Friday, March 16, 2012

a love poem to adbusters


I went to visit Adbusters the other day. For those of you who don't know it, it is the magazine/entity that called for the original Occupy Wall Street protests which have manifested into so many protests around the world today.

I have been a subscriber for a couple of years now, but have been reading the magazine for long before that, since I first ran across a copy in City Lights bookstore in San Francisco and read it cover to cover. The next day, I went to the San Francisco Public Library and read all of the back issues in the facility.

Adbusters is more than a magazine for me, it is a a space where all of the big ideas I care about collide in a way that is palatable. It contains art, writing, poetry, letters, no advertisements. It includes all of these things in a way that is accessible and inspiring.

They're based in Vancouver, and I was planning to take a spring break trip to Vancouver and Victoria with Patrick, so a sent them an email a week before the trip asking if I could stop by. They said they're around most days from 9 to 5, and that I could stop by anytime.

I looked up their address and it seemed to be a simple house in a Vancouver neighborhood. When the day came, I got really nervous. I had been reading the work of these few people for years, and think of them as visionaries, the philosophers of our time. I almost made an excuse to ditch out on the visit, feeling like a silly fan girl, but Patrick thought that maybe if we picked up some doughnuts some of the awkwardness of the encounter could be negated. So we did, and we went.

The offices were indeed in a simple basement of a house in Vancouver. There were about 7 people, dressed as you would expect with plaid shirts and winter hats sitting loosely on the backs of their heads, but not trying too hard. They mirrored us in that way, I guess. Patrick and I don't work to cultivate an image, but we pick out clothes we like that are comfortable and don't pay much for them.

They were all very gracious and kind. I was too nervous to say anything special, but after I left I wrote them the following email:

Hello All:

Thanks so much for entertaining our visit the other day. I hope the doughnuts helped you all get a littler closer to deadline.

I wanted to share with you all a poem. It is a love poem from me to you, but it is also to all the readers, occupiers, thinkers, monks and poets looking for a different way in this world of multiple collapses.

The poem, "September 1, 1939," was written by W.H. Auden on the eve of world war two. I feel that we are in the same predicament now that he was in then. We are in the throes of all the history that has lead us to this point. 

Yet, in the midst of all of this pain, death, destruction, uncertainty, there is a simple hope. Not the unrealistic techno-fixes of those who hail to the idea of human progress as if it were a god. But to each other. This poem is for all who see clearly where we are now, try to understand how we got here, and to look for something different, better, more. 

You are the "ironic points of light," in the words of Auden, and this poem is for you. Thank you for lighting a path out of this darkness. The more we get together, the more our lights will shine, and just maybe we will then be able to see out of the darkness.

"September 1, 1939" by W.H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright 
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can 
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return. 

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire 
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Ashley Colby Fitzgerald

To which they replied:

Hi Ashley,

Thank you so much for the kind words. I wish I could have been in the office to meet you! I've passed the beautiful poem that you sent on to our editors. Thanks for spreading our message. 


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