Author Archive

Twin Peaks Was My First Boyfriend

by on Jul.01, 2011

There’s still a churning fantastic discussion going on at Johannes’s post Contamination (#99 balloons): David Lynch, Genre, HTML Giant, so I thought I’d take some of it topside, spin it out a bit–a little off the top of my head, yo!

As someone who agrees emphatically with Megan’s & Lara’s smart insights that a lot (most?) of the violence-against-women, a lot (most?) of the dead-girl art out there just reproduces, doesn’t crack patriarchal and/or misogynist foundations, I find myself drawn (sometimes ambivalently drawn, other times irresistibly house on fire) to the ways Lynch doesn’t smoothly replicate the world’s violence, or engage in a particularly legible complicity. He mangles, upends, twists, critiques, and yes sometimes despicably indulges in explorations of violence against women and men (of course the political weight of each gender’s victimization is quite different in quality).

(continue reading…)

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Bad Influence

by on Jun.27, 2011

I wrote the following in early 2007, at the height of Pussipo’s activities, when a bunch of experimental women poets found themselves together on a highoctane Internet weirdfest known as a listserve:

Pussifesto

Pussipo will see you in the Underworld where “poetry in [that] tradition, [has been] self-slain, murdered by its own past strength.”

Pussipo emulate that child who vomits up her own materials in order to rid herself entirely of tainted skins. Pussipo do not try to rescue or retain our own materials, but jar them loosely in fermented mare’s milk and gasoline. Pussipo do not try to rescue our own spilled materials, but send them along with the abject spinning into the Underworld, the sewer, whatevs Underground where we will later collect them and put them to good use. This is not like compost in that we do not expect to grow anything beautifully edible. It is like compost in that it shall be stank.

Pussipo rejoice in Western art and literature’s ascription of the rank corpse. In these glossy hides, Pussipo gain access to the Underworld and begin.

Pussipo will see you in the Underworld.

Pussipo do not fondle the reified detritus of the phallus encrusting the common chat. If its purse is split, pocket its jewels, but otherwise we’ve got bigger fires to tend. Pussipo proceed directly to the genital and carry its mucoid jargon to the Underworld. Pussipo place a pin in every accomplished lip.

Pussipo splice together those brief crags with our own historical organs. Thus Pussipo create gold-toothed cyborgs; part poem, part biologue. Entirely analogue.

Pussipo will see you in the Underworld where Pussipo will remake you with your own discarded fat cells, where Pussipo will poke out your faux god-eye and insert the thousand-chambered fly-eyes of the pussilarva.

Take heart.

Around the time I wrote this, I was reading Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence for my Ph.D. exams. I was thinking about influence, of course, but more specifically in whom influence is expected to (don’t forgive me) bloom.

This is about that basic unit of power: gender. Or it could be about that basic unit of power: genitals. Or: race. Or: desire. Or: nationality. Or: class. Or, or, or. If you’re in some way or another born into the world such that your parents/the state take a gander at you and say, poor perv, it’s the underworld for you, then you’re always already a gravedigger. Your presence is a desecration, a failure of sperm and egg to produce the finest possible copy of a copy of a copy. You’re not a pale imitation of some apocryphal original. You’re a mutation, an incorrect variation. Sometimes you’re a welcome mutant, and they invite you up out of the basement, and you earn a cookie for performing your trick, but eventually you have to go back down.

So. Maybe you feel more at ease than surface dwellers do thieving in the graveyard, and you think, whose old phalanges will I use to type today? You dig up Ginsberg, you dig up Bataille, Nabokov, Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, Paul Bowles, but Jane Bowles is in the reader, too, and even though you’re a 17-year-old cockroach, you’re not stupid. Plath left you a trail of bones, and Anais Nin’s an easy find. There’s a whole anthology of Russian poets including Marina Tsvetaeva, Anna Akhmatova, Bella Akhmadulina. It’s okay if some of these people are still alive at the time. Better, even! Take a souvenir, swipe yourself a reliquary. You’re not an idiot. You read LeRoi Jones, Jean Toomer, Gwendolyn Brooks. This is all before college, even. Then you build yourself a bone suit and hop inside, and this is how you learn to become a writer. You take apart your bone suit. You make bone soup. You deflect your nasty professor with a bone when he tells you your prose is boring. You make yourself a second spine of other writers’ bones. You wear a bone crown and jam bones in your ears when people say dismissive things about you.

