"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?

In the original, the poems are centered, which I love because it gives it such a stylized, “tasteless” (what proper “experimental” poet in their right mind would center their poems?), high-school-poem feel, which suits a book whose author can’t seem to even decide on one title but has to jam three of them into one title. This is a poem that tastelessly wants more and more.

It might at first appear to be an “imagist” poem about a visceral moment (the apparition of these faces bla bla) but its a wrecked imagist poem – (doll-)wrecked by the foreign words, by how overwhelmed (as opposed to contemplative) the speaker is, flooded out.

Something I want to talk about: the use of foreign languages and how that relates to the identity of the speaker of the poem. The title and the (italicized in original) internal pulsations are in English, and then there is the question in (I think) Serbian, which seems to come from someone in the crowd of this “beer fest.” One might expect a book in Swedish to have the “internal pulsations” in Swedish, but instead they are in English: the foreign is the inside. The Swedish describes, while the foreign English is what’s in the “interiority” of the Speaker.

One might also expect an immigrant like Lidija to have the Serbian be the authentic self (the “authenticity kitsch” of the immigrant), but here the foreign is not just spoken by others, it seems to be the language both of obscurity and the language of kitsch, the absolutely inauthentic. It is both the inside and the outside; it ruins this distinction.

I have in the past talked about the inflationary dynamics of translation and the foreign. How translation generates an excess (of versions, of canons, of meanings, of poems etc) and how that interests me (especially since we live in an age where the excess of immigrants and excessive spending on poor people seem to be the key issues of our political climate).

And in part this poem produces this affect: the sense that there is no true interiority that holds the poem down; that the languages are instead undulating through her; even her one and only truly beloved Vlad is everywhere, like a mass-produced mask (love doesn’t here help you focus on the one; it generates copies of itself). And of course the flood of babies…

In translation studies there are the people who want to make the poems sound like an American poem (domesticators) and people who want the poem to foreground the strangeness of the text. In the context of translation, I find both of these flawed. With the domesticators I sense an unwillingness to engage with the foreign; in the foreignizers and unwillingness to truly engage. Because something is foreign doesn’t mean it’s entirely noise; often the foreign is actually very intriguing, engaging (literature “foreignizes” experiences according to Shklovsky and a whole host of other romantic and modernist critics). Art is itself something of this foreign that like a violent force enters us and makes us vulnerable.

These two different issues I think come together in this poem. There’s something about how this is not about a stable identity, but an identity that is interpenetrated by the foreign.

Here’s the Lidija piece I translated in our next to last Action, Yes issue.

2 comments for this entry:
  1. Aylin

    Thank you, Johannes!
    There’s another project by Dockhaveri concearning Porr för Vlada, or as we call it, PFV, coming up on our website (dockhaveri.se), called Sprängningen (The Bursting/The Explosion of PFV). The Explosion will include a lot of people doing different type of things to the poems. This blog post could be a part of that (or something else if you would like to).


  2. Johannes

    Yes, I totally will do it. Just email me.