Archive for February, 2013

Believe the Hype: re-up on the Taxidermied Animal ^.|.^

by on Feb.27, 2013



The Warmth of the Taxidermied Animal understands that if there is an essential self, it’s only the panic that the self will be decimated, lost, or mutilated in that wave of failure that follows all attempts to become less lonely. “Does a person even have life and if so, / then where between fetus / and a me-like political vacuum is the difference?” Maybe it’s in the gutter of the garbage mind, maybe it’s lodged in the tube that runs through each of us with a radio-chemical broadcast. It’s why I’m totally easy and often give it up just for stupid reasons, like for ex. if someone says my name. It’s why when I / crush on someone, I think about how I’m an AWFUL / FATTY smashing into them! Seriously I’m a terrible fatty. / Perverse. A Godzilla pig.
You do it, too, hollow fatties. And if you don’t, you bought the wrong kind of death.You searched the wrong engine. Heikkinen dials the right wrong number on her spirit phone, a cozy failure, bleeding out on Christmas Eve.

Get it at the bookfair, cozy-posies.

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Believe the hype: McSweeney's Percussion Grenade

by on Feb.27, 2013

maddinMake it matter. Make it cut & infect

like contagious knives. Like a sidewalk

made smart with brain matter.

— from The Contagious Knives

A few years ago, I watched one of the special versions of Guy Maddin’s Brand upon the Brain! at The Music Box Theater in Chicago — one of the versions where a live actor read sections of the film (in this case, Crispin Glover) and where a crew was in place (called the Foley Artists) to create the sound effects. And the effect I remember most was the scene where a character turns to cannibalism, biting into the skull of another character: one of the sound artists at that point crunched and chewed a piece of celery into the microphone. (As I write this, I realize I might be mis-remembering. Maybe he twisted the celery in his hands instead? If anyone out there saw any of the shows, feel free to correct me!) The moment was funny, sickening, and unsettling in a way that’s hard to describe. It might have to do with the juxtaposition, and how it becomes almost an act of translation. The person in front of us eating celery = the image on the screen of a character eating brain with an all-too-real sound. The crunch, the saliva, the swallow. (Or so I remember it.) But of course it cuts the other way too, and by doing so taints the act of eating a stick of celery. Never had eating celery seemed so full of ill-intent. It reminded me of how Artifice can make the unsettling more so. The almost-pink blood in so many horror films from the 60s always seems more disturbing to me than the darker, more realistically colored blood in later movies. To me, something about the artifice made the violence more visceral. “Fake” fake blood can be more effective than “real” fake blood. Another example would be the bright “blood” Godard used in the 60s, a kind of POP “blood.”

To misquote Zizek (who was quoting Kieslowski): the fright of fake blood.

Anyway, I bring up the Maddin/celery/brain chewing incident because something about that experience reminds me of McSweeney’s Percussion Grenade, one of my favorite books of American poetry in the last few years. The “fake” blood in this book is all the more real for being fake. Good taste (the realm of “real” fake blood) is often a way of letting us stay in our comfort zones by whispering in our ear that Realism, after all, can never hurt us. It mimics reality. In can never be it.  Percussion Grenade offers the reader/performer no such assurances.

godard weekendThe collection is about violence, war, contamination, catastrophe, kill zones, contagions. We walk through this decimated landscape that seems to have has no beginning and no end — there are no privileged, aerial views of the disaster here. In “Dear Fi Jae 3,” the speaker works in a factory owned by a multi-national: “I had a glue pot & several brushes & I had a smock // which fastened at the neck with a thong and an eye // and my hair in spit curls like eyes on my forehead // and another eye for each cheek // and my feet thrust in half-slippers called moliere shoes // striped like circus tents.” The language-spill here — the eyes that foam over the scene — and the odd precision of the shoes (“striped like a circus tent,” with its childlike vibe contrasting strongly with this setting) create an atmosphere of menace. The speaker goes out to take a break and meets “the killer of little shepherds.” The factory floor soon turns into a killing floor. The speaker tells us, “I am no shepherd sir I tweeted // when I went back inside // he spilled my guts on the floor // too-clogged fish gear // drain damage system crushed emotional mutating agent // multinational.” The poem then turns spectral. The speaker says, “I dipped a latex cover’d hand to the glue pot // I glued the ghostface to the ghostproduct.” This Blakean poem ends on a Blakean note: “When this you see remember me.” The terrain here reminds me of the flattened worlds of Bolaño and Cormac McCarthy (especially Blood Meridian) and Godard’s Weekened. Flattened because there is no teleological escape hatch in those zones, only landscape and days and weather and years.

