Archive for August, 2012

Poetry, Genre Problems and Surrealism (I)

by on Aug.31, 2012

[This is the first part of a multiple part post about what I read this summer. This is just the background. More later.]

In Silver Proxy, Daniel Tiffany’s forthcoming book on kitsch, Tiffany traces the concept of kitsch back to the late 18th century and Wordsworth’s attacks on Gray and “poetic diction” – its “gaudy and inane phraseology.” According to Wordsworth, poetry should be “men speaking to men” and all that jive about realness and “rustic life.” (One of his main issues with poetic diction is that it’s impure, that is, that it synthesizes English with foreign languages, relevant I think to my claims that translation is kitsch.)

It’s in this context that Tiffany says that kitsch is about “excessive beauty,” a phrase we’ve been quoting on this blog for a while. Tiffany connects this rejection of poetic diction to the onset of industrialism capitalism and bourgeois culture, and more importantly, the idea of “Literature,” in which prose is considered superior and increasingly central, while poetry is considered increasingly marginal and ornamental (Wordsworth views his poetry as prose with metrics; metrics is not kitsch, but importantly what is left of poetry).

As I’ve often noted on this blog, “Surrealism” has in contemporary US poetry discussions become a new stand-in for this kind of kitsch, the kitsch of the “poetic” and “excessive beauty” (continue reading…)

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Yi Sang, Spectral Insurgent (Or, To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life)

by on Aug.30, 2012

With the charlatans, liars, and robbers at the Republican convention trying to snow me with their ideology of balanced accounts, self-madeness, hard work, a less generous, more ‘austere’ government, etc, which really hides the bloodthirsty greed of the weasels who built and fecklessly crash the anyhow unsurvivable global economoy,  it comforts me to give some thought to writers who reject this “wholesome” ideology all together in favor of a Bataillean bereftness, a limitless pouring out of resources, a going beyond, an excess, a cult of luxury, sensation, and suicide, death, that is, the decadent.
Glimpsing Fi Jae Lee’s ghostly, multi-protuberant, ectoplasmic sculptures of Yi Sang and his wife impelled me to track down books by this crucial Korean Modernist who died of tuberculosis at 27 after a term of imprisonment by the Japanese for thought crimes. A innovator of Korean literature with his intense, indeterminately genred work, he encountered  European modernism while in the schools of the Japanese occupiers. He surely birthed a strange headed  beast from his duress, his split-apart ribs.
The three short prose pieces gathered as ‘The Wings‘ [the Wings, Encounters and Departures, Death Child] create an intense yet diaphanous continuous fabric through which the youthful yet decaying speaker, named Yi Sang, engages in strange transactions with the universe, as embodied by a fitfully attentive/abusive ‘wife’ figure.  The permeable, irregular fabric of these tales prioritizes luxurious sensation over utilitarian shelter, both at the debilitated Yi Sang’s expense.
In the first story the apartment house the two live in is ‘just like a house of pleasures’; eighteen households live side by side behind ‘papered lattice doors’, ‘the cooking holes identical, too.’ Yet, ‘the residents are young as blossoms’. Exposure produces a possibly fragile beauty, a blossom, but a blossom is a growth which has pierced through and which erratically persists. Yi Sang spends his time sleeping, hiding under a quilt while his wife entertains ‘guests’, carefully noting what he can hear and see through this membrane, moving across minute spaces with deliberation:
“It has become a major recreation of mine that I promptly go to the front room in the morning when my wife goes out and watch various bottles on her make-up chest brilliantly glimmer with the sunbeam trickling in through the eastern window I opened.”
Yi Sang opens the window, but looks not at the dawn, that productive signal to good citizens to go out to work, but at the brilliant light in the little makeup flasks. It is a decadent choice, a rejection of both nature and utility in favor of effortfully obtained sensation. It reminds me of Pater: “To burn always with this hard, gem like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.” (continue reading…)
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by on Aug.28, 2012

A few weeks ago I had my first New York party at my East Village apartment. There were miniature raspberry cupcakes and raspberry champagne punch and lavender flowers and three performances: Bathtime with Laura Heckel, Seth Oelbaum’s triolets about blowing up the sun (and channeling of Ted Hughes – incidentally, not a single person in attendance could name a Ted Hughes poem off the top of their heads), and Jennifer Tamayo’s incredible performance about daughterdom.

When I first encountered JT that evening, she was standing in my kitchen literally covered in handmade satin bows and depositing several red cardboard cartons of whole milk into my refrigerator. I could not possibly fathom what she was going to do with them, but I was extremely pleased with the aesthetic affect of the bows and the milk cartons. The last time I had seen her perform was at Patasola’s Parlor, a reading series conveniently located just a few blocks from my apartment rather than on that other planet, Brooklyn, where most of the things I want to go to take place. She read or perhaps rather channeled a long poem about absentee fathers and I have been thinking about it for a long time.

