Archive for February, 2013

Is Poetry a Popular Culture?

by on Feb.20, 2013

I think it’s fair to say that in our culture – the wider culture of newspapers and films but also academic discussions etc – poetry has come to exemplify the opposite of a Popular Culture. The movies are for everyone, poetry is for the select few. The movies feel good about this because it makes them – despite the very hierarchical arrangement and huge amounts needed to make them as opposed to the fairly cheap cost of making say an Internet zine of poetry – feel democratic; it seems to make a lot of poetry people feel good because it makes them feel exclusive, like they have Taste. Or it makes the poets feel moralistic (whether Quietist or Experimental this seems true); they are not part of the spectacularity of the Culture Industry, the immorality of kitsch etc.

Similarly, some scholars like to study “popular culture” in opposition to an elitist “high culture.” It’s part of a democratic gesture.

Bridging these worlds seem to cause a strange amount of consternation. It’s totally accepted to be a scholar of mass culture; and it’s accepted to be a scholar of high culture. But very seldom do they seem to be read together.

A couple of days ago, Steve Fredman led an interesting discussion of Laurie Anderson’s “Strange Angels” as part of our poetics study group here at Notre Dame (drawing connections to Win Wenders, Benjamin, Fassbinder etc). A couple the professors objected to what they saw as the banality and kitsch of Anderson’s lyrics and her music. After some discussion it came down to: Was she aware that she was using banal language? Was it a parody? Could it be seen as a critique? IF so, she was justified. If so, she did not challenge their notion of Taste (that’s my reading of the situation, not their’s obviously.).I argued, that No, her work did not have that kind of critical distance.

But I kept wondering what threatened them so much about this work, what made them so defensive. Was it not the problematic “hipster” quality of Anderson: she was following a different “taste” than theirs – one that included pop music, dancing, fashion etc.
(continue reading…)

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Our Love for Korean Poetry Continues to Grow: Jo Malsun

by on Feb.19, 2013

Excerpts from ROUNDED SEIZURE (둥근 발작) by Jo Malsun (조말선), translated by Montevidayo’s own Jiyoon Lee

With an apron on

With an apron on I write a poem. With an apron on I read a book. All the experts wear aprons. A fishmonger with an apron. A chickenbutcher with an apron. A painter with an apron. Mommy with an apron. Once I put on an apron, blood spatters. I’m blood-spatteringly absorbed. You can wield a knife recklessly and openly with an apron on. All the shit you do with an apron on, the apron will take. The people who have to see blood put on an apron. All the artwork of the experts who make a living by killing the living and killing again the killed. The apron for experts is open in the back. The apron for experts occasionally has an ornamental frill. The apron for experts can conveniently be discarded. The apron with lots of blood. The apron with soil stains and depth. Once I take off the apron the poem disappears

[For the rest of this brilliance, go here.]

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Madame Edwarda and Dead in the Water: Tales from the Crypt (Volume II) By Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

by on Feb.17, 2013

Tales from the Crypt: Volume II
By Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

“C’mon R.I.P. her to shreds!” (Blondie)


SPOILER WARNING!!! Red Alert! Go to DEFCON ONE! If you haven’t read Madame Edwarda (Georges Bataille) do it now. Those ten tormented pages will unhinge your mind. For I am posed now to disclose its source in a triple XXX exclusive, never before unveiled by any body’s corpse.

I revere Edwarda for its punch, a Round 1 knockout. Though nothing can diminish such audacity and power, my insight, which ensues, might telegraph that blow.

Madame Edwarda, published variously under Pierre Angélique*/Georges Bataille from 1941 to 1956. Translated by Austryn Wainhouse.

“I guess what you want is to see the old rag and ruin,” she said.
(continue reading…)

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"The violences committed by a text, even in such convivial circumstances, can be terrible…." – Nathanael on Translation

by on Feb.17, 2013

Great interview with Canadian-born translator and writer Nathanael on a website called Lemonhound.


