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 been thinking about this a lot,” he said. “The dead have been used for ten years as fuel for this war. I don’t think that’s anything they would have wanted. To hijack the spirits of the dead and use them to create this permanent state of war is one of the vilest things you could possibly do.” (One thought of Mr. Boyer’s clients, who might have been in that Pentagon basement when the decisions were made, plans drawn up. Or maybe that’s just what johns inside the Beltway always tell their young boy poet–dominatrixes.)

“I feel like this is the real tenth anniversary of 9-11,” Mr. Marinovich continued. “It’s weird what was leading up to this. The whole commemoration, but before that Hurricane Irene, which was like this cleansing thing. All that happened. And being here on the periphery of ground zero, so loaded with spirits….”

A year ago, he’d been walking around the area, and he’d felt that the spirits were walking with him. Telling him things. Which he wrote down in a poem that is now in the Occupy Wall St. Poetry Anthology, which Mr. Boyer and Mr. Marinovich created together, out of contributions from people in the park and others who sent in work online and keep sending more, so much they can hardly read it all. Contributors include Anne Waldman, Adrienne Rich, Michael McLure, Elliott Katz, but anyone can contribute by sending their work to stephenjboyer@gmail.com, with “occupy poetry” in the subject line.

Two copies of the anthology, which are in binders so they can grow each day, are kept in the Occupy library and are not online. But you can borrow them—there is no checking out or checking in—or hear them at the weekly poetry assembly, every Friday at 9:30 p.m. Or you can just ask, like we did. Mr. Marinovich went first, reading the piece he’d written a year ago, when the spirits of the dead had whispered to him. “This is called ‘Wolfman Librarian and the Trembling Pair of Actor Hands,’” he said, and noted that it was long. The beginning went something like this: “Tell me this grove will protect me / From World Trade Towers Lightning forking the brain / Mine! Mine! / Why are there trains under the grass / And my butt is wet / Why do you constantly interrupt yourself? / My rhythm is the rhythm of interruption.”

Mr. Boyer went next, with a poem he’d put down in a rush on one of his first giddy nights in Zuccotti Park. Again, an except: “We need a sex space in the park, a space surrounded by tarps, held by the people, so we can get naked and fill each other with ourselves,” he read. And a few lines later: “I want to moan as the bankers and men on Wall Street watch with their binoculars, and in this way we shall win. They’ll come, demanding our naked bodies, and we’ll share ourselves. Sasha Gray, where are you? Get down here and gang bang for democracy. And show them just how beautiful our bodies, and the way we glow when we make one another radiate.”


Mr. Boyer used to suffer from anxiety. He used to do drugs, sometimes hard ones, and drink every day. In his three weeks in the park, spending hour after hour meeting people, talking about ideas, reciting poetry, he’s felt free of that. “There’s this hunger inside for the kind of community that I am now having access to,” he explained. “Since that wasn’t available to me, I’d partake of drugs to kind of numb that desire, because there was such a void in me. A lot of people are in the same mindspace.” He added, however, that some were actually using more, maybe because they’re so disoriented and exhausted. Who knows? It was hard to pin down exactly what was going on for the people who’d entered into this experiment.

Mr. Marinovich jumped in. “This is nonlinear time, saturated now-time,” he explained, “‘time shot through with the presence of the the now,’ as Benjamin called it.” We had to look that up. Now-time was a long time ago for us. The reference was to Theses on the Philosophy of History, which Walter Benjamin, the German-Jewish literary critic, wrote in January 1940, as the Nazis prepared to invade France. Eight months later, after fleeing to Spain, Benjamin learned that Franco had decided to return the refugees to Paris. He swallowed a handful of morphine pills.

Anyway, that was history. This was now-time. Jetztzeit. The revolutionary moment, the messianic age, which might extend forever, or not that long, but was somehow ever-present.

It seemed inevitable somehow that in the eyes of the outside world, at least, that the Occupy Wall Street movement would eventually flame out. People would begin to bicker. Splinter groups would form. January would be colder than anyone imagined. It all seemed very fragile. But by a different measure, the occupiers had already won. Their lives felt meaningful, were meaningful, in a way they hadn’t been before, which is a treasure that does not trade on the stock exchange and that most of us, whatever our percentile, rarely get our greedy hands on.

“Look around,” Mr. Boyer said. “We just slept through three days of pouring rain and everyone is still smiling.”