Archive for January, 2014

“I’m Talking From My Tomb”: The Only Televised Interview With Clarice Lispector Ever

by on Jan.28, 2014

Previously discussed in my second Montevidayo post ever, this incredible interview with Clarice Lispector is now available in English subtitles!!!

Mystic creatures of the Montevidayan night, please watch and listen for Lispector’s awe-inspiring yet devastating ash-laden delivery.  Even today her thoughts on writing and the writer’s role, including her refusal to identify as anything but an amateur, point to a path away from the control of the imaginary to which the best of us succumb.

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The Violence and Invisibility of Translations

by on Jan.25, 2014

I just wrote this on my facebook update:

Seems like a lot of issues of translation has come up recently: Don Mee Choi’s not that she – the translator – wasn’t mentioned in the review of Kim Hyesoon’s All the Garbage; the Lucas Klein post I linked to below; C. Dale Young discussion about the claim that American writers are insular and don’t read work in translation (judging from the commentary to that link, they’re not only not reading works in translation but also totally unwilling to have a discussion about them not reading things in translation); and Coldfront Magazine’s “top 40 poetry books of 2014” which didn’t include a *single* work in translation (there’s no ethical responsibility to read works in translation, but lets think about what it means that you think all 40 best books of 2013 were by Americans!). I guess I’ll have to write something about this… Just when I thought Lawrence Venuti was outdated…

Where to go from there? I’ve been writing about translation so long now that I don’t even know what to say anymore… To begin with, I don’t think all Americans want to ignore things in translation. America has a really rich history of engaging with works in translation (Pound etc). As I noted in this post I wrote for the Poetry Foundation, there is quite a bit of interest in translation, but it’s mostly in the small-press universe. Kim Hyesoon’s All the Garbage of the World Unite! (in Don Mee’s translation!) has received an incredibly amount of positive feedback. Overall, the two Kim Hyesoon books have probably received some 20 substantial write-ups and her work is not being translated into a whole bunch of languages. So not all people hate works in translation…

So who does hate translation? Continue reading “The Violence and Invisibility of Translations” »

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Pageant Reviewed at Make Magazine

by on Jan.24, 2014

Erin Becker has written an insightful (at least to me, the author, and that’s pretty good!) review of my book Entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate in Make Magazine.

Excerpt:

Like a mad scientist throwing together unexpected chemicals, Göransson delights in coupling divergent concepts, seeing which combinations smoke, sizzle, or explode. Just a few examples: “luxuriant pupils,” a “soundproof pose,” a “molested parade,” a “garbled hand,” “authenticity kitsch.” Entrance is an experiment in syntax; synesthesia is the rule rather than the exception. Its characters speak in simple thoughts and grammar, like children: “I had trouble eating the food”; “Foreign bodies must be studied”; “I cannot do the Twist”; “Passengers cannot be trusted”; “I am not here”; “We want to teach him how to speak.” The relentless subject-verb-subject-verb progressions make the book a simultaneously difficult and easy read. Beneath the words there is an undulating rhythm, at first comforting, then unnerving, then both simultaneously. Layered over familiar syntax, startling images are made more startling still.

It’s not only these pattern-shattering juxtapositions and relentless syntax that create this effect of strangeness. It’s also the way the trite phrasing, basic grammar, and clichés come down with a clank against the backdrop of linguistic madness. As Göransson’s characters soliloquize on their diseases and infestations, they forefront the diseased and infested nature of the clichés and banality that infects all communication. Tried-and-maybe-not-so-true combinations like “barely legal,” “murderous instinct,” and “kiss and tell” suddenly ring false against other, less customary language. The contrast between the unfamiliar and the familiar exposes the familiar in the unfamiliar and vice versa. Göransson asks: Where do we get our lines, the words that go into our ears and come out of our mouths? And to what degree do they get us?

