The Moment: Conceptualism and Resistance

The Witches Are Going To Their Sabbath by Luis Ricard Falero

A Happening

Two birds, flying East, hit the night

at 3 in the afternoon; stars came out

over the badlands, and the billowy

snowlands; they floundered on

resolving not to turn back in search

of lost afternoon; continuing

through cotton wilderness

Denise Levertov

I’m actually really tired of the conceptual versus lyrical debate. But I’m still heavily invested in it because I’ve learned so much from both camps. They’re camps that move forward if the tensions are in good condition and out of that they progress. I’ve been thinking on Newton’s Second Law whereupon “the acceleration of an object as produced by a net force is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force, in the same direction as the net force, and inversely proportional to the mass of the object.” Using that logic works in favour of creating mutual solutions in arguments. You defend your point, you listen, and then you agree to see the positive points and discard the flaws in each other’s responses. Then you move forward, or rather, no one wins or walks away, but you both move forward. Of course Marie Curie says it best: “I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy,”ie. things aren’t always simple.

I’ve been keeping a keen eye on the arguments against conceptualism as a symptom of capitalism. I can see where that argument can be made. In rendering James Joyce texts in my work, I am taking advantage of the free market that his public words offer me. However, I’m transcribing. I do display Joyce’s work by mixing it with other works or rearrange his words to shine a different light on them. It’s empowered me as a heavy reader ofUlysses to gather a new appreciation for the man’s work. In transcribingUlysses by hand, I’m creating a living and ongoing moment with Joyce’s text. I enjoy it immensely.

In my This Is Room 101 project, I mixed Orwell’s 1984 with headlines stories of the Wall Street Journal. The work itself was very non-sensical. Yet I found spontaneous meaning scattered throughout it. Ongoing international revolutions were mixed with integral parts of Orwell’s text, showing a predictable synchronicity. It’s fascinating to me. In the Wall Street project, where I created found poetry out of the journal, a created a sonnet out of the evil looking power morcellator. None of these works, however (as far as I know), benefitted anyone, but myself, intellectually, that is. I haven’t made any money from it. They made me a better poet, a better critic and in that regard, I hope to give back one day.

I do a lot of lyrical work and that’s the way I started creating. Words that were given to me by my parents, by my school, and by everything that influences me, made me into the writer I am today. Today those words are questioned. Where did this language come from? It came from conquistadors, conquerors, enslavers, and a school system that is still very blind to the people it teaches. The language also comes from my mother, my father, the land that birthed them, and the people whose blood runs through my veins, that were made extinct by the same people that taught them the new language. Chibcha is the language of the natives in Colombia. It is taught to a small population of students in Cota, Colombia. It is an extinct language.

So when I read people quoting white men, white women, teachers of the conquering language, in favor of killing conceptual work, it’s hypocritical to me. To kill oppressor, one must really obliterate them, but where do we go from there? The poet is the world’s unpaid politician. Do we cling on to capitalism? Do we run to communism? Do we call for anarchy? All the -isms have been done and tried and were birthed by a conquering people. Where are the solutions beyond this new lack of language and lack of new politics?

As we sit hear raging and outraging towards one aspect of poetics, where are the people screaming about the lack of people that look like the general population in literature awards? Where are the people that are supposed to be defending our right to be listening and teaching our children international poetics? The ghazals, the sagas, the beautiful forms and rhythms in slam poetry? Yes, slam poetry. A world of orators that most of the Western world still doesn’t “get.” Why? Because it isn’t white? Because it doesn’t live up to the standards of “classical-this-is-how-it-has-always-been” poetry teaching techniques? What of the female driven oral cultures? What of the stories and rhythms passed on from father to child in the desert, jungles, and places and times without the master?

Do I stop conceptualizing if someone tells me to? Hell, no. This is how it all started to begin with, with one person telling another how they should and should not do things. Words belong to the people. Words help the individual speak. The only rule for me is to create with compassion, even if it is out of anger or love, compassion and understanding. Rage on, destroy, and create. Lyrically, conceptually, or whatever the future brings. Just think about it while you create. Analyze it. Shed new lights on it. Progress.

This conversation isn’t over. My own thinking, rendering, and analyzing of the world will never be over.

Resist I must — I must resist
In the hope of deliverance.
There is a living seed in water
That shall become a towering tree.

– Simin Behbahāni

I am grateful. From now on, I fight, I will rage, I will create with my words now stronger than ever.


EDIT: It’s very important for me to note this and emphasize this.


 No one cares about art criticism: Advocating for an embodiment of the avant garde as an alternative to capitalism

by STEVEN COTTINGHAM in the Temporary Art Review

I have finished retyping Orwell’s 1984 and The Wall Street Journal

You can find the last entry here with a few thoughts on the project:





George Orwell in his Burma passport photo. Source:

Political poetry thoughts (an absurdist ramble of sorts).


Politics. I try to stay away from politics (it pulls me down further than I already am), but it’s a part of being creative, politics infects everything you do. Sometimes my motivation to write things stems from the politics in literature, film, or television. It’s everywhere around me. I think on the forces within media that might provoke my daughter into thinking unrealistic things about her body. I think on the forces within the education system that reinforce my son’s disenfranchisement with the way autism is treated under a “special needs” umbrella.

I think a lot.

Guattari and Deleuze. Dudes talking about rhizomes.

