Category Archives: Literature

Recommended Reading

A few weeks ago we had an email come in from a Huffington Post writer, asking that we suggest some books on poverty in America for a slide show.  (I was a little confused by the slideshow part, and still am, even having seen the finished product.)  So, even though I’m a jerk and completely forgot about this thing I said I’d do until like the day before the writer’s deadline, I wrote a few words about some books.

According to their website, I’m an expert!  Anyway, it’s here.

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Filed under Announcements, Cyberspace, Jaime, Literature

The People’s Library summering on Governor’s Island

This summer the People’s Library has partnered with Superfront and artist collective DADDY in a project called the Library of Immediacy. Superfront challenged designers to create a semi-outdoor structure for our library within a set of strict parameters in a two-hour charrette that took place on June 10, 2012.

One of the aims of the project is to explore the notion of the library: to create and promote engagement, prompt collaboration and participation within a temporary public space–some of what we at the People’s Library do best! The project will serve as an evolving art installation, a functioning library and a welcoming gathering place.

Here are details about the winning design. The structure is currently being built for us on Governor’s Island–we plan to move a portion of the collection in to the space in the next few weeks.

The library will be open on Governor’s Island weekends from July 21st through September 23rd. Check back here for details about library programming and info on the opening party.

Directions and Ferry schedules here.

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Filed under Announcements, Art, Betsy, Education, Ephemera, Friends of the Library, Literature, Party time!, Public/Private Parks

May Day Verse

From the foregathered there comes a cry

an echo of all that has been said before

in every language

in every way

it sounds like music

it feels like spring

it seems a message

will play here forever

it reaches even those who cannot hear

those who refuse to hear

it sounds like music

it feels like spring

like an echo of all that has been said before

from the foregathered there comes a cry

here it is then

OCCUPY

visit

www.theowsreview.org

for new words from Peter Lamborn Wilson

and submit your literary arts to:

occupyreview@gmail.com

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Filed under Announcements, Art, Literature, Poetry, Sean, Solidarity

Wall Street to Main Street


Six months after Occupy Wall Street (OWS) sparked a global 99% movement, Occupy with Art and Masters on Main Street launch “Wall Street to Main Street” (WS2MS) in historic Catskill, NY. Through a dynamic series of art exhibits, performances, screenings, happenings, public discussions, community- and family-focused activities, WS2MS will not only illuminate the amazing phenomenon of OWS, it will explore possible futures of the movement and build a creative bridge to connect the protests with the real needs and values of Main Street, USA.

Occupy Books: An Experiment in Communal Reading, located at 450 Main Street. This site is books + couches and reading lamps, including an opportunity to write on its walls reflections, quotes, messages and/or whatever you want.  Importantly, the books at Occupy Books are by donation, in keeping with the OWS People’s Library, which will be contributing books from its collection for this action.

WS2MS opens March 17, 2012 in Catskill, NY.

If you would like to donate books directly to the show, please ship to the address below:

Occupy Books
C/O Green County Council on the Arts
P.O.Box 463, 398 Main Street
Catskill, New York 12414

 

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Filed under Announcements, Betsy, Literature, Solidarity

Occupy the OccuPAST: Echoes of Dissidence in the UPS Underground Newspaper Collection (pt. 4 of 4)

Today we have the final installment of Laurie Charnigo’s essay Occupy the OccuPAST: Echoes of Dissidence in the UPS Underground Newspaper Collection. Previous sections are posted here, here and here.

Unlike the literature of Occupy Wall Street, the publishers of these newspapers did not have the benefits of digitization and the Internet to preserve and disseminate their information. Many of these papers would have been lost to history if not for the leaders of the Underground Press Syndicate (UPS) who had the foresight to preserve as many of them as possible. In 1970, Tom Forcade, Head of UPS at the time, formed a deal with the Bell & Howell Company to film the underground papers. This was an ongoing project that continued until 1985. The UPS partnered with the Bell & Howell Company to microfilm hundreds of underground newspapers and newsletters. The result is the UPS Underground Newspaper Collection which, according to a catalog record in WorldCat, is currently housed in 110 (primarily academic) libraries. There have been some efforts to digitize select underground newspapers. For example, Georgia State University has recently digitized all issues of the Great Speckled Bird and made them freely accessible on the Georgia State University Library Digital Collections Web site. Likewise, Liberation News Service is in the process of making LNS packets available from the Liberation News Service Archive. The It’s About Time: Black Panther Party Legacy & Alumni Web site also provides an archive of the Black Panther Party Intercommunal News Service. All issues of The Realist, a satirical newspaper, founded by Paul Krassner, are available from The Realist Archive Project. Although, some consider the Los Angles Free Press to be the first counterculture paper, many include The Realist which predates them all, having been founded in 1958. The Ann Arbor District Library has digitized all issues of the Ann Arbor Sun, from 1967-1976, on their Free John Sinclair Web site. The Sun was founded by John Sinclair. Also available on this Web site are some really cool photos and audio recordings.

On February 28th at 6:30 p.m. at 20 Cooper Square, N.Y.U.’s Program in Museum Studies and Fales Library and Special Collections at Bobst Library will be sponsoring an exhibit on the East Village Other titled “It’s Happening: “Blowing Minds” a Celebration of the East Village Other. Although not freely available, libraries should consider purchasing the CD-ROM digital re-creation of The San Francisco Oracle which provides access to all twelve issues published. Although the Oracle is included in the UPS Underground Newspaper Collection on microfilm, the CD-ROM version provides access to the paper in color. Viewing the Oracle in black and white is like looking at a rainbow without color. Many terrific books have been written about the underground press. Click here for a “Free Handout” which provides a bibliography on such books, including authors cited in this essay, as well as two excellent recently-published titles; Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America by John McMillian and Sean Stewart’s On the Ground: An Illustrated Anecdotal History of the Sixties Underground Press in the U.S.