I have still been thinking a lot about Chelsey Minnis and Lana del Rey even though I have not been writing about them. I have not really been wrting because I have been career-ing, which I am doing, primarily I think, because I am tired of feeling daughterly (more on this later, maybe).

What Chelsey Minnis, Lana del Rey, and Jennifer Tamayo all have in common is an adoration for daughterly aesthetics coupled with a total disdain for the concept of parentage, and the knowledge that one cannot really escape it. The perpetual daughter gets stuck in loop because she does not want to give up her bows, she wants more bows, and wearing bows indefinitely throughout time time is an exercise of agency in a faulty system.

This system is a network of influences that have been somehow imprinted upon the body of the daughter. The markings of influence make the daughter a text, but the text does not want to be written-upon, it wants to make itself; at the same time, this generative desire would probably not exist were she not already a text.

The perpetual daughter, upon realizing that she is stuck in this system, has one option; she acts (out). Lana del Rey’s Off to the Races is the perfect example of this – she knows exactly what she’s doing – punishing the parent-figure for keeping her a daughter by simultaneously projecting childlike innocence and behaving in an unacceptable manner – she’s “sorry,” but she’s not. Minnis has, most notably, the Prefaces to Bad Bad, which are an incredibly bratty rebellion-in-form, consuming and regurgitating the gross exposition of her literary forebears by throwing a tantrum in EstabPoDrag, referencing everything she can in the most condensed space, proving that she knows exactly what she’s doing and why and how she’s making a mess of it; or, “I am new and I am not dead.”

JT performed sprawled out on the daybed in my living room. Balancing three large wine glasses on a detached cabinet door, she filled them impossibly full with whole milk and lit candles, as though preparing for some bizarro dairyphile porno. Then, this happened:



Even before she spoke a single word, everyone knew what she was going to do; at least, there was a silent consensus in the room that the milk in the glasses would be gone from them by the end. (continue reading…)

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Future Feminism and the Gesture of the Cut/Hegarty, Abramovic, and Aase Berg's Transfer Fat

by on Aug.23, 2012

Montevidayo meets MOMA/Sarah Fox and Marina Abromavic, The Artist is Future Concentrate

Antony Hegarty, the operatic earth mother of our times, recently gave a speech during a concert that envisioned feminism as an ecological inevitability, an ungovernable, all-governing force, an oil-slick pussy riot, a bloodline whose trickle defies all bounds.  Some excerpts:

It’s a very indigenous idea that the Earth is a female, that the Earth menstruates, that the water of the world is the blood of a woman’s body and that’s what we crawled out of just in the same way that we crawled out of our mother’s wombs. It’s the most basic idea; any child could come up with it and it’s so obvious….

I’ve heard two rumors about the Dalai Lama. One is that he said he wasn’t going to be reincarnating because the world was going to be too dangerous and that’s probably just a rumor. But then I heard a far more interesting new rumor, which is that the Dalai Lama said the next time he incarnates it will be as a girl, which will be the first in the history of Buddhism. But I think that that is the most revolutionary thing he could possibly do and the most helpful spiritual gesture that he could make. And I’m very interested in the feminization of the deities. I’m very interested in Jesus as a girl. I’m extremely interested in Allah as a woman….

Allah as a woman is a critical threshold and Buddha as a mother is another one because I truly believe that unless we move into feminine systems of governance we don’t have a chance on this planet. And there’s no one else that can lead the masses to do that except for, like, the major religious institutions. And I’m someone who’s looking for a reason to hope, and for me hope looks like feminine systems of governance being instated in, like, the major religious institutions and throughout corporate and civil life. And it might sound far-fetched, but if you look at your own beliefs, just imagine how quickly you accepted the idea that the ocean is rising and the ecology of our world is collapsing. We can actually imagine that more readily than we can imagine a switch from patriarchal to matriarchal systems of governance — a subtle shift in the way our society works. (continue reading…)

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New Books from Birds LLC

by on Aug.22, 2012

[Got this email today from Birds LLC:]


We’re crazy excited to announce our next two titles, Rise in the Fall, by Ana Božičević (Fall 2012), and The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather, by Sampson Starkweather (Winter 2013).

A few words about these amazing books, as well as videos of Ana and Sampson reading from their work:
(continue reading…)

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Beijing Plasticizer, a Flower Bomb

by on Aug.22, 2012

Hello folks, sorry to have been absent, I’ve had a computer crash etc, but now I am back on top and would like to share with you some sound files of a series of poems called Beijing Plasticizer.

An ad for the luxury perfume, Flowerbomb,


from Beijing Plasticizer

Plasticizer 1 (flower bomb)


abdominizer, plasticizer,

the flawed flask flushes the brain,

the flash drive inserted

into the correct drain

provides fusion, fluency, the plasticizer

voids the gut, no current can run

anymore thru that florid

fosse, where instinct sinks skindeep,

loses a shoe.