– See more at: http://makemag.com/review-entrance-to-a-colonial-pageant/#sthash.45RalGhu.vJBJSRLR.dpuf

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Stephen Crane, The Black Riders and Other Lines

by on Jan.20, 2014

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Stephen Crane is one of my all time favorite poets. He’s better known as a journalist (he’s said to have written Black Riders and Other Lines on little scraps while out reporting) and a prose writer, the naturalist author of Maggie: A Girl of the Street and Red Badge of Courage (the poems might suggest some interesting revision of Realism). But for me the poem are very evocative – at times his free verse seems so lazy that they’re about to fall apart (and this is also part of their amazing radicalness when you consider that they first poems were published in 1895); they are “lines” according to Crane, barely even poems. They are little parables or allegories. In many ways they remind me of Henry Parland’s poems from thirty years later and across the Atlantic (I suspect the connection is French poetry).
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According to one legend, Crane was inspired to write them by hearing William Dean Howells read Emily Dickinson’s poetry. And there’s definitely something to that story, but Crane’s poems are quite distinct from Dickinson, they never seem loaded but instead on the verge of collapse.(Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Dickinson’s editor, wrote a negative review of the Black Riders when it was first published, claiming it was mere “novelty” and, stunted, would never grow into real poetry.).

One more thing: I went to a talk about Crane’s articles attacking the treatment of Native Americans, and his descriptions of the genocide of Native Americans, and one thing that struck me was how a lot of the same words and phrases re-occur in the poems. So whether or not this is true (probably no) or some fancy daydream on my part, I see the poems as kind of “cut-outs” or erasures of polemics against genocide.
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Here are some poems from Black Riders and Other Lines:

III
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”

IV
Yes, I have a thousand tongues,
And nine and ninety-nine lie.
Though I strive to use the one,
It will make no melody at my will,
But is dead in my mouth.

V
Once there came a man
Who said,
“Range me all men of the world in rows.”
And instantly
There was terrific clamour among the people
Against being ranged in rows.
There was a loud quarrel, world-wide.
It endured for ages;
And blood was shed
By those who would not stand in rows,
And by those who pined to stand in rows.
Eventually, the man went to death, weeping.
And those who staid in bloody scuffle
Knew not the great simplicity.

IX
I stood upon a high place,
And saw, below, many devils
Running, leaping,
and carousing in sin.
One looked up, grinning,
And said, “Comrade! Brother!”

XIX
A god in wrath
Was beating a man;
He cuffed him loudly
With thunderous blows
That rang and rolled over the earth.
All people came running.
The man screamed and struggled,
And bit madly at the feet of the god.
The people cried,
“Ah, what a wicked man!”
And “Ah, what a redoubtable god!”

XLVI
Many red devils ran from my heart
And out upon the page,
They were so tiny
The pen could mash them.
And many struggled in the ink.
It was strange
To write in this red muck
Of things from my heart.

LIV
“It was wrong to do this,” said the angel.
“You should live like a flower,
Holding malice like a puppy,
Waging war like a lambkin.”
“Not so,” quoth the man
Who had no fear of spirits;
“It is only wrong for angels
Who can live like the flowers,
Holding malice like the puppies,
Waging war like the lambkins.”

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Ars Poetica vs. the Anthropocene

by on Jan.15, 2014

“We never tear away the earth’s skin.  We only cultivate its surface, because that is where the richness is found.”

— Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman

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Calling all contammo-fiends & beauty brats! TYTTI HEIKKINEN is in the house!

by on Jan.14, 2014

Johannes Göransson is in the cryer this morning because not enough ppl are reading Tytti Heikkinen’s THE WARMTH OF THE TAXIDERMIED ANIMAL + + + + + How can this be, ppl??? I SLEEP DROOLING ALL OVER THIS BOOK, WHICH I NIGHTLY CRAM IN MY MOUTH. + + + + + These wild, search engine-based poems make Flarf look sooooo totally last decade.

Because I feel morose when Johannes weeps and because I think Tytti Heikkinen is the best thing since radioactive fat lozenges, I’m putting up a sampler of her poems here.

