Archive for November, 2013

Psychomagically Beyond Appropriation: Gilvan Samico’s Sacred Trap

by on Nov.26, 2013

Does the imagination have limits?  Are we actually in the time of “uncreative writing”?  In the age of information overload, is appropriation–the resampling of other texts–the last reservoir of our creativity?  Is there really nothing new under the sun to be said or done?

When I look at the engravings of Gilvan Samico, the Brazilian artist who died yesterday at the age of 85, the answer to all these questions turns out to be a resounding no.

samico-fotos-joc3a3o-liberato-9 (continue reading…)

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Japanese Gurlesque: Molly Bendall on Kazuko Shiraishi

by on Nov.25, 2013

Kazuko Shiraishi Molly Bendall


The Gurlesque has been blowing its pink and black bubbles in Japan in various ways for the last 40 or 50 years. In particular, I am thinking of the visual artist Yayoi Kusawa, who as early as the 60’s made her polka-dot habitats and gold-spray-painted furniture with flowers and phallus shapes sprouting from it. And, of course, I am thinking of Yoko Ono, who performed her Cut Piece first in 1965.



Also active in the scene was the poet Kazuko Shiraishi who was publishing her risqué, outlandish poems in Japan in the 60’s and early 70’s. In 1973 she was invited to spend time at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. She was championed by Kenneth Rexroth, who translated some of her work (along with others) into English. Her book Seasons of Sacred Lust was published at Rexroth’s urging by New Directions in 1978. The book consists partly of long erotic, jazz-inspired “descents” that at once lament estrangement, chit chat, and pay tribute to an urban night-time hedonism. Among the titles of the lengthier poems: “The Man Root,” “Seasons of the Sacred Sex Maniac,” and the homage “Dedicated to the Late John Coltrane.” Here’s a section of that one in which you can see her improvisatory abandon where spacey, surreal, and smutty morph fluidly:

With your extremely heavy
And short pilgrimage
Full of fleeting eternity
Spirit traveling
You were mainly blowing thoughts
Thoughts are eyes, wind
Cascades of spicy sweat
Streaming down your forehead
Thought is an otter’s scream
The sexual legs of chickens
Killed by your old lady
Boiling in a pot
Women’s pubic hair
Alice or Aisha
Thoughts are the faceless songs
Of pink stars
Squirming in the sky
Of every woman’s womb

On the cover of Seasons of Sacred Lust, Kazuko Shiraishi appears in a patchwork of photos. Posing with satin blouses, fans, flowers, cat-eye makeup, and in one holding a microphone, she’s a provocateur. She often performed her poems with jazz accompaniment and would recite, as she said, in her “Samurai movie voice.” She said that Allen Ginsberg, John Coltrane, and Henry Miller were all inspirations.
But there’s certainly something else, something girly and grotesque and blushingly brutal in her work. Reading her is kind of like getting your cards read at a motorcycle/go-go club by Hello Kitty and Chococat. This is not meant to diminish her work; it’s worth considering her stance, which is willingly naïve at times and lets in a wider range of sensitivity. Here’s a little of “The Man Root”:

Sumiko, I’m sorry
But the penis shooting up day by day
Flourishes in the heart of the cosmos
As rigid as a wrecked bus

Other short lyrics in the book appear with animal titles. She creates these mini-
beast masques, a sort of sexualized anime.


That man is a rhinoceros-oyster
He is so big and strong,
But with a heart like a delicate petal.
Don’t be cold to him
Don’t fall in love with him for fun!
If you love him seriously
You will know that
Nothing could be more fearful
Than his love, a love of an oyster-rhino.
If he ever discovers
You are unfaithful, Carmen,
He will take you down the road to death
On his horn,
Instead of kissing you with his gentle eyes.
Don Jose is a rhino-oyster.

Like Yoko Ono and Yayoi Kusama, Kazuko Shiraishi is still producing in her eighties. Her most recent book My Floating Mother, City came out from New Directions in 2009. The Gurlesque lives on:

I can no longer become six nipples, nor a male with a tail
time is moonlight in front of the graveyard
the Doberman’s syle Debussy music becomes a raging storm
whooaah whooaah
coming into now the joy without even the smell of death
on top of hot raspberry soup becomes a vanilla ice-cream girl
(“April is the Melancholy of a Doberman’s Nipples”)

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“Black Luck: The Silence of Marcel Duchamp Has Been Terminated” (Tales from the Crypt, Vol. 666

by on Nov.21, 2013

Tales from the Crypt, Vol. 666
Black Luck: The Silence of Marcel Duchamp Has Been Terminated

