Archive for November, 2012

Exploded Kitsch Collections and Tourists in Art: Thåström, Kim Hyesoon, Harry Martinsson, Jules Verne and Aase Berg

by on Nov.15, 2012

In Daniel Tiffany’s upcoming book, Silver Planet, he discovers the roots of kitsch in poetry. More specifically in the “poetic” language: artificial-seeeming language, language that is deforms by foreignisms. But he also finds it in fake translations, The Arabian Nights, and the gothic in 19th century. In her book “Artificial Kingdom,” Celesete Olalquiaga (who came to our panel the other day on kitsch in NYC – thanks CO!) finds it similarly in the Victorian habit of collecting sea life and/or ferns in aquariums, in the Crystal Palace, which contained all kinds of collections, and in Captain Nemo’s underwater world.

Something that pervades both of these spheres is the idea of collecting, of gathering, of taxonomy and taxidermy, and also: orientalism. This collecting seems driven by a fascination with the foreign as well as the need to contain it. But what fascinates me a great deal is how these collections, these attempts to organize and make sense of and defend ourselves against the foreign tends to break down, thus becoming a site of infection, a site of melee, rather than a containment.

In some way this is all about art. Anytime we read poetry, we become tourists in art. (continue reading…)

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What happens on Earth stays on Earth

by on Nov.15, 2012

I’ve been working on a multi-volume set of occult writings called BLOOD WORK. The second volume, Revelations & Confessions, is getting a limited, early release via Slim Princess Holdings as of today. You can purchase one of 33 copies at Slim Princess Holdings.

The dominant tropes of this volume are pulled from what Heinrich Agrippa would call the Celestial Realm, a system of control which manifests these days as the alien abduction phenomenon. In other words:

The best technology
if you want

to rule Earth
is blood.

have the best technology.

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Shanna Compton on Joyce Mansour

by on Nov.14, 2012

Shanna Compton wrote a very good introduction to another of my favorite poets, Joyce Mansour.

Shanna even connects Mansour to this very blog:

So she comes after Mina Loy, before Harryette Mullen, and is of the same generation as Sylvia Plath sans the early exit. She anticipates and perhaps influences (haven’t asked) some of the grotesquer corners of the Gurlesque as in work by Ariana Reines, Danielle Pafunda, Lara Glenum, and others; the Necropastoral as explored by Joyelle McSweeney, Johannes Göransson, and others; and the flamboyantly femme Flarf of Nada Gordon and Sharon Mesmer. I see her in Sandra Simonds’ work too. I see her, accidentally and by way of these others, in some of mine. It’d be interesting to read Kim Hyesoon’s Mommy Must Be a Fountain of Feathers alongside Mansour’s Phallus & Mommies. I’m planning to spend a lot more time with her work, figuring out what she’s done (to me, to us, to poetry).

I talk about Mansour in this post from a while back.

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More Korea: Janice Lee on Kim Hyesoon

by on Nov.14, 2012

Here’s a link to Janice Lee’s moving very personal review of Kim Hyesoon’s All the Garbage of the World, Unite!

Here’s how it begins:

1. To be clear, this book, and all of Kim Hyesoon’s books, are tainted by my mother’s death.

2. This of course is not the fault of the author. Simply, I first discovered Kim Hyesoon when Action Books published Mommy Must Be A Mountain of Feathers. I was excited by the images of rats, of devouring, crushed bodies, the somehow endearing repulsion. And I was excited to share these poems with my mother. I bought as many of her books in the original Korean as I could order online, and my mother and I were going to read them in Korean together. We hadn’t read together since I was very young so this was a very special prospect for me.

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More News from Korea: Kim Ki Taek

by on Nov.13, 2012

One of the fascinating writers I hung out with in Korea was Kim Ki Taek. He grew up as an orphan in Korea in the 1960s (a student of Kim Hyesoon’s, she said it is highly unusual for orphans to go on to college). What I remember most about him was this amazing story he told about being a kid and finding a dead rabbit in the street and cooking and eating it. It was supposed to be a tale to demonstrate the need to keep some things hidden in poems (because he got in trouble for revealing this experience in a poem).

Anyway, there’s a great interview with him over on Cordiate Poetry Review.


I think ‘Physical and psychological violence’ is common for all the people and the living things. However I agree that my poems are very sensitive to find the ‘mark’ of physical and psychological violence of all the bodies of humans and animals. (I regret for foreign readers not to find it in my poems because of no English version of collected poems.)