(continue reading…)

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The trouble with rationalizing the numbers trouble. A logic problem.

by on Jun.18, 2011

I’m not commenting on the numbers themselves, which are pukeworthy, or the gazillion hours I’ve spent counting things (an expensive–if you believe my time is worth anything–and dispiriting process). I’m developing, eep!,  a very Twisty Faster reaction to the topic. If you don’t know the numbers are skewed, if you don’t understand what the skew means, it really isn’t my job to pluck your head up out of the sand and spoon feed you seventeen books of feminist theory. Except for when it is. I’m an assistant professor of gender and women’s studies. And: I love my job. I love my students. I don’t actually have to do any plucking or spooning. They’re inquisitive and analytical. This is Wyoming; they come in with tough questions. They come to class often with little experience of the discipline, little professional experience of any sort. They haven’t much been out in the adult world of careers, promotions, raises, cocktail parties, parental leave, aging, etc. They haven’t much been out in the world. So, when it’s a surprise to them that the wage gap exists and that our state has one of the nation’s most glaring gaps (the worst if you don’t discount the mining industry), or that even in the 25 top paying fields for women, fellas make more, or that the publishing ratios fall around 70/30 men/women, I’m excited to talk about how and why. I appreciate that men and women students alike find this unfair and weird and I never feel like jumping up on the table and yelling WHY IS THIS NEWS TO YOU? WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? LIVING IN SOME SORT OF PROTECTIVE PATRIARCHY CAVE? Because really, they’ve been very busy becoming the adults who will soon have to go out into the mess we’ve made for them.

[Update: VIDA’s 2011 Count can now be found here.]

The adults who have been out in the professional world awhile now, I hold to a different standard, though. I hold my literary colleagues to especially high standards–I can’t help it! They’re very smart! To these folks, I don’t feel inclined to explain the numbers or prove the numbers or even provide very many more numbers. Blargh. I do, however, need to say something about a logical fallacy that people inevitably employ to rationalize our literary numbers trouble. (If you’re curious about who said what when/where/how, please, visit a fine selection of the responses here.)

We need to know the submission ratios in order to understand these publishing ratios. No, I don’t think we really do. We know women submit less than men. Okay. This is a fact, and it would perhaps be a meaningful fact if we squinted and looked at it from a far-off ill-informed place. However:

(continue reading…)

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Into the Groove over at Gaga Stigmata

by on Jun.18, 2011

Over at Gaga Stigmata, I’ve got the first in a series of new vid analyses: “Into the Groove of Lady Gaga’s ‘The Edge of Glory,’ a Phenomenological Inquiry”

This is the dance you do by yourself with the imaginary body of your hopeless crush. This is the dance you do when no one’s home and you hold the doorframe and thrust your torso through it like into your lover’s arms. This is the kind of dance you do that feels big in your body, but would look small, ridiculous, would shame you if anyone caught it on film. You strip off articles of clothing, accessories, you shake out your hair which isn’t actually the long porno hair let down from the sultry librarian’s bun, but just your hair. You don’t want to open your bedroom window and leap right out so everyone can see the big thrill pounding through you because the thrill simply won’t manifest on your body, and, for another thing, Butler again, “the soul is precisely what the body lacks; hence that lack produces the body as its other and its means of expression…a figure of interior psychic space inscribed on the body as a social signification that perpetually renounces itself as such.” To lay bare your soul on your ugly body is to admit or accept that your soul is ugly, is plain, is small and disappointing. The edge of glory is in fact not an edge at all. You’re just a little person having a big feeling. The abyss you intuit is actually just a ten-foot drop. At worst, at best, you’ll get a goose egg on your forehead.

