Archive for March, 2011

A Thank You to Comics

by on Mar.31, 2011

Because comic strips and comic books were in childhood (and remain today) such a great love of mine, I was so happy to be invited by Ki Russell and Chun Lee of Southwestern Review to have one of the chapters of The Complete Tales of Lucy Gold be given to an artist for a graphic novel themed issue. They have kindly given me permission to place the images here, as the journal is distributed mainly in-house at ULL. I had no contact with the artist, Jeff Darwin, for this, which also lends the experience a certain supernatural glow: like having my mind read in pictures.
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Art is Crime

by on Mar.31, 2011

[When I was down in Louisiana over spring break, this undergraduate student James Bellard got picked up by campus police because a copy of his poem imitating my poems had come to the attention of the authorities, so I asked him to write up his own version of the events.]

Luck of the Irish

It was late at night when I got the e-mail for the assignment to write an imitation of Johannes Göransson. I was sick and really didn’t feel like writing a poem that I wouldn’t finish till 11:30 that night, but I hated being sick more and to change my routine would be to let the virus win. So, I read a few of Johannes’s poems. I picked out some elements of his style (killing, doll penis’s, and demons to name a few). The overall feel of his style was that it was quite disturbing. I set out to make my imitation even more disturbing—like the ramblings of a schizophrenic before some terrible act—and after the events that transgressed shortly thereafter, I’d say I’d surpassed my own expectations in that. This is the poem:

Dear, Lucifer

i opened up my refrigerator, and thought, who should i kill today, or maybe someone should kill me because something really only has meaning when its wrapped up, because there needs to be a moment that sUMmarizes it all up. so give me the super-freaky super-nunchuck from outer-space. let the death-scythe Carve my pain into my soul. but i didn’t have a death-scythe in my refrigerator, only a bottle of tooth-paste that i could use to slowly slit my wrist, only I couldn’t do it because that wouldn’t be as sexy… not that i want to be dead, but to die. Hey, look there’s a doll in here with a penis.

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Totalitarianism and Kitsch

by on Mar.31, 2011

[From Crispin Sartwell:]

“Totalitarianism – whether Hitler’s, Stalin’s, Suharto’s, or Saddam Hussein’s – is not only a political system; it is an aesthetic, a style of art. Or: aesthetics is politics; the way things look is an aspect of what they are. Forms of power generate symbols, styles, visual vocabularies. As we tear down the facade of Saddam’s Iraq, we’re getting further insight into the aesthetic principles of classical twentieth-century dictatorship.
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Fashion and Poets

by on Mar.31, 2011

Lisa L. Moore blogs about Kate Durbin and Gregory Orr’s ambivalent feelings about the relationship between fashion and poetry:

“Throwing fashion, a business run by gay men that caters to women, into the mix, risks undoing all that good masculinizing cultural labor. You know what? Too bad. And go Kate, Marina, Linda, and all the other genre-mixing, high-low culture-combining, irreverent and brilliant women artists who make David Orr and his ilk nervous.”

This relates not just to the gurlesque anthology’s invasion of “unsuspecting” readers with their “lowbrow” (C-level) poetry, but also to a recent post I wrote about the horror of ornamentality (which is always “excessive”) in modernism.

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Writing the Love of Boys

by on Mar.31, 2011

Sometime Monteviday-ean Jeffrey Angles has a new book out from U of Minnesota Press, Writing the Love of Boys.

Here’s the description from Amazon:

“Despite its centuries-long tradition of literary and artistic depictions of love between men, around the fin de siècle Japanese culture began to portray same-sex desire as immoral. Writing the Love of Boys looks at the response to this mindset during the critical era of cultural ferment between the two world wars as a number of Japanese writers challenged the idea of love and desire between men as pathological.

Jeffrey Angles focuses on key writers, examining how they experimented with new language, genres, and ideas to find fresh ways to represent love and desire between men. He traces the personal and literary relationships between contemporaries such as the poet Murayama Kaita, the mystery writers Edogawa Ranpo and Hamao Shiro, the anthropologist Iwata Jun’ichi, and the avant-garde innovator Inagaki Taruho.
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PJ Harvey's Let England Shake

by on Mar.31, 2011

Is anyone else as obsessed as I am with PJ Harvey’s new album Let England Shake?  It is a soundtrack to Western decadence.  It is historical poetry about what happens when empires fatten, slacken, and die.  It is necropolitical.  A war necropastoral.  In “The Glorious Land,” the album offers the only possible caption to the photos of dead bodies taken by the Kill Team of American soldiers who murdered, among others, an innocent 15-year-old Afghan and kept his severed finger:

“What is the glorious fruit of our land?
Its fruit is deformed children.
What is the glorious fruit of our land?
Its fruit is deformed children.
What is the glorious fruit of our land?
Its fruit is orphaned children.
What is the glorious fruit of our land?
Its fruit is deformed children.” (continue reading…)

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How is love like a corpse?

by on Mar.29, 2011

A prose translation by G.J. Racz of a sonnet by Lope De Vega:

To feel faint, daring, furious, surly, tender, generous, evasive, encouraged, mortal, like a corpse, alive, loyal, a traitor; a coward and also brave. To feel disoriented and ill at ease away from your beloved to show yourself happy, sad, humble, proud, angry, courageous and in cowardly disappointment, to drink poison as if a sweet potion, to forsake gain in favor of harm, to believe that heaven in a hell can fit, to give up life and soul for inevitable frustration, all of this is love; he who has tasted it knows it well.