In my poetry, I have observed how violence carves marks on the body, and I am interested in this process and in these wounds. The body appears in various forms including all human and living things with their words, actions, habits, and instincts. These powerfully provoke my curiosity. I have been pleased to watch and to describe them in my poems. I think that they are related to my question — what am I who lives in the body?
(continue reading…)

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Hipsters and "Unthinkable Energies": Some Links

by on Nov.13, 2012

Over on the Lettras Latina blog, Montevidayoan Lucas de Lima, current Notre Dame MFA student Lauro Vazquez, and Nayelli Barios have a really insightful, rich conversation about their experiences as young Latino/a poets. To me this conversation covers a whole lot of ground, sparkling with ideas. It feels like an essential document of not just the issues facing Latino/a poets, but all US poets. So go here and check it out.


I like what Lucas has to say about tapping into “unthinkable energies,” my poetry I feel like is also an attempt at that. I do think ornateness has a violent aspect to it, we are repulsed by that which is over the top. I think of the Spanish word “empalagoso” which my mother use to say to me when something–usually ice cream–became sickly sweet and she could no longer bear to eat, passing it along to me. And violence to of course spills and amplifies, as Lucas says. I think that is one of the things that keeps the force of this poems lashing out for me. The alligator attack spills and self-amplifies into for example the “Marias” in these poems. What does this form of violence do to our narratives and to our intentions for poetry? What does it do to ourselves?

In the 751 online journal, Farren Stanley reviews Joyelle McSweeney’s Percussion Grenade:

You can see that McSweeney’s got an ear for beautiful language in her previous books, which are so sonorous and gliding they make me wonderfully and terribly aware of utterance and my own tin ear. In the beginning of this book, McSweeney prefaces by insisting that we actually read it aloud. I think because she knows the way language, especially her language, can intoxicate, and perhaps also because to perform the language is to implicate yourself as a part of it while you are lulled by it.

Gene Tanta has written a post about the hipster rhetoric in American poetry, including me, Sean Kilpatrick and Ariana Reines as “hipster” poets:

Recently, Swedish-American poet Johannes Goransson has suggested a link between the hipster and an excessive aesthetic on his popular blog called Montevidayo: “The hipster lets the art become excessive, lets art become “graffitiesque” (ie when art takes over the space of the everyday).” Perhaps hipster poets like Goransson, Ariana Reines, Sean Kilpatrick, and others, as practitioners of excessive aesthetics, offer useful responses to the moral-relativism articulated by postmodern urban spaces. Perhaps art is still that thing that helps us conceive of getting lost as an adventure.

I would add that I usually don’t consider myself a “hipster” poet; usually I just take note of how the term “hipster” is used negatively, and I think that here Gene is right: it has to do with policing art, the boundaries of art. I also really don’t think I’m “cool” in any way. I feel feverish. I can never establish a tasteful critical distance. I don’t want to.

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"Vlada's green-eyed superalert face everywhere": Kitsch and the Foreign in Lidija Praizovic's Poems

by on Nov.12, 2012


What makes the metaphysical dilemma special, if not unique, is that it exists in the space just after the effort and before the completion of the tear. The body and soul are not yet rent, but they are somewhere in the midst of that process. What emerges from the ongoing rupture is delicate, baroque vomit, an undeniably human substance, the existence of which is totally outside bodily limits.

I’m reading Lidija Praizovic’s new book “PORR FÖR VLADA/HJARTAHJARTAHJARTA!!!/MITT LIVE SOM MUN” [Or: “PORN FOR VLADA/HEARTHEARTHEART!!!/MY LIFE AS A MOUTH”] (from the brilliant new Swedish press Dockhaveri Förlag (“Doll Wreckage,” very gurlesque, also published first book by Montevidayoan Aylin Bloch Boynukisa)). And in particular how her foreignness (as an immigrant, as an cobbler together of foreign words and phrases) creates undulations in a poem like this:

Belgrade Beer Fest

enorma halmhattar och homofobier
Vladas grönögda superspända ansikte överallt

suck me
lick me
fuck me
(pulseringar inom mig)

koliko kostaju rogovi

Belgrade Beer Fest

enormous straw hats and homophobias
Vlada’s green-eyed superalert face everywhere

suck me
lick me
fuck me
(pulsations within me)

koliko kostaju rogovi?
(continue reading…)

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On Loaded Guns 1: Emily Dickinson, Bomb of Amherst

by on Nov.09, 2012

A Loaded Gun, 1863


In the past year I’ve found my thoughts returning & returning to Dickinson’s Loaded Gun (Poem 754).  How is the body (and the body of the poem) a vessel of violence, but not of agency, a site from which violence returns and goes, is doubled up, masked, wears the mask of another, shines its face everywhere? The loaded gun is an amplifier, a medium. It sounds the landscape through its roar and glare. It replaces the sun and,  part camera flash and part nuclear bomb, develops the landscape like the bomb at Hiroshima which burnt shadows permanently into sidewalk.