Translation’s disintegrative states have become something of a preoccupation; what I mean – and I’m still thinking this through – is that the instabilities instigated by translational acts are written into the text. Photographic processes have proven very instructive in relation to this. For example, Antonioni writes of the endless inscription onto photographic film of visual, material information that escapes the eye’s scrutiny. Prolonged development processes will reveal the ostensibly endless latent images contained in a single frame of film. In theory, one could expose an image ad infinitum, culling from the celluloid more and more infinite detail. But we know from a photographer such a Josef Koudelka, who practices a very sensitive relationship to time, that excessive development will produce a pitch black photograph – one could imagine this as the absolute, the most complete photograph, in which the intricate detail produces a solid, impenetrable mesh of opacity. In which everything is inscribed and nothing is legible. A corollary exists in translation, and it is the moment at which the texts – foregoing the bilateral language of source and target texts (with its tidy between, and problematic direction) – the texts, with their languages, enter into disintegrative states. It has something to do with proximities and loss of intelligibility. It has something also to do with vigilation. The moment at which one is most focused might be the moment one must close one’s eyes out of sheer intensity. Something is, of necessity, eradicated, in one’s apprehension of — disaster, say. Absolute vigil does not, can not, exist. The senses cannot abide such demand.

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Black Took Collective Comes to Chicago!

by on Feb.15, 2013

Black Took Collective:
Duriel E. Harris, Dawn Lundy Martin, Ronaldo V. Wilson

3 Chicago events in 3 neighborhoods!
All open to the public. No tickets or registration needed.

Black Took Collective is a group of Black post-theorists who perform and write in hybrid experimental forms, embracing radical poetics and cutting-edge critical theory about race, gender, and sexuality.

*Thursday, February 21 @ 6:30pm
Workshop at Columbia College
33 E. Congress Pkwy (Room 101, Downtown)
free admission

*Friday, February 22 @ 2pm
Reading & Presentation at the Washington Park Arts Incubator
301 E. Garfield Blvd (55th & Prairie Ave, Washington Park)
free admission

*Saturday, February 23 @ 7pm
ON INTIMACY AND ORIGIN: Betraying Blackness II
Performance for the IN>TIME Festival at Tritriangle
1550 N. Milwaukee Ave (3rd floor, Wicker Park)
suggested donation $5

Facebook Event Page
all events listed here

Sponsored by:
Red Rover Series and Tritriangle
(continue reading…)

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Art's Materialism: A Letter to the Mulleavey Sisters (Rodarte)

by on Feb.12, 2013

Dear Kate and Laura Mulleavy,

When you speak, I can’t tell whether you are talking about yourself or your clothes. Are you the weird girls or are your clothes about weird girls from horror movies. Do the shoes bind up the collection, or do they bind up the body of the models? Is the hair-covered face your own hair-covered face, or is it the children of Japanese horror. Are you interested in their eyes or the hair? This show should take place in a velvet underground, or did you sell all the records to buy fabric?

It’s not that I want to find the answer to these questions. I’m inspired by the way your statements seem to function like and-also: tying together contradictions. Mohair-surrealism. Or rather introducing time into an image: first she has eyes then they are covered with hair. You go into the kitchen to get some sugar. There’s sugar on my lips and in my eyes.

Art animates the body, so it’s no wonder, the animated corpse is the most poetical topic in the world. It’s no wonder the clothes are the “pure” red of blood, as if the body was already in the same realm as art, as if it consisted of an “organic matter” like hair. Or slashed fabric. Or things that looked like they could be debris. But might be mohair or hair-hair. Or hare-hair.

It’s like Teemu’s observation about Cark Ashton Smith’s “literal-minded,” “nearsighted” “misreadings” of 19th Century French poetry: the literalizing translation. Thinking Baudelaire’s fabric. You say it’s the “idea of the color red…. the idea of blood-soaked cloth… a real pure color red.” The scandal of art is the scandal of an idea that is a color. The infamous “Piss Christ” (by Andres Serrano) is suspended in that sugary yellowish color. Color as an idea. Sugar as method.

