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Digital Poetics #31 The Cantona Editorial: Azad Ashim Sharma

Updated: Jan 28



When seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. – Eric Cantona


Perambulations


In this essay, I respond to Khaled Hakim’s article in Poetry Birmingham (Autumn/Winter 2020) as well as consider the wider implications of diversity initiatives and the failure of them to bring about real cohesive solidarity between poets of colour. I am particularly interested in the exclusive rubrics that seem to be taking over the feuilletons of some review cultures, which are premised on setting themselves/those platforms apart from the crowd rather than thinking through what being a part of a crowd or artistic subculture might mean.


There seems to be a feeling of being excluded from the mainstream that pervades amongst small publishers, especially those seeking to ‘represent’ communities who are historically and currently disenfranchised or marginalised. Whilst I share this sentiment and feel the weight of the desire to provide a safe space where representation is put into action, I am wholly unconvinced that the best way to proceed in such endeavours is through the work of the ego. In seeking to represent others, what we should, arguably, be doing is ‘holding space’ rather than putting ourselves centre-stage.


What I observe as a kind of prideful egotism at the centre of this desire to ‘stand out’ from a crowd/collective, seems to point to a curious dovetailing between diversity politics and reactionary conservatism. In making some provisional comments and observations about this phenomenon, the conservative-liberal who uses ‘diversity’ language to promote reactionary views, I hope that a confrontation with this stark reality will prompt vanguard communities (and communities across intersections and across forms of cultural production) to look inward and figure out how we can move forward collectively. If the current moment of literary criticism is anything to go by, in terms of mainstream representation and/or established discourses, we need to radically confront the inability of these columns to provide a good level of discussion which moves away from the personal and into the actual aesthetics, politics, and socialities at hand in the texts we are reading.


I also make some provisional comments about poetry/literature which might be said to fall under the rubric of an ‘avant-garde;’ my intention behind these remarks is one of stimulating an on-going discussion rather than providing an all-encompassing set of rules to follow. For many of us, the question of proceeding from the text itself, rather than the person behind it, is a modus operandi, almost such a basic requirement that it isn’t worth discussing or defending as a means of procedure. But what we notice emerging in this reality-TV era of discourse, where journalism itself is denigrated to the relaying of facts from Twitter etc, is that a politics of personality is replacing the personal politics of the 70s (the personal as political) and as such we are left either resisting or reconciling ourselves with this new celebrity cult that surrounds writing and other activities in the realm of culture.


Given that one of the unfortunate hallmarks of the liberal publishing nexus is a feigning towards ‘political neutrality,’ pointing out how weak an act this neutrality is, exposing the fault lines and permutations of what I want to loosely call a right-wing reactionary conservatism which privileges the individual above the collective, is an argument worth underscoring as we seek to create alliances between small presses, independent bookstores, and readers who refuse to be called ‘a general reader’ but rather people who are active agents in the communities we task ourselves with creating space for. With others in mind, and an openness to continuing these discussions with others and learn collectively, I hope this essay provides an informative overview of a curious situation we find ourselves in with regards to the intersections between race and experimental writing, as well as prompting us to radically rethink our acquiescence to the language of diversity which, as I hope becomes apparent, can have some rather unseemly consequences.


The Situation


Khaled Hakim’s essay ‘Washing the Heart of Darkness’ is a patriarchal, misogynistic, and bitter personal attack on two women-poets-of-colour - Nisha Ramayya and Bhanu Kapil - whilst letting off this rather distasteful hook, a male-poet-of-colour, Rishi Dastidar. With little-to-no reflection on his own positionality (or hypocrisy), Hakim’s prose is buffed with the waxy leathers of the current culture of anti-intellectualism and reactionary ideologies. Hakim’s essay is a great example of ‘bad criticism’ which combines a slapdash and clickbait style of polemic writing with a textual performance that wholly misses the mark with regards to the basic requirements of criticism: namely, that it actually read the texts in question. Instead, what we have before us is a relentless stream of effluence, a drab paraphrasing of Dastidar’s Saffron Jack (2020) and then exhausting and vicious personal attacks on Ramayya and Kapil, all of which masquerades as a poetry review which ‘focus[es] on discrete contours and textures’ in the recent works of the aforementioned poets.[1] Hakim’s essay betrays an ignorance of poetry studies and other extra-institutional scholastic discussions about poetry and poetics (some of which take place on social media).


Secondary Perambulations


One essay pertinent to the question of criticism is Ezra Pound’s ‘How to Read’ (1928), in which Pound rails against:


“The general contempt of ‘scholarship,’ especially any part of it connected with subjects included in university ‘Arts’ courses; the shrinking of people in general from any book supposed to be ‘good’; and, in another mode, the flamboyant advertisements telling ‘how to seem to know it when you don’t,’ might long since have indicated to the sensitive that there is something defective in the contemporary methods of purveying letters.”[2]

Pound suggests that one of the ways in which people are made to ‘shrink’ beneath supposedly ‘good’ writing is through a literary instruction that proceeds from the biography of the writer, which holds the writer above the reader, god-like, on a pedestal, untouchable. The other example of bad criticism is a ‘defective’ method which amounts to ‘flamboyant advertisements’ that actually don’t ‘know it.’ What Pound argues for is a knowledge that proceeds from a special method of analysis, the knowledge of the work, an epistemological performance that doesn’t ‘lapse or plunge into autobiography.’[3] But there is a tension in Pound’s work, between the desire for good criticism, and the god-like figure of the ‘specialist,’ read: fascist, because it is a hierarchical self-serving egotistical idea of the super-specialist reader who does things in the way ‘they are supposed to’ and who stands above ‘the general reader.’ It’s also worth noting here that we will encounter a similar egotism in the editorials of the Poetry Birmingham issue in question.


Increasingly in our young century, with the very real political consequences of alt-right conspiracy theories like QAnon, the problem embodied and captured by Hakim’s essay is that the person masquerading as the specialist is in fact not a specialist but rather a reactionary whose opinion is valid because it is their opinion. In our century we need to rediscover a criticism that is informed by the work which generates argument, analysis and not base opinion and lamentable personal attacks on writers who are working for equality, justice, and representation, in myriad and diverse ways, with (sometimes) anti-racism, Marxism, and the search for a better future firmly in their practices.


I also want to bring Roland Barthes’s ‘The Death of the Author’ (1967) into the discussion. Barthes’s essay is often widely circulated at undergraduate level literary studies; but its eminence is, ostensibly, quickly forgotten by a literary culture obsessed with the cult of the ‘new’ or the ‘celebrity-writer.’ In the interest of ‘giv[ing] writing its future,’ Barthes argues, ‘it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.’[4] The crux of the argument is, as Laura Seymour summarises, ‘that we should stop seeing the “real person” who wrote the book as important. [Barthes] suggests that we ought not to interpret a book by referring to the author’s biography. What an author believed (or is said to have believed) is not important to the understanding of his or her [or their] book.’[5] From the vantage point of literary analyses, Barthes was a voracious and interesting theorist of the act of reading; by liberating the book from authorial asphyxiation, the interplay between language and interpretation is allowed to motivate, inspire, and focus critical faculties.


