Archive for November, 2010

Context: Panter

by on Nov.30, 2010

I want to talk more about what I think the prevailing influences are on the “art comics” being made today. This conversation should have begun with Gary Panter. Sure, I know there is the undeniable influence of Jack Kirby (most creators read superhero comics at some point), Robert Crumb, maybe Dave Sim, Moebius, Art Spiegelman, etc. But all the influence is of all these guys has been so abstracted. The one that is less adulterated is Panter. His work is so diverse and extensive, that it certainly serves as an example of why these brief history posts are unfairly reductive. Nevertheless, the guy who create Jimbo and won an Emmy for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse title sequence is the best entry point for understanding much of today’s comics avant garde.

In 1980, Panter wroter the “Rozz-Tox Manifesto.” Read it here. This document explained Panter’s idea of artists (particularly in America) admitting that they worked within a capitalist system and using this as a means to reach a larger audience (or market) rather than seeing it as an artistic straight-jacket. Whether this manifesto is a document of hope or immense self-delusion, the methods described seem to have served Panter well – he has earned a living off of his work for over thirty years, and never, in my opinion, does it show signs of compromise for market.
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My new book

by on Nov.30, 2010

Here’s a link to info and excerpt from my new book, Entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate. It’s a pageant. It will be published by Tarpaulin Sky Press. Let me know if you want to review it.

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Vaginas, Maelstrom Wounds and Evil Eyes: Aase Berg and JG Ballard

by on Nov.30, 2010

[I got this link from someone while searching for an image of Aase Berg. Forgot where, but I’ll try to find it again to give the proper credit.]

I’m going to write a quick post and add to it as I go along because I’m a little bit of a hurry.

In some ways this is a sequel to mine and Lucas’s comments on the wounded bodies of Ronaldo Wilson’s poetry, bodies that seem to not just leak, but leak media, like the surveillance footage of the BP well pouring media (turning poems into photographs, movies into fantasies etc).

It’s also a prequel of sorts to these posts, and to some of Joyelle’s posts, as Aase Berg’s poetry has had a huge influence on mine and Joyelle’s thinking about art and poetry – the titles dark matter, tranfer fat in fact are like key phrases around our proverbial dinner table, and of course Joyelle’s talk about “unnatural motherhood.”

I was in an airplane yesterday re-reading JG Ballard’s brilliant and silly novel “Crash” while around me two nutso children were leaping around, shouting, crapping, grabbing my book etc. I realized this experience of trying to read Ballard’s novel on an airplane with smelly kids mucking around was like an installation version of Aase Berg’s poetry. Ha ha, I laughed. And then I thought about this a little….

The thing that’s striking me incredibly powerfully this time on reading this book is how powerful the vaginas are. This book has more vaginas than even the most graphic of porno books (are there still such things? If so I want to write one!). And like Joyelle’s idea of the “evil eye”, the vaginas move outwards; they aren’t receptive, they cast outwards. (continue reading…)

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by on Nov.30, 2010

Here’s an interesting blog for those of you who know Swedish:

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Another MFA article

by on Nov.30, 2010

Can be found on slate:

This article is based on the distinction between “New York City” writers and “MFA” writers:

“The best young NYC novelists go to great lengths to write comprehensible prose and tie their plots neat as a bow. How one longs, in a way, for endings like that of DeLillo’s first novel, Americana, where everyone just pees on everyone else for no reason! The trend toward neatness and accessibility is often posited to be the consequence of the workshop’s relentless paring. But for NYC writers—despite their degrees—it might be better understood as the result of fierce market pressure toward the middlebrow, combined with a deep authorial desire to communicate to the uninterested.”

But my favorite discussion happens in the comment section. One commentator says he/she can’t imagine Bolano in an MFA situation, and another points out that a lot of the books are actually in some ways about workshops.

Also: A lot of discussions about the lack of what I (don’t know where I got it from) called “filters” in the post below: complaints about the inability to sift through all the novels. But of course does anyone ever complain about the inability to sift through all the movies, Internet sites, TV shows? This is why I like the corny phrase “filter” – you can just move through it and find different paths.

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"Gay Earth Mother"

by on Nov.28, 2010

is a poem I wrote and this week’s text at ABJECTIVE.  My attempt at an anti-anti-utopian project that doubles as a healing narrative.

Examples of gay or queer Earth mothers:  C.A. Conrad, Antony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons), Bolaño’s Mauricio ‘the Eye’ Silva, Bolaño himself, Meredith Monk, Clarice Lispector, Madame Satã, Omar Little, Louise Bourgeois, Hélène Cixous, Ryan Trecartin, my friend Annmarie, this female wildebeest.

Of course not all gays are Earth mothers, e.g. Ricky Martin.  And as the list suggests you certainly don’t have to be homo to qualify.  Just kind of chthonic/shamanic/queer/hypersexual/violently maternal.

