Three Poems

Injured bone. Blynken and Nod.
Visor your irises, handle with tongs.
We all think the Mandate of Heaven belongs
To him who gets-away-with.

Art after Art after Art

Art as such does not pre-exist capitalism and will certainly not survive it, but rather presents an unemphatic alterity to it: art is not the before or after of capitalism, but its determinate other.

Weiss Pergamon

Totaling the Damage
Revolutionary Ambition in Recent American Poetry

What should the revolutionary poet be doing, when crisis – whether it be economic, social, environmental, or for that matter, aesthetic – appears increasingly frequent, inevitable, and irreversible? Or to ask the question in a slightly different form: What poetic forms do these conditions of crisis seem to require?


Would Vanessa Place Be a Better Poet If She Had Better Opinions?

By (Pomona College)

Poets and critics have had some trouble discussing Vanessa Place’s piece Tweeting Gone with the Wind. I have a suggestion. Why not say that her piece is poorly written?

From Moynihan to Post-Katrina New Orleans
Moral Economy, Culture, and Political Demobilization

By (University of Sydney)

It is of course a complete accident that the same year that marks the tenth anniversary of the failure of federally maintained levees, incompetent disaster relief, and rampant profiteering in the face of a relatively pedestrian hurricane known as Katrina should also mark the fiftieth anniversary of the publication by an obscure Assistant Secretary of Labor named Daniel Patrick Moynihan of The Negro Family: The Case for National Action…The chance of history that brought the anniversaries of the Moynihan Report and Hurricane Katrina together helps elucidate both the long-term implications of Moynihan’s dominance over a large portion of American discourse regarding inequality—a discourse that bears a great deal of responsibility for the effects of that fairly mundane storm—and the long historical temporalities that produced Katrina as a storm of unthinkable tragedy. Indeed, Katrina did not form to the southeast of the Bahamas on August 22, 2005. It formed when Moynihan helped consolidate the culture of poverty thesis in 1965. It formed when a conception of freedom grounded in contract, work-discipline, and various versions of moral economy defeated its multiple historical alternatives. It formed when American politics ceased to effectively challenge these defeats. In fact, if we further widen our lens, we can see its beginnings in the monumental transition from slavery to freedom that is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

Why Moynihan Was Not So Misunderstood at the Time
The Mythological Prescience of the Moynihan Report and the Problem of Institutional Structuralism

By (Illinois State University)

Even a cursory read of the Moynihan Report makes clear that Moynihan is not guilty of crass victim blaming. Indeed, as William Julius Wilson eloquently stated, Moynihan’s “presentation certainly lacked elegance, but it was an attempt to synthesize structural and cultural analyses to understand the dynamics of poor black families and the plight of low-skilled black males.” But while Wilson proffered that statement as a defense of Moynihan, his formulation functions equally well as a critique of the Moynihan Report. Specifically, Moynihan’s efforts to synthesize a cultural and structural analysis of poverty revealed a conception of structure rooted not in political economy but in ethnic pluralism. Simply put, what Moynihan meant by structural sources of inequality was racism (which established barriers to black social and economic progress) and the damage it inflicted on the institutions that regulated cultural norms among African Americans. To be sure, Moynihan’s conception of “structural inequality” offers some insulation against the facile charge of “victim blaming;” nevertheless, Wilson’s formulation ultimately highlights a more significant problem with the Moynihan Report. Moynihan was not particularly concerned about the impact of structural changes in the nation’s economy on black unemployment and poverty. As I will discuss below, the Moynihan Report’s indifference to the consequences of automation and mechanization on black life was consistent with the perspectives of Democratic policymakers who opposed a more robust War on Poverty. Indeed, the Moynihan Report’s emphasis on racism and black culture complemented the conservative antipoverty agenda of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), which—believing African American poverty to be exceptional— identified tax cuts, anti-discrimination legislation, and targeted programs, rather than redistributive policies, as the appropriate remedy for black poverty.

