The CommonsFront Cover

ISBN: 9780889229150 | paperback / softback

$17.95 | 152 pages | Pub. Date: 2014 | Second Edition
8.5 W × 6 H × 1 D inches
Poetry | Backlist | Bisac: POE011000
ISBN 13: 9780889229150 | Rights: WORLD

Between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, most of the English common lands were enclosed—taken, by force, out of the hands of local collective use and privatized. The resistance to capitalism’s “primitive accumulation,” registered in recurring peasant revolts, failed to stem this tide of what we now call “privatization”—but it spilt over into Romanticism’s own advocacy of a kind of literary commons. Underground in “the literary” since the nineteenth century, the fight against enclosure resurfaces today amidst continuing capitalist accumulations and a renascent sense of the commons under globalization.

In The Commons we wander the English countryside with the so-called mad peasant poet John Clare, just escaped from an Essex asylum and walking the more than eighty miles to his home in Helpston; we pick wild fruit with anarchist Henry David Thoreau, also newly escaped from jail (for not paying his poll tax); and we comb the English Lake District, undermining William Wordsworth’s proprietary claim upon it, with a host of authors of Romantic Guides and Tours.

Resisting enclosure with each word, tearing down (intellectual) property’s fencing, wandering in search of new commons, new spaces outside property’s exclusive and excluding domain—The Commons veers in and out of history to find spaces of linguistic hope. What we have named, in less inspired moments, “allusion,” “borrowing,” or even (pretentiously) “intertextuality” is just this fact that poetry proves again and again: our languages are common. Shared. Un-enclosable.

The Commons is another installment of what Collis has called (half in jest) “The Barricades Project”—a broadly based, historically ranging test of the old adage that “poetry is the revolutionary act par excellence.” It includes Anarchive (2005) and will eventually continue in The Red Album. The Commons includes an introduction to “The Barricades Project,” written by Collis’ collaborators Alfred Noyes and Ramon Fernandez.

By Stephen Collis

Stephen Collis is the author of five books of poetry, including the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize winning On the Material (Talonbooks, 2010) and three parts of the on-going “Barricades Project”: Anarchive (New Star, 2005), The Commons (Talonbooks, 2008, 2014), and To the Barricades (Talonbooks, 2013). An activist and social critic, his writing on the Occupy movement is collected in Dispatches from the Occupation (Talonbooks, 2012).

Read more about Stephen Collis


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news | 2016-07-04
Fall 2016 previews!

…serial poems by Stephen Collis, who returns to the commons, and to his ongoing argument with romantic poet …


news | 2015-06-16
Stephen Collis, a Commoner Across the Pond

…the second edition of his collection of poetry, The Commons. He reads and speaks at events on June 18, 20, … continuing accumulation and a renascent sense of the commons under globalization. In The Commons we wander the …


news | 2014-11-26
Tomorrow in Vancouver! Help Raise Legal Defence Funds for Protestors on Burnaby Mountain

…in the style of the second edition of his book The Commons (2014). If you’re unable to attend the fundraiser …


news | 2012-04-04
Commons 2012 Plunder of the Planet 1 - Stephen Collis

…His presentation starts with a short poem from The Commons. …


news | 2010-09-23
Mapping the Rainy City on a Sunday

…Taylor Brady and Rob Halpern called Project on the Commons: The commons has become an important … work shop hopes to further our understanding of the commons—its limits and possibilities, its enclosure and … with geographical locality, including Mine, The Commons, and On the Material. His ongoing collection, … to enjoy some blackberry jam). Project on the Commons Sunday, September 26, 2010 @ 2:00 pm W2 Storyeum …


events | 2012-10-26
Adeena Karasick and Stephen Collis at Zinc Bar, New York

…poetry books include Anarchive (New Star, 2005), The Commons (Talonbooks, 2008), On the Material (Talonbooks, …