Saturday, June 10, 2006


"and an island feels no pain..."

If you know anything about the man's work, one thing you know you'll find in abundance when you open the cover of a book of poetry by Ron Silliman is the exposure/analysis of social conditions and structures and mentalities--and gestures toward a different future--from a Socialist perspective he's been honing and re-calibrating for a very long time. (Sometimes this social criticism is subtly registered and sometimes it announces itself as with flashing lights).

At the top of page 5 of Toner (Potes & Poests Press, 1992), a section of Silliman's extensive project The Alphabet, we read the following:

Economists conduct thought experiment
for a society of two islands
containing one individual each.
Man struggles
to move
from wheelchair
to auto.

The "thought experiment" Silliman cites reminds us that Capitalist economists have often been enamored of the image of each person as a quite isolate being, each of whose daily exertions and activities are directed towards the comfort and abundance of Self and Immediate Family.

I believe it's common for critics to regard Robinson Crusoe (1719) as a herald of Capitalist consciousness.

The reader of the poem may well be nodding assent at this point to the implicit point that thinking like that of the Island/I-land economists should be questioned and dispelled so we could have a world of much greater mutuality.

But then the image of the disabled man navigating with difficulty through his enviroment reminds us that Getting Things Done By Ones-self is an essential part of any man's or woman's dignity.

The montage presented in these 7 lines, then, can serve to impress upon the reader that a truly good society would have to be permeated by Fraternity and Sorority and Cooperation; but also would have to allow and foster the Independence of its members.

Which probably sounds like a tedious editorial.

The stanza makes these concerns very exciting.

Labels: , , , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?