Combined with the Brexit vote disaster, Donald Trump winning the American election makes it clear that we have arrived at an historic moment when the idea of Progress itself is being turned back, when truth no longer matters, when the existence of humanity itself faces the abyss (Fascism, climate change, nuclear war, you know the list). As you know, I am dismissive of the portentous claims of Poetry, but there is a certain attraction to the Romantic image of the heroic poet standing against the apocalyptic storm to bellow ‘fuck off’ to the Darkness (I paraphrase obviously). In that shocking Trump week, I was reading a medical thing that talked about a process called sequestering bile. This seems obviously a metaphor for the requirement of this moment. It occurred to me that if poets were going to mean anything there had to be a global chorus that sequestered the bile of Trump etc on the 20th January coincident with the Inauguration Ceremony. Poets would raise poetry to the status they historically claim with poems sequestering the bile; #SequestertheBile could trend alongside/surpassed the Inauguration hashtag. Anyway It’s there as an idea.
So in addition to the ‘Place’ collaboration with Jayne Dyer, I began writing ‘Sequester the Bile’ with the intention of publishing it on 20th Jan.
A little after I started, I was approached by Tom Jenks and Steven Fowler to see if I would do something as part of the Enemies Project, a collaborative performance on 14 January at the Burgess Foundation in Manchester - http://www.theenemiesproject.com/northwest The obvious collaborator for me on this is Helmut Lemke .
Having only just come out of poetry retirement, I am tempted to joke the Godfather3 line “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in” or more recently from John Wick “You dip so much as a pinkie back into this pond, you may well find something reaches out and drags you back into its depths.” … on this occasion the something was the Enemies Project.
Anyway, the poem-writing has started. At the moment I am investigating two motifs: the Nazi policy of killing ‘Useless Eaters’ and the megalomaniac architectural dreams of the 1000 year Reich, specifically the proposals to build a triumphal arch in Berlin under which the Arc de Triomphe could fit and the Volkshalle Dome which would have been so huge that the breathing of the crowds it could hold would have created weather. The useless eaters language resonates with the murderous Tory welfare policy which except for the absence of lethal injection is evil in plain view: google death rates from the ‘Fitness to Work’ test and compare with Nazi Aktion 14f13 criteria for murder.
And the grotesque gigantism of Volkshalle starts with a gold elevator.
As I say above I am under no illusion that poetry offers real resistance to the evil we face, but as I recently blogged about Paul Hindmith’s Mathis der Maher, the artist’s responsibility at times like these is to make art that contributes to the resistance. To belt and brace it though, I am actively working in the real world too.