by Lucas de Lima on Apr.06, 2011
To celebrate National Poetry Month the right way, Bhanu Kapil pursues the question of shame among women writers of color in a Harriet post brilliantly titled “Asian Vampire Sensuality and Other Problems”:
“There’s that, and also shame: the complicated mixture of shame, vulnerability and aggression that comes with —
With what? I can’t really talk about it. Without exposing my own body to view.”
Bhanu nevertheless offers performance as a way of working out this feeling so that the body is “in a different time.” She evokes “[t]he scream that comes at the beginning of life. Or love.”
This sounds to me like a purposeful reorientation of intensity—or in Bhanu’s words, a recirculation and redistribution of shame—that opens the latter up as an aperture to different spatiotemporal planes. Different sites of the body.
Bhanu’s discussion brings to mind many of the thoughts on mediumicity explored by Joyelle, Johannes, and perhaps others on this blog. For instance, is ambient violence also ambient shame? Is the text by a marginalized writer sometimes a medium of ambient violence/shame if such violence/shame is that which “runs from the book to the reader as redundancy, repetition, and coercion”?
I would think yes. What is more shameful, in form, than taking up those three strategies in your writing? Joyelle, in the post I quoted above, discusses the strategies in terms of Johannes’ A New Quarantine Will Take My Place. I also see them in the responses to my “Art is of the Animal” post from way back. In the comments stream, the respondents seem to reenact, rechannel, and recirculate shame through feral origin myths. The redundant, repetitive, and coercive use of “I come from [x animal territory]” thus performs a kind of originary and feral scream of shame.
But this homecoming, if you will, is at once a birth and a death. If the writer is somehow recomposing his/her body’s origins through the mediumicity of shame, he/she is also suspending the body’s limits through a radical and deathly vulnerability to others. The body becomes a medium of what Zizek might call the ‘forced choice’ of shameful writing: “the subject must freely choose the community to which he belongs, independent of his choice—he must choose what is already given to him.”
When I write through shame, which by definition implicates notions of sociality and community, I feel I’m probably making just such a forced choice. Perhaps that is also what Bhanu’s evocation of “vampire sensuality” points to: the vampire can’t help but make leaky orifices, but become a leaky orifice, when he/she acts on the bloodthirst already given to him/her.
Happy National Poetry Month!