Never Made Sense / No Sense to Make

Neoliberalism has, by many accounts, come home to shit on the eggs. We’ve lived with it for decades now, and “things getting better” only deepens the fecund pile as the years drivel on. You are out of your job, future, house, sense-of-self because of it.

The fitzy little idea that countries can be run like corporations and presidents or prime ministers should act like — or better, by replaced by — CEOs is a central tenet of neoliberalism. Somehow, if we run government like business, all our woes will be kissed well.

I am not the only writer to point out that this, this is some buzzard shit. Here’s why, in an eggshell.

Corporations don’t participate in history.
Governments are only history.

What I mean by this is: corporations don’t deal much with the consequences of their actions for their employees, or the people who live around them, or the people their frequent malfeasance destroys. They might be forced to rectify a bad act by a lawsuit, but that happens almost never. They exist to profit. They pursue efficiency, and that’s why the replace US workers with cheaper foreign ones or (more often and even better) robots which don’t eat, sleep, get sick or old, or have children to worry about. Robots are efficient, and they make oodles of the profits.

Governments, of the sort we imagine we have in the US, are humongous non-profit organizations, primarily concerned with people and their well-being and the consequences of many actions, and are therefore wholly embedded in history. Governments don’t profit. Everything about governing from its supply to its demand is inefficient and cannot become efficient in the way the corporations imagine they are.

CEOs would make, and may make for real if we commit the self-immolation presented to us by a Trump presidency, horrible and destructive presidents because the whole set of assumptions, goals, and processes of corporations are just about the opposite of those of governments. Their philosophies don’t jibe.

Don’t get me wrong. Corporations to things that affect history, but they are not in the history business — they are not nations, or peoples, or even decently loyal clubs. They are profit making machines that make profit out of the planet’s resources and many of the years of many human lives. They are not concerned with anything like well-being, literacy rates, national health and contentment levels, cultural literacies, life-spans, or even defense (not even defense corporations are particularly interested in OUR defence).

We live in the fragile and uncertain consequences of 40 years of neoliberalism. A tiny group of friends and acquaintances own nearly everything (and most of us with it), and a few of us are still eking by on the skills the current economy hungers for, and the vast rest of us are tired and hungry and totally fucked.

History demands a stronger nation of us.
History will not reward a more businessy nation.


#nevertrump  #neoliberalism  #fakeeconomy  #americandream  #thegreatturning  #peaceeconomy #governmentisnotbusiness  #cantcheathistory  #goodluckwiththat



Reginald Dwayne Betts’ Letter to Howard University on E. Ethelbert Miller’s Termination After 40 Years


The blog of Split This Rock

Dear Dr. Frederick:

A few days ago I was devastated to learn that Howard University is letting Ethelbert Miller go after a career and commitment to the institution that has lasted longer than the thirty-four years I’ve been alive.

It would be simple to just recount the impact that Ethelbert has had on Howard University graduates. Many of my friends recall Ethelbert changing their lives. Friends who graduated from Howard as recently as five years ago and as long as twenty. But such a recitation of honors would not suffice. Instead I will tell you a story. When I got out of prison just over ten years ago, I met Yao Glover. I had just been hired at Karibu Books, an African-American institution that started as a book cart near Howard University. Yao knew that I was a poet. He also knew that prison is a troubling place and that coming home a young man like myself would need support. Yao would send me to a man who had a huge influence on his development as a poet and man of the community: Ethelbert Miller.

I knew who Ethelbert Miller was. I’d been writing poetry for sometime and reading poetry for longer. Still, I did not know Ethelbert worked at Howard University. I’d been out of prison a little more than two months and had no sense of how the world of academia and arts worked. What I did know is the name Ethelbert. Years before he’d published my very first poem, a poem I typed on a prison type writer and mailed to Poet Lore with a stamp that bore the red mark of incarceration. I’ll never forget the day I received the acceptance letter and will never forget the day I went to meet Ethelbert.

Let me be frank, my affinity for Howard University as an institution begins with Ethelbert Miller. When I received a full tuition academic scholarship to attend Howard University, I wanted to go because I’d read Ethelbert’s memoir. And when the university rescinded my scholarship because I checked a box admitting that I have three felony convictions and spent time in prison, it crushed me. Not just because I wanted to be a Bison – but because the institution fundamentally seemed to respond to me in the exact opposite way that Ethelbert did. And I had always believed that Ethelbert represented all that was great about Howard University. In fact, in the face of that huge personal disappointment, it has only been Ethelbert’s connection to the institution that led to my continued support.

