Response – Cecily Nicholson



separated words from their semiotic referents
separated money from economic goods

separated, I cannot say to what degree I am related
to Africa
I do not know how to speak to it,
for it

the internet fictionally kills people

famine floods
selfies kittens

welcome to Vancouver
I will not defend it

what is pedagogy
aesthetic alternatives
cognitive labour

are we equal: doctors, intellectuals, poets

or then again what if you are all of these

I will refer to the arch aesthetic
sense the expansion
erotic to use you finance
by any means sensual
scale black back bloc local
budgets and spreadsheets
included in my living
debt, insolvency
included in my dying

by this I mean stress

welcome to Vancouver, where sunny is lucky
where murdered and missing women are unlucky



COMMUNIQUÉ (an excerpt)

In 2012, Idle No More and Defenders of the Land, a network of Indigenous communities in land struggle, joined together to issue this common call for escalating action:

Point #6:

Actively resist violence against women and hold a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and involve Indigenous women in the design, decision-making, process and implementation of this inquiry, as a step toward [a step toward] initiating a comprehensive and coordinated national action plan.




In her 2012 essay, Breaking the Framework of Representational Violence (from Cultural Grammars of Nation, Diaspora, and Indigeneity in Canada, edited by Christine Kim, Sophie McCall, and Melina Baum Singer), Julia Emberley states:

The prostitute and the addict are  highly productive figures, not of labour in the narrow sense with which Marx, for example, characterized the male labouring body, but of desire. The product of desire, however, is not generally recognized as a legitimate or official aspect of human capital but rather as subspecies of bio-capital or non-human capital. Thus, the prostitute and the addicts’ bodies are marginalized as by-products of labouring practices, and as non-value-added by-products [non value-added by-products] they are synonymous with wastage.

I paraphrase here:

transglobal billion-dollar industries
regarding sex, violence and drugs
a hell
of a lot
of desire.

A “noticeable silence, a public secret, created the historically and geopolitically specific conditions for the murder of Indigenous women as a way to commit both human and cultural genocide.”

This October fourth, for the seventh year in a row, groups across the nation stood again on Parliament Hill to demand an inquiry [Inquiries…] into the deaths and disappearances of more than 600 women. February 14th this past year marked the 22nd Women’s Memorial March to honour our missing and murdered women.

[dangerous work without phones]



And anyway, how are things in Ciudad Juarez?

Let this moment be a rift.

We can represent the silence by a blank










space in the transcript.




The question as to the role of poetry was glossed in Berardi’s recent lecture in Vancouver—and even upon return to The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance, to clarify his meaning (because poetry is an urgent and practical concern of mine, and others), the process remains illusive to me.

“Only the conscious mobilization of the erotic body of the general intellect, only the poetic revitalization of language, will open the way to the emergence of a new form of social autonomy”(Berardi). This sounds so nice.

In “Only a Poet Will Save Us,” a 2013 review of The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance in Radical Philosophy, David Cunningham’s comments are helpful to me. Summarizing Berardi: “poetry’s task is thus one of ‘reactivating the social body’, in which we ‘have to start a process of deautomating the word, and a process of reactivating sensuousness (singularity of enunciation, the voice) in the sphere of social communication’.” Cunningham remarks, “there is, of course, a name for this kind of thing: romanticism.” Although a ‘romantic’ moment may be crucial to all effective/affective politics, as Cunningham points out, it is a problem that “Berardi transparently has no idea of what this might actually mean” and at this moment, in the present, and importantly, for my response today—what that would mean here, locally. “As an avant-gardism,” Cunningham tersely suggests, “this is one lacking any avant-garde.” Indeed, Cunningham asks, and I think this point is critical, that is, it struck me as a strange inversion: “Is it remotely possible to conceive of a global social collectivity that would not involve an experience of abstraction as, in some way, intrinsic to it? In which case, mere rhetorical invocations of our need to restore the bodily, the fleshy or the sensuous—somehow, magically, rendered collective in form—will not take us very far.” For a bottom line on this point: “These newly posited ‘psycho-affective reactivation[s] of the social body’ … do not translate into anything as solid as a political strategy.”

Are we so instrumental, so limited in our requests for such practicality? As both an organizer and a poet—some of my preferred identifications and how I might be recognized locally—I am situated in collective struggles. I suppose it is not a surprise then, that I do not view our local, collective struggles as irrelevant or even minor no matter how fractured or fragmented they seem, no matter how tired and small we may feel at times like these. As we respond here to a centralized, corporate coordination of the global mining industry, participate in far-reaching, indigenous and allied resistance to extraction economy all simultaneous to the opposition to bad government (and there is so much bad government) and even, against the imposition of the state entirely—we are located at a sharp edge on a sharp coast of anti-colonial and anti-capitalist organizing. In “Vancouver” the City is not the only locus of our efforts.

In this unceded territory where more than half of the over sixty Indigenous Languages being spoken in the country are located, the handle of revolutionary practices, in terms of language, seems to me to be barely understood. With liberatory articulations of newly gendered, socially-constituted subjectivities and facing outward from standpoints such as grassroots anti-colonial immigrant and refugee rights movements, I am not alone in recognizing potential and possibility. We are a part of any ‘game’ that might be afoot. It is not necessary to defensively or diminutively assert that as a matter of my own opinion. There is ample material reference.

