Archive for October, 2010

Johan Jönson

by on Oct.31, 2010

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Bringing it All Back Home

by on Oct.30, 2010

Why is this album cover so beguiling? I think for its gyre-like qualities–the vortex– occult/Modernist qualities. The golden ring feels like an error AND like a media effect– an accident of light, a glitch or warp of the film or lens?– making us feel the presence of (archaic feeling) non-digital apparatus by which this photo was taken. At the same time, it looks like the iris of an eye. So the eye is somehow the ‘same as’ the glitch, the error, and the media– the archaic media. Here, rather than representing rationality and insight, or even just perception in its various definitions, this eye is excessive to itself. It is an eye that can see itself (rather than a transparent eyeball), an eye which seeps (or leaks) its own gold material onto the image itself.

And the image itself has rat-nest, imperialistic qualities. Like Marlowe, or any armchair imperialist, Bob Dylan has lugged a bunch of knowledge ‘back home’, rendered here in material form. Knowledge is materialized everywhere as books, magazines, sheet music, portraits, furniture, friezes, woman, I guess. The woman has a knowing look. She is not the Intended, despite her black hair, because we are at the end of History, here, everything has been or is going to be shortly consumed. Foreshortened to the point of convexity? Perhaps to be consumed by a conflagration, that is, by the evil eye, which does not see but leaks, stains, marks. Stigmatas. (Eye-stigmata.)
Culture as the possessions of the dead.
Shortly to be (re-)possessed by media the eye.

Et in arcadia, I was (always?already?in the process of being!) possessed by media!

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Hiromi Itō & Julia Kristeva

by on Oct.29, 2010

A few moments ago, I found online this video of a mash-up of lines from the important Japanese feminist poet Hiromi Itō and theorist Julia Kristeva. This is a brilliant and telling combination.

As I was working on my translations of Itō’s work for the book Killing Kanoko, which was published by Action Books in 2010, Itō told me that she first learned about Kristeva in the late 1980s from the man who was her husband at the time, the literature scholar Masahiko Nishi. As she worked through her own pregnancy and the psychological traumas of post-partum depression, the concept of abjection became quite important to her, and she spent a great deal of time working through issues of the feminine body, its leakiness, its limits, and its excesses in her own organic way. One of the results of this exploration was a book of poems that included “Killing Kanoko,” which is quoted along with Kristeva in this video.

This video was posted at

BOOKMIX MASHUP: Killing Kanoko/Powers of Horror from lady blogblah on Vimeo.

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shouted rage

by on Oct.28, 2010

Doesn’t it seem like everybody just shouts at each other nowadays? I think it’s because conflict is drama. Drama is entertaining, and entertainment is marketable. Finding consensus and common ground is dull! Nobody wants to watch a civilized discussion that acknowledges ambiguity and complexity. We want to see fireworks! We want to the sense of solidarity and identity that comes from having our interests narrowed and exploited by like-minded zealots. Talk show hosts, political candidates, news programs, special interest groups…They all become successful by reducing debates to the level of shouted rage. Nothing gets solved, but we’re all entertained.

The above comments were made by Calvin during a walk in the woods with Hobbes in 1995.

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Serial Killers and Wound Culture

by on Oct.28, 2010

I’m interested in serial killers; the letters of serial killers was one of my big interests when I wrote Dear Ra 10 years ago. I’m interested in the way style and the relationship of language to violence, artifice and violence, artifice and the body, wounds and language.

Right now I’m reading a fascinating book by Mark Seltzer called *Serial Killers: Life and Death in America’s Wound Culture*. It seems more related to my poetry and poetics than most books *about poetry.* I’ll write more about this later.

For now, here’s an interesting quote:

“The letter bomber is a writer who dreams of words with a direct physical impact. He dreams of words as weapons aimed at bodies: verboballistics.”

This reads the Unabomber’s obsessions with numbers and letters as a response to a digital society in which the body has become exchangeable with information.

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So I Want to Kill This [Spritzhead]: Paranoia in Tori Amos, Hothead Paisan, and reading/writing generally

by on Oct.26, 2010


In “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay Is About You,” a chapter in Touching Feeling, Sedgwick addresses the paranoid reading practices that she argues have come to monopolize critical theory, including New Historicist, deconstructive, feminist, and psychoanalytic studies, and especially queer studies: in these fields, she claims, “to apply a hermeneutics of suspicion is widely understood as a mandatory injunction rather than a possibility among other possibilities” (125).

To explain what she means by paranoid reading, and to contrast it to the reparative reading mode towards which she desires queer studies to turn, Sedgwick adopts Melanie Klein’s formulation of two affective positions, the schizoid/paranoid and the depressive/reparative. These are positions, importantly, not developmental stages, and so they are temporary, changing, and relational, each subject to oscillation into the other. Klein sees the depressive position as a reprieve from the schizoid/paranoid position: its “terrible alertness,” its government by “hatred, envy, and anxiety.” From the depressive position, it is possible, Sedgwick explains:

to use one’s own resources to assemble or ‘repair’ the murderous part-objects into something like a whole — though, I would emphasize, not necessarily like any preexisting whole…a more satisfying object [that] is available both to be identified with and to offer one nourishment and comfort in turn. Among Klein’s names for the reparative process is love. (128)

I want to look at two performances of the oscillation between Klein’s paranoid and depressive positions within art — then return to Sedgwick and think about paranoid writing. I don’t understand why my writing here is so forced and I can’t break out. You’re going to point out every interpretive error, aren’t you, sneer that it’s obvious I’ve never read Klein. Stop it I hate you. Fuck you all.

