Occupy Wall Street and the Poetry of Now-Time

The reason the protests in Zuccotti Park are so powerful is that they are more about love than anger.

“I’ve had powerful clients. I’ve also had a lot of middle-class clients and a lot who just lost their jobs and don’t know what to do and are freaking out and they want fetish relief from all the pain. I’m like, ‘Sorry, I didn’t want to take your money, but that’s what it’s about.’”

“Political people?”

So many times.”

“People you recognized?”

“Sure. I’m not going to give you names. But like, I’ve had clients before who are very close to Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, for instance. And I’m just like, ‘Really? Really? You hang out with them every day?’”

Mr. Boyer suggested his girlfriend come to Zuccotti. She said no. Her room was overlooking the reconstruction of  the World Trade Center site, and at one point, Mr. Boyer stood on the balcony, peering down at what felt to him like a graveyard. Then he turned back to watch her on the luxurious bed in the sleekly minimalist room. “She looked so isolated. And I was like, ‘You sure you don’t want to come to Occupy Wall Street?’” No thanks, she said.

“I think that division of psychic-ness is the main reason why we had to go our own ways.”

It seems clear that the lack of demands is not the problem with this thing but its engine. We ask the usual questions because that is how we understand—or, not understand at all, really, but control and contain, and then dismiss or exploit, according to our individual agenda or cast of mind. Those of us standing outside the park—who could, at any moment, simply step across the threshold—want to flick it aside it or put it to use, because that’s what we have learned to do. Box it up, slap on a label, file it away.

Like Mr. Bey said, “As soon as the TAZ is named (represented, mediated), it must vanish, it will vanish, leaving behind an empty husk.”

Which might be why everyone keeps asking.

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Mr. Marinovich is married and has a place on the Lower East Side. He doesn’t sleep in the park but hangs out all the time. He has taught poetry at Columbia and the St. Marks Poetry Project. He had a wild beard, and soft eyes and was wearing a hooded wind-breaker.

He compared Zuccotti Park to Sherwood Forest. “It’s the true Akademia,” he said, referring to the original school founded by Plato in an Athenian grove of olive trees. He, too, struggled to remember the person he was before Occupy Wall Street. “There’s this huge clash and rift between everything that came before and now. It’s so full of danger and possibility and opportunity and ecstasy and everyone’s falling in love and everyone looks so beautiful and you just want to walk through and have sex with everyone.”

Not that either poet had had any actual sex in the sacred grove. Another literal question we had to ask. Truth be told, we too were falling in love with this movement, but we remained affixed to the other zone, ever alert to the clickable headline.

Anyway, the point was not about sex, both poets agreed, laughing. “There’s a tremendous psychic eros going on here, this connection that we feel together,” Mr. Marinovich explained. “It creates this courage to stand up to whatever happens.”

“The TAZ is an art of life in continual rising up, wild but gentle,” Mr. Bey wrote, inspired, to a large degree, by the great Sufi poets. It’s “a seducer not a rapist, a smuggler rather than a bloody pirate, a dancer not an eschatologist.”

Mr. Marinovich added that most interactions in the world outside are money-centered. Not in the park. They had no money, and yet they were well fed. Nobody mentioned Jesus, or the communities of early Christians, but you have to think those disciples had a brightness in their eyes that these poets would recognize. They, too, had crossed a threshold between then and now. The followers of Jesus had abandoned their families, had given up concerning themselves with money or anything practical, feeling certain the messiah was coming (to ask whether he did or not is to miss the point). They had loaves and fishes that fed a multitude. The occupiers have pizza—sometimes 300 pies a day—that somehow just arrives. They trust that they will be O.K., that fellowship will sustain them, and so far they are O.K.

Mr. Marinovich marveled at the “immediate, urgent intimacy” he felt in the park, among the occupiers. “It’s completely natural and unforced,” he said, “and it has so much to do with the absence of money as a center, because when that’s not in the center, what is in the center we don’t know, and into that opening everything can flow.”

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Mr. Marinovich views Zuccotti Park as sacred space. Mr. Boyer’s description of ground zero as a “graveyard” seemed apt, he said. There was a reason, maybe subconscious, that they were occupying this place. Close to Wall Street, yes, but closer to where the towers fell.

Comments

  1. i love this. thank you. 

  2. Stephenjboyer says:

    yes!

  3. Stephenjboyer says:

    contact me if you want to send poems to the anthology!

