I realise that in 2013 in North America, I write about terrorism in a vastly different political climate than the one in which Bey wrote in 1985. I am also acutely aware that my use of the term is not without political motivation or desire for controversy. Following the attacks of September 11th, 2001, the United States especially — but also, to some extent, the better part of the Western world — adopted and adapted the use of the term “terrorism” to demonize the racial Other and to justify multifarious abuses of civil liberties. Importantly, this adaptation has abstracted terrorism to the point where it no longer requires a specific act, or a specific enemy, thus producing a vague, non-localizable threat that effectively produces fear and complicity in political subjects. The American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) publishes an Annual Report on Terrorism, which, in its annuality, both restates and persistently alters its definition of terrorism; importantly, its definitions are always taken from the official mandates of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). The publication and republication of this “Annual Report” implies that this so-called terrorism is omnipresent in contemporary society, and that, moreover, there will necessarily be a need for subsequent reports, thus implicitly legitimizing the FBI’s reports, and the NCTC’s very presence, in a distinctly Foucauldian turn. Truthfully, the subtle changes in this definition year-to-year could be the subject of this entire introduction. Instead, I hazard only this brief note on the term to account for, and justify, my use of “terrorism” as a term for experimental resistance. In the FBI Annual Report on Terrorism of 2005, they define terrorism specifically as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” But, in 2011, the FBI reports the NCTC’s definition as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.” This latter definition, in its maintenance of the stress on political motivation alongside its shift of focus onto the identity of the perpetrator — a delegitimised cause that is subnational or clandestine, as opposed to the recognised authority of the State — allows the NCTC and the FBI to classify and condemn activist organisations (even those operating within the US) as terrorists. In this way, the term “terrorism” is persistently used to pre-emptively delegitimize and/or criminalize dissenting voices in the US, and, in turn, the rest of the Western world.
While this project neither condemns nor condones the actions of any organisation classified as “terrorist” under US law, I maintain that the term itself is important to, and helps to explain, the activist nature of reading and writing experimental texts. While the only “violence” committed in the texts studied here is that of radical poetic practice against the normative, organising structures of language, the anti-Statist position at the core of any anarchist practice would be classified, under these definitions, as terrorist. And this violence against language itself is one I can, without hesitation, endorse, and that I can, somewhat reservedly, classify as a Poetic Terrorism against the State(s) of Language, Literature, and the Lyric. As Lyotard writes, breaking from the comfort of preconceptions is a kind of violence, a suffering; “The unthought hurts because we’re comfortable in what’s already thought. And thinking, which is accepting this discomfort, is also, to put it bluntly, an attempt to have done with it” (Inhuman 20). And so, trite as it may read, the experimental writer is a kind of guerrilla poet, and her/his terrorism is instigating the suffering of thinking the unthought.