Author Archive

Q&A on LR Blog

by on Feb.21, 2014

Hi Montevidayans, this Q&A with Cathy Linh Che & me came out on the Lantern Review blog a couple of days ago: featured briefly are literary obsessions & heartbreaks, writing’s co-occurrence with life, and backstories of our books: Kala Pani (from 1913 Press), and Che’s Split (forthcoming from Alice James Books).



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Translation & Biocultural diversity

by on Nov.20, 2013

I am intrigued by “ecolinguistic issues in translation studies” (Phil Lynes): that translation can help think through ecological relations between and ecological impact of languages (and this is a beautiful amplification of biocultural diversity‘s claim that languages encode endogenous knowledge, including ecological knowledge).

The ecology of translation is one thing; what excites me about the idea of “ecosystemic translation” is the translation of ecology: “the embodied practices through which linguistically constructed patterns of sustainable living with other life forms are translated into our dominant paradigm and interrupt their hegemony.”

—knowing and remembering that it is not the job of any non-dominant pattern to be translatable/translated into our dominant paradigm, even if to interrupt it—and that the goal of translation is not to make available any kind of universally accessible knowledge or monocultural reality.

& yet. We are aware that our dominant paradigms are severely in the need of being injected with dynamic, participatory knowings and practices unfolding in interaction with other species, temporalities, the earth, ancestors. Precisely because we are at the risk of losing this diversity that must be nurtured and celebrated.

So how may we invite the “minor” languages or (linguistic) practices to help? Lynes recommends Michael Cronin’s translation ecology, with its metaphor of the network, for its honoring of particularism and place. To cite Cronin:

Firstly, a network is by definition open-ended and therefore capable of being extended indefinitely … As a result, new elements can lead to restructuring without collapse. Secondly, … [t]he potential openness of the network does not mean it is open to all. Thirdly, the logic of the network is greater than the power of its individual nodes. In other words, the connectedness of nodes is what permits their flexible and dynamic response to changing situations but it is shared goals, values and end, which allow for a level of structural coherence in the network itself.

These are some beginning thoughts about strategies for translation in the midst of ecological crises, shedding of old stories, eco-awakenings.

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On lexical determinism & beyond

by on Mar.11, 2013

In the wake of AWP, I’ve been thinking about which critical frameworks become dominant within marginal/radical spaces and which claims to reality; about what constitutes the field of aesthetics & art criticism (in our Euro-Western academy) and how the field-defining models limit what can be investigated; about how the terms of the discourse limit the discourse; and about becoming “both/and”.

Since these are all questions Montevidayo has been interested in, I had to bring my dissatisfaction/inquiry here. Also because I want to be able to enter the discussions on this blog through a different paradigm if I want to, and because we need nothing less than what Chela Sandoval called coalitional consciousness today as we seek to confront the challenges of reactionary and colonizing political, economic, social, relational, academic and art systems. But before I can do that, I want to introduce some terms to this blog’s lexicon. The term that often comes up when people unfamiliar with this paradigm encounter it is “new age”. In my comments to Lucas De Lima’s bravura post “In Defense of Extreme Difference: Some Thoughts on Peripheries, Cannibalism, La Pocha Nostra, and the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics’ 8th Encuentro,” I wrote a defense of the so-called new age:

When I think of practices such as sensing how the body extends beyond the borders of skin, how the psyche extends into body; becoming a body that lives in place, in the world; being fully present to every experience in the body and to learning from it; visionary and shamanic practices such as art and ecstatic dancing, and preparing the body to go into shamanic states such as menstruation and giving birth and menopause; practices of embodied change (personal and collective), that may involve healing deeply from trauma and oppression – none of them are comfortable or pleasant, although each seeks an insurrection in the old age/order and co-creation of a fully embodied new one.


Cecilia Vicuña, El Quipu Menstrual

That said, I am not too fond of the word “new age” which often confuses the discourse. I prefer the terms “participatory” & “conscious” & “sacred” & “indigenous” & “contextual” & “non-dualistic” & “relational” & “connected” & “earth-based” & “allied with spirit” & “enchanted” & “magical” (& “psycho-magical”) & “complex” & “co-evolving” & “visionary” & “mythic-metaphoric” & “imaginal & intuitive” & “embodied” & “sensual” & “empathetic” & “engaged” & “reflexive” & “critical” & “political” & “reimagined” & “revolutionary” & “transformative” & “non-normal” & “excessive”.

