"Brad Pitt ejaculating and on fire": Ronaldo Wilson's and Christian Peet's Poems About Brad Pitt

by on Dec.22, 2010

I’ve been thinking about Brad Pitt today. What are the associations with Brad Pitt? Just a handsome actor, or is there something else? I’ve been thinking about Brad Pitt’s appearance in a couple of recent poetry collections, Ronaldo Wilson’s Narrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and the White Man (U of Pitt) and Christian Peet’s Pluto: Never Forget (Interbirth Books).

In WIlson’s book, Pitt figures prominently in one of the first (and it seems, one of the most important) pieces, in which the brown boy elaborates on various violent sexual fantasies involving Kevin Bacon and Brad Pitt:

“Bacon has been beaten with broken bottles and has had his chest smashed in with a large flaming couch section. A mob of whites poured gasoline all over his chiseled stomach and then lit him afire. Brad Pitt lay next to him, his stomach breahtless and glistening in the flame’s light. […] The bodies did not burn. They did not char or turn black. They simply shined in sweat.[…] Brad Pitt’s dying, and how he eventually turned over on his stomach, his penis turned down and scrape-fucking the street – Brad Pitt ejaculating and on fire, the liquid shooting out of him as he looked up, staggered to his feet to let out something between groaning and laughter out to the black sky. Though Pitt had been beaten with bottles and wood, it was not clear where he was hurt, only that he was a screaming surface, dripping with lit gasoline and semen.”

In my previous post about Ronaldo’s two books, I called Brad Pitt and Kevin Bacon “stunt doubles.” I think the reason for this is the way they seem to stand in for something else. Like Wojnarowicz’s Rimbaud-mask-photographs of underground NYC, Pitt and Bacon seem to cover up something. They are “screaming surface[s],” rather than people. In response to this violence and violent fantasies, they do not break down (even a “couch section” going into Bacon’s torso doesn’t seem to harm him all that much), rather they issue forth fluids (sweat, semen, language, even gasoline – perhaps coming from the angry lynching mob, but also perhaps issued forth from the screaming surfaces).

Joyelle (from her post on David W.):

“I’ve been thinking lately about how wounds are a type of media—they are a spectacle on the body, they mark a site of violence (they are a memorial site?), they present a surface or image of uncertain depth and mark both a site of entry and of exit.”

One interesting thing about this fantasy about Pitt and Bacon is that, in difference to many many pieces in this book, there are no wounds on their bodies. In many of the pieces, people have rather grotesque bodies, but here, the bodies remain pristine. Maybe that’s why they have the feeling of a stunt double or a mask. A covering up of the truly violated body.

Yet in the way they issue forth all this semen/gasoline etc, Bacon and Pitt appear very much like the wounds Joyelle has been writing about, these wound/eyes that issue forth art. They are both “surfaces” (like masks) and of “uncertain depth.”

These media bodies generate what I called an “ambient violence” (which I also took from Joyelle!). In this ambience, race becomes displaced – the blackness becomes the street, the black lynching victims become stars, the erotics go all over the place – leading to that “scrape-fucking” of the street, which is its own (black) surface. Blackness is of course totally spectacular in our culture.

Brad Pitt makes another guest appearance – in Christian Peet’s Pluto: Never Forget. In this poem Brad Pitt seems to give a very revealing interview with Entertainment Weekly while drinking malt liquor:

“”Ask yourself, honestly,” entreated the salt-of-teh-earth celebrity, “does inflation in the early stages of the universe mean that they universe mean that they universe must be expanding at close to the critical rate at which it would just avoid re-collapse? F*ck it. That’s what I say…. What does it matter? I don’t care whether numbers are social or anti-social entities anymore than I care about my ex. What keeps me up night is wondering whether my own dog, my girl, my puppy-love, who rode beside me on every beer run, slept beside me every night – whether she would even recognize me three years later. In my nightmares, she just stands there, hair up, next to what’s-his-name. The both of them greet me with what that Dog Whisperer guy calls ‘the back reserved for strangers.'”

He ends the interview by passing out and uttering the word “stanines.”

Christian’s piece seems in some ways to be the opposite of Ronaldo’s piece, but in some ways rather strongly related. Again Pitt seems strangely to be a stunt-double (which is strange for a star, who usually uses stunt doubles, not the other way around) for someone else – a mask of sorts. The words just seem too strange to be coming from Pitt. But in the end of the book, Peet reveals that the words are indeed collaged from various sources (including Stephen Hawking’s book on time); so it’s not perhaps Pitt who is a mask, but the language that infests him. He is both ventriloquist and mask.

Peet also mentions that this project (The Nines) is in many ways a response to Bush’s War of Deception – a “protest” against the way language was used by Bush to bring the US into war. Bush of course was someone who seemed to ventriloquize a euphemistic language. The difference is of course that Bush did this to give cover to a massive war, while Brad Pitt here ventriloquizes a kind of private space.