Tori Amos’s “The Waitress” has radically evolved since its original 1994 recording on Under the Pink. The original version is pure murderlust, its speaker, a waitress, announcing her desire to kill a fellow waitress, a desire suppressed only by the speaker’s belief “in peace, bitch.” In this version the speaker is ruled by the “hatred, envy, and anxiety” that characterize Klein’s paranoid/schizoid position. The speaker is stuck, paralyzed by her “terrible alertness” to the threat posed by the presumably more-powerful waitress.

The version that Tori played on her 1998 Plugged tour is vastly transformed from the original and is improvised slightly differently in each performance. This clip  is pretty characteristic:

(continue reading…)

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New Lamination

by on Oct.26, 2010

There’s a new issue of Lamination Colony up.

Lots of writers whose work I like: Dan Hoy, Alissa Nutting, Lily Hoang, Daniel Borzutzky, CJ Waterman etc etc.

And Joyelle’s awesome short story “Welcome A Revolution”!

And a piece of my ongoing translation of Aase Berg’s Dark Matter.

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My Fall Vacation (Atrocity Kitsch)

by on Oct.24, 2010

I’m writing this from Philadelphia where I went for my fall break to attend the annual conference of American Literary Translator’s Association (ALTA)… Joyelle and I were on an 830 am panel on “the border of translation” which was about works that uses translation in some way… I talked about corpses in translation. How they pile up if you read critics writings about translation. From Dryden, the German Romantics, Pound, Valery and on, translation has been theorized as a corpse. I thought about this in part through Daniel Tiffany’s wonderful book Radio Corpse, where he identifies Pound’s aesthetics as necrophilic. Pound: “I had to raise a man from the dead.” He does this through what Philip Lewis much later calls “abusive fidelity” – homophonic translation and other such practices. And I also invoked Joyelle’s discussion of “the body possessed by media” and the wounds – from her essay on Lady Gaga – as a site of multi-media art. Is the vortex a wound? I talked about Carolyn Forche’s atrocity kitsch in Against Forgetting – (continue reading…)

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Another Side of Occult Motherhood

by on Oct.14, 2010

button flower

A few years ago, John and I participated in a peyote ceremony in Western Wisconsin presided over by an Andean ayahuasquero who had also apprenticed with some elders in the Native American Church. His wife—a Mexican curandera—prepared the peyote buttons while the rest of us set up our nests in the enormous teepee outside. It was around this time of year, in the vicinity of Samhain, and chilly, maybe even snowing. In the middle of the teepee the designated Firekeeper summoned an architecture that would sustain a strapping fire till morning and accommodate the shifting proprioception awaiting our collective postprandial experience. Outside the teepee, the Roadman was digging a puke pit. Eventually everyone settled in, the ayahasquero sang and smoked over the buttons, we ate them in rounds and sang icaros continuously, without break, throughout the night. (This was a kind of hybrid ceremony, you might say, icaros and Amazonian mapacho traditionally belonging to the realm of Ayahuasca.) The four young children of this shaman couple joined us in the teepee, sometimes singing, sometimes chasing each other and giggling or squirming out of boredom, mostly though they slept because the ceremony didn’t start until 11 PM and ended at 7 the next morning. Their mother, who was at the time 8 ½ months pregnant, did not sleep. Her singing voice mellifluously transcended the baseline arc of sound and spun shapes and animals and petroglyphs in the air around us. Because she was pregnant, she was entitled to the last button, and had, every other round, taken two instead of the one button allotted the rest of us—since she was essentially eating for two, this was the proper shamanic comportment. As far as “queer,” or perhaps better might be “wrinkled” temporality, well time gets all spontaneous and slippery and ruptured and synesthetic in the mescaline field and nobody remembers or cares about schedules. This is more like mythic time: the break in linear consciousness, in spatio-temporal normativity, is pretty much the whole point of the exercise.
(continue reading…)

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Occult Communication with Bookslut

by on Oct.14, 2010

Well, there’s always good stuff at Bookslut but today there are at least two articles of special note on the front page.

1)Oliva Cronk’s article on poetry references Laura Glenum, CA Conrad and other modern muses of the mise-en-scene. Cronk’s own text is infectious and directive (“Read Lara Glenum’s latest book, Maximum Gaga, while preparing for a dreaded social event or in a waiting room.”) and isolates how the books she discusses offer directives (coercions?) for affecting your space with art. I’m particularly interested in the motif of moldiness, age and error in Cronk’s piece, which brings to mind my favorite debaser, Jack Smith. I also think the piece offers a really interesting alternative modality to receiving work– it goes beyond ‘critique’ and ‘analysis’ to something more contagious and more willing to confront art’s coercive properties, sans ethics.

