Toward a moxie politik

Kaia Sand:
What might a poetics of moxie politik look like? Unlike realpolitik's crushing pragmatism and cunning power grabs, a moxie politik might concern itself with exposing, critiquing and challenging concentrated power. A poetics that emphasizes equality, pursued with moxie, which is, as Jules Boykoff puts it, "pluck in the face of the muck, vim in the place of the grim.”

(center: Frank Sherlock & Linh Dinh handing out broadsides in a 2004 PACE action; right: Sidewalk Blogger holiday sign)

When Jules and I wrote Landscapes of Dissent, we explored some ways poetry exceeds a book. We began to think about public space as a context for poetry, when poetry moves out of its fortifying communities and into more vulnerable, unpredictable spaces with inadvertent audiences. Our process of writing Landscapes included extending our own poem-making through sign-making and other actions; theorizing about public space; and documenting projects — from the Poetry is Public Art (PIPA) actions that culminated in sign projects in New York City during the weeks after 9-11 when commercialism receded a bit, to the PACE actions in Philadelphia that moved poetry readings into commercial spaces, to the revamped holiday signs affixed to cyclone fences by the Sidewalk Blogger project in Kane'ohe, Hawaii.

Jules and I will write commentaries over the coming weeks that trace and extend our thinking since Landscapes was published. Inexpert investigation. Pedestrian poetics. Poetry projects recast for new contexts. Participatory poetry. Poetry as a social practice. Aesthetic spaces translated into activist spaces into aesthetic spaces. Accessibility rethought as 'affording entrance.' Political poetry that is fun, playful and, well, full of moxie.

Some of our commentaries will attend to place, and how local practices can afford entrace to specific audiences. With this in mind, I will sketch out the local context where we will compose many of our Jacket2 commentaries. At least some will be written in an attic with green walls in a home close to downtown Portland but in a southeast neighborhood. Five chickens roam outside, consistently pecking the ground and occasionally laying eggs. Nearby is a small meatpacking plant, a steepled Catholic Church, and the Aladdin theater.  Our street ends at the 24-hr Hotcake House backed up to a piano store. Our neighborhood is an island formed not by water, but by busy streets. To the north are industrial warehouses we bike among to head downtown. To the west, the Willamette River is very close, but access is severed by a highway. When we arrive at the nearby river trail by circuitous access, we come in contact with deer, osprey, occasionally bald eagles. To the east are train-yards, fissuring our neighborhood from the ones further east.  Scaling out further, to the west is the Pacific Ocean, and to the east, the Cascade Mountains. From the Brooklyn neighborhood in the city of Portland, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, we will post our commentaries in the coming weeks.