Friday, 2 August 2013

Croatoan Poetic Cell

Alessandro Porco recently pointed me in the direction of an essay by Kent Johnson where he calls Kenneth Goldsmith's theories "frankly bogus, a kind of wacky category mistake" and accuses Conceptual poetry of being the avant-garde's "new right wing." Great stuff.

But the really interesting part was Johnson's mention of an Occupy-style group called the Croatoan Poetic Cell who were implicated in "peaceful, conceptual acts of poetic insurgency" against the Poetry Foundation. Salon had a report on the rebel organization :
The CPC headquarters is a warehouse somewhere in Chicago, and it’s considerably less swank than that of the Poetry Foundation. “We have been living in a construction zone for the past three months,” says cell member Brooks Johnson. “We have a lending library here, someone is always playing music. We all sleep in the same room (the library) in a pile of unwashed blankets, couches, arms, legs. Sometimes it becomes difficult to figure out where you end and someone else begins.” The night before the Poetry Foundation reading, the group opened a bottle of whiskey and composed their manifesto. Because Ruth Lilly’s fortune came from the manufacturer of Prozac—Eli Lilly & Co.—it follows, they argued, that the foundation has been tainted by anti-poetic drug money. Indeed, the opulence of the new building reflects the kind of corporate materialism they feel has stifled poetry all across America. Swank décor, they argue, does nothing for poetry. Rather, “poetry happens when we are shaken out of our psychic, linguistic, phenomenological, and indeed even physiological compliance with the spectacle and its myriad illusory modes of reification.” 
The Youtube video above records the protest in question (during which members unfurl two banners, one of which said “What would have happened if Emily Dickinson had been prescribed Prozac?”). That event was held partly in response to an earlier staging that got CPC-sympathizer, Stephanie Dunn, arrested:
At first she only threw a cup of free wine to the floor, but after foundation employees objected, she partially undressed and started an enthusiastic make-out session with Johnson, rolled around on the floor, and at some point stole a bottle of wine. When I asked Dunn why she was arrested, she answered, “For having too much fun.”
According to one blogger, the second CPC event went rather badly as well:
Three days after Raul Zurita's reading at the Poetry Foundation, where six or seven activists of the Croatoan Poetic Cell peacefully hung banners (one of them praising Zurita and his old activist group CADA) and passed out leaflets calling for the charges against Dunn to be dropped (the cops were also called by the PF on these poets—they scampered away), the Chicago Police Department carried out a raid during a musical event on the warehouse where most of the members of the Croatoan Poetic Cell live. Property was confiscated and three people detained. Minutes after the police left, a car parked outside, belonging to a friend of those involved, burst into flames.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Why is it called "Croatoan"?