An interesting thought to end this entry on the UPS Underground Newspaper Collection is that, while scholars today are able to access many articles and newspapers online through databases and on the Web, the hundreds of papers which are not there still exist and only exist because of Thomas King Forcade’s efforts to have them microfilmed. Vendors, aggregated databases, and giant publishing conglomerates dictate what scholars and students are able to instantly access today. Because there is not enough demand for the UPS Underground Newspaper Collection (don’t confuse this with Alt-Press Watch) the vendor which holds the rights to the resource does not currently have any plans to digitize this Collection. Strangely, the very principles the underground press fought adamantly against, commercialization and allowing themselves to be co-opted, are the very reasons it has not entered the digital world. The powers that be just don’t consider the collection to have monetary potential. Perhaps it is up to us, the people, to protect and promote this collection. From their moldy, yellowed, microfilm tombs, it’s time to bring the UPS Underground Newspaper Collection back to life. Promote it. Use it. Demand it. Digitize it?

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Filed under Betsy, Digital Archive, Education, Ephemera, Literature, OccupyLibraries, Reference, Scholarship

Operation Book Bomb Tucson!

Illustration by Molly Crabapple and John Leavitt

As many of you may have already heard The People’s Library in solidarity with Occupy Tucson recently launched an action called Operation Book Bomb Tucson. In response to the disgraceful decision of the Tucson Unified School District to end the ten-year old Mexican-American Studies program, and to ban books from the school curriculum The People’s Library is holding a series of teach-ins/book drives to support the Mexican-American community both in Tucson and throughout the U.S. We are collecting copies of the seven banned texts as well as Spanish language books, books on Mexican history, and books on Latino culture to ship out to the students and teachers of Tucson. We want to let the Mexican-American community know that we are not indifferent to their struggles, and to let the Tucson Unified School District know that a threat to educational freedom somewhere is a threat to educational freedom everywhere. Here is how you can help us.

We have received some generous donations of books from publishers throughout the U.S. including Arte Público Press, NYU Press, and The Southwest Organizing Project. Follow these links and you can ship us copies of the seven banned books to add to our book bomb. We want to ship as many copies of them as we can out to the students and teachers of Tucson. The first two books listed can be purchased at 50% off thanks to the good people at Arte Público.  Just let them know you are purchasing books for Operation Book Bomb Tucson! We encourage you to support publishers and your local independent bookstores with your purchases, but if you need to shop elsewhere online, we’ve also provided some links to Powell’s Books. Click the links below to purchase any of the titles below.

Message to Aztlán by Rodolfo Gonzales

Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by F. Arturo Rosales

Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures by Elizabeth Martinez

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

Rethinking Columbus by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson

Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rodolfo Acuña from Powell’s Books

All books can be shipped to:

The UPS Store
Re: Occupy Wall Street
Attn: The People’s Library/Operation Tucson
118A Fulton St. #205
New York, NY 10038

Additionally we will be holding book donation drives and teach-ins here in New York City. Our first book donation event will be held at the next Occupy Town Square on Sunday, February 26 in Tompkins Square Park from 11AM to 5PM.

Our second event will be held at Word Up Community Bookshop, 4157 Broadway @ 176th St  in Washington Heights on Thursday, March 1, from 7PM-9PM featuring special guest speaker Chris Hedges. Please bring any books to these two events that you would like to donate to Operation Book Bomb Tucson. Keep those books coming and we will update you on our progress here. Thank you for supporting us and for supporting educational freedom everywhere.

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Filed under Announcements, Direct Action, Donations, Education, Frances, Free Speech, Literature, OccupyTucson

Protest History: Underground Press Syndicate pt. 3 (of 4)

Continuing Laurie Charnigo’s essay on Protest History, here is part 3 of 4 from Occupy the OccuPAST: Echoes of Dissidence in the UPS Underground Newspaper Collection.

Although newspapers, as shown in the previous examples, varied on issues so widely that any attempt to include them all would be impossible for this piece, they all bonded loosely as a movement through their unified opposition to the war in Vietnam. Many of the issues most widely shared focused on American imperialism, ecological awareness, dismantling the military industrial complex, and the erosion of constitutional rights such as free speech, expression and the right to peacefully protest. Corporate greed, growing commercialism, inequality, distrust of mass media and “The Establishment” were issues all papers had in common. The writings in this collection are echoes of concerns people are now raising in OWS.

