Archive for January, 2013
by Johannes Goransson on Jan.15, 2013
Of Metromanie and Authorship: Kent Johnson’s Hybrid Critique
by David Hadbawnik
When Michel Foucault wrote “What Is an Author?”, he famously ended the essay with a Utopian desire for “a form of culture in which fiction would not be limited by the figure of the author,” and speculated that “as our society changes … the author-function will disappear” (516-17) . This, he imagines or hopes, will render obsolete “limiting” questions such as, “Who really spoke? Is it really he and not someone else? With what authenticity or originality? And what part of his deepest self did he express in his discourse?” and lead instead to a renewed, more open-ended focus on texts and discourses in their own right; with regards to the author, as Foucault concludes, “we would hear hardly anything but the stirring of an indifference: ‘What difference does it make who is speaking?’” (517). Yet the “Death of the Author” has proven as elusive and premature as the end of capitalism, the modern institution that arguably gave rise to the modern concept of the author; for every scoop of dirt tossed on it, the author seems to rise up with a vengeance. Indeed, as literature has become less important from a cultural standpoint , it seems to matter more than ever who wrote it. Awards, grants, tenure, prestige—these increasingly scarce and meager crumbs are doled out to individuals, not “discourses.”
One form of authorship, which seems at once new and at least somewhat anticipated by Foucault , is what I would term (for lack of a thriftier phrase) “Isn’t that the one who…?” authors. The need for such authors on poetry’s cultural landscape is implicit in Marjorie Perloff’s controversial Boston Review essay, “Poetry on the Brink: Reinventing the Lyric,” in which she suggests there are too many poets. Perloff notes at the outset of the essay that, “the sheer number of poets now plying their craft inevitably ensures moderation and safety.” She then describes the typical contemporary poem as a sort of loose free-verse construction, image-heavy, and aiming towards a form of expression which, as Perloff writes, “designat[es] the lyric speaker as a particularly sensitive person who really feels the pain, whether of our imperialist wars in the Middle East or of late capitalism or of some personal tragedy such as the death of a loved one.” The glut of poets produced by this modern Academic-Industrial Complex (and the surfeit of journals and presses that support them) results in the regrettable situation that “poets are always being displaced by younger poets.” Yet Perloff’s true message is that as a result of this uniformity, this glut of poets, the well-turned phrase, the well-wrought poem of whatever stripe is simply pedestrian unless its author can be introduced by the formula, “Isn’t that the one who…?” Otherwise, said author’s writing is just another in the endless stream of (at best) perfectly competent verse that is foisted on the public at ever-increasing and alarming rates.
by Dan Hoy on Jan.14, 2013
Just wanted to drop a quick note:
The next (first) installment of Blood Work: The Apocalypse of Dan Hoy is now available in a limited edition of 33 from Solar Luxuriance: CENTURIES & PROPHECIES: Blood Work, Book I.
For the completists among us, REVELATIONS & CONFESSIONS: Blood Work, Book II (the second installment but the first to be printed) might still be available from Slim Princess Holdings.
Save your mysteries
for the mysterious
by Joyelle McSweeney on Jan.14, 2013
Every once in a while you stumble on an artist who is articulating (or disarticulating) a set of ideas, materials, genres and media in a way so viscerally perfect for your needs that the experience is pharmaceutical and you want to turn your friends on to it immediately. Well friends, I would like to share the work of Australian artist Kirsten Hudson.
Hudson’s work, by her own description, is a series of works in “video, print, and sugar”. Sugar’s status as an imperial commodity historically derived from slave labor, and, in its artificial form, a carcinogenic corporate product of mandatory consumption; its sickliness, sharpness and stickiness; its coding for women, children, and vapidity; its power to radically denature the body’s metabolism; and its quite mutable and distinct physical states, make it an excellent and dismaying medium for Hudson to work with in her various sculptures, prints and installations (brilliantly, her website, Artificial Sweetness, seems to generate houseflies, death’s attendants, and the shoddy housewife’s, as well– and also plays the ‘Nutcracker”s celeste motif, a sonic manifestation of sugar.) The pieces themselves manifest (and destroy, possibly digest) sugar in different ways, until it seems as if the body has been turned inside out– sugar is used against hte body, and the body is used against sugar:
In these two performance stills, a cotton candy gown is eaten away, registering violence against the female body who performs the dress, and now appears to be a mass of ravaged tissue, while in fact performing its own demise. Other works in this series include lumps of sugar entitled ‘lump: my autobiography” and a pink chandelier made of fondant equalling the excess weight Hudson carried since losing her stillborn baby.
