Artifact of Hope

BY Carla Harryman


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Artifact of Hope is an epistolary essay combined with the documentary remains of a post-Occupy project, one beginning in a wish to situate a collective dialogue in creative readings of Ernst Bloch’s The Principle of Hope. The artifacts that comprise the majority of the essay take the form of daydreams, letters to students, a conference paper, citations, and various writings by those who attended Harryman’s workshops and seminars at the Oakland Public School in 2013 and, two-years later, at the Pratt Institute. Harryman views these venues as aspects of concrete utopias, however fragile and impermanent. Her essay resonates with but does not necessarily adhere to Bloch’s process-oriented Marxism. Key to Harryman’s ambivalent hope-thinking is Jackson Mac Low’s “Some Ways Philosophy Helped Shape My Work,” as his insights into the poet’s potential, or productive misreadings of philosophy, align with the author’s feminist poetics and skepticisms.

Carla Harryman is an experimental poet, novelist, performance writer, and essayist. Her work-in-progress Letters Not about Hope explores intersections between poetry, the essay, philosophy, concrete utopia, and critical art practice.  In addition to Artifact of Hope, recently published Letters appear in “This is a Letter about Noise, Distinctions, Names, and Language with Notes on The Obituary by Gail Scott” in From Our Hearts to Yours (On Contemporary Practice, 2017) and “Snagged Epistolary,” forthcoming in Sue in Berlin, a collection of Harryman’s performance writings between 2001-2015 (To Series, Presses universitaire de Rouen et du Havre). Among her nineteen single authored books, those that feature her poetics of the essay include Adorno’s Noise (Essay Press 2008) and Animal Instincts: Prose, Plays, and Essays (1989). Collaborative projects include The Grand Piano: Experiments in Autobiography, San Francisco 1975-1980 (Mode D, 2010) and Open Box, a CD of music and poetry performances created in collaboration with Jon Raskin.  As an extension of the essay into performance, “Occupying Theodor W. Adorno’s Music and New Music” was presented as a keynote lecture for improvised prepared piano and speaking voice at Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany. She is co-editor of Lust for Life: On the Writings of Kathy Acker (Verso, 2006) and editor of Non/Narrative, a special issue of The Journal of Narrative Theory 2011). She lives in the Detroit area and teaches at Eastern Michigan University.

Artifact of Hope is the final installment of the Ordinance series of non-fiction writing in the areas of contemporary poetics, philosophy, politics, and technology. Ordinance as in coordination, ordinal points, and incendiary potential. Each chapbook in the series is handmade, perfect bound, and portable. Other titles are by Daniel Borzutzky, Julietta Cheung, Cassandra Troyan, Daniel Spangler, Margit Sade, Steven Zultanski, Janelle Rebel, Andrew Durbin and Brandon Brown.

Free PDF download: Harryman-Artifact_of_Hope


Harryman’s reflections on [Ernst] Bloch are … refractions. As she turns philosophy into poetry, “thinking” into “making,” she crosses many boundaries: linguistic, cultural, national, ideological, generic, disciplinary. The point for her is to retrieve something useful, even provisionally so, from the work, to make the encounter active, dialogic, even dialectical (as she notes, “Bloch’s theory of hope, paradoxically, significantly contributed to my own feminist poetics.”) This too is a feature of reading, writing, as well as teaching.