Despite their differences, nearly all underground newspapers became the target of censorship and police harassment. We have the Patriot Act. They had J. Edgar Hoover and the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). In “Dirty Tricks on the Underground Press,” Geoffrey Rips cites a report from the UPS which indicated that at least 60% of their members experienced “interference” from the authorities. (47) According to Rips, this “interference” included “prosecutions in the courts, official interruption of distribution, bomb threats and bombs by groups with links to the authorities, harassment of customers and printers, wiretaps, and infiltration by police agents.” Trying to publish an underground paper in a place like Jackson, Mississippi left David Doggett, editor of the Kudzu, financially and psychologically crushed. Rips also reports on how the Black Panther Party (BPP), considered to be a terrorist organization by the FBI, was a constant target of harassment. According to Rips, in a particularly absurd memorandum to the FBI, authorities in Newark suggested spraying bundles of the BPP newspaper with a “chemical known as Skatole” which “disburses a most offensive odor on the object sprayed.” (Rips, 48). The object was to spray as many papers with this stinky substance in order to disrupt distribution of the paper. Authorities also harassed underground newspapers by arresting street vendors for such things as “vagrancy” or distributing obscenity. Streitmatter wrote that:

“On the very day that Richard Nixon was elected President, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sent a memo to his offices coast to coast. The subject of the communiqué was a plan Hoover had developed to halt what his lieutenants were characterizing, with considerable panic, as the ‘vast growth’ of counterculture papers.” (Steitmatter, 214).

It is unnerving to realize that surveillance and erosion of free speech continues under the Patriot Act.

Lest I be accused of over-romanticizing the Sixties Era underground press, I would be remiss not to point out some of its flaws…and there are many. The sixties counterculture papers are often dismissed by scholars as unprofessional, naïve, “hippie,” drivel. It’s certainly true that a forage through the underground papers does turn up its fair share of poorly written news filled with typos, bad artwork, and misinformation. And, heck yeah, there’s a lot of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. So what? One might even argue that liberating sex and legitimizing rock n’ roll were monumental feats in our cultural history.

Even though many of the issues expressed by the counterculture movement were extremely serious there is an ever-present element of humor which runs throughout the underground press. That zany mixture of silliness and seriousness is what is also fun and charming about the writers and artists of the underground press. As Harvey Wasserman (Liberation News Service) wrote in Sean Stewart’s recently-published book On the Ground: an Illustrated Anecdotal History of the Sixties Underground Press in the U. S., “we were not only political activists but comedians…”(Stewart, 180).

All silliness aside, one should not forget that the underground newspaper collection also documents one of the greatest youth movements in U.S. history. The papers are filled with serious and thoughtful discourse concerning the Vietnam War, civil rights, ecology, to the evils of over-consumerism. With gusto and cleverness, articles of sheer brilliance and beauty were published in the underground press. It’s also important to remember that the underground press often broke news on issues before it was deemed appropriate or fitting for mainstream papers. As Rodger Streitmatter suggests in Voices of Revolution: The Dissident Press in America, the underground press was the first to bring forth the truth about what was really happening in Vietnam and why our involvement in it was doomed. Prior to the Tet Offfensive in 1968, Streitmatter reports that all major newspapers supported U.S. involvement in Vietnam, even claiming that the U.S. had almost won. Following the Tet Offensive, mainstream news sentiment quickly flip-flopped to opposition against continued military action. (Streitmatter, 197). Photographs and stories began to expose the extent of the horrors of Vietnam. In their news coverage of the conflict in Vietnam, the newspaper giants were years behind the underground newspapers. (Streitmatter, 199).

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Filed under Betsy, Digital Archive, Ephemera, Literature, Media, Reference, Scholarship, Time Travel

“Modern civilization is a dangerous, insane process– destructive of man’s natural potential, murderous to other species of life, symbol addicted, anti-life. Drop out of the social game.”

Protest History: Underground Press Syndicate pt. 2 (of 4)
Continuing from last week’s installment, here is part two of Laurie Charnigo’s essay, Occupy the OccuPAST: Echoes of Dissidence in the UPS Underground Newspaper Collection.

While the underground newspapers of the sixties and early seventies were united in their opposition to the Vietnam War, their content and purpose was by no means uniform. Some of the papers focused on hippie “drop out” culture, such as the short-lived but beautifully- illustrated San Francisco Oracle published from 1966 to 1968. The Oracle captured the pinnacle of the “Summer of Love” in Haight-Ashbury, covering such subjects as expanding consciousness, experimentation with Eastern spirituality, and human be-ins. Contributors to the Oracle included writers, poets, thinkers, and artists such as Timothy Leary, Gary Snyder, Ken Kesey, Alan Watts, Allen Ginsberg, Michael Bowen, and Allen Cohen. Revolution, as espoused in the Oracle, is an expansion and change of consciousness which occurs within an individual. As Timothy Leary proclaimed in the first issue of the Oracle, “Drop out! Modern civilization is a dangerous, insane process– destructive of man’s natural potential, murderous to other species of life, symbol addicted, anti-life. Drop out of the social game.” Perhaps no other paper in the underground newspaper collection achieved the Oracle’s sophistication in artistic expression. The paper is just as interesting to look at, with its beautiful psychedelic imagery, as it is to read. Allen Cohen, the paper’s editor, wrote that the idea for the Oracle came to him in a “rainbow newspaper” dream. The Oracle, however, only represented one spectrum of the rainbow of underground papers. On the other end of the spectrum were papers which were opposed to flowers, peace, and mind expansion as a central means to obtain social and political justice.