As an example of art-making that embraces a fully fleshy empathic imagination, […] Taste My Sorrow -my ongoing series of video, print and sugar-based works– […] seeks to trigger a pre-discursive, pre-cognitive, pre-language affectthat momentarily allows the viewer to be amidst rather than stand before the “otherness” of a body in/of trauma. By proposing the possibility of “being amidst”, I do not pretend that it is desirable or even possible to reduce the “Other’s” trauma to one’s own singular subjective understanding or experience of trauma. Instead I use the possibility of “being amidst” as a sensorial alternativeto the primacy of vision. So rather than enacting a totalising panoramic “knowing” gaze that classifies and segregates the traumatised “other” (Levinas1989), I propose an empathic imagination as a way of “being with” thetraumatised “Other” that accepts the ambiguity, ambivalence and “unknowability” of what has led to, or resulted in, a body in/of trauma.”
Kirsten Hudson’s work, in addition to its own ‘botched’ fertility, provides set of images and concepts which helps me think about Johannes Goransson’s entire work, basically, including his upcoming work, Sugar Book. All his work is made of spectacular, debriding series in which each part burns up and provides a wound we can poke our attention through to see the next installment in the series. Not only do his work host incredible (well, actually, credible) violence, but they do a kind of cutter’s violence to themselves, cutting away the thin white wrist skin of the paper to get at the infection that runs underneath as busy as a freeway in a city that shits movies:
I am supposed to find a killer but I am feverish in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles tastes like iron in my mouth.
Maybe I’m dying of a disease brought home to me from my daughters. They are conduits of contagion. They bring the outside into the inside and the inside into the outside. They stand by the stairs and stare at me. They have dark dark hair and blue eyes. Their dresses look clean but their mouths are soiled.
We live inside The Meadow. That’s not its true name of the hotel but that’s what I call it because of the lamb masks.
Infection: white cells. White skin. Black masks. Irony is a crowbar in the teeth. Sugar races in the streets, metabolism burns the strip mall down. Race, gender, violence– the mouth of the poem is stuffed with girls, and the girls in the poem are stuffed with contagion. The face of the poem is stuffed with mask, and the masks are stuffed with race. The poem destroys itself by being read. The Sugar Book must be consumed, cuts and degrades the teeth, hygiene is deplorable in this abbatoir-cum-motel, a space where the ‘gender wars’ deploy themselves in an ominbody, city, book, family, cuttering, dilation and cutterage, & montage & frottage, decapitation, reanimation. The Internet tells me
“Sugar Melting Point Varies Because Sugar Doesn’t Melt; It Decomposes”
This is what makes Johannes a feminist.
Polka-Dots, Repulsive Holes, and the Political Aesthetics of Benthic "Life" Forms in Yayoi Kusama and Kim Hyesoon
by Joyelle McSweeney on Jan.10, 2013
When is a dot a hole and when is a hole a dot? What can a dot do, what can a hole do? When does a polka dot (most cheerful and ludicrous of marks) become a hole? Is a hole a zero, or does it emit? Maybe a hole becomes a dot when it begins to pulse, to emit, when it begins, even, to repel:
Goodness, I didn’t know there were such repulsive holes
As Kim Hyesoon’s landmark poem, “Manhole Humanity”, comes into English in the hands of Don Mee Choi, it begins to pulse each time the word ‘hole’ is repeated, hundreds of times across the many pages of the poem. Not only is the word ‘hole’ repeated, but it makes a triply proliferant glyph for itself, the interior ‘o’ that signals from the middle of “hole”, the capital ‘O’ that announces each new section of the poem, which further doubles itself in the ‘o’ shape or ‘hole’ the human mouth must make to mouth this syllable. Oxymoronically, however, this pulsing hole announces and reproduces absence, a zero, a hole. In this way the hole begins to pulse or beat—to be ‘repulsive”—the emptiness of the “O” begins sending out beats—that which is ‘repulsive’ sends out a counterpressure, a counter pulse. Perhaps a negative pulse. Perhaps an oxymoronically empty-full pulse. It beats back, and it beats—an unwholesome life force of the low and the dead beating back to life.
