Archive for October, 2011

My Attention Span list of best books of 2011

by on Oct.22, 2011

[Here’s the list I sent in to Steve Evans’ “Attention Span” list of the best books of the year. Obviously my aesthetic is quite different from most people who participate in this survey, but hopefully somebody will find something interesting in my list. And hopefully I’ll find something interesting from somebody else’s list (which I tend to do).]

Jenny Boully | not merely because of the unknown that was stalking toward them | Tarpaulin Sky | 2011

A poetic novel that inhabits J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy, or perhaps a novel that is haunted by the older book, or that haunts it. Much like Sara Stridsberg’s novel (see below) inhabits and is haunted by Nabokov’s text. And like Stridsberg, it’s deeply lyrical and beautiful, as well as disturbing.

Blake Butler| There is No Year | Harper Perennial | 2011

Another hallucinatory poem-as-novel, much like the Lonely Christopher (see below), as well as David Lynch’s “Inland Empire” in its striking images and scenes; and like Lynch’s movie, it’s explores the gothic trope of the “haunted house” in an age of media saturation.

Daniel Borzutzky | The Book of Interfering Bodies | Nightboat | 2011

This book begins with an epigraph from the 9/11 Commission Report: “It is therefore crucial to find a way of routinizing, even bureaucratiizing, the exercise of the imagination.” One response to this might be to write poems as far away from bureaucracies as possible (an escape into nature or some such), but Borzutzky decides to go through the giant bureaucracy of the “war on terror,” pushing the clinical, euphemistic discourses of a patriot-act government into beautiful, disturbing hallucinations.

Aimé Césaire, trans. A. James Arnold and Clayton Eshleman | Solar Throat Slashed | Wesleyan | 2011

This is a new translation of the 1948 unexpurgated edition of this book by the legendary Martinican poet Aimé Césaire, maybe the greatest poet of the 20th century. This was Cesaire’s second book, following the legendary Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, and it extend the disturbing, grotesque, beautiful visions of that book. I’m eternally grateful to Eshleman for not only writing his own fine poems but also for his translations of some of the greatest poets of the 20th century: Césaire, Artaud, Vallejo.

Feng Sun Chen | Ugly Fish | Radioactive Moat | 2011
(continue reading…)

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MLA (Montevidayan Language Association) Survey: What Would be on your Dream Syllabi?

by on Oct.22, 2011

Hey Members of the Montevidayan Language Association (MLA):


People’s imaginations seem piqued by my reading list below. A lot of us teach school, are at school,went to school, or just have some ideas about how it could be done better. Do you have a dream course in mind, or a dream reading list? Post it here so we can all go to night (dream) school!



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Working Draft for Graduate Fiction Reading List

by on Oct.21, 2011

Hey Frances Bean:

Cheer up, Frances Bean!

Here’s a working draft of the reading list for my Grad Fiction Workshop… I think it’s looking pretty good! Tho’ not necessarily in this order…

Preliminary Text: White Elephant Art. vs. Termite Art, Manny Farber

UNIT 1: What is time? (Genet, Our Lady of the Flowers; Hardt, “Prison Time”)

UNIT 2: What is a Character? (Freud, Dora; Cesar Aira, “How I became a Nun”)

UNIT 3: What is Memory? The Book as Memory Device (Camera Lucida and Theresa Cha’s Dictee)

UNIT 4: What is the Body (of the Text)? Kathy Acker Don Quixote, Leon Baham Pony Boy, Sigh

UNIT 5: What is Language? Yoko Tawada The Bath; Deleuze and Guattari’s Minor Literature

UNIT 6: What is History? Suzan Lori Parks Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, Artaud, The Theater and Its Double, Stein, Composition as Explanation, Bolano.

UNIT 7: What is Genre? Octavia Butler, China Mieville, Alyssa Nutting

UNIT 8: What is the Young Girl? Antigone, Hunger Games, Mac Wellman’s Antigone, Kate Durban, Hamletmachine by Heiner Muelller

UNIT 9: What is Money? Bataille, Expenditure; Writing and Art and Film of Andy Warhol and Jack Smith.


So that’s the plan, Superwoman. What do you think?