All translations by the amazing NIINA POLLARI! You can buy the book here.

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ON PAR WITH WHALES

Fuck i’m a fatty when others are skinny.
Also Im short, am I a fatty or short? Wellyeah
I’m such a grosss fatty that it makes no sens…
My Woundedness has let the situation get
this way tht the fat squeezes out etc. Now I’m
putting distance btwn me and everything, because I’ve been so
disappointed in my self, cause from the word “greedy”
I think of a greedy fatty and then I get mad. Panic
rises in my chest, a tremor. Everything is so terrible
, outside its wet and icy , It’s cold when I
lay here and im an undisciplined fatty. Continue reading “Calling all contammo-fiends & beauty brats! TYTTI HEIKKINEN is in the house!” »

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Borzutzky’s Data Bodies

by on Jan.11, 2014

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Daniel Borzutzky has a new chapbook called Data Bodies. Daniel is of the Montevidayoian stripe through and through: his work is visceral, theatrical, political without being self-righteousness, and often moves with a frantic energy. His last book, The Book of Interfering Bodies (Nightboat Books), was a fascinating exploration of the political brutality that underlines so much neo-liberalism. Borzutzky is well-known for his translations of Raúl Zurita’s work, and Bodies seems to take into itself both the horrors of Pinochet’s Chile and the corporatism of modern-day America, though places and people go largely unnamed in the work. The new book is, as the title suggests, about data, information, surveillance, networks. It is also about bodies and shit and hair. As one of the opening lines says, “We harbor data and we harbor the carcasses and we try to keep the two sets of information separate.”

But Daniel’s chapbook is about merging the two, dramatically. There’s always a Foucault-ian element to Daniel’s work: for him, history is about how bodies are controlled and regulated and sometimes brutalized. As he writes in “Non-Essential Personnel,” “We sit in our cubicles and sanitize our hands.” This is a very lively chapbook, full of an anarchic, comic spirit that’s a good reminder political poetry doesn’t have to be leaden and humorless. The book is out from Holon, a sister publication to The Green Lantern.

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DONALD DUNBAR reviews POP CORPSE! for OCTOPUS

by on Jan.11, 2014

Pop Corpse

“Much has been written of Glenum’s poetics’ politics. Essentially, they’re radical. ‘Feminine’ identity is corrupted. Nostalgia stapled to the mass graves. Tastefulness surviving with Shepard Fairey’s ‘HOPE’ poster as a human centipede. The pastoral bukkake-d. Not nearly enough has been written about Glenum’s poetic innovations, partly because they are, like any innovation, difficult, and partly because it’s so fun to riff on such an “avantcore” language space…

This is the mark of a Shenzen-manufactured, third-party-licensed, private-equity-firm-owned piece of future trash…

They are not novelties, or shocks, or experiments. They are of an originality that is less a call to imitation, and more a shout to keep up.”

Read more of Donald’s x-ray insight here!

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A Open Letter from RACHEL BURNS on the NYDN Controversy

by on Jan.11, 2014

 

[Guest post by Rachel Burns.]

 

regarding the new york daily news article, i have, ultimately, taken from this experience that i am supposed to be soft, so i’ve omitted all capital letters, i’m speaking in a soft monotone.

as a twenty two year old editor/poet without any sort of degree, my initial experience was a sense of empowerment, pride & excitement about this huge publication that wasn’t exclusive to the literary realm. i knew some of these poets & their work, others i was unfamiliar with, the chance to experience all of these women & their love of the craft in one article was empowering to me as a women & a poet.

seeing the unflinching negative responses to the article confused me. the mass of negativity went beyond any single article and has made me completely uncomfortable being involved in the literary world. seeing these women i look up to being attacked by other individuals whom i also look up to is heart-breaking. & the scrutiny placed on female bodies absolutely revolting, triggering, and completely fucking unacceptable.