The field of holes begins to beat. The field of holes begins to pulse. To repulse. To repel.
Hair sprouts up inside the holes and ripples like water plants.
Holes are neatneatly piled a steaming stomach.
The wet and most poisonous snakes in the world pant.
Fill us up! fill us up with the outside!
When hair whines like the fingers that reach out towards the refugee-aid bread truck someone picks up a brass instrument and wails at the sky praising the blueness.
Holes of the world, open up your lids and howl!
The poet Kim Hyesoon( Korean, b.1955) and the artist Yayoi Kusama (Japanese,b. 1929) are separated by a generation, by typical medium, and by nationality but united it seems to me in their experience of a militarized/occupied/war-defined childhood and their attempt to configure an art-language-system for a kind of modified, oxymoronic survival which strafes stasis and oppressive systems with a counter- or sub-system of dots and holes.
There is a rumor that those holes carry a drug-resistant strain of blood-poisoning virus.
by Johannes Goransson on Jan.09, 2013
“Accessing a Limitless Vein of Words”: An Interview with Jeongrye Choi
By Ruth Williams
In her essay, “My Language and Its Moments,” which concludes Instances (Parlor Press, 2011), South Korean poet Jeongrye Choi explains that her writing proceeds from a deep sense of responsibility: “Someone gave me life and I should answer. Now that I am alive and have a memory and can feel things deeply, I have to answer the questions of who I am, and where I am. So I write.” In her attempt to construct these answers, Jeongrye exposes the way our perceptions of the world are blurred by image and memory, rendering our existence both present and ghostly. Accordingly, Brenda Hillman, who worked with Wayne De Fremery and Jeongrye herself on translating the poems in Instances, describes Jeongrye’s work as displaying a “commitment to the strangeness of the everyday.”
Jeongrye Choi has published numerous books of poetry and essays in her native South Korea, winning several major literary awards for her work, including the Korean Modern Literature Award; Instances is the first collection of her poetry to be published in English. Jeongrye has spent time in the U.S. as a participant in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, and as a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkley. She holds a Ph.D. in Korean Modern Poetry from Korea University, and currently teaches at Korea National University of Art in Seoul. A brief excerpt of poems from Instances can be found at Strong Voices: Korean Women Poets.
I had the pleasure of meeting Jeongrye in Seoul. Not only did she kindly give me some delicious homemade kimchi and pickled sesame leaves, she also warmly agreed to discuss her work, the translation process, and Korean poetry. This interview was conducted via email in January 2012 with translation provided by S.B. and Claire Kyung Jin.
Though you studied literature and poetry when you were young, you gave it up for a time, only to return to it decades later. What was it that compelled you to return to writing poetry and studying literature?
Before I went to college, when I was very little, I definitely had a passion for writing novels. In part, my interest in literature stemmed from the fact that I have an aunt who bears the scars of Korean history—that is the Korean War and the division of North and South Korea. During the Korean War, her husband was beaten to death because he was a communist—if he was actually a communist—and, her brother-in-law infiltrated the South as a spy of the newly established North Korean regime. My beautiful aunt’s life was ruined after she was imprisoned and tortured for ten years because of these things. When I was little, I used to say that one day I would write a novel about her sorrowful life. I guess those words that I spoke then, later made me interested in literature. So, with a vague idea, I decided to register in the Korean literature department at my university; however, I could not learn what I wanted to learn in the so-called department of Korean literature. The only thing I learned in university was that literature is terrifying. Literature seemed like an enormous ideology and I thought that if I made a career of it, I would need to throw away my life. Making a living by writing seemed far from living a so-called happy life, in a secular sense, so I ran away from literature in horror.
