TOTW: Poetry!

"The Last Anews TOTW Sonnet1 Ever"

Briefly, let's pause from ATTACK!, from the Streets—
Acknowledge anarchy's poetic past.
Words became deeds became words, helped complete
Unfulfilled lives through drawn daggers and blasts!
The blackest of seeds sowed long ago — deep,
By de Cleyre, Ravachol, Novatore,
Grew into revolt — refusal to sleep,
Through the nightmare of Power's cruel story.
Though uprisings fade from ennui or strife,
Hold the Beautiful Idea inside.
Make anarchy part of everyday life,
Destroy what destroys you! — let joy be your guide.
Has poetry crossed your anarchic path?
Did it come from the heights to curse! and to laugh!?

Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted. —Percy Bysshe Shelley

Poetry has always been a companion to the Beautiful Idea. From the earliest proto-anarchists, to the most (in)famous anarchists throughout history, to the newest anarchists sprouting up and finding footing among us — no matter the tendency or current or hyphenation — there is always poetry to be found in every corner of anarchyland.

Long, long ago poetry led me to anarchist ideas and I've always wondered what role has poetry played in the journey of other anarchists. Do you think poetry and anarchy are intertwined, inseparable? Is anarchy, perhaps, that beautiful reflection seen in Shelley's mirror? How has poetry influenced your life as an anarchist and what are some of the most influential poems, poets, or poetic projects in your life?

1. Kind of... :D

There are 51 Comments

Nice call from the collective!

I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder "

L. Ferlinghetti

Summoned from the fires of the slash and burn forest garden podcast
to the back yard BBQ and vape juice wafting through the aire
Awoken on a Monday morning by every neighborhood in the USA setting off fireworks
My phone buzzes, I open Moxie chat
it’s Karen posting about fireworks on Nextdoor app and how to call the police
Flip on the compy
to only see my dearly beloved ANEWS
posting, toasting, and vegan marshmallow roasting a poetry topic of the week

poetry hasn't anarchyed
life hasn't poetryied
anarchy is everything!

who are the gud strugglers?
who are the mighty strugglers?!
i want to do the thing!!!
why is anarchy so hard!!!!

no fren, it's easy


the moral of this story is that poetry can come in strawberry flavors
the colors of the rainbow are pallid in the face of eruption

where is the vein?
insert tourist monument
intramuscular slide-show reel

[and so on until semantic satiation, language decays into phonetics, scribbles become squiggles....]

I owe you a poem or more
This is not it

few words
the space in between them
filled with imagination and feelings

seems like adornment
but it's stripping away
being sincere

Letting ourselves be
along with everything
as it is

I love you
like I love anarchy

useless to it
far from it
suffering from obsession

to thrive is to wilt
a life cycle

living for it
coming nearer
a careless release

in mutual embrace with
our constitutive defiance

That is their way of lighting candles in the darkness. 
A White Philosopher said 
‘It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness.’ 
                     These candles curse— 
inverting the deeps of the darkness. 


The young men run. 
The children in ritual chatter 
scatter upon 
their Own and old geography. 

The Law comes sirening across the town. 

(from “Riot” by Gwendolyn Brooks)

I'll always remember reading Anne Sexton as a 15 year old and realizing that poetry was one of the most powerful forces to work upon the soul. Just thinking about it I get nostalgic and was moved to see what my high school writing teacher was up too. We had a literary mag, open mics, and a yearly art night. It was truly a formative experience for me to participate in this project with like-minded high schoolers, and looking back, those were the same people and experiences that opened me up to explore anarchism around 18/19.

poetry-- and also poetic fiction-- are two things I find most comforting in the world. But they also are capable of discomforting me in my ways that are buried under onion layers of my own self-delusion and bullshit. writing poetry can be a beautiful release, but also agonizing, and lately I've stayed pretty far away from writing it.

Currently I have a few submissions out at poetry contests, which is something I've always dreaded doing. I have a few chapbooks that were printed in cool, mutual-aidy way, and I loved working with the anarchyish people who helped me create them, but the bulk of that took place years ago. The poetry scene is particularly vicious and uninviting, and I've been hiding away from it, but I will give a shout out to Tongo Eisen-Martin as being a good example of a poet gaining recognition for the right reasons (talent and having something important to say). His readings have blown me away and he has also very humble and friendly in greeting. It'll be interesting to see where he goes with his work post George Floyd.

i feel all this completely. the poetry to anarchy pipeline is confirmed! anne sexton's poetry is incredible. and your poetry is incredible. and one day we'll collab. and burn down the scenes. and then...