Music may have been the most powerful and unifying expression of the counter-cultural movement. In Voices of Revolution: The Dissident Press in America, Rodger Streitmatter writes “Despite rock ‘n’ Roll’s evolution into a potent cultural force, the established media largely ignored it.” (211). Streitmatter goes on to assert that underground newspapers helped “legitimize” rock n’ roll by providing the first serious reviews and analysis of records. One of the most beautiful counterculture essays is “Liberation Music” written by John Sinclair, former White Panther Party member, while he was serving time in Marquette Prison in July 1970. In “Liberation Music” which was published in Creem Magazine, Sinclair warns about the commercialization of music and how it is was being co-opted by big corporate interests. In this piece, Sinclair writes about the origins of the counterculture movement “Our culture started to develop about five years ago [1965] as a real alternative to the death culture of the straight world. We started from where we were then, which was almost nowhere, and we built up our culture from the ground.” Sinclair found parallels between what was happening in the rock and roll world and society as a whole, writing:

“…if we study the way the pig has infiltrated and taken over and manipulated our culture, we can not only discover how to put an end to this exploitation but we can also see how monopoly capitalism and imperialism works in the larger society as well. What we have to realize, finally, is that everything that happens in the macrocosm of the American consumer culture can be seen in detail at work in the microcosm of the rock and roll world, and if we can combat the consumer mentality in our culture then we can combat it in the mother country culture too, and save ourselves and eventually all the people of the earth from destruction at the hands of the greed creeps and “owners” who are causing all of us all this grief.”

While underground papers served as the journalistic voice of the counterculture movement, rock n’ roll was the greatest and most lasting expression of the movement.

While sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll surface frequently in the underground newspapers, hundreds of others focused solely on serious social and political issues. New Left Notes, the official paper of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), for example, focused on New Left ideology. The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service (BPINS) was the voice of the Black Panther Party and addressed Black Power and African American issues. Papers in the south, such at The Great Speckled Bird in Atlanta, the Kudzu in Jackson, Mississippi, T-Town’s High Gauge (roll tide, crimson hippies!) and NOLA Express in New Orleans spent a great deal of time reporting on civil rights issues. Although hippies and college-educated New Left did not exactly fit in with the working class, Rising up Angry addressed workers rights in Chicago. Free Palestine (Washington, D.C.) took up the issue of Palestinian rights and ran from 1969-1971. In the January 1969 issue of Free Palestine, Justin Harris urged Americans to become more informed about the IsraeliPalestinian conflict writing:

“One can make a fine start towards the goal of wider understanding by reading the message of the Palestinian resistance as presented by Free Palestine, and then continue with additional study of the historical roots of the problem and the present-day ramifications. Careful consideration should be given to this movement’s revolutionary contribution to the Arab world; its political impact on American society and its spiritual significance to all the oppressed people of the world.”

Dine’ Baa Hani gives readers a glimpse into the social issues surrounding the Navajo during 1970 to 1973. Modern Utopia provided information about communal living and compiled lists and addresses of social organizations. Gay Sunshine was one of the first papers to focus on gay and Lesbian rights following the Stonewall Riots in 1969. G.I. Press Service was an example of the many underground newspapers created by soldiers who opposed the War in Vietnam. Perhaps G.I. papers, more than any other paper, would have been considered “underground.”

Women’s rights were the central focus of Rat (New York), It’ Aint Me Babe (Berkeley), and Ain’t I a Woman (Iowa). In 1970, the women who worked at Rat staged a coup and took over the entire paper, opening up “LiberRATion” from their alleged sexist- male coworkers whom they believed had relegated them to secretarial or non-important positions in the paper. In her exposé, “Goodbye to All That,” printed in Rat’s “take over” edition, Robin Morgan wrote:

“Goodbye, goodbye forever, counterfeit Left, counterleft, male-dominated cracked-glass mirror reflection of the Amerikan Nightmare. Women are the real Left. We are rising, powerful in our unclean bodies; bright glowing mad in our inferior brains; wild hair flying, wild eyes staring, wild voices keening…We are rising with a fury older and potentially greater than any force in history, and this time we will be free or no one will survive. Power to the people or to none. All the way down this time.”

Morgan’s “Goodbye to All That” was widely reprinted and considered one of the best underground newspaper essays on the role of women in the counterculture movement.

Numerous papers were centered around or started as college newspapers. These papers tended to create a counterculture environment on or around campuses, with many forming SDS chapters. In September 1969, NOLO Express (New Orleans) put out a special “Student Handbook” in which they exposed the big corporate affiliations of the LSU at New Orleans Board of Supervisors in “Freshman Orientation 101: Introduction to LSU Board of Supervisors”. The editors proceeded to lambaste the monopoly of the campus bookstore and the outrageous prices of textbooks in “Book Store Code Exposed.” Other pieces in the “Student Handbook” included “Busting the Ban on SDS “ (the University felt the organization was too radical for LSUNO), disgruntlement at the high prices of coffee and the “cardboard hamburgers” in the University Cafeteria, a “Freshman Orientation Quiz” with a section on maps titled “Know your Empire,” and a piece bemoaning the increase in student fees. On the cover of the handbook is a cartoon by R. Cobb of Satan tempting a hippie- looking Adam and Eve couple with the caption “Besides…Just how far do you think you can get in today’s world without a good education?”