Continue reading ““Accessing a Limitless Vein of Words”: Ruth Williams Interviews Jeongrye Choi” »
by Johannes Goransson on Jan.08, 2013
[I wrote this a couple of days ago:]
This powerful poetry is a heart offering by way of Ms. Cruz’s ancestor-sisters Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath. In “Kingdom of Dirt” she seduces the reader like this:
Meet me in the love-
Where the beautiful doomed
Meet at last.
This book is her charred orchard.
And, as the reviewer points out, Cruz’s book does seem to be operating under the influence of Sylvia Plath. I just read Danielle’s discussion of Plath and feminism in The Volta, where she quotes Susan R. Van Dyne:
Few critics have liked the tone of “Daddy.” Commenting nearly a decade apart, Irving Howe calls it “monstrous” and “utterly disproportionate,” and Helen Vendler finds it adolescent and unforgiving. Even a sympathetic ear like Margaret Dickie’s hears it as “hysterical.” […] other critics have been embarrassed, as Vendler is, that a woman of thirty reverts to baby-talk in her fury at parental injuries. The critical disapproval of Plath’s tone, it seems to me, indicates doubts both that the speaker’s excesses are altogether appropriate to the occasion and that Plath is entirely in control of her tone […] I grant the tone that critics have heard in “Daddy” is indeed present, but I believe its excesses are part of Plath’s conscious strategy of adopting the voice of a child, of creating a persona who is out of control […] The child persona dramatizes a woman writer’s powerlessness; it mirrors the cultural allegation that woman is child, and it gives form to her experience of being treated like one.
by Lucas de Lima on Jan.07, 2013
My best friends since moving back to Brazil have been Clarice Lispector’s cronicas, which she wrote for Jornal do Brasil in the late 60’s and early 70’s. They are hardly cronicas, actually, and more like personal blog posts in the style of Bhanu Kapil or Kate Zambreno. I was struck by how much the following passage I translated addresses some of Montevidayo’s recurrent themes: bad/good taste, counterfeitness, sincerity, and gaudy feathers (which here would evoke the populism of Carnival):
A friend of mine said that there’s a charlatan in all of us. I agreed. I feel a charlatan spying on me from within. She only doesn’t win because, first of all, she’s not real, and because my honesty is nauseatingly base. There’s something else that looks over my shoulder and makes me smile: bad taste. Ah, how often I feel like giving into bad taste. Bad taste in what? Well, the possibilities are limitless, simply limitless. From the moment you use the wrong word exactly when it sounds the worst to the moment when beautiful, truthful words unsettle and shock an unsuspecting listener. Bad taste in what else? How you dress, for example. Not necessarily anything as obvious as the equivalent of feathers. I don’t know how to describe it, but I’d know perfectly well how to wear bad taste. And what about in writing? As the line between bad taste and the truth is almost invisible, it’s very tempting. And even if just because a certain kind of good taste in literature is worse than bad taste. Sometimes, for the sheer pleasure of it, I tread on this fine line.
How is it that I’m a charlatan? In all sincerity, I went along thinking I had my life settled. For example, I studied law, fooling myself and everyone else. No, more myself than anyone. In doing so, I was sincere: I studied law because I wanted prison reform in Brazil.
The charlatan is a counterfeit of herself. What exactly am I saying? Something that already escapes me. Does the charlatan compromise herself? I don’t know, but I know that sometimes charlatanism hurts deeply. It gets in the way in the gravest of situations. It makes you want to stop existing exactly when you most forcefully exist.
I was told that a critic called Guimaraes Rosa and myself a hoax, or essentially charlatans. That critic won’t understand anything I’m saying here. This is something else. I’m talking about something profound, even if it doesn’t seem like it, even though I too am sadly playing a little with the topic.
I wonder what to make of Lispector’s mention of a painful charlatanism? It seems categorically different from the charlatanism described in the first paragraph. Maybe she’s talking about a certain kind of restraint—a conservatism of expression that is inherently cynical and limiting, perhaps in contrast with the “limitless possibilities” of unbridled bad taste, or what it is to let oneself “play” with a “profound” topic.
by Johannes Goransson on Jan.07, 2013
Here’s a really interesting discussion of how a poet named Catherine Dreyer who likes Kim Hyesoon is told that she’s against decorum and how it makes her feel. I love this post because I think it’s actually something that goes on all the time (and I think she’s right to point out that the teacher is no tyrant, but nonetheless she shuts down Dreyer) and because her reactions are honest and strong:
So I took both poems to class. In a brief discussion with my tutor, she was keen for me to read the Korean poet and teacher’s work, although she didn’t know her work.
