Archive for November, 2010

Queerseminariet: Gurlesque

by on Nov.21, 2010

[If you live in Sweden, go to Aylin’s talk on the gurlesque:]

Wednesday, November 24 · 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Location Humanistiskt centrum, Engelska parken, Uppsala Universitet Lokal: 6-0031
Created By
Queerseminariet vid Uppsala universitet
More Info Gurlesque: queer litterär femininitet

Gurlesque är en estetik om flickor i många åldrar och former. Om tyllkjolar, spyor och sexualitet. Om överdrifter, performativitet och grotesker. Och mycket mer. Den har utvecklats lite varstans, bland annat i antologin Gurlesque: the new grrly, grotesque, burlesque poetics (2010) där redaktörerna Lara Glenum och Arielle Greenberg samlat några av dess amerikanska poetiska och konstnärliga uttryck. Gurlesken dansar också runt i den svenskspråkiga samtidslitteraturen hos till exempel Monika Fagerholm, Sara Stridsberg och Eva-Stina Byggmästar men också i ännu opublicerad litteratur. Under seminariet samtalar Aylin Bloch Boynukisa, genusvetare, och Maria Margareta Österholm, doktorand i litteraturvetenskap med genusinriktning vid Uppsala universitet, om gurlesque-estetiken utifrån ett antal teoretiska och skönlitterära texter.
Ordförande: Maria Margareta Österholm

Seminariet arrangeras av Queerseminariet vid Uppsala Universitet, Litteraturvetenskapliga institutionen och nätverket FlickForsk!

Om ni har några frågor hör av er till:

Varmt välkomna! Och stanna gärna på postseminariet efteråt.

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The Circle of Life in Mary J. Blige & Ronaldo Wilson

by on Nov.20, 2010

One of the great things about the “Circle of Life” envisioned in The Lion King is the scene’s emotional pornography.  Like the Child is unabashedly privileged, even exalted, since Simba the lion cub is at the center of the circle.  There’s something kitschy, manipulative, and therefore incredibly stirring about his suspension over a precipice.  The animals act more human that we do in our supposed baby-worship.  One user on YouTube comments:  “it’s strange how these seemingly ‘simple cartoons’ conveyed so much more depth and essential human feelings and truths than these crappy live-action shows with ‘real people’ nowadays do…”  The heavenly lights beaming down are the punch line, for me, though I don’t know whether to laugh like Lee Edelman or cry like a soccer mom.

And yet, for all of the scene’s pronatalism, signs of death multiply.  Look at all those blank-faced zebra waiting to be gobbled up.  The whole ritual insists on life’s precariousness, the old baboon and fragile cub positioned at the very edge of the rock.


Despite or because of its self-negating title, Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama” generates emotional excess more pointedly.  The song actually samples the theme of the Young and the Restless!  Consider the bridge at 2:10 in this clip of Blige at the Grammy’s: (continue reading…)

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Conversations with Ghosts: Marguerite Duras and Rikki Ducornet

by on Nov.19, 2010

 This: Marguerite Duras


From a film full of real ghosts, Hiroshima Mon Amour, “I like sex, but I hate myself.”

That: Rikki Ducornet


THE GHOST slipped into bed beside me. His timing was bad; I was in bed with my lover who left the room.

In the voice of a brat sucking sweets, the ghost asked: Why do you let him thread your needle?

I clenched my teeth in answer.

Why, the ghost persisted, do you fuck when you know the flesh is mud?

I ground my teeth then, making the sound of bone against bone.

Seizing me the ghost pulled me close and whispered: why do you screw, when it is the dead who are alone?

In its cage my heart hammered out its answer.

—Rikki Ducornet

The author of eight novels as well as collections of short stories, essays, and poems, Rikki Ducornet has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, honored twice by the Lannan Foundation, and the recipient of an Academy Award in Literature. Widely published abroad, Ducornet is also a painter who exhibits internationally. She lives in Port Townsend, Washington.

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Kitsch, the Lion King, Poetry

by on Nov.18, 2010

I think more poetry should be like the “Circle of Life” scene in The Lion King. (continue reading…)

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On Johannes’s Theory of Kitsch: Yeats, Owen, and Brian Turner

by on Nov.18, 2010

When I was reading Johannes’s post below, and how kitsch is used as a bulwark to protect the Highness of the High Modern, I immediately thought of Yeats leaving the War Poets out of his Oxford Anthology of Modern Verse (1936)– defending his choice against critics, he wrote in a letter:
“[…]I excluded Wilfred Owen, whom I consider unworthy of the poets’ corner of a country newspaper, […]He is all blood, dirt & sucked sugar stick (look at the selection in Faber’s Anthology– he calls poets ‘bards,’ a girl a ‘maid,’ & talks about ‘Titanic wars’). There is every excuse for him but none for those who like him. . . .”