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Filed under Art, Betsy, Digital Archive, Ephemera, Literature, Reference, Scholarship

the occupy wall street review

The Fiddler and a banjo beginner play old union songs in the night. And somewhere amidst the Beautiful Chaos of the Occupation comes whispers of what we are doing: “OCCUPY these areas [that we may] carry on [our]festive purposes for quite awhile in relative peace.”

this is a bootstrap operation

It was on October 9th, 2011, that the Temporary Autonomous Zone by Hakim Bey was entered into the People’s Library database on Librarything, making it the first cataloged volume.
It wasn’t too long after that when a few of us huddled under shapeless  structures- makeshift and different everyday, like the rules imposed upon us by the men in dimly lit rooms- listening to the rain on the tarpaulin, discussing the T.A.Z., wondering just how ‘temporary’ our autonomous zone was.

the T.A.Z. must be capable of defense; but both the ‘strike’ and ‘defense’ should, if possible, evade the violence of the state which is no longer a meaningful voice.

the sound cannon, truncheons in gloved hands, the cleaning of pepper from the eyes of my friends, Orwellian visions.

often one returns to Liberty Plaza: vacant; lighted holiday trees; library space sans tombs; police-tape demarcating an unknown crime; strange encounters with uniformed men in mustaches.

there are waves nostalgia of course, but the sentimentalism dissipates, though never entirely; it lingers a safe distance away–never impeding future action– and allows me to somehow safely hold our encampment of guerilla ontologists in unforgettable synaptic locations.

“Why?”  I heard a woman say today, as I rounded the corner to a crowd of hundreds, a march and Solidarity Act, for those immigrated to this country.

must we wait until the entire world is freed of political control before even one of us can claim to know freedom?

the rain fell on tarps that night in october, we huddled and laughed, the Fiddler played from his bivouac, from somewhere under the sky we knew our Zone was temporary, we knew these as processes, and not merely results.

there are those that cling to the space–what we call Liberty Plaza.

But the TAZ liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself to reform elsewhere, before the state can crush it.

as soon as it is named (represented) (mediated) it must vanish, it will vanish, leaving behind it an empty husk, only to spring up again somewhere else…

follow the seasons

hibernate

educate

[text in bold from the Temporary Autonomous Zone-- Anti-copyright, but still... used with permission]

the following precursory text of the OCCUPY WALL STREET REVIEW was made available at the request of Peter Lamborn Wilson for the occupiers on the day of action, D17.

visit

www.theowsreview.org

to read

OWS Act Two

from the author of

the Temporary Autonomous Zone

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Filed under #N17, 11/15 Eviction, Announcements, Art, Digital Archive, Direct Action, Ephemera, Literature, Media, Music, Poetry, Process, Sean, Solidarity

OWS Poetry Anthology Week 9 Update

“Week 9″ has officially been added to the OWS Poetry Anthology. And I have exciting news! This December 17th, we’re launching a website for the OWS Poetry Anthology so it’s more easily accessible and ever more beautiful and free. The anthology will remain at the People’s Library WordPress page as a PDF but will also be at owspoetry.org as a more navigable version. So everyone that isn’t going to the re-occupation of Dec. 17th, you can occupy the new poetry site! And you should write a love poem to everyone that is occupying the new space on Dec. 17th.

A Writing Prompt(For those that need a nudge in the poetic direction): What does occupation mean to you? The word has a few meanings: Occupation – noun 1. a person’s usual or principal work or business, especially as a means of earning a living; vocation: Her occupation was dentistry. 2. any activity in which a person is engaged. 3. possession, settlement, or use of land or property. 4. the act of occupying. 5. the state of being occupied. But none of those meanings seem to capture the meta-experience occupations across the country have offered people. When has a job ever allowed a worker to fully engage in their right to free speech, free sleep, free food, free books, free everything… So please think about what it means for you to occupy. Where you occupy. Why you occupy. How you occupy. And form those messy ideas in your mind into words. And put those words onto paper. Then send those ideas to the OWS Poetry Anthology – stephenjboyer@gmail(DOT)com.

In other news, “Week 9″ hosts the first Non-Latin language poetic contribution to the anthology! This is a huge step! We are breaking new ground! Incorporating more voices! A United Global Occupation that Occupies Everything is coming! The following poem doesn’t represent what the majority of occupiers feel, but that’s okay! Occupy Wall Street is about the freedom of opinion. It’s about people saying whatever they want. Anyone that has been to any G.A. knows the great lengthy arguments we go through to get anything accomplished. We believe in disruptors, for we are all disruptors.

低能

by 匿名

低能

彼らの心を占めて
前進馬鹿
通りで
公園の
テントに横たわっている
強姦
盗む
不潔な
役に立たない
無意味な
家を移動
愚かなドローン
人の耳の周りにブンブン
あなたが育つだろう願って
あなたの幼稚な方法で過去の
離れて危険なゲームから
あなたの無知を超えて
独善を残して
演技乳児
注目を求めて停止する
あなたは、懇願する
あなたの人生で役に立つ何かをする
他の人を混乱させる横

バスを取る
仕上げ学校
仕事を得る
恋に落ちる
家族を持っている
あなたの子供を愛して
あなたの配偶者を愛して
貢献を行う
社会へ
しかし、ほとんどすべての…
目的を果たす
愚かなクソ低能
生命を得る
私たちの残りの部分を残す
単独

And in closing, here’s the youtube video version of the poem the poet KJ Ink sent this past week… It’s called “Occupy There Minds”. I’ve been seeing more and more poets posting videos of their work on youtube… check out the OWS Poets!

Read, download, enjoy the OWS Poetry Anthology HERE!

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Filed under Announcements, Literature, Poetry

So, That Happened..

It seems to be the phrase of the Occupation, and especially apt in the past week or so.