There are countless great lines and images in this book. The language at times seems wonderfully drunk on itself. (One example from “A Peacock in Spring”: “He shrugs obscenely green, / obscenely jewel-toned, obscenely neck-like, / an obscene grandeur and an obscene decadency, / A screen, a mask, a dance, / A thousand green-groping eyes.”) Artifice runs like acid through the pages, dissolving the usual connections and groundwork. In the play “The Contagious Knives, “Louis Braille stands alone in pink panties and pop-star t-shirt from target…He ties a brown leather strap around his eyes and inserts an awl into the right. In liquid eyeliner, he paints big black tear drops…” In the same play, Bradley Manning appears, played possibly by Andy Warhol. And there’s a wedding chorus made up of the Jack Smith Superstars circa Normal Love.

While reading the book, I kept thinking of the introductory titles in Godard’s Weekend: a film found in a trash heap, a film adrift in the cosmos. Art that exists in a fallen state — the art of “no future” — is also an art that exist in a guerilla state, with a guerilla sensibility: an art that doesn’t believe in the usual notions of representation, the picture window view, but in coordinates and montage. And McSweeney’s Percussion Grenade is a great example of it.

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Believe the Hype (& the Horoscope!): John Colburn's Invisible Daughter

by on Feb.26, 2013

invisibledaughter_covIt’s true that John Colburn is an Aquarius—how could he be anything else? He even has an Aquarius moon, meaning the moon was new when he was born, its comma just barely flanking the shadow of the sun. Quite the opposite of last night’s full moon in Virgo, which if you haven’t yet go out and gain yourself some moonshine there’s still time. Virgo—–the nurse, the vestal virgin, the hearth keeper, the fact checker, alchemist even.

The Sabian symbol for this Virgo full moon: “A Girl Takes Her First Dance Lesson.”

Imagine Invisible Daughter taking her first dance lesson. I can imagine it. John Colburn can imagine it, wishes he’d seen it. Invisible Daughter in the nape of the woods off Old Stagecoach Road, sidestepping Thought-Eating Man. Grass spirits air-burdened & humping across a spate of prairie until their legs dissolve in the mud.

Our comrade Peter Richards calls this geography “an unsettling and gently self-contained world,” which might also describe the present situation in Pisces—–Virgo’s opposite sign, upon where the full blast of this pregnant moon aims its spotlight. And John Colburn is not only a Pisces rising, but his sun and moon are found in the 12th house of his natal chart, and Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Chiron, and his Part of Fortune were all transiting the sign of Pisces at the moment of his birth. Mercury’s in Pisces now—–stationed retrograde, since Saturday (yay, just in time for AWP!)—–as are many other planets including Pisces’ (and John Colburn’s) rulership, Neptune. Our world is awash in oceanic feelings, we’re up to our gills in cosmic amnion. Chunks of pope and towers disperse like sediment, like lochia, into the gutters of prehistory. Some colossal birth, we sense, must be immanent.

