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Poetry Canadian

The Commons

by (author) Stephen Collis

Publisher
Talonbooks
Initial publish date
May 2008
Category
Canadian
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9780889225800
    Publish Date
    May 2008
    List Price
    $17.95

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Out of print

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Description

Between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, most of the English common lands were enclosed—taken, by force, out of the hands of local collective use and privatized. The resistance to capitalism’s “primitive accumulation,” registered in recurring peasant revolts, failed to stem this tide of what we now call “privatization”?but it spilt over into Romanticism’s own advocacy of a kind of literary commons. Underground in “the literary” since the nineteenth century, the fight against enclosure resurfaces today amidst continuing capitalist accumulations and a renascent sense of the commons under globalization.

In The Commons we wander the English countryside with the so-called mad peasant poet John Clare, just escaped from an Essex asylum and walking the more than eighty miles to his home in Helpston; we pick wild fruit with anarchist Henry David Thoreau, also newly escaped from jail (for not paying his poll tax); and we comb the English Lake District, undermining William Wordsworth’s proprietary claim upon it, with a host of authors of Romantic Guides and Tours.

Resisting enclosure with each word, tearing down (intellectual) property’s fencing, wandering in search of new commons, new spaces outside property’s exclusive and excluding domain?The Commons veers in and out of history to find spaces of linguistic hope. What we have named, in less inspired moments, “allusion,” “borrowing,” or even (pretentiously) “intertextuality” is just this fact that poetry proves again and again: our languages are common. Shared. Un-enclosable.

The Commons is another installment of what Collis has called (half in jest) “The Barricades Project”?a broadly based, historically ranging test of the old adage that “poetry is the revolutionary act par excellence.” It includes Anarchive (2005) and will eventually continue in The Red Album. The Commons includes an introduction to “The Barricades Project,” written by Collis’ collaborators Alfred Noyes and Ramon Fernandez.

About the author

Stephen Collis is an award winning poet, activist, and professor of contemporary literature at Simon Fraser University. His poetry books include Anarchive (2005), The Commons (2008), On the Material (2010 — awarded the BC Book Prize for Poetry), and the forthcoming To the Barricades (2013). He has also written two books of criticism, including Phyllis Webb and the Common Good (2007). His collection of essays on the Occupy movement, Dispatches from the Occupation (2012), comes out of his activist experiences and is a philosophical meditation on activist tactics, social movements, and change. A Jack and Doris Shadbolt Fellow at Simon Fraser University in 2011/12, Collis has read and lectured across Canada, the United States, and Europe. The Red Album is his first novel.

Stephen Collis' profile page

Editorial Reviews

“Words like beauty, pleasure, and liberty do not sound hackneyed. Instead, their writing sounds synonymous with persistence. Collis is slightly off-step/beat, just out of range of any comfortable assumption, and a good shuffle away from clear understanding. This is not poetry that leads, but includes. It is a welcome philosophical divergence in popular culture.?
Prairie Fire Review of Books

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