i am now scared to voice my opinion & have found myself questioning my involvement in our community. i’m scared to respond because i’ve got photos of myself in short dresses and tank tops. that is your impact.

a mentor once told me there is more than one way to be intrusive, rape isn’t always physical, unwanted penetration is just as damaging when it’s done without physicality. in this regard, the backlash directed towards a perceived feminine aesthetic has been a vile misuse of power/voice & has created an intrusive hyperawareness surrounding female bodies. if some of these comments were catcalled from the street it would be harassment/body shaming/misogyny, creating an situation where someone feels unsafe.

as an extremely body conscious person, these responses have made me feel apologetic for having a body. is my dysmorphic interpretation of myself a positive? if i’m covered will i be successful? if i decide to wear an article of clothing i feel accentuates my torso, should i apologize? i bought this velvet skirt to wear to a reading at awp, now i want to return it & i googled ‘semi-fitted slacks’ last night because the message I’m receiving says ‘i will be taken seriously if i hide my body in ill fitting khaki.’

i am seeing feminists responding with degrading remarks, then following up with their stature as a feminist. it’s comparable to someone saying something racist & following up with ‘not to sound racist.’ had someone made a racist or homophobic remark, there would be a complete uproar. had someone who does not identify as a feminist made a sexist remark, there would be an uproar.

attacking someone because, in your opinion, they have sexed up the art, is slut shaming & justifying that with feminism is disgusting.

i’ve used the phrase ‘it was my fault’ too many times in my life, after connecting with the feminist aspect of the literary community, i believe my body is my own & no one has that right to make me feel shame. as an unknown individual in the writing community, i’m wishing my body prepubescent to maybe avoid impending ridicule. Your message is ‘don’t be the woman you want to be’.

all individuals have a right to fulfill basic human rights of self-expression & body autonomy. fashion is an art everyone , to some extent, dabbles in, as an art it has endless interpretations.

i don’t want to be in a situation where i have to be a woman poet in a dress or i have to be a woman poet in sweatpants, i want to be a woman poet writing poetry that affects readers.

i spoke with Monica a few days ago & she told me this was like being told to smile when you didn’t want to. all of these woman have presented themselves gracefully & respectfully throughout this unwarranted backlash & i admire all of them. i want to apologize to them for anyone who is using clothing as indicator for class & over-sexualizing a situation that is not intended to be remotely sexual. the terrifying part of this ordeal is it’s not specific to the new york daily news article.

i deleted my manuscript the other night because something that empowered me so much was just shit on.

i’m embarrassed by a lot of individual actions & the petty part of me wants to name specific instances where shaming was justified or blamed on the article. i’m now terrified to continue writing, but this is not okay. i really love to write, i really love being an editor & i really love connecting with poets. the absolute kindness, acceptance & willingness to mentor. i’m not suggesting any fix, i am suggesting that the current trend of combative communication, using positions of identification as weapons and shields, is creating a toxic environment for emerging writers.

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Janice Lee’s Damnation

by on Jan.09, 2014

 Unknown 1. One of the things images of heaven and hell have in common is that both are static. As David Byrne sings, “Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.” But hell is like that too. In Dante, the lustful ones will always be caught up in wind, Judas will always be in the pit of hell. Only on earth and purgatory is movement possible.

But what if earth is seen as static too? This is one of the principal motifs in Janice Lee’s book Damnation. As Jon Wagner says in his introduction to the book, the landscape in Lee’s Damnation is frozen, unmoored from chronology and redemption and progress. As he puts it, a place “without redemptive return.” It is, I’d argue, materialist not in the Marxists sense, but in the Robbe-Grillet sense. A world thick with things that exist beyond our desire to conceptualize them and fit them into narratives. As Lee writes early in the book, “Outside, the thickness of air, like a heavy silence or constant din of angels’ whispers.” There is a long tradition that portrays the world as a static sphere: Beckett especially, but also Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, Francis Bacon, Guyotat, the harsher novels by Duras. A place of mud, rain, and repetition.