There was the Law & Order set thing.  In case you missed it, dear readers, Law and Order: SVU built a fake occupy camp in Foley Square last week, as a set for an episode.  It had tents, a kitchen, a library, police presence, all that stuff.  Of course, the real occupiers found it, and, late on Thursday night, occupied it.  I ask you — did they think we wouldn’t?  You can find info on twitter and elsewhere about it under the hash tag #mockupy.  Mother Jones has a short article on it, with video featuring some of the real librarians from the People’s Library.

A while back we instituted an infrequently-used hand signal at library meetings to go with all the up-sparkling, down-sparkling, points of process, and so forth: the clarifying mustache.  You take the curved pointer finger part of the clarifying question signal and put it over your upper lip.  It means that things have gotten completely ridiculous, and we all need to take a Dada break.  With the mockupation, the universe seems to have gotten on board with it, no?

In amongst the absurdity is the former location of the People’s Library in Zuccotti Park.  In the first few days after the eviction last month, the people’s librarians were persistent in reopening the library.  Over and over and over again.  We were some of the first folks back in the park that morning — until we were kicked out again — and we’ve since had as much presence as the NYPD and Brookfield security dudes will allow on any given day.  Recently that hasn’t been much.

A couple weeks ago the security dudes put up some red cloth “Danger!” tape between the trees in the northeast corner of the park, blocking off the benches where the Library used to be.  The official reason was to protect the brand new ornamental cabbages that Brookfield had planted in the garden area above the benches.  Cabbages that they had to tear out the existing bushes to plant, let me add.  If you think that sounds completely ridiculous, take a moment to make the clarifying mustache signal with me.

After we spent some time scratching our heads, and occasionally disregarding the red tape — it was, after all, blocking off a good portion of the seating in the park — the absurdity increased.  We got this:

See, among us persistent librarians, there’s one particularly persistent librarian.  For the terrible crime of bringing books into the park he’s been bum rushed by a score of cops and nearly arrested, had some of the books confiscated, and, now, been banned from the park.  The above document is the result of the confiscation.  After those five very dangerous books were taken — we are told that one may not put books on the bench, because it prevents people from sitting there — the police delivered this kind note to the park.  Not to the Library or to a librarian, but just to the park, asking that it be passed along to Library.  Now, I know that’s more or less how it work here on the movement side of things, but I’m pretty sure the cops’ rules require them to be a little more diligent than that.

Since then, the red tape blocking off the former location of the People’s Library has been replaced by authentic yellow “Crime Scene Do Not Cross” cop tape.  (Someone should confiscate that, it’s preventing me from sitting on the bench.)  Do you have that clarifying mustache ready?  Because I know we joke a bunch about how the City has been making books illegal, but someone obviously lacks in the irony department; how else to explain the utter tone-deafness of this whole thing?

Anyway, for once the NYPL has taken good care of our confiscated stuff.  Which means we’ll surely be making the trip up to 1 Police Plaza to reclaim it shortly.  I hope you’ll join us.

In the mean time, at least the current Christmas light overkill on all the trees in Zuccotti throws off enough glow to read by?

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Filed under Cops, Direct Action, Jaime, Literature, Process

Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology Now Online

We are proud to offer you the complete Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology!

In the past, the poets responsible for editing the Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology wanted readers to experience the magic of the occupation while reading the poems the movement has generated.

With the police raid though, now seemed a good time to get a positive story about Occupy Wall Street into the discourse.  Occupy Wall Street isn’t about fighting the police or senselessly tearing systems down, we’re out to create a new beautiful world.  And one of the ways we are doing that is through is through poetry.  So please, share our anthology, read about our movement and our lives, and know this: Occupy Wall Street will build that better world though unity, determination, and beautiful words.

If you’ve submitted a poem and don’t see it, no worries: Our resident poet assembling the anthology hasn’t slept since the raid and needs sleep.  He will get to it soon.  And if you want to share a poem, please send it to Stephen.j.boyer@gmail.com with the subject line Occupy Poetry Anthology.

 

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Filed under Announcements, Literature, Mandy, Poetry, Stephen, Steve S.

ReOccupy Writers Stand in Solidarity with OWS Tonight at 6:00

Tonight at 6:00 writers and readers from across New York City will gather in Liberty Plaza to reoccupy the space and rebuild the People’s Library. Authors will bring their books, readers will bring their favorite books to donate and together we will rebuild to create the revolution this country needs.

I invite those not in NYC to gather at their occupations, campuses, squares, and parks to read poetry and prose in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and the 99%. Literature is a revolutionary force. Let’s unleash it against the forces who would divide and conquer us. Let’s make the sound of democracy heard across this whole country. Share your poems, your dreams, and your stories with each other. Stand in solidarity together.

Join us in NYC and across the world for a night of readings, poetry, and revolutionary ideas. Together we will change this country and reclaim our democracy for the 99%.

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Filed under Donations, Emergency Actions, Literature, Mandy, OccupyLibraries, Solidarity

Marathon reading of “Bartleby, the Scrivener” @ 60 Wall St, 11/10

Bartleby’s positive refusal continues to resonate with the OWS movement (see my previous post here). Housing Works bookstore is organizing a reading of Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener: a Story of Wall Street” for next Thursday, Nov. 10 at 3pm at 60 Wall Street.

It’s a not the 24-hour Moby-Dick marathon that happens every year in New Bedford, Mass. In fact, one might think of it as a “fun run” rather than a marathon. It’ll probably last about two hours. And, hopefully, it will be followed by some really interesting conversations.

Write to events (at) housingworksbookstore (dot) org for more information, or to participate.

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Filed under Announcements, Literature, Michele

I would prefer not to.

