Archive for April, 2012

The Gurlesque Deformation Zone: Kim Hyesoon, Maria Margarete Österholm

by on Apr.30, 2012

I’d like to say that I’ve been working on the gurlesque for ten years now – in essays, in my own writing, and in this dissertation. But I hadn’t heard the term until recently. A big girl of flesh, a Baby Wonder, stepped out of the closet and received a name.

(Maria Margareta Österholm, dissertation on “the gurlesque”)

It seems a lot of US discussions about translation get stuck between strategies of domestication (rendering foreign poets into US poets, erasing the process of translation) and foreignizing (emphasizing the foreign-ness of the translated text). I have a problem with both of these models: the first because it tends to lead to the kind of translations that wash out difference, and the second because it keeps the translated text in a kind of quarantine, as if we can’t truly be engaged by a foreign text, as if the foreign text might contaminate (it’s exotic! We don’t have the proper contexts! We’re “appropriating”!). The end result of both seems to be to maintain an idea of US literature, of US literary lineage, and of a certain idea of the text as self-contained.

For example, although I thought it was a really fine close reading of Kim Hyesoon’s All the Garbage of the World, Unite! (and I’m very interested in a lot of the things she talks about in it), I couldn’t help but find in Sueyeun Juliette Lee’s reveiw a strangely striational urge to emphasize that Kim Hyesoon is not an American poet:

Though there are incredible transformations in Kim’s poetry, I found it to be nothing like the neo-American-surrealism that is so popular among mainstream-ing contemporary work. And whether we are attuned to it or not, there are terrifically resonant historical sub-terrains in this mode of writing. There are genuine, deeply dire consequences to the transactions Kim describes in her engagements with the world. She is not trying to be trendy—she is trying to live.

In many ways this quote re-states the rhetoric of Carolyn Forche’s seminal anthology “Against Forgetting,” where she basically makes the point that European poets could write Surrealist poetry because their world had been so overwhelmed by suffering and war, implying that it would be immoral for US poets to be influenced by them (though she herself clearly was in The Angel of History). Here, US poets are merely “trendy” if they write like Kim, while she is “trying to live.” They would be hipsters, people whose lives are ruled by art, style, not necessity, not real “life.” (They’re passing, they’re drag queens, they’re counterfeits, they’re artifice, they traffic in exoticism and kitsch.)
(continue reading…)

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Genius Studies: Bombs over Baghdad, Outkast, and the Artifice of Eternity

by on Apr.30, 2012

If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry—Emily Dickinson, Belle of Baghdad, Baghdad’s  Gold Bell-Bomb

1. When I think of this song and this video,  how the video crushes down the song and the song crushes down the video, my dead fisheyes fill with gold.  Gold scales, gold in the scales, and the scales are rising. The dead fish’s body gonna rise, map the river. Gold comes on glancingly out of the images itself—a gorgeous woman’s grill, the polished grilles on the tricked-out Cadillacs. But the whole thing is gold, travels on a  glance, meets and exceeds each upper limit, its upper limit is a flexing, spasming dome—the goldwomb or Byzantium. Yellowcake. Uranium.  Makes the good man lie, the black face a false face. Splits the crescent for its black fossilized liquor (“I taste a liquor never brewed”); the gas has to be burnt up and can’t be sold. The energy keeps rising, multiplying, the trickster and the preacher get  bumped up on the sine waves of followers, the video keeps moving inside smaller spaces so it can throb outward, compound and explode, the women’s bodies and the electric drum pads mark out a beat way faster than the human heart can handle, an artificial beat that the human body must imitate, its members and extremities shaking and popping, one dancer wears a death mask, a white painted goth mask which keeps reappearing to mark the perforation of the scene with death, but all is compounding as in an alchemist’s mortar, compounding compounding, media doctors the image, saturates the fields with purple and the sky with green (Jack Smith spray painting trees in Connecticut to get a more Arcadian green),  the children slip over the fields of praise and out of the crease of the world, the gay man/trickster/hipster/pied piper leads them; by the glance; into the superhuman; unbearable; the articfice of Eternity; Art’s destroying arrival; Art laying its bombs like eggs into the face of Art; into the face of Baghdad; prophetic; Baghdad: 2000; history repeats; tracers rise from Baghdad; welcome the bombs to Baghdad: the mass destruction that cannot be found in Baghdad is shipped to Baghdad; and and gather me/Into the Artifice of Eternity.