“I love the sense the reader has of being frequently conceived in this book,” says Peter Richards (a Cancer, clearly comfy moon-merging on the high seas). “I love how it explores the different ways it wants to be beautiful [Venus], and then creates those ways [Saturn]… You’re alive in the mind now seeking the Invisible Daughter. Her whereabouts are complicated, perpetual, and ominous in the way the future seems ominous to the past.” Or, in terms of the Pisces revolution to which these arks we’re building are in most holy and beautiful service, how ominous the past now seems to the future. But we’re alive and undulant in the psychedelic glamor mind of Neptune—–



In darkness surprising words appeared in our minds. I felt I needed

speech therapy or white hair, I felt seductive and deep. As if I knew

where a star might shine. I hoped we could leave time or break the

arms of spirits and watch them grow back. I hoped for sleep easing

its calm under our tent, dense dreams like pomegranates. Long ago

a new part of earth had thickened underwater and now we stood

on it. Dinosaurs had dreamt here and left tremors. Maybe tomorrow

we would have powers, maybe we would disappear into the woods

like ingredients. Older Brother stared into the forming pool. Our

blue air turned one shade bluer. Fireflies lit up a natural stairway,

creek to ridge, all limestone. We knew the devil never made trees

and I touched the vibrating trunks, studied the ridge, a tight waiting

entered our dimming camp, a preoccupation. I told Older Brother

I saw spirits inflating and delivering their own bodies, it was hard

to explain. I told the trees and creek, the crayfish under their rocks,

and either it was true or I wanted deliverance from truth. Would

I know if I lit up? I thought betrothed, engulfed, saturated, confidential,

lapidary. Strange words.


& Invisible Daughter is here to help us cleanse the pater-smear and tower-rubble from our horizon as daughters rise up in droves from the mist to lead us to our first post-patriarchal dance lesson. And as we all know, a revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having. Namaho!

More hype tomorrow on other ghost girls and their wet lands.



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"Believe the Hype": Jeongrye Choi's Instances

by on Feb.26, 2013

OK, I’ve written about Jeongrye Choi’s Instances (trans. Brenda Hillman and Wayne de Fremery) in the past, but I thought I would hype it one more time.
In the interview with Ruth Williams that we published a while back, Jeonrye Choi said:

“Literature is to assign linguistic order after attempting to give new meanings to the things we hardly knew before. At the same time, I believe it reveals the fact that even though we say we know something, we don’t know it very well or we don’t know it at all. I believe it is one of the tasks of poetry to make us recognize that we don’t know what we think we know or that we know it incorrectly, and to make us rethink the matter.”


In the afterwords to the book, this aesthetics of disorientation gets a more visceral, metaphoric explanation, when JC compares reading/writing to a dolphin whose sonars ceases to function causing it to swim up a river, which ultimately leads to its death. In JC’s poems, slight glitches in the speaker’s “sonar” leads to a disorienting experience, one that is beautiful but also grim, gothic and often more than a little disturbing. They also tend to bring in political issues through the backdoor so to speak, generating a kind of “social surrealism” (which is how the chicano art group Asco defined their aesthetic).I like to think of the “instances” of the title as referring to these viscerally disorienting glitches in reality.

For example, I love this poem:


It looked like I was going to buy some meat and was on my way.
Someone said I had to get it from that store.
I went past the fake fish pond behind the church
to arrive at the place
near where Susong kalbi was written,
but that wasn’t it.
I had to go farther.
Where a heap of yellow earth crumbled,
children were catching ants.
Where the ant laid her white eggs,
they were looking for the queen.
One kid touched an ant’s behind to his tongue
and was shuddering.
I was just thinking: I need to get the meat and go home.
Everything was quiet.
Trees leaned over,
as if a big storm were passing through.
Windows were closed soundlessly.
Blood-colored water
flowed in the gutters.
I was on my way to buy meat.
The kids were face down.
They slept,
speechless, blood smeared on their lips.
They were the ones i had seen in the newspaper.
Those who kept the chaff of the rice and wild fruits in their pockets –
someone said they were spies.
I was lost on my way to buy meat
and been captured there too.
I needed to be awakened.
The rain outside –
it was blood-colored. (continue reading…)