In Wojnarowicz’s “Fire in my Belly,” the ants crawl over Christ’s body, searing its orifices for sugar to bring back to the nest, to make honey in the dry Mexican earth. The sugar asks us to consume Jesus’s body in an extreme form of worship: art’s transubstantiation, art’s “misreading.” It asks us to look at his beautiful body. Look at him. He is made of art. I am made in a video.

I am the passenger.
I ride and I ride through the streets of Los Angeles.
I look out the window and what do I see?
A city saturated with sugar.
A Jesus with pearls on his body.
A Juarez where women wait for the busy at night
with lipstick smeared on their lips and tar
streaking their cheeks.
(continue reading…)

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"Bleeding": Iranian poetry in translation

by on Feb.09, 2013

One of the most exciting translation projects going on right now is Notre Dame MFA student Alireza Araghi’s translation of contemporary Iranian poets, some of whom he is publishing on this web journal Paragrafiti. Working with other MFA students like Drew Kalbach and Thade Correa, Alireza is translating Iranian poets who often are not even allowed to publish in Iran, adding another dimension to this project. Despite the obvious difficulty in working with this group of poets, Alireza hopes to edit an entire anthology of contemporary Iranian poets in translation (I think he has about 50 pages right now). The most recent poem published is “Bleeding” by Arash Allahverdi, co-translated by Kalbach:

…her head emerges from my mouth and teeth
the woman and blood go home
his body dripping with my saliva
blood comes out
blood is something between shame and fury
blood sends the loose woman home in a taxi
blood looks at me
I soil myself
blood pinches his nose
and rushes out of his eye…

For the rest of the poem go here.

Please also excuse me if I sound smug, but to me this is why MFA programs can be incredibly vital: the gathering points of very different writers with very different backgrounds.

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Occult Influences: Yi-Sang and Haute Surveillance

by on Feb.08, 2013

As most readers of this meager blog probably know, I have a book coming out this spring called Haute Surveillance. It’s kind of a novel-poem. Or something like that. I tried to write a murder mystery but it turned into more like the memoir of a man imprisoned in the shining mansion on the hill, having been brought there by Reagan and/or a guy in a Reagan rubber mask.


At one party someone made a doll of me. It was a scratch-doll. It was a charged body. There were a lot of tasers at the party. We were partying on media. Now, a child said. Blue, a child said. Now now now. a child said. I knew she must mean me.
I am supposed to build a barn in order to burn down with the pigs inside. I mean the garble-garble inside. Which belongs to the radio on account of the bite.
This is a rampant state. Everybody wants me to leave now because I failed them. Or because the Black Man is no longer coming for me, I have lost my celebrity status.


The artwork on the cover of the book is by Fi-Jae Lee, about whom my wife have written many brilliant and intellectually flamboyant posts. It’s an homage to the Korean poet Yi-Sang, “the Rimbaud of Korean literature” who died in a Japanese prison camp at the age of 27. Before that, though, he seems to have been a wonderful dandy. According to Kim Hyesoon, he used to operate several cafes around Seoul, including one where the overturned furniture made it hard to even get in the door, much less sit down. According to KH, he wore all white.


I put it on the cover because I feel this book (and for that matter, The Sugar Book, my next book) is in close, almost occult dialogue with Yi Sang and his white-clad corpse.

Here are some some excerpts from poems in Three Poets of Modern Korea ( Yu Jung-yul and James Kimbrell) (BTW everyone should buy this book ASAP):

The toy bride might come back, remembering the rich landscape of noon. She is warm like the notepad in my bosom. The scent of her is all that comes close to me. I waste away.