Part of this is to consider the movement from a work of literature produced by an individual to the text seeking what John Wilkinson calls an ‘amalgam’ or ‘a state where subject and object become indistinguishable’ (here: reader and text) with multiple individualities through ‘unpredictable’ encounters with readers.[6] What Wilkinson gestures to is the profound experience of the singular affect of a text’s impact on an individual reader that is repeated and recurrent thus producing a ‘roused collective’ response to or experience of a text/work of art without the assertion that any experience of the text/work is transcendent or the ‘One.’[7] It seems wholly counter to the work of publishing, criticism, and any kind of discussion worth having about texts to shoehorn them into a barren scientific or lax opinionated analysis premised on dissecting and accounting for the life of the subject behind the text as the sole way of generating thought about the text as an object.


This digression will serve as, I hope, a valuable set of thoughts from other writers (Barthes and Wilkinson are working within modes of already circulating thought) with which we can read and understand what is so problematic about the most recent editorials and Hakim’s essay in the recent volume of Poetry Birmingham. Central to both is the imposition of an egotistical transcendent single ‘correct’ method or perspective over and above a collective but recurrent singular experience of reading a text more widely, made by a group or collective of individuals in reflection of the work.


From Pound’s initial remarks on the shrinking of the reader before the ‘good book’ and also the lack of knowledge about the work which is the modus operandi of biography-focused criticism, it’s apparent how Barthes’s influence haunts us with regard to what has been long accepted as a productive and constructive mode of literary analysis. In Pound’s ‘How to Read,’ there is a latent ‘Death of the Author’ to which Pound’s ego, his desire to be the specialist, cannot acquiesce. What is necessary and desirable is the type of criticism which oscillates between close reading of passages and the distant reading of the interplay between text, history, aesthetics, and politics that doesn’t deny context but does not exclusively rely on context to interpret the text itself. It remains a strong influence on much criticism which focuses on the text and aims to read texts on their own terms, rather than as subject to the opinions of the writers who read and/or produce them. This requires, however, a reader willing to participate in that liberation and not confine the text to only a reading of the author’s life.


In the 21st Century we desperately need to recover Barthes’s ‘67 essay, in the context of publishing, and emphasise how this revolutionary potential found in the text birthed from its author’s death is being lost in the era when writers are conceived of as celebrity-players, with agents, big money publishing deals, and often, a literary output judged on sales and not on the book itself. In today’s era of the politics of personality, it is increasingly difficult to move textual analysis into the mode of authorial death. Rather, we have to attempt to ply the text away from the industry which seeks to keep the text as a commodity.


In what follows, I relay to you the substance and material foundations upon which Hakim constructs ‘an argument;’ what emerges is the real meaning behind the ‘contours and textures’ Hakim claims to focus on which include readings of the covers of the books and personal lives/achievements of the poets behind the works in question. In the interest of balance and fairness, I apply Hakim’s method to his own book Letters from the Takeaway (2019) and try and deduce what could be said about Hakim’s own artificial persona and its performance ‘off-the-page.’ Through a critique of Hakim’s essay and the Poetry Birmingham editorials by Suna Afshan and Naush Sabah, I advance a provisional theory of the avant-garde that engages with aesthetic justice and contemporary studies of avant-garde cultural productions, gesturing to traditions of Marxist anti-racism. My aim here is to burn the bridge between liberal and reactionary products of diversity initiatives and an avant-garde premised upon the desire for and solidarity with progressive intersectional and cross-cultural politics.


Additionally, I intervene in current discourses under the broad headings of race, diversity, avant-garde and/or experimental poetry, to illustrate how Hakim’s poetry essentially colludes with systems of oppression premised on race, class, gender, sexuality, or neurodiversity as categories of judging and dividing people; Hakim feigns to ‘diversify’ experimental poetry whilst actually representing the maintenance of the system of oppression that necessitated diversity initiatives. My study of Hakim’s work hopes to illustrate how diversity politics is, in and of itself, despite noble ambitions, often marred by such collusions with the infrastructures it claims to want to change. Hakim’s poetry represents the attempt to perform a kind of poetic accountancy that pretends to culturally represent the intersections of class and race whilst in fact enforcing neoliberal racial capitalism.


Inaccuracies


Hakim is headstrong in relaying upon his reader a relentless collection of his prodigious tastes. He speaks of his ‘yen for philosophical-spiritual texts’ when discussing the cover of Ramayya’s States of the Body Produced by Love (2019).[8] Hakim then he quotes a passage from it and this is the discussion that ensues:


“Ramayya is emblematic of the phenomenon of poet-scholars invested in university institutions and States of the Body is emblematic of its kind of cross-disciplinary hybrid productions - part creative writing, part personal history, part research. The book is dedicated to her extended family, and within is hardly a profane word or image - despite its erotic subject or politics - which might offend. Its temperature befits the dignified study of quasi-religious texts, its language is decorous, sonorous, scholarly in an old-fashioned eloquence. Ramayya is steeped in the Theory-Speak of radical academics (there is an earnest conference report/fantasia of hers written in Marxian gobbledygook, from a recent edition of The Poetry Review, that is beyond parody) but States of the Body remains limpid, with echoes of ancient oral transmissions and ritual.”[9]

This passage flamboyantly and verbosely advertises how little Hakim actually knows about Ramayya’s poetry. The essay fails to meet the basic requirement of any essay about poetry which is: read the poetry. Why are poet-scholars all of a sudden a phenomenon? As if the entire 20th Century didn’t happen. Is it such a bad thing for writers across modalities and intersections of class, race, gender, sexuality, neurodiversity, etc, to want to approach scholarship and poetry at the same time? In fact, what Ramayya’s work shows is how far we have come in terms of contemporary writing as, in the recent past, such hybrid forms of writing would not have been published, especially from a ‘writer of colour.’ It is worth noting that this trend in writing is new as well as being an example of the continuation of already present tendencies in writing. In the various rubrics of creative-critical writing, creative non-fiction, the hybridity of the non-fictional text has innovated prose and poetry in which art lays a direct claim on the world.


Furthermore, Hakim’s dismissal of ‘Marxian gobbledegook’ and ‘Theory-Speak’ has implicit echoes with the ‘cultural marxism’ ideology of reactionary conservatives across the liberal and right wing spectrum of politics. It is a deeply suspect opinion. The fact of the matter is the increasingly neoliberal market-model applied to universities has totally severed the connection between sites of knowledge production and the cultural production of working-class intersectional communities. The real gobbledegook is the market fundamentalism we are living through, which forecloses the future to gain profit in the present and is also founded from the conservative reaction to events like May 68. This fundamentalism of the market traces its own lineage to colonial machines such as the East India Company and creates a type of epistemic closure where knowledge is not only streamlined into bite-size commodities warring for funding (i.e. proof of their economic use-value), but also totally kept distant from interdisciplinarity which re-emerges and re-asserts the praxis of decolonised epistemology in the early 21st Century.[10] For someone with a ‘yen’ for the philosophical-spiritual, one questions why Hakim displays such a lack of curiosity, a lack of desire to try and read the work on its terms, to understand the context Ramayya’s work of intersectional diasporic feminism emerges from.