It’s part of Yale’s incredible Margellos World Republic of Letters series, a translation series that “identifies works of cultural and artistic significance previously overlooked by translators and publishers, canonical works of literature and philosophy needing new translations, as well as important contemporary authors whose work has not yet been translated into English.”

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For those of you in the Amherst area this weekend

by on Mar.29, 2011

Please come experience my poetry live @ Flying Object on Sunday, with Dredd Foole. Should be a good time — here’s a sneak peak of what you’re in for:

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Genres that turn on you

by on Mar.29, 2011

I don’t at all like the label “young adult” literature—offspring of consumer capitalism, ever ready to classify and to categorize and to market. It’s a developmental psych marker that envisions a reader, reading time, and reading economy that’s linear, sequential, stable, straight, contained, controlled. But what if these want to contest sequentiality, and/or perform temporal drags, and/or anachronasm, and/or leak?

Margaret Anne Doody writes that it is “unfair” to keep the books of L.M. Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables series, “pent up within categories marked Children’s Books and Female Books and Canadian Literature.” I found it very interesting that Montgomery unknowingly modelled her heroine after a picture of the artists’ model, Evelyn Nesbit. Nesbit’s husband allegedly abused her (their earliest sexual encounter, Wikipedia hints, was him forcing himself on her in an “isolated German castle”) and certainly killed her ex-lover, later divorcing Nesbit. The scandal caused by the murder case trial haunted Nesbit: suicide attempts, failed career.

Surely the narrative-world of Anne’s occult double (glam/awful) is one clue as to why Montgomery’s narrative-worlds must escape an accounting-for in the expected categories. Reader, take note. Young adult literature tied to its occult doubles can (will) become a channel for abnormalizing, paranormalizing genre practices.

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"Absolutely Gorgeous Women": Lowbrow Art and Female Castration

by on Mar.29, 2011

Some weeks ago, I found myself involved in a brief Facebook exchange with a Hi-Fructose-featured artists Conrad Roset and some of his audience. I, like many others, was drawn to his visually striking and technically proficient explorations of the dynamics between sexuality and violence, power and submission, pleasure and pain. The post received a record number of “likes” on Hi-Fructose’ Facebook page.
If the gushfest in the comment stream is in any way indicative of the public response, the audience mostly agreed with the magazine’s effusive write-up (authored by Zach Tutor): “Roset fills his pieces with absolutely gorgeous women, who glow with a sexual intensity so thick that it can only be described as something created from passion itself. Their looks are mysteriously endearing, catapulting the viewer into an ecstasy only rivaled by the endlessly bright colors Roset splashes carefully amongst the scenes.”

Lovely. Now, once we’re all done jerking off, let’s take a second look. I, for one, am much less enthusiastic about these portraits. To begin with, I find the nudes woefully traditional and uninspired. Despite their (not terribly convincing) facial expressions, their poses are centuries-old clichés of female submission to the male gaze, a phrase that is itself quite worn-out by now yet sadly fitting in this context. Most of the drawings are carefully orchestrated with the use of composition and color to showcase the breasts. Perhaps there’s nothing so wrong with that, except that they also prudishly and very systematically expunge the genital area. These are castrated women, deprived of any capacity for pleasure, without which their defiance and pain loses all its supposed sexual intensity. We may call it the mermaid syndrome: any sexual response is wholly focused in the male viewer; the subject itself has no capacity for it.

I see this becoming somewhat of a trend in Hi-Fructose’ brand of lowbrow art. To be sure, the insistence on unbridled viewing pleasure is one of the defining characteristics of the movement, but so has been its playful and subversive exploration of gender and sexuality. In this case, though, it seems that a subculture that purports to spurn traditional hierarchies is opening a backdoor to patriarchy. Is it a ruse devised to engage patriarchy in kinky anal play? We can only hope.

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On Wisconsin, Lucky Number 7: Daniel Khalastchi

by on Mar.28, 2011

Do not ask, for whom does this glare toll? It tolls for thee.

Hell no, we ain’t done with it, and neither is Daniel Khalastchi. Here is his poem in which the events in Wisconsin perform a kind or erasure/eat thru on an (off-topic) article by Nicholas Delbanco in the Writer’s Chronicle.

Of writing the poem, Khalastchi notes, “I typically stray away from writing overtly politically charged poems–but I’ve learned with this poem (as we all do?) that there are somethings, no matter how hard we try, our bodies simply won’t allow us to tune out.”

Collective Security:

In reading is the historical. See one
and equally strange these imagined

futures when each not call they
find a phone. I’m struck in the

forecast. In these pregnant does
get pregnant, a medical conscious

anachronism. The mouth has
become but wasn’t intended to

remain pertinent. Today surfaced
again price of oil and boycotts

collapse, the trouble with
America. Alas, the ring of

truth—oppositions have dulled and
lost their ideals. Particularly

here. Preserve what went before: I
never really saw my heroine. True

enough. Of the time and place she
was kind of revolutionary. I

should have been this specific
family. National case accident—

seventy-six years, any rate granted,
possibly more than the back, the

civil, the emergence at odds.

Born and raised in Iowa, Daniel Khalastchi is a first-generation Iraqi Jewish American. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recent fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, he is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Marquette University. His first collection of poetry, Manoleria (2011), was awarded the Tupelo Press/Crazyhorse First Book Prize, and his poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Kenyon Review, jubilat, MAKE, and Denver Quarterly. He lives in Milwaukee where he is also the co-editor of Rescue Press.

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