If I give a needle to the toy bride, she will pierce some random objects thoughtlessly. Calendar, book of poems, pocket watch. And the place in my body where the past perches most closely.
This is proof that thorns rise in the mind of the toy bride. That is, like a rose…

13 children rush down a street.
(A dead-end alley will suffice.)
(continue reading…)

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Gangrene and Glitter: More on ASCO and "The Foreigner is Kitsch"

by on Feb.08, 2013

I’ve started to blog at the arts blog Bad at Sports. My first post there features some further thoughts on “ethnic art” and the Chicano arts collective ASCO.


A while back I got in a heated discussion with a Latino poet who claimed the Latina writer Sandy Florian was not a Latina writer because she did not “write about the Latina experience.” Her writing was too “experimental” – ie it called attention to itself as artifice, rather than (as his own poetry) seeking to document the stuff of the Latin “experience” (whether food, customs, family traditions). In other words, art gets in the way to this “documenting.” Authenticity becomes a conservative aesthetic. Ethnicity becomes an aesthetic. Paradoxically, all things aesthetic are of course artifice.
In this insistence on art that “documents” the “real thing,” this conservative aesthetic reminds me quite a bit of the discussions in “Performance Art” where it seems to me (I admit it, I’m not an expert in this field) important that the real art is the performance, not the “documentation.” Sometimes I’ve come across these spats in performance art discussions where people get accused of turning the “documentation” into the artwork.

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Stamen's Sorrow: A Valentine from Yayoi Kusama

by on Feb.07, 2013

Here’s a little heart-shaped box called ‘Stamen’s Sorrow’. Not the patrilineal purposefulness of ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’,  or even the biopowerful functionality of the complete flower. These stamen are locked in their pretty ‘andromecium’, or men’s house. They pollinate each other there, beautifully, forever, obliterating rather than producing another generation of male parts.


Yayoi Kusama, “Stamen’s Sorrow”.

They are on their way to obliteration by their own motherless pollen grains, but they are not obliterated yet. Yayoi Kusama writes in her autobiography, “Polka dots were the trademark of the Kusama Happenings. […] Defining them was not important. What I was asserting was that painting polka-dot patterns on a human body caused that person’s self to be obliterated and returned him or her to the natural universe.” Yet this is not a natural universe arranged along hierarchies of evolution crowned with Homo sapiens sapiens (thinking thinking thinking thinking.) The sorrow of the pollen is also its useless adornment and also its release into nothingness. It does not fertilize anything unless it fertilizes itself with obliteration. In her poem, “Sorrow Like This,” she writes, “Come Death, if you’re coming  Let me embark for the universe.”

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It's Just Like the Hunger Games: An Academic Conference

by on Feb.06, 2013

Some rogue academics are planning an academic conference surrounding The Hunger Games trilogy. Here is the program:

The Hunger Games as a Micro/Macro-Cosm of the Hungarian Doctor in Celine’s Oeuvre as Interpreted by Kristeva; or, Stephanie Drops Her Port

Poetness is to Humanness as Katniss is to Huntress: The Melting Pot of the Artist-Subject Identity through the Lens of 21st Century Hyper-Sci-Fi Psychoanalytic Theory-Objects(–?)

Dispatching Letters Via Corporeal Hand: Aggressive Articulation in Major Modern Metropolises and the Arena

Mountain Lion Bull-Dyke Dogs: Certain Confluences between Lesbians and Mac Hardware (Also, Is Apple in the Hunger Games? And, if so, are Apple products heroes or maidens in Walt Disney/Pixar’s Wall-E? — Does Judith Butler have an apple in her mouth?)

St. Rue: Certain Meeting Points between Ethnic Death, Racial Polarity, and Songs–The Subjective Spiderweb of Homi Baba and Jean Genet

Brattiness, Braids, and Barthes: The Fashion System as a Hegemonic Suppressor (Liberator?) in the Arena and In the Districts (1-12)

Who’s Afraid to Apply the Death Drive to the Hunger Games?: George, Martha, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Lindsey Lohan, Kate Durbin, and Tracey Letts

Berries, Snow, Roses, and Flowers in General as Symbols of Women and Older Men: Abject Masculinity as it Corresponds to the Correlation between Multiple Suicides in Pairs of Genius Husbands