The other ‘argument’ on display here concerns poetic diction. Hakim doesn’t like the poems because there isn’t enough profanity in both their language and imagery. Hakim then conjectures that this is because Ramayya doesn’t want to ‘offend’ her ‘extended family’ to whom her book is dedicated. He continues to do what remains unthinkable in the world of published poetry criticism which is to merely ‘describe’ and paraphrase what ‘happens.’[11] His ‘take’ is that Ramayya is mounting a ‘concentrated attack on a nexus of language-myth-ritual that has borne down on her diasporic self, and has also been the daily churn of her mind as an academic’ and then proceeds to give some ‘snap-shots’ of her work to illustrate his point.[12] What we have in this reductionist reading of Ramayya’s work as it relates to ‘her diasporic self’ and ‘her mind as an academic’ is the clichéd reading of the works of writers of colour on the grounds of authenticity. Such a reading flies in the face of recent scholarship and debate surrounding ‘race and poetry’ spearheaded by Dorothy Wang’s defiant Thinking in its Presence (2014). Wang’s book argues that writers of colour (in her study these writers are specifically Asian-American) are reduced to expressions of authentic identity politics whereas the true innovation and experimental writing is left to their white (and usually male) counterparts. Hakim, however, inserts another quotation from States of the Body and ignores it by trying to summarise his ‘argument:’


“…in its 100-odd pages focussing myopically on her chosen varieties of religious experience nowhere do I find the lived ecstatic experience. Is it unfair to judge her for a prickly, lapsed relation to the divine - after all, where would contemporary poetry be without middleclass intellectuals exploring the subjugatory/emancipatory workings of words? Within a largely head-centred terrain, where poems of loss and icy political rage fill the space where devotion might sing, Ramayya stands in dualistic separation looking in on ‘her’ ‘given’ ‘heritage.’”[13]

Hakim establishes correctly that Ramayya’s poems engage with a kind of religious experience and, earlier, that the book is in fact a hybrid cross-disciplinary work bringing together strands of memoir, scholarship, etc. But here is the problem with his reading: it isn’t a reading. Rather, it is an opinion-piece about Ramayya as a scholar and human-being. Ramayya is being judged as not devotional enough, not working-class enough; her work is not lyrical enough, not experimental enough, perhaps not South-Asian enough. It puts pressure on the poetry to fulfil arbitrary pre-requisite criteria in the mind of the critic rather than proceed from the poem in order to analyse and offer a body of criticism. Hakim, here, displays a resentment that the poems are not what he wanted them to be. The best remedy for that situation, when one is not happy with the expectations one held over the text prior to encountering it, is to read another book.


Hakim’s continues this kind of reportage on Kapil’s How to Wash a Heart (2020). Hakim reads the blurb of this collection, drawing on the fact that its basis - a performance at the Institute of Contemporary Art in 2019 - and the fact that Kapil is the recipient of the 2020 Windham-Campbell Poetry prize, as warranting the dismissal: ‘such is the mainstream.’[14] Hakim positions himself on the outside of the so-called ‘mainstream,’ sideways glancing at the poems in the collection, commenting on how the capitalisation of the beginnings of lines is evidence of the poem not pushing ‘formal boundaries.’[15] The evidence for the fact that Kapil is not an innovative poet comes from Hakim’s accounting of her winning prize money. Is it totally counter-experimental to receive money for poetry? Prize politics and the economics of what is rewarded by prizes aside, the issue is that Hakim does so in a way that gestures to the fact that perhaps he feels like he should receive the money instead of Kapil. It is not a critique of prize-culture so much as it is a personal attack on a poet with known dependents winning money to get by in life.


Moreover, poets shouldn’t be held to the expectation of formal innovation in every subsequent poem or project or line, just as for musicians each subsequent album or single need not endlessly outdo previous records. Experimentation and innovation are processes not stagnant language events. Hakim’s critique of Kapil’s work for lack of formal experimentation quickly turns into a sequence of personal attacks on what he judges as her ‘faux-fragile migrant status’ because she received the Judith E Wilson Fellowship at Cambridge and is thus ‘speaking as an elite.’[16] Here is the main crux of the Hakim’s attack:


“These poems which detail a thousand small cuts of privilege, the unthinking twitch of power, are in danger of being defanged when its lexicon is now part of corporate seminars. Kapil is oblivious to her own tone of entitlement: the acknowledgements at the back thanking her legion of academic peers is a testament to middle-class privilege.”[17]

What we have here is a series of alternative facts, a lamentable and wilful disregard of the reality of Kapil’s work, her positionality, her life. The idea that being part of the institution reduces life to ‘a thousand cuts of privilege’ is an absurd dismissal of the simple fact that institutions are microcosms ofsociety and contain within them the same issues in society. It amounts to calling anyone with a salary middle class, or anyone with a degree middle class, and it reduces class to a series of ‘outsider’ vs ‘insider’ politics, sweeping away with nuance, the ability to maintain contradictions, like being a working-class-woman-of-colour surrounded, perhaps, by middle class white male peers. It’s the lack of nuance and reductive classification of Kapil as ‘faux-fragile’ and Ramayya as just ‘middle-class’ that is odious and exposes Hakim’s ignorance and unwillingness to take stock of what the realities of being ‘in the institution’ actually are in the early 21st Century.


Chyawanprash


I have now exposed how Hakim’s ‘focus on discrete contours and textures’ amounts to a discussion of the covers of both Ramayya and Kapil’s collections, as well as a dismissive discussion of Kapil’s blurb, paraphrasing of both collections without any analysis of the poems that goes beyond summarising their contents, and the undignified and insufferable personal attacks on the poets behind the collections. In the interest of fairness and balance, I want to apply this lens to Hakim’s collection Letters from the Takeaway; the blurb reads:


“For a brief period in the 1990s Khaled Hakim published sparingly and performed semi-improvisatory routines. This collection gathers all the work previously published. As the first - and for some time afterwards the only - black or Asian experimental poet in the UK, the work remains freakishly singular as he forged an occasional poetry that mixes narrative, theory, and stand-up.”[18]

What we have here is a lot of pomp and ceremony surrounding the supposedly mysterious, undervalued, and retro-experimental poet ‘Khaled Hakim.’ The other blurb, not written by the publisher, is written by Dr. Tim Atkins (Lecturer in English at Roehampton University), who states that ‘[t]he conversations that [Hakim’s] writing and being sparked in the 1990s have never really been followed through in British poetry.’[19] Sounds a little nepotistic - getting a personal friend who reminisces in his preface to the collection about the ‘always…compelling and beautiful experience’ of ‘Khaled, in person;’ a friend who is also an academic (note: hypocrisy) - to blurb your book.[20] Atkins is clearly an old friend of Hakim’s who does put on his scholarly hat in the preface to position Hakim’s work amongst various avant-garde discussions and trends. It is, however, one for the imagination, with regards to what stalwarts of the older scene of experimental poets make of Hakim’s essay. Their silence on this has been deafening and presumably the result of the patronising idea that what Hakim’s essay represents is some kind of ‘intracommunal’ disagreement. But as I hope to illustrate, the stakes of both Hakim’s opinion piece and these kinds of strange claims to primo genitor are far more than just a disagreement between South-Asians.