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Believe the Hype: “The Doll Incident” by Sergej Timofejev. Translated by Keven M.F. Platt, Julia Bloch, Maya Vinokour, Sergej Timofejev. Fence. Winter 2012-2013

by on Feb.26, 2013

I too dislike it. But every once in awhile a poet you’ve never heard of, whose work you know nothing about, comes along and demolishes you. Such was my experience last night when flipping through the new issue of Fence, and stumbling on Sergej Timofejev’s “The Doll Incident,” which is part of a larger section of Russian poetry that translator Kevin M.F. Platt, in his introduction to the work, describes as coming together through first a virtual and then a real-life gathering of Russian and American poets and translators. The entire Russian poetry dossier in Fence is worth checking out, but this poem by Timofejev just blew me away. It begins:

“I see 25,000 defective Chinese dolls/Scattering, like energized peas, from several/Trains they seized at the border. They/Occupy cafés, bazaars, and supermarkets. And then/They set up field kitchens on the streets and start/Distributing broth made out of genetically modified soya and plastic packets.”

The “Incident” with the dolls is in reality an international war. The dolls “can’t be injured,” and their plastic flesh regenerates and when they are struck by bullets they resurrect. NATO forces seal the borders and isolate the territories, in which the dolls “impose a harsh regime,” broadcasting on TV “only black-and-white puppet-animation from the 60s,” driving the nation to the “brink of extinction.” NATO jets drop stoves over the occupied nation, and the dolls are shoved into the stoves.  And then everything ends happily ever after as “all local racial and ethnic/Conflicts are forgotten, and a new era of handicrafts and ecological thinking dawns.”

Kevin Platt, in his introduction to the Russian dossier, provides an appropriate transnational/translational frame through which to approach the writing, suggesting that the poems in the symposium can each be read as “a commentary or critique of national and political borders and identities.” And yes “The Doll Incident” provides a literal puppetization of nation-states and of the ideologies that suggest that the shit on one side of an invisible smells better than the shit on another.

The Doll Incident” does all of this, to be sure, but the poem’s voice, brought to us through the team of translators that includes the author, is perfectly performed: a journalistic/documentary/historical voice that presents World War Doll as if it were utterly human and normal. Shklovsky and Kharms come to mind here, but so does Patrik Ouředník’s brilliant novel Europeana: A Brief Hisory of the Twentieth Century.  And so does my favorite Caryl Churchill play, Far Away ,which presents its own obliteration of national identities through a climactic final scene in which there is an apocalyptic war that is as local as the characters’ bodies and as distant as the mews of the cats who ‘have come in on the side of the French.’

“The Bolivians are working with gravity,” writes Churchill, “that’s a secret so as not to spread alarm. But we’re getting further with noise and there’s thousands dead of light in Madagascar. Who’s going to mobilise darkness and silence? That’s what I wondered in the night.”
Thanks to Fence and Keven M.F. Platt, Julia Bloch, Maya Vinokour, Sergej Timofejev for bringing us this stunning work.


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Believe the Hype: Kate Zambreno's Heroines

by on Feb.25, 2013


 Did you hear? Kate Zambreno has written a book about women, madness, writing, illness, the body, theft, fire, the Baroness, girlgossip, ballet, and cute shoes. She’s written a memoir that recognizes property as theft and then she thieves still, as we all do. She’s written wryly, thickly, bloodily, booooooringly, flippantly, critically, tenderly, with a fist full of questions. Right up in your ear with wet breath. & if you’re hawt for archives, Heroines has (silk) drawers full.

(Pssst: What are your automatic thoughts? Not the thoughts you norm or sensor. Do you think people are ugly? Do you want their money? Do you think you’re stupid? Do you think it? Recognize these automatic thoughts and assess how thoroughly you/I/we believe them, those unkempt possums.)