External Symptoms of Male Feminism in Peeta and Gale: the Disavowal of Women’s Liberation in Paradigmatic Economic Matrices/Theses/Suppositions as Embodied by Katniss Everdeen and Sylvia Plath’s “The Colossus”– Daddy Issues; Patriarchal Projections Emitting from Robert Lowell and Ted Hughes

Soullessness: The Absence of Classical Greek Thought in Jennifer Lawrence’s Rendition of Heteronormative Heroines in Archetypal Contemporary Post-Experimental Apocalyptic Fiction Brushing Up Against the Avant-Garde

Katniss in Heat: Hysterical Pregnancies and Judeo-Christian Moral Illuminations as they Relate to Biological Phenomenology; also, the Urgency of Jimmy Fallon

The Possibilities/Limitations of Art-Medium Mutations: Can A Film Shape-Shift into the Page Space of Keatsian Enjambment?; Or, Ode on a Grecian Urn

The Espousal or Theoretical Elimination of Resortwear as a Practical Application of Lacan’s Concept of the Lamella as the Tributes Pass Through the Mirror Phase: What Would Lee Edelman Say?

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The Violence of Style: Larry Levis, Sylvia Plath, Mark Levine etc

by on Feb.05, 2013

I want to continue thinking about the kind of relationship between masculinity, violence and art that I broached in my last post, about the West Memphis 3 and “violent femmes”. This is of course something I’ve written about frequently in my own poetry (luckily I write about things I don’t understand, so I can continue). I’m interested in how the identification of violence and masculinity in poetry; and also how this relates to the foreign, the ethnic. But mostly what I’m going to talk about here is how violence is said to be “masculine” in fact comes off as “feminine” in many ways inside art, and how this relates to “style”, and in fact “too much” style, or “inflation” as I’ve called it elsewhere.

In older posts I documented how the “early” Larry Levis and cohorts were dismissed for their “glut” of poetry that was surrealist – violent, slapstick bodies, foreign/translation-influenced, sensationalistic – and how they “moved on” to write poetry that was about grief-as-interiority, “narrative” memories, but strangely almost paralyzed in their quietism. You can get a good sense of this violent early poems by the title of his first book, “Wrecking Crew.”

I get a gun and go
shoot an airplane full of holes,
and stare at the thing on the runway
until its covered with rust.
This takes years.
I turn forty somewhere, waiting
for the jet underneath me to
clear its throat of burned

I think it’s also pretty important that this “early” poetry was Plath-influenced in exactly these regards. The other day on Facebook, Brian Henry posted the following quote from Helen Vendler’s famous essay on Sylvia Plath:

Poems like ‘Daddy’ and ‘Lady Lazarus’ are in one sense demonically intelligent, (continue reading…)

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Reading on Saturday: Johannes Göransson, Rauan Klassnik and Quraysh Ali Lansana

by on Feb.01, 2013

We’ll be reading for the Myopic Reading Series tomorrow (Sat. Feb 1) at 7 pm.

I will be reading from my just-published translation of Aase Berg’s Dark Matter; Rauan will be reading from his just-published book The Moon’s Jaw. We’ll sell some copies for some special rate.

Address: Myopic Books, 1564 N. Milwaukee Ave Chicago, IL 60622

Here’s a poem by Henri Michaux (trans. Richard Ellman) because I have a tendency to compare Rauan’s work to Michaux:

The pain of an abcessed finger is excruciating. But what made me suffer most was that I could not cry out. For I was at the hotel. Night had just fallen and my room was caught between two others where people were sleeping.
So I began to pluck from my skull great drums, brasses, and an instrument which had more resonance than an organ. And taking advantage of the prodigious strength which fever gave me, I made a deafening orchestra of them. Everything trembled with vibrations.
Then, at last assured that in this tumult my voice would not be heard, I began to scream, to scream for hours on end, and succeeded in giving myself, little by little, some relief.

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