2. The title is taken from the 1988 film by Bela Tarr, though the book as a whole is inspired by all of Tarr’s work, as well as Tarr’s frequent collaborator, the novelist Laszlo Krasznahorkai. I haven’t seen any of Tarr’s films — I’ve been meaning to for years — but I have read quite a bit of Krasznahorkai, a writer with a style so precise and his own that any imitation of it verges of parody, much like Faulkner or Woolf or Proust. One of the great things about Lee’s book is the way she keeps away from this danger. The spirit of the novelist is there, but not the letter. The enclosed, rotting spaces he is famous for is present, but Lee’s Damnation has a sensibility of its own, being heavily fragmented, with the emphasis on landscape and dialogue often spoken in a sort of no-place. If anything, Lee’s worldview is even more claustrophobic than Krasznahorkai’s, who has the sweep of narrative to carry us along.

I kept thinking of Guy Maddin’s early films while reading Continue reading “Janice Lee’s Damnation” »

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ON WOMEN, WELLS OF LONELINESS, FEMALES IN THE WILD, THE DAILY NEWS.

by on Jan.08, 2014

 

I generally don’t get on with women. They make me feel competitive and inadequate and too-powerful and too-beautiful and hideously ugly and like I will never be able to fold a piece of paper and tear it perfectly upon the created axis with just my hands. Nevertheless I have found myself constantly in the company of women, having gone to a single-sex college and being a “woman poet” and a member of a former girl band and now working on a pastry team composed of all but one woman. Also perhaps because I bear the physical markers of the female I am labeled a woman-[whatever] and therefore grouped with other humans who are perceived by others or self-identify as women.
Continue reading “ON WOMEN, WELLS OF LONELINESS, FEMALES IN THE WILD, THE DAILY NEWS.” »

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Poets in The New York Daily News Article Respond: LISA MARIE BASILE

by on Jan.04, 2014

[I asked the women featured in the New York Daily News article if I could interview them about the public response to the article. I asked them each the same set of five questions. Some of the women preferred to answer specific questions; others chose to write their own essays. I’ll be posting their responses here serially over the next 24 hours.]

 

LISA MARIE BASILE

1) What was your approach to presenting yourself in the photo? And was it actualized?

I am someone who likes to flirt with the camera, even if it is a little uncomfortable. Presenting as a culturally recognizable image of “sexy” has been empowering. Fun. Really.

The photo was taken at the Annual NYC Poetry Festival where I was dressed to perform at the Poetry Brothel. I admit that the Poetry Brothel group has also been viewed as problematic because of the way it presents poetry. My views on it aside (and my views are always changing), I was dressed to perform.

However! No man, no woman, no photographer has ever disassembled my agency, commanded me or bullied me. If he had, I’d be the first to admit it. It was as actualized as it could have been.

 

2) Is visual cultural important to your poetry? if so, in what way?

My poetry is guided by aesthetic. I often create worlds of things–collectables, fabrics, decorum, objects, era-specific items of beauty. There is a strong feminine (stereotypical and subverted) thread throughout it.

My upcoming book, APOCRYPHAL, uses fabrics, designers and brands from the 60s and 70s as a character. I love playing on a visual field. Sometimes it influences my own style. It’s all an exercise in expression. Sometimes it’s misinterpreted and dirtied by the Public.

 

3) Do you consciously cultivate a public image that refracts, troubles, or adds to your poetry in some way?

I believe that the ways in which we present ourselves are quite deliberate, emotionally calculated and in sync with who we are as people and maybe as poets, consciously or subconsciously so.

I like to wear clothes that make me feel sensual. It feeds my creativity as a writer.

More simply, I dress in a way that makes me happy. I surely hope everyone also does.
I think, though, that whenever a woman does anything–specifically something that calls attention to her body in any fashion–there is the undeniable risk that it will complicate, reduce, silence or kill her accomplishments and ideas.

 

4) What have been your thoughts and feelings around the uproar over the article?

