Left Melancholy and its poetry after the American elections

The total defeat of all progressive forces in the American elections has turned Left Melancholy overnight into the overwhelming mood of those who saw their hopes shattered. The unthinkable has happened and no explanation is giving a satisfactory account. An existential era of political anxiety has dawned.

While the theoretical constellation of Badiou/Balibar/Berland/Bhabha/Brown remains relevant, those of us who have been engaging with counter-revolutionary ideas find it far more productive right now to work with a set of diverse notions such as nomadism, acceleration, incivility, the Bartleby refusal, renunciation, anti-power, communization, and disentrenchment. To talk about struggle and fight in the aftermath of the elections is to launch the march toward the next defeat. Before anything else we have to admit – This is the end, “the end/Of our elaborate plans, the end/Of everything that stands.”  This is not a time to start, because there is nowhere to stand.  This is a time to found.

I have been writing about autonomist Left Melancholy and poetry for many years now, including much of this blog. I am therefore in great sympathy with the wish of devastated American progressives to start a conversation not only with major thinkers but also poets: all of a sudden there is an inspiring demand for poetry that can help us make sense of loss and betrayal.

But why read poets who wrote for another time, place, and occasion (like Auden) and not living ones who have been writing under conditions of intense socio-political crisis about dignity after despair? This is a great moment to read the Greek poetry generation of the 2000s and explore its disillusioned, defiant Left Melancholy:

I have no more than a life
And scattered dreams from previous lives to offer
But it is at the altitude of dreams where the battle takes place
I am with no one and this means I am with the majority
It’s the new symmetry
We know nothing but we will not retreat yet
Because nothingness has been uttered
And the time for something has come.

Nikos Erinakis (Chiotis, ed.: Futures, p. 202)


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