This is dripping with kitsch signifiers– country newspaper, ‘sucked sugar stick’, even ‘dirt’ and ‘blood’, as if there is something unseemly about soldiers being dirty or bloody. In the next sentence these three sticky substances are associated with the tacky, poem-y diction of ‘bards’, ‘maid’ ‘Titanic wars’—the ‘dim lands of peace’ stuff that Pound condemns in ‘a few don’ts.; So somehow poeticisms and euphemisms here are equated with dirt, blood, and sugar stick—art at its most overstated and artsy (and thus kitschy) is equal to contaminatory and bodily things. It’s enough to remind you that ‘tacky’ has two senses– both ‘sticky to the touch’, and ‘corny/tasteless’. Yeats mobilizes both against Owen.
(continue reading…)

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Messy Kitsch (again)

by on Nov.18, 2010

People still seem confused what I mean by “kitsch,” fore example when I talk about “atrocity kitsch” and so on. The main reason for this confusion is that most people think kitsch must mean productions of mass culture, the original “kitsch” so to speak, the cheap mass-produced art that Clement Greenberg rails against in his classic “The Avant-Garde and Kitsch.”

[That’s Lara Glenum in the picture.]

What I’m talking about most of the time is the rhetoric of kitsch as it is used in contemporary poetry. Almost constantly, people use the metaphor of comparing poetry (and other arts) to that tasteless mass-produced war scene that Greenberg thought so lowly. It’s like a whole value system is in place based on the negation of kitsch (and, perhaps even more so, movies). Modernism originally defined itself in opposition to kitsch – the mass produced landscape but, also, related “Victorian corpse language”, another form of kitsch – so it’s no wonder modern poetry still uses this rhetoric.

Kitsch is tasteless but it also has other qualities. (continue reading…)

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Reading in Chicago

by on Nov.17, 2010

Subject: This SATURDAY @ Myopic Books/Carlos Soto-Román & Johannes Göransson
THE MYOPIC POETRY SERIES — a weekly series of readings and occasional poets’ talks

Myopic Books in Chicago — All readings begin at 7:00 / 1564 N. Milwaukee Avenue, 2nd Floor;


Contact curator Larry Sawyer for booking information and requests.






This SATURDAY at Myopic Books:

7 pm

Saturday, November 20 – Carlos Soto-Román & Johannes Göransson

Carlos SOTO-ROMÁN was born in Valparaíso, Chile. He has published the books La Marcha de los Quiltros (The Mongrel’s march,1999), Haiku Minero (Miner Haiku, 2007) and Cambio y Fuera (Over and Out, 2009). He has resided in Philadelphia since March 2009 and is a member of The New Philadelphia Poets (a group committed to expanding the spaces for poetry in Philadelphia) and also the editor of the new cooperative anthology of U.S. poetry, Elective Affinities.

Johannes GÖRANSSON was born in Sweden, but has lived around the US for several years. He is the author of: Dear Ra (Starcherone, 2008), Pilot (Fairy Tale Review Press, 2008) and A New Quarantine Will Take My Place (Apostrophe Books, 2007)—and the chapbook Majakovskij en tragedy (Dos Press, 2008). He is also the translator of: Collobert Orbital by Johan Jönsson, Gingerbread Monuments by Victor Johansson & Klara Kallstrom, Remainland: Selected Poems by Aase Berg and Ideals Clearance by Henry Parland. He is the co-editor of ACTION BOOKS and the online journal ACTION, YES.


Thursday, December 2 – Johan Jönson, Sarah Riggs, and Cole Swensen

Saturday, December 11 – Thax Douglas & Friends


Saturday, February 12 – Duriel Harris & Nick Demske

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Basquiat, "Radiant Child"

by on Nov.16, 2010

Wanted to say something about this new movie about Basquiat that I just watched, “Radiant Child”:

I think it’s definitely worth watching for several reasons. To begin with it shows Basquiat painting, which is illuminating and inspiring, and it includes some awkward interview attempts, which is also good to see, and it offers a slew of interviews with people close to the action (the gallerists, journalists and, in an unusual move, the private collectors). It even offers a brief, radically stupid statement by the New Criterion editor (gross) about Basquiat’s lack of importance.