2. Why ‘Genius Studies’? Because this inelapsing, elastic radiance blows the top off my head and leaves me good for nothing but Art. (continue reading…)

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Subterranean Technologies: Tan Lin, Pamela Lu, Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Dorothy Wang, and Lucy Ives

by on Apr.27, 2012

Hey all, Triple Canopy’s Lucy Ives will be live-blogging our event at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop featuring Tan Lin, Pamela Lu, and Suejeun Juliette Lee (who Johannes quotes below). If you’re in NY, you still have time to make it. Details here. We’ll be back in an hour or so when the event starts. –Ken Chen


…and we are live!

Ken Chen has assumed the podium. Ken introduces himself and AAWW while brandishing a crepe-covered staff.

Ambient poetics: “All of our life is constantly a mishmash of … un-curated, found text.”

AAWW will launch three magazines very shortly. Exciting coverage of extreme hair and film. And (perhaps) Das Racist. And (and) Cathy Park Hong’s Engine Empire.

Ken begins to broach the topic of the reading: “…a kind of detritus language… .”

Sueyeun Juliette Lee: Up now. [Applause]

Juliette begins with a poem. “On Oct. 16 2006 … analysis of air samples … underground nuclear explosion … a magnitude of 4.2 … in Washington, White House … all the people of the country … .”

[Through the walls, vibration from bass/band rehearsing.]

“…muscular shock alloyed into a … event that brought happiness to our … if breath transforms water … .”

[Computer keys are very loud right now, too.]

“…was born into the system … what else stands against the DMC. A slow … no sign of emerging popular revolt.”

[Wine bottles clink.]

“I kind of love that there’s this base, ambient, subterranean coming through! I kind of feel like we should all take off our shoes!”
(continue reading…)

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by on Apr.27, 2012

I went to an interesting talk the other day. The medievalist Chris Abrams talked about Beowolf, arguing for a reading of it not as an “Old English” text, but as a Scandinavian text. But not exactly: more like a text in a “hyperspace” that might be “Scandinavia,” a space of cultural translation. Abrams argued that Beowolf is a text that “is not itself,” but rather a constant result of various kinds of framings and interpretive strategies, translation. His question was: What happens if we read this text as a Scandinavian text? But also: What if “Scandinavian” was not a stable entity but the result of crosscultural imaginations?

There are of course some direct, tangible results in the interpretation, but I think his “hyperspace” is an interesting model for all of poetry. Rather than poetry that is lost in translation, that must be kept within national traditions and lineages, that must be determinable, we can read poetry as “hyperspace”, as texts that are not themselves.

The other day I wrote about liking “contextual” book reviews – but contexts that move across time, language and media, a translational lineage that may be said to be “hyperspace.”


It was interesting that when I posted about the general shying away from context in US poetry reviews, one of the most dominant responses was that context stabilized readings, strangled the poetry, overdetermined it. It seemed people who had this response assumed I meant: classifying poets according to school, formal features etc. In essence: lineage-making.

There is of course a very prominent context that people have all kinds of problems dealing with: American Poetry. This is of course a context that I – in part because I’m an immigrant writer – have been rubbing up against my entire writing life. But in some sense, it’s an overbearing context that most writers rub up against – to invoke Bakhtin, the centripedal force of a monoglossic lineage that makes a claim for a unified American Poetry.
(continue reading…)

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by on Apr.26, 2012

Hi everyone, today I’m writing for’s site:

So far I’ve blogged about the following topics: the death of the author, death drops, accessible poetry and the Writerly Text. And concrete poetry.