Probably, I should be able to think about this in a way that is not so personal. Probably, I should not think about the disservice that has been done to Ethelbert in a way that makes me talk about myself. But I can’t. At two very important moments of my life Ethelbert Miller was, in very real ways, the voice of the Black community that helped me understand and believe in my own worth. He did this with his presence. And I am fortunate that he did. Because as I have gone on to be accepted by a number largely white institutions, receiving a full tuition scholarship at the University of Maryland, a Radcliffe Fellowship at the Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, and being admitted into the Yale Law School – as I have gone on to do these things, I do them remembering Ethelbert’s voice asking me if I’ve talked to my dad lately. I remember Ethelbert’s voice talking to me about fatherhood. Helping me to develop myself in a way that I once believed Howard was dedicated to as an institution.

Sadly, it seems that I was mistaken about Howard.  There is a bitter irony that I write this letter from the Yale Law School, a legal institution that accepted me with all of my past failures and flaws. Here, they value their icons. The walls are littered with their faces. It saddens me that Howard does not do the same. I cannot bring myself to believe that financial concerns justify such a disservice.

Reginald Dwayne Betts
J.D. Candidate, 2016
Yale Law School

Freedom Plow Award, Thursday Night, DC, BE THERE!!!!

Interview with Mark Nowak, 2015 Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism Recipient

Visit Split This Rock and discover a world of activist and socially conscious poets bent on uplifting this world. This interview was conducted by interns Maggie Yiin and Hannah Cornfield, who are amazing. I can say that because I work with them. Lucky me!

The Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism, sponsored by the CrossCurrents Foundation, recognizes and honors a poet who is doing innovative and transformative work at the intersection of poetry and social change. The award, judged this year by Sheila Black, Martha Collins, and E. Ethelbert Miller, is being given for the second time in 2015. Tickets now on sale! Join us on April 2, at the Arts Club of Washington, as we honor Mark Nowak for his work in establishing “poetry dialogues” among workers around the globe.


Poet, cultural critic, playwright, essayist, and director of the graduate creative writing program at Manhattanville College, Mark Nowak is the winner of this year’s Freedom Plow Award. A true poet activist, Mark has a longtime commitment to labor issues. Encouraging deep workers’ solidarity, he exposes every mining disaster in the world through his blog and facilitates “poetry dialogues” among workers across the globe. Mark is the author of three books of poetry, all of which can also be viewed as studies of labor economy under global capitalism: Revenants (2000), Shut Up Shut Down (2004), and Coal Mountain Elementary (2008). He is the editor of Then and Now: Theodore Enslin’s Selected Poems, 1943-1993 (National Poetry Foundation, 1999) and, with Diane Glancy, Visit Teepee Town: Native Writings after the Detours (Coffee House Press, 1999). Since 1997 he has been the editor of Xcp: Cross-Cultural Poetics.  Nowak was awarded the 2010 Guggenheim Fellowship.


What inspired your commitment to labor issues? And when did you first start thinking about language as a means for social change?

My family was certainly my first and deepest inspiration. My grandma, Stella, dropped out of elementary school to become a domestic worker. She was later a Teamster and a Rosie-the-Riveter. Her husband, my grandpa, spent his working life in the roll mill at the behemoth Bethlehem Steel Plant in Lackawanna, NY. My dad was Vice President of his union at the Westinghouse plant in Buffalo for many years. And my mom was a clerical worker for most of her career. Then, amidst a sea of terrible teachers in middle school and high school, one teacher (who I’m still friends with), Michael Pikus, told me I should start reading books by Albert Camus and George Orwell and the existentialists. My life hasn’t been the same since then. I’d also add that being part of the punk and electronic music scene and playing in bands in Buffalo and Toronto in my late teens and early 20s helped to politicize me. I’ve written about those years in an essay that came out in Goth: Undead Subculture.

Can you discuss the role of dialogue in your poetry activism?

To me, the poetry workshop is such an important tool for use in progressive organizations like workers centers or repressive institutions like the prison industrial complex because it can operate in what I like to call both the first person singular and the first person plural – the “I” and the “We”. What emerges from my poetry workshops with workers centers and global trade unions, for example, is both a valuation of individual workers’ stories AND the collective understanding that these stories are simultaneously isolated events happening to individuals and repressions that are happening to workers across the world. Thus, the workshops help to build both the confidence in workers’ individual voices and their belief in shared struggle and collective resistance.

