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91

The Bourgeois and the Boulevard
(missing author)

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terms
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notes

by ANTHONY REED

? (2019). The Bourgeois and the Boulevard. Commune Magazine, 3, pp. 91-94

93

As I read this collection, I found myself thinking about an early debate between W. E. B. Du Bois and Alain Locke about the possibility of a political black modernist art, a debate framed in terms of the relationship between art and propaganda. Du Bois famously declared that “all art is propaganda and ever must be”: that is, all cultural production under capitalism necessarily serves ruling interests, so black artists have an obligation to take the side of the oppressed. Locke rejoined that propaganda (or, in more contemporary terms, protest) “perpetuates the position of group inferiority even in crying out against it. For it leaves and speaks under the shadow of a dominant majority whom it harangues, cajoles, threatens or supplicates.” Both ultimately describe the conditions of art, and reveal the falseness of the binary between “political” and “middle class” poetry I described previously. However, if one is to avoid the poetry of pity, which provides an affective release for the oppressor, or of cheap solidarity, which can preclude historical and political understanding of domination, the question is how one is to take sides. The strength of Heaven Is All Goodbyes in this regard is that it manages to transcend empty sloganeering and refuse the seductions of easy pessimism, bombastic militancy, or unearned optimism. Its value is not its interpretation or representation of the world, though poetry inevitably represents, and representation is an interpretation of the world. Rather, it invites readers to examine their attachments; it helps generate new concepts and encourages aesthetic and political experimentation; and it invites readers to a world, this one, where we might live otherwise.

idk this book but im intrigued by this analysis

—p.93 missing author 3 years, 5 months ago

As I read this collection, I found myself thinking about an early debate between W. E. B. Du Bois and Alain Locke about the possibility of a political black modernist art, a debate framed in terms of the relationship between art and propaganda. Du Bois famously declared that “all art is propaganda and ever must be”: that is, all cultural production under capitalism necessarily serves ruling interests, so black artists have an obligation to take the side of the oppressed. Locke rejoined that propaganda (or, in more contemporary terms, protest) “perpetuates the position of group inferiority even in crying out against it. For it leaves and speaks under the shadow of a dominant majority whom it harangues, cajoles, threatens or supplicates.” Both ultimately describe the conditions of art, and reveal the falseness of the binary between “political” and “middle class” poetry I described previously. However, if one is to avoid the poetry of pity, which provides an affective release for the oppressor, or of cheap solidarity, which can preclude historical and political understanding of domination, the question is how one is to take sides. The strength of Heaven Is All Goodbyes in this regard is that it manages to transcend empty sloganeering and refuse the seductions of easy pessimism, bombastic militancy, or unearned optimism. Its value is not its interpretation or representation of the world, though poetry inevitably represents, and representation is an interpretation of the world. Rather, it invites readers to examine their attachments; it helps generate new concepts and encourages aesthetic and political experimentation; and it invites readers to a world, this one, where we might live otherwise.

idk this book but im intrigued by this analysis

—p.93 missing author 3 years, 5 months ago

(verb) depict or describe in painting or words; suffuse or highlight (something) with a bright color or light

93

these poems limn a speculative architecture of what common life could be

—p.93 missing author
notable
3 years, 5 months ago

these poems limn a speculative architecture of what common life could be

—p.93 missing author
notable
3 years, 5 months ago