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Then I made you a mix tape

by on Jun.10, 2011

I really liked Johannes’s Contamination mix tape, so I thought I’d make one too. Mine is longer, ’cause I never know when to quit and then I give you this tape and you’re like, “whoa, obsessed?”

Here’re some things I’ve been reading, watching, and cooking for the past week or so:

Timothy Schaffert The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters
Beverly Cleary Beezus and Ramona (copyright 1955, predicting The Feminine Mystique in flaw & treasure!, passage below*)
The French Lieutenant’s Woman
Suzanne Collins Catching Fire and Mockingjay
Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew
Thai Coconut Rice Fritters
Banana-Bourbon Cake with Dark Chocolate Glaze
Susan Sontag Regarding the Pain of Others
Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies
Watermelon-Mango-Lime Popsicles
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Zombie Nightmare
Bret Easton Ellis Imperial Bedrooms
Lidia Yuknavitch The Chronology of Water
Roasted Red Pepper Olive and Parmesan Bread

And this:

*With gray thread Beezus carefully outlined the steam coming from the teakettle’s spout and though about her pretty young aunt, who was always so gay and so understanding. No wonder she was Mother’s favorite sister. Beezus hoped to be exactly like Aunt Beatrice when she grew up. She wanted to be a fourth-grade teacher and drive a yellow convertible and live in an apartment house with an elevator and a buzzer that opened the front door.

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In a Sentimental Dude

by on Jun.03, 2011

Roxane Gay has a reliably invigorating take on the recent man-writer-finds-himself-superior-to-women fracas. Her post, and the ensuing debate in the comments section reminded me how baffling and irritating I find our aesthetic coding of the sentimental as a uniquely feminine category.

In The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, in which concise definitions of aesthetic terms sometimes grossly undersell those strategies, but which is nonetheless a useful book, sentimentality is:

(1) poetic indulgence in the exhibition of pathetic emotions for their own sake; (2) poetic indulgence of more emotion (often self-regarding) than seems warranted by the stimulus; (3) excessively direct poetic expression of pathos…without a sufficient artistic correlative.

As with most entries in the tome, the majority examples of sentimental verse come from men writers–fine evidence that men perform the sentimental. Its feminine example is Dickinson’s “If I can stop one heart from breaking.” NEP calls her imagery “trite” and “vapid,” and notes that the sentimentality of the verse “manifest[s] an unconvincing hyperbole.” This reading insists on that sentimental, narrow, and biased narrative of Dickinson’s life we all know too well. Gentle Emily in the attic, in her white dress, weeping over fallen birdies.

Hint: we can tell that while the majority of its practitioners are men, sentimentality is about to get coded feminine because of all the excess. Indulgence! Hyperbole! More than warranted! Excessively! Psst–hiss-hissssss-hysteria!

(continue reading…)

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Relocating Poetry within the Brain: Consciousness, Emotion, and Poetic Rhetoric

by on Feb.08, 2011

What a blast this panel was!  If you were one of the lovely souls who requested we put the papers online: we’re working on it!

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Annotated Mash-Up Plath, Jones, Necropastoral, WOUND WOUND WOUND

by on Jan.21, 2011

OMGoodness, I’m so glad we’re talking about 1. necropastoral (“this is the light of the mind, cold and planetary”!) and 2. wounding the viewer (“I can stay awake all night, if need be–/Cold as an eel, without eyelids”).  These two tactics combine beautifully in Plath and in other poets who integrate bodies (rather than classic forms) into the lyric.  It’s the colonial paradox: female bodies, bodies of color, bodies with disabilities are simultaneously likened to the Nature, animalistic, earth-bound (minds that cannot transcend!), and marked as unnatural.  Wrong, swampy, complicated, ready to fail, burst, spaz out, etc.

