Do You Make Art?


See the links below on Art and Capitalism

and the COMMENTS.

In the age of Zombie Capitalism, pleaset–tell us your thoughts. What is your experience with the gallery to investor system?

Have you considered, or tried alternatives?

Yes, we know–artists have a right to be rewarded for their work, but why do you think the capitalist market is the only way? Why not turn our creativity to imagining a new and better world?



“Imagine a new relationship to every aspect of everything.”

“Capitalism has fallen; Art must be redefined.”

“You get to pick your gender when you come of age, but feel free to change your mind.”

“Living together is still hard; Art makes it better.”
Posted on Art Threat

Last Stages


of what became Ari Figue’s Cat.
from March, 2010

I have a work-in-progress. Fiction. Working title: Found Things. Closing in on 100,000 words, so by volume, I guess it’s a novel. Or would be if I could stop rewriting draft after draft and finish it. I began work on it a month or so after finishing my first novel—in 2001. Nine years and counting. My last run at it was going pretty well, but I wanted to get back to poetry. I would start to write and find myself scribbling out notes for poems. The notes began to turn into poems Sometime in November I put the novel aside. Have written almost 100 new poems since—and happy for it. How could I not be? Never been so productive in my life. But I can’t say I’ve stopped looking back, stopped thinking about the unfinished novel.

It’s more than leaving something undone. I’ve abandoned cartloads of stories and poems without a moment’s regret. This is different. it tugs at me, nags; I go to sleep thinking about it and wake up ready to to dive back into it. Then I write another poem, and realize that, as much as I’d like to resolve this, I don’t want to put the poetry aside.

A few days ago I realized that if and when I did get back to it, I would have to do a major revision, right from the beginning. The main character is way too passive. I’ve been holding something back, I thought. As though I was courting sympathy on his behalf, as though I wanted readers to like him! This was a deeply satisfying idea—to make him driven (he already is, but so far, with no clear object or motive). Driven, manipulative, self deceived.

Now I’m thinking that’s still not enough. Yes, I want to finish it. No, I don’t want to write a ‘novel.’

I really don’t.

Not anymore. Not the sort of novel this keeps turning into. And playing with the characters isn’t going to change that.

Why not write it over. As poetry? Something no less radical.

It’s how it began

There are chapters now that read like conventional short fiction. I meant them to stand in contrast to their surrounding context. They do, but the difference is not stark enough. The contrasts are superficial, stylistic, fail to penetrate to the level of language itself, fail to push at the boundaries of poetry and prose. most disturbing of all, fail to challenge the hegemonic authority of narrative, its power to harness every other element–space and time itself–to the task of fulfilling the mimetic desires of the reader.

What is the pleasure—or the point—of limiting our efforts to what we know we can do?

Finished now. Proofs waiting for release of this book, May 25. Did I do it? How far did it fall short? Will there be another?

PDF and Mobi-(for Kindle) digital prepublication copies available at SMASHWORDS.

Talking to Trees


from November, 2010

I walked in Morris Park along the creek where last year I found the bones of a deer. I talked to the trees. I tied the poem I wrote to a tree by the creek.

Yesterday I was meditating, sitting on the blue wall, not too close and not too far from the Poem Tree. Meditating for me doesn’t mean spacing out, entering an altered state or filtering out the passing world. I attend to what is happening: passers by, cars, bickers, pigeons hunting for scraps near my feet–but without following after. Not unlike how one deals with the unceasing river of thoughts. Cannot be stopped, but you learn not to hitch rides. Let them pass.

I became aware of something missing—something I was perhaps blocking out. This came to me when I spontaneously greeted a pigeon, and then a dog as it passed. I didn’t say anything, but acknowledged them in silent greeting. I wasn’t on a heavily trafficked walk in Center City where one is forced to withdraw, to block engagement, and yet I realized I was treating the people who walked past like phantoms. How would it interrupt or disturb my meditation to let myself be open to greeting those who were in turn, open to my presence? I began to bring that into my meditation. People would go by, folded up in their own thoughts, their cell phone conversations–noticing little more than what was necessary to keep walking in a straight line, to not trip over obstacles. But a few would see me on the wall. See the Spirit Stick. Something would pass between us. Mutual acknowledgment.

I exist. You exist.

It felt so natural. Why had I needed to remind myself? To choose to do this? And it occurred to me, not as a thought exactly, but an impulse, that if I could greet birds, dogs, people—why not passing cars? Planes overhead? Trees? Trash receptacles? Sign posts? The street itself? It all began to feel like a great river of love was sweeping us up in its embrace—everything.

As I walked home, I told myself… I need to learn how to speak to things.
Today in the park I talked to the trees. And to stones. And to the creek. I told the creek I knew that people had given it a name—but I couldn’t say it. It felt like a brand of ownership. I told the creek I didn’t want to own it. How happy it made me, watching it flow past, free of me, of my need to bind it to a name! I told the trees the story of the Poem Tree—how it had found a second life. They must be pleased, I thought—to hear a story of a tree come back to life. And I felt such happiness! That it was right, telling them this story. That what I had done was perfectly natural and right and good.

Later, on the upper path, there was no need to tell the story. It was enough to greet them. They knew. They understood. Their roots in the same earth. Their branches moved by the same wind.