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Swedish queer writing: Eli Levén

by on Oct.21, 2011

In response to Megan Milk’s call for queer fiction below, I thought I would direct people with an interest in such writings to Eli Levén’s piece in the most recent Action, Yes:

Here’s the beginning:

Sebastian dances like a butterfly through his mother’s living room, dressed in one of her dresses. The choral music from the radio trickles out of the speakers like razorblades against his skin; he splits open. The dress shines just like the summer flowers that will soon bloom pink, orange, and red; it smells of her, lipstick and flowery perfume, something else, fleshy, rotting, something from within.

Here’s another excerpt:

The blue tits sing a melody that makes Sebastian dream. Everything seems to stop for a while; the park and the group of people revolve around an axis that is these strangely beautiful birds. His fake eyelashes want to grow and become a branch for the birds to sit on. They’re a rip in reality, a portal that extends far beyond the hell that this sexless maiden has ended up in. He is the smell of bubblegum, sloppily painted fingernails, and armpits like open graves. He hears a voice inside himself, which must belong to God or something, talking to him:

“Because you are not lovable, Sebastian, no one loves your awkwardly swinging hips, your greasy hair and short skirts, you look like a whore.

You must be cut back like a tree that has run too wild, you are entirely too much, you don’t have room in your starving body, your lungs can’t breathe properly, you can’t get air into them no matter how much you breathe and suck cock as if there were oxygen in their balls. You must cut yourself back and rise again.

Then you will finally realize that you are a!

Then you will finally understand that you are a…seal woman, a seal girl, a seal chick born in the winter, you must jump up out of yourself dressed in full armor, always close to the knives, your never-ending schizo-laugh; you are a black shining sun.”

He feels a hand slip into his underwear, up into his ass; it is the cock-sucking man’s boyfriend. A bottle of poppers runs down into Sebastian’s nose and burns holes in his mucus membranes; he is thrown forward onto the cold grass. Mascara runs down his cheeks; he’s crying like he’s puking, with a wish for mercy.

I love this obscene/baroque style.

Oh, I missed that it was supposed to be poetry. Oh well, I’ll just call your attention to this piece anyway….

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&now false pregnancies

by on Oct.20, 2011

(I plagiarized myself a bit. Sorry, self.) Then I presented part of these malformations at the No Future panel at &now.

Poetry as Hysterical Pregnancy

As a woman of child bearing age, I live my life inside the anxious sphere of always being potentially pregnant, potentially double, inhabited, possessed by the uncontrollable proliferation of cells inside me. I’d rather not have a baby, but I know that perversely, I really actually want to be pregnant. Ideally, this would be a pregnancy without birth. I would keep the baby inside me, protected, subconscious, forever. A pregnancy without terms. I’ve been obsessed and possessed by this idea since adolescence, which is also when I started writing poetry. To me, poetry and pregnancy are the same thing. It is about the potentiality of new life, new voice. Yet both are things I cannot allow. I will not pretend to do anything good with my poetry, which is a voice unborn even in manifestation, which will not gaze back at me in the forest of symbols, which will always be embodied without body, dark, not human. This isn’t meant to have a negative connotation, this hysterical and endless pregnancy. I think it is a metaphor of incipience, desire, possession, and incubation. It’s only termination is death, the ultimate potentiality.


(continue reading…)

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CFP for Anthology of Transgender and Genderqueer Poetry

by on Oct.20, 2011

Here’s the CFP for the trans/gq anthology that TC Tolbert and Tim Trace Peterson are putting together — more info available here.

Open Call: Anthology of Trans and Genderqueer Poetry

Dear Author,

We want your words.

What is the project: We are creating an anthology. An anthology of the best poems out there by trans and genderqueer writers and we would love to include your work in the book. Our assumption is that the writing of trans and genderqueer folks has something more than coincidence in common with the experimental, the radical, and the innovative in poetry and poetics (as we idiosyncratically define these categories), and with your help we’d like to manifest that something (or somethings) in a genderqueer multipoetics, a critical mass of trans fabulousness.

This anthology is edited by TC Tolbert and Tim Peterson (Trace)—both trans-identified poets. It will be published by EOAGH Books in early 2012, and you can bet it will be widely distributed!

We encourage submissions by people of color, people with disabilities, people educated by life or school or some of both or neither, people with no publications or a gazillion. We encourage bilingual poems, poems by trans folks who are non-native English speakers, poems that do stuff with language we couldn’t even imagine until now. Here’s the deal: we want the best poetry by trans and/or genderqueer identified writers in the galaxy. Please help us make that happen.  Send us your most phenomenal work!

