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Franco "Bifo" Berardi's The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance (part of Semiotext(e)'s excellent Intervention Series) is a perplexing text – often perplexingly bad, it has to be said. But beneath the autonomist reworking of a post-Foucauldian politics, and amidst the ruinous post-poststructuralist neologisms, a truth is trying to fight its way out. Infuriatingly, in such an often wooden (and when not wooden, wooly) essay, that truth is about poetry – the poetry intrinsic to all language that isn't tied to instrumental use, the poetry we see when language unmoors itself from crude referentiality.

When language is reduced to information exchange it loses its ironic potential; when language tries to describe those things that lie beyond language – love, hope, another possible world – its failure to pin things down ambiguously reveals its human success:

Poetry is language's excess: poetry is what in language cannot be reduced to information, and is not exchangeable, but gives way to a new common ground of understanding, of shared meaning: the creation of a new world.

Poetry shows that language cannot be counted upon – not least that it can't be counted on simply to count. When it is showing, it is always telling: as language's excess, it can never quite account for itself. Language's imprecision, its limitless lability, is precisely what proves it is fit for purpose. Fit to indicate hope, fit to hint at what the dream meant or might mean. Language fails at simplicity, and by failing succeeds: a cast iron definition of love wouldn't help anyone make love or know they were in love. Poetry shows us language is defined by what it cannot quite name.

Somewhere in Bifo's book something like this is trying to be articulated. And for that reason alone (helped along by some nice riffs about capitalist time and precarity) I commend it to the House!

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