I got six lines in and my tutor put her hand up and said, ‘Stop. Please stop. I can’t take any more.’
The rest of the class said it made them feel ill.
Continue reading “"The rest of the class said it made them feel ill…": Kim Hyesoon and Decorum” »
by Johannes Goransson on Jan.07, 2013
So it seems for years people have expressed outrage that I haven’t read Sarah Kane’s plays. “What you haven’t read Sarah Kane!? I don’t believe it.” Well, it was true until last night when I finally got to reading some of her plays. And most of them are pretty awesome.
So for those of you who don’t know, Sarah Kane was this very controversial playwright in England back in the 90s. She became instantly controversial with her first play, Blasted, for its supposedly sensationalistic portrayal of rape and violence, and she went to the next level of controversy when she killed herself before the staging of her final play, 4.48 Psychosis.
Psychosis is maybe a formally more original play, but I am intrigued by Blasted for its treatment of the relationship between art and violence. It starts out as a naturalistic drama: two people speaking curtly to each other in a hotel room, going through all kinds of power-shifts, much like in Strindberg’s Miss Julie. There’s a rich ex-boyfriend, Ian, who’s brought his poor ex-girlfriend, Cate, to a hotel room; he wants to have sex with her, she doesn’t want to have sex with him but she “likes” him (and sucks her thumb). He’s 45 and she’s 21.
But in an almost parodic or metatextual take on naturalism, the violence of the rape escalates. If you’ve ever seen a Strindberg play, naturalism is that strange zone of art that pretends to realism, but which inevitably leads to outrageous violence, which begets more and more violence. In Blasted, there is a lot of concern with Ian’s gun in the first act, and that seems to be again a kind of parody of his violent rape-sexuality. But the gun and the rape seem to open a WORMHOLE in the play between the hotel-room “naturalism” and the utter, total, ambient violence of civil war.
(I think what “wormhole” means in sci-fi is a kind of hole between two realities.)
Continue reading “Art's "Wormhole" of Violence: Sarah Kane's Blasted” »
by Johannes Goransson on Jan.05, 2013
Hi just wanted to link to a couple of fine books that I recently blurbed since I approach blurbs kind of like mini-reviews.
A Neon Tryst by Lina Ramona Vitkauskas (Shearsman Books)
“The ‘trysts’ of Lina Vitkauskas’s book are shot through with ‘neon’—that is, they are saturated with chemicals, textures, atmosphere, and media. According to this synthetic cosmology, ‘In an affair / arms laugh, / they become sheer.’ That is to say, they—arms, bodies, weapons, trysts—become both medium and adjective, both see-through and material. As in Antonioni’s great films, the body is clothes and the clothes are part of the visual atmosphere. A dress moves through a toxic landscape, or a ‘toxic love.’ The ‘trysts’ are movies, fantasies, art. Vitkauskas is ‘surreal, primitive, impressionist, whatever.'”
Brutal Synecdoche by Mark Tursi (Astrophil Press)
“‘I am here to hustle you,’ writes Mark Tursi in his terrific second book, BRUTAL SYNECDOCHE. In his meditations on culture, identity, religion, language (which one cannot avoid any more than one can avoid piss in a swimming pool, according to the first poem of the book), Tursi writes in a very casual tone, but the imagery is incredibly intensive. The result is a kind of ‘hustling’: the poems not only tug the reader along, but are already hustling themselves, already at conflict. As in most of these poems, there is an obscene humor at work as well in this line—the slang connotations of ‘hustling’ have to do with seduction and prostitution. But these unresolved conflicts, such as the prominent one between the sacred and profane, become the key to Tursi’s vision: ‘But hell, who cares, we’ll have a wild time later at the crematorium. Listening to the murmr and hust of dust to dust, ashes to ashes… Look there’s God’s grandeur…right underneath the lid of that coffin.’ Perhaps Tursi is a great religious poet after all. No pervert. No visionary.”—Johannes Göransson
by Johannes Goransson on Jan.04, 2013
“…and also of Kim Hyesoon’s entire ouevre, any poem, in which forms contain, die, give birth, give way to more forms, and the end of eternity can never be found. Creatures keep consuming each other, shitting, tearing, pushing through each other, and the significance of any given form or container is that it marks a boundary which can be pushed through, though one which always might reconstitute itself.”