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"Transition was Rauschenberg’s favored mode."

by on Nov.27, 2010

There’s an interesting review of the new Gagosian show of picks from Rauschenberg’s immense career. It kind of ties into the “filter” discussion here, as it’s about filtering the best work from Rauschenberg’s career. It also discusses him in terms of not the traditional Great Artist who is too pristine to engage in activities other than his/her own art (a trope I criticize below), but actually engaged in a lot of activities:

“He danced, composed, gave away money and initiated diplomatic missions, always on behalf of art.”

[I wanted to add, that when one goes through the Öyvind Fahlström archives (letters, exhibitions, ideas, performances etc), Rauschenberg comes off as a really great guy. Fahlström was critical of Rauschenberg’s (and other American artists’) political naivete, but Rauschenberg seems to have been a big supporter of Fahlström’s work.]

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Art’s Evil Eye: Bolaño’s “Maurico ‘The Eye’ Silva’

by on Nov.26, 2010

Apropos of Lucas’s comment on my Bolaño/Beuys/Nazi post below, I’d like to explain specifically how Bolaño’s short story ‘Mauricio ‘The Eye’ Silva’ figures into this theory of Art’s Evil Eye that I’m building around Bolaño’s work. I’ve written it all out in a lengthy essay (as I’ve mentioned before– I’m obsessed with this essay) in which this story plays an important role.

“Mauricio ‘The Eye’ Silva” is one of those Bolaño stories in which a narrator comes in contact with a figure who then delivers the story through a kind of ventriloquism or double speech, and then is destroyed either in the frame narrative or in the narrative itself. In this case that figure (as so often) is the title character; Mauricio ‘the Eye’ Silva is a photographer who relates to the narrator/interlocutor how he rescued two boys from an Indian brothel and fled with them to the countryside where he raised them as his children until they died in an epidemic.

In my essay, I show how ‘The Eye’ is doubly inscribed in this story as The Moon, often shown as drifting across the sky, emerging or disappearing into shadow, and casting a light-like gaze which becomes entangled in the tree; in this sense the double image of The Moon/Eye recalls the montaged image of Moon and Eye at the beginning of Chien Andalou. In that movie, (continue reading…)

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Johan Jönson Comes to America

by on Nov.26, 2010

Swedish poet Johan Jönson will give a couple of readings next week:

Wednesday, Dec 1:
(with John Wilkinson)
*“Orbital – A Trans-Atlantic Discussion About Contemporary Poetics.” The panel will be held in 244 DeBartolo Hall, from 4-5 p.m.
* A reading at U of Notre Dame bookstore at 7 pm.

On Thursday Dec 2nd:
(with Cole Swensen and Sarah Riggs) at Myopic Bookstore in Chicago, at 7 pm.

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New Bolaño, Cabrones!

by on Nov.25, 2010

Yet another posthumous release is in the works, but this one is said to be the seed of 2666.  It’s titled Los sinsabores del verdadero policía, which translates into something like The Woes of the True Policeman.

Von Archimboldi and Amalfitano return!  But will they cross paths with Auxilio Lacouture, the Mother of Mexican Poetry?  According to Bolaño’s editor, characters from other books find their way in, as well.  He even goes so far as to say the book is as great as 2666.

It doesn’t seem like the Anglo press has picked up on this yet, so here’s a link to the article on El Pais if you read Spanish.  Apparently Bolaño loved telenovelas and reality TV shows.

If you speak the language, here’s a documentary about him featured on Spanish TV last month, available for streaming.

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The Birdwisher

by on Nov.24, 2010

Last year I participated in the HTML Giant holiday gift exchange and Birds of Lace Press was my secret giftgiver, sending me among other things Anna Joy Springer’s The Birdwisher. Because I was focusing on my qualifying exams all year, I couldn’t crack it open…until now………

The Birdwisher is a modest, zine-y novella, beautifully illustrated by artist Sam McWilliams. Big, clunky typeface, winkingly lo-fi production. It is a treasure. The subtitle is “a murder mystery for very old young adults,” and in her acknowledgments, Springer says she wrote the story “on top of” Dashiell Hammet’s “Dead Yellow Woman.”

The opening scene witnesses a young woman (“the virgin”) using rusty scissors to cut through her hymen. Then a bird flies into her window and dies. The rest of the story imagines what between these characters has led up to this moment, and so we are thrust into the charming and uncanny human-bird society that constitutes the world of the novella, in which Walker Geon, bird detective, has been hired by a young woman named Gwen to investigate the murder of six birds.

Mostly the murder mystery doesn’t matter; that is, it doesn’t matter who killed the birds, but it does matter why, and Walker’s investigation functions as an uneasy mask which eventually disintegrates to make visible a horrifying and perversely humorous parable of sexual assault out of which Walker emerges Gwen’s protector.

There’s an instability of narrative voice that claims a debt to Acker (on top of the Hammett), but above that there’s a humility to the book that doesn’t really care whether it’s read as avant-garde or a kinda chintzy YA mystery. It’s both, of course, and it’s really its own thing, excessive and defiant and vulnerable. The Birdwisher is a story with exposed throat and chest. Brave. Happy bird day.

