya and sit with my head down in the back of a car. A piece of rope is being lowered from heaven, but I haven’t yet noticed it. Terrorist cells are formed out of enthusiasm and are destroyed by a higher power: 1) they should have known; 2) at our present moment in the progressive development of world spirit, it is not possible for artists to work collectively at the task of creating a unified and self-conscious class with an established ethos of hostility to capital. This requires way more money than any one of us presently knows how to get; 3) We were all seized by an erotic feeling when the polar bear learned to spell its own name using letter-shaped biscuits prepared for it by the volunteer children; 4) Likewise, robbing banks is now more difficult than it was in the 1970s. As the purchasable technologies for the securing of property have increased in sophistication and strength, the organised means for its expropriation have dwindled in intelligence and fortitude. This inverse correlation is one means of expressing class defeat, with the result that 5) it is possible that we are stuck like this until the world ends, a situation that, as Boethius knew, offers its own generic advantages. But the republican principle of consoling oneself prior to death depended on the belief that public life is preserved and maintained even by what erroneously excludes you from it. Try telling that to generic single mother 6) The pathetic overdependency of the great majority of left ‘philosophical’ thinking on the categories of negativity and positivity has been operationalized to disguise a risible purposive macilence in the hearts and the imaginations of those who would fight to overcome this social order which, as we ought now to recognise, not only produces and reproduces social classes, but also produces and reproduces hierarchies in the narratives of their abolition,  a fact which means that 7) the production of narratives of social conflict is either rejected or affirmed on the basis of an individual disbelief or belief in the possibility of illuminating an pathway out from capitalist social relations, a decision which in either case effaces the vital fact that no adequate image of capitalist society can be drawn until the language of its critic has pieced together the class system of its [X10-37255].  8) Join me on a brief trip to B. No? We do this in the first instance by opening ourselves to their whole tiered portfolio. 9) Hello? 10) The class system in narrative can only be made to shine into view by refracting its images inappropriately across the lives of the actors who are forced to play out a role in them, both in the domain of private fantasy and in the more spectacular sublations of these now available for download on NATO; 11) This is the only way to be less decisive, a tactic that cannot be held in sweet performative abeyance in a period like today, since 12) communism is presently a species of indecision. It is the spirit of all of those who have not yet decided. Despite this, it will be certain, because 14) inside the wrapper I found a golden ticket promising me entry to a yard where I would fire a high-powered automatic rifle at the farmyard animal of my choice or of the person of my choice. I was sick with moral indignation.  So was the farmyard animal. We stared evenly at one another, our nostrils flaring with reference to Boswell’s actor network theory. 15) the growing labours of the lengthen’d way 15a) Do you think these diversions are a luxury; 16) 

Ya:        The car had a regular door

One of the more minor outcomes of the violent reunification of all reified and mystified social relations c.2007 is that it is increasingly unbearable to think of oneself as a producer active in some kind of subculture. Previous attempts to pour some sauce onto that conceptual fish head are no longer capable of stirring the appetite. The arguments are well known. Our writing is really done for a future audience positioned on the upswing of the cycle of the ages, like the Romans; small producer communities engender disciplines and aptitudes of response unknown to wider society; “autonomy” is “good”; the desire for unity is always at its base a desire for self-annihilation in the arms of the authoritarian total apparatus of a “party of the far left”, or the tentacles of an advertising agency, or both.

These and similar arguments are now deprived of their historical substance, which is why their continued existence as slogans is so preternaturally weightless. Their practical influence is presently close to zero. Recent poetry has consistently pushed down the fences of its generic enclosures: many poets have rebelled in practice against the pseudo-idea that all other modes of text and speech production have been irrecoverably colonized by a culture industry that rolls over all things just as surely as Wordsworth’s pantheistic “motion and spirit” rolled through them. This development opens up a series of new and therefore significantly more interesting problems. The problems are more interesting because they are new, and also because, unlike the slogans I just itemized, they have their basis in the experience of writing, rather than in the vaguest recollection that writing took place, once, and that things may have been said about it.

What are they? The first, I think, is that the experience of narrative and drama in contemporary culture is manifestly fixed in its definition by a mode of cultural production the conditions of which are impossible for an individual to reproduce. This is an issue to do with discretionary disposal over human labour. The second problem, the more poignant of the two, is that the attempt to put to work (even if only partially, for purposes of demonstration) the techniques of commodity culture requires from a writer the adoption of a disciplined and work-ready posture whose adaptation to market demands is in lyrical writing the formal equivalent of suicide. Lyric which attempts to become more commanding by aping the productive discipline of commodity culture merely imposes on itself a form of service work, with the result that it becomes more conventionally servile.

Writers often respond to the experience of these lumpen paradoxes by adopting some kind of defensive posture. The most common of these asserts that any effort to use modes of expression drawn from commodity culture (or from an historical popular culture) must either be a joke or a capitulation; a presupposition which, once it has been set up as a principle of composition, permits no generic exit from the conditions of subcultural composition, besides the one exit that leads onto the stage on which writers are permitted to perform the impossibility of their own aspirations. Poems written as plays, novels, para-Byronic entertainments, workers’ songs, character dramas, short stories, and essays, etc, quite consistently begin with this position, though on reflection the decision to do so seems no less hysterical than the decision to initiate arguments about the “political efficacy” of art which—like all disputes founded in a concerned paternalism—are conducted prior to any inquiry into whether the objects of the discussion have the same politics; or any shared use for the efficacy they are expected to want.

What I want from myself is a more sober assessment of the costs and benefits of capitulation. I want at least to know what it is to be a joke, and not to go on pretending to be one in deadly seriousness. I want my work to face up to the discipline of lyrical self-abnegation, which is identical to the discipline of being a producer of narratives or drama; and I want this because I want to take seriously the possibility of unsettling people who are not, and will not be, poets. I mean this as a self-criticism. The life which defends itself against external compulsion by assuming that it must be overwhelmed by it is a phantom subjectivity; and the literature of phantom subjectivity, which is satisfied if it can raise among participants in a scene the ghost of a smile, is in truth nothing but the spiritual companion of that organized politics which believes that radical communication can be reduced to the dying re-echo of its bland, inappreciable truths.

The text hovering in the ulterior nether regions of this web page is a growth extracted from a failed verse drama due to be handled gingerly by Mountain Press at a press conference in at least one possible world.