In the early hours of the 1960s (see The Feminine Mystique, see the civil rights movement, etc.), Sylvia Plath and LeRoi Jones, from their disenfranchised desks, write this sociopsychic poem:

I am inside someone

who hates me.

I shall never get out of this!  There are two of me now:[1] (continue reading…)

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I am freaked out by realism

by on Jan.19, 2011

The documentary Helvetica, which I watched over the holidays with my partner & partner’s parents, got me thinking a bit more concretely about my discomfort with a certain strain of highly anticipated postmodern novels. The neat ones–the ones that attempt to catalogue the heap while taking advantage of the heap’s many attractions. For Christmas, my in-laws gave us a copy of Freedom, and so I read it with this typographic analogy in mind.

Many of the designers interviewed tell us that Helvetica’s charm is in its clarity, its clean finish, its uniformity.

Helvetica’s a product of modernism, mechanical looking, sanitary, friendly in the way that the lady-voice on your laptop is friendly–as in, has the affect down, is manufactured to perform 1. legibility, followed by 2. friendliness. Not just product, Helvetica is the darling of modernism (check the NYC subway system signage). (continue reading…)

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The Gaze for Girls/Raccoons/Porn

by on Jan.05, 2011

I am absolutely NOT reading any of Johannes’s posts on Black Swan until the film opens in my little eddy in time and space otherwise known as Wyoming.  BUT, in the meantime, I love to yak about the gaze.  And I love Tiger Beatdown. One of my fave posts “The Edward Cullen Underpants Conundrum” does some excellent tangling with what becomes of male gaze when we start applying it to the male body, and digs into the well-known-though-rarely-spoken fact of the matter: Twilight (books, films, swag) is porn for teenage girls.  It’s the ultimate perversion.  We’ve made porn for porn itself.  It’s sparkly so that dumbshows like girls and raccoons will be able to see it.  It’s got ever so much to do with cuteness and violence on which Lara and I and Dodie Bellamy and  Sianne Ngai and gobs others have ever so much to say.  But not in this post.  This post is about a post about Edward Robert Cullen Pattinson’s face on the dirty schoolgirl panties that come out of the vending machine.

Because Edward Cullen is porn. Weird, pre-sexual, socially conservative, deeply repressed and fucked-up porn, but in a world where ladies’ sexy feelings are fenced in with shame and warnings of danger from Day 1, is it any wonder that porn which consistently ties sex to death and fear and the urgent need for repression is selling to the girls? I mean, consider: Edward Cullen has no characteristics, as a person, other than wanting to “protect” Bella and being beautiful and gorgeous and perfect all the time. (And also an insufferable asshole, but that seems more like a mistake than a purposeful effort to give him a personality.) He has no goals in life other than being with Bella. He is over a hundred years old, and he’s never had sex with another person. He’s never wanted to have sex with another person. There is not and will never be a person or a thing or an event that is more important to him than (eventually) having sex with Bella. He is an object designed for the gratification of female desire. He’s the most ridiculous person who’s so amazing at everything, and he’s so beautiful you creamed yourself. And that’s it. And we’re used to dudes writing ladies this way, we’re even used to dudes writing ladies this way and passing it off as “literature,” but the idea of a female author writing a male character in this way, for the pleasure of other ladies, is profoundly disconcerting. Even to me! Because it’s backwards.


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Occult Motherhood, Queer Time, the Oracular Orifice: Excursion & Bullets

by on Oct.12, 2010

The Halberstamatic queer time sits in apposition to heteronormative time, those 9-5, early to bed, early to rise, mama-daddy-brother-sister hours.  The hours marked off by opening and closing of shops, by school and workdays, by morning-evening-nightly news.

