Götterdämmerung Family BBQ
by Jasper Bernes and Joshua Clover
Commune Editions, 2013
1. I met Jasper Bernes at a café in Oakland. He was binding Götterdämmerung Family BBQ with a long arm stapler. Commune Editions is a new publishing venture organized by Jasper Bernes, Joshua Clover, and Juliana Spahr.
2. Jasper invited me to the Poetry and/or Revolution conference-taking place at UC Berkeley, Davis, and Santa Cruz. I went to a discussion on manifestos where Joshua Clover delivered his Don’t Put the Rabbit in the Hat. Later, at “The Public School” Joshua and Jasper read from Götterdämmerung Family BBQ.
3. If it’s not clear you can read this online here along with works by Juliana Spahr, Diane Di Prima, and Louise Michel.
4. Poems. These are poems. Don’t forget. They look like poems. They taste like poems. They’re also full of frenetic pop culture references and blatant political antagonisms. They’re fun, but they’re trying to fuck shit up all the same.
5. The line that got the biggest cheer / laugh / reaction from the reading was “I wandered lonely as a drone / That floats o’er jails and landfill / And monitors what we say on the phone. // It knows an amazing amount / About One Direction / And sexting with frenemies of / the public good, who burn in the sun // of total transparency, / brains open to the screen / Memories of one Friedrich von / Ludwig von Mises on scene…”
6. There’s a kind of opulence to lyric like that – a lyrical richness, a sickly sweetness from the rhyme, an excessive beauty. Some other writers, like Julian T. Brolaski, and Joyelle McSweeney, also capture a kind of perverted poeticism, a lavish absence, bastard cousin of luxury rap. “I’m early to the party but my ‘rarri is the latest.”
7. While “I wandered lonely as a drone” pleases, much of the rest of the chapbook is more of a call to arms and a more vigorous critique of political ambivalence. “Your vocabulary did this to me and millions like me, the vulnerability of words wanna be starting something else: rockets, rain, renegacy. Turn it upside down and set it on fire / is too a solution if you believe in emotional truth”
8. Responsibility, commiseration, complicity. This work sits firmly on the let’s do something with our poetry side of the aisle, rather than the “everything is meaningless” or the “poetry can’t do real shit” side of the weird looking aisle.
9. Jasper told me that Commune Editions would focus on work with an anarchist lean. Publishing a recounting of the trials of Louise Michel achieves that in more than one way.
10. “We once thought that there was more to life than breathing carbon emissions through the holes in our faces and we were right”
11. “my lover’s skin is like an iPhone’s screen, the primal scenes swimming behind the cloud of links, the fissures on the heraldic orders of the day, no way yeah way, except when you accidentally order ‘pizza’…”
12. Education is always obvious. There’s something almost modern about the level of citation going on here. It’s also of the moment in that the poetry takes as its content from up to the moment pop culture awareness. A poetic history used for critical poetics.
13. “Poetry should please by a fine excess and not by singularity. It should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost as a remembrance.” -Keats
14. The Social Role of the Poet is a Disaster.
15. Where can I look up the social role of the poet. Robert Pinsky has something to say but so does Mr. Roggenbuck: AS A POET, IT IS YOUR JOB TO TEXT PEOPLE PICTURES OF THE SUNSET
16. But the SOCIAL ROLE OF POET is a disaster, just like every other social role.
17. It seems like the rabbit can be put into the hat when you expect a poem to be a particular thing or do a particular thing or even really identify as a poet.
18. Joshua Clover’s mother, Carol Clover, created the final girl theory.
19. Stephen Burt, Daisy Fried Major Jackson, and Emily Warn talk about the social role of the poet for the Poetry Foundation. In an odd synchronicity Burt also reviewed Bernes’s first book over at the Believer.
20. Does your view of the social role of the poet effect your practice of poetry?
21. In that conversation on the social role of the poet Major Jackson says, “What I also read in this exchange is a distasteful cynicism about poetry’s ability—its responsibility—to affect lives. If a reading public feels consoled or seeks “a momentary stay against confusion,” and poetry provides them this, why deem such works of art failures? Is healing really the domain only of prescriptive drugs?”
22. According to Rauan Klassnik and John Ebersole, poetry from the grocery store can make you feel like you’re being groomed. I think both call for a poetry that is more than a “momentary stay against confusion,” though I’m not clear on what that is.
23. In that piece John Ebersole says, “Just thinking about them right now I feel like I’m being lathered in void.” W/R/T the grocery store poets. I’m not sure about everyone else, but I’m pretty sure I feel like I’m being lathered in the void whenever I read any poetry.
24. In Götterdämmerung Family BBQ there’s a resistance to the void. Oppositional poetics resist the temptation of solipsism effectively. This book and Commune Editions has an agenda and a mission statement to publish work that is “antagonistic to capital and the state.”
25. When Jasper Bernes handed me this chapbook the government was shutdown and as of this moment remains that way.
a. “Commune Editions publishes poetry and other writings antagonistic to capital and the state. In the struggle against these entrenched adversaries, poetry is no replacement for concrete forms of action: strikes, blockades, occupations and riots, as well as the meetings, houses, libraries, and shared resources that enable them. But poetry can be a voice for these activities and their companion. Like Kanellos, the riot dog of Athens, Commune Editions accompanies the movements of the streets, providing support and strangeness, and perhaps, on occasion, biting the leg of a cop threatening a comrade.”
b. So as a social poet do you cheer for the U.S. to default on its debt and throw world economy into turmoil or…?