Author Archive

An Angel is Born ~~~~ ¡¡¡ !!!

by on Feb.04, 2015


In case you haven’t heard by now, the Mongrels have launched their own guerrilla website and it’s pretty shattering stuff.  This will be the last time I post on their behalf here or anywhere else, so please check the site out for future updates.

-the former Messenger

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Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo Takes To Twitter, Questions Poetry Foundation’s Immediate Questioning of Mongrels

by on Jan.29, 2015

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Today’s tabloid headline:  the MCAG have a Twitter account!  Check it out @AgainstGringpo for more jeers and cheers regarding US poetry’s unexamined racial politics.

-The Messenger

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Conceptualism Beyond the West: Divya Victor on Displacing the “Imperialist Pedigree”

by on Jan.27, 2015

A ver, compañeros, does “Gringpo” exist?  How might its colonialist frameworks operate not just on behalf of but also within Conceptualism?  What happens when a conceptualist writer of color faces these frameworks and works to wrest herself out of them?

To open up the discussion proposed by the Mongrel Coalition, I’m sharing an intriguing quote by Divya Victor that Walter–a commentator on yesterday’s post–excerpted from a convo featuring Victor and fellow writers Swantje Lichtenstein and Riccardo Boglione.

As Walter notes, Victor’s take on the need to “circumvent a Western, primarily imperialist pedigree” doesn’t sound far off from the Coalition’s decolonial aims.  Victor suggests how the narrow critical imaginary of ‘gringpo’ conceptualism ultimately lies in its Euro/US-centered canon formation and coterie:

I want to argue that if there is to be an articulation of conceptualism’s globality, and if we want to use its trans-national significance as a way to catalogue and historicize contemporary literary production, then we must insist on thinking repetition without Stein. In other words, we’ll have to circumvent a Western, primarily imperialist pedigree. The critical effort (Goldsmith, Perloff, etc.) has portrayed conceptualism as a historical continuity between two origin myths— one set in European, sometimes transatlantic, modernism (Duchamp, Stein, Klein, etc.) and one set in North American conceptualism in the 60s and 70s (Huebler, L. Wiener, Acconci, Cage, Schneeman, Kosuth, etc.). These artists and writers supply our ur-texts that then essentially allow us a convenient, but narrow, regionally- and racially-specific way of imagining the projects that present as conceptualist right now. It gives us good mothers and fathers, and then in turn defines our pedigree. This is obviously insufficient.

If critical efforts have managed and controlled our genealogies of conceptualism, the continually documented simulcast of coterie has defined its geographical parameters. Of course contemporary coterie matters, but that too is only a partial explication of influence. It is necessary for us to imagine and articulate conceptualisms not only as a product of regionally specific scenes or communities— for instance the thriving and brilliant community of poets working in New York city, and circulating in the gyre generated by the compelling and ever-dynamic Segue series. We need to also describe emerging forms of conceptualism as results of historical pressure and consequences of globalization. To do so is to include a consideration of who else is making conceptual works and to pluralize the poets who can occupy the cartography of conceptualist tendencies. To do so is to explain these emerging tendencies as a response not only to already institutionalized origin myths, or already privileged urban centers of making (New York, L.A.), but also as responses to lived practices of immigrants, travelers, or those who have systematically eschewed the fabrication of localized community by being itinerants. Conceptualism has made space for new forms of inclusivity, but these spaces have to be articulated into existence. Conceptualism’s “globality,” in other words, has to also make place for placelessness in practices of writing that come out of geographic transitionality.

In addition, Victor explains how misreadings of her work in the US have been used to uphold the white avant garde’s frames:

As someone who did not grow up in the United States, the record of my own trajectories of influence is quite other. I do not see my work as responding only to forms of art I’ve consumed, studied, or engaged with in the last ten years or so. When I began writing poems, the objects or oeuvres they resembled were entirely alien to me. I made Beckett-like poems or Joyce-like narratives knowing nothing of either writer. I was told I was “channeling” dead white men even as I tried to explain that I had never heard of them. Institutions instrumentalize even alien life, such as my own, and I was understood through my resemblance to these men— their beards and frosted noses superimposed on my flesh. As an immigrant and a woman of color, these networks of influence that have defined conceptualism in the United States— whether modernist literary experimentalism or post-punk commodities— continue to remain alien to me, and necessarily so.

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by on Jan.26, 2015

[Communiqué #2 sent to me by TMCAG.  I post on the coalition’s behalf and assume no part in its authorship.]