It also makes an interesting argument: Rather than blaming (all interpretations of Basquiat seem, somewhat reductively, to be about assigning blame) the gallerists, the usual bad guys, the movie suggests the “official art world” – including academics and reviewers – were more to blame for being unable/unwilling to understand/support Basquiat’s art. This is the art world of minimalism, or as one gallerist describes it: “white walls, white people, drinking white wine.” (I should note that as much as I like to hate on minimalism, this does seem to avoid conflict as well.)

For my purposes it is of course interesting how the movie suggests that the attacks on Basquiat tended to be by way of “kitsch” – that he viscerality of his art precluded any sophistication. (continue reading…)

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The Messy Fascination of Repulsion: Blackie, Basquiat, The Widow Party

by on Nov.15, 2010

Some more thoughts about “messy” aesthetics (see Adam Jameson’s comments to John’s Fort Thunder post) and the 1990s…

I often get these chain-mails on Facebook asking me for the 15 most influential albums/books/paintings etc for me. One of the most influential artistic experiences for me was going to a show with the band “Blackie” at the speedboat gallery in St Paul some time in the mid 90s. Nobody’s probably heard of them except for me and my friend Tyler, who brought me to the show because he was friends with some of the band members.

But “band” is not really correct. These were like 10-15 folks in their mid-to-late 20s who played together once or twice a year. And “played together” is not exactly correct either because they hadn’t rehearsed and while some of them seemed to know how to play their instruments, some of them didn’t, and some of them were playing strange instruments (plastic whistles, stuffed birds, their arms). The result: The squirrels bled and we heard armchairs with soft hair on them.

The star of the show was the singer, a guy dressed up as college boy – polo shirt, baseball hat etc – but it seemed to be a college boy in drag. He didn’t sing but recited poems/chants while filming himself and the rest of the band with a toy-looking video-camera. One of the songs ended with the singer repeating “We’re in Spokane/We’re in Spokane/We’re in Spokane” for several minutes while writhing – excited, sweating, possibly horny – on the floor and filming himself straight into his screaming, sweaty face. Definitely: “Body possessed by media.” Sweaty with media.
(continue reading…)

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Cambridge School, Auden, Archambeau

by on Nov.14, 2010

Here’s an interview I conducted with Bob Archambeau about the Cambridge School.

JG: One way to go there would be to look at the Auden quote you use as the title of your paper: The Orators is a poem that very much problematizes notions of private/privacy and public sphere. If I remember correctly (it was many years since I read it), The “public” Orators in the first section are largely parodies of scholastic addresses coupled with testimonies of spying activity as a means of enforcing normalcy, conformity. These spies are public faces in private places (Auden certainly intended the sexual pun, something that seems strangely missing from this discussion). The narrator of the second secton, “The Journal of the Airman,” to my mind the most daring and kooky and spectacular piece of writing Auden ever did, is a gay character concerned mainly with the marginalization of gay people. But his cure for this is not some easy Public Talk about the Advancement of Gay Liberation, but rather a highly punny, profusively allusive (to Shamanistic practices etc, see Peter Firchow’s article in the PMLA from like 1985), utterly ridiculous text. When he decided to airbomb London with his pamphlets, I suspect many people would be confused by his genetic tracts and invocations of epileptic shamans. His text is one of obscurity (and full of sexual puns—cock pit etc). “The Journal of the Airman” is in other words a private face in a public space (pamphlet and all). But this does decidedly not mean the figure of authenticity etc. you mention. That would be a public face in a public place. No, the airman is a private face in a public space—an obscure face, a damaged, minor face, not a face that can speak in a unproblematic Public Voice. (This is of course also a transitional poem, and Auden went through many many changes and contradictions.) To understand “The Journal of the Airman”, I think we need a politics of obscurity, a queer politics that indeed resists falling back on that Public Voice of the Orators (poetry that is “public,” that supposedly makes things happen.). Of course there are many “Audens,” but I think the airman is the most interesting of them all.

RA: The Orators is my favorite of all Auden’s books, and it’s a shame that it is so little read. I think many people think of Auden only as the kind of Augustan poet he became in the American portion of his career. Of course it would be good to remember that the complex, ironic nature of the book made Auden himself wonder about its politics. “Which side am I on?” he asked, and at one point he said that he felt the man who wrote that book was, if not a fascist, on the verge of becoming one.