What is it to us, my heart, that rivers of blood
And ember, and millions murdered, and the long shrieks
Of rage, sobbings out of every hell should
Topple all order, and Boreas still stir o'er the debris

And every revenge? Nothing! . . . — But more, all told
It is our want! Perish, bosses, princes,
Senates! To ruin, power, history, justice!
It is our due. Blood! blood! the flame of gold!

To battle, all, to vengeance, terror,
O spirit mine! Writhe in its Teeth: Ah! done,
Republics of this world! Done, emperors,
Regiments, colonists, peoples, begone!

Who will stir up the flaming whirlwinds dire,
If not we and those we call our brothers?
Come! Romantic friends: it is our pleasure.
We'll never work, o tides of fire!

Europe, Asia, America, fade before us.
Our avenging march has conquered all,
City and country!—We will be crushed!
Volcanoes will erupt! and the ocean frozen fall...

Oh! my friends!—my heart its brothers does behold:
Dark strangers, let us go! now come! now come!
O woe! A shudder from this earth of old
I feel, and you—you feel it too! The earth succumbs,

But it is nothing! I'm here! I'm here always.


Its a shame he flipped from his teenage wild drunken stream of consciousness creative years to convert to Catholicism and work a steady job as a capitalist trader until his death.
Only real anarchists last the distance.

try to wikipedia harder before trolling, errsian. rimbaud was raised a catholic. verlaine converted after his imprisonment. he was not a "capitalist" trader. but you are right that he didn't remain a teenager after his teenage years.

All I'm saying is he wasn't a real anarchist, he was friends with the religious hierarchy of Ethiopia, he stopped writing at 20yrs of age. You don't have to reply so vehemently over such petty historical facts.

"facts" make it sound like you know what you're talking about. when you get them wrong, it takes away from your statement's validity.
online argumentation 101, right?
calling out someone's tone ("so vehemently") is also crappy argumentation. so you're definitely de-valuing the errsian persona. too bad

I'm an argumentation nihilist so I'll leave the derogatory competition 101 to you, you're winning ;)

Reason will not lead to solution
I will end up lost in confusion
I don't care if you really care...

Tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
Sigh sigh sigh sigh *sighs*

what a unique translation, anon14:38! some beautiful choices :)

"qu'est-ce pour nous? / what does it matter?" was one of the more influential pieces for pre-anarcho me, for sure.

all those poetic titans that taught/teach me to have faith in the poison. to give my whole life every day.


part of the idea with the translation was to stick with the rhythm and rhyme of the French, which took some work.

a friend suggested this poem may have been inspired by the Paris Commune.

the car's on fire and there's no driver at the wheel
and the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides
and a dark wind blows
the government is corrupt
and we're on so many drugs
with the radio on and the curtains drawn
we're trapped in the belly of this horrible machine
and the machine is bleeding to death
the sun has fallen down
and the billboards are all leering
and the flags are all dead at the top of their poles
it went like this:
the buildings tumbled in on themselves
mothers clutching babies picked through the rubble
and pulled out their hair
the skyline was beautiful on fire
all twisted metal stretching upwards
everything washed in a thin orange haze
i said: "kiss me, you're beautiful -
these are truly the last days"
you grabbed my hand and we fell into it
like a daydream or a fever
we woke up one morning and fell a little further down -
for sure it's the valley of death
i open up my wallet
and it's full of blood

"Dead Flag Blues" by Efrim Menuck

Anarchy brought me to poetry because the world is a fuck and the only thing better than 410,757,864,530 DEAD COPS is writing poetry about it.

What anarchist poetry publishing projects still exist that accept unsolicited submissions?
Commune Editions
Night Forest Radical Poets
Distinctively Dionysian


We shall laugh to scorn your power that now holds the world in awe,
We shall trample on your customs and shall spit upon your law;
We shall come up from life’s desert to your burdened banquet hall,
We shall turn your wine to wormwood, your honey into gall.

