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.”

 

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