“Again I was supposed to know them, while they were not at all interested in knowing me. Instead they sought to ‘deconstruct’ the tradition to which they belonged even as they used the same forms, style, language of that tradition, forms which necessarily embody its values.” -Barbara Christian, “The Race for Theory”

“… the parasitical nature of white freedom.” -Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination


They tell us with a straight face that there is this thing called art–and that some of its practitioners have been into “ideas.” They say: did you know that this methodology is advanced? They repeat in unison: some poets conceptualize their work! Their work is about “ideas” (never specified, never identified).

The Jacket2 authors, in an attempt to elevate the claims, practices, and politics of white conceptualism, violently flatten. The tradition of this practice is so vast it was easy for us to spot.

Glaringly absent is their discussion. All we gauged from their discussion is that poetry critics and their favorite poets are 50 years behind in reading, selective in their memory, fixated and beholden to whiteness as property, whiteness as elevation, whiteness as transcendence.

In their omissions the politics of Gringpo are presented:

Peddling the notion that white male poets make art about ideas…vs what? Black poets write about the body? From their body (because this is so horrific!!!!)? Female identified writings are produced by their feelings? The consistently old Cartesian dichotomy that “some” writers are engaged with the process of ideas (and therefore abstraction and therefore elevated) while “others” are fixated to the realm of the earthly crass and contingently precise: these are clearly marked racialized and gendered divisions. So to get this right: white male writers and their companion poets make work for the mind, of the mind. Let’s not even mention their obliteration of the soul: everyone else is stuck with the body. Gringpo has gotten so sloppy it can’t even dress up its racism.

In addition: to suggest that conceptualists make work centering on ideas is at this point in art criticism sloppy and ignorant at best. To collapse the variations of conceptual art practices (institutional critique, social practice, relational, non-relational, etc, each one with their limits) and their explicit political projects–this reading is behind by at least 50 years. (continue reading…)

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by on Jan.22, 2015

[Note: Although I have used the term “Gringpo” in the past, I did not author this communiqué.  The Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo, an anonymous entity, asked me to post it on their behalf in response to the recent Jacket2 article on the relationship between Conceptual art and poetry. ]


“It is the innocence which constitutes the crime.” –James Baldwin






1. The level of bullshit racism that gets to pass as scholarship does not cease to surprise us. Gringpo arrogance is shocking on all fronts!

2. How is gringpo gonna talk about conceptual any fucken thing without ACTUALLY DISCUSSING THE IDEAS THAT ARE BEING CIRCULATED BY THEIR PRODUCERS



3. Gringpo’s adoration and devotion to mimicking the hierarchies of financial capitalism does not cease to amaze. “The conceptual artist and the conceptual poet intersect as information managers.” Yes! The elevation and celebration of not only immaterial labor but immaterial MANAGEMENT. In this diagram, who remains raw material, appropriated, labor, subcontracted? How are they paid where do they live how are they managed tell us tell us tell us

4. This Strike Gringpo?

(continue reading…)

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On White Uncreativity and the Mongrel Imagination: Interview at Entropy

by on Oct.31, 2014

From Gina Abelkop’s interview with me at Entropy:

Tell me your favorite things about the loose community of artists that you’re a part of, if you’re a part of one in some way, shape or form. What is most exciting about the work you see coming out of this community? Do you make work in response to any of it? What do you wish to see coming out of this community that you feel is lacking or underrepresented?

I still thank my lucky stars that Johannes Goransson and Joyelle McSweeney invited me to join Montevidayo, a poetry blog and haven for anyone who believes in insurrections instead of communities. It’s quieter now than it used to be, but the blog’s imprint on my mind continues to help me work through the inseparability of form and politics, and to think about both categories as entirely immanent to the writer’s process. What I cherish in Monte and its constellations, in particular, is a shared commitment to the otherworldly potential of art. In my version of this model, the writer gives herself over to the poem, foregoing foresight and mastery in order to allow for a fully experienced deviation. The poem, in other words, becomes a sacred space that spiritualizes alien perspectives at the same time as the writer bodies them forth. The result is an animation of ‘her’ words, a ghostly dynamic of exchange. Maybe what I’m describing is actually the backchannel of the dispossessed… a passage of energy mutating throughout multiple realities… spilt souls coursing in and out of open veins. Deprived of the right to claim property, illegible to all but the most occulted traditions and lineages, this kind of writer may have no choice but to enact a “production of difference” rather than fall back on the luxury of “imitation” (Luiz Costa Lima). Of course, an imagination with so much reach would barely make a blip under Empire. It blooms not in the Empirical but in the rim and realm of the invisible, blacked-out, and metaphysical. It is the mongrel other to 21st-century white lack, appropriation, and self-projection.

