Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What's Your Take on the Reading?

The British Library (socialist? capitalist? what's your take on copyright libraries?, with apologies to Le Tigre) had all three books, and last week I whiled away a few afternoons reading them and making incomprehensible notes, but one I kept coming back to was: boys on my left side, boys on my right side, boys in the middle, and you're not here.

There are small loans from the girl zone in each book:

  • Jason Read briefly mentions gender and the significance of domestic labour for arguments of use value, and some Marxist feminist writing on that topic from the 1970s
  • Joel Kovel asserts that the hierarchisation of the sex/gender binary is the foundational moment for both human inequality, and exclusionary thinking that divides ecology into humans and the "environment," while dismissing eco-feminism as flawed by a) goddess-worship and b) in-fighting (hello, the 1970s called, and they want their stereotypes back)
  • Paul Avrich, er, mentions Emma Goldman. And some female teachers, without ever exploring whether the anarchist school movement addressed the socialisation of gender in education (from the description of some of the womanising, supported-by-girlfriend teachers, not so much) -- despite the presence of Goldman and some connections to the group of leftist and feminist magazines and writer-activists charted by Nancy Berke in Women Poets on the Left.
Of course, I'm being a little flippant: all three books speak to important impulses, theories and flows that come together with various feminism(s) towards building community and overthrowing capitalism. I'm also particularly grateful for Jason Read's citation which (re)turned me to Giorgio Agamben's The Coming Community, which I read and have been quoting to friends with a worrying fervour.

But I'm also not being flippant. All three books are written by white American male academics, and it seems to me that one urgent principle of social justice is a diversity of voices, not for its own sake, but because justice is best effected by listening broadly and learning widely from people who have something worth saying grounded in their particular and contrastive experience.

So these are some of the books I will be (re)reading as I travel west to California, with all the histories that that journey carries for me as a European, as an Ashkenazi and a Sephardi, as a film lover, as a teenage Beat, as a queer, as a radical, as an invader, as a polluter, as a dreamer. There's only one book of poetry (Deborah Miranda's, rooted in Esselen and Chumash ecologies) mentioned, but the list is haunted by others -- perhaps not materialising because it feels over-determined/over-determining/over-shadowing to suggest poetries. Or even poetics.

Please, please add your own: the reading of your journey, of your plans. Of your dreams, because this workshop (once you get over reading about the horrors of capital and feeling like you can't go on, you must go on, you can't go on) is -- *has* to be -- radically, pragmatically utopian. I'd love to read more books about Californias: Chumash, Chicana, Chinese, migrant worker, suburban, mythological, economic, as guerrilla garden, as caliphate...

I'd also love recommendations for films to see that might link into and light up a radical poetics -- on the California front, I love (love? hard word for a complicatedly beautiful film) The Exiles; likewise Killer of Sheep. Is there a Bay Area equivalent of Los Angeles Plays Itself? A Canyon Cinema round-up? Or a remake/retake/reup of the feminist radical anti-capitalist politics of Lizzie Borden's awesome Born in Flames? Or as downright gorgeous as Jenn Reeves' 16mm eco-film-poem When It Was Blue?

Links are to publishers rather than Amazon where possible; if books are out of print, I link to a review. Please support independent publishers and booksellers. And libraries.

For traveling:

For crossing the border:

For arriving:
Ursula K. Le Guin, Always Coming Home
Deborah A. Miranda, The Zen of La Llorona

For (dis)orientation:

For observing:

For building community:


  1. some books that are also on my list as relevant reading: "everybody's autonomy", Juliana Spahr..."The Politics of Poetic Form", ed. Charles Bernstein... "Chain 12: Facts"...

    more on more later skoolers and see you soon

  2. oh, also, some films of late that have influenced my own ongoing poetics: Jarhead, Syriana, The Princess and the Frog, The China Syndrome...