ORGANIZER: Jamal Raslan Abdul Jalil
Work for Change is a piece that emerged in response to Big Bridge editor Michael Rothenberg’s organization of a global poetry performance event–scheduled for September 24, 2011–centered simply & elegantly, if somewhat enigmatically, upon the encouragement for a commitment to change in the practice of our daily lives as members of a shared & collective humanity– perhaps as entities belonging to that collectivity of life & universe itself.
I found a number of discoveries were made possible by such a framing of commonality & mutual interests among the designation of what are for me at least three highly charged nouns: work, change, & poet. Now, I will make my way slowly towards this first term– work– since, in fact, Rothenberg never actually enlists it– though its immanent presence w/in the construct of the event I think would be rather difficult to refute or deny.
Composition & creation still lie lurking in our contemporary definition & understanding of poesis– however estranged from its primordial etymology we may be, however constrained w/in the socioeconomic entailments of its current production & distribution we might be. “Poetry,” as Tristan Tzara wrote “is made in the mouth”– & yet still finds itself most fully realized w/in the global manufacture of commodity under capitalism upon the pages of books composed of the skin & flesh of dead trees– even still bound occasionally w/ glues & covers taken from the hooves & hides of lives not quite so different from our own as we might wish or dare to imagine. Though we who are poets may sing of life, to be sure, the traces & leavings of our work, however noble in abstraction & idealization of thought, stink of death in the actuality of material existence. These things too, fetishized as the Argentinian butcher’s fresh meat, or fruits from the hemisphere in which the summer season is not yet through, arrive in stores carried in trucks & trains, or overseas in cargo planes which peel ozone from the sky. Although the “immaterial filters” of electronic publication may absolve us of some degree of responsibility for destruction, decomposition, & indiscriminate waste, once our works are bought & sold– whether by means of corporate advertising or more localized trade– in that instant in which a single word from any one of our greatest works touches any increment of monetary ex-change– we have surely & inevitably spilled blood once again. Thus we, as poets, have much work to do w/in our own current means of production & creation which fit this criteria of a need for challenge & change. Change, to borrow from Tzara once again, begins in one’s own house.
Still, the commitment of 100,000 individuals to a project of personal growth & positive change impacting their actions w/in social, political, & environmental systems constitutes no small achievement. The deep, lasting significance, & value of this event then, lies not so much in the actions & performances restricted to September 24, 2011– but rather in our commitment as poets to sustain this willingness to make such radical changes in our own practices continuously– well beyond that date. In a sense, the form(s) & function(s) of such “a work” (sic) takes on aspects of both the simultaneous cooperative event & the collaborative manifesto– ideally, at least, combining the ontic presence of the locutionary, the ethical duty of the illocutionary, & the transformational efficacy of the perlocutionary.
The pieces presented here on You Tube are home studio recording versions of my Street Performance contribution to this collaborative effort on September 24, 2011. Additionally, they represent & bear witness to the radical commitment of 100,000 poets working in local & global dimensions of revolutionary self & social transformation.
Since the performance itself took place in & under the intervals of change between the green, yellow, & red signals of a traffic light, I attempted to abstract from this environmental fact & actuality further contraints upon the semiotics & formal structure of the piece itself. In addition to generating original texts around this conceptual restraint, I also performed covers of the three following widely familiar & wildly popular songs: “Bein’ Green” from the Jim Henson’s Muppets, “Yellow Submarine’ by the Beatles, & “The Red Flag” from the IWW’s Little Red Songbook.
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