A system should be

made of plastic: too

much beauty crashes the system

with its black drive

a clouding agent sprouts mushrooms

the river flows


where dad wants it: safe in the vein.


I wrote these poems while in China last summer (an exchange for women writers sponsored by the International Writing Program! Thank you, Chris Merrill and Hugh Ferrer!) Before I went, I read about a scandal in which a toxic industrial chemical called ‘plasticizer’ was being added to sport drinks in Taiwan to make them cloudy (and thus attractive for drinking!!?). When I visited China, I saw English on shopfronts, on people’s bodies (as t-shirts) and in ads, and particularly ads for either luxury apartments or for cosmetics and particularly skin whiteners for women. As a woman and an English speaker, I felt continually addressed by these cosmetics, as if a kind of virus had entered the interface of China, and wanted to consume it– wanted me to consume my/and/or China’s face. The plasticizer was besetting me through every pore, especially my eyes, my face. Like Art.

I want to add that this poem is not a critique of China and its economic policies or pollution etc, though of course these are certainly deserving of critique. This is how I feel everywhere on the planet and also when I’m asleep. It was just a more concentrated sensation in China, which is what made my visit there so intoxicating, what makes China so exciting. High on plasticizer!!

Here’s the set of poems that resulted, in two sound files. (Note, I made these files for Sabrina Salomon, who is beginning to translate my work into Spanish!)


Beijing Plasticizer First Half

Beijing Plasticizer Second Half


(These poems first ran as a chapbook called ‘Beijing Plasticizer’ in the Black Warrior Review)

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"drowning in an ooze of language, sex, politics, theatre, and disease": review of Entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate

by on Aug.19, 2012

Just found out about Lorian Long’s very thoughtful review of my book Entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate over at Bookslut.

I could not sleep with Johannes Göransson’s Entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate close to my head. I dreamt the characters coming to life inside my studio apartment, competing as contestants in an ultimate horror show, which is what happens in the book’s hundred brilliant, nasty pages. Despite the tiny size of Colonial Pageant, it contains a gore so massive you will either shower or move the book to the other side of the bedroom upon opening its cover. The cover itself terrifies with black and white drawings of decapitated, charred flesh pageantry winners. The smeared eyeholes, the sashes labeled “BEWARE BEWARE” “I HAVE BEGUN A KING” “A JACKLIGHTING KING” are awful in their grimaced beauty. What’s inside is even more. There is no narrative to speak of, and so the only way to write this review is to write it messily, to spew forth what I recall from drowning in an ooze of language, sex, politics, theatre, and disease.
(continue reading…)

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Iowa Review on Peter Richards' Helsinki

by on Aug.17, 2012

Over at the Iowa Review, Matt Miller has written a very thorough, intelligent review of Peter Richards’ book Helsinki.


Published a little more than ten years ago, Peter Richard’s first book, Oubliette, took on major themes concerning the nature of time, solitude, and mythmaking and responded to them with a dark, lyrical intensity that seemed completely unique. Richards arrived at a time when many young poets were looking for something new and surprising that was neither ideological and academic, like most Language Poetry, nor naively autobiographical, like the countless post-confessional backyard epiphanies that still populate most literary journals. One group’s porridge was too cool, and the other’s was, if not too hot, too bland. Oubliette was something bold, fresh, and idiosyncratic. A relevant heir to Keats, Richards demonstrated negative capability in the teeth of post-modernity, as well as the ability to “load every line with ore” and consistently delight by surprise. With his convincing pathos and spine-chilling linguistic daring, he made most other young poets look either smug, glib, or lazy by comparison. For me, Oubliette is still the most impressive first book by that generation of American poets arriving just after the hey (or hey-thrashing) days of post-structuralist poetics, John Ashbery, and a resurgence in homespun surrealism, a standout from a balkanized poetic era struggling for transition… (continue reading…)

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Radioactive Reading in Brooklyn Tomorrow

by on Aug.09, 2012

Montevidayans, here’s my other promo for the week, this one on behalf of Radioactive Moat Press and its monster writers.  If you’re in NYC, please congregate with us tomorrow to celebrate the publication of our chapbooks:



@ UNNAMEABLE BOOKS (600 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn)
August 10, 7:30pm

Ghostlines, my chapbook containing the first section of the gator/bird book I am finishing, comes out tomorrow.  Order it along with Ji Yoon’s amazing IMMA, if you haven’t bought it already!  And then anxiously wait with me for Lonely Christopher’s Crush Dream
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"Masks and outfits are exchanged": Some Thoughts on Guy Maddin's Keyhole, James Pate, Minor Lit and Narrative

by on Aug.08, 2012

I think James’s post from yesterday was really wonderful at exploring the idea of “minor literature,” but also art more generally.