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Sean Kilpatrick's fuckscapes: a review

by on Apr.25, 2012

Godard's Weekend

[I tried to write a more straightforward review of Kilpatrick’s fuckscapes, but everything I wrote seemed like an act of containment. So instead I wrote this, a long line of associations, images, things that came to mind…I should also say that I mean ‘signifying nothing’ as a compliment…]

 with apologies to Godard, Abramović,  Lynch, Buñuel, Artaud, Yoko Ono, Pynchon, Flaubert, Guyotat, and Foucault

 bloody your hands on a cactus tree / wipe them on your dress / and send it to me

                                                            – The Pixies, Cactus

fuckscapes is a book adrift in the cosmos, found on a garbage heap, signifying nothing.

fuckscapes started as a red pulse in the center of a blue light, a light whose edges are perpetually bleeding.

fuskscapes begins with three centimeters of cheese turning blue, and then purple, in a refrigerator located in the exact center of a New Jersey garbage dump.

fuckscapes is the espresso spilling from the film producer’s lips and on to the table, and then on to the plush red carpet, and then through the various fibers of the carpet, and then through the floorboards, and then into a basement where a very short man in a Luciferian suit is masturbating while watching the opening scene of Begotten.

fuckscapes is a dog dance at the edge of the volcano, many of which carry rabies, and all of which harbor fleas.

fuckscapes is the fascist orgy taking place on the ship Anubis in which “two of the waiters kneel on deck lapping at the juicy genitals of a blonde in a wine velvet frock, who meantime is licking ardently the tall and shiny French heels of an elderly lady in lemon organza busy fastening felt-lined silver manacles to the wrists of her escort,” etc., and so on, for many, many lines.

fuckscapes is the flag of torn corduroy pants which blows from the pole outside the cave and launches out to the overly-still sea.

fuckscapes is a mystic who believes in nothing.

fuckscapes brings with its several types of noise, some of them with soft pink bellies, others with cracked marble skulls.

fuckscapes about which the 85 year old philosopher Michel Foucault writes while sitting on a beach in northern California: In it “relations between individuals and sexuality are openly and completely reversed, perhaps for the first time; they are no longer characters which are effaced for the benefit of elements, structures or personal pronouns; sexuality moves to the other side of the individual and ceases to be ‘subjectified’…the individual is no more than a pale form which arises for a moment from a great stock that is both stubborn and repetitive. Individuals — the pseudopodia of sexuality, quickly retracted.”

fuckscapes is the Depression-era musical version of Begotten which was only recently discovered in a Finnish mental institution, having for years been used to entertain inmates during quiet time.

fuckscapes is neither foreground nor background nor middle distance.

fuckscapes is the burnt-out ruins of the vantage point.

fuckscapes is The Passion of Marina Abramović as performed in Naples in the early 1970s by a choir of fire ants.

fuckscapes is a conspiracy theory against itself.

fuckscapes is both noun and verb of pig shit, a desert creating its own red light, a mirror exhausted with its own reflection.

fuckscapes is the hip that doesn’t move, covered with summer flies.

fuckscapes is the dinner we can never eat surrounded by the feast we can never leave, cold plates strewn with cold chicken parts, half-conscious gizzards, a lace glove with blood along its fingertips, a warm revolver under each chair.

fuckscapes is about two twins of unknown origin who remove their clothes and stand nude in the doorframe of a bomb shelter waiting for Robert McNamara to stroll by, though he never does.

fuckscapes is Darling Black Francis Candy sitting here on a cement floor, wishing he just had something you wore.

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Sueyeun Juliette Lee on Kim Hyesoon

by on Apr.25, 2012

Here’s a review of Kim Hyesoon’s All The Garbage of the World Unite! (Action Books, 2012) written by Sueyeun Juliette Lee. It’s an interesting attempt to grapple with an important issue of translation – how much to emphasize the translatedness (cultural context) and how much to bring the text into a US context. This goes right along with my post about reviews from a couple of days ago. I have a lot of feelings about this review, but I’ll hold off and hear what the rest of you have to say about it.

