Archive for December, 2013

2 Iranian Poets Imprisoned

by on Dec.25, 2013

[I was asked to translate this from a facebook page set up by Swedish poets who have worked with Fateme Ekhtesari:]

As friends and colleagues of the poets and activists Fateme Ekhtesari and Mehdi Moosavi, we want to call your attention to the fact that they have been missing from their homes in Iran since December 7. On Christmas Eve it was confirmed that they are in the infamous Evin Prison in Teheran.

During 2013, Fateme Ekhtesari, born 1986, has been part of the literary exchange, Resistance At My Writing Desk, through which six poets from Iran and six poets from Sweden together translated the Persian poets’ work to Swedish. The collaboration culminated in a special issue of the journal Kritiker devoted to contemporary Persian poetry, as well as appearances by the Persian poets at the poetry festivals in Stockholm and Göteborg this past September. Upon returning to Iran, Fateme was arrested and interrogated for hours. Her Facebook account was hacked and her blog was shut down.

On December 6, Fateme was supposed to travel to Turkey with her writing teacher, the poet and activist Mehdi Moosavi, born 1976. At the airport they were both informed that they had been placed under travel bans and were instead summoned to an interrogation. They chose not to appear at the interrogation, but within a few hours they had disappeared. Since then, nobody has heard from them. On Christmas Even, sources from the Evin Prison confirmed that they were there.

We hope you will use whatever channels and forums you have access to in order to spread the word about the situation of these poets. The families of Fateme and Mehdi are trying to call attention to their situation. Please contact administrators to spread the news. Share the information about the event in every possible way.

[Here’s the original announcement.]

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This Christmas, Bring Home Some Lightbringers

by on Dec.25, 2013

Heads up that THE LUCIFERIANS, the fifth and final book of Blood Work: The Apocalypse of Dan Hoy, is available as of Christmas Day over at Solar Luxuriance.

Like the rest of the series: 33 copies, 33 pp.

(ATLANTIS, book four, will be published out of sequence next month).

dan hoy luciferians








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Gaga, Spears and Avril in a Time of Devastation

by on Dec.14, 2013

hwy36This is what the houses look like on the way to my house. Last week I returned home after being displaced for three months due to the September floods in Colorado. Undoing the devastation is both an ongoing and perpetually deferred process.

In the meantime I can confirm that Britney Spears’ new album is better than Avril Lavigne’s and Lady Gaga’s combined.

This is not to say the Gaga album is bad. It’s a mixed bag but so is Madonna’s Like a Prayer, with three transcendent hits (“Like a Prayer,” “Express Yourself,” “Cherish”) obscuring all the sap and filler. There’s nothing here approaching the gradeschool rapture of “Like a Prayer,” but when Gaga’s just being an emotional psychosexual weirdo instead of indulging in art pop self-reflexivity it’s great. That’s really where it’s at for her. Her performance of “You and I” at the 2011 VMAs (for example) is one of the most confident pop performances I’ve ever seen. It’s not as iconic as Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” performance at the first VMAs in 1984 or MJ introducing the moonwalk to this planet at the height of “Billie Jean” during Motown’s 1983 TV special, but it’s just as legit. This is an image artist at the top of her class. Here Gaga split-personifies a spurned lover with the face of a pubescent Ralph Macchio. Everything about this is real:

(continue reading…)

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A Journal of the Plague Year. Fear, ghosts, rebels. SARS, Leslie and the Hong Kong story

by on Dec.13, 2013


It’s cold in the Rust Belt. The children have disappeared, but they have littered the house with their alt manifestations:  Mumins—white, gelatinous manifestations of cold. Mylings, half baby, half breast.  Parasites and hosts. Mamifestations. Cold, mammary, scandinavian breath-collects in the fairy hollows, lumpy fairy cairns. Carrion comfort. The mumins are not wraithlike but plump. They look like spores and lungs. They will ludicrously digest you through the lung.




