Anarchist Poetry, First Installment: The Dispossessed

As part of a course I am taking this term called Anarchism: Religion, Ethics, and Political Obligation, I am writing a collection of poems.  In this collection, my goal is to explore the key ideas in four texts about anarchism: Dorothy Day’s Loaves and Fishes, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, Uri Gordon’s Anarchism Alive!, and Staughton Lynd and Andrej Grubacic’s Wobblies and Zapatistas.  After reading each of these books, I identified what I saw as being the unique and most interesting aspects of the author’s conception of anarchism and used these central concepts as my primary inspiration for the poems I then wrote.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s science fiction novel, The Dispossessed, presents to the reader an anarchist society on the planet Anarres, contrasted with a capitalist society on the planet Urras.  One of the ideas brought up in the novel that I wished to explore was the main character’s assertion that brotherhood begins with shared suffering.  Throughout the novel, it is unclear as to what is holding the anarchist society on Anarres together; the many scattered communities rely on each other for resources, necessitating a complex exchange of goods and workers between the widely-dispersed enclaves of civilization on the barren planet, but aside from the necessity of mutual aid, the characters of the novel seem to be dedicated to each other in a solidarity that goes beyond materialistic incentives.  Shevek (the main character) asserts that this solidarity comes from a profound and deep existential suffering: “In pain, which each of us must suffer alone, in hunger, in poverty, in hope, we know our brotherhood.”  His belief in the universality and ineradicability of Pain is the idea upon which I based my first poem.  The second poem draws on the appalling excess and consumption of the capitalist culture to which Shevek is exposed on Urras.  In his anarchist society, having vast amounts of personal property and being unwilling to share with others is seen not only as wasteful but simply as morally wrong.  On Urras, though, he is faced with a culture in which the amassing of property is a sign of wealth and personal worth.  This capitalist obsession with luxury, in stark contrast with the anarchist ethos of sharing and near-asceticism, is what my second Le Guin poem draws out.

“the sunlight differs but there is only one darkness”

brother sister partner tell me
tell me you feel it too when you are out
watering the hollum plants in the middle of
nothing in the middle of dust
and it is settling on your shoulders
in your hair in your lungs and
you cannot stop coughing up
all the things you do not want to see
tell me tell me I am alone but I am
not alone tell me I am like nothing
you have ever seen and that
frightens you and tell me you are afraid
of the revolutions I am acting out
in my own chest in the space of my own skull
tell me you can see the explosions
behind my eyes my pupils glowing my
blood rushing so loud you can hear it
across the room tell me you can see
my heart beating through my clothes
because here is my secret pain here
is the wound I hide from the world
my masked blindness my last weakness
my first failing but tell me
tell me it is yours too tell me you
have known it in the darkness when
you think the world is sleeping
brother we are alone we are alone
in our own being in our own
boundaries the world is outside of me and
I can never hold it but hold my hand tell me
tell me you know who I am

“acres of luxuries, acres of excrement”

Full hands full hands!
We are holding onto everything onto
boxes in our rib cages in our basements in
our attics sealed shut never opened never
used never given up.
Things are collecting dust
but we keep it all.
It is our insulation against disappearance
against lowering against falling away
into obscurity into nothingness because
we are distinguished! We are POWER
full with things we wear
on our sleeves see them
see them here? They are HERE we are
in this and this and this and this and
THIS and all of it! OURS and ours and
ours!  And money is for spending for having
for surely we deserve it all all and
all and we will take six yards of cloth and
spin it around our shoulders and we will be so
warm and glowing and GREAT and we will eat
dessert twice twice four times even because
how can it not be good taste good feel good?
Our jewels on our necks on our fingers and our
names are scattered across the world when
the sunlight hits them and we are reflected
in it all! Can you see us? Aren’t we
blinding? Aren’t we
lovely? Yes?
Yes?

 

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One Response

  1. Bookmarking this page too.

    M

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