Poet Rosie Stockton rewrites love poem in capitalist society
Stockton and I spoke this spring, under a pomegranate tree in the backyard of their home in Los Angeles, about love and work. Stockton’s platinum blonde hair was pulled back and they wore a white tank top, denim jacket, black pants – and a tiny chain of pearls.
You write about the conflict of love and how capitalism wants us to experience love.
Love can be playful and experimental, healing and energizing. It can provide opportunities for growth, reflection, and breaking out of lonely ways. Capitalism regulates our experience of romantic love in the form of a couple envisaged by the heteropatriarchy, because it is the most hospitable form of social life to capitalist accumulation. The state tries to control our experience of love through laws against deviant modes of sexuality and gender, in order to make us fit the needs of capitalism. But I believe a queer love and care policy is beyond that.
How did you go from writing about work to love?
I was thinking of conversations around the politics of reproductive labor. There is a slogan that came from the “Wages for Housework” movement of Italian Marxist feminism: “They say it’s love. We say it’s unpaid work. There are also traditions of thought articulated by black Marxist feminists who argue against wages. Like, we don’t want to transforming care and love into work: what is possible? In a poem, I write: “Can we love with an inadequate policy?” I wrote poems to people close to my heart: friends, lovers and those who are both. I wanted to fuck with the poetic forms associated with romantic love (like the sonnet!) To really experience the love that animates my life.
So what’s your opinion? Should all care be paid for?
Domestic work and care work are exploited by racial capitalism and have been a historically difficult sector to organize. For those who do this kind of work, of course, it has to be paid and all workers need labor protections. That said, salary is not the ultimate claim I have around compensation for reproductive labor or caring and loving practices. In this book I imagined refusing the salary as a path to love and liberation. Left-wing thinkers like Claudia Jones, Angela Davis and Rosa Luxemburg influence me.
The book simmers of radicalism. What policies inform your work?
These poems are personal, but informed by policies that demand the abolition of police and prisons and the decriminalization of sex work. I am interested in the intersection of union organization projects and abolitionist mutual aid that call for better working conditions while dreaming of autonomous systems that meet the basic needs of each.