Now that I’ve spoken, I’m ready for the coalition.

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Love as the Force of Revolution: The Occupy Movement and Beyond

by on May.01, 2012

Happy Occupy Day, Montevidayans! In my essay featured today on Reality Sandwich I view the Occupy Movement as emblematic of a collective struggle wherein a paradigm based on fear is giving way to a paradigm based on love, and which has been making itself conscious in both the collective and individual psychic processes. It brings in Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance to help us understand the transformations in the collective field, and brings to attention some ways in which love became a driving force within the Occupy movement, and the possibilities it opens up for radical critique.

Here is how I begin:

Last year in May or June I realized that my political views were not quite what they used to be. It occurred to me that the words “Revolutions + justice” on my facebook profile were no longer adequate to what I felt was my politics. It occurred to me that love was a crucial element of politics, and I proceeded to add “Love” before “revolutions + justice”. It felt like a radical act.

Read it here.

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Paraliterature/Carnival Square

by on Mar.22, 2012

Johannes’s recent post (following Lucas’s) reminded me that I had written a note on genre & paraliterature (putting together & introducing a paraliterary anthology) for an independent study with him at Notre Dame a couple of years ago. Thought I would bring it in here.


What is the literary mode we call ‘paraliterature’? The prefix ‘para’ puts it ‘alongside, beyond, altered, contrary’: at any rate, as Samuel Delany asserts, it is a mode of writing most people would describe is “just not ‘literature’.” [1] An alternative name for paraliterature is ‘genre fiction’, implying that it can only exist inside taxonomic boundaries (and that the principles of taxonomy must be self-evident; that the taxonomy itself must be stable), while literature or ‘fiction’ neither requires a label/prefix (implying that it must be ‘original’, ‘natural’ and ‘true’), nor does it need to be contained.

The latter assumption indicates that something bigger than ‘literature’ itself is making sure it remains clean of everything ‘para-’. What could this technology be? Moreover, ‘genre fiction’ implies a dependence on generic rules and frameworks, while ‘fiction’, you would think, has no fixations. Why then is it so bent on representing and serving reality?

Jean Kinnard argues that contemporary fiction since the 1960s has been characterized by non-realistic [2] techniques (Olsen 276), but even after a number of attempts to question the lines dividing the literary from the paraliterary, these lines have still not vanished. It is no wonder that Kate Bernheimer is skeptical of “Artists Formerly Known as Realists” (52): their appropriating non-realistic techniques has not turned them into canon-busting iconoclasts, nor has it made them excited about examining the ideologies that lead to one aesthetic being valued more than the other.
(continue reading…)

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On Art, Sacrifice, Ecstasy, and Love

by on Nov.05, 2011

[I presented this at the &Now Conference in UC San Diego on Oct 15 as part of the “No Future” panel.]


20,000 kg is approximately 44,092 pounds.

How many bags is that?

A few weeks ago, poet Tenzing Rigdol stole this much dirt from Tibet and flew it to Dharamsala in India, where over 80,000 Tibetans live in exile. Was this an act of desperation. Was this an act of art. Was this an act of love. 

At the Mandeville Special Collections Library yesterday, I opened one of Alice Notley’s journals at random, and this was the first thing I read: “Love … is a great spirit, Socrates.”

“Love,” Bataille wrote, “expresses a need for sacrifice.” You could lose yourself in love. In the 16th century, Meera drank poison out of her love for Krishna. Before her, Christ “eagerly endure[d] wounds, even death itself”: so as to serve the beloved, according to Erasmus. Erasmus also concluded that Christ’s torment itself makes him lovable, an object of desire. The erotic nature of sacrificial pain has been especially apparent to mystics, who are themselves made (like Frankenstein’s monster) out of an extravagance of love.