She talks quite a bit about Korean-American writers and Kim Hyesoon’s relationship/lack of relationship to said writers:

Action Books recently released a new collection of work by South Korean poet Kim Hyesoon, translated by Don Mee Choi. Titled All the Garbage of the World, Unite! the collection is indeed a cry for us to struggle against—while also dwelling and finding glory in—the minor corridors, abjected detritus, and mundanely overlooked interstices of life. In Kim’s vigorous hands, these spaces are ferocious, strange and gaspingly alive.

I turned to this collection with a highly motivated curiosity. I wanted to see what a contemporary Korean female poet might be interested in, with the assumption that race and immigration—key preoccupations in a lot of contemporary diasporic Korean writing—would not be of central concern for a native author. Perhaps I hoped to see a version of what someone a bit like me might have become had my parents never immigrated. As gratifying as it is to see numerous Korean American poets getting published (Myung Mi Kim, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Lee Herrick, Ishle Park, Cathy Park Hong, Sunyoung Shin, Ed Bok Lee, to name a few) I’ve found that many Korean American writers working today, myself included, have been primarily interested in wrestling with the psychological fallout of inheriting a cultural legacy structured by the Korean War, displacement, and racialization processes at work upon us here in the colonial center. (continue reading…)

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Sean Kilpatrick a-go-go

by on Apr.25, 2012

Sean Kilpatrick, author of the marvelous book Fuckscapes (which I, yes, blurbed), has some mistranslations of Rimbaud up on Boston Review:

Heavy under famous gorges, you poison the soil to commandeer my arrival! — Let’s broil our entrails. Let the violence of Venus dupe my member toward regal deformities. Just shuffle my pus. Call hell our eternal puke. Voyage to be fat and bust our comments on demonic foam!

He’s also interviewed by Columbia Review here.

Excerpt (in which he mentions some Montevidayoans):

Full emphasis on revision, hurt the piece. I want fuckscapes cut so bad it thinks sleep’s too dark. I’m trying for these poems as Lara Glenum’s mashed with and warring Gordon Massman’s offspring’d with Blake Butler’s heart, Danielle Pafunda’s knife, and Johannes Göransson is Lord. I was lucky to land David Peak and Ben Spivey’s Blue Square Press. Ken Baumann’s cover is the perfect beauty. Being amalgam, my poems here can’t dominate from their lack. It’s through hatred alone that they anywhere become. My voice wants for hate from rejected worship, weak and simple, scat about the clothes. Nothing can be dominated from below. The violent tone, as it is much meant, and therefore unfriendly reading, comes from a past of having too much loved the wrong people. All movement means porno. Do cumshots subordinate their landing space? I always fluke my origin where without casting. Ah, but if poetry could retaliate.

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Bathhouse: Excerpt from The Sugar Book

by on Apr.24, 2012

There’s an excerpt from my novel The Sugar Book at the online journal Bathhouse:

here’s an excerpt of the excerpt:

I am supposed to find a killer but I am feverish in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles tastes like iron in my mouth.

Maybe I’m dying of a disease brought home to me from my daughters. They are conduits of contagion. They bring the outside into the inside and the inside into the outside. They stand by the stairs and stare at me. They have dark dark hair and blue eyes. Their dresses look clean but their mouths are soiled.

We live inside The Meadow. That’s not its true name of the hotel but that’s what I call it because of the lamb masks.

And because of the sweet-smelling girl bodies on the sidewalk. And because of my own tendency to affect the air of a shepherd.

Here’s a picture I like by Emeli Theander:

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Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle on Anna Pibal and Rebecca Wolff (Triple Canopy)

by on Apr.24, 2012

Ann Pibal and Rebecca Wolff: As Is/So Is
By Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle
Triple Canopy, Brooklyn, NY 3/24


Ann Pibal’s paintings subdue ruled angle geometrics on off-color fields. Gracing aluminum panels (13×20’’) they hint at signifieds. Muted El Lizzitsky, maps—but just, some say windows.

