OPEN STACKS | #45 All Things Poetry: Idea

April 1st, 2018

This month on Open Stacks, all things poetry. We feature this art, which Emily Dickinson said she recognized when she felt “physically as if the top of [her] head were taken off,” and we’ve organized the episodes around the four categories of common and proper nouns: ideas, people, things, and places. This week, ideas. Daniel Borzutzky's dystopian vision of a prison camp at Lake Michigan's shore, and Robert Darnton on poetry as covert communication system and revolutionary tool in 18th century France.

Below, some further reading on politics and poetry, the politics of poetry, political poetry.

Poet and recent 2018 Whiting award winner Anne Boyer on poetry and refusal:

Poetry is sometimes a no.  Its relative silence is the negative’s underhanded form of singing.  Its flights into a range-y interior are, in the world of fervid external motion, sometimes a method of standing still.  Poetry is semi-popular with teenagers and revolutionaries and good at going against, saying whatever is the opposite of whatever, providing nonsense for sense and sense despite the world’s alarming nonsense. [...] There is a lot of meaning-space inside a “no” spoken in the tremendous logic of a refused order of the world. Poetry’s no can protect a potential yes—or more precisely, poetry’s no is the one that can protect the hell yeah, or every hell yeah’smultiple variations. In this way, a poem against the police is also and always a guardian of love for the world.

 Poet, choreographer, archivist Harmony Holiday on revolutionary poet Amiri Baraka:

Will and idea are constantly striving for union and our culture often overvalues the romance of the idea in hopes that its seductive almost-but-not-quite realness, will temper our will to actualize our more subversive or transformative notions. Within such a paradigm these most transcendent ideas become mere fantasies we use to tease ourselves through tidy complacent lives, and very few people will admit that they don’t intend to really do anything about anything where real nerve and real change are requisite. It takes men like Amiri Baraka to reveal the mask of un-doing that plagues our epoch so. The highest form of knowing is doing, he decrees on the record— a ruthlessly revolutionary doer.

Offerings from our friends at JSTOR Daily:

Pasternak’s poetry, plays, and translations were well known in the USSR by the 1950s. But his dissident views made him political persona non grata, and over the years he was threatened, suppressed, and spied on. His lover Olga Ivinskaya served four years in a gulag after refusing to denounce him. Hardened by his personal experiences and increasingly disillusioned with the state-sanctioned “social realism” the USSR required of all of its writers, Pasternak spent years writing an epic love story about how revolutions uplift and destroy individuals.