(continue reading…)

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Plagiarist, Thief, Faker

by on Oct.28, 2011

A discussion on plagiarism in the context of Indian English poetry has been started by the poets Sumana Roy, Anindita Sengupta, Aruni Kashyap, Nabina Das and Nitoo Das here. I wonder how much of my resistance to their framing of the issue has been shaped by my encounters with America-land and the poems and discussions and theories it has brought me. Oh what a callow thought. All of it, of course. Where I’ve been is who I am – but I wonder if as an immigrant I’ll always retain a slight anxiety around my (inauthentic) influences? “On Stealing Beauty”, and this is the comment I left:

I am curious about the anxieties that plagiarism brings up in artists. I think collage—the handloom emporium—is great as a method for writing poems, and no less legitimate than writing “original” poems. The question is: should the method be disclosed to the reader? Under what kind of dialogic conditions should any method be disclosed to the reader? Attribution I think is just one way in which literary influence can be disclosed as an agenda or method—we as writers/artists need to think beyond its limitations.
(continue reading…)

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"like physics, aesthetics is a science whose primary object is signals"

by on Oct.17, 2011

Tweeted by Jussi Parikka and quoted in this interview where Ricardo Dominguez discusses the incredible Transborder Immigrant Tool (TBT). (Of course, unlike Parikka, I believe that physical materiality is not necessary for signaling through the flames.)

“Part of the TBT project is to call into question the northern cone’s imaginary about who has priority and control of who can become a cyborg or “trans” human – and immigrants are always presented as less-than-human and certainly not part of a community which is establishing and inventing new forms of life. When in fact these flowing in-between immigrant communities are a deep part of the current condition that Haraway’s research has been pointing towards – for us it is a queer turn in its emergence, both as unexpected and as desire.” “…the Transborder Immigrant Tool functions …  as dislocative media, seeking to realize the possibilities of G.P.S. as both a ‘global positioning system’ and, … a ‘global poetic system.'” “The performative matrix of TBT allows viral reportage, hate-mail, GPS, poetry, the Mexico/U.S. border, immigrants,  to encounter one another in a state of frisson – a frisson that seeks to ask what is sustenance under the sign of globalization-is-borderization.”

The poetry got Glenn Beck mad, and the artists who were part of the Electronic Disturbance Theatre 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab working on TBT came under three legal investigations – which have now been dropped – but, Dominguez says, “One strange element about the agreement that they wanted me to sign without even giving me or my legal team time to look it over was that I would never speak or write about what had happened, create any artwork that might disturb anyone and refrain from an artivist performances.”


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(My Influence This Week) Wanted: Schizoanalyst For Me & My Babies

by on Jul.31, 2011

• The etymology of ‘influence’:

late 14c., an astrological term, “streaming ethereal power from the stars acting upon character or destiny of men,” from O.Fr. influence “emanation from the stars that acts upon one’s character and destiny” (13c.), also “a flow of water,” from M.L. influentia “a flowing in” (also used in the astrological sense), from L. influentem (nom. influens), prp. of influere “to flow into”.

What Joyelle I think does in her essays is equate Art with Influence itself—a delicious, archaic idea of Influence (that later branched out into words we think of as unrelated: ‘influenza’ on the one hand and ‘influence’ as ‘exertion of power’ on the other) with its astral, otherworldly origins wherein humankind can be struck unseen—although it’s less a being struck by than being influxed/streamed-in/drowned/infected/bloated/leaking with/of ethereal fluids; also with its latent semantic burgeoning/doubling/proliferation/excess.

• Since Influence is an astrological term, it is no surprise that Art is a superstition. Either you believe in it, or you don’t. Can art & its actions infiltrate the Impossible? To the extent that you choose to believe (with a wounded eye) in the metaphysic of art and what it can visit upon you. Or you could be ambivalently mutating (but mutate you will, afflicted by the stars).

Mutant vehicle at Burning Man

• Influence the Inhuman, Influence the Terrible, Influence the Noisy, Influence the Messenger. Is there any point in identifying it solely with human ancestors? In a world whose realities/realizations are permeable & holey and which exists across multiple dimensions, the canons we embrace/espouse cannot but be host to the demons that possess humans: theories, media, language, texts, social & political ideas and movements, spatial practices, art, catalogues, stories, animal spirits, plant spirits, spirits of the dead & not-living, archetypes, guides, angels. Yes, it is an inundation. What sticks in your throat?

• In a dream-state &/or awake, dead-zone &/or alive, I wrote: “