I want to be so over it, but it’s bigger than me.

& I really appreciate you asking this, Lara, because as many people as there were saying, “great poem,” “I’m glad to see women gaining attention,” or, “I am fucking happy the literary arts are being represented” (albeit the icky tabloid medium) there were also a lot of people deconstructing the photographs in a such a way that they blamed the poets for presenting as “sexy” or for somehow, like, acquiescing to the male gaze.

People should totally be wary of how women are presented in the media, but without being reductionist toward the agency of women…which is, ironically, what they’re fighting for to begin with.

A part of me knew this would happen. I think I even mentioned it to Lawrence. It doesn’t surprise me, because the way poets are presented is often not in this context–in a major tabloid, or “dressed up.” I’m ashamed (again, not surprised) that some people focused on this element more than the writing.

 

5) Has your experience with the article (and its reception) changed your thinking around poetry, media and/or celebrity?

It’s showed me how shit journalism can really reroute the discussion at hand. The NYDN article was inherently problematic.

While people’s support and love for writers is really so fantastic, the piece also confirmed how sexist portions of even the smallest, smartest and most creative communities can be.

When my magazine, Luna Luna (www.lunalunamag.com) published a reaction to the “uproar” it got thousands of hits in two days. That certainly said something. People have serious feelings about it, or they just love gossip.

xo, LMB

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Poets in The New York Daily News Article Respond: ANA BOZICEVIC

by on Jan.04, 2014

[I asked the women featured in the New York Daily News article if I could interview them about the public response to the article. I asked them each the same set of five questions. Some of the women preferred to answer specific questions; others chose to write their own essays. I’ll be posting their responses here serially over the next 24 hours.]

 

ANA BOZICEVIC

#beautiful #ugly #women #feelings

Having become distressed by Things in Life, I came to the conclusion that I needed wholly to change up my imaginarium. The picture book Myself that had become unbearable to me had to be replaced with something other, perhaps its opposite. But behold: the stranger I wished to become was me; I had so alienated myself from my history that the strangest person I could now become was myself.

This sense of integration with the other of oneself – the state in which one perceives one’s changing physical characteristics, remembers the societies of people and the microcultures which passed through one’s life, to make an impact and/or never to be seen again – the smell of pigeon-grey ozone on a Zagreb morning in 1982 and NYC air on New Year’s Eve 2014 – is an experience often denied women in particular, because of the systems of control, the taboos and vetoes attached to their perception and self-perception. We can agree that a great bulk of the bodily-aesthetic dimension of contemporary American culture is filtered through women. How women do and should look in their youth and as they age is, in the style of the film They Live, the consistent theme of so much TV and other media content. The “alternative” art culture and queer culture are no more exempt from this focus on bodily appearance – or the persona aura – than the mainstream.

A poet’s work and performance may manifest this burden in any number of ways. Maybe she enables it, fully plays along, and reaps the benefits and censure of being the submissive in a mainstream script; maybe she ignores it, rejects it, focusing instead on form, materials, technique, or embracing an alternative aesthetic of queerness or ugliness. Maybe she performs it indifferently, or as drag, and maybe through performance ends up playing it off against itself. Such analysis often comes after the art is performed, in the sphere of reaction, because I’d like to think the freedom of engaging in art renders us at least partly unconscious of the effect we, and our work, will have. A didactic poetics is a yawn..

It is this last approach – the performance of femininity, the engagement of its inherent performativity – that provokes perhaps the most ambiguous response, specifically in otherwomen. At its most effective, it can trigger awe or horror, because performing something implies implication, an awareness of the taint, a potency tinged with the ridiculous and the compromised. Picture a man who sees his wife and mistress online at the same time, and his moment of discomfort: are they talking to each other right now? This suggestion that the superego and the id might be in touch directly, provokes more terror than a scenario in which their communication is coded and filtered through the ego.