But like said, I’m interested in what people have to say about Brad Pitt. Is it just that he’s the most famous, most handsome actor? Or is it something else?

Also: that photograph I found is very strange. In the first photo his head looks like a mask, and in the second he looks like a cut-out. In all photos of him on the Internet, he bares his torso to the photographers’ evil eyes.

14 comments for this entry:
  1. Johannes

    I also wanted to say something about “stanines” – a statistical, dry, abstract term that seems to me more like a stuttered-up versions of “stains.”


  2. It's All Brad Pitt » Blog Archive » “Brad Pitt ejaculating and on fire”: Ronaldo Wilson's and …

    […] post: “Brad Pitt ejaculating and on fire”: Ronaldo Wilson's and … Related Posts:Famous People Pictures: Brad pitt Friends . brad pitt tatoos … Brad pitt […]

  3. Lucas de Lima

    To me Brad Pitt represents a kind of bland hotness that invites violent projection. There are no cracks in his body or presentation, not like Tom Cruise and his Scientology antics. He even got out of the Jennifer vs Angelina spectacle unscathed. His life as we know it is all stunt-doubling to begin with; there is no “real” Brad.

  4. adam strauss

    Bland hotness is an interesting term because it embodies contradiction via hot being an opposite of bland (sorry to be poedantic, but I try to avoid declarations which I don’t explain the logtic for). The right-side photo is, I think, delicious: cute and sexy smacked into a package–mmmmm. I prefer Pitt shirtless; street snapshots in tabloids of him and Jolie just don’t do much for me.

  5. Johannes

    The one on the left looks strangely doctored, and that’s why I put it in there.


  6. adam strauss

    Apologies for the typos!

  7. adam strauss

    The one on the left also looks a bit a la Swayze or however his last name is spelled.

  8. Johannes

    From a different era for sure.

  9. adam strauss

    Bad haircut–yummy arms! Tho maybe from another angle the haircut is more happening!

    This isn’t much related, but I love how free/non purist you seem to feel regarding translation, with your advocating getting away from the idea that translation is pure, correct etc. I don’t, tho, feel that some people’s insistence that feeling a full study of a poet can’t really happen in translation is a way of trying to keep english pure (for one thing it etymologically already isn’t), but an attempt at respecting integrity/not being colonial/imperialist. Frankly, I find your take wayyyyyyy more exciting/inspiring with its leap into the fire permission.

    Question: does translation lend itself to an image centered poetics as opposed to sound or syntax? Do you think your advocacy of the image may be linked to your interest in translated lit?

  10. Johannes

    Thanks for the compliment. Yes, I am aware of the colonialist critique, and it’s valid, but it will take a bit more than a comment to explain why I don’t feel troubled by this. Maybe I”ll write a post soon.

    I think translation/emigration/bilingualism has led me to a language-centered poetics… I’m very interested in sound and syntax and images (but maybe most blind images).


  11. Johannes

    Also: “bland hotness” seems to have some of the characteristics of David W’s Rimbaud mask – flat seer?


  12. adam strauss

    “Blind images”–interesting idea! Does this relate to the idea of an image which doesn’t much exist aside from language? An image one cannot just go outside one’s apartment and point to and perhaps even pick up? I am very interested in what I’d call faux ekphrastic–or poems which discuss a world like it’s art, or art in the process of being made, but which of course does not and likely never will hang in a gallery–or to write poems which create canvases so that one has a painting by the end, but once again a painting which doesn’t exist in the “real world.”

  13. Johannes

    Yes, we’re probably thinking about something similar. I like to use blind or negative images, or images that are not precisely an image but a proliferation of images (coming as it were out from a wound). And, yes, I’m interested in the kind of ekphrastic thing you’re talking about.


  14. CHRISTIAN PEET » Blog Archive » Assorted

    […] Plans to finish watching Too Young to Die?–yes, a movie with a question mark in the title, and perhaps the worst title ever–a 1990 made-for-TV movie starring Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis. Oh, yes. It’s all there. The year. The made-for-TV. The based-on-a-true-story. The working-class sex, drugs, rape, and murder. The denim jackets. This promised to be my kind of schlock. Unaware that it existed until it suddenly popped up on Netflix, I started watching it late last night but couldn’t finish it (for reasons other than the movie’s failings) and am looking forward to returning to it. I experienced the whole can’t-look-away-from-the-car-crash phenomenon, but I was also flat-out mesmerized by pre-Cape Fear, 17-year-old Juliette Lewis’s performance. I admit I would watch Lewis audition for the role of a singing banana in a yogurt commercial, but nonetheless I was particularly delighted to catch such an early performance of hers–and it doesn’t disappoint. Sometimes I thought that the worst among the movie’s many failings is simply that there are any actors in it besides Lewis–the movie would have fared better on a tiny stage in nowhereville, with just a monologue by Lewis, maybe three props and a spotlight on her 174 faces. Not to say that I don’t like Brad Pitt. I actually do, quite a bit, I just don’t have the heart to tell Johannes. […]