The Latina Gurlesque vs. Everyone Else: A Preface to a Reading Against the White House of Enlightened Poets (this Friday in NYC!)

by on Jul.09, 2014

AMIGAS, get ready for the World Cup of all poetry readings!  The throw-down featuring Jennifer Tamayo, Monica McClure, and me will be in NYC this Friday, 7:30pm, at the Bureau of General Services-Queer Division (details here).


de Lima, Tamayo, and McClure (possibly not in that order) getting warmed up

Me and my superstar fellow readers, I must point out, are not battling each other as opponents.  Far from it, we’re joining forces as the one and only LATINA GURLESQUE, a luminous, feminist, outrageous decolonial parade.  Taking a SPICY, CALIENTE line of flight south of the original Gurlesque anthology, our aesthetic already throbs in contemporary performance art.  Consider the mystic genitalia and unholy queer ‘spictacles’ of La Chica Boom:


Just as La Chica Boom creates spectacles of degeneracy and power that are both against and engaged in the colonial gaze,” Colombian artist La Nadia Fulminante shows how the Latina Gurlesque’s racy and racializing dissidence is capable of targeting the neoliberal nation-state.  Adding to our pile of foreign and immigrant debt, we Latinas say GRACIAS to gringos for training us in such necronationalist erotics:

La Fulminante’s anti-presidential speech in tongues raises a number of questions, demanding a pause in our theorization of the Latina Gurlesque.  As Sandy Florian asks, can the Latina poet have access to a language of parody and spectacle?  Or does she, like the thousands of Central American children currently being detained and refused at the border, not even exist?

The last question, especially, is one I’ve been pondering in light of recent commentary by poet-critics Stephen Burt and Kenneth Goldsmith.  Readers of this blog will recall how, in his article “Nearly Baroque,” Burt sadly US-Americanizes the femme baroque by leaving out Latin American and Latin@ poets who write from a 500-year-old tradition (AY DIOSA, is that Sor Juana rolling around in her grave?).  I’d say Goldsmith’s argument in “Displacement is the New Translation” is also guilty of provincialism.  As Goldsmith feminizes translation in favor of a hypermasculine notion of displacement, he oversimplifies the diaspora experience as well as today’s market-driven erosion of borders/the planet at large.  Of course, a clever twist masks this conceptualist provincialism.  In using precisely the figure of a LATINA by making an example of the poet Mónica de la Torre, Goldsmith champions her exposure of just the hypocritical multiculturalism that his article itself ends up deploying…

OK OK, MIS AMORES, I’d love to go on but you’ll have to come to the reading for the rest!

11 comments for this entry:
  1. adam s

    I think the opening language of this post versus the end timbre is interesting–or depressing, or both and their braid (braids are the best!): it starts out wholly colonized–though the colonization is itself wholly [advertising] agency–by the language of ][the][ Market[ing], the language of neoliberal capital, and ends in marked academic discourse, which is probably not its own sovereign state so the versus should maybe understood as a the turn–though by no means clear turn against– of a single body rather than as establishing opposition. I hope it’s not terrible to theorize a blog-post–I hope not to be mean, but to state that I find this posting a good exemplar of [what I perceive to be] large-scale language dynamics which interest ][me][.

  2. Johannes

    I think an interesting figure would be Ana Mendieta, who did a lot of interesting work that both explored cultural origins and played around with gender imagery.


  3. Lucas de Lima

    Adam, not sure I fully understand, but I hope you sensed the parodic tone in my post? The incoropration of the colonial gaze in the market-friendly faces of Shaki, Ricky, and JLo? Otherwise Latinas really aren’t allowed to be gurlesque! There’s no such thing as a clean break from power–my post tries to speak to that–but surely that doesn’t mean oppositions aren’t viable or real. Decolonization is a process, but it’s one that begins by identifying modern thought and civilization as a needless site of violence rather than an inevitability. As someone steeped (and still being schooled) in that episteme, I obv have to wrest myself out of it from within. I don’t think the ‘everyone else’ signaled in my post has quite reached that same anti-imperialist conclusion or ambition.

  4. Lucas de Lima

    In other words the turn against is VERY clear for me and my disobedient friends.

  5. Lucas de Lima

    Johannes, yes, Sandy actually talks about Mendieta in her article as decidedly not gurlesque. But I think you’re right, she would make a really powerful and surprising case study.

  6. adam s

    In general I guess I am just unsure how possible that is, though I do think it’s necessary to make ever unfolding attempts. And I think feeling totally embroiled can, potentially, be a vector for turning against; maybe a quick way to put it (oof, didn’t end up quick) is I am extremely invested in highlighting how I am all that I wish I could neatly claim I am not but not in service of further fueling the status quo but to actually permanently–in however incomplete ways–try and make whole other worlds possible. Parody for me is complicated, because the very notion relies on authorial intent and then having readers/an audience in some form follow suit. I think cases can be made that to use language at-all–and perhaps especially discursively–may mean to be so totally saturated in the language of market/capitol that there may be no option to stand outside–and no this point can’t end here and become content; well, yah, it can, but I hope to go on and on and on–elsewhere. Maybe this anecdote could clarify: years ago my friend was talking and he said something about linking some pumpkin drink at Starbucks to autumn and then added isn’t it interesting the way a Starbucks product actually had come to define autumn for him when, grins, perhaps something like Summer or grapes or what have you would make better sense–and I don’t think he’s unique in this except in his recognizing what he to his disapproval was embodying. All this hopefully not total foolishness aside, H Mullen’s Trimmings and Sprmkt I think do get really close to turning market-language heels over head: I am obsessed with those works!

  7. Lucas de Lima

    THat’s the thing–a lot of people already do stand (and literally live) outside modernity, including those who carry on ancestral memory, like the Yanomami shaman Davi Kopenawa in his book The Falling Sky. It’s not just that other worlds are possible, they already exist and you can even read about them and learn from them. Very quickly one sees how these other worlds actually already haunt our own.

  8. adam s

    Totally with you on your use of the term inevitability and the need to distrust it–which strikes me as a totally crucial point and I believe is the point of agreement for what almost might look like us having oppositional stances.

  9. adam s

    Not prepared to dispute that–but just realized I am not a fan of the distance model I previously invoked via going elsewhere–I think my goal/one that could be kind and encouraging for more existence is to get inner and inner the quagmire to try and change the very warp/woof and refigure the foundations of what constitutes connection. Why can’t those “other” worlds be perhaps even more modern than standard notions of modernity–has the metropolis (in colonial center sense)even begun to fathom the relevance of, say, villages literally on the brink in the Sundarbans? And is it just me or is an urban center like Kolkata haunting communities 100 km from Fort Canning to a hellish degree. I wish I could believe the haunting is anything like symmetrical–though one could easily argue I don’t mean a haunting at-all. I’ve chosen this geography because it ultra interests me and seems a very good exemplar of many important issues relevant to far more scapes than this particular riverine braid.

  10. Carl Sladek

    Does anyone know if Kenneth Goldsmith did a reading in Syria yesterday? Someone tweeted it and said he’s going to be in Gaza on Sunday. Maybe it’s a joke about conceptualism? It’s at @FWIConcerns.