About the Poet
Paul Ingram is a Associate Research Fellow at Birkbeck School of Arts with a PhD on Adorno and Dada. He is the author of a book of poems, Flat Earth (Contraband Books). His work has appeared in such places as Permeable Barrier, Erotoplasty, Psychoanalytical Notebooks, Tentacular, Hollow Earth Review, Pamenar Press Magazine and Babel Tower Notice Board. He has written essays about art and aesthetics for 3:AM Magazine, Dada/Surrealism and Historical Materialism, and also contributed to Critical Theory Today: Limits and Relevance of an Intellectual Tradition (Palgrave Macmillan).
Enemie Anonimous was composed—literally put together or constructed—between late 2018 and early 2020, against a backdrop of political contestation following a decade of austerity in Britain. The source material came from an older tradition of struggle, associated with Luddism, the Swing Riots and the Rebecca Riots. These movements have often been caricatured as backward-looking machine-breakers opposed to technological progress, but they were much more radical than that. For the book, I repurposed their anonymous threatening letters, originally sent to landlords, magistrates and factory owners in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England and Wales.
These threats are reproduced in Kevin Binfield (ed.), Writings of the Luddites (John Hopkins University Press); EP Thompson, ‘The Crime of Anonymity’, in Albion’s Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England (Verso Books); EJ Hobsbawn and George Rudé, Captain Swing (Lawrence and Wishart); on the websites of the National Archives, People’s Collection Wales and West Sussex Record Office; and at the blog ludditebicentenary.blogspot.com.
The letters are reimagined as emails addressed to the anonymous functionaries who exercise power over our day-to-day lives now. The titles of the pieces trace the source of this authority back to the neoliberal state, through convoluted networks of government outsourcing, independent agencies and consultancy services. To investigate these arrangements, I made use of resources including whatdotheyknow.com and bidstats.uk.
All identifying details are redacted from the emails, in line with the statutory exemptions for personal information set out in the Freedom of Information Act (2000). The only names that surface are pseudonyms: Ned Ludd, Joe Firebrand, Captain Swing, Mr Love Good, the Daughters of Rebecca… Enemie Anonimous stages a confrontation between these legendary figures and faceless officialdom, juxtaposing discourses from different historical moments to explore ideas of anonymity, responsibility and violence.
Extracts from Enemie Anonimous have previously appeared in Erotoplasty, Tentacular and Pamenar Press Magazine. I am grateful to the editors and to everyone involved. EMAIL TO A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL CONTRACTED BY CAPITA TO CONDUCT WORK CAPABILITY ASSESSMENTS ON BEHALF OF THE DEPARTMENT FOR WORK AND PENSIONS
This is to inform thee that thy life will be taken from thee the very first oppertunity which will take place before the 2 of January 1813 for we will watch thee Both Day and But we will fulfill our promise to the Committee this is the last warning that thou will have from us thou wicked tyrant who persicuteth the Good and Righteous allso we are determined to murder 2 of thy wicked Servants Before the Expiration of this year I am ordered to give them this last warning But ther lives is determined on, I mean Xxxxxxx & Xxxxxxxxx for their dilligence in hunting after our distrest Brotherhood both night and day for they are Both in there Glory which dragging our poor Brothers before the thou wicked man But though Xxxxxx be in Xxxx Xxxxxx we have thousands in this neibourhood left that shal much Glory to Rid the world 3 monsters and as sure as I have spoken the words thou with them will be destroyed Before the time they are in our poor Every week and thou will be watched closer than even Mr. Xxxxxxxx was is will be down if in thy own Grounds and the persons suffer instant death for it for we shall Emortalise our reasons to further ages to Rid the world of such a monster as thou art till then I Remain thy mortal Enimey yrs Secretary to the Brotherhood
Praise for the Work
‘I recommend Paul Ingram’s Enemie Anonimous read out loud. The concept of Luddites writing emails to the state agencies, where two periods collide, 1800s and 2022. Ingram’s adaptation of the original letters is hard and humorous to the core. The language used is archaic, but the demands are relentlessly threatening. Against the backdrop of unemployment and poverty in the world of Noblemen and Villains, arsons and murders. The overloaded titles in capitals juxtapose with fragmentation of made-up words, misspellings and blot outs. The fist, of the state apparatus today is in the use of language and machinery of our digital age. “Now Jantleman”, the message is, no matter the time the struggle continues.’ — Ulli Freer, poet/performer
‘The shock of recognition. Dark, brooding, beaten down, but with tangled roots that extend deep into the soil, liable to flare up again, lash out, and strike the oppressor with electric fury, this is an English that might well be mistaken for an (Exterminating) Angel, the embodiment of a hatred that is driven by an austere, incorruptible and uncompromising sense of Social Justice. Framed as a collection of emails responding to the mismanagement and malice of C21st corporate hierarchies, Ingram presents us with a cache of remarkable documents from the early industrial era, penned by a newly-literate English working-class. Enabling us to feel solidarity with “ancestral voices” from across the centuries, to take solace and strength from the power of the radical (root), we regain something of our own revolutionary agency in remembering those who went before us, those who remain undefeated.’ — David Ashford, author of John Company (Pamenar Press) and General Editor at Contraband Books