Part of my response here is to ask: The Intellectual, The Artist Collective, whose activities are spatially and socially confined to the gallery, the institution and corresponding coteries (how do you pronounce this word?) of social engagement: How does one contentiously travel and participate in a local? Can we work harder to facilitate, to be aware and open to social and economic frameworks, as well as cultural and epistemological ones, that are simply not represented fully within these spaces everyday?




In a 2013 essay shared with me, Natalie Knight suggests that: [T]he bright light in Bifo’s dark future is also his biggest blindspot: that his totalizing picture of apathy, anxiety, and suicide does not actually engulf the globe, and that it may only be the experience of what turns out to be a highly particular group unique in their class, culture, and geographical affiliations.

In another instance Knight states: “a look at the strategies and tactics of Idle No More shows approaches to resistance that defy dominant systems of representation by producing indigenous semiotics of protest.” Further, we must situate this within a broad history and practice of resistance over significant time. “This is not to suggest indigenous movements as *the* site of radical politics, though, but to point toward some of the gaps in many contemporary attempts at imagining what kind of revolution, and revolutionary subject, we need.” This stance I find much more engaging than Berardi’s general foreclosure on agency, as it also felt to me.




Oakland, a militant site for Occupy protests that Franco Berardi mentions in his Vancouver lecture, is a place I feel lucky to have visited recently. In Hi Zero’s 2013 feature on Oakland, there is a great introduction from David Buuck in which he points out:

Certainly radical poetics can help inform and equip one’s engagement with the discursive terrain of political struggle, and perhaps many poets are likewise well positioned to subjectively understand the condition of precarity in a spectacularized capitalist culture that has no need for their labor or talents. But it’s hard to argue for a direct role for poetry in insurrection (at least in the US…).

He outlines a number of reasons why: “Certainly it does not take the fact that hip-hop has long displaced poetry as the mode of populist exhortation most likely to get stage-time at the rally to grasp the extremely limited role that poetry (however ‘radical’) has in the more concrete political struggles such as pertain in Oakland today.”

It is no surprise, then, that Post-occupy:

[M]any of the Bay Area poets who have continued to remain active in the more radical actions in Oakland have found their poetry, while certainly a meaningful site for political work and reflection, less directly relevant to the necessary labor and material needs of the movement/moment, where making a stand trumps crafting a stanza, or where a mobile body in a hoodie and bandana is seen as a much bigger threat to the state than a poet armed with a graduate degree, some chapbooks, and a wi-fi connection.

Still, the struggles at hand are not only those of ‘the street’; they are also always over the framing and articulation of history as it unfolds within and through the collective experience of insurrection…. We need poetries able to sense and shape such new tunings and turnings. We need poetries able to perform the scale-work of local battles and global solidarities. We need poetries able to transmit insurrectionary time—the lived time of no clocks and no demands and no future, the lived time of debt and the lived time of the riot.

In a 2014 interview in The Literateur, Sean Bonney reminds us, and as we may intuitively take for granted, “It is important to always remember that poetry can’t be isolated from other arts, other discourses, other social processes.” This much wider discussion I curtail here.




mistook the neon sign atop the apartment building
for the moon

like crow
eyes dart to a piece of tinfoil on the ground

what of your free places
mutual aid and sustenance networks

of communications

indigenous not other
diaspora not other
migrant not other
mother not other
imprisoned not other

open to inspiration

in the colonial neo-colonial we are never post

“Got my A machines on the table
Got my B machines in the drawer.”

top props, take space
simple lines and the best say: “all the world is art”

I am not bothering to think about revolution
unless you are doing it by hand

pithouses, interconnected permaculture gardens

“pithouses and tipees, now”
chalked on the wall of the former Pantages site slated for condos



COMMUNIQUÉ (an excerpt)

Unist’ot’en Camp at Maurice River

The Grassroots Wet’suwet’en will stop all pipelines by any means necessary. In solidarity with nations also opposing pipelines in their territories, we do not take any “Not In My Back Yard” [N.I.M.B.Y. = equals weak arguments] approaches in our strong stance against poisoning waters for money and greed. We stand beside communities in all directions taking action to stop the pipelines that exist, that are proposed or approved to expand, or proposed pipelines projects awaiting approvals.

abstraction accelerations
failure of ‘territorial politics’
fragment to fractal
bit torrents
territory to territorial body



COMMUNIQUÉ (an excerpt)

Protest supports immigration detainees: “What’s the call? Free them all Power to the people. No one is illegal.”

purpose The People Want


colours flit
between buildings light shine

dull reflection off pavement

payment as it turns to extricate

the jaw has stopped resisting
now make more room in the mouth
for air and for nothing else

not flexible
the docile or de-centered

to whom we say no


I refuse

I refuse to submit to a model

[“Perhaps we ought to relearn how to enrage ourselves, to explode against a certain culture of docility, of amenity, of the effacement of all conflict even as we live in a state of permanent war.” Catherine Malabou, in her book What Should We Do With Our Brain?, from 2008.]