Anyhow: I’d love to see more reviews of Heroines that respond to Zambreno’s examination the effects of chronic illness (both mental and physical), consider the book’s critique of diagnosis, or otherwise give the disability shout-out. I should write that review, I suppose. Until then, I’ll give you the Hollywood-hangover analog reduction. I just watched The Grey, which contains an important lesson about masculinity-capitalism-ableism. One soaking-wet ice-cold hero (whose pretty lady–surprise ending!–spoiler!–died from some invisible illness, leaving him vulnerable/redeemable) half-alive on the shitty banks of wolf town, ready to fight the alpha with nickel nip knuckles. (Don’t get me wrong: I love you Liam Neeson survival films.) Or the heroine:

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Believe the hype: Vitkauskas' A Neon Tryst

by on Feb.25, 2013

ghost image

ghost image“Everything is true,” he said. “Everything anybody has ever thought.”

— Philip K. Dick

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?


I’m always surprised that in 2013, there’s still a strain of cinemaphobia in some parts of academia. We’ve all heard the by-now well-worn arguments. Movies make us passive. Movies are the Roman bread-circuses of our time. The image is by its very nature oppressive, etc. There’s a deeply conservative strain of argument behind some of this thinking. We see the fear of the image in Plato, for example, where all things are appearances, false images that are nothing but debased forms of the true Concept. An image is doubly evil in this worldview since it is really the shadow of a shadow.

In contrast, there has always been a counter-tradition that sees images as additions, as surplus. And the lack of ground beneath the feet of the Image is really the lack of ground below our own feet.

Derrida used to say film and photography revealed something that had always been the case anyway — the world is full of ghosts. We’re ghosts to ourselves and others are ghosts to us. The fear of Image is often linked to the fear of anti-foundationalism. In this sense, all films are ghost stories.


What is Lina Vitkauskas’ A Neon Tryst? A meeting place under a neon sign? A meeting place between poet and film, under the light of the marquee? Three movies are involved: Antonioni’s L’Eclisse, Frankenheimer’s Seconds, and Bergman’s Wild Strawberries.


The poems aren’t about the films in any literal way. Instead, the poems do something more interesting, more ambitious. They capture what I imagine to be a fairly universal and yet unusual experience. You fall asleep on the couch while watching a movie or TV show. You wake up around two or three in the morning. You have a sense of intense lateness, even if you aren’t sure what time it is. It feels like no one else in your house or apartment building or town or city is awake. You can feel their sleep around you.

The room is dark except of the TV screen. You see the images dance around and try to make some sense of them. (continue reading…)

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Believe the Hype: The Warmth of the Taxidermied Animal

by on Feb.25, 2013


Every once in a while (ok, fairly often) I discover a work of (usually translated) poetry and it’s as if existence has propagated  a lawless fold in itself that allows itself to continuously redouble its awesomeness in a blithe bacterial repopulation of the world-gut with awesomeness.

That’s the experience I have (and the experience YOU will have, dear reader) while reading The Warmth of the Taxidermied Animal by Tytti Heikkinen, trans. Niina Pollari (to debut from Action Books at AWP bookfair !). This book is brainy, rambunctious, gross and sad. The poems knit together the language of ‘where we are now’ until it reads like where we’ve never been and where we are always jailed up to be but maybe in a horni lady jail on planet future. At one moment this book is all limpid/lyric and slightly encrusted with dried goo–

I’ve found a stripper pen.

When you tilt it, the swimsuit slides away from the woman and reveals the body.

The picture is endless but placid, presents an argument

with a blackbird voice:

Best to know as little as possible at a time, so the transparent tube’s mystery remains intact.


–And the next moment the book is crooning in the voice of chat-room sybil Fatty XL, as in this poem, “Fatty-XL: Winter is Long:


Ihave great hair. Winter is long. today it didn’t snow or

sleet. I slept a lot and went outside

a little.

Yesterday had an evening with Eikka in the evening. He was like,

it’s pretty great how we’re constantly moving

into a direction without prejudice. It was really fun

but after twelve bottles (or cans…) don’t remember

the particulars. Before he left back

to basic) eikka wrote a note and asked me to show

it just to be sure at the pharmacy.

Brother’s hamster didn’t learn any new tricks.