2)An interview with Kate Durbin offers this tasty thought: “After Marilyn Monroe died there were a bunch of copycat suicides by young women. One woman wrote this in her suicide note: ‘If the most beautiful thing in the world has no reason to live, what hope can there be for the rest of us?’ I think this is a valid question.”

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Christian Hawkey, Ventrakl

by on Oct.13, 2010

[This is a guest review by Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle:]

Ventrakl by Christian Hawkey
Dossier: Ugly Duckling Presse 2010

Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

Billed as a collaboration; Ventrakl performs itself as séance, a purported dialogue with the dead poet Georg Trakl conducted through some interzone like Blavatsky’s mantic womb. As such it is pivotal, but not in any peacock word, back-cover blurb, book award sticker acceptation. Pitting poetry against poetics Ventrakl turns tooth and nail on itself. It’s a fight to the finish! Poetry prevails. Poetics gets stomped out.

At 150 pages its “better half” beckons from Victor Hugo’s phantom mouth of shadows. Comprised of thaumaturgical poetry transmigrated from Trakl, these transversions are vatic, utterly unforeseen. “Concerning the translation of poems—a form of ghostly reanimation—the literature that constitutes an argument against literal or overly faithful translations is now nearly as large as its extant supporting examples.” * Spooky, truly moving, Ventrakl’s poems gimme the chills. Its veiled protests notwithstanding, this is original art. Unprecedented invention: adroit, and magisterial.

Hawkey’s un-authorized de-compositions were achieved by various liberal, indeed licentious coups. For attention-getters, firing a shotgun at Trakl’s work then lifting whatever was left doubtless packs maximum wallop. Factor in the fact that Hawkey, at the time of writing, did not speak or read German. “This made it somewhat hard to talk [with Trakl]!” Where some of Ventrakl’s means and ends recall David Cameron’s devices skewed to produce his laudable misprision of Baudelaire, Flowers of Bad (humor, homophonics, homographics, irreverent irrelevance, sheer guess-work and lies, English online Spellcheck applied ostensibly to “correct” the foreign originals) here I prize contact sport. Watch Ventrakl’s illegal use of the hands. Hawkey soaked Trakl’s texts in pails of murky water.
(continue reading…)

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A Queer Time

by on Oct.13, 2010

Yesterday and today D.A. Powell visited my MFA program.  Powell—who I think goes by Doug—and his white, pretty beard.  I don’t know if he learned any of our names, but there he was, eager to fill the day.  He didn’t look at the clock once, and stayed in our seminar much longer than he was supposed to.  Instead of imagining the manuscripts to come as straight pathways, Doug talked about the airy architecture of the book.  He opened the door and led us through rooms until we reached the garden.  The outdoor light recast things.

Over lunch, we discussed Wojnarowicz, the pharmaceutical industry, and the mainstreaming of queer culture.  Doug used the word “gaybies” instead of “babies.”  I laughed.  Though, in theory, I’m kind of into the idea of a gayby.

We also talked about birds, their spatiotemporal reach between lines.  Or do I mean lives:  when “dead boys make the sweetest lovers.”

I told Doug I feel more freedom* writing about birds than other species.

He seemed to understand.  He mentioned staying up at night.

(*I think, in queer time, freedom is also risk.)

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Salamandrine: Or, Genre’s Queer Occult Temporality

by on Oct.12, 2010

l7. I need to buy socks but which socks? What can the kid not kick off? And why won’t the kid sleep? I ask the mirror. It’s certainly nighttime you can tell just by looking in the mirror, the way it slumps and tries to shie away. The mirror is cracked from too many launchings and each launch is a foothold where my kid can lodge or sag but instead she’s fitful, insists on jerking in time to the jumps she makes in the quarter. In the quarter, in the quarter, just jitter and skitter on down. Catch a knife when it’s falling, drive the spittle into the ground. Find me a fateful woman if you can. Find me a fateful woman if you can. I’m clocked in junk, it’s a racket, it keeps the kid awake, I have to hack it, I have to hack it up. I have to empty out the junkdrawer of the grave.

In the quarter, in the quarter, in the nickel in the dime, in the cash drawer, honey, that’s where you find a real good time. Draw the ewer full of water draw the sewer full of lime, won’t you stay the same forever, won’t you ford that never twice.

My kid’s alive a live live wire like Lethe the nevermore. Skinny kid, for a baby, everybody says. How she jumps right out the window through the eye of the needle and into the eye of the grave.

8. The doctor says if the kid won’t start gaining soon we’re going to have to take measures. Since we measure her constantly I say like what. The doctor is half-coralled, half-wild, skinny in the face. She turns her back to me to write in a chart. Her little stool shrieks as she turns around. It’s freezing in here. That’s what my kid says to the sock it’s shoved in its mouth.

I’m in love with the doctor.

You should pay more attention to that kid. (continue reading…)

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