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The Finsbury Manifesto

July 22, 2009

Twenty statements of poetics BY ERNESTO PRIEGO


. by EDZ

1. There is no poetry without experience. Experience is poetical for it reconfigures what is lived polysemically, significantly.

2. Poetry is a “craft” for it is an ability that is learned, developed, and perfected. Although it is not innate, and though its uses and expressions vary from one culture to other, poetry is a physiological, psychological, and epistemological duty.

3. She or he who writes poetry may decide not to do so; she or he who does not write poetry, however, will hardly begin doing so. Poetry is a germ that ought to be fed from its early infancy. It might be “discovered” and developed in late stages of life, having been concealed throughout a long time, perhaps. Those who do not develop a poetic temper in early stages of their life, however, will encounter severe difficulties at mastering the craft of poet.

4. Poetry is not learned at “school,” if by “school” we understand an institution. Poetry is only learned if one is willing to question the entire universe. Beyond the commonplace, poetry is a way to inhabit the world. Poetry and “passion” (pathos, but also, “passionating”) are inseparable.

5. Poetry is hermeneutic: it uncovers and discovers what has always been there.

6. Poetry is phenomenology: it makes of experience a conscious process; it establishes relationships between beings and the world.

7. Poetry is ethics: it always resists univocisms and totalitarianisms. It poses the impossible questions, it opens, and multiplies signifieds and signifiers questioning, thus, its metaphysical condition; the matter of poetry is, ultimately, the search for justice, the search for the redemption, always to come.

8. Poetry is politics: not because it is a victim of pamphletarian sectarianisms and aesthetics but because its matter is language and it, thus, constructs and is the result of discourses. Poetry is the expression of singularities and collectivities. Poetry always is signed by a taking of a stance. Poetry is social for its mere existence opts for dialogue. Poetry is political or it is not poetry.

9. The poet lives in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction. The world does not suffice for s-he knows that the contradiction of his existence is deferral (of signifieds, of “practical stuff,” of “men ambitions”). S-he always suspects, thereby, there is something else, even when he is content at times with certain solutions. The world, however, is porous to her-him: her-his experience is aporetical.

10. The poet is an infirm person who desires to spread her-his malady; hers-his and of others like her-him. The poet sees the universe through a microscope and s-he knows that each sneeze spreads the invisible virus to the naked eye. But the skin knows and pores open at times. The poet sweats poetry.
11. Poetry is not purely linguistic. (The poet, by definition, knows that that nothing is “pure.”) It shall be suspected from the one who calls her-himself a poet and does not succumb before the poetry of music, painting, dance, cinema, arts in general. In the same fashion as the dancer or the actor, sometimes the poet does not need more than his own body to express himself. Poetry is a corporeal art.

12. There are no national poetries. There are geopolitical appropriations, always institutional. Poetry does not matter just because states erect statues of the poet, or publish his entire works, or give him prizes, or engrave his profile in coins. Poetry evinces the collective experience of a community if, and only if, it is the result of the utmost individual direct sincerity. Scribes of hymns or “flowers,” those who write to earn acknowledgement, or to “represent” their place of origin, or “their people,” are not poets: they are demagogues. Poetry will attain a more ample acceptance, worldwide perhaps, only if it emerges from a particularly honest voice. Only that which is particular in its beginning—and that which recognizes other particularities always differing—may aspire, without ever doing so, to the more or less universal.

13. Poetry in the 21st century is only possible if it is located at the fleeting present. The poetry of this century is assumed as the resistance to the fierce alienation massively produced by systems that seek standardization of discourses. Poetry resignifies a world where signifieds have been reduced to mere figures, or statistics.

14. The poetry of the 21st century is located at the same flux as digital communications. Poetry that circulates over the Internet destabilizes standardization of electronic exchanges, making writing and reading newly inseparable acts. The poetry of the 21st century restitutes poetry to those who write it and read it. Poetry that is written in these days seeks the elimination of literary parasites: the author-reader will not continue to be passive and will seek to make of his craft something that matters, with his own means, without having to depend on intermediation channels, that always are parasitical.

15. The poet is in love with risk. The risk does not recognize frontiers between text and the world. Aesthetic risk is vital risk. Poetry, as heteronomy, acknowledges and is in quest for difference and polyvocality. The figure of the poet in the 21st century dares to leave behind the romantic dreams of the tragic hero, or of the contemplative bourgeois.

16. The poet of this century assumes that her-his craft guarantees nothing that the non-poetical world may comprehend. Thus the poet seeks contagion. S-He makes poetry in daily life to contaminate those who surround her-him. The poet does not seek to belong to anything (thus the poet is a comedian: clubs of poets are only of dead or zombies). The living poet casts off the world in order to rebuild it.

17. The poet writes because s-he has no alternative. To decide to do other things is possible, only if writing is implied. The only void is a life without poetry.

18. The computer is a poetical machine. The poet is not content with it as a glorified typewriter. The computer defines poetry as much as it lets poetry be. The computer and the worldwide web redefine the craft of the poet in a constant and variable way. To limit oneself to the printed word is mental idleness, or reactionary poverty.

19. Poetry is gathering. The poet does not promote himself; the poet promotes her-his word to gather with the other. Poetry does not exist in 500 published copies, or in manuscripts in a dusty drawer, or in an abandoned website. Poetry exists in the permanent act of making it live through his arrival to the others.

20. Poetry cannot continue to be the privilege of a few. What Aristotle said was, rather, that a life without poetry was not worth living. Unraveling from sheer madness would then signify making of sentience a poetical experience. If it is true that not every individual may live living the craft of poet (which means neither “make a living from poetry” , nor “living from being a poet”), every individual should, ideally, be able to make of her-his life a poetical, free, beautiful, and responsible act.

Represent!, Rise Festival, Finsbury Park, London, by simonse15


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