Even mom says it knows one trick since it

hasn’t been castrated? I was confused?


Everything in this poem is totally ‘sic’, but the way. (continue reading…)

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Visions of Tastelessness: Rauan Klassnik and Aase Berg

by on Feb.24, 2013

Rauan Klassnik wrote up a good discussion about Aase Berg’s Dark Matter (I translated it, Black Ocean just published it) on Facebook. Here’s an excerpt:

“Kitsch” is a word that Göransson and Berg seem to like. Berg describes her own books, Dark Matter and With Deer, as being “almost sickeningly Kitschy.” And, yeah, I agree. Almost. Almost. And sometimes completely.

In this instance I am thinking of Kitsch because of the wonderful early Star Trek tropical fantasy worlds suggested by lines like

“Orchards of flower meal, peonies of meat.”

And this quickly, though, erupts into a kitschy and beautiful disaster flick:

“red heat above the cities where the war is blossoming. . .the velvet butterflies explode…”

And while we’re on the subject of Sci-Fi Kitsch I’ll just mention that this book, like Donald Dunbar’s Eyelid, sometimes reminds me of the animated Aeon Flux:

“He bent into the kiss and sucked up the fat liquid with his sticky feeler.”


The “Exotic Orient”: in the soft heart of the Star Trek Kitsch worlds we find perhaps or perhaps not surprisingly “A young Chinese girl who stares at us from her obscured position” and then a bit later “the Gulf Stream turns in the tropics toward Asia’s happy sinking cities” and, then, again “lanterns rose and fell from the city’s tallest Ferris Wheel.”

The Actuary interviews Rauan Klassnik here.


Yeah, “decadent” is a word i hear a lot about my work, especially my new book. (I hear it a lot out of my own mouth also). And I feel pretty good about this word. I mean, i think it’s valid. Of course, like most words it can cut both ways. It’s decadent so it’s bullshit. Or, cool, it’s decadent. (lights, fireworks, chocolates and eternal orgasms). One of the dangers (limitations?) of decadent, really decadent work, is that it can spiral, rot. And/or flatten out. Again this cuts both ways. How much spiral’s too much? How much rot’s too much? I dunno. For the most part i think i stayed on the safe or safe-ish while writing and making this book. But then again i probably crossed over, and over, certain lines of good/bad taste and good/bad literary sense. But, really, if you want to tip over some cows you’re probably going to get some shit on your feet. And while you’re at it why not roll around in it some. Why not climb inside that cow?…

Paul Cunningham interview RK here.

(continue reading…)

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by on Feb.23, 2013

Dear All:

Someone is impersonating me online and also using email and social media to spread malicious rumors about me. This is not someone I know personally or have had any interaction with, but I’m told this person has a history of stalking and alleged violence.

If you receive any unexpected or unusual correspondence from or about me, please *do not respond* to the email and, instead, please alert me at (the LSU server should be secure).

Likewise, if you see my name surface on any blogs or in any chatrooms (I’m not currently active in either), please send an alert to the same email address.

Thanks a million for your help.

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Michael du Plessis' The Memoirs of JonBenet by Kathy Acker (reviewed)

by on Feb.22, 2013

My review of Michael du Plessis’ phenomenal book The Memoirs of JonBenet by Kathy Acker is now up over at Tarpaulin Sky. Given its dedication to artifice and kitsch (via doll embodiment), the book should be of interest to Montevidayans. Here’s an excerpt of the review:

These fabricated doll memoirs perform an interrogation of the real. “We’re in fiction,” JonBenet declares halfway through, “which is the best kind of reincarnation there is” (47). Here she returns as a fetching doll child whose adventures in artifice include, in discrete chapters, a love affair with Little Lord Fauntleroy, wherein she drinks candy cocktails and listens to Japanese pop music on his gold crushed velvet couch; a visit to the Denver Art Museum, where she communicates with the Synnot Children through the painting of the same name; a dream in which she turns Goth, goes to school, and encounters Alienated Jock Nerds with toy guns; and a flashback to her bedroom on the night of her death, where the evil Blue Fairy tries to persuade her to become real.