Hakim’s unbearable hypocrisy is naked in the idea that Hakim was ‘the first - and for some time the only - black or Asian experimental poet in the UK.’ This runaway line of alternative reality has become Hakim’s primary branding tool; a quick Google search of his name and the same quote comes up on his website. Unseemly and unsightly given that this book was published in 2019 after many of us have spent the last decade in study with and of other poets of colour from that era. The lack of research on the matter by a publisher as esteemed as Shearsman is troublesome, strange, because they published D. S. Mariott who is a Black-British poet, active throughout the 80s, 90s, up until the present day. Furthermore, there is also the case of Vahni Capildeo, who is a past recipient of the Forward Prize no less, and also the Caribbean Artists’ Movement which hails back to the 60s. This wilful disregard of historical fact, of the truth that Hakim is not the first South-Asian or Black experimental poet, greatly shrinks a tradition that can be traced very far back in the UK, for example, to T. S Eliot’s mentioning of G. V. Desani’s All About H. Hatterr (1967) in his diaries.


In 2019 such lazy writing is unendurable in the era of Black Lives Matter, Black Studies, Afro-futurisms and the likewise incredible contributions to British Arts by musicians as different and wide-ranging in terms of age and genre as Linton Kwesi Johnson, Akala, and Stormzy. It may be that a conversation that begins with the idea that Hakim should be held on a pedestal, above the rest of us, is not worth having at all, and that explains why Hakim’s work is totally inconsequential and uninfluential to contemporary South-Asian writers in the UK. Furthermore, the blurb explains Hakim’s work as a mixture of ‘narrative’, ‘theory’, and ‘stand-up.’ So why is Ramayya’s work which does both narrative and theory so under the cosh of Hakim’s pen? The lack of sense behind both these positions - the dismissal of women of colour as not authentic enough and the idea that he is the sole Black or Asian poet worthy of study and conversation - is very typical of the reactionary attention-seeker, who seeks to create confusion in the hope of starting a fight and argument.


The persona behind the hypocrisy is all too evident in Hakim’s opinion-piece in Poetry Birmingham too:


“There are two hundred, or two thousand, or twenty thousand poets-of-colour, all writing the poem-of-colour with varying degrees of originality. At what point do some say, This burden of representation that’s become a racialised trap, that’s become as socially enforced as any of the traditional stereotypes we threw off: restaurant worker, accountant, dutiful daughter, oppressed Other…? When does the poem-of-colour become as entitled and trivial as a middle class poem painting the wonders of scuba diving…? When the structural conditions of inequalities are overcome, say the activists. Sooner, I say.”[21]

This is a failed attempt at a critique of diaspora poetry, or the ‘poem-of-colour,’ from someone who is using their racialisation to try and take the place on the pedestal as the first innovator. Whilst it is true, to an extent, that diversity politics has its pitfalls (as I will discuss later), the fact of the matter is Hakim is happy to use diversity politics to further his own career and brand of shining singularity (as the first of a kind and thus not part of a mass movement), but when other poets in the diaspora reflect on other topics, reflecting on them in collective dialogue, other than his penchant for the so-called restaurant working-class and their traditional stereotypes, suddenly that isn’t to taste. The other side of this coin is the reactionary position Hakim occupies premised on his singularity, a state of exception which positions him above the rules of ‘polite’ speech and mass movements, a self-proclaimed maverick who doesn’t need to do the basic research to write an essay labelled as a review.


The flirtation between diversity politics and reactionary conservativism goes a little further off the page than Hakim himself. The fact that this went to print is of course the responsibility of the editors of Poetry Birmingham (PB) who, at the same time, ally themselves with Dark Horse magazine who published right-wing reactionary TERF articles in early 2020. Quod Erat Demonstrandum. The reason some publishers print these kinds of diatribes is because it is clickbait and ‘sells’ amongst an increasingly reactionary readership and/or a readership who want to keep abreast of the heart of darkness within the Isles. Essentially the writer and the publisher unite in seeking attention and fame, for better or for worse. Given that the editors let Hakim make it to print, the responsibility of all of this egotism falls on their heads. The issue is that PB is mentioned in the Ledbury Report and also allies itself with TERFs and other right wing reactionary views. This is the truth of diversity politics divorced from Marxist anti-racisms and other identity political movements. Without the grounding in the working-class struggle against capital, identity politics is reduced to a sequence of postulations and positionalities which are wholly divorced from the struggles of what A. Sivanandan calls ‘communities of resistance.’[22] PB’s editors are the creative arts’ equivalent of Priti Patel; bastions of Tory identity politics at best.


Indeed, this collusion, between the forces that create oppression for communities of colour and magazines like PB, is most evident given that PB’s editors, Naush Sabah and Suna Afshan, were recently given some high profile air-time in the Times Literary Supplement by Rory Waterman.[23] Sabah’s editorial for the Autumn/Winter 2020 issue of PB begins with a pseudo-critique of reviews which ‘take the blandest, most unengaging texts and project the pseudo-profound intellectual theses of literary academics onto them.’[24] Sabah wants to rectify this in an appeal to ‘readers who are looking for straightforward critical assessment, for honesty.’[25] In the second editorial, Afshan launches a tirade against ‘white guilt.’[26] Hidden within these opinions is a highly-conservative, anti-intellectual lack of curiosity, a denial of any pursuit of knowledge that flies in the face of (their) taste, opinion, or preference. Here we have a clear reactionary position which seeks to simplify the complexity of critique. Critique isn’t just based on hearsay or opinion; it is built upon the foundations of scholarship (in both institutional, para-institutional, and extra-institutional environs), theory, philosophy, and an actual reading practice. These editorials are failed critiques of the publishing industry which seeks to discharge the duty of a more ‘robust criticism.’[27] One notes the narcissism inherent in such opinion: the idea that a single issue of a single journal will somehow solve all the problems within publishing as an international activity is absolute fantasy.


Moving on, Rory Waterman is another person who doesn’t do the research - he calls Hakim’s essay ‘eclectic prose’ and describes Hakim as an underrated experimental writer.[28] Waterman’s TLS review of Poetry Birmingham is a glaringly obvious reminder of how little appreciation these actual mainstream liberal-right publishing platforms have for grassroots experimental writing cultures and communities, and how little they actually know or care about what we do. This is why appealing to the literati edge-lords at these big money industrial complexes of bad criticism for the inclusion of underrepresented writers does not constitute a truly political act.


