It has come to the attention of Dispatches that some people feel bullied by what they see as our “ideological baggage.” If you feel threatened, we apologize and want you to know that is not our intent. You can relax. True, Dispatches is openly engaged – passionately engaged – with questions identified in the usual address as “political”. But rather than ideology, we see the political as integral to the struggle to find a way to act as a moral being in a world stripped of inherent value and reeling from the disintegration of old orders of meaning, possibly some claim, of any meaning at all. But we won’t be waving around any manifestos.
We are concerned for the fate of other writers and artists brutalized and locked up for speaking their minds, an activity we take for granted. We don’t like the fact that the state – that unified authority we collectively empower but which is always mysteriously arrayed beyond us in often hostile formations – shoots black people as a matter of terrorizing habit that goes back to Reconstruction in the US and the reformation of the remnants of the Confederate Army into a terrorist gang of thugs, the Ku Klux Klan.
Is that burdened with ideology? Is it political? We like what’s happening in Rojava. The fact that real people in real relations are imagining the world in new formations of power and dynamics, are creating re-newed modes of being together, excites us. We like to think it would have excited William Bake, too, and Charles Olson. Blake would write perhaps of Los building Golgonooza while the angels sang. Because, from our perspective, that seems to be what’s happening there, in Rojava, which is why the forces of Babylon are all arrayed against it, even as they fight each other. We think that’s political.
But mostly we think that the world needs more differences, not more cataloged collections of warehoused poetry readings. And Dispatches, it must be said again, is a place of difference, beginning with the differences between the two editors who delight in pushing each other further, including the differences of the international contributing editors, and radiating from the different thinking and the different writing, the different ideas and the different poetries, that are finding a home here.
And all of it exposed. Where else could the ongoing exchange between Kent Johnson and Lucas Klein have taken place? A real fight (though they might choose a different name for it), sometimes verging on the uncomfortable, people calling each other out over ideas. A fight they keep at long after others may have tired of it, until they can come to an increasingly liveable relation that includes difference even as it discovers something significant in common. If the question that seems at stake to us, the nature of the artist’s responsibility toward those imprisoned elsewhere for doing exactly what we do, is not of interest, hopefully the process of engaged relation will be, the coming to terms of difference in a reconfigured being in common.
We are not interested in presenting some display case arrangement of art and ideas. Perhaps that feels like “ideological baggage.” We like to think of it more as an opening, a potential being in common beyond the existing order of what Emerson called, before it became trite, “conformity,” the abject capitulation to the Given. Rather than display case perfections, we prefer an attempt at what Giorgio Agamben called the coming community, and Peter Lamborn Wilson called a temporary autonomous zone. If our provocation is the examples of Rolling Stock, intent., and House Organ, we don’t claim to be like them other than in our commitment to try and make a space for a community of differences and resistances to come together, which each of those Events did in their own way. Rolling Stock bathed us in Ed Dorn’s acid wit, cutting through the complacencies and moralisms of the 80’s, invoking a world of brilliant correspondents. intent. called to attention a community, crystalized it across time and space illuminated by Jack Clarke’s gentle, expansive, generous intelligence. House Organ took up the work of offering much of that community a home for over 26 years. Four times a year, Ken Warren heroically delivered an eclectic, ecstatic announcement of its continuing work.
Dispatches is in awe of those events and their authors, and we honour them and their mission. We try to do that by keeping them in our heartmind while going about our business. Doing this means we will provoke negative comparisons. So be it. We are not interested in a measure that is meant to stop work rather than incite it. We are interested in becoming a place of specific, shared concern with modes of active resistance through being in common, and hope that Dispatches can continue to offer a home to that possibility, however temporary or even tentative – a being in common that declares itself disruptive, different, unsettled, always already othered.