Last weekend I scored a tote bag from Melville House Books emblazoned with the words, “I would prefer not to,” the famous refrain from Melville’s 1853 story, “Bartleby, the Scrivener: a Story of Wall-Street.” I am loath to festoon myself with slogans, but I considered carrying that bag around the Zuccotti Park in lieu of a placard. I wouldn’t be the first: a week earlier, librarian Zach wore a t-shirt with that same phrase while guarding what remained—a table, a bulletin board, and one book—of the Occupy Wall Street Library. (Occupation librarians moved the books temporarily because of fears that Brookfield Properties’ planned cleaning of the park would lead to an eviction. They brought them back later that morning after Brookfield announced that they had postponed the cleaning indefinitely.)

(Zach the librarian, with a few boxes of books coming back into the park)

Of course, both the tote bag and the t-shirt function on one level as indicators of cultural with-it-ness to be recognized by others in the know. And for those who haven’t read Melville’s story—I imagine—the phrase might seem to signal a hip, ironic resistance; at the same time, the privileged idea that one’s refusal could be a “preference.”

A week later, another occupation librarian—Bill, a literature professor who is spending his sabbatical living in the park—read a selection from “Bartleby” as part of the new “Silent Readings” series at the OWS Library. Speaking into a microphone that broadcasted to a nearby crowd of headphone-wearing listeners, Bill recited the tale of the inscrutable Bartleby, who answers his employer’s almost every request with that same reply: “I would prefer not to.” When Bill finished reading, he remarked to me, “I forgot to say that the story is set on Wall Street.” Yes, I answered, and isn’t it such a fitting tale for this encampment!?

I knew the story, but to be honest I had paid intermittent attention to his reading. I was engaged in the task of entering ISBNs into the OWS Library’s online catalog—an endless task, considering the number of donations that come in each day—and so the lines of Melville’s story came and went in my consciousness, and I picked up only the most quotable lines. I “sparkled” (the silent approval gesture of consensus process) when Bill read the narrator’s (Bartleby’s employer’s) frustrated line, “Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance.” And that refrain—“I would prefer not to”—evoked, to my mind, something similar to the combination of exactitude and vagueness that has made the phrase “Occupy Wall Street” a catalyst for affiliation and critique.

Ultimately, however, “I would prefer not to” makes a poor slogan, as do most lines plucked from their context. (One might say that nothing so aggravates a literary scholar like myself as a quote taken out of context.) So, a few days later, I sat down and re-read the story in full. I came away from my reading more convinced that “Bartleby” is a powerful narrative for the moment, but not one that speaks in the language of pithy placards or in the constraints of the miniature life stories on “We Are the 99 Percent”—as truly powerful as those placards and stories may be. (And part of me would love to see the satirical “I am the 99 percent” tumblr post that features Bartleby. Maybe one already exists?) Neither does “Bartleby” offer precise historical knowledge about the inequities that Wall Street represented in the 1850s, though there are some choice passages made even more resonant by the story’s Wall Street setting, like the one in which the narrator describes himself as “one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men’s bonds and mortgages and title-deeds.” Lines like that make me want to give Melville a high-five. But what is most powerful about “Bartleby” is the way it challenges the assumptions that make possible the exercise of power.

The story is narrated by Bartleby’s employer, that “unambitious lawyer,” who has recently given up his private practice in exchange for the office of Master of Chancery (“It was not a very arduous office, but very pleasantly remunerative.”) Facing mounting paperwork, the narrator (whose name we never learn) hires Bartleby as an additional scrivener, or law-copyist. From the start, Bartleby works steadily and silently, unlike the other two scriveners, nicknamed Turkey and Nippers, whose drinking and indigestion affect their performance throughout the day. However, when the narrator asks Bartleby to check a document for errors—a routine, expected task—the latter makes his first refusal. In fact, any time his employer asks him to do something, he offers the same response: “I would prefer not to.” It is not that Bartleby doesn’t work; in fact, in the first part of the story he works at a steady pace, not even going out for lunch. He simply does not take direction.

Bartleby’s refusals overturn the hierarchy of the office, revealing it to be based upon assumptions of command and consent. The employer assumes that his commands will be executed, but Bartleby interrupts his “natural expectancy of instant compliance” not through open rebellion but through “passive resistance.” (“I burned to be rebelled against,” admits the employer.) Yet is not just the employer who holds assumptions about compliance. The other two scriveners also take for granted that they must do what they are told. Nippers, for example, constantly adjusts his desk, which never suits him properly, grumbles about Bartleby, and probably wants “to be rid of a scrivener’s table altogether.” Yet Nippers complies, carrying out each of his employer’s commands, thus upholding the office hierarchy. He and Turkey even reassure the employer when the latter starts to doubt his own sense of justice and reason regarding Bartleby:

 “Turkey,” said I, “what do you think of this? Am I not right?” 

“With submission, sir,” said Turkey, with his blandest tone, “I think that you are.” 

“Nippers,” said I, “what do you think of it?” 

“I think I should kick him out of the office.”

With their responses, Turkey and Nippers maintain the hierarchy by telling him what he wants to hear, but they fail to reassure the employer, who admits to being “unmanned” by Bartleby. Bartleby has shattered the hierarchy, or at least the idea that the hierarchy is truth and not a social fact constructed by belief and practice.