I loved this description of a certain kind of artwork:

The novel of manners and certain realist novels are built like a multi-storied house: the family occupies one floor, economics another, the courts yet another. They might be of the same house, but there are still divisions between them. In minor literature, the family triangle is de-Oedipalized: the house is of a single floor, and the family moves among the judges who move among the cops who move among the rabbis and priests who move among the teachers and professors. Masks and outfits are exchanged, roles reenacted, snatches of dialogue tossed about. Genet’s The Balcony comes to mind. In fact, all of Genet’s plays come to mind.

This for me describes a kind of “genre” that I’ve always been interested in: the allegory that becomes too much for an allegorical reading; an allegory where seemingly the stuff of art wrecks the allegory; an allegory where the “floor” between vehicle and tenor collapses. Obviously Kafka is the key example of this (evidence: all the unconvincing books that tries to read his books as allegorical – Freudian or Marxist or religious etc).

Many of my favorite instances of this kind of story are the “minor” works by major artists. Take for example “The Hour of the Wolf” by Ingmar Bergman. (Here’s some corpse-sex, Max Von Sydow in make-up, and general melodrama from that movie:)

Someone who has dwelt in this zone for a couple of decades is Canada’s brilliant film-maker Guy Maddin. In his amazing recent film “Keyhole,” Maddin seems to have come on the same kind of analogy as James: A house where everything collapses together (continue reading…)

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Minor literature and the virtual (or, the infinitive of Kafka)

by on Aug.07, 2012

Because of the interesting and at times heated discussion on Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of a minor literature that has been going on the past few days, I’ve been thinking about how minor literature might relate to the Deleuzian concept of the virtual, the incorporeal. As I mentioned in the previous discussion, I have mixed thoughts on the concept of minor literature — and less because of the anything D & G wrote about it (I agree with a great deal of what they argue in Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature), but more in terms of 1) the dominance it seems to have in anthologies about literary theory (and therefore the way it gets taken out of context of their larger work), and 2) the way it is occasionally misread, I would argue, as an essentialist argument (which would be quite a feat for two such anti-Platonic philosophers).

I largely agree with the way Michael and Johannes have been discussing it. But I thought it might be interesting to try to link minor literature to the virtual in order to argue why D&G are not making essentialist claims, nor letting in a Rousseau-ian cultural authenticity through the back door.

In The Logic of Sense, Deleuze writes about a distinction the Stoics made about phenomena: somata (material bodies, the way they mix, clash, retreat from one another) and asomata (virtual events, the incorporeal). He argues that causality creates the mixing and clashing of the somata domain, and this is the world of Hume, of an inductive logic premised on the shaking ground that the future will be like the past (the sun will rise tomorrow because the sun has risen every other day). But he also claims the virtual, though it rises from the realm of somata, is not bound by the same causal laws, and instead has its own ways of mixing, clashing, retreating, what he calls “quasi-causality.” And yet Deleuze is not a mystic: the incorporeal is not a theological-sounding re-conception of Sartre’s lack.
(continue reading…)

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Kim Hyesoon Poems in Paragraphiti

by on Aug.06, 2012

There’s a couple of Kim Hyesoon poems in the South-Bend/Iran-based journal Paragraphiti.


She arrives. Beating the drum boom boom, she arrives. She arrives pounding the eardrums of the sky. The gate crumbles by itself—maybe she’s carrying thunder in her arms. She arrives. Every step she takes, her heart comes closer to me. My heart beats boom boom. I’ll tear Father’s thick eardrums and go to him. It feels as if I’m stretched out on the sea. She closes the curtain, cuts off the brainwave, smashes a noisy TV station with a hammer. Blood spreads on the pillow. All my cells want to leave me. My heart splits in half like a bolt of lightening. I hurt like the ground hit by a thunderbolt. She arrives. Into my body, she arrives. She’s been walking for seven hours straight. The guard will awaken. Ah! Father’s army will awaken, too…

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Feature on CultureStr/ke

by on Aug.05, 2012

I couldn’t ask for a more satisfying presentation of my writing than this feature on CultureStr/ke, a terrific website that sheds light on the contemporary art, culture, and politics of immigration.  I’m especially thrilled with Lisa Chen’s comparison of me with Filipino artist Manuel Ocampo:

De Lima’s spiritual and political cousin can be found in the fever dreams of artist Manuel Ocampo. His paintings, with their baroque phantasms of Catholic iconography, Nazi symbolism, monster roaches and Klansmen are the bastard products of history.

Of particular interest to Montevidayans might be Ocampo’s series “Kitsch Recovery Pogrom.”  Some of those paintings are here.  But I think I like these genocidal feather-storms from the 90’s most of all:

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