We shall go where wail the children, where from your race killing mills
Flows a bloody stream of profit to your cursed insatiate tills;
We shall tear from your drivers in our shame and angered pride,
With the fury and the fierceness of a fatherhood denied.

We shall set our sisters on you, those you trapped in your hells,
Where the mother instinct’s stifled and no earthly beauty dwells;
We shall call them from the living death, the death in life you gave,
To sing our class’s triumph o’er your cruel system’s grave.

We shall strip them of their epaulets, the panderers who fight
Your wars against the workers from a bone on which to bite;
We shall batter down your prisons, we shall set your chain-gangs free,
We shall drive you from the mountainside, the valley, plain, and sea.

We shall hunt around the fences where your oxen-men sweat and gape
Till they stampede down your stockades in the panic to escape;
We shall steal up through the darkness, we shall prowl to wood and town
Till they waken to their power and arise and ride you down.

We shall send a message to them on a whisper down the night,
And shall cheer the warrior women drive the ox-men to fight;
We shall use your guile against you-all the cunning you have taught,
All the wisdom of the serpent to attain the ending sought.

We shall come as comes the cyclone-in the stillness we shall form,
From the calm your terror fashioned, we shall hurl on your storm;
We shall strike when least expected, when you deem toil’s route complete,
And crush you and your Hessians ‘neath our brogan-shodded feet.

We shall laugh to scorn your power that now holds the world in awe
We shall trample on your customs, we shall spit upon your law,
We shall outrage all your temples, we shall blaspheme all your gods,-
We shall turn the Slave World over as a plowman turns the clods.

----- Covington Hall, (1871-1952)
Journalist and poet, professor and union organizer, advocate of sabotage and the general strike, Hall was an opponent of white supremacy and empire, an advocate of gender equality. Don;t know about anarchist, but these words decades later . . .


I spit upon the laws that thieves have made
to give the crooked strength to rob the weak.

I spit upon a country full of wealth
where millions live in squalor and in want.

I spit upon the flag that waves above
a nation made of masters and of slaves.

I spit upon religions that defend
a hell on earth and preach a heaven above.

I spit upon all morals that contend
that the joy of life is not life’s highest enc.

I spit upon the education that
turns into Babbitts what might have been men.

Upon this whole damned system do I spit,
and while I spit—I weep.

---- Adolf Wolff (1883–1944
visual artist, anarchist, and socialist based in New York City.

spitting while weeping is a very wet hobby
stay hydrated, comrade

in absence

the immensity of that which will not occur

a loss gained by imagining
by dreaming

things are not otherwise

the world of humans is defined by madness.
group identity conflict, hatred and sadness.
the rare and contrasting sight of real compassion
hits me so hard, tears of pure passion.

libertad, que dice la gente
mientras se matan toda la vida.
derechos protegidos son inutil
cuando el protector puede llevarselos.

Dating back to the deluded poet in The Man Who Was Thursday, poetry and "anarchism" will always be to me a cringefest of an amalgam, more for the dupes or the impressionable liberal youngsters than for the radicals. This may be related to a buddy I used to have, a prominent local figure of poetry also known for being "anarchist", and this guy was a total manipulative histrionic narcissist who raveled in authoritarianism... also unsurprisingly a closet fascist with a discrete love for young boys and neonazi brutes.

On the other hand, poetry, as unrelated to any anarchism at least on the surface, greatly helped expanding my mind through free-play with words, syntax and especially the symbolic meta-discourse of metaphors. It connects you with mystical sensibilities that reach away from the dull asinine brutality of the dominant materialist world.

So yeah... try keeping poetry as the apolitical, un-ideological discipline it is better at?

Also why not a TOTW on electro music as well?

So... what you're saying is that what makes the combination of anarchism and poetry a "cringefest" and for "dupes"/"impressionable liberal youngsters"... is based almost entirely on your experience with a shitty person that is clearly not an anarchist by any stretch? Okay........

To your final point: instead of trying to control what poetry should be, why not let it be whatever it is and enjoy all those things you feel are gooood about it (as described in your second paragraph)?

I also skipped a reference (intentionally, as I'd rather keep where he is, now) to a certain Norman Nawrocki... and no that character in the early-20th century book wasn't a personal experience of mine.