Pibal states, “It’s easier to talk about structure than color.” Yet discussion turned in part to hue, hemming her into tight corners with terms like decorative and pretty. In truth, Pibal’s palette, its choices and composition, first practice to deceive. They skirt crowd pleasers. (Will it sound like I smoke Crack if I cite Ed Ruscha?) Slyly implying Design, she evades Pantone numbers, pastels, and equivocating shades. Her lime is swamp, while plage revisits laxatives, and dawn is No Tell Motel rouge. She confuses, then eludes. I mean this in the best possible way.
(continue reading…)

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Marcela Valdes on Cesar Aira's 'Ghosts'

by on Apr.24, 2012


Bookclub, here’s an interesting take on the Ghosts in Aira’s Ghosts, part of a long piece on Aira by Marcela Valdes in The Nation.  It links Patri’s attraction to the Ghosts to the Argentinian people’s inability to give up on the Disappeared, even as various governments attempted to enforce a kind of amnesia/amnesty. What say you?


In this newly shaken environment Aira completed Ghosts, one of his most moving novels. Set in an unfinished luxury apartment building in Buenos Aires, the novel recounts a day in the lives of a group of construction workers who can see the dead. The ghosts hover around the building’s concrete skeleton, and look much like the workers they haunt. They’re strong young men “with small feet, and rough hands”; they’re covered with a “fine cement dust” that looks “dirty.” The building’s wealthy owners, and their architects and decorators, can’t see the phantoms. But the workers treat them with familiarity, grabbing the ghosts’ hilariously elastic penises and shoving bottles of wine down their throats—a technique that not only cools bad wine but also improves its quality.

A few details suggest that the ghosts may be desaparecidos. The first is their gender and youth: 70 percent of the disappeared were men, and 81 percent of them were between the ages of 16 and 35. The second is their revulsion at the sight and smell of grilling. When the workers cook steaks for lunch, the ghosts “disappeared…as they did every day when the smell of meat rose from the grill, as if it were detrimental to them.” In the slang of Argentina’s detention centers, the word for “grill”—parrilla—was also the word for the metal beds where captives were tortured with electricity. As one survivor recalled, “Despite the bonds [tied around captives’ hands and feet], when on the ‘grill’ one jumps, twists, moves about and tries to avoid contact with the burning, cutting iron bars.”

At the novel’s midway point the focus shifts to a worker’s 15-year-old daughter, Patri, who has suddenly become the object of the ghosts’ “ostentatious, senseless amusement.” On New Year’s Eve only Patri notices that, as night approaches, the ghosts change: “The dust that covered them had become a splendid decoration [that] allowed the dark golden color of their skin to show through, and accentuated their musculature, the perfection of their surfaces.” Seeing the ghosts’ youthful beauty, Patri experiences a spasm of love and pain. “Stop! cried her soul. Don’t go, ever!” And so amid the novel’s jokes and surreal juxtapositions emerges a poignant, enigmatic tale about a “frivolous” young woman who discovers she can’t resist following the dead.

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Clayton Eshleman on Don Mee Choi

by on Apr.24, 2012

Clayton Eshleman wrote this poem addressed to Don Mee Choi:


You belong to none except the gong.
On to on its copper undulations translate into meat—
the cheek of liberty, Ensoresque crowds.
Yourself behind yourself concealed,
what Hadic invisibility is being revealed?
Is your forehead apotropaic from wandering in your face?
Or did you drop the felted soul hammer seconds before
the bong?

Cambodia with four million of our land mines.
Bankers glinting crystal angles.
You’re in Seattle. I’m outside Detroit.
We’re both facing the light show in Club Rapture
as if the planet is an ongoing Rave. Afghan bands on LSD
while American drones chowder their family bunks

1962: I am bargaining with a Korean whore in discarded
GI fatigues by
the Seoul SAC Compound Gate.
The dispossessed and the poet
before the closed Western Gate:
we lack the power to realize what we see to be real.

