Publisher: Commune Editions
Released: June 1, 2015
Commune Editons and AK Press are teaming up to bring riotous verse to the world. As the purveyors of poetry and other antagonisms, Commune Editions will supply the burning words. AK Press will help fan the flames far and wide.
We Are Nothing and So Can You We Are Nothing and So Can You is a book-length poem for the long 21st century to come, a poem of revolts past, present, and future. In alternating passages of rhapsodic verse and speculative prose, Bernes plots the dynamic movement of history, both irreversible and recursive, moving forward directly and by twists and turns, in sentences and lines, standing still and hurtling toward the abyss. This is an epic for an age without heroes save collective heroes, leaping from the occupied plazas and rioting cities of the aughts and teens to futures alternately desolate and full of promise.
“I think this is one of the poem’s great achievements–to write a description of a post-revolutionary moment that isn’t a utopia; to use techniques that orbit wider than realism, while looping through a descriptive realism nonetheless. This is beyond the resources of realist fiction when it tries to think about capitalism. The best dystopian science fiction, meanwhile, when it tries to extend capitalism into the future, tends to invite allegorical readings that, while pleasurable, usually lose sight of the thing Bernes has kept our gaze on all the while: the conditions of production under capital, the ones that make us merely 'programmable,' make us just sad apes.” —Chris Nealon, “The Price of Value” (forthcoming 2016)
From We Are Nothing and So Can You
As for the rest of us, we learn
something important about ourselves
watching from the loading dock
as the mushroom cloud
announces the end of another season –
e.g., that each riot really is
an assemblage of other riots
washed up on the boulevards,
from whose faded corpses
one dresses and arms one’s comrades
the total inadequacy of which
as equipment for the task at hand
traces out in negative
the seat perilous of the party historical
the poetry of the future
whose sweet new sounds
will fill with meaning slowly
while the seas rise.
Jasper Bernes is the author of a previous collection of poems, Starsdown (2007), and is currently completing a book of literary history, The Work of Art in the Age of Deindustrialization, about the role of poetry in the postindustrial restructuring of labor. Excerpts from We Are Nothing and So Can You have appeared in Lana Turner, The American Reader, The Capilano Review, Hi Zero, Prelude, and elsewhere. His writing on contemporary politics and political economy can be found in venues such as The New Inquiry, LARB, Endnotes, and Viewpoint. He lives in Berkeley with his family and teaches in the English Departments at UC Berkeley and Stanford University.
Commune Editions began with Bay Area friendships formed in struggle. The people committed to poetry and the people committed to militant political antagonism came to be more and more entangled, turned out to be the same people. This felt transformative to us, strange and beautiful. A provisionally new strain of poetry has begun to emerge from this entanglement with communist and anarchist organizing, theorizing, and struggle.This work inspires us. Because there was no existing venue attuned to these changes, we decided to start one. We hope to publish poetry for reading and writing explicitly against the given world, always aware that it begins inside that world—and to put this work in dialogue with poetries from other countries and from other historical moments, times and places where the politicization of poetry and the participation of poets in uprisings large and small was and remains a convention. Poems are no replacement for concrete forms of political action. But poetry can be a companion to these activities, as the “Riot Dog” of Athens was a companion in streets. A dog, too, might start barking when the cops are about to kick down your door. Perhaps that’s it, for now, what we’re doing, what is to be done, with poetry. Some barking. Some letting you know that the cops are at the door. They’ve been there for a while.