Tangent I


The crux of the matter at hand is that Hakim and his editors need their journals and collections to lend them spines they do not have, their ephemeral moment of glory in the TLS is concrete evidence that neither of them are part of a/the 21st Century British Avant-Garde in any way, shape, or form. In order for vanguardism in the Arts to be successful in this century, to learn from its weaknesses and failures in the 20th century, a lesson must be learned from discourse and it stems from what we mean by critique. Critique from an artistic point of view needs to be redefined as not just what Peter Bürger defines as an ‘avant-gardiste protest, whose aim it is to reintegrate art into the praxis of life,’ or a critique that pounces on the social subsystem ‘art’ in order to move it onto the streets.[29] To consider a work of art or an artist (of any variety) avant-garde one must be cognisant of and participate in what Sophie Seita astutely defines as ‘[the] tried-and-true formula of avant-gardism based on the untried nature of experimental form and leftist political commitment.’[30] Yet, Seita’s Provisional Avant-Gardes (2019) is also arguing for and moving towards a more inclusive, compassionate, and materialist practice of the avant-garde which focusses on its forms of appearance such as small-press and magazine cultures. In a world where the rubric of experiment and leftist politics may not apply in the same way to all avant-garde movements, in order to try and provide a provisional theory of any contemporary avant-garde, we have to acknowledge and celebrate the diverse practices on display. I agree with Seita on this inclusivity of a provisional (and one might also conjecture: a queer feminist) theory of the avant-garde, but I am cautious to draw the line when it comes to conservative and right-wing philosophies which threaten the co-existence of arts practices across the intersections.


The provisional theory I want to advocate for is one that takes place on the roads; a radical attention to the praxis of life from the position of vanguardism, of revolutionary politics in all forms they take across intersections; thus, from life-praxis we must move into the space of commitment, justice, and ethics. What one can note about the diverse and radically inclusive “21st Century British Avant-Garde” (a cringeworthy formation, I know, but temporary one intended for the purposes of this focussed discussion) is that it is a burgeoning movement that is committed to life itself, to a life lived to the maximum potential, expressed in terms of an ethical labour performed and motivated by a hope for just futures.


The concern with justice is to ensure that the left establishes its own ethical and authoritative voice in direct confrontation with the alt-right who claim to be campaigning on moral grounds (one might note that Hakim’s essay is filled with personal attacks from a presumptive moral ground in which he seems to be the stand out voice for the Guild of Asian working-class experimental writers). It is because our contemporary moment is filled with such flagrant injustices that we yearn for a more just world. Our aesthetic productions are thus filled with what Pascal Gielen calls ‘gesture[s] within the world or within society [that do] not evade empirical reality but rather confron[t] it.’[31] Avant-Gardism is an orientation towards the future which seeks to influence the present; it is related and relevant to discourses on aesthetic justice because like justice, most of the art produced in these communities centres on the performativity of the act, on the possibility of change spearheaded by arts of all varieties.

If we look at recent theories from writers exploring the interrelation of aesthetics and jurisprudence, such as Gielen, we soon discover that ‘justice mediates on the curious path between non-fiction and fiction.’[32] Aesthetics reveals the truth of the present, starkly, sublimely, surreptitiously, and it solicits our attention to the truth of the injustices within our present in order to orient people towards the creation of just futures. The avant-gardists are also, invoking Gielen’s formula of aesthetic justice, ‘time travellers who move from an either desired or to-be-avoided imaginary prospect back to reality in order to intervene in the here and now.’[33] In the iterable realm of possibility, of hope, of futurity itself, the encounter with the here and now is the affirmation of solidarity between distant comrades working disparately together.


In the 21st century, with the compression of time and space all too widely experienced within the neoliberal global system, the speeding up of projects of control in the name of progress during the current pandemic, the boundary between our here and now and those un/desirable futures, as well as the distances between those who are very much allied and together, becomes pliable and porous. Critique can give the reader an ability to see, in high definition, the forces at play in our current predicament and it is a great testimony to our current moment that artists and activists are linking arms not simply to protest or ‘imagine’ a better world, but to take direct action in order to facilitate the coming of a just future.


If that’s too much ‘gobbledegook,’ see a case in point: Colectiva Feminista en Construccion in Puerto Rico. There is a new tri-continentalism emerging in the 21st Century and avant-garde arts practices and productions are very much entangled with these solidarities and socialities, and at the bedrock of this new feeling are combinations of Black radicalism, climate activism, anti-racism, trans-feminism, and Marxism. One of the primary resources for this will be A. Sivanandan whose work on black struggle and socialism is a great source of knowledge, inspiration, and astute critical analysis, of the violent assault on intersectional, Marxist anti-racist movements by neoliberal identity politics, which fragmented and isolated mutual ‘others’ from the main cross-current in struggles for the rights of people of colour, gender, sexuality, neurodiversity: the end of capitalist exploitation.[34]


On Horsemeat and Hakim’s Poetry


Between 2012-2013, the European Union (including the UK) was in the throes of a food standards scandal regarding the contamination of various frozen ready-meal products, such as beef lasagnes or spaghetti Bolognese, with horsemeat.[35] A ‘beef’ burger sample from Tesco was found to contain 29% horsemeat instead of beef. For all the Ronseal advertisements, capitalism claims to be selling us the true product but the reality is we really don’t have a clue what we are getting. Whilst the scandal prompts questions about transparency from the industrial food matrix, I want to dwell on this idea of the Tesco beef burger that contains 29% horsemeat. The packaging says beef, but we are eating horse. The substance of the product is not what the consumer thinks it is, exposing the lack of innocence behind any conceptualisation of the free unregulated market.


The idea of a contaminated product is a fitting lens through which to look at Hakim’s Letters from the Takeaway (2019). If the reader takes Hakim’s apparently ‘critical’ perspective on the cover/blurb of Kapil’s work, Shearsman claim to be selling us the product of the first innovative ‘Black or Asian’ poet, mixing narrative, theory, stand-up. Tim Atkins’s blurb positions this work’s importance against the lack of follow through on the part of critical writing and concomitant conversations about Hakim’s use of form and language. I’ve exposed above what is absurd about the former claim, its gross historical inaccuracy; in what follows I explore the collection-proper, and discern whether the intersections of the comic, narrative, and theoretical are evident or if Hakim’s collection represents poetry’s version of the horsemeat burger.


The opening of the collection features a sequence of addressed letters from Hakim to himself, self-classified as a ‘Proem,’ written in a supposed vernacular dialect, and a reflection on his own re-entry to the world of poetry. The following passage in a letter dated ‘Birmingham 1993 or posibly 1998 or 2000-and-somthing[36] is curious:


Now I am middel aged & familied & inevitably unemployed & asking: Who ar the lions of Universiti poetry; a categorie as definabl as pub rock luxuriantly varied, somhow divergent practises produse a monocultur of poets Surly ther was a tyme wen inovative poetics was not tenured to a Theorhoea that betrays the anxietie of subject status – in a langwige of hieratick snake oil hucksters Jezus Crist, do ye kno wat its luk to be lookin at an online poetiks publisher wich reproduces its contributers departments & academik status – Senior Lecturer Universiti this, & Universitie Hed of Creativ that – w/ all th pomp of a roll call of titled Patrons to an investment bank Yee myriad few to ‘disrupt th workings of capital’ & safegard the power & privalige of akademick robber barons Let me duble think myself out of that line in cas anywon ever offers me a job. Bring me my citasion bring me my homespun enter th munisipal gardens of retarded parkys[37]

The ‘poetiks’ of experimental ‘langwige’ appears here in the form of irregular spelling, grammar, and diction, a retro-performance of the pliability of Early-Modern English. Hakim feigns an Early-Modern lexicon, ‘wich reproduces’ the classist idea that the unemployed and/or those without a ‘Universiti’ education can’t spell or use language. The invocation of Orwellian ‘duble think’ raises attention to the presumably ironic and/or sarcastic form of a letter addressed to one-self. Ostensibly, this mask of irony, sarcasm, pliable and irregular spelling, serves to unite the triad of narrative, theory, and stand-up. Yet, a little below the surface meaning of the ‘middel-aged’ nostalgic lament for a ‘tyme wen inovative poetiks was not tenured’ to the university, is the reactionary conservative court jester who finds solace in jabbing to offend and to personally attack. The achievements of unnamed and unknown others, professors or other poets of the ‘monocultur’ Hakim attempts to distance himself from, are ridiculed as ‘Theorhoea,’ the ‘anxietie of subject status’ relating to ‘power & privalige.’


