Think tanks that advise governments are pointing to evidence showing that you can create new geopolitical realities by talking them into being. Actor Network Theory and theories of immaterial labour demonstrate that reality itself is what has been bought into being through the act of convincing others of its existence. This has implications for anyone who uses words. While I was writing the main body of it this Manifesto, at 2am on 22nd May, 2015, I felt an earthquake. In a metaphorical, and a very real sense, I feel Mother Nature is writing it through me. Sometimes I believe that Mother Nature uses us as creative mediums to articulate her diagnosis. Sometimes she uses entire movements, populations, viruses, weather events and biosystems to remedy an imbalance – to act as her immune system. This Manifesto, a collaborative writing project, has had the input of many writers, activists, orators and audience members. I cannot claim to be its sole author. All the ideas contained in it have been passed down to me by groups and communities I have belonged to, the books I have read and the conversations words and ideas I have ingested. We present to you the following manifesto:
Manifesto for a Revolutionary Poetic
We speak against the linguistic regime now forced upon us, one that leaves our political imaginations dazzled like rabbits in the headlights of TVs; TVs that throb with the migraine cliché of adverts and newspeak. We reject the new fascist idiom of this financial dictatorship with its ‘fiscal imperatives’, ‘benefit scroungers’ and ‘GDP’. No more hollow victories for the politics of fear! We speak of change. Because power rests on our consent and our consent rests against paper walls on which bribery is written ‘lobbying’, class theft – ‘austerity’, activist – ‘domestic extremists’. We do not believe in the power of the 1%, only their brittle pyramid of words.
So the action now needed – is words – with their magical power to spell the future. How else can we re-see, re figure, create new visions with? After all, what is a metaphor? To begin! A better story. A better ending. Let us re-verse this tide of black blooded capitalism. We will create a new world by repeating it until everyone knows it is possible. We speak change – scream its name! May it sound more picturesque than the balding drone of mediating professionals, experts and technocrats. Reject the tyranny of boredom and complexity with its derivative markets and its carbon cap and trading schemes. Our ears salivate for something better. The poet’s duty is to truth and beauty, and the humans duty is to love and fight for it. We look forward to a world where solidarity and fraternity are not dismissed as archaic, romantic ideals, but living energy fields passed between lips, fingertips and the breath of the wind where hope will pollinate our hearts.
Spoken word is dialogue and public discussion. So let us give community to tomorrow’s speakers; one in which they can tell their story, name, represent and recast the world. Let us end the bleaching of childhood imagination with toxic advertising. Let us end the muting of young voices with conformist curriculums. Let us place spoken word, hip hop and folk arts not just cafes, bars and protests, but in every school.
We recognise that dictionaries and ‘correct pronunciation’ can be tools to enclose language and erect razor wired fences around culture. We grant poetic licence to re-speak and re-definicise. We reject a syllabus that forces teachers to stuff dead white Victorian men into the eyes and ears of school children who belong to a different background, era and cosmology. We reject a regime of teaching that takes question marks and exclamation marks and turns them into full stops, a regime of teaching that tells young minds to recite – don’t write, read – don’t speak, analyse – don’t share, think – don’t feel, follow don’t wander, don’t day-dream, don’t dream. If school says do, do, do, we say be, be, be! We dare to be dreamers. We camp at the gates of culture with megaphones, banners and swelling numbers, our throats D locked to its iron bars, verdant conflagrations climbing from our mouths.
No longer will we be a people enclosed from beauty, metaphor and escape; just as we are enclosed from the green language of our true home.
We will not be footnoted by elite definitions of linguistic capital that italicises this class apartheid. Whether they sip coffee in broadcasting houses or not, these stories must be heard.
We commit to spaces of respect and dialogue that stand against, racism, patriarchy, homophobia or any other, phobia or ism or born of not talking. We recognise that hateful speech is not free speech, but one closed in by its own ignorance. We reject ideologies of Uses’ and Thems’. We see selves, truths and connections in every direction all at once. We embrace contradiction, and different interpretations of this story we call life.
People are like poems, they cannot be numerically valued. Judge us not by how much money we make but by how much we make people feel. Let us compose a fuller life, one made of moments and memories, not our ability to spend our vanishing hours in out-of-town theme parks of things.
Give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to communities eviscerated by the rent mafia and the world of work or the world of no work at all. Do not speak the grammar of boardroom speak the grammar of the heart. But whatever grammar you speak in, speak. Not just in libraries, academies and cafés, but everywhere. From the heart to the head to the street. An idea become material force when gripped by the people. So the right words in the right mouths are powerful weapons. Speak now with words so we don’t speak later with rocks and guns. Speak while it is poetry and not teargas that clings to your lungs. Commit radical acts of empathy on street corners, festivals, universities and workplaces, armed with a furious love. Speech will be free, ideas will cross fertilise in communities of exchange – seed banks for The Grow Back.
They try to bury our ideas, but forget that these ideas are seeds.
Every defaced billboard – poetry. Every marker penned advert –poetry. Every sticker, poster, placard, chant – poetry, poetry, poetry! Every polar bear costumed act of public irony and civil disobedience is a striking line against the glittered facade of profit and distraction that wants to own our cityscapes, obscure our horizons and impoverish our language.
Every being is a simile for the eternal life force that poetry forever strives to define. We are all figures of speech that will be set free to dance our cadence across the foothills of history; not reworded and reprinted to fit the dull mantra of Eat, Buy Make, Do. Too much poetic energy has been prostituted to this sticky plastic artifice. Too much poetic energy has been caged by money and exploitative intent and plastered on our cityscape as a spectacle to manipulate.
We reject Auden’s claim that poetry makes nothing happen. Poetry’s value is manifest – in harvesting intelligence of the heart and fuelling the human spirit. Its labour has no material value, but it is labour nonetheless. We recognise the ancient role of the poet as storyteller, oracle and historian of the tribe: Lau Tsu, Homer, Jesus , Mohammed, Winstanley, Shelly, Gandhi, Mayakovsky, Luther King, Garcia Lorca, Gill Scott Heron, Immortal Technique, Pussy Riot. A revolutionary poetic shares its very chromosomes with a poetic revolution – one that moves forward while invoking the stories and ways of an age before this era of hyperbolic extinction.
We draw on an ethic twisted into our DNA. We are the vibration of a melody resonating in every creature, however microscopic, that shakes free. We are a movement, an interface, a transference of energy, the shudder of an earth quake caused by a fracking rig. We are Mother Nature clearing her throat. We scribble ourselves frenetically in the margins. Our poetry will never be finished and never abandoned. We are the rhythm of history knocking on the door.
A microphone, a megaphone, a marker pen, a stage; to all those unfairly caged in the vertical bars of the word illegal, to all the unvoiced and sermonised screaming at their TV sets. We fizz with an energy that will not be channelled into the algorhythm of social media campaigns. Our pulse will not be found on billboards and TVs. Word is on the street. We are everywhere, rich with indignation that cannot be ring fenced by riot police. We come with sharp pointed implements behind our teeth, amplified devices in our chest and love in our clenched fists.
We speak a revolution of compassion: to feel, connect, talk, and share. We live in the hearts of people, who live in the heart of world changing movements. We are the iambic heartbeat of the human race. We are communities of words and actions. We are poetry.