And every time I speak for Him –
The Mountains straight reply –

And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow –
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through –

What’s scary about this set of images is a tide of reversals: the would-be human is converted to a gun, which then conducts a would-be ‘human’ circuit of communication, complete with speaking, replying, smiling, and showing one’s pleasure on the face. This circuit of communication transfers human duplicity to the landscape; anthromorphized, the landscape now is capable of  inflicting the violence with a human-like duplicity—the “Valley glow” shed by the “Vesuvian face” being the destructive expression of a volcano which, like human bombs, freezes human time.

The poem is a series of transpositions, transfers, embodiments and re-embodiments—human and machinic, human and landscape, “I” and “he”. These entites saturate, split, take the place of each other, reflect on each other in the solipsism of violence. So oscillating is this solipsism that time can’t quite conduct itself through the thick material. In the final two stanzas:

To foe of His – I’m deadly foe –
None stir the second time –
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye –
Or an emphatic Thumb –

Though I than He – may longer live
He longer must – than I –
For I have but the power to kill,
Without–the power to die–

In the first stanza we see the anachronistic properties of this violence. The first two lines are a kind of boast, yet the second two lines work backwards—we get the ‘yellow eye’—the flash from the gun’s report—and THEN the thumb on the trigger. It’s as if the film runs backwards as in a 90’s style britpunk movie, violence (and the poem) stores itself back up in the gun’s trigger again. “None stir the second time”, but the first time reverses itself and is ready to repeat.

The final stanza piles anachronism upon anachronism and ultimately sends this reader’s eye rooting backwards up the poem, thus enacting its own recoil and repeat. The difference between “may” and “must” seems critical here. If our speaker is fully converted to machine here, a kind of immortality, this immortality converts backwards; may becomes “must” and forces “he” into immortality along with her, through her undeadness. The violence is permanent (tho also an instability) and gathers every party up into its shock—shooter, target, and gun.

This powerful assemblage reverberates all the way up the body of the poem, crushing and reforming its polarities with its undead, undying shock. If the poem is the textual body of the speaker, the vessel of its “I’, then this poem now becomes the field of its machinic unions, its becoming, its undead deadly-ness, its spasming emphaticness. The speaker cannot die because, though deadly, dead-ish, full of death, she can ever complete this moment of becoming dead; the poem cannot die because it never completes its moment of assembling all it touches into the expanding field of its exploding body.

In this sense, the iconic poem performs as a suicide bomber– “the power to kill/without the power to die”- that is, to complete the dying.

The candidate for martyrdom transforms his or her body into a mask that hides the soon-to-be-detonated weapon. Unlike the tank or the missile that is clearly visible, the weapon carried in the shape of the body is invisible. Thus concealed, it forms part of the body. It is so intimately part of the body that at the time of its detonation it annihilates the body of its bearer, who carries with it the bodies of others when it does not reverse them to pieces. The body does not simply conceal a weapon. The body is transformed into a weapon, not in a metaphorical sense but in a truly ballistic sense. – Achille Mbebe, quoted in Jasbir Puar, “Queer Times, Queer Assemblages”.

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by on Nov.08, 2012


I have this problem with empathy. Yesterday I watched The Hunger Games movie for the first time and when they inserted the trackers into the forearms of the tributes I literally almost vomited all over the couch. And when we watched The Patriot in my 10th grade AP History Class I had to sit in the library all that week because I fainted on the first day. I have a low tolerance for physical depictions of violence because when I see it, I feel it, like in my stomach; it’s actual.

I have this obsession with fashion magazines. Not with the texts, necessarily (although I do love it when someone like Jeffrey Steingarten deliquesces on butter for Vogue), but with the advertisements. As with TV, I want it to sell to me; I’m primarily interested in consumable industry. I like to read a fashion magazine three times: first to judge the outfits, next to analyse the advertisements, and, finally, to assess the layouts and writing.