Marcel Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews by Calvin Tompkins (Badlands Unlimited, 2013)
The Unknown University by Roberto Bolano (New Directions, 2013)

In 1964 when Calvin Tompkins interviewed Marcel Duchamp verbatim transcripts weren’t the vogue. Incredibly, these three were shelved for 50 years before breaking day, eclipsed by preferred first person narratives, bon vivant vignettes, portraits posed in sympathetic situations. Dreck. Such as “So, I savor a Sauterne on Saint Germaine with mon ami Marcel, who wears downplayed gray Dior. Later, over smokes, he buoyantly confides that he’s ‘a pseudo, all in all.’”

Those of us who make art more than talk about it hold that, while Duchamp’s reticence proved golden, today Duchamp word for word cannot be overprized. (Plus the complete poetry of Roberto Bolano? Nuff said.)

A guest plus a host is a ghost.

In Roberto Bolano’s headstone-thick testament, 2666, goliard critics Jean-Claude Pelletier and Manuel Espinoza, listlessly trawling a disconsolate Mexico for incorporeal author Benno Von Archimboldi, visit one Oscar Amalfitano while mordantly dredging for clues. Archimboldi is their Moby Dick. Whether white whale or eminence grise, wild goose chase or fish story, proof of life’s iffy at best. Nobel prize nominee cum U.F.O. Archimboldi affords only inconstant, inconsequential sightings, ever unconfirmed. Close encounters of the third kind appear to have occurred, like twice. Such that a single dicey, and infra-thin (sic) tale draws these sad Ahabs clear across the Atlantic to the horse latitudes of gruesome, deplorable Sonora.Lunching on beans at Amalfitano’s home, Pelletier spies a geometry textbook suspended by a string from a clothesline in the yard, weathering in the wind “like a shirt left out to dry.”
(continue reading…)

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Lina Ramona Vitkauskas’ review of The Fassbinder Diaries

by on Nov.21, 2013

imagesLina Ramona Vitkauskas posted a fascinating review of The Fassbinder Diaries the other day on her blog. I really like the way she relates the book to film theory and to specific qualities in Fassbinder films. Her excellent book of poems entitled A Neon Tryst, which I reviewed here a few months ago, is also about film, using the medium as a way of conjuring further poetic ghosts…

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We Must Be Decadent, Again

by on Nov.20, 2013

I am in a strange position because while I am certainly ‘avant garde’ in terms of my affinities with the historical avant garde I feel I cannot be avant-garde because my affinities are historical.



That is, I am a Futurist, but I am a Futurist of 1909 rather than a Futurist who believes or anticipates a Future as envisioned by, say, TED talk panelists or believers in the progressive motion of literature as a reinforcement of political/capitalist bona fides.

My favorite part of the Futurist Manifesto is where they imagine themselves benighted and about to be consumed by cannibal teens.

They will find us at last one winter’s night in the depths of the country in a sad hangar echoing with the notes of the monotonous rain, crouched near our trembling aeroplanes, warming our hands at the wretched fire which our books of today will make when they flame gaily beneath the glittering flight of their pictures.

They will crowd around us, panting with anguish and disappointment, and exasperated by our proud indefatigable courage, will hurl themselves forward to kill us, with all the more hatred as their hearts will be drunk with love and admiration for us. And strong healthy Injustice will shine radiantly from their eyes. For art can only be violence, cruelty, injustice.

Futurism set itself up against decadence, but to be Futurist in 2013 is to be decadent, moving backwards. It is indeed strange to feel time folding, to be in 2013 thinking like 1913.  Why has time folded. Why is it no longer moving forward.  Why am I not a avant-garde. Why am I not avant.  Am I a rear-gardist or just an asynchronous, a bad soldier.

After her reading last night, the brilliant Sylvia Guerra shared that me that she is working on a new book based on Lautreamont, one which ‘writes around’ Lautreamont.

Why is she asynchronous not looking forward to a neatly progressing time why is time folding why do we need Decadence again.

I believe it’s because after the horrors of the 20th century Decadence is the deeper vision. It is no longer ‘escapist’ or ‘merely shocking’. After the horrors of the 20th century constantly re-reeling in media and repeating themselves in new depredations across the globe, Decadence takes on the work of truth, truth’s firey destructiveness. Everything is burning. Man’s default mode is cruelty and exploitation, outrageous depredation and deprivation. We have to go backwards to find an art form that does not hide this truth under ideologies of progress or purity. The TED-talkathon, which infects every part of our political and cultural environ, amounts to a new Victorianism, the imperialistic export of progress. We must be Decadent again.