One encounters here an exact replication of the personal attacks on Ramayya and Kapil, which amounts to a policing of who can be called experimental or innovative in a subculture that is, as acknowledged here ‘luxuriantly varied.’ These attacks on the institution attempts to position itself as an anti-institutional critique whilst in fact betraying the egotism of the author who believes himself part of the ‘myriad few’ who are disrupting institutions. His poetry and his criticism emit a confused kaleidoscopic reaction which dovetails with the idea of the few against the many is right-wing and/or conservative ideology through and through, the exceptional singularity of the specialist in Pound’s essay who is going to right the wrongs of literary instruction like the purveyors of ‘robust criticism’ in Sabah’s editorial. PB and Hakim will undoubtedly not understand their work as right-wing or conservative given both of their aspirations, but the point I am underscoring and attending to here is that the saviour complex and its procession from the individual rather than the collective is right-wing, exclusionary, hierarchical, self-indulgent and self-aggrandising. From the perspective of 21st Century Britain, such egotistical claims will be read and received as the continuation of the blend of Victorian values and neoliberalism of the Thatcherite era (which is still on-going).


It is not the case that I am trying to enshrine the institutions of further/higher education in the UK, but rather what is left absent here is an acknowledgment of how the majority of lecturers, students, and maintenance staff have seen their pensions cut, wages stagnate, funding evaporate, fees rise, or jobs privatised. If this was a ‘critique’ of the institution, it would begin from the fact that institutions are microcosms of society; the critique of them begins from the exposure of the conditions of labour within them, increasingly under the thumb of deregulated market forces. Furthermore as microcosms of society, especially in the context of “21st Century Avant-Gardism” (apologies again for this formation), the culture amongst poets and intellectuals embracing both experimental forms of writing and thought as well as leftist commitment, is anything but a monoculture. It is as diverse and intersectional as ‘mainstream’ British society, containing the same issues, tensions, hypocrisies, and disappointments. This letter is out of touch with the realities affecting arts and humanities across educational, grassroots, and community-embedded localities. I don’t find the impetus of Hakim’s anti-institutional critique in bad faith, rather, what is woeful about this kind of critique is its failure to take stock of the realities of our contemporary moment. One would hope that a poet seeking to make a comeback would at least have formed a coherent and radical critique of the present that doesn’t stem from a self-aggrandising position laying claim to an alternative or unique status as primo genitor.


What occurs at the end of the above section of the Proem is a disgusting ableist and racist jab at ‘the munisipal gardens of retarded parkys’. By unpacking the phonetic utterance ‘parkys’ one hears in it the ‘ar’ of the ‘a’ in Pakistan, with the ‘ys’ emphasising its correct form: the p-word. The so called ‘munisipal gardens’ is an attempt to critique the institutionalisation of affirmative action across intersections relating to race and (dis)ability. These gardens are linked to the ‘citasion’ of the university in this piece and thus continue Hakim’s unevidenced, generalised, and passé critique of institutional life. Perhaps Hakim thought gaining notoriety for his poetry was as simple as ‘citing Asian’ in his poetry or at the door for the institution to be let into the socio-political assimilation that is demanded of all bodies of colour in the UK. Hakim’s racism is also apparent in the original 90s era poems in the collection; toward the end of the ‘Third Letter from the Takeaway’ Hakim dons a literary blackface:


O Planet of the Lower Classes ware litle white daddyz girls opres the black studs – now hoo am i thinking of ther supprest in liberal storiz of essentialist conflict empowerment by predacion – Stab up me meat, boy, stab up me meat batty bwoys getting ther hed mashd in by gobshite w/ hihly developd sense of black potency, & blordclaat sociology I dont speke worrd a man – dis sey I mist mooltiplie, an manking unto manking is an abominacion heh heh heh political definicions pop – all Black peple ar interreplasable therfore I only need one homogenous black blob The desert iland test of the ontogenetick Langwige defining geografies waer the universls of anthropologie play owt in the constant oposition – defining ‘selfhood’ in th tribe, the conservativ economy of identitie Oh God – Im a racist! God, warra releef.[38]

Working-class Black Britain is figured here through the limited lens of homophobia which is a society-wide problem still with us and not exclusive to one community over another. What we witness here is the divorcing of black struggle from the working class as black people are represented through the racialised assemblage of the stereotype. Furthermore, mixed-race couples are subject to a horrific and simplified critique of the power dynamics between lovers, something subject to the internal discourse of individual relationships and not necessarily an observable general power discourse. In an attempt at the ironic jesting with liberal identity politics, the South-Asian writer speaking in blackface sits uncomfortably with any critique of liberal identity politics - which privileges authenticity, diversity, and representation. What Hakim is really doing in these lines is a racist critique of 90s Black Culture which he claims is ‘ontogenetick’ (a eugenicist neologism), tribal, and conservative. The poem is relieved to be called racist but in the discussions that I hope emanate from this paper, Hakim will be taken to the cleaners for these right-wing reactionary iconoclasms, such as knife crime - ‘Stab up me meat’ in the poem above - being an problem exclusive to the Black British community and linking this to ‘black potency’ and ‘sociology.’ This is anti-black effluence masquerading behind theory and fake-patois; parody is not enough to qualify the irony or successfully hide the xenophobic (not satirical) overtones. If this poem is meant to shock the reader through the use of irony or satire or blackface, one should be aware of the military use of shock tactics, the notorious shock and awe of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and white phosphorous in Fallujah, and how the current of reactionary intellectualism uses this tactic to attempt to inflict a thousand cuts of terror on communities trying to speak out in the name of human rights and against historical and systemic oppression and disenfranchisement.