    1. Vbmagenta says:

      Hey , I have a poem I wrote almost 20 years ago when I first realised how the world really is, I would love to post it but i’m not sure how and I don’twant anyone to steal it…lol…don’t mind sharing but I wouldn’t want anyone else to take the credit. Thanks, One Love

  4. Wow, that has to be the most touching and heartfelt article about the Truth behind the occupations I have ever read.

    I went to Occupy LA last weekend and probably will again and I feel this exact same atmosphere. We’re breaking the cycle of hate, of greed, and replacing it with one of compassion, love and care for all.

    We can make it! We’ve already reached critical mass, we shall only continue to grow. If they think winter, or brutality will stop us they are dead wrong. We’ve already formed enough of a matrix of communal support that we can effectively create our own safety net for any sort of action they could take to break us up.

    The 99% are too big to fail…and really, when you have 99% of anything how can it be anything else? :)

  5. This is a well-written and thought-provoking article, but I wish the author would have considered writing about any of the other poets that are occupying or have been to Zuccotti. Primarily, poets that aren’t only 1. male and 2. members of elite-status groups, such as models and professors. Articles like these only perpetuate the stereotype that the Occupy Wall Street protesters are entitled, able-bodied, and comfortable enough in their status that they have the ability to protest. 

    What do the female, elderly, disabled, poets of color have to say? That’s an article I would love to see in the New York Observer.

    1. Adamboyman says:

      Queer, female, elderly, disabled, poets of color have to say have much to say! They’re in the anthology and coming to the Poetry Assembly! If anyone wants to help me with the anthology I am more than open to suggestions and help! The Occupation as a whole is a very inclusive space,  it’s open to all, one must only step forward and propose ideas and then people either support the ideas or not.  The anthology has gotten a lot of support. And it’s not about me or Filip, it’s about the vast amount of people that have sent poems to be included into the anthology. It’s a collection of dissent compiled by all walks of life! 

      And when did being a sex worker or a part time poetry professor mean you’re privileged?

  6. Betsy Fagin says:

    with respect, Littlest Ice Age,
    unpaid model/sex worker + sometime professor (read as unemployed) don’t equal “elite status.”
    even if they are white guys. so say I, queer female poet of color.

    in solidarity,
    blizf

  7. Tsobon3ooo says:

    AN ODE TO
    OCCUPY WALL STREET
    By Noboset
     
    Rebellious youth cannot you see …What is to be your destiny …You rail against your elder’s ways …Which you’ll adopt in later days…From chaos order you would make …Your brother’s thirst you’d toil to slake …Corruption you’d not tolerate …And men enslaved you’d liberate                                                                   
    And there’s much more that you would do …To gain just ends that you’d pursue …But have you heard of worldly ways …They’re like a maze within a maze …The ways of life that you demean …Are variations on a theme …The strong and rich exploit the weak …In ways that often are oblique
                                
    And ways in life are mostly fads…Like striped clothes instead of plaids…Though elders each is thought a sage…He’s just a child advanced in age…Ideals were meant for saints and gods…Who’d change the world must buck the odds…These odds aren’t merely one in ten…They’re more like one in ten million
                                         
    Look back in time and count the men…Who lived among us denizen…And changed the course of history…By more than just a small degree…If you’d not compromise ideals…Nor sell your souls in devilish deals…You’re going to have to fight like hell…Rebellious youth, I wish you well

  8. TheAtheist says:

    Er, a dominatrix saying “hierarchies are bullshit”?  Who does that make sense to?

  9. “The 99 percent”

    You have staged your protests to complain about the rich. With your smart phones and your I-pads, you moan, and gripe, and bitch. You scream and carry signs that say that it’s not fair. You say our Nation’s wealthiest aren’t paying their fair share.

    Well, what are you accomplishing with your bitter, angry mobs? Have your tirades in the streets created any jobs? This is the land of opportunity; a place where you can live your dreams. I think you’ve all forgotten what freedom really means.

    It doesn’t mean that you sit back, and let others pay your way; living on the coat-tails of those who work hard every day. It doesn’t mean you step aside, arm stretched with open hand; hoping for a handout because your life is not as planned.

    Freedom isn’t free but, you don’t want to pay. So, get the hell out if you don’t want to live the American way. If you want to be a socialist, then just go live in Greece. Let the rest of us pursue our dreams and live and die in peace.

    by Bradley A. Perainohttp://perainopoetry.blogspot.com

  10. Chuck says:

    I was thrilled to see some of these readings. So many great writers took part. And I agree, wrong questions