I began this series of commentaries with David Herd’s attempt to find a path through the largely legalistic language of the modern border. Layli Long Soldier covers similar conceptual territory in her brilliant new book Whereas (Graywolf, 2017), but she comes at the border, as it were, from the inside out.
“On June 4th, 2016, poet Jack Foley’s wife, Adelle Foley, who was (as she told her doctor) ‘never sick,’ was diagnosed with stomach cancer; she died on June 27th. They had been married for nearly fifty-five years and were an exceptionally close couple. Adelle was also a poet and, like Jack, had published widely. He wrote about her, ‘How can there be sunlight and you not in it?’
I want to begin this series of commentaries on the Biotariat — a term I will use to explore the coming resistance of “bare life” — by looking at a poetry which directly addresses the legal excision of certain subjects. I have in mind here David Herd’s excellent 2016 Carcanet book Through, which, along with Herd’s organizing and editing of the Refugee Tales project and volumes, constitutes an extensive foray into the violence of borders and the creation and management of the state of exception. Herd explores the interpenetration of spaces and languages of, on the one hand, bordering and exclusion, and on the other, as a grassroots counter-system, spaces and languages of welcome and inclusion — thresholds, commons, and pilgrims’ paths.
I want to begin this series of commentaries on the Biotariat — a term I will use to explore the coming resistance of “bare life” — by looking at a poetry which directly addresses the legal excision of certain subjects.