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Soda Series – This Sunday – Brooklyn – Barber, Byrne, Devine, Groves, Robinson

by on Nov.11, 2010

If you’re in Brooklyn on Sunday evening, try to come by Soda Bar in Prospect Heights at 7:00 for our fourth Soda Series conversation between writers. We’re going to have a Baltimore-Providence face-off, including Stephanie Barber, Mairead Byrne, Ms. Andy Devine, Daniel Groves, and Adam Robinson. Click here for map, face photos, and publishing records. (If anyone’s selling a steel cage, cheap, I’ll buy it.)

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Sasha Waltz, Susan Bernofsky

by on Nov.11, 2010

The translator and translation scholar Susan Bernofsky has a blog called “The Berlin Blog,” which I came upon this morning. Read an interesting piece about the choreographer Sasha Waltz.

Here’s an excerpt from her post:

“Waltz’s signature production, Körper (Bodies), which premiered at the Schaubühne in 2000 and was reprised there this August, was her breakthrough work; in it, she developed a strategy of not just using the bodies of her dancers to show us a dance but making bodies (and corporality itself) the subject of the work. This was the first piece of hers to travel extensively internationally. It established her as one of the leading voices in German choreography.”

I don’t know anything about dance, but I’m interested in it, if only because I have such a love-hate relationship to the body.

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Buy Nick Demske By Nick Demske

by on Nov.11, 2010

People, last year I had the opportunity to be the final judge for Fence’s Modern Poets Series. I read some awesome, potent manuscripts but the one which did the most mental damage to me was Nick Demske by Nick Demske. Want to know why? Here’s a poem:


“the very word is like a bell”

—John Keats

I didn’t think it was loaded. But it was a kn

Ife. So we’re both right. I foresee

Blinding enlightenment. I beat these children like the deadest of horsies.

The people cheer at their victory. Peasants dan

Cing in gutters, commoners singing like so many

Semi-trucks braking. This is the ultra-vulgarity to they who make

The definitions. This is cops getting shot in abnormally

Broad daylight. I will make me beautiful if it takes

Uglying everything else; a reflect

Ion so unfamiliar you feel impolite confronting it. I am the awestruck lex

Icographers, staring back into a nightingale. I will beat these

Precious children back to life. Fuck me, shit me.

Remind me what it’s like to be offended, Nick Demske.

Ah. Already with thee.

And here’s what I write in my fancy judge’s intro to the book:

Nick Demske writes from culture like the Hollywood version of a rebellious slave, the role shredding off him, culture’s synthetic exemplary tales shredding and piling up on the floor of the projector room, but non-biodegradable, sticking around, the pancake makeup also strangely persisting, rendering his face plastic and one with the material of the film, the celluloid itself. How can we tell this dancer from his nasty dance? Language has ecstatic prison sex in these narrow cells, de-synchs and hooks up in detrimental sequences which will make the baby sick; the sonnet form both persists and shreds, goes on talking/being a talkie; his own name copies itself again and again like a one-man “I am Spartacus”—splits like a wascally wabbit before the Law. One lump or two? Or, the sonnet is one brief sequence played backwards and forwards until its fake, twitchy face says everything: “This poem is named after you, like a slave.” “Nick Demske, you are everything wrong with the world. Which is to say: the wor/Ld.” Is it shit or is it speech? Is Language the patented dance move of the sapiens sapiens or the catchy scat that shows where we’ve passed? The staff or the shit of life? “This humor so dark you mistake/It for chocolate.” “God wins because he’s bigger,/Until I digest this cracker, converting it on/Into the drabbest defecant His face will ever don.” Yum yum! A poet both coprophilic and narcissistic finds his own face reflected in some pretty dirty places. Or, as Catherine Clément has held, “To eat the placenta, one’s excrement, or one’s Dasein, to devour the loved one with kisses or to make love with God: these are some of the possible equivalences to the body’s debris. The angel is part of it, as is the beast that follows him like a shadow since Pascal united them, one behind the other in an ineluctable procession.” Or, per Demske, “I enjambed that promise/So far up the Muse’s tuchis he still shits shards of meter.” “Ick, narcotica prissy self-gratified non-prophet: AWE SHIT.”

And check it, the cover is COVERED with evil eyes, evil eyes that shit art.

So you should definitely buy this book immediately. Plus, this guy works at the Racine public library, doing the right thing. His blog is nickipoo.

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