Birds of Lace is a really wonderful feminist press; here’s their call for chapbooks:

From now until Dec. 31st Birds of Lace will be reading chapbook manuscripts for possible publication. What we most desire to read is the improbable, the hysterically feminist, queered grotesques with muddy boundaries and sloppy hearts of integrity. What we want is literature that you’d have difficulty publishing elsewhere because it’s too disgusting, too personal, too loud and too ferocious. We like a sick sense of humor and sly wit. Some authors we love are Anna Joy Springer, Rebecca Brown, James Baldwin, Daphne Gottlieb, Maggie Nelson, Cathy Park Hong, Emily Dickinson, Willa Cather, Judy Budnitz, Bertha Harris and Sarah Vap. But if your work doesn’t align with any of those people, send it anyway: we like to be surprised.

Please email 12-30 pages of fiction, poetry, cross-genre, non-fiction, lyrical essays or any combination thereof as an RFT attachment to A short introduction would be lovely, if BoL is unfamiliar with your work, but a publication history isn’t necessary. If you’re unfamiliar with Birds of Lace, visit our etsy page to check out excerpts and information on previous publications.

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Filters, Canons

by on Nov.23, 2010

[I cut-and-pasted this a bit but I hope this makes sense.]

One often hears to complaint: There’s too much poetry being published, how will I know what to read?

Joyelle wrote about this a while back in “The Future of Poetry,” coming to the conclusion:

“The future of poetry is the present, and it has already arrived. The present tense rejects the future. It generates, but it generates excess without the ordering structures of lineage. It subsumes and consumes pasts into its present , erasing their priority. It’s self-defeating; its rejection of survival into a future may be infanticidal.. Without a concern with past or future it necessarily negates many of the values which come with Western literary tradition, including stability, well-craftedness, elegance, restraint, timelessness, humanism. It is concerned with the media through which it moves, flimsy concerns and flimsy conceits, superficiality, errata and (likely) ephemera, flexibility, instability, unevenness, but it also partakes of a non-productive productivity typified by bombast, excess and overproduction. This art often involves failure and ‘bad fits’—the ‘bad fit’ of one genre into another, the bad fit of one media into another. Its modality is violence, frequently a self-violence against the text itself, so that text is something that explodes, exhausts, breaks down, flounces around, eats and/or shits itself, is difficult to study or call a text at all.”

A lot of folks have reacted very defensively against this moment of “overproduction,” longing for that previous time when there were fewer books and influential professors picked their favorite students (students who reinforced their aesthetic mostly, who didn’t threaten the status quo) and those were most of the books that made their way around. People who long for this era tend to be defensive of any kind of criticism as well; they want poetry to be “just the thing” without any of the discussions surrounding the poetry. They want to depend on authority, if only it would re-assert itself so that we would know what to read.
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Bolaño, Owen, Shell Shock, and Beuys, and the Charisma of Nazis

by on Nov.22, 2010

I’ve been working on a 40 page essay on Bolaño and how Art leaks, flows, or surges from the evil eye; I’ve been thinking of Nazi Literatures in the America as materializing the physical co-incidence of Art and evil—evil because it inverts, perverts, controverts the homologously normalizing forms of the body, society, and the text. Nazi Literatures in the Americas is a fake-textbook (fake, so already artificial and evil); at once bio- and biblio-graphical, it gives the birth and death dates for a collection of Fascist writers, synopses of their lives, a description of their careers and the fates of their writing. Their actual writing is absent. Bolaño’s short prose is frequently marked by flimsy/improbable/hasty frame narratives through which a comparably excessive main narrative spurts and flows; in Nazi Literatures in the Americas we get only the frame narratives, without the main narratives, the overproduction, the issue, the Art. In this sense we get only a set of collapsed evil eyes, with the Art drained out of them.
However, reading up on Wilfred Owen and shell-shock, I’ve come across information about the specific therapy administered to him in Craiglockhart Hospital. Owen’s doctor prescribed metrical poetry writing and other art activities to help his shell-shocked patients re-ordinate themselves to society’s temporality. Here is Brock’s description of shell-shock, as quoted in scholar Meredith Martin’s essay “Therapeutic Measures: The Hydra and Wilfred Owen at Craiglockhart War Hospital.”(Modernism/modernity, Volume 14, Number 1, January 2007 ):

The shell-shock patient is out of Time altogether. If a “chronological,” he is at least not a
historical being. Except in so far as future or past may contain some memory or prospect
definitely gratifying, or morbidly holding him, he dismisses both. He lives for the moment,
on the surface of things. His memory is weak (amnesia), his will is weak (aboulia),
he is improvident and devoid of foresight. He is out of Space, too; he shrinks from his
immediate surroundings (geophobia), or at most he faces only certain aspects of it; he is
a specialist à Outrance. (from Brock’s postwar volume Health and Conduct, p. 146.) (continue reading…)

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