When poets like Monica McClure and Trisha Low engage with things like fashion, the propaganda of glamour, the drama of the teen (that fulcrum of idic energy that must especially be controlled so that it may be sexualized on someone else’s terms), they promote discomfort; when their practice is promoted by the New York Daily News, in an article written in the language of a fairground crier – the distress, for some women in the audience, deepens. Moreso, perhaps, if they’re artists themselves. They demand an explanation:

You mean to say these poets acknowledge openly, via playing with its code (which is after all a language), the terror imposed on women by a culture that demands women mirror its desires, sculpting them back into pre-transformation Galateas, often with the use of what could be art materials, like silicone? That they claim awareness without seeming fully to reject the dominant by fully embracing an alternative aesthetic? Are they collaborators?

The largely correct assessment of the Daily News as an unlikely (and do we ask why?) and somehow funny venue for such a piece, the caveats of “supporting the poets but being disturbed by the context/treatment” already indicate that we all know what is going on: cultural propaganda that still opens up a genuine window for these poets’ work and performance to be viewed. So what is really beautiful or ugly in this picture: the culture, the poets or the feelings? The response of some of the incensed commenters verges on sexual terror: because by appearing to collaborate (while maybe subverting – or maybe not), provocative, implicatory poetics – and that includes performance – tugs at the umbilical cord that ties women of all ages, including women artists, together to the culture’s aesthetic and libidinal economy. The terror stems from the sense of implication: of course this tug hurts. The performances, the press, the selfies, the online and public personae we all navigate; the promise-threat of attention or the lack of it; the praise, violence or indifference we can increasingly hardly imagine our“selves” without, wherein I’m a currency, therefore I am… Quel horreur – but also – quelle réalité, and what a game. Whether you’re a young woman poet thinking of how to dress for a reading, or a mature artist considering your legacy as icon or iconic abstainer from iconography – the struggle is real, la lutte continue.

Terrorized, uncomfortable readers and poets in the audience look to the featured poets themselves for the source of own discomfort by microanalysing their appearance, weighing it against the context, etcetera, as though lodging a complaint will produce a solution to the insoluble problem. But after this probably unavoidable and not wholly unjustified gestalt plays itself out, the place to look for a way is one’s own practice, where the aesthetic meets aesthetics.

If it’s true that I’m split by the demands and expectations made on me as a woman-within-culture, do I care? Do I practice abjection by fetishizing and writing a fractured self/split subject? Do I ape the culture back at itself indifferently or subversively? Do I occlude or reject self altogether and let in other selves through appropriative techniques? Do I obstinately continue to write down the words in my head? How does my practice integrate me, when practice is the only power many of us have at our disposal for this task? Do I give a fuck about cultures, dominant or alternative, that expect me to be this way or that – do I reject personal integration vis a vis culture altogether? Why focus only on the appearance of the poets, on the journalist, the photographer, rather than on the culture(s) we share, and the way these poets’ work and our own interacts with culture? Only the work can inquire deeply and answer questions – and the work will hopefully do so through its own medium rather than some didactic explanation, which, let’s admit it, never satisfies, and is really the fucking death of art.

We want the questions of our desire and others’ desire (or lack thereof) for us and our work to be explained to us in the language of public discussion: but to understand what’s going on, and remain in that realm, is not enough. The language that does not explain but does one better – offers the only avenue to freedom through its processes of mirroring, transposing or transforming – is that of art. *

 

* I respond specifically to the nature of public discussion and reactions to the New York Daily News piece, because the controversy is why I understand we are discussing the piece now. In the interest of simplicity I refuse to drop any names other than the poets’ own, though clearly I use some psychoanalytic terms, because I find these tools fun. So few of the discussions on this piece engaged the actual work printed; few commented on the less-controversial photos (including my own, which interests me insofar as I look unlike I do now). I would like to take an in-depth look at the performative practices of all the other poets featured – Lisa Marie Basile, Alina Gregorian, and Camille Rankine – and perhaps that’s a piece for the future.

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