A Revolutionary Practice: Part One: CSU Summer Arts

I assure those of you attending the “Hybrid Poetics and Narratives” workshop that these artists will revolutionize your art and your lives. We will startle you with wonder and beauty on the journey to unearth verbs unknown and unthinkable. ... Summer Arts is the sort of gift that all young artists should give to themselves. To respect yourself, your art, so deeply that you give yourself this gift of time to explore your art, to be fully with your art, your practice of creating, and to surround yourself with other young artists and more accomplished artists. Every artist needs such an experience.

The culture of everyday life is against art. In fact, it is antagonistic toward art. It devalues art by valuing speed. Life is too short to waste on speed. Slow down.

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A Child's Laughter

And that laughter your mother hear you doing out there. That’s the truest gift you ever give her, even when she’s calling you a fool and saying you’re going to catch your death of cold. That’s just a mother’s way of thanking a child for laughing. ‘Cause the best way to ever thank a mother for the life she gives you is not by simply saying thank you, but by laughing, by bursts of laughter. That’s a true thank you to your mother for her bringing you into this world. She’s grateful you’re living a life that allows you to laugh. She’s grateful you feel safe enough to laugh. And when you grow up and you get that job and you doing all this and that with your life, you best never quit living the life you want to be living. ‘Cause everyone out there is bent on destroying you. Don’t you let those creeps win, Sylvia. Don’t.

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Love Kills Capitalism: Merry Christmas

Imagine a shoebox under your bed filled with letters, instead of a folder on the screen of your laptop filled with typed documents. Imagine touching the words that your lover sent to you, knowing her hand rested on the paper you now hold in your hand, knowing she sealed the envelop, knowing this letter was carried to you from her.

‘Tis the season to be giving, not gifting. So give love as a gift. Replace “I love you” with “I love to you.” And give this love without any expectation. Give this with wonder, with the desire to see what the person you give your love to does with the love you give to them. Too often, we forget to let go of the idea of our self.

Every moment of living is a gift, we must be able to give and accept such gifts without clinging to them. If our intention in giving a gift is to bind another person to us, to put that person under an obligation, to exercise a hidden moral tyranny over that person’s soul, then in loving that person we are only actually loving our self. Nothing is more selfish than committing such an act of narcissism. So give, then watch what the person creates with the gift you have given.

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This Forgery of Forgetting (Remembering Kathy Acker, part 2)

In a dream I saw a way to love. To survive the breaking of this body into loss. So we stood barefoot near some edge along a river. In mud. No one saw us. Or if anyone saw us, we no longer cared about their seeing. Only our bodies in this space here. Water moves over our bodies. To become awake on the inside of skin. My body alert to this becoming. Brings us to a present before the past disappears Kathy. To live with water washing our skin. I want to come to your body with my body. To come near your skin. To wound. To seize. I take a hold of your bones. You close your mouth. Somehow you keep your eyes open and you see something blue.

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Blood and Guts: Re/membering Kathy Acker (Part One)

My friendship with Kathy Acker was most often little more than a string of long nights on the telephone. Miles and miles of roads and wires. Writing each other in and out of our bodies. Desperate longing. Locked inside being so far away from each other, Kathy and I became lost to space and time. “Come to San Francisco, Doug.” Her voice trails off. “Teach at the Art Institute with me. Here you can be free. Escape Ohio. Turn away from that fascist dean.  Here, you can begin to think again.”

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A Tweet By Any Other Name

I dare you to be a poet. All of you. And I mean a true poet, one who can pick a lock, one who can lift a shadow off a sidewalk and see what lies beneath that shadow and sing whatever is discovered lurking there into being. I want us all to become the kind of poet who wanders the streets, eyes aflame, voice stinking of yesterday and tomorrow, grabbing wedding guests by their collars and kissing them with none too subtle truths. I want to experience the hard-core poetic truth of living pressed against my lips. And I promise not to blink, but to carry such a truth unto others, and press my none to innocent lips against theirs until they too know this truth with their bodies and souls. A revolution in words.

(Years ago I assigned Werner Herzog’s A Guide to the Perplexed. The next week, every one of my students came back to class ready to discuss Herzog’s book. I asked my students if they had actually read A Guide to the Perplexed. They said, “yes,” and they claimed to be eager to discuss it, not use Herzog’s idea, not put them into motion, not act with them. They asked me what sections of the book would be on the final exam. I was never so disappointed by human beings in my life. I told them, gently, that they had all failed in the reading of Herzog’s book.)

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The Passions of Kanye West and Mike Pence

Art is not a comforting experience. Artists are not here to distract us. Art should terrify us. Art frightens me. Art threatens my identity. The other day I mailed a copy of my new novel to Bill Vollmann. The postal agent asked: “Is there anything inside this package that is liquid, fragile, perishable, or potentially hazardous?” I replied: “No, it is not fragile (I’m from Pittsburgh), no, it is not liquid, and I certainly hope it is not perishable, but yes, it is potentially hazardous; at least, I hope it is.” 

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This is not America: A Letter to my Children

If anyone builds a wall to stop you from dreaming, or if someone nails a glass ceiling down over your dreams, trying to suffocate your desires, I hope that your mother and I, and the education you are actively pursuing, have given you the fortitude to fight back for the right to have your own desires. Tear down any wall built by fearful boys. Break any glass ceilings put in your way by insecure boys.  

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My First 100 Days in Office

And even though I am not running for President, I think all of us should contemplate what our first 100 days in office would be like, what we would focus on accomplishing. If all of us devoted time in our daily lives to reflecting on what we truly value, and then devoted time to discovering ways to bring those values into the world, then perhaps we will no longer need politicians. Instead of politicians promising hope and change, or promising to make America great again, or promising that we will be stronger together, imagine if we respected ourselves deeply enough to be able to respect those around us (especially those who are different than us). Imagine if we were so comfortable in our own skin that other people in their own skins were not threatening to us. In fact, instead of feeling uncomfortable or threatened by those who are different than us, imagine becoming curious of difference? (I know you think I am going to bring Jacques Derrida into this. But I am not going to do that. I am speaking of difference, not differance, or am I?)

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You Say You Want a Revolution

There is an election next week. The election will place in power the newest president of the United States of America. So I will leave you with discarded parables I found in the Mission District the other morning.

Bugs go Ka-choo. It happens. There is even a carefully written, witty memoir of such a bug going Ka-choo, and of all that happened because the bug’s gentle and accidental ka-choo. This book is important because the bug takes responsibility for setting in motion a series of events, even though the bug did not intend to create such a series of events. Still, this bug never positions itself as a victim. It takes ownership of its ka-choo. Such a stance is heroic. We need more heroes like this bug. (We do not need more heroes who need wars to become heroes. Mel Gibson knows what I am talking about, and the philosopher Tina Turner knows this in an even more profound way.)

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