The girls in fashion ads are basically dead. They are able to sell clothes because they are nonentities; their bodies must be blank, hanger-esque, so that any given consumer might imagine the garments upon themselves.


Recently I have been carrying around the newly-translated and adorably pink Semiotext(e) Theory of the Young Girl. I started reading the illegal PDF that was circulating the internet when I stumbled across it a few years ago. For a long time, I have been thinking about the agency of Girls, what we’re allowed and what is expected, the limits of The Girl. When, for example, does the Valley Girl lose her modifier and become, merely (?) an uncanny valley of defective communication? Perhaps the bodily boundary isn’t a boundary at all but a membrane, a punctum-in-waiting.

I was baking brownies with my cousin when Joyelle told me about Regina Walters. (continue reading…)

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by on Nov.07, 2012




Two times in the last week I’ve done something I’m ashamed of. I’ve never watched a snuff film but I have, in the last week, looked at the ‘snuff’ equivalent—two photographs of young teenaged girls whose sexual exploitation, recorded in these photographs, was linked to their deaths.

One photograph was of Amanda Todd; at the vulnerable age 12, she flashed her breasts to a persuasive pedophile in a chatroom. He hounded her thereafter with the picture- -circulating it at her school, posting it as his Facebook picture, recirculating it each time she switched schools. After vicious bullying, self-harm, and a suicide attempt, Todd succeeded in killing herself, but not before recording an online video suicide note in which she told, on note cards, in heartbreaking teenaged handwriting, the story of her exploitation, harassment and death. I came across knowledge of Amanda Todd through a squib at the New Yorker.

The other photograph was of Regina Walters.I came by knowledge of Walters’ death via the GQ article ‘The Truck-Stop Killer’ by Vanessa Veselka. (continue reading…)

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I’ll never (never.) own the means of production.

by on Nov.06, 2012


It’s election day. Did you vote for my uterus? My uterus is ur uterus, after all!

Recently, on his In Quire, the ever-thoughtful H.L. Hix asked me a question about my third book Iatrogenic, and in my answer, I said:

As I’m typing, I’m thinking about this: I accept that my interiority is culturally forged, and not very well forged. […] I’m a breeder who revolts against the body-as-property equations of state and love. Gloria Anzadlúa tells us to develop (or that some of us in that third space will necessarily develop) a “tolerance for ambiguity.” I say, let’s go further. Let’s develop a predilection for ambiguity. Let’s elect it. Let’s become especially skilled at occupying our conflicted terrain, at describing the negative space of the ambiguous by filling in everything around it. This is feminist, which is synonymous with existential or ontological. This is an ontological option that I’m pursuing. Failure abounds. Edification is for the birds. Like an amalgam of my women “Who Chose…” and my Surrogates, I simultaneously choose and am chosen for. I am, and I be-as-constructed. I acknowledge these competing states (though state sounds too static a term). I’ll never (never.) own the means of production, my body, my heart, myself, but I’ll always feel indignant and possessive when someone else—some state entity, some authority or lover—puts claim on them.

I’d like to talk to you about this some more, voters. Meanwhile, bottoms up.

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Report from Korea: Kim Yi-Deum

by on Nov.06, 2012

So I went to Korea last week and participated in an incredible international literary festival with writers from such places as Mexico and India. It was really inspiring and I think I went a little insane – from the strangeness/beauty of Korea, from jetlag/insomnia, and from all the amazing poetry.

I’m catching up on a bunch of stuff so I don’t have time to write a proper entry about this experience right now, but I thought for now I would type out this poem by one of my new favorite poets, Kim Yi-Deum (she claims it’s pronounced like the English “rhythm” but I don’t think so, it’s more like “Idum”).

Another of my favorite poets, Kim Hyesoon told me, “You should meet Kim Yi-Deum, you have very similar sensibilities” (well, the quote was a little odder than that, coming through the translation of her daughter Fi-Jae after we had all had a lot of sweet-murky rice wine). Kim H. was the person who first published Kim Y.’s work back in 2001. But by the time KH told me that I should meet Yi-Deum, I had already met her and become instant friends. I’m plotting to have more of her work translated in the future.

This is her poem “The Last Woman with a Blue Beard”:

My key is bleeding. My dictionary is bleeding. My beard is bleeding and a bad tooth has come out. My voice has thickened, my wrinkles have thickened and the rattail in the desk drawer has vanished. As rumor has it, I wander in the basement and up above ground equally for half the year.