There is, however, something worth salvaging from Hakim’s ‘Third Letter…’, crudely gestured to in the lines: ‘political definicions pop – all Black peple ar interreplasable / therfore I only need one homogenous black blob’. I read this as the formation of a critique of diversity politics, the evolution from BME (Black Minority Ethnic) to the more contemporary BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic). Both formations of the biopolitics - the politics of governmentality - of neoliberal racial capitalism homogenise the complex cross-cultural experiences of migrant and diasporic socialities in the UK. As Sarah Brouilliette argues, both these terms have a very specific relation between New Labour and Thatcherite Tory governments and the Arts.[39] It marks a continuation of the idea that the Arts, reconfigured through the neoliberal jargon surrounding the ‘creative economy,’ can be of instrumental service to the state and the economy. What becomes of diversity politics, and in-fact the institutional practices of diversity politics, is a scenario in which ‘the seemingly civic goal of cultural representation boldly couples with corporate interest.’[40] This civic goals reduces cross-cultural diversity into the singular ‘BAME’ which uses the mask of hypervisibility to distract from the changes to social policy required in order to liberate communities of colour from the entrenched inequalities that are felt as a lack of representation. In the wake of the recent protests during the 2020 COVID-19 Lockdown, organised under the banner of Black Lives Matter, many activists are having important grassroots conversations about the problems inherent in the term BAME and how such a homogenous grouping of people together denies the nuanced appreciation of real social conditions, and forecloses the debate about how best to improve them. The disparity between how Black British men are treated by the police and other minorities has led to the correct feeling that it is wrong to open the door to Blackness so wide. We can ally ourselves with black struggle but it is wholly unethical to claim the specific positionality ascribed to black peoples and enforced by state violence.


Tangent II w/ Concluding remarks


I want to dwell on / in the politics of blackness and try to unpick why Hakim’s blackface is racist beyond the obvious. For South-Asians with African Heritage (I’m Indo-South-African), the alliance with black struggle (broadly and internationally conceived as did the Black Panthers in the 70s when they gave the mantle ‘black’ to the Dalit Panthers in Mumbai) also marks the journey into the difficult terrain of how solidarity can be represented and advocated from hybrid positions of cultural identity and politics. I think the fact that Hakim’s collection was written mainly in the 90s gives the reader a useful insight into its fraught attempts at representing any kind of cross-cultural solidarity. One notes simultaneously a similarity and disparity between Hakim and the infamous MC UK Apache, in terms of their journey from artistic production to the religious cultural production in contemporary British Islamic communities. UK Apache is famous as the legendary vocalist on Shy FX’s timeless ‘Original Nuttah’ - the (un)official anthem of contemporary Britain. The blend of patois is quintessentially British in the sense of its gestures of cross-cultural solidarity with the MC’s name a call for cross-Indian solidarity from Amerindians to West Indians and South-Asians in former ‘British India’. UK Apache was, sadly, a short lived persona who eventually disappeared until recently with performances of reggae in mosques to inspire musical worship of the One. Given the support of this song, and its over 25 year continued influence on rave cultures, its literal capacity to induce the wheel-up, the shutdown, its epic propensity for inspiring the wildness and infectious energy of the dance, perhaps a little more attention should be paid in contemporary criticism to the kind of solidarity UK Apache’s vocals are produced by; to some extent the wide-range of peoples invoked by the blend of patois from the MC’s name to his use of language at the very least gestures to the broad and international idea of black struggle and its entanglement with oppressed people from other cultural milieus.


Hakim’s poetry is evidence of the failure for this sort of internationalism to cement itself and withstand the onslaught of identity liberalisms; his journey from a sort of cult notoriety as a so-called experimental poet to Sufi musician mimics UK Apache’s movement back to the Deen but does not reproduce or match the influence stemming of Shy FX’s record. Original Nuttah is far more a source of vanguardism or cross-cultural political struggle than Letters to the Takeaway in that the song reaches out to people, curating a community in the frenzy of Jungle’s rhythmic dance with sonic revolution, euphoric togetherness between disparate others, a bridge built on the minimal but technical foundations of the drum and the bass. There is an internationalist vanguardism to Original Nuttah that is altogether absent from Hakim’s verse and literary projects. Furthermore, Original Nuttah’s patois represents a cross-cultural praxis of life through linguistic undulation, the energetic cadences of radical cultural inclusivity that existed (and still exists) in grassroots artistic (particularly music-focused) communities; that Shy FX continues to play this song - as do other DJs - is testimony to the freshness and experimental nature of the production behind it, which remains Black-owned but in acknowledgement of the contribution of its South-Asian former MC. Original Nuttah, in diction, tone and sonic emanation, creates a kind of safe cultural zone bringing together the disenfranchised of the UK’s former global Empire, resident in the satellite towns of inner city life, those places gentrified by 21st Century capital, and provides a commune-like feeling to all those who listen to it privately or bathe in its jugul-bandi amidst the sociality of dance.[41] What Shy FX has produced is not just an absolutely steaming record, it’s a lecture on the subversion of 4/4 rhythms totally in keeping with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s idea of the ab-use of the Enlightenment.[42] Jungle (and surrounding influential genres) subverts the military regularity of 4/4 in order to provide a gyrating off-beat, which creates a musical commons that disregards nation-state borders, puritanical identity reductionisms and the conservative lust for robust order. In contrast, Hakim’s argot does not read like a regional dialect or any kind of argot that tries to liberate the reader from the constraints of order; it’s a forced and artificial creation of someone trying to seem like one of the people, a posturing performance, the solidarity of twisting the knife in your friends back, an undercover policeman.


The difference between UK Apache and Hakim is most apparent given that the former MC has remained cloistered in religious communal worship whereas Hakim clearly considers his collection (and his review writing) part of some sort of comeback. This comeback is a source of sublime cringe in the context of 21st century cultural production from communities of colour which do actually bring together narrative, theory, stand-up and politics. For example, the persona Unknown P, curated by comedian and social commentator Munya Chawawa, utilises parodic productions of drill to poke fun at and raise awareness of the hypocrisy of Tory party diversity politics. Unknown P is an upper-class country-bumpkin turned drill MC whose tracks often feature comments on current events, the pandemic, racism, tory policy and upper-class fantasias. In Chawawa’s hands, the upper-class accent blend seamlessly with a Black British working-class slang to create artworks able to maintain the contradictions of our contemporary moment, its divisive and absurd racism and classism, whilst also using comedy to create a clear critique of those contradictions, a counterculture and vanguard protest at what Salman Rushdie once called ‘the New Empire Within Britain.’[43] It is post-modern pastiche par excellence. It speaks volumes that most of Hakim’s admirers and sycophants are white middle-class men, whereas he holds no currency among British South-Asians whose work participates in an inclusive attempt to try and recover a sense of cross-cultural solidarity in times when a united anti-racist and avowedly socialist front is needed in the UK.


For examples of the kind of contemporary British and/or anglophone cultural productions that gesture to this recovery of cross-cultural solidarity I recommend: Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan’s Postcolonial Banter (2019), Yung Singh’s Punjabi Garage Mix (2020), and Vahni Capildeo’s Measures of Expatriation (2016) or the more recent Odyssey Calling (2020). Contrasted against these kinds of cultural productions, Hakim’s poetry and its ‘branding image’ look more like the work of a desperate charlatan colluding with the very forces at work in creating the systems of oppression that have a direct bearing on the quality of life of communities of colour. If we want to offer a critique of diversity politics as people of colour, if we want to represent others through our art and selfhood, the ways in which we construct our critique of these systems of racialised oppression reveal much about how we hope to reach others and form alliances. This impulse is totally absent from Hakim’s writing, and for me that is hugely problematic for any attempt at writing innovative poetry in the 21st century. If we are to learn from the Modernist and Late-Modernist periods of literature, we should remember that many of those writers held upon the pedestal of scholarship like Pound were big supporters of the right-wing xenophobia of that era. The resurrection of the right in our times is deeply worrying and as people of colour who have a tradition of Global South solidarity alongside socialist visions for the future, we should do our best to also cast our gaze inwards and educate those in our own communities who do not-yet share our yearning for justice and truly intersectional, cross-cultural alliances to dismantle the systems of capitalist exploitation – of which the world of corporate publishing is most certainly a part. Any attempt to curry favour with the machines of literary elitism in the hope of including more people of colour in their ranks always already constitutes a failure of resistance.