How do news outlets trigger and influence your poetry?

Every day, one of the first news sources I look at is Labourstart. It’s very easy to form an opinion that the working class and the trade unions are a dying breed if all you listen to is the U.S. corporate media. But Labourstart reminds me each and every day of the hundreds and thousands of workers around the world who are rebelling in small and large ways. This kind of daily practice utterly shifts my perspective of living in this world and inspires me to continue to do the work I do.

What audience(s) do you keep in mind when you write and publish your poetry?

Every poet wants to say “the public,” of course. But for me, I really want to create work that is simultaneously and equally of interest to the literary community and to global workers. I want to feel equally confident and proud when reading the exact same piece at a literary center and at a union hall. I can’t just write for one or the other, or different pieces for each group. I have to write for them together. This is the only way I can be satisfied with what I produce.

As a professor at Manhattanville College, how does teaching connect to the process and product of your poetry and community building?

When I arrived at Manhattanville, I immediately developed a required MFA seminar on critical pedagogy and the teaching of creative writing in the community. My students read, watch videos, and examine and critique the history of writers in the schools, prisons, community centers, and workplaces. They watch films like Louder Than a Bomb and read books by everyone from Paulo Freire to Joy James. And I’m happy to see a growing number of my former students now teaching writing workshops at Bedford Women’s Prison, Sing Sing, and elsewhere. Others have gone on to develop poetry workshops for women recently diagnosed with breast cancer and women living at domestic violence shelters. This work by our Manhattanville MFA alums really inspires me.

What are you working on now?

We’ve recently won a three-year grant to open a school/institute for worker writers at the PEN American Center in New York City, so I’m developing the first semester’s classes that will start in early April. We’ll meet for five straight weeks and write new poems that we’ll premiere at an event in the PEN World Voices Festival on Saturday, May 9. More info is available at our brand new website, Then we’re going to put together a weekend retreat/festival for worker writers on Governor’s Island this summer.

What is one piece of yours that you are most proud of?

I’m actually most proud of the poems produced by the workers in my workshops. And though I might cite all of them, I guess it’d be good to turn back to the beginning. The first workshop I ever taught exclusively for workers happened at the Chicago Center for Working Class Studies, headed by the great labor historian Bob Bruno. One of the students in that class was Frank Cunningham from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW Local 139). Frank wrote an incredible poem about seeing the electrical work he’d done in the skyscrapers of Chicago, knowing it was his work that made the lights on the Chicago skyline shine as they did in the night sky. The workshop was more than a decade ago and I lost touch with Frank for several years. But when we got back in contact, he told me that he’d recently entered the poem in a contest and won third place. It was the Robert Frost poetry competition and Frank’s poem was published in The Saturday Evening Post. Frank’s story reminds me how much poetry matters to workers who take these workshops and how powerful and important the stories of their working lives can be in bringing social, economic, and political change for workers around the world.

Taxes Are Better

I don’t know where the tipping point is. In the short-term, The 1% will come to own and control 50% of all the wealth on the planet.

Report from Raw Story,
nice coverage on NPR too.

So where is it? We’re hearing the rumblings at the edges of camp, out there among some of our internal others, and way out there in the sickest of responses to the inheritances of imperialism. We wring our un-callused hands over the middle class.

The way I see it, we have two choices. They’re not ideological. They’re just the more/less necessary consequences of making so much life so impossible for so many billions of people.

Taxes           or           Revolution

For those Tories and Republicans and neo-liberal free-market dreamers, a gentle head’s up:

Taxes are the orderly and beneficial alternative to the chaos and harm of revolution.

Ok, taxes and wage increases and living wages that keep pace with the cost of living, inflation, delicious and necessary things that should be luxuries like this laptop and internet access.

Actual Job Creation of
something more meaningful
than a bunch of McJobs
wouldn’t be a bad addition to the mix.

But eventually, the alternative to this one chance you have to bring these changes via policy and civil-social-market mechanisms, will be the chaos of revolution.

Heck, you might begin by just not reducing good and respected careers — like teaching at a university, or representing low-income citizens in court — to McJobs.

We can find all y’all big-ass houses on Google Earth. 

Hope you find your way to bright and practical choice.