Karen Valentim's mural in the neighborhood of Jesus de nazaré, in Vitoria, Brazil

Karen Valentim’s mural in the neighborhood of Jesus de Nazaré, in Vitoria, Brazil

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by on Oct.21, 2014

Before my reading at the Poetry Project, I first embodied Ave Maria with the help of my friends Eduardo Mamede and Anderson Honnorato.  In São Paulo, they styled me according to Eduardo’s vision while I clutched Anderson’s Our Lady of Apparition, ready for our glamor shot.

ave maria

I am not sure I could have become her in the US.  It’s much easier to be a mystic in Brazil, where the embrace of spiritual impurity means you don’t have to be a believer to feel the dead around you.  If even atheists there see ghosts, Evangelicals often have spirits from Afro-Brazilian cults exorcized out of them.  As José Jorge de Carvalho writes, such is “the world in which rationalist, psychologizing, materialist, esoteric, Theonist, Calvinist, Lutheran and various African and indigenous positions confront each other.”

Note:  Ave Maria is a chicken saint from the cult of death.

In becoming her, I throw myself into this confrontation and side with the forces of the ones who keep dying. (continue reading…)

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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:

ChicaBoom_Background_Virgen (continue reading…)

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Provincialism at its Limits: On Stephen Burt’s Very US-American “Nearly Baroque”

by on Apr.18, 2014

Leaving aside the poets in Stephen Burt’s article  the “Nearly Baroque” in the Boston Review, I think it’s really interesting how his model is founded on deficiency.  That is, Burt defines his aesthetic category adverbially by its lack, its mere approximation, when the baroque by definition is primarily about fullness.


Mi gente, there is even such a thing as the Ultrabaroque, the supercharged flipside to Burt’s starved oxymoron.

In response to Burt, Joyelle wrote the following in her Poetry Foundation post “I Want to Go All the Way”:

….there is only a glancing mention, a name-checking, of the Latin American category of the Neo-Baroque. Investigation of Latin American authors, many of which have now been translated, could have lead to an interesting conversation regarding what it means that this literary style is emerging from across so many different regions, ethnicities, languages, across economic, historical & political conditions. That feels like a missed opportunity and a false erecting of a boundary. But more pressing to me is Steve’s insistence on “nearly” and “almost” throughout the piece. I counted, VIDA-style: 32 instances of “nearly,” 12 instances of “almost.” Why is it important for Steve to mark the border this way, to locate his poets on just this side of the Baroque? Just North of the Baroque? So far from God, ever-so-close-to-but-still-distinguishable-from the Baroque? Is he holding back, or are they? And why?

After mulling over Joyelle’s questions, I went all the way, adding to them.  Why does Burt bother with the baroque in the first place?  Instead of meeting the baroque halfway, why not come up with a more tailored concept (a la the Montevidayans) like the Gurlesque, the Necropastoral, or Atrocity Kitsch?  Or even Burt’s own “elliptical poetry” or “the New Thing”? Then it occurred to me just how important lack in the “Nearly Baroque” may be.  I think the ‘nearly’ of his taxonomy troubles it in ways that Burt doesn’t actually intend.  In its admission to not quite living up to Severo Sarduy or Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the “Nearly Baroque” reads like the ultimate symptom of American literary provincialism.

A provincialism the term itself takes to its limit, nervously marking it.  As if the boundaries that prop up jingoist navel-gazing had to finally dissolve. (continue reading…)

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The Most Poetical Topic in the World, According to Mario Bellatin, is No Longer the Death of a Beautiful Woman

by on Feb.07, 2014

as Poe once declared, but instead the death of her sidekick and counterfeit, the hairstylist in drag, now a shiny prosthesis to beauty’s phantom limb.


Ready for a new do: the Peruvian-Mexican writer Mario Bellatin

This is what Bellatin’s slim novella Beauty Salon (City Lights, trans. by Kurt Hollander) proposes in its revision of the decadent tradition, a call-to-arms much like Joyelle’s “We Must Be Decadent, Again” post against the ‘forward-thinking’  moves trending in our midst.  The book’s indulgence in dystopian-utopian artifice, in fact, moves backward on multiple levels.  Not only does it transplant the muse of beauty onto anonymous cross-dressing queers in an unnamed city, but it turns our RuPaul-friendly clock back to the beginning of the AIDS epidemic by any other name:  the disease afflicting gay men in the book is likewise blacked-out, unidentifiable as in its early years.  After the narrator describes having transformed his salon into a hospice for the HIV+, he unflinchingly refers to it as “the Terminal” or “Moridero” in Spanish, a word whose medieval source recalls those dark ages of the bubonic plague:

The increasing number of people who come to die in the beauty salon is no form of entertainment at all. (continue reading…)

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“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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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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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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