Water is flowing from my eyes. One eyeball has dried out. Hair is heaped to the knees of both my legs. Blood is emerging from half my genitals, semen is flowing down the right side of my groin. It happens once in a hundred years.

Ha ha ha, it’s a joke, I’m just chatting away in the fantastical tones that are fashionable nowadays, saying that I’m not a woman, not a man, neither dead nor alive. yes, saying that talking is tiresome.

Well, stop sending me depilators and mouse traps. And I wouldn’t know what to do with a wig crawling with lice, either. Fruits cut and arranged, all this trash, I’ve had enough of it. Don’t light candles or burn incense at my bedside. It will kill me. And don’t come bringing things like bundles of flowers.

Dead roses said it: “You are beautiful.”

Now I’m taking a rest after playing with an old man, nothing but skin and bones. Every day, one or two is one thing, but some days I go crazy with girls storming in all at one time. Has permission for a public cemetery been granted? It’s been a long time since the electricity was cut off and the water pipes blocked. I dont’ know what coming to one’s senses means, but please, that’s enough congrats and stop the blessings, too.

It seems there’s no space in the basement for tying up. And no room in the garden for burying. Some say I called them, but they turn up on their own two feet and strip naked, so what can I do? I have to treat them equally.

Give me things I don’t have. For example, words like pain, despair, or futility. Speak words I’ve never experienced, words only existing in the dictionary. Isn’t it possible? Or situations where I can use unbearably hackneyed phrases; or send me subjects that fit the word jealousy.

Who may have seen me? I couldn’t even see myself, but I am beautiful.

[trans Chung Eun-Gwi and Brother Anthony of Taize]

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Locked up in the Necropastoral: Michal Chelbin's Sailboats and Swans

by on Nov.02, 2012

“Two inmates sentenced for violence and theft, Juvenile Prison for Girls, 2008”

“Yana sentenced for theft. Juvenile Prison for girls, Ukraine, 2009” Michal Chelbin

Depending on the havoc struck by Sandy, the Andrea Meislin Gallery in New York will be displaying Michal Chelbin’s striking photography show “Sailboats and Swans” until December 22. The title refers to the pastoral and fantastic fabrics and wallpapers which clothe the bodies and prisons in which Chelbin’s subjects, juvenile and female offenders, are incarcerated.  In the irrational pastoralia of these cellblocks, boys sleep in military barracks under bucolic murals; girls convicted for assault pose in flowered dresses.  The press release suggests,

These contradictions of life in prison abound in girls’ flowery dress prison uniforms, murderers working as nannies to other women’s babies in the new mothers’ prison, young girls serving time alongside grandmothers – perhaps witness to their own futures, and the mesmerizing human blend of fear and cruelty in the boys’ and mens’ prison – where big tattooed bodies are now zombie-like, worn down by the daily travails of trying to survive being locked up in a world devoid of hope.

With Sandy’s necropastoral proliferation bringing its damage to Manhattan, I’m sure none of our New York Montevidayans can take in this show for me and report back. But many images from this show are available on- line, and I find them extremely moving. In the ‘noplace’ of prison these incredibly youthful bodies are suspended from temporal linearity. The prisoners are “witness to their own futures” randomly removed from and reassigned new biological roles (murderers minding the babies of other mothers), locked up in kitsch landscapes in which fabrics and wallpaper have as much (or as little) agency as the human bodies themselves. The faces of the models are impassive yet something sears from these photographs, a force of life and/or death which, in the no-time of prison, can find no natural body but courses from surface to surface, form to form, looking for an egress but only finding the picture plane. As Artaud notes, “A little dead girl says: I am the one convulsed with horror in the live woman’s lungs. Get me out of here at once. ” The pain entrapped in these photos cannot exit through a punctum but saturates every object, frond, fabric, and form within the photo itself, everything trapped in its pane, like the bubble in Bishop’s Sonnet who can only find egress from the poem in that final exclamation point:

Caught – the bubble
in the spirit-level,
a creature divided;
and the compass needle
wobbling and wavering,
Freed – the broken
thermometer’s mercury
running away;
and the rainbow-bird
from the narrow bevel
of the empty mirror,
flying wherever
it feels like, gay!

Perhaps pain is like this frantic bubble, trying to push out of the photo via a Barthian punctum, yet finding its level always cruelly replenished, its impossible economy never reduced.

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