Its all absurd and
eerily mantic: the shadow of our uterine
scaffolding keeps shadowing our present shade.

You belong to a longing to birth rapids and mares,
to a rampart on which a hagazussa is oiling her broom.
You look down a cerebral tunnel rotating with escapes:
all harrowing enough
to keep you focused on a phantomatic art.

Were you to insert a serpent, might “the lambent
homage of his arrowy tongue” turn you into a pythoness
capable of resetting a cosmogonic dial?

Ransacked by our finite infinity,
we hover the anima gore stored in testicular vats.

January 18-March 17, 2012

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Somnabulist in the graveyard // Tan Lin, Pam Lu, Subterranean ambience

by on Apr.21, 2012

Hola, long time no see.

1. The somnabulist in the graveyard. I was reading an essay written by Angana Chatterji and I couldn’t help but think of Montevidayo. Angana is the anthropologist who helped launch the inquiry into unmarked mass graves in India-occupied Kashmir. She writes:

In undertaking work for the Tribunal, I have travelled through Kashmir’s cities and countryside, from Srinagar to Kupwara, through Shopian and Islamabad/Anantnag. I have witnessed the violence that India’s military, paramilitary, and police perpetuate against Kashmiris. I have walked through the graveyards that hold Kashmir’s dead, and I have met with grieving families. I have listened to the testimony of a mother who sleepwalks to the grave of her son, attempting to resuscitate his body.

I was struck by the oneiric, almost lyric nature of this image: the mother attempting to wake her son from death while she is herself asleep. The mother and the son rhyme together. They are denizens of two types of subterranean life: the dead son in the graveyard and the mother’s underworld, by which I mean not her dreamlife, but her traumatized melancholia. The image reveals the strangeness of inherently political imagery–not strident as in American protest poetry, but surreal, contradictory, grotesque.

Angana is reading tonight at AAWW with journalist Mirza Waheed, whose novel The Collaborator stars a Kashmiri teenager who collaborates with the Indian military as a counter of corpses, and the artist Kanishka Raja, who has created a series of paintings and an artist book re-imagining Kashmir as the Switzerland of South Asia; Kashmir used to be the setting for pastoral Bollywood romances until the state crackdowns moved the films to Switzerland. Here’s his artist book.

2. I’ve been blown away lately by Tan Lin’s Insomnia and the Aunt and Pamela Lu’s Ambient Parking Lot. They’re going to be reading at AAWW on April 27 with poet Juliette Lee and in conversation with avant poetics scholar Dorothy Wang. I figured it seemed like a good fit for this site, so I’ve asked Triple Canopy’s Lucy Ives to live-blog the event on Montevidayo. Here are some descriptions

Tan Lin’s INSOMNIA AND THE AUNT is an ambient novel composed of black and white photographs, postcards, Google reverse searches, letters, appendices, an index to an imaginary novel, reruns, and footnotes. The aunt in question can’t sleep. She runs a motel in the Pacific Northwest. She likes watching Conan O’Brien late at night. She may be the narrator’s aunt or she may be an emanation of a TV set. Structured like everybody’s scrapbook, and blending fiction with nonfictional events, INSOMNIA AND THE AUNT is about identities taken and given up, and about the passions of an immigrant life, rebroadcast as furniture. Ostensibly about a young man’s disintegrating memory of his most fascinating relative, or potentially a conceptualist take on immigrant literature, it is probably just a treatment for a prime-time event that, because no one sleeps in motels, lasts into the late night and daytime slots.

Part fiction, part earnest mockumentary, Pamela Lu’s Ambient Parking Lot follows a band of musicians as they wander the parking structures of urban downtown and greater suburbia in quest of the ultimate ambient noise—one that promises to embody their historical moment and deliver them up to the heights of their self-important artistry. Along the way, they make sporadic forays into lyric while contending with doubts, delusions, miscalculations, mutinies, and minor triumphs. This saga peers into the wreckage of a post-9/11 landscape and embraces the comedy and poignancy of failed utopia.


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