“The hermaphrodite is collapsing into a red giant”: Dark Matter by Aase Berg is on Sale

by on Dec.20, 2012

Over at the Black Ocean web site. Buy it here.

“Extraordinary and urgent, a coded warning smuggled out of dark.”
—China Miéville

Dark Matter hi res cover

“Aase Berg’s poetry is discomforting because it lacks boundaries . . . When I read her I notice how my consciousness tries to separate, divide up and make sense of her almost hallucinatory images, but they always glide back together. I get nauseous and almost seasick from her texts.”
—Åsa Beckman, author of I Myself A House of Light – Postmodern Swedish Women Poets

“Berg’s hallucinatory, post-cataclysmic epic takes place in an unremitting future-past. The bodies mutate and hybridize. They are erotic and artificial, art and adrenaline. Available for the first time in English as a complete collection, the poems of this contemporary Swedish classic contaminate as they become contaminated—drawing on and altering source texts that range from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to string theory. Calling on fables, science, the pastoral, and the body, Dark Matter aggravates their perception while exhausting poetry down to its nerve: “a faint spasm of cheers before this, the nervous system’s last chance to communicate with the dying I.” The result: a monstrous zone of linguistic and bodily interpenetration, cell death, and radiant permutations.”

from “Red Giant”:

The hermaphrodite is collapsing into a red giant. it gathers, andromeda is pulled into a convulsion up in the sky. and purple acorn bolts and pulsars throb wildly against the zachris Nebula’s strict core.

I hold the stems tight, hummingbirdish. the racket from the harbor entrance reached us long before our arrival. Out of the moist mist the city’s flicker-globes appeared along a ribbon of light. Cicadas chafed bolts against each other.

We stood on deck in silent clusters. A twilight fell slowly and the fever surged in a wave through my pseudo-dead body. Out of my throat rose a sap that tasted of yeast and bitter almond. He bent into the kiss and sucked up the fat liquid with his sticky feeler. A moon-flecked chrysalis anemone dropped from his already extremely corroded Dead Man’s Hand. Tentacles, very long, hanging: where heavy breast-blue lilies drooped over the lacunae.

I could feel the widening and pumping from the vacuum chambers deep inside my brain. For several days alexander had worked with his herbarium, dissecting it down to a microcosm of as-of-yet unexplored categories, the level of detail where flesh becomes plant becomes stone.

8 comments for this entry:
  1. adam strauss

    I like this muchly:

    breast-blue lilies drooped over the lacunae–“breastblue”!!!!!!!!

  2. adam strauss

    Is it just me or is there some affinity between With Deer and some Seamus Heaney–especially “his” bog poems, and his frogspawn and tree/bramble poems etc?

  3. Johannes

    Well there are some huge differences but there are clammy and drowned bodies, bogs etc

    And theres this famous poem about denmark:

  4. adam strauss

    Oh yes-yes-yes, there’s for sure difference! But there seems, to me, to be kinship via the yummy sensuous natural description, where terraine and organism merges, and both poets seem fond of an adjectival mode. Weird as this may be, I imagine Berg’s and Heaney’s poems as being ones which would have pungent odors could they morph into life and be sniffed–loamsmell, humus, lichens, clay, mineral tangs, funk from rotted carcass, scent-glands misting barks etc. Has anyone translated her poems into paintings?

  5. Johannes

    I don’t know if there have been paintings inspired by Aase’s work, but I know that Rut Hillarp – important avant-garde figure in Swedish literature and art – took a lot of spooky photographs of Aase way back, and one of them is on the inside sleeve of Hos Rådjur (ie the Swedish With Deer). And then there’s one of her in a taxidermy exhibition. I’ll look if I can find any. Johannes

  6. adam strauss

    Cool-cool, thank you for the response. Has anyone made odorscapes instead of painting scapes? Is it just me or, aside from the culinary and floral arrangement millieu, is not much done to explore smell in the arts. Or do, for example, Jeff Koons’ topiary puppies smell?

    In my prior comment, I’d argue that “natural description” is the wrong phrase; maybe earthscape would work better, or maybe better yet earthtorques.

  7. Johannes

    I’ll try to convince Joyelle to write somethign about SH. He was her teacher and she’s written about him.


  8. adam strauss

    Oh neat–thank you–I think that’d be very interesting; I love his erotic/love/leafsap on hands poem (don’t know the title), or think I do–havn’t seriously read SH in about a decade. From The Spirit Level there’s a line with the phrase (assuming memory hasn’t butchered) “fenland of alder” which, mmm, stirs me; it’s like plant-porn! Topography porn!