Archive for January, 2012

Berryman, the despair of

by on Jan.08, 2012

On January 7th, 1972, John Berryman jumped off the Washington avenue bridge at the University of Minnesota campus to his death.

Lucas de Lima and I visited the bridge, which we often cross mindlessly, and watched a potato make ripples in the water in homage to Berryman:

He wrote once, “It seems to be dark all the time. / I have difficulty walking.”

It reminded me of Justine of Melancholia, who was frightened of her inability to “walk right.”

They sank into dark earth.

Recently, a friend sent me a quote from a Dylan Thomas letter. The following is excerpted from her email:

“This is from a 1934 letter in which he takes up the voices of several people including a bumpkin poetess, and a tramway union (?) but this, as far as I can tell, is back in his own voice:

Some sweet little child will develop a sore throat one of these days, or suddenly his lung will break up like a plate (not a Bell plate.) So much for the carnivorous. One day I shall undoubtedly turn into a potato. You won’t like me then. And, on that day of Transformation, I certainly shan’t like you, salt rasher of bacon!” (continue reading…)

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"It Seems as if the Saint Has Lifted Her Skirt": Hilda Hilst on her obscene book

by on Jan.07, 2012

The Late, Great Hilda Hilst

In her comments to my last post, Lara raised some interesting points about the sexual politics of Hilda Hilst’s The Pink Notebook of Lori Lamby, a book that initially shocked her critics and readers in light of her much tamer earlier work.  Back in 1990, when the book was first published, Hilst gave a great interview on Brazilian TV.  I transcribed and translated the whole thing because of how ably I think Hilst navigates the kinds of ethical and representational issues that keep coming up on Montevidayo.  Her responses, it seems to me, get to the heart of what’s at stake in excessive writing.  Hilst mentions Clarice Lispector, Genet, and the “nostalgia for sanctity” that obscene writing provokes–itself a dazzling response to anyone who might call her nihilistic (not that Lara is doing this!).

Hilda, is Lori Lamby an act of rebellion?

It’s an act of aggression.  It’s not a book—it’s a banana that I’m giving to editors, to the publishing industry, because for 40 years I worked seriously, I had an excess of seriousness, of lucidity, and absolutely nothing happened.  And now I think people need to wake up.  It’s very important, if a person has been sleeping for too long, you suddenly commit a vigorous act so that the person gets up.

Does this country not like seriousness?

No, it doesn’t.  You’re not supposed to think in Portuguese.  It’s good to think in English, in German—people accept it.  In Portuguese, to think is something horrible, and so editors hate you, they spit in your face.  That’s what they did to me for 40 years.  The only editor that didn’t spit in my face was Massao Ohno, except that Massao Ohno loves to keep his books at home, he loves to look at the books.  So, if there’s no distribution, there are no sales.  I love him, he’s a great artist, a great visual artist, but he’s in love with books and stores them in his bedroom, some even under his bed!

How was Lori Lamby received by critics and readers?  Has it already provoked them?

People think Lori Lamby is totally repugnant.  And I think that’s exactly the effect I wanted.  But I personally think Lori Lamby is a puerile book, an infantile book, it’s porno for kids.  Now I’m going to publish a porno for adults called Contos d’Escarnio:  Textos Grotescos.  I hope to become an excellent pornographer. (continue reading…)

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A criticism toward open-source Muppets…

by on Jan.06, 2012

Holding back the Muppets?

Media reactions to the new Muppet movie had me thinking it might be nothing more than a passingly enjoyable trip down nostalgia lane, and it did have its moments (80’s Robot, holding a serving tray with cans of “New” Coke and Tab, was a nice touch). However, after taking my kids to see it, I came away unexpectedly juiced at the cynicism underlying this extension of the Muppet franchise.