Lately I’ve been reading communist and socialist manifestos (OH HI NSA!). Guattari, Deleuze, and Debord have been looping through my head too like little worms gorging on fresh meat (and for some reason, they feast even stronger as I look Python). I don’t affiliate with any ideology at the moment. Nothing has been proven to work. I mostly read, render, discuss when I’m confident enough to navigate the topic socially. This morning I found myself defending my city, Toronto, purely out of emotion, while my friend lambasted the politics that are brining Toronto to the lowest of low. I felt his rant was like people coming to my house and throwing rocks at it. It’s ok, though because it’s how worldwide media has treated our city because of Rob Ford.


Meh. We take it, but we soldier on. We complain about the weather, the lack of city funding, the lack of resources, and everything really. We are in the rut.

Then I had an email argument with a gentlemen about the pluses and minuses of uncreative writing. They wanted me to create more because they said they loved my poetry. They asked why I was wasting my time rewriting and retyping existing texts, “Why not focus on recreating them?” Why use a typewriter when a computer is so convenient?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to defend my uncreative process more than its output. I write a lot of poetry. I rarely publish it (publishing is a difficult world to navigate, but when I do it’s great). However, even putting stuff up here online has been rare because I’ve never been in a big hurry to. The uncreative process has been meatier and instills a great element of the new for me right now. I’m hardly evangelical about it (even though it might seem like it), because I am still writing reviews, still writing poetry, still putting output that is mine. The retype and the rewrite is my own work of someone else’s words. Before the printing press monks used to scribe and it was considered good work. Scribers were pretty educated back in the day and learned a lot about literature and politics because of their work. I like to think of myself as a Joycean monk (he’d probably hate that said that). Somehow the retype has unstuck my own creative rut and that’s why I keep doing it.

Denise “bitches don’t know about my poetry” Levertov

The rut. This is how I feel the world is right now. We’re stuck in a place of meaningless limbo where the word “selfie” is a thing (dude, it’s a photo, wtf is a selfie?), and we argue about how we criticize things. Are we so dedicated to homogenous responses that we fail to even provoke the provokers? Are we so dedicated to the box that we fail to read those who think outside of it?

As he was watching old Dr. Who, my son said to me this morning,”The world goes around in circles, mom. It’s like we do things and then when it’s over, we have to relive yesterday because we need to feel good again. That’s nostalgia.”

My son is 12 and his biggest interests are Dr. Who, Minecraft, and occasionally spitting out gems like that as if he invented philosophy (he’ll also drink a giant carton of milk like a juice box).

On top of all the political reading I’ve been doing, I’ve focused a lot on 80s futurism. I’ll image google like crazy some days trying to capture how we felt about the future in the 80s. I’m living in that future imagined in the design and clothing seen in the films back then. Kubrick got it all wrong for 2001 and, but the design would totally hold up right now as both futuristic and nostalgic. The subversive sense of Kubrick design  was as if he was provoking us to imagine and to make those dreams solid. Alas, I have no Clockwork Orange egg chairs because they’re too expensive, but I totally would if I could.

Here’s what I’m thinking, as we get nostalgic and rework for now the 80s/90s future for modern-day fashions (yeah big pant 90s are back), it’s nothing new. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (Hi, I rewrite and retype novels.). However, I find it a symptom of the rut we can’t get out of: We are on a continuous loop because we can’t imagine changing the status quo. Sure we talk about revolution, but where are the poets (Bolaño? Levertov?)?  Where are the thought-provoking statements that makes us ponder the now for the future? Are they busy still arguing about how best to rebel? Are they busy trying to keep the standards of living that they’re afraid to throw it all out and start anew?

Before re-committing to being a writer again, I just read everything in my path. I’d observe and found myself even more frightened of the bigness of the world. There is no career path out there where nepotism and elitism (about who you know, not just what you know), isn’t a part of the career path. I just can’t do it. I’m not competitive. I don’t play favourites and I don’t want to be a favourite. I like doing what I do. I write, even though I barely make any money at it, and I’m lucky because I have a supportive partner. It’s not the path I had aimed to make for myself. My goal of living independently and supporting myself doing what I love, is farther on the horizon than it ever was now. My partner’s financial support is supported in turn by my own care of the home and the children. But my mind is free. I can write, provoke, and follow my own crazy path because of it. BUT things need to change. I don’t want my daughter to depend on anyone else for her own freedom.

We live in a world of the political circle jerk. It infiltrates careers, film, literature, and all realms of creativity. So what can we do? I don’t know, maybe stay out of it? Maybe provoke from the sidelines? Try not to contribute to the circle jerk. Break it. Publish with small presses and make yourself heard through the free world of the internet? I really don’t care. I just know that the world got so fast that we went way past post-modernism and find ourselves at the brink of post-futurism and the world doesn’t know it. These are supposed to be the best of times with flying cars, floating buildings, regenerated forests, and abolishing the term of “normal” because no such thing ever existed.

We need a revolution. We need the poets to stop listening to the critiques and let them criticize. Negative and positive, bring it on (I relish writing both good and bad reviews). Let them excel at their commentary, for it challenges us. In turn, we will provoke, make new things, and buy ourselves some egg-shaped chairs. Do whatever it is you do and do it well, but contribute something new to the discussion, incite, rework, and question. We need to write about flying cars again. We need to write on computers and remember that they’re basically digital typewriters.

my trusty Imperial Model 6.

You and I are concepts with the capacity to reinvent themselves. I am Duchamp’s urinal. I am Dali’s melting clock. I am a word without the letter “e.,” I am a concept and the concept is too busy existing that she forgot she needed to speak.

P.S. Speaking of thinking outside that perpetually solid box, RIP Mike Vraney:

P.S.S. The Self-Abolition of the Poet