The book’s allegiance to artifice supports not only the roasting of late capitalist Boulder’s snowglobe prison, but also an exploration of the artifice of love. Repeatedly, through character after character, from O from Story of O, to Lovecraft and especially through JonBenet, whose anguish at being spurned by Little Lord Fauntleroy is particularly, hilariously sharp, Du Plessis explores the betrayal experienced when love appears to become fiction. “You never really loved me! It wasn’t real, none of it!” the book screams (I’m paraphrasing). “You aren’t real!” At one point, the Blue Fairy suggests that The Memoirs are “an overblown break-up novel about Boulder that uses [JonBenet] as a metaphor” (93). This seems at least one way of interpreting the book’s sneaky refraction of ‘real’ feeling through doll characters.


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Kept Women & Other Concepts

by on Feb.22, 2013

photo (7)


Last night I went to see my friend Jordan give a poetry reading at Lolita bar on the Lower East Side. I really didn’t feel like going to a poetry thing since I’d been to a lot in the past few weeks and the synchronicity of my iPhone and Facebook calendars meant that I’d be staring at rows of black dots corresponding to events for days to come.

Anyway I went because I like Jordan’s poems a lot and he isn’t one of those New York poets who gives a reading every five and a half seconds, perhaps fearing that if they are not constantly engaging in the pukey schmoozefest of “the scene” they might fall clear off the actual planet. I was accidentally already drunk when I got there because I’d gone to a happy hour at the punk bar around the corner from my apartment where I’d last drank in the summer with an ex-lover. The bathroom of the bar had some really great poems in it, like “The less I think of you, the more you think of me; please let me think less of you.” Jordan read a poem that he’d written the other day while gchatting with me while we were both at work, a poem composed mostly of extravagant insults to an ex-lover, like “burger king breakfast of affection.”

When I got back to my apartment it was still a pretty respectable hour and my roommates were smoking at the kitchen table, a large envelope covered in Hello Kitty stickers between them.

“Omigod I think you got more fan mail please open it so we can see, plus the new Vogue and Beyonce is on the cover,” one of them said. I opened the envelope, dutifully sipping a teacup of water, and pulled out a lipstick-kissed copy of Kate Durbin’s new book, Kept Women. Underneath that envelope was another envelope containing another copy of Kate’s book, this time from the editor of Insert Blank.
(continue reading…)

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Mother Death in the Narco-War: Violeta Luna’s “Requiem for a Lost Land”

by on Feb.21, 2013

On her website, Violeta Luna offers the following description of her arresting performance piece “Requiem for a Lost Land”:

Requiem is a performative intervention by way of ritual, to remember the killings committed in the “war on drugs” initiative from the central government in Mexico.

The bilingual title makes reference to the bi-national reality of the “war against drugs.” Requiem is an attempt, from the space of performance art, to open with a coroner’s knife the very same discourse of death broadcasted by those in power under the guise of “national security.” Inside its rotten entrails, we re-discover the daily suffering of the common citizen, the most affected by a vicious and pathological decision of the state that has nothing to do with his or her well-being, and much to do with some of the darker designs of power that Mexico has seen in its history, with unconditional support from the US.

Through Luna’s ritual, a kind of Mother Death emerges as a simultaneously contemporary, prophetic, and ancestral figure:  her head leaks the blood of narco-victims (estimated to number from 60,000-100,000) so that the fluid becomes her own, the motherland’s, and Mother Earth’s.  In the performance I saw at the Hemispheric Institute’s Encuentro, Luna even distributed soil to audience members.  Much in the same way that Raúl Zurita’s poem continues to be scrawled into the Atacama desert by villagers, the audience spread the soil within the piece’s cocaine border in what amounted to an ongoing, ever-repeating burial rite performed on contaminated, militarized land.   (continue reading…)

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