At the end of the year, stumped in snow, I want to write about an exhibit I did not see, an exhibit which ran in Hong Kong this summer.  It was curated by Cosmin Costinas and Inti Guerrero and based at their gallery, Para Site.  It featured 27 artists, mostly based in Hong Kong. The title of this exhibit reads like it was scraped up in the future as a specimen from the inside of my cranium when I am a dead human 6,000 years ago:

“A Journal of the Plague Year. Fear, ghosts, rebels. SARS, Leslie and the Hong Kong story”



As the lengthy millipedinous title with its jointed, segmented abdomen suggests, this exhibit was many things, but it could be summarized as a portrait of Hong Kong in the plague year of 2003: the year of the invasion of Iraq was eclipsed by the the SARS epidemic which was then trancepted by mutable superstar Leslie Cheung’s leap from the 23rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

Participants, with their heads sticking out from holes of a large white fabric, perform during a performance, "Divisor" during an exhibition, "A Journal of the Plague Year. Fear, Ghosts, Rebels. SARS, Leslie and the Hong Kong Story," in Central business district of Hong Kong

Recreation of Brazilian artist Lygia Pape’s 1968 ‘Divsor’ performance at the opening of A Journal of the Plague Year



The plague year: 2003. The plague year, 1894, the year the plague bacillus was isolated in Hong Kong, like ghost gold in the bank, ‘confirming’ racist hyopthesis and funding the bad currency of the ‘yellow peril’ for a century to come[i]. Isolates and contamination. Alien exclusions. Mutations and killer apps.  The plague year, 1665, when the Great Plague struck london.  Daniel Defoe was 5 during the plague, which did not stop him from publishing his ‘Journal of the Plague Year’ in 1722, a fradulent first-person account culled, probably, from the diary of his Uncle Foe. The fake is the real. The fraud is vicious and virulent. Counterfeit money costs more. The black market’s steepness reveals the real cost of death and life.  The value of a star explodes and cannot be zero’d-out. On the heart-scale. On the black market.

Leslie Cheung.

cheung sars



The magnitude of Leslie Cheung’s life and death probably cannot be grasped by one who did not exist in Asia in the gilt penumbra of his stardom, soaked in his nutritive Cantopop. For this American cinephile, his incredible beauty, his tenderness and violence, his mutability, this way he IS image. The strange, greeny, gelatinous light-eating corpse-garment, Film, seems to have evolved for him, for his image, for his cheekbone, his hairline, his face.  His suicide contaminated Hong Kong with a viscera and drove Hongkongers to disobey the quarantine to congregate in grief. A grief congress, drenched in fame. A drought of fame. A  plague of fame. A counterepedimiology. A group show. Unparaphrasable. It must be spelled out, term by term, in spirit writing. A journaloftheplagueyear: fearghostrebels. SARSleslieandthestoryofhongkong.


In the elevation and evisceration of Cheung;  in the condemnation and quarantining of Hong Kong, in the caricatured visage of the Asian male, at once weak and viscious, whose swarm-body can barely be individuated from the hyperinstrumental group body of the ‘yellow peril’; in the historical identity of Hong Kong as a valuable disputed territory and a conduit for capital; in the role of Asian bodies as specimens and contaminants in the Western imaginary in recent centuries—all these themes are animated, pierced, denatured, re-mounted in the various works which made up this exhibit.  Gender becomes denatured in the title of Ai Wei Wei’s ‘with milk’,  a kind of black fathermilk involving 65 tons of milk and 15 tons of coffee, produced by this very male artist. ‘with milk’ more directly references the milk-powder scandal, involving the contamination of baby formula with melamine in 2008, and the resulting fallout, whereby a crackdown on formula-exportation through and from Hong Kong created a blackmarket favoring very wealthy and/or connected Chinese families. As always, the obscene father Ai Wei Wei provides/fails to provide nourishment through an act of Bataillean expenditure. (continue reading…)