Halberstam: “Queer uses of time and space develop in opposition to the institutions of family, heterosexuality, and reproduction, and queer subcultures develop as alternatives to kinship-based notions of community.”

Me: “Question: can queer uses of time and space develop within the institutions of  family, heterosexuality, and reproduction to create opposition to those institutions from within?  Do those institutions in fact necessarily contain their own queer oppositions, and thus part of what’s at risk for the hegemony is sealing the gates on those fractious impulses/phenomena?  And, if so, what sort of subcultures rumble in the leaky gut of these institutions?”

There is an understood moral quality to heteronormative time.  Achewood illustrates (literally):

To be a good mama, I should eat me a garbanzo bean at 6, feed family at 7, shuttle babies at 8, get to work at 9.  Whatevs, breeder town.  I stay awake until 3 am, and don’t get up until 10 if I can help it.  My babies look at me like the apocalypse is upon us if they see me out of bed before 9.  To our great perversion, my schedule (both work and bodily) require my man-partner, the father to get up in the morning and tend the bodily, emotional, and logistical needs of our children, while I lie abed.

So here’s the thing—the daddy-partner was traveling the past couple days and I did the following: wake up, feed, shuttle, AND bump into other parents.  I performed NORMAL.  I was awake in the morning tending to the bodily needs of my babies.  I felt strangely compelled to masquerade in front of the other parents, to demonstrate that this was a NORMAL morning for me, and not to betray the fact that I planned to take a very immoral snooze the moment the baby went down for his nap.

And then I wondered if I wasn’t the only one masquerading.  Because motherhood (and fatherhood, wherein men parents tend explicitly to the physical needs/bodies of their small children and infants) often leads one to keep queer time, or, at very least, makes the keeping of heternormative time distinctly difficult, unpleasant, verging on impossible.

  1. You may find yourself sleeping with a restless little bobcat, who several to dozens of times a night claws you awake for milk or comfort.
    • The pediatrician graciously calls this “not gifted with sleep.”
    • We call it “checking for predators.”
  2. Leaky vessels, orifices, don’t play by business hours.  Even that moral compass, the circadian rhythm is easily disrupted, ever so difficult to reestablish.  I adore Gail Kern Paster’s The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England. It’s brilliant and perhaps more applicable to contemporary, postmodern life than even the author herself realizes.  In her fab chapter on how the maternally controlled bodily functions lead to scatological humor, Kern Paster harkens back to a time when women, mothers “were the primary medical practitioners in their own homes.”  And though she notes that mothers still handle their children’s bodies more often, the suggestion rings clear—contemporary women aren’t as engaged in the bodily fluids, certainly don’t practice humorism, are generally involved in medicalized, not occult practices.  In a footnote, says Kern Paster: “I am assuming, at least for contemporary American child-rearing and pediatric practices, that better health and nutrition for children make the administration of enemas, rectal suppositories, and laxatives on the whole less frequent than was the case in early modern Europe.” (continue reading…)
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Gimme gimme gimme some of that bad girl meat dress!

by on Sep.23, 2010

Over at Gaga Stigmata, you’ll find a conversation between Kate Durbin, (our own) Lara Glenum, Cheryl Helm, Eddie McCaffray, Vanessa Place, Marie Smart,Carolyn Thompson, Meghan Vicks, and (our own) me on Lady Gaga’s meat dress.  And everything else one should light upon when discussing the meat dress, or any meat dress.  There’s a brilliant analysis of Lady Gaga / meat steak / DADT.

Unica Zorn, abjection, interstellar Cher, Carrie, animal rights, bacteria, Bjork, mathematical meatquations, dirty food, food-body, interior, exterior, meaterior, ancient Greek meat, King Lear’s meat beat… It’s a grand ol’ time.  Big thanks to Kate & Meghan for including us in the convo!

P to the S, Montevidayo, Lady Gaga’s meat dress is my favorite/the most problematic piece of detritus.

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