The employer’s first response to this upheaval is to appeal to Bartleby’s reason, but these overtures fail in the face of his “unprecedented and violently unreasonable” behavior. (One of the story’s most famous bits of dialogue is when Bartleby responds to the employer’s request to “be a little reasonable” and help to examine papers with the line, “At present I would prefer not to be a little reasonable.”) Later, upon discovering that Bartleby had been sleeping in the office—making unexpectedly domestic use of the nondomestic space of Wall Street— the employer is moved to pity:

Upon more closely examining the place, I surmised that for an indefinite period Bartleby must have ate, dressed, and slept in my office, and that too without plate, mirror, or bed. […] Yet, thought I, it is evident enough that Bartleby has been making his home here, keeping bachelor’s hall all by himself. Immediately then the thought came sweeping across me, What miserable friendlessness and loneliness are here revealed! His poverty is great; but his solitude, how horrible! Think of it. Of a Sunday, Wall-street is deserted as Petra; and every night of every day it is an emptiness. This building too, which of week-days hums with industry and life, at nightfall echoes with sheer vacancy, and all through Sunday is forlorn. And here Bartleby makes his home; sole spectator of a solitude which he has seen all populous—a sort of innocent and transformed Marius brooding among the ruins of Carthage!

Suddenly Bartleby becomes an object of pity, not just because of his seeming poverty but also because of his lonely purview of the deserted Wall Street of Sunday afternoon (which, interestingly, the employer compares to ruins). If he can’t relate to Bartleby as an employee, he will relate to him in terms of his humanity. “The bond of a common humanity now drew me irresistibly to gloom. A fraternal melancholy!”

Yet pity fails also, in part because the employer can’t quite imagine Bartleby as human (early in his acquaintance with Bartleby, the employer doubts that there is “any thing ordinarily human about him”), and also because his pity can’t seem to account for Bartleby’s “forlornness”:

My first emotions had been those of pure melancholy and sincerest pity; but just in proportion as the forlornness of Bartleby grew and grew to my imagination, did that same melancholy merge into fear, that pity into repulsion. So true it is, and so terrible too, that up to a certain point the thought or sight of misery enlists our best affections; but, in certain special cases, beyond that point it does not.

Bartleby is either too miserable or too inscrutable to be cared about or helped. When Bartleby stops working entirely (ostensibly because of eye trouble, but the cause is not quite clear), the employer endeavors to rid himself of this now-unproductive worker, to return him to his “native land” (a line which, among other moments in the story, opens up an anti-colonial reading) or at least get him out of the Chancery office. However, despite giving Bartleby instructions to vacate—and congratulating himself on his superb management skills—he finds him still at the office the next morning; in fact, Bartleby bars the employer’s own entry:

I was fumbling under the door mat for the key, which Bartleby was to have left there for me, when accidentally my knee knocked against a panel, producing a summoning sound, and in response a voice came to me from within—“Not yet; I am occupied.” 

It was Bartleby.

That’s right, Bartleby was inside, occupying the office.

“Bartleby” is an imperfect analogy for Occupy Wall Street, but it nevertheless resonates because it is about how a refusal can open up new ways of seeing. Bartleby’s refusal—and his occupation of the Chancery office—punctures the “doctrine of assumptions” that naturalized the power relations governing the employer’s world. Suddenly, the employee is commanding the employer, and the space of the office has become a home. Likewise, today’s encampment has transformed Zuccotti Park into both a forum for employees rather than employers (though I am reticent to draw such hard-and-fast distinctions), as well as a domestic space that is home for scores of occupiers. But it is not only the occupiers of that park who have punctured our “doctrine of assumptions”; it also the supporters of this and other encampments. A Times magazine poll reporting widespread public approval of OWS; police in Albany defying the governor and mayor by refusing to arrest protestors; or the over 300,000 petition signatures in a single afternoon to protest the Brookfield “cleaning” of the park. There are still many assumptions—especially relating to racism, nationalism, and colonialism—that Occupy Wall Street has not quite punctured (or hasn’t even begun to puncture) with the force that it has punctured the market consensus. In fact, the slogan itself carries the danger of perpetuating a discourse of colonialism and military occupation, as many people have pointed out. Yet it is crucial not to lose sight of the new space of imagination that has been opened up by the discordant chorus of refusal.

I haven’t discussed the last part of “Bartleby,” and I leave you to read it, or re-read it—perhaps at the Occupy Wall Street Library—yourself. And I hope you give the story space to breathe—as I have said, it is evocative but not a perfect analogy for the present moment. As Hannah Gersen writes in her own essay on OWS and Bartleby, “If Occupy Wall Street has any goal, it should be to have the same effect that great literature has — to unsettle.” Such a rich story could never be a neat analogy—or supply brief slogans—and the strength of “Bartleby” lies in the way it escapes singular interpretations.

(Two copies of Melville House’s 2004 reprint of “Bartleby, the Scrivener” are currently [or, rather, probably] available at the Occupy Wall Street Library, along with a few other editions of Melville’s work. You can also read “Bartleby” online or download it for free here from the nonprofit Project Gutenberg Literary Archive, which has been digitizing copyright-free books since 1971.)

(Also, I discovered while writing this post that others have made lengthier connections between OWS and “Bartleby,” from Hannah Gersen’s impressionistic piece on themillions.com, to this dense but awesome Žižek-heavy piece from #occupytoronto, to Nina Martyris’ somewhat irksome TNR column in which she draws a close analogy between Bartleby and OWS.)

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Filed under Catalog, Literature, Michele, OccupyLibraries, Scholarship