It isn’t because there are spirits in the trees, or consciousness… like human consciousness. It was because, in speaking to them, it was so deeply pressed upon me how different they were, and yet, under the light and warmth of that great thermonuclear furnace beginning to bath the tops of the trees in orange and gold, it was equally pressed upon me that we were also alike. Specks on the surface of the earth, the earth itself little more than a speck in the Milky Way, and the Milky Way a speck in the universe.

On the way home I spoke to many things. I spoke to the signs on the walls of the subway… they were so heavy, so weighted down in the slavery of being owned, and in the service of owners and ownership. But by speaking to them, I sensed that they were more and other than their slavery. Things. Things that held powers, other powers, that might become visible once relieved of the slavery of ownership, and of service to ownership.

This is what poems do, I thought. What art does. Makes visible in the poem, in the work of art, a trace of what is beyond using and being used, resisting ownership. A trace of Being… for itself, and nothing else.

Let me add this as a follow up:
Deborah Morkun, in responding to a FaceBook post on how good it was to talk to trees, added… “It is important to talk to trees. Wise trees.” I think the “wisdom of trees” consists precisely in their inhuman silence, in their making no demands, requesting nothing, having no secret wisdom to reveal. They stand beside us in their own Being. If we resist projecting our desires onto the tree–it becomes an almost effortless experience of ‘traversing the fantasy,’ so much more difficult to do with other persons where we stand trapped in anxious need to respond to what we can only guess they might want of us, ready to betray our own desires in trying to resist or fulfill the demands of what Blake called Nobaddy, and Lacan, the Big Other.

… first you do stuff,
and then you write about it
and if what you do is a poem…

Art & Capitalism: The Privatization of Creativity

“Real creativity is the ability to change the world together.”



” Real, deep creativity can never be achieved as an individual possession but is always a collective process, bound up with values of equality, social justice and community. ”

” Creativity must embrace its tradition, potential and promise as a key part of cultivating critical, revolutionary communities that resist capitalism, colonialism, gender oppression and racism and create fierce and sustainable alternatives within and against the status quo. Creativity is, in part, the way we refuse our current “reality” and, in a very small and often abstract way, propose or model something different. When creativity joins, supports and critiques social movements for radical change, or when it helps imagine and build the post-capitalist society of the future in the present, it is at its very best. “

Discussion Group: Open Invitation to Artists and their Friends
A-Space, Philadelphia
Saturday, March 23. 7:00 PM (see link below)

When We Have Evicted the Gods

… what do we do with the house we had them build?

What is the source of the arrogance and intellectual laziness of those, who, thinking that in rejecting belief in the gods, that they’ve freed themselves altogether of the inheritance of religion–when all they’ve done is kick the spooks out of the haunted house and replaced them with the ‘human,’ whatever that is–forgetting that this house was built by the gods. That is–its building is what we invented the gods to do, and as its existence makes no sense without them, they are without further ado, replaced… with ‘us’… with the mostly unexamined illusions we think we see when we think we’re looking at ourselves in the mirror.

What I had in mind when I wrote these two poems: Taking Leave of the Animals, and Like Nothing in this World (Phila Stories: Winter 2008).

The animals, of course, are not the one’s telling the lies–but the irony is itself a multi-layered lie, establishing a falsely separate kingdom of Being for the human while covering over the consequence–by building the myth of the human apart from the other animals, from what we imagine as the House of Nature–and in that very act, establishing the necessity of duel Kingship–the double thrown of creator god and his perpetually infantilized servant-subject. The complacent atheist pulls the trap door on Nobadday, only to climb onto the vacant thrown and assume that imaginary rule for the hu-Man-god.

We cannot begin without taking leave
He said when he turned us away
Fire leapt from his tongue

Instead, we gathered the names, leaving the animals
Speechless in the forest brakes, the river’s course.
Only now do we understand the nature of our loss

We cannot begin without taking leave
They were more than we could bear, these words.
They grew fruitful and multiplied

We hung them on every bough.
There were not enough trees to hold them.
They fell to the earth like leaves

We cannot begin without taking leave
Our lips are dry with trying
Our fingers sign what we cannot say

How can we leave
What was never ours to begin with?
How can we ever return what we found
in their burning, silent eyes?

Like Nothing in the World

The world is filled with gods
They are like nothing else in the world
This is how you know they are gods

The gods did not make the world
The gods were made by the world
They are more helpless then they have ever been

I asked them if they were once
Like the gods of our storied past
But they did not answer

Their tongues were made of stone
And their teeth of wool
They neither sing nor speak

I found them one day searching
For change, but my pockets were empty
Everything now must remain as it was

Only the world changes
As stars withdraw to the beginning of time
As we found ourselves at the edge of the forest

Following the animals over the plains
Listening to their lies, their endless
Stories of gods who will not let them be

The Critical Task


from January 2010

One can only hope for readers who notice the cracks you’ve left, and the light that shines through from the other side.

I’ve been thinking about the Trace. As through a cloud chamber an energized particle passes, ionizing the cloud medium, marking the path of the particle–a trace that is not itself the moving particle that made it, but its sign. So a poem, a work of art. What is left on the page, the canvas, resonating in our hearing: the Trace of the encounter that is its meaning. An absence marked, or mark of what is absent.
The critical task, both necessary and impossible, is to evoke through a second level encounter with the Trace (the Thing left to mark the Absence… the Lacanian Real ?) — the shape of the relationship between the remnant and that which is no longer there and cannot be reclaimed, renamed, recounted. A second Trace, a second Absence.