Working the Reserve Army
Proletarianization in Revanchist New Orleans

By (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Most political discussions of New Orleans since the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster have relied heavily on notions of the city’s exceptionalism. Right-wing pundits pointed to the city’s reputation for corruption and its citizens’ alleged complacency and poor planning decisions (e.g., “Why would they build below sea-level?”) as central causes for the disaster, rather than the austerity or hubris of the Bush White House. This image of New Orleans as a political backwater or banana republic was used by some Congressional Republicans to discourage further federal investment in rebuilding the city. Liberal activists and city boosters, in turn, reached for notions of cultural particularity to stake their claims for the city’s reconstruction, arguing that the Crescent City’s unique colonial heritage, architecture, and sundry contributions to American music and foodways were all precious national resources. The trope of native cultural authenticity ultimately served to unite right of return advocates who insisted that New Orleans would not be the same without its black working class neighborhoods, and the various commercial interests that comprise the tourism-entertainment complex, around a recovery agenda that has still reproduced inequality and segregation. This essay explores and rejects another prevalent notion of exceptionalism, the underclass myth that has been central to the defeat of welfare statism in the United States, and especially influential in shaping the market-oriented reconstruction of New Orleans.

Figure 1

Don’t Let Me Be Universal
Or, the Postwar American Poem

By (Southern Methodist University)

She explains that much liver damage is drug-induced because the liver functions as a chemical purifier, stripping the blood of toxins by splitting poisons into less destructive chemical building blocks. The resulting toxins are excreted while the cleansed blood recirculates. When an overwhelmed liver fails to break down the blood’s contaminants (even beneficial ones, such as painkillers), the pollutants poison the liver cells instead.

Figure 16
Clement Greenberg and Friedel Dzubas
Ithaca, New York, 1970
Courtesy, Friedel Dzubas Estate Archives

Friedel Dzubas

Pictures from all stages of Dzubas’s art since the 40’s will in time to come thrust themselves increasingly into attention: enough of them to establish him once and for all where he belongs, which is on the heights.

Fig. 1.  Anselm Kiefer, Nigredo (1984; Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Finding Our Bearings with Art

I propose bearing as a marker of an artwork’s purposive comportment in and toward the world whose various relations and dimensions the work engages and discloses. I have chosen this term because at least five of its senses apply to artworks as I understand them. [1] Artworks have a manner of comportment, a bearing, e.g. bold, reflective, ironic, etc. [2] They are generative (in the sense of ‘bear fruit’) in that they provide disclosures. [3] They are purposively oriented and thus have bearings, principally toward an addressee, but also toward some determinate end, e.g. to be beautiful, to please, to rework culture, to witness suffering, etc. [4] Works of art also make use of the very world that they disclose, which leads me to say that artworks bear, in the sense of carry, extant possibilities, transforming them until they coalesce into a phenomenon that is bindingly eloquent. [5] Finally, artworks also bear (or fail to bear), in the sense of endure, the world they absorb in order to disclose whatever possibilities they are able to bear.

Sartoris, 1963
Oil on canvas
90 x 61 in (228.6 x 158 cm)
Courtesy of Loretta Howard Gallery

Greenberg on Dzubas

It’s important to understand that for the greater part of thirty years, Greenberg believed in this artist. But by 1977, his claim was that Dzubas had yet to construct a solid foundation for his future artistic development; that he had failed to “follow up on his achievements and achievedness”; that, instead, he had “let it all lie scattered.”

b-side modernism banner

Issue #15: B-Side Modernism

In June of 2014,, with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, sponsored four fellows to do research in the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University. Danowski’s synoptic ambition—to collect literally all poetry in English published in the 20th century, including the independent journals, short-run chapbooks and broadsides that gave modernism its distinctive energy—has created an opportunity to examine the materials out of which our accounts of the century have been made, without the influence of a shaping hand.

The work of our B-Side Fellows, presented here, takes the shapelessness of “everything” as a provocation to investigate the divergences between canonical accounts of modernism in poetry; to explore the many roads not taken, whether they manifest in the unedited arc of a career, in the one-off achievement, or the unclassified ephemera of a moment. What else might modernism have been? And how do such reconsiderations of modernism bear on what happens on the flip side of the mid-century divide? Edited by Jennifer Ashton and Oren Izenberg.