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Translation & Biocultural diversity

by on Nov.20, 2013

I am intrigued by “ecolinguistic issues in translation studies” (Phil Lynes): that translation can help think through ecological relations between and ecological impact of languages (and this is a beautiful amplification of biocultural diversity‘s claim that languages encode endogenous knowledge, including ecological knowledge).

The ecology of translation is one thing; what excites me about the idea of “ecosystemic translation” is the translation of ecology: “the embodied practices through which linguistically constructed patterns of sustainable living with other life forms are translated into our dominant paradigm and interrupt their hegemony.”

—knowing and remembering that it is not the job of any non-dominant pattern to be translatable/translated into our dominant paradigm, even if to interrupt it—and that the goal of translation is not to make available any kind of universally accessible knowledge or monocultural reality.

& yet. We are aware that our dominant paradigms are severely in the need of being injected with dynamic, participatory knowings and practices unfolding in interaction with other species, temporalities, the earth, ancestors. Precisely because we are at the risk of losing this diversity that must be nurtured and celebrated.

So how may we invite the “minor” languages or (linguistic) practices to help? Lynes recommends Michael Cronin’s translation ecology, with its metaphor of the network, for its honoring of particularism and place. To cite Cronin:

Firstly, a network is by definition open-ended and therefore capable of being extended indefinitely … As a result, new elements can lead to restructuring without collapse. Secondly, … [t]he potential openness of the network does not mean it is open to all. Thirdly, the logic of the network is greater than the power of its individual nodes. In other words, the connectedness of nodes is what permits their flexible and dynamic response to changing situations but it is shared goals, values and end, which allow for a level of structural coherence in the network itself.

These are some beginning thoughts about strategies for translation in the midst of ecological crises, shedding of old stories, eco-awakenings.

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Johannes Göransson and Gina Abelkop in Athens Tonight!

by on Nov.18, 2013

Just a quick note: I’m reading in the Cine in Athens (Georgia, not Greece) tonight (Monday Nov 18) at 7 pm. I think I’ll read from my repulsive Sugar Book.

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Some thoughts on anthologies and conflicts

by on Nov.17, 2013

I’m reading an anthology called “American Poetry: The Next Generation” and I think it’s very bad because of the pervasive quietist aesthetic and because of how the curating makes everything – even by poets who might otherwise write differently – into the same reflective-personal tone and narrative mode; but most of all (and this is related to the previous two) because the way it makes American poetry into something so incredibly homogenous. I’m horrified to think that this book is being used in classrooms!

Are there any anthologies of contemporary poetry that lets in the conflicts and disagreements of contemporary poetry? Aren’t anthologies for teaching? Then it seems that they’re doing an incredible disservice by suggesting that all poets are the same and believe the same thing. I mean, I’m not looking for “inclusivity”, I’m really looking for a sense that one CAN believe differently, one can be at odds.

Can there be an anthology that doesn’t seek to avoid conflicts or synthesize them (like American hybrid) but actually lets the conflicts be part of what is american poetry?

Or do we not really need anthologies in the age of the Internet?

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Silvia Guerra Diaz Read in Notre Dame Next Week

by on Nov.15, 2013

Silvia Guerra Diaz, Uruguayan poet and scholar, will be visiting ND Monday and Tuesday from the real Montevideo. She will be reading her poetry bilingually on Tuesday November 19 in the Snite Museum.

Here is her poem’La farsa en el umbral, se hamaca’ translated as ‘The Farce in the Doorway, Swaying’ which was published in the anthology Hotel Lautreaumont:

Now it comes back luminous: that part of the sphinx that
recalls nothing and everything seems to her a tall tale. Painted
on the wall upon a silk sheet, the lip to kiss
violet and directed toward disenchantment rectilinearly the
schizophrenia of returning. The sand that glistened and
a woman’s body on it, not mine. Barely twenty
years before, she was silken as a sheet and twenty
and in twenty more no one could endure so much cadence
as live animals sewn into the hem of a blouse that
ends up at the hot edge of the day, teeth
jutting out through black light. And it says schizophrenia
the mark of the sphinx, the smile’s horizontal line
the rope we crossed together when the future was
still in front of the sky egg-laying anguish so it wouldn’t
see the teeth in the violet of the cross,
the broken sticks.

(trans. Alex Verdolinia & Gillian Brassil)

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