Deadline for Submissions: Nov 30, 2011
What to Submit: 7-10 pages of poetry, and a prose “poetics” statement (see below) in .doc, .docx, or pdf format.  We prefer unpublished poems but will consider previously published work.  Please let us know where, when, and by whom your work has been published when you submit.  Thanks!
Where to Submit: email us at

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Leon Baham, Brains, Dead Babies (&Now Report #2)

by on Oct.20, 2011

&Now – wasn’t it awesome? I am aiming to stretch out my inspiro – and the swag I picked up (new Birkensnake! new Anna Joy Springer! Joyelle’s Necropastoral chapbook! etc) – at least until the semester’s over and I can climb into radical writing as much as I want.

Among my enthusements:

1) meeting TC Tolbert – what a pleasure! TC is, with Tim Trace Peterson, co-editing an anthology of trans and genderqueer poetry. It’s an incredible, exciting project; trans/gq folks: consider submitting!

2) meeting Leon Baham, whose chapbook Ponyboy, Sigh: A Word Problem (Birds of Lace Press) is one of the most interesting pieces of writing I’ve read recently. Didn’t catch his performance but chatted with him and c. vance at the mixer – awesome folks! Great to meet you.

(continue reading…)

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On Bei Dao's _The Answer_: A Necropastoral Political Interlude

by on Oct.20, 2011

Rodchenko's illustration for Mayakovsky's About This

Dudes, I just never get tired of Bei Dao. Never. And I never get tired of ‘Huida’ (‘The Answer’), even if this is his most famous poem, the one they chanted at Tiananmen, an Art-influence that forced him into exile. The official Poetry Foundation translation is here but I like this translation from Maya Kovskaya’s (dead?) trilingual blog, ‘About This’ (A Mayakovsky Reference?! ), below.

In this poem, the abyme/  mise-en-abyme stretches not downwards into hell but is inverted upwards into the sky, where ‘inverted crooked reflections of the dead’ form a kind of anachronistic hieroglyphic, and where the future is inseparable from the past, pictographs and staring eyes– the future seems hungry with its ‘staring eyes’, ready to feed on the present– but it also seems already dead, all eyes, staring like concentration camp victims, already harmed, ready to form a supermortal undead army with the past. Meanwhile our speaker rejects rationalism, truisims, conventional frames for marking reality as reality and invites bitter water– poisoned water, sewage wormwood, apocalyptic water– to flow into him. The present will have to be eaten away, degraded, eroded for the two ghost armies to converge.

Although the ultimate vision of this poem may be positive, allowing for new summits and a kind of future, I see it as a future where that summit will be worn down by the ocean, a kind of innundation,a necropastoralic amphibian floodplain through which ghost species walk.

Here’s the poem:  (continue reading…)

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"He's Been My Secret Friend…": Patti Smith and Henning Mankell in Conversation

by on Oct.20, 2011

I love Patti Smith.

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Pageantry and Performance: Jiyoon Lee (&Now Report #1)

by on Oct.19, 2011

It seems like the unofficial theme of this year’s &Now conference in San Diego was pagaentry and performances. Or at least that was my experience of the festival.

One of the great single performances of the entire conference was Notre Dame MFA candidate Jiyoon Lee’s performance with her Japanese Harajuko outfit, digital english-teacher, her pling-plong instruments and her tacky computer programs. The whole thing ended in a truly explosive duet in which Jiyoon screeched out a poem in Korean through a little toy megaphone duct-taped to her face while on the computer screen, Laura Palmer said that her arms bent back (over and over, foregrounding the mechanicalness of her movements):

This kind of performance runs totally counter to the many calls for a puristic “e-literature” or Katherine Hayles’s “electronic literature.” Jiyoon did not use any code. Nor was the computer programs sleek or interactive. The (orientalist) kitsch of the foreigner and the foreigner’s shitty language infected the supposedly high-tech computer technology and made it all a pageant – fake, fabulous and affective.

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Who Ordered the Hamburger with AIDS?

by on Oct.19, 2011

Ok, driving our kids to daycare, I started thinking about this old clip again:

In my brain, little stunted neurons are building filagrees connecting this to many of the panels we heard at &NOW, maybe &NOW itself,  the idea of a meat-disease-planet made of dark-matter, that is, of stigma, where everything comes with AIDS, and revelation of this messianic state comes via a righteous, violent, gorgeous pissed off short order cook who announces an arrival that’s already arrived.  I’m a congenitally allergic to righteousness but lately I think I like the total art of messianism and I especially like it when it comes with AIDS– and where what comes ‘with AIDS’ is an anachronistic  place-time of survivable abundance made of obscurity and stigma into which a glamorous art-violence transports the unready.

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Huffington Post on Lara Glenum and Abe Smith

by on Oct.19, 2011

Seth Abramson writes in Huffington Post:

4. Maximum Gaga, Lara Glenum (Action Books, 2008). How to describe this book: Chilling? Grotesque? Eccentric? Sublime? Ground-breaking? All of the above. One exemplar of the subgenre known as the “gurlesque,” Maximum Gaga tackles uncomfortable topics with the sort of energy and zeal that’s impossible to bottle. There’s a lot going on in these poems, and much of it has to do with gender roles and relations, the relation of sex and violence and terror, and a robust challenge to artificial limitations on what is “appropriate” in polite discourse generally or poetry specifically. These poems will shock, disgust, and intrigue in equal measure, yet none of these reader responses are cheaply earned: Glenum vividly depicts a moral universe in which all normative conduct has been suspended or indeed wiped from the collective subconscious. The result is a world-from-whole-cloth, and a series of interactions between fictional characters that can’t help but shed a troubling light on contemporary mores. An excerpt (from “Post Orifice”): “My normopath neighbor (a.k.a. “the Rooster”) / started maling / protoplasmic goo into my bone pagoda / He began maling me spermatazoid valentines // He was going postal / He was maling all over me // In the male I discovered coupons / for torch songs & a notice / for Mr. Humpty’s Charity Ball / In the male / I received an invitation to a language-den / of squealing verbs / tied to signposts…”

7. Whim Man Mammon, Abraham Smith (Action Books, 2007). It helps, in reading Whim Man Mammon, if you’ve heard Abraham Smith read his poetry live. Fortunately, in the Information Age all that requires is typing in his name on YouTube. Certainly, Smith has one of the most distinctive deliveries in contemporary American poetry, which wouldn’t mean nearly as much if the poetry weren’t just as distinctive. If you, like many poetry readers, open up each book of poetry asking yourself (and the book itself), “What am I going to see and hear here that I’ve never seen or heard before? How is this poet’s voice and style and form a unique literary presence?,” this book, and this poet, is for you. Smith’s all-lower-case, highly-performative, propulsive, almost breathless lines practically leap off the page: You can almost smell, taste, and touch every word and image. Smith doesn’t believe in periods, as you’d expect in a book whose poems feel like living entities confined only ephemerally to print. The rural bohemian landscape Smith evokes is rarely captured in poetry; it’s not one you’ll want to leave, though, because there’s an integrity to the lived experience found here that bears any reader’s devotion of time and attention. An excerpt (from “Thickets of Sleeves”): “sparrow I am no / intense fan of // o you rang a bell / searching / the penny dish / for a dime / is old hat and down // I am just going to / meek cat one / little mewling bomb // I am no ox / not parapet / no fancy // no moon cow / treating / moos to / manacles // another dead level / ground swell / of shivering // I shall stitch / a hat / in the shape / of how you feel…”

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Helsinki, Peter Richards

by on Oct.18, 2011

Erin Lyndal Martin writes a review of Peter Richards’ “Helsinki” in the new issue of Sink Review:

Brief excerpt:

This beauty amid the strange, liminal narrative arc is strangely evocative of the cinematography in Blade Runner. Both feature the same moments of pure beauty in an otherwise dystopic landscape. Just as there are brilliant sunsets and cityscapes in the film, Richards has his sad virgins warbling in a tower among the death and decay that permeate the book. It is perhaps this comparison that helps the reader situate Helsinki as, in many ways, a cyberpunk novel. There is nothing explicitly futuristic about the book, yet it would not be surprising to find out that this story takes place in the distant future. The instability of the “I” and the Julia character points to a universe in which multiple realities occur simultaneously, a frequent theme in cyberpunk. Further, the story is rendered in verse, not prose, creating the sense of a choppy novel. That sense is heightened by the poems not having any titles. Also, the book further evokes the “choppy novel” sensibility by being divided into several arbitrary-seeming subsections.

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