And yeah I can also imagine the case of many other self-absorbed "anarchist poets" in NA amassing your usual infatuating liberal college people in their nets. Sophists are still a thing; they still manage to get their audience. Maybe less nowadays in these times of increased precariousness and emergency.

Of course, I ain't trying to convince you, Mu, as I know that wouldn't happen even with the most solid arguments! :-)

Also, how am I "controlling" any poet, here? I ain't stopping even the crappiest to be throwing in "anarchism" at every single verse.

It's just like... my opinion, maaaan.

If people are sharing, fuck it. Been doing anarchistic poetry for a decade and a half under multiple names, here's my newest inspired by the moment and an old friend.

It was one of those nights at your place, a refuge in a time of friction and sparks, full of the stories that come from a lifetime of making trouble, bookcase packed with the weight of plenty lifetimes more. You were sharing unprintable memories about downtown on Super Bowl night the first time the Broncos won, when you took a break from talking delicious and terrifying details and said something that stuck with me ever since. That all the crazy stuff that went on that night was cool and all. But the most important part, the most important moment is right when the cops are trying to get everyone to go home, and no one's really decided what they're gonna do about it, and the mood of the night could go all kinds of ways. "What happens from there makes all the difference in the world," you said. "Cause once things get to the point where you suddenly have all these people saying no to the pigs like that for the first time ever, it doesn't really matter what happens next. They'll always know they can, and how it feels for the rest of their lives, whatever they do from there."
Nine years later and I'm in the capitol of a state I never planned on getting mail in, seeing things I never truly expected to see even in the times when my life was forever scored by the beat of flint and steel, let alone after years so chilly and barren it seemed like not shit would ever ignite. The city trying to pull down every statue for the man it was named after, knowing if they don't find em homes in museums by day they'll be finding a home in the river by night. The politicians promising a change on its way, spitting whatever words or laws they can think of to seal the deal while using all means up to execution to make sure that change comes only from them, and on their terms. More spray painted fuck 12s in every single corner of the city than campaign signs in an election year summer, the statehouse block barricaded by parked cars, its grounds an unapproved dance party and fireworks show. And all over downtown, and plenty other places too, every building I despise covered in signs of not-as-mighty-as-you-think.
It's something to see all your daydreams of an insurrecto lifetime, surpassed over the course of a few nights you happened to be at work, and something else to see the things you hate grind on at the same pace, no matter the damage to the windows and walls. A judge's sentence hits just as hard in a boarded up courtroom, the hipster bars and five star restaurants are framing the plywood murals that filled their doorframes last week, behind brand new double plated glass, and the aisles of the ransacked grocery stores are better stocked today than they were any day in April. Feels like everything's happened, and nothing has at the same time.
But I remember your words and it gets me thinking... maybe the buildings were never the point, no matter how heartwarming every cruise through the belly of the beast remains till every last sign of this time is washed away. It's about not letting the buildings stop you, seeing first hand that everything is breakable, that anyone is beatable and all systems vulnerable. It's about learning what you're capable of, becoming someone unafraid to do things you'd never dream of till right now. It's about saying no, bigger and braver and in better company than ever before, and forever knowing you can for the rest of your life.

fantastic prose poem! thanks for sharing this!

so nice: "It's about not letting the buildings stop you, seeing first hand that everything is breakable, that anyone is beatable and all systems vulnerable."

Someone who finds they hate all music or all poetry and feels that it can and should be expressed in another form, or not be expressed at all, might in that moment consider the silence they are wishing for, as the best possible form of what otherwise has to be taken to mean I do not know what music is, or I have no true experience of poetry. As saying so would usually be taken as a request for acquaintance or explanation, the most I can recommend to one who finds themselves in such a relation is not forced translation but silence.

(Alejandro De Acosta, "To Acid-Words")

The feral children who have grown up in the wild use animal calls to express emotively. Most language used to be emotive before it became materialistic and transactional.

My own opinion is that feral children are the true queer nihilists. Just my thoughts about the structures of society, language and the abyss.