ENDNOTES

[1] Hakim, Khaled, ‘Washing the Heart of Darkness,’ Poetry Birmingham 5 (2020), pp. 24–30 (p. 24). [2] Pound, Ezra, ‘How to Read,’ Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, ed. T. S. Eliot (London: Faber and Faber, 1954), pp.15–40 (p. 15). [3] Pound, ‘How to Read,’ p. 15. [4] Quoted in Seymour, Laura, Roland Barthes’s The Death of the Author (London: Macat, 2017), p. 15. [5] Ibid., p. 10. [6] Wilkinson, John, Lyric in Its Times (London: Bloomsbury, 2019), p. 6. For more discussion pertinent to this movement from work to text see Milne, Drew, ‘Introduction,’ Proud Flesh (Cambridge: Salt, 2005), pp. ix – xvi. [7] Ibid. [8] Hakim, ‘Washing the Heart of Darkness’, p. 26. [9] Ibid. [10] For more on epistemic closure and decolonised epistemology see Gordon, Lewis, Freedom, Justice, and Decolonization(London: Routledge, 2021). [11] Ibid. [12] Ibid., p. 27. [13] Ibid., p. 28. [14] Ibid. [15] Ibid. [16] Ibid., p. 30. [17] Ibid., pp. 29–30. [18] Hakim, Khaled, Letters from the Takeaway and Other Distances (Bristol: Shearsman Books, 2019), p. rear cover. [19] Ibid. [20] Ibid., p. 11. [21] Ibid., p. 30. [22] See: Sivanandan, A., Communities of Resistance, (London: Verso, 1990) [23] Rory, ‘Blessed Breach: A corrective to insipid ‘purity’ – and marketing – in poetry’, TLS (November 27 2020) [24] Sabah, Naush, and Afshan, Suna, ‘Editorial,’ Poetry Birmingham 5 (2020), pp. 5-8. (p. 5). [25] Ibid. [26] Ibid., p. 8. [27] Ibid. [28] Rory, ‘Blessed Breach…’ [29] Bürger, Peter, Theory of the Avant-Garde, trans. Michael Shaw (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), p. 22. [30] Seita, Sophie, Provisional Avant-Gardes: Little Magazine Communities from Dada to Digital (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019), p. 1. [31] Gielen, Pascal, “Walking Straight from the Imaginary to the Common Here and Now,” Aesthetic Justice, ed. Pascal Gielen and Niels Van Tomme (Amsterdam: Valiz, 2015), pp. 25–42. (p. 28) [32] Ibid., 27. [33] Ibid., 28. [34] Sivanandan, A., Communities of Resistance, (London: Verso, 1990), pp. 19-59. [35] Lawrence, Felicity, ‘Horsemeat Scandal: the essential guide,’ Guardian (February 15 2013) [36] Hakim, Letters from the Takeaway, p. 23. [37] Hakim, Letters from the Takeaway, p. 22. [38] Hakim, Letters from the Takeaway, pp.79-80. [39] Brouillette, Sarah, Literature and the Creative Economy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014), p. 3. [40] Ibid., p.118 [41] Jugul-bandi is an improvised musical conversation very common amongst a wide range of musicians from the South-Asian subcontinent. Usually it is performed with improvised solos that riff off one another reaching a crescendo with the return to the refrain. [42] Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization (London: Harvard University Press, 2012), p. 4. [43] Rushdie, Salman, Imaginary Homelands (London: Vintage, 2010).


Works Cited


Brouillette, Sarah, Literature and the Creative Economy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014)


Bürger, Peter, Theory of the Avant-Garde, trans. Michael Shaw (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984)


Capildeo, Vahni, Measures of Expatriation (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2016)


Capildeo, Vahni, Odyssey Calling (Bristol: Sad Press, 2020)


Dastidar, Rishi, Saffron Jack (Rugby: Nine Arches Press, 2020)


Gielen, Pascal, “Walking Straight from the Imaginary to the Common Here and Now,” Aesthetic Justice, ed. Pascal Gielen and Niels Van Tomme (Amsterdam: Valiz, 2015), pp. 25–42.


Gordon, Lewis, Freedom, Justice, and Decolonization (London: Routledge, 2021).


Hakim, Khaled, ‘Washing the Heart of Darkness,’ Poetry Birmingham 5 (2020), pp. 24–30.


Hakim, Khaled, Letters from the Takeaway and Other Distances (Bristol: Shearsman Books, 2019)


Kapil, Bhanu, How to Wash a Heart (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2020)


Lawrence, Felicity, ‘Horsemeat Scandal: the essential guide,’ Guardian (February 15 2013), <https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/feb/15/horsemeat-scandal-the-essential-guide > [Accessed 27th November 2020]


Manzoor-Khan, Suhaiymah, Postcolonial Banter (Birmingham: Verve Poetry Press, 2019)


Pound, Ezra, ‘How to Read,’ Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, ed. T. S. Eliot (London: Faber and Faber, 1954), pp.15–40.


Ramayya, Nisha, States of the Body Produced by Love (London: Ignota Press, 2019)


Rushdie, Salman, Imaginary Homelands (London: Vintage, 2010).


Sabah, Naush, and Afshan, Suna, ‘Editorial,’ Poetry Birmingham 5 (2020), pp. 5-8.


Seita, Sophie, Provisional Avant-Gardes: Little Magazine Communities from Dada to Digital (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019)


Seymour, Laura, Roland Barthes’s The Death of the Author (London: Macat, 2017).


Shy FX, ‘Original Nuttah ft. UK Apache,’ Just An Example (London: SOUR, 1995)


Sivanandan, A., Communities of Resistance (London: Verso, 1990)


Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization (London: Harvard University Press, 2012)


Wang, Dorothy, Thinking in its Presence (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014)


Waterman, Rory, ‘Blessed Breach: A corrective to insipid ‘purity’ – and marketing – in poetry’, TLS (November 27 2020) <https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/poetry-birmingham-review-rory waterman/?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1606323969> [Accessed 27thNovember 2020]


Wilkinson, John, Lyric in Its Times (London: Bloomsbury, 2019).


Wilkinson, John, Proud Flesh (Cambridge: Salt, 2005).




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This publication is in Copyright. Azad Ashim Sharma, 2021.

The moral right of the author has been asserted. However, the Hythe is an open-access journal and we welcome the use of all materials on it for educational and creative workshop purposes.



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