A while back I wrote about Fan Fiction in similar terms:
What became apparent to me from reading Megan’s review is this crucial notion, the “vampirism” or “cannibalism” or “channeling” of art: it’s art that makes more art, that feeds off other art to make it immortal, to pass on fluids from one art to the next artwork.
The difference between the “black art” of Kim Hyesoon and a vampire however might be the sense of the poet as a medium rather than a vampire, the art moves through the poet with much less of a conscious sucking of blood (and shitting out immortality?). A few years ago when Joyelle wrote about the art of Fi Jae Lee (KH’s daughter) as “body possessed by media,” she was already calling forth this occult dimension of art:
by Joyelle McSweeney on Jan.03, 2013
“The fern craze opened as men’s clothes turned black.”— The Victorian Fern Craze: A History of Pteridomania, by Daniel Allen Elliston
We may have missed the future in which Hilma af Klint’s work could have been received. Perhaps we encounter it now in its permanent quiescence, a ruin of the former future. Her work is occult, runic, enclosed and split open, some works 11 feet tall, others closed in 150 secret notebooks, secret leaves conjuring to each, awaiting a dead/future reader. Her day job was painting flowers, producing the autokitsch of Swedish naturalism; her black work was drawing occult diagrams, geometric forms and colors which seek to understand the life force or ‘astral guidelines’ in these very flowers, songbirds, lichen. Her work thus unites the strictures of Malevich with the necrotic knowledge that life is an uncanny thing which must make its way fields of black matter by scavenging for various forms; her spirit teachers told her, “Your mission is to open their eyes to a life that lasts for eternity.”
She wrote in her notebooks in 1917,
“Everything is contained within the black cube: The greenery of the earth is the bottom of the cube, the blue air is its roof, and the water-filled part is situated at that section of the cube that I rest my back against.” Her own body is a measuring stick for the totality; she turns her back on the black cube to draw it again and again; she knows it intimately, by heart, as if it has been transferred through the bones of her back.
It makes me think of Marie Curie, knowledge of radium learned as isotopes passed through the hands, writing out their own semiotics in fatigue, burns and and leukemia–
and also of Kim Hyesoon’s entire ouevre, any poem, in which forms contain, die, give birth, give way to more forms, and the end of eternity can never be found. Creatures keep consuming each other, shitting, tearing, pushing through each other, and the significance of any given form or container is that it marks a boundary which can be pushed through, though one which always might reconstitute itself:
From “Sublime Kitchen” (trans. Don Mee Choi)
I caught a glimpse of her kitchen once
The rain cloud of flour mushroomed Continue reading “Everything was Sublime: The Black Nature of Hilma af Klint (and Marie Curie and Kim Hyesoon)” »
A Very Brief Manifesto of the Babyvamp (in response to recent inquiries into the subject of the Heroine, the Young Girl, the Ingénue, and the Cad).
by Carina on Jan.03, 2013
In which the common demon is charm. A fascinating bird suspended by the recitation of verse inside of a material whatever. It’s a costume! It’s a dumb parade. It’s women’s magazines on top of whipped Alps launched across the Mediterranean.
What’s terrifying about sentient weapons. They have joints for arranging structure; they are fitted to move upon one another. Or, time is making a mess of itself out of spite. The Young Girl is a prince destined to murder Time. Murderous Time is set right, there is a frame, an object swells pearlescent out of the air, thinned by a mug of warm twilight.
VAMP (OED) – That part of hose or stockings which covers the foot and ankle; also, a short stocking, a sock. From Old French, avanpié (12th cent.; later French avantpied).
Colloquially, a vampire; another term for a femme fatale.