JEANINE WEBB is a poet and writer and works in San Diego teaching writing. Her immediately previous job was manual horticultural labor. Her article, "'Weak Intimacy,' Celebrity and Bay Area Poetics" for ON Contemporary Practice's .pdf Archive Series can be found here.


The Poetics of Reverie, Labor and the Drone Imaginary 

Reverie is not a mind vacuum. It is rather the gift of an hour which knows the plenitude of the soul. - Bachelard 1

Well maybe, B. But if care is a "labor of stolen time," 2 for most, poetic reverie now is only possible in the service economy in a place of stolen labor-time; plenitude often only exists for the many in open revolt, or in smaller acts of expropriation and sharing.

[The first time I was disciplined at the workplace in grammar school the first workplace of the child was for daydreaming in 2nd grade Apparently I and the others had been imagining the inhabitants of other universes drawing prehistoric mammals sailing to the ends of the world with cannons and other things most common humans do before they are told that they are not poets Or before being told they are in some extra-regrettable cases The problem was of such severity that a conference was called even if the reveries I experienced and not only alone for we the workers often shared Did not materially interfere with the completion of any assigned projects pasting one thing to another thing learning proportion and pilgrims according to secondary geometry coins and bills state capitols and experiencing the cruelty of 'recess' And so it would continue throughout the labor of the rest of our lives]

Meanwhile, the pathologization of daydreaming continues apace.

The psychoanalytic theorist Stephen Frosh asserts that one way postmodernity has affected us is to disintegrate the world and remove most communal reverie from our lives, replacing it with mediated recuperations of spectacle and consumption. 3 Any dream that cannot be monetized is suspect and must be regulated. We become distanced both from reality and from dreaming; this is another way of saying alienation ("no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous 'cash payment'”).

[I have been working since I was 15 moving stacks of paper data packages held in place by thick rubber bands or pushing back sheets water of overflow from the massive pump system as retail aquarist as the frayed wires went unmended on the shop vacs In food service reverie is often impossible to sustain since every moment regarded transaction and any breath taken can result in a yell from boss though barrista-ing one has a split minute during the steam hang-time to wonder so long as the customer is not exacting the care work and affect labor for such jobs boots help with treads back braces and harnesses good secateurs gloves one steals from one's employer to do one's job because the wage is too low and the fertilizing chemicals from the soil change one's breathing and unloading the trucks makes sore at 4 am grading Dreaming can occur during physical labor as one takes the stacks of waste to separate into the compactor mopping the dirty floor stamping tax forms in triplicate for 6 hours But what would the man in the maquiladora or young girl stripping ewaste in Guiyu think of any of this]

We live in an era of a global underclass in which the past and the future are constantly taken from us and sold back to us in false form; the past through capital's erasure of history, and the future through capital's foreclosure of conditions on the present. The present requires nothing less than the expropriation of the past and future, not simply through dreaming but by direct action. What wage-labor under capital attempts to enforce is a kind of drone imaginary, in which the goal is the subject's alienation both from reality and from dreams, a brain harnessed to the wage. Alex Rivera's film "Sleep Dealer" shows this drone imaginary well, a dystopian vision in which the labor of cyber maquiladoras is displaced from their workers' bodies. 5

Some fight hardest out of joy and hatred, and some fight hardest out of pure despair and some fight out of both of these. Dreams deferred don't just dissipate. The memory of them persists; sometimes they explode.

Ursula K. LeGuin's The Word for World is Forest envisions such a world in which a people of reverie, the Althsheans, are exploited and enslaved by human colonists. The aliens' human captors assert that they cannot feel pain and are incapable of revolt. Meanwhile the aliens struggle to understand the exploitative culture of the 'yumens' on their planet:

They make the forest into a dry beach' -- her language had no word for 'desert'--'and call that making things ready for the women? They should have sent the women first. Maybe with them the women do the Great Dreaming, who knows? They are backward, Selver. They are insane.
A people can't be insane.
But they only dream in sleep, you said; if they want to dream waking they take poisons so that the dreams go out of control, you said! How can people be any madder? They don't know the dream-time from the world-time, any more than a baby does. Maybe when they kill a tree they think it will come alive again! 6

For the Althsheans, LeGuin's Vietnam-era poetic dreamers on the Lyre, the songs alone won't suffice; the only way out for reverie given their conditions is a material revolt.

Borges - "Our destiny (unlike the hell of Swedenborg and the hell of Tibetan mythology) is not terrifying because it is unreal; it is terrifying because it is irreversible and iron-bound. Time is the substance of which I am made. Time is a river that sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that mangles me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire." 7

And so, B., haunted as we are by the boring white night-gowns of disillusion ("None are green,/Or purple with green rings,/Or green with yellow rings"), we continue to catch tigers in red weather. 8


1.  B's wrong about a lot! O phenomenology. But still! Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Reverie. Reprint of the 1969 ed. published by Grossman Publisher."Beacon paperback." 1971, p. 64.
2.  from "Caring: A Labor of Stolen Time, Pages From a CNA's Notebook," by Jomo in LIES, A Journal of Materialist Feminism, 2012.
3.  Frosh, Stephen. Identity Crisis: Modernity, Psychoanalysis and the Self.  MacMillan Press: London, 1991. Whether or not one subscribes to the Freudian analysis, Frosh's historical analysis is interesting.
4.  Something by some guy with a birthday on Cinco de Mayo. I dunno.
5.  "Sleep Dealer." David Riker and Alex Rivera. Maya Entertainment, 2009.
6.  LeGuin, Ursula K. The Word for World is Forest. Tor: New York, 1972, p. 55.
7.  Borges, Jorge Luis. Selected Non-Fictions, "A New Refutation of Time," Penguin: New York, p. 332.
8.  Stevens, Wallace. "The Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock."

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