the first politics

Jay Ruzesky: I have a friend from South Africa who is an artist and who was making art in the era of apartheid. She told me that it was very difficult to do anything but address political issues directly because if she didn't she would be criticised. I hear a kind of echo of that now and there is desperation to it. It's as if some people think: We are wrecking the world, how could we possibly spend time talking about anything else right now? What are we doing writing poems?

Tim Lilburn: Before we get caught up in the urgency or the panic of that question - How can we waste time when we should... well, do precisely what? - we might take a pause and look at the problem. I see it having different forms. One layer of the problem is colonialism and the way the European mind and the European sensibility came to this continent and never really settled her but remained restless throughout, always looking for new oil reserves, new gas reserves, new stocks of fish to catch. You can ask: What is that energy? Another way to look at it is to think about the anarchic, questing, omnivorous, absolutely irreverent energy of capitalism and to ask what that is. What's the most effective way to oppose either of those things? Insofar as both colonialism and capitalism are destructive - as well as being hugely creative - their destruction has a source in a form of thinking - utilitarian, acquisitive, or as Emmanuel Levinas says, totalizing: making everything that is not us, ours. So if that's where the problem starts and it's humming away as a problem generating more and more energy, then acts against that or acts that attempt to transform or disconnect the epistemological allegiances, the acts of poetry, the acts that take place through loaning our energies to the wilderness of language, those are centrally political acts, though they don't look political. It is the first politics. You can try to stand in front of the big machines, that is important work to do, but the machines are going to keep on coming and coming. We stop something here and it's going to come there. So the deep political change is going to be interior change. It's going to be, to use and old word, a psychagogic change. It's going to be a transformation of interiority. Now you're in the terrain of mysticism, the terrain of lyric poetry, probably the most neglected energy bundles in contemporary Western culture; this is where politics, real politics, is going to be enacted.

- Tim Lilburn, riffing off ideas from his book of essays, Going Home, and keeping his use of words the spellchecker has never encountered down to two (can you guess which?). From The Malahat Review #165, Winter 2008.

1 comment:

daniela elza said...

I like what Lilburn has to say. great point. I should go read the whole interview.