Anarchist Poetry, Second Installment: Anarchy Alive!

In Uri Gordon’s work, the central elements that I gleaned from the text were those concerned with the culture of domination that perpetuates the state, Gordon’s theory of power, and his opinion regarding technology.  What first struck me in Anarchy Alive! was the assertion that “the state is a condition, a certain relationship among human beings…We are the state.”  In other words, the domination and hierarchical nature of our society is not perpetuated by some overarching, removed State against which we can fight; there is in each of us, rather, a personal tendency towards domination.  Gordon says, “Regimes of domination are the overarching context that anarchists see as conditioning people’s socialisation…, explaining why people fall into certain patterns of behaviour and have expectations that contribute to the perpetuation of dominatory relations.”  Following from this, then, while it is possible to fight against the “overarching context” which leads to the perpetuation of detrimental social relations, it is better and more meaningful to engage in personal liberation at the individual level.  In other words, “the only real liberation is self-liberation.”  Gordon’s discussion of power is also notable, in that he distinguishes between power-over, power-to, and power-with.  The first is “power through domination,” that type of power that anarchists strive to reject, but power-to is a “power-from-within,” a power to do things, to create things, a positive power.  And power-with is the power to be an individual acting with a group of people as equals, the power “to suggest and be listened to.”  In my poems, I tried to grapple with Gordon’s differentiation between positive and negative powers and how domination is involved in this differentiation.

Gordon’s views on technology are also intriguing, and I engaged with them to a certain degree in my poems.  His vision of an anarchist, decentralized social structure would not allow for the sustaining of “modern industrial society as we know it”; it would be impossible that “the levels of coordination and precision needed for high technological exploits – from biotech to space exploration – could ever be achieved in a society that lacks centralised management and, moreover, the kind of motivations supplied by a profit economy and the arms race.”  Through this assertion, Gordon links technological progress and the hierarchical and dominatory state structures currently in place, and so in my poems, I attempted to allude to this relationship between technological advancement and the power-over of the state.

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we are perpetuating ourselves
past our own finitude,
building ourselves up, building
our cities up, carving our
names into rock, shouting
our insignificances across
oceans, we are making ourselves
magnificent, we are gathering power
around our beings until we are
too charged to touch
but we push past our own
limits, we reach our muscular arms tattooed
with “DOMINANCE” across borders,
across lives of men we will
never know, we pull the entire world
to us and we drink it
up, we grow fat from it and fall
asleep in the sun we have claimed for
ourselves and snore in a
complacency so loud that
others cannot sleep, others cannot
hear themselves sing
their own liberations

“the only liberation is self-liberation”

we are the violence inherent
in our own nervous systems
the state we tear down lives
through our own bodies our own
beings and we are fighting against
our own worst natures we must
shatter our own dark reflections must
turn and turn and turn in on
our selves turn on ourselves
rooting out the hierarchies nascent
in our skin cells in our muscles
behind our own heartbeats
we are power full awe full
wonder full
if we could shift the patterned
way we move our feet across the floor
disrupt the doorways to power-
over again over against
our own ways of seeing
we are the hinges on which
all the gates are swinging


3 Responses

  1. I would say that society/State is a kyriarchy rather than a hierarchy.

    I have bookmarked this page so I can return to it and give it more thought. Brilliant stuff. Thank you.

    “If I can’t write poetry I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”
    Me, 2011

    Marie Marshall

  2. Wow, I’m so flattered!
    Thanks for this.

    • And thank you for reading! This project on anarchist poetry is for a class I’m taking with Terrance Wiley at Carleton College. I know that you and Terrance have been in contact, but I never expected you to read my project! Your comment was a very nice surprise.

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