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On Bad Writing, the Anti-Monument, and Digital Horizontality: Jorge Carrión’s “Some Traits of the Literature of this Milennium”

by on Dec.11, 2013

The relational art of the nineties prefigured the habitual modus operandi of written culture in our century. Forms of operation and intervention that are in the laboratory phase that are still hesitantly being progressively defined, without anybody knowing if they are going in the right direction. One only has to look at the boom of community managers and the dearth of companies in the management of social networks. Like them, each writer of the 21st century is looking for a way through, while also having conflicting relations with publishers, disbelieving in the cultural supplements while knowing that they are still the ones who decide part of the prestige, discovering in certain blogs and profiles – international ones – criteria that are of interest, conversing with interlocutors who up to four days ago were inaccessible (in a immeasurable quantity and quality, often secret, this virtual epistolary that in only a few cases will partially, one day, be revealed) and receives more audio-visual stimuli than any writer in the past and expands his artistic production thanks to tools that no longer need formal training (Photoshop, video editors, web pages, word and image processors, etc.). And perhaps, in the most extreme cases, even working in the ambit of digital literature, alongside a programmer or actually programming, far removed, from the market, the laws of supply and demand, from the preservations of works in libraries, from everything that we are accustomed to and which is increasingly rare, even exceptional.

Read more of this insightful article here.  Aside from Joyelle’s notion of “the plague ground,” the tentatively optimistic ending above also reminds me of Claudio Willer’s prophecy from 1995 about a technologically driven “romantic rebellion.”  Interesting, too, how easily and probably unintentionally Carrión wrests claims to innovation away from Anglo-American literature.  Notice how he mentions not one U.S. writer.

The Anti-Monumental Julio Cortázar

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What’s a “negative review”? – On Smarm and Snark

by on Dec.10, 2013

Read a somewhat interesting little piece on “Smarm” at the Gawker, in which the writer, Tom Scocca, identifies “smarm” as a feature of contemporary literary culture:

Stand against snark, and you are standing with everything decent. And who doesn’t want to be decent? The snarkers don’t, it seems. Or at least they (let’s be honest: we) don’t want to be decent on those terms.

Over time, it has become clear that anti-negativity is a worldview of its own, a particular mode of thinking and argument, no matter how evasively or vapidly it chooses to express itself. For a guiding principle of 21st century literary criticism, BuzzFeed’s Fitzgerald turned to the moral and intellectual teachings of Walt Disney, in the movie Bambi: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

I think this guy makes a good argument. In the past on this very web site I have talked about how anybody with an other point of view is immediately identified with “hate” or even violence (for example, see my discussion of the reaction to Seth Oelbaum as the extreme example of this). And that’s why I keep quoting this little nugget of wisdom from everybody’s favorite troll, Zizek:

Today’s liberal tolerance towards others, the respect of otherness and openness towards it, is counterpointed by an obsessive fear of harassment. In short, the Other is just fine, but only insofar as his presence is not intrusive, insofar as this other is not really other… In a strict homology with the paradoxical structure of the previous chapter’s chocolate laxative, tolerance coincides with its opposite. My duty to be tolerant towards the Other effectively means that I should not get too close to him, intrude on his space. In other words, I should respect his intolerance of my over-proximity. What increasingly emerges as the central human right in late-capitalist society is the right not to be harassed, which is a right to remain at a safe distance from others.

This kind of dynamic comes up in discussion for/against what people call “negative reviewing”. It seems nobody wants to write anything critical in poetry reviews; the instance you do, it becomes a “negative review”.

I would much prefer to be negatively reviewed than not to be reviewed at all! In fact reviews that dares to be critical or negative are often very provocative and interesting. I remember when someone at Coldfront wrote a negative review of my book A New Quarantine Will Take My Place: it spawned a lot of good discussion on this blog, including the blog post in which Joyelle coined the phrase “ambience violence”

There’s something far worse going on when reviewers or editors make value judgments but do cloaks them in some positivity schtick. When they choose not to review, or not to mention, writers they don’t like, editors and reviewers are not being critical but also erasing different perspectives. The result is not just the erasure of different views but also a literary discussion that is boring and stranglingly conflict-less and calm.

This is why I am always urging people to write reviews that includes writers they don’t like or perspectives they feel are wrong. I’m really tired but I wanted to point this out today or I think I may never get around to it.

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