Way back machine before computers and the Internet really took off, early 90s as a very young teenager some of the first books that really sparked the joy of reading and thinking for me were books by the beatnik writers, including much of their poetry. A lot of stuff from Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, among some others including the “Book of Blues”, “Book of Dreams”, and “Some of the Dharma” probably being my favorite by Jack Kerouac in terms of poetry. I found the “Some of the Dharma” book to be absolutely incredible as it’s just a random collection of writing across each page in a giant over-sized book. My first time traveling to NYC around the same time, I remember visiting a tiny little book store in the lower east side, picking out a Ginsberg book of poems, and wandering around the rest of the day slowly reading it on the benches. Some conversations I remember just like yesterday, as a few stopped to have a little chat and talk about reading. Many years down the road, I found myself on an early morning (think 3am) college radio show of anarchist friends reading “Howl” on the FM waves.

As the years have aged, I’ve found myself reading less and less poetry. I recently picked up the new Wolfi poetry collection (from Little Black Cart), which looks absolutely beautiful, but haven’t sat down to enjoy such words and things yet. One of my favorite books of all time, “Finnegan’s Wake” by James Joyce, I would consider to be poetry or whatever in many aspects, river run past, because it's basically impossible to understand.

One fun little experiment in writing I did years ago, was friends and family challenging each other to writing one haiku per day over the course of one month and sharing it with each other. My brother and I wrote one per day via email to each other and it’s funny to read many years down the road. (Here are the haiku's I wrote for the curious reader: )

i'm with you rocinante
  when you read beat poetry on benches in my old neighborhoods
i'm with you rocinante
  when i tell you of my bizarre encounter with allen and your mind explodes
i'm with you rocinante
  stalking the earth and reading haiku, one for each day of october
i'm with you rocinante
  getting on a boat and getting the fuck outta here


awesome. awesome. the beats, wolfi's new book, and haiku!

A dusty and moldy "Rimas y Leyendas" by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer primed my taste for the kind of cheesy and corny romanticism that I could later appreciate in Novatore.

That's right, before the Internet, stray books were precious resources that one would not let pass by before peeking into its "secrets". I also used to learn all the lyrics to all the songs that I listened to on the radio when I was little. When I heard a song for the first time, even if in the background, I would pay close attention to listen to the story it told and to begin learning it, since I couldn't just google the lyrics.

Before written language, poetry was used as a mnemonic device in oral traditions.
Now with the internet, we don't keep books around there's less incentive to memorize things, it's all in the palm of our hands, with our Internet connected devices.

I feel like a haiku-nazi for pointing this out, but the 2nd line in haiku should have 7 syllables, and in the october 1 and 2, you had 6 and 8 syllables, and I discontinued from reading further fearing that, my own diligense and perfection to the codes of haiku writing would be perverted by further contact with this novices attempts,,,. *blushes* .

I cannot go on,
My verbal wall is closed now,
Sorry I'm an ass.

closer attention
would have shown you examples
of further "mistakes"

poetry is not
a set of fixed rules and
anarchy less so

It's true! Many of my haiku's break the rules; an idea that Kerouac himself wrote about a few times, especially in "Some of the Dharma", the rule breaking forms of poetry and not following the conventional guidelines.

now our prison is the whole world
& we were born with the matches.

my memoir—
my alarming radicalization.

well you can’t have a revolution
with no idea to explode everything.

so crystalline—
in the clearing—
you can see dead through.

how can you trace it backwards,
down the tube of a firework,

any accomplices.

(excerpt from "one of several wolves")

It's Getting Delusional
Subpar Media
Ridiculously Antiquated Movement
Torchbearers of tedium...
Still think it's 1968...
Just a few decades too late,
condemning anarchism to a dull fate.
These dullards of inaction,
With their grandiose online screeds,
Whatever happened to propaganda of the deed?
Is 'Mutual Aid' & reporting fascists to the authorities really what anarchism needs?
Is a poor imitation of the 24 hour news cycle really what anarchism needs?
What ever happened to making our enemies bleed?
Whatever happened to propaganda of the deed?
Where are the angry nihilist hordes in our moment of need?
Turn off the watered down anarchist social media machine.

of "mutual aid"
at every two sentences
in between "anarchism"
at an equal rate

One more generic text 'til the rev!

less talk
less we
less need
less more
less less


Poetry 101-Lesson 1

The angry nihilists are bored,
And are hanging out in hordes,
Camping intuitively whilst awaiting,
To rampage the civilization they are hating,
To acquire for all seasons,

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