Issue #17: The Moynihan Report and the Crescent City
Culturalism and Katrina in New Orleans

The essays in this issue take the 10th and 50th anniversaries of Hurricane Katrina and the Moynihan Report as an opportunity to examine the implications of culturalist understandings of poverty — and, in particular, Black poverty — advanced by Daniel Patrick Moynihan and widely reiterated for the City of New Orleans.

If You Blight It, They Will Come
Moynihan, New Orleans, and the Making of the Gentrification Economy

Depicting federal aid as the only means by which to pursue an antipoverty agenda, the mayor [Moon Landrieu] also argued that diminishing program funds required the city to grow in ways that reflected the vested interests of those fleeing the city center in order to facilitate their return. Already in the process of shepherding tourism and real estate development interests to the city, this narrative willfully erased material inequalities produced by codified segregation and unequal access to housing, employment, and education as well as hardened conceptualizations that blamed poverty on individual choices. Thus, this logic rationalized the market relations of a gentrification economy by implying it was imperative to defray costs for serving the poor. Ultimately, local governing officials deployed these assumptions to sanction their own participation in the making of middle-class neighborhoods.

Why Does Angela Glover Blackwell Hate Public Housing?
The Ideological Foundations of Public Housing Dismantlement in the United States and New Orleans

By (College of Staten Island)

The protestors, through chants, speeches and pamphlets, highlighted the glaring contradiction of a gathering dedicated to “equitable development and social justice” that was simultaneously honoring Richard Baron because of his role in overseeing the destruction of public housing in New Orleans and across the country. Policylink managed this contradiction by redefining social justice as the creation of “communities of opportunity,” rather than ones that guaranteed a right to housing and other basic needs, including the “right to stay put.” Thus, through this lens, “deconcentrating poverty” by refashioning public housing as “mixed income” developments that would include only a fraction of the previous public housing apartments, represented progress. How could they arrive at such an assessment? How did destroying poor people’s homes, and dispersing the former residents, become part of “best practices” for progressive social policy?

Issue #16: Situation

The essays in this issue consider various ways we–our problems and works–emerge from and in our situation and the ways this fact can be figured in our poems and our paintings, and in our responses to them.

Against Affective Formalism: Matisse, Bergson, Modernism

By (National Gallery of Art), (The Ohio State University), (Emory University), (University of Illinois, Chicago), (Case Western Reserve University) and (Emory University)

Let me be clear, the problems I raise do not stem from a dissatisfaction with the way October authors repeat a kind of party line. In fact, I envy the unity and consistency of the resolve and of course their massive impact on the discipline (what is there, politically speaking, besides anti-hierarchy in the humanities?). My point is that the basic set of claims shared by many of these authors is mistaken.

On Problematization
Elaborations on a Theme in “Late Foucault”

Interpretations of the idea of problematization cut to the heart of different ways of engaging with Foucault’s ideas. It seems at first sight to provide a refined model of critical practice. On closer inspection, it turns out to be better interpreted as a contribution to a more descriptive understanding of the tasks of social inquiry.

The Real Problem with Selma
It doesn't help us understand the civil rights movement, the regime it challenged, or even the significance of the voting rights act

By (University of Pennsylvania)

The victory condensed in the forms of participation enabled by the VRA is necessary—a politics that does not seek institutional consolidation is ultimately no politics at all—but not sufficient for facing the challenges that confront us in this moment of rampant capitalist offensive against social justice, but neither are the essentially nostalgic modalities of protest politics often proposed as more authentic than the mundane electoral domain. It is past time to consider Prof. Legette’s aphorism and engage its many implications. And that includes a warrant to resist the class-skewed penchant for celebrating victories won in the heroic moment of the southern civil rights movement as museum pieces disconnected from subsequent black American political history and the broad struggle for social justice and equality. is an online, open access, peer-reviewed quarterly journal of scholarship in the arts and humanities. is affiliated with Emory College of Arts and Sciences.
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