Monday, October 5, 2009

Passive resistance

Three things have happened lately that have made me think about how politics (not sure that is the right word) interacts with poetry/art and if I should be doing more of that, which in short I think I should. So...
  1. I've been reading Michael Palmer's essays in Active Boundaries (New Directions, 2008) all of which so far are as much concerned with politics as with poetry (in his mind they don't exist without each other I feel). He talks about George Bush, the Iraq ware, Vietnam, The Cold War - all the things that shaped who he is/was as an artist I think. He is so passionate about it and yet from his poetry, you would struggle to find an overt political subject. But it seems if he is always thinking about it working on what he seems to feel is a 'war on language'. So that was really interesting.
  2. I went to the start of the World Peace March (it starts in NZ and goes around the world in 90 days), which was also a celebration of Mahatma Ghandi's birthday. I'm not what you'd call a peace activist, but I'm certainly a pacifist and I think passive resistance is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen (I have seen it on a small scale and it's impossible to beat). So I was incredibly interested in that.
  3. I watched the Tua vs. Cameron boxing fight which made me feel sick. I am not against sport or competition or even aggression in the context of those two things and the actual boxing match was not such a bad thing. I think it was the spectators that bothered me the most, the baying for blood. The comments after the match - how wonderful it was, how sensational - it had been a particularly short and brutal knockout. Cameron was out of it by the end of the 1st round and at the start of the second Tua had him on the ropes and was pummeling him even as Cameron's legs collapsed and he fell to the ground. So by anyones standards it wasn't a tense battle between two great sportsmen, it was one guy getting the shit kicked out of him by another guy, but that's what these particular spectators wanted. And while I am loathe to draw the connection between that and greater issues of violence - international war, domestic violence etc. Maybe it does start in places like a boxing match at mystery creek?

So I guess I'm saddened by the whole thing. But then what do you do with that? How do you write a good poem about it. Palmer might use the bullshit hype/marketing speak of the fight promoters to illustrate something (however obliquely) that way, but what should I do? Describe the fight in detail? Describe everything about the fight except the fight itself? Talk about what I would have been doing instead of watching it? Run with the words 'Mystery Creek'? Have a dream? Talk about hippos and dinosaurs? I dunno. My poetry is often meaningless and that seems to be my violence, the thing that saddens me the most.

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