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. There is something particularly revolting about whole milk in a room full of ostensible adults engaged in something as infantalizing as Poetry. The disgust we all felt was palpable. Still, it was clear, everyone marveled at JT’s ability to consume that substance on which American children are reared (when we were all young, though probably not so anymore) and not be physically sick. Jennifer’s adult-girl body’s ability to consume three glasses of whole milk, in succession, set her out of time.

Whole milk is decadent. It is also, oddly, a signifier of some kind of economic lack, as though anyone with funds enough to know better would choose a nut milk, or at least a responsible part-skim. Whole milk is fatty, and too saturated. Like Minnis’ prefaces, it reiterates its point too often; its constant proclamation of being NATURAL and WHOLE mark it as the opposite. Its excessive, and unfit for human consumption. Or, it is a dangerous decadence.

JT talks about the phenomena of the “sick bitch,” which is a concept that girls in the 90s learned from popular movies and TV shows like Center Stage and anything starring Tracey Gold; also, Brittany Murphy. The sick bitch has an age limit of 19 or 20, but the threshold for the sick bitch is more about dependence. In most Lifetime movies, sick bitches are professional athletes or the children of therapists; entities with no sense of control. What girls in the 90s learned from the sick bitch as portrayed in popular media is that the most effective method of throwing a tantrum is by fucking with your own body.


This is the ultimate revenge of the daughter, to slowly and purposefully destroy some aspect of the body that someone somewhere made.

4 comments for this entry:
  1. Johannes Göransson

    Great post Carina (and great Poem, JT). The first echo for me is another very decadent, kitschy (and horrifying) milk poem, Paul Celan’s “Death Fugue” with its “black milk of daybreak” that the concentration camp victims keep drinking and drinking – a milk that is both death and art (it’s the milk that sets the fugue in motion). / Johannes

  2. Johannes Göransson

    And just last week my workshop class discussed the relationship of Chelsea Minnis to Celan’s poem.


  3. Carina

    new york city is probably the resort-wear version of a concentrations camp for poets; a self-selecting island on which everyone is fashionably miserable.

  4. Sam Oliver

    I saw a similar milk-based performance by JT back in Baton Rouge. It was completely unbearable as she poured glass after glass of whole milk. The room was hot and muggy too, and watching felt like slowly suffocating. I don’t know how she does that.

    Go JT!