When I first encountered Jake Orbison’s “No Goods, No Managers,” which marries the decentralized authority of folklore to the pedagogical repetitions of nursery rhyme, I felt at once inexplicably familiar with its characters and newly instructed by its rhythm. Yet the content of the poem’s instruction eludes me. Its satisfying refrain—“and that is the way in which we are truly anarchists”—rings out with the certainty of a manifesto, while the range of evidence to which it’s attached clouds that clarity, deferring any stable conclusion. How is it, exactly, that “we are truly anarchists”? In that “[w]e dance on tables we know can’t support our weight,” in that “[w]e have a million pens but not a one fucking / works,” in that this is inevitably the concluding phrase of the “man in Raval.” The dense illegible space described at the end of this poem does not resolve the central question, but returns me to it. I exit the poem without any answers, but grateful to move back into the world holding the poem’s roving images and charged with its refrain.
– Claire Schwartz
No Goods, No Managers