Before I get too far into my analysis, understand that I am a lifelong Muppets fan. I grew up with the Muppets and my dingy green stuffed Kermit, with velcro tabs on all four flippers, consistently rated as one of my favorite bedtime friends. (I also had a Roowlf the Dog, but both ended up in garage sale heaven.) Needless to say, I have fond memories and, as an adult, an appreciation for folks like Jim Henson and crew taking something as common and everyday and, yes, as passé, as puppets and turning them into something more than they had perhaps ever been.
(continue reading…)

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Dispatch from Brazil #1: Hilda Hilst Wrote Porn for Children

by on Jan.06, 2012

I just got back from a 10-day vacation in Brazil, where I got to take in a few cultural delights in between family visits. In the spirit of Johannes and Joyelle’s reports from abroad, I’ll be sharing my discoveries with you, Montevidayans, virtual denizens of the Southern Cone.

First up: The brilliant Hilda Hilst’s The Pink Notebook of Lori Lamby, a work once classified by its author as a “banana” instead of a “book.” Hilst, according to this interview, thought of the novel as “porn for children.” Compared to the normal porn you’d find on somewhere like do sex video, the novel is rather different in tone. Lori Lamby, the 8-year-old narrator whose surname plays off the Portuguese word for lick (lamber), is the decidedly monstrous lovechild of Lolita and Humbert Humbert who writes in diary format about her sexual conquests/exploitation. The artwork, provided by Millór Fernandez in the style of storybooks, alone suggests Lori’s insatiable appetite and unsentimental education:

Here’s a rough translation I’ve penned to give an idea of how Lori Lamby slides in and out of art, language, pedophilia, and prostitution in a comically (!) libertine fashion:

I’m eight years old. I’m going to tell everything the way I know it because Mommy and Daddy told me to tell it the way I know it. Now I have to talk about the young man who came here and Mommy told me now that he’s not so young, and so I lay in my little bed so pretty, all rose-colored. And Mommy could only buy this bed after I started doing what I’m going to talk about. I lay down with my doll and the man who is not so young asked me to take off my underwear. I took it off. Then he asked me to open my legs and I lay down and I did it. Then he started to touch my thigh that is really soft and fat, and asked me to open my little legs. I really like it when people put their hands on my thigh. Then the man asked me to be quiet as a mouse, he was going to kiss me on my little thing. He started to lick me the way a cat licks, really slow, and squeezed my bumbum nice. I stayed really quiet because it’s delicious and I wanted him to keep licking the whole time, but he took out his big thing, the piupiu, and the piupiu was very big, the size of a corn ear. Mommy said it couldn’t be that big, but she didn’t see it, and who knows if daddy’s piupiu is smaller, the size of a smaller ear, maybe a ear of green corn. (continue reading…)

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Science Fiction Movies About Exile

by on Jan.05, 2012

[For some reason I wanted to write the script for a sci-fi movie for Tarkovsky to make from behind/beneath the grave, but instead I ended up writing a blog post. It’s obviously inspired by the Kim Hyesoon interview from the other day.]


The movie takes place in a hospital which seems to be snowing on the inside. The movie tries to tell me that Art will make me whole again but I don’t believe it. It’s snowing inside as if we live inside a television with no reception. Art will shatter me. Art will shatter me. I will have bleeder’s disease in the snow. In the movie the hares are piled up in the birth room. The pink ice-cream is melting on my body in the cyanide room, where I go to keep track of my postmodern condition. On the television there’s a train accident. The kind that burns. I decorate the tubes with crayons. I’m a child afterall. Art’s child.

No, the movie has to be much more violent than that.

When I first came to the US I was met by brutality, tackled into lockers and pushed into tables.

When I first made a science fiction movie the soundtrack was the sound of rabbits being used for decorative purposes in the snow.

I’m always afraid in the snow.

But I don’t want to screen out the violence that is always here.

I don’t want to pretend that Abu Ghraib isn’t part of our culture – as art, as crime, as hickup, as dance routine, as love letters, as explosions in the personality market.

In the personality market I am a zombie: ugly because I am covered with melting wax while impersonating a radio (anachronism is the sling-king).

In Abu Ghraib, I am one of the most ornate torturers: the one with the cracked vase and the black lipstick.

The one holding an ornamental knife from the plundered museum.

The one holding the knife to a rabbit in the fashion shoot for the latest dictator.

The one who runs and runs through the hallway but always end up in the showers with the man wrapped in tarpaulin.

In tarpaulin I am projecting “Battleship Potemkin.”

In Strindberg’s “Fadren” (anachronism is horror movies), art distorts the son and the mother has to envelop the father in an elaborate play, which undoes him, turns him into a son of sorts: sucking the tits of a nurse while tied up on her lap.

Her milky fluid is the milky fluid of art.
(continue reading…)

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Picture of the Day: Mourners

by on Jan.05, 2012

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Dennis Cooper

by on Jan.05, 2012

There is a super interview with Dennis Cooper over on HTML Giant.


It’s not so much that I want to talk to readers about violence but rather that I want to simulate what violence makes me think and feel and imagine inside them. It’s more like I’m trying to use prose as the material for a designer drug that will work with readers’ eyes the way, oh, blotter acid would work with their tongues.

It seems this answer about violence adds an interesting vector to the common discussion about violence and art on Montevidayo. In particular I think it taps into the discussion of the violence of art (as opposed to the violence about art).

Megan Milks has written about Cooper in the past here (in response to the discussion about violence in David Lynch’s work).

Cooper just published a book called The Marbled Swarm which I heartily recommend!

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The Volta

by on Jan.05, 2012

There’s a new online journal started by Joshua Marie Wilkinson and others called The Volta. It’s got interviews, reviews, videos and such. Check it out here.

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"The map of modernism will never be the same!": Burning City (edited by Jed Rasula and Tim Conley)

by on Jan.04, 2012

Is now for sale on SPD.

Burning City: Poems of Metropolitan Modernity
Jed Rasula and Tim Conley, Editors

BURNING CITY acts as a “multisensory Baedecker” to the many incarnations of international modernism from 1910-1939. Inspired by the abandoned plans of the early avant-garde poet Yvan Goll to write a history of modernity through the poetry of that era, scholars Jed Rasula and Tim Conley have carried out Goll’s project, scouring the small journals and magazines of the period for both lost and seminal texts. BURNING CITY is organized not just according to the cities which inspired the texts—Paris, Cracow, Buenos Aires, and so on—but according to such icons of the modern urban experience as “Cineland,” “Music Hall,” “Electric Man.” BURNING CITY makes a new contribution to anthologies of both poetry and modernism by its thematic focus on city life, by its inclusion of poets from languages and nationalities seldom represented in standard US surveys, and by its preservation of the typographic versatility of the this feverishly innovating period.

““The fascination of cities,” wrote Langston Hughes, “seizes me, burning like a fever in the blood.” Burning City enacts that passion with astonishing skill and learning. Whatever else Modernism was or was not, its geography was that of the New Urbanism: from Paris and Berlin to Sao Paulo and Shanghai, from such icons as the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building to Moscow’s Nikitin Circus, it is the City in all its contradictions, its splendors and miseries, that was to become the laboratory of modernism, still dominating our dreams and nightmares a century after the fact. Truly global in its reach, yet local in its exacting particularities, Burning City breaks down the old familiar isms and genre divisions, introducing us to writings we’ve never seen before, printed side by side with our favorite poems by Huidobro and Musil, Mayakovsky and Mina Loy. In a nutshell, the map of modernism will never be the same!”
– Marjorie Perloff

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"The Female Grotesque" – Interview with Kim Hyesoon

by on Jan.03, 2012

There’s a great interview with one of the world’s most fascinating poets, Kim Hyesoon, up on the web site Guernica. A lot of the discussion concerns the inspiration for KH’s work and I love the way KH sites the source of poetry in disease:

She sites it obviously here:

I went to an international poetry festival in Rotterdam, Netherlands recently. I heard one poet saying that poets are healthy people and poets talk to the world through their health. When I heard them saying that, I wondered who judges which one is healthy or not? In my opinion, poets talk through the symptoms of disease. These symptoms of disease are predictions, screams, and songs.

(continue reading…)

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Welcome to the plague ground: There is still "too much" American poetry

by on Jan.03, 2012

Over at his blog, Bob Archambeau has weighed in on the discussion about there being “too much” of American poetry – the argument that there is so much poetry being written and publish in the US that there is a loss of hierarchy, loss of a standard (ie how do we know what is good? Such a scary situation), loss of “greatness” (if we can’t all agree on a Robert Lowell, how can people become “great”?) etc:

Of course many things have led us to this place. Technological changes make publishing more accessible and books more affordable; the spread of education has created a huge number of people who want to write poems, and can (we are only a few decades beyond a time when the big disputes in American poetry were disputes among Harvard classmates). I believe that overall, the scale of American poetry is a good thing. But it does create certain problems for the kind of poet who wishes for recognition. Such poets (the ones Halliday calls “ambitious”) react to the situation with a set of defensive behaviors that have as a side-effect the sort of critical dissensus described by Corn. We see this across the poetic spectrum. If Helen Vendler, with her refusal to believe there could possibly be 175 poets worth reading out of the untold thousands of 20th century American poets, suffers from a kind of “proclivity for ignoring,” so also does Kenneth Goldsmith, who has argued that his kind of poetry is more “relevant” (to what, one wonders?) than other forms, which presumably no longer have any claim on our attention.

(continue reading…)

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Myles on Peter Richards, Massman on Dear Ra

by on Jan.03, 2012

Some new reviews.

Here’s an excerpt of Eileen Myles’ piece on Peter Richards’ Helsinki:

Peter’s poem is a note from long ago which is now. Already happened fast. I mean he probably constructed these poems by a familiar pastiche method yet that’s almost suggesting that vocabulary or taste doesn’t trump method all the time. Pastiche is simply what we do and Peter’s cryptic and erotic sample is elegant and adventurous and small in a way that is alternately perverse, smiley and generally looking up. If there is a narrator here he is a gentleman, that is a choice. I would say he generally feels gay but not decorative. In his hands the homoerotic option feels expansive rather than opportunistic. Peter’s pallet is rich.

I like Myles’ reading style – associative and personal.

Here’s an excerpt of Gordon Massman’s review of my books Dear Ra and Entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate:

I like writing which gives me barbed wire and rashes. I do not like poetry which gives me sunshine and dilation. Dear Ra is just a heart-pounding high-pitched ceremony by a man gone ballistic, and it’s wonderful to read. I wonder, in fact, where Goransson can go from here, from this bravura cathartic performance. It seems he can only fly apart like a too-torqued machine, cogs, sprockets, and springs flying outward like brain matter. After linking in one breath a double gendered human, Tom Hanks, and prisoners of war; or pigeons, tennis rackets, nails, asthma, pigs, bees, and orifices; or leaking highways, barbed wire, and rashes in a great psychological bacchanal one wonders what could be next for this writer.

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Some thoughts on Beckett's Mouth and Johnson's Sun

by on Jan.02, 2012

from Bosch's Garden

Grace / to be born and live as variously as possible

– Frank O’Hara

The philosophy of representation—of the original, the first time, resemblance, imitation, faithfulness—is dissolving; and the arrow of the simulacrum released by the Epicureans is headed in our direction. It gives birth—rebirth—to a ‘phantasmaphysics.’

— Foucault, from “Theatrum Philosophicum”

I’ve just finished reading Kent Johnson’s controversial book A Question Mark Above the Sun, and I’ve also been rereading some Beckett plays for a paper I’m writing for a conference, and though Beckett and Johnson are worlds away from one another in just about everything, they do have one thing in common: both are obsessed with making “voice” an unnatural manifestation, a spectral effusion. Both undermine certain basic principles of “authentic” creativity.

Often, the idea of the writing hinges on various notions of “the private”: I shape my experience, I tell my story, I find my voice, I am part of a community of other people finding their voices.

As well-meaning as this rhetoric might be, it is also short-sighted and exclusionary. Experience becomes another type of private property. The “I” becomes singular and substantial, and the Subject must be fenced off in order for self-coherence to remain in place.

Writing becomes not an act of invention, but an investigation into roots and origins. Writing becomes not a search for new ways of thinking and experiencing, but a search for foundations, for psychological certitudes.

It has been argued that this vision of writing, of Art in general, dates back to the rise of the Humanist tradition. Here, the human becomes central and controlling. And the inhuman (phantoms, the irrational, all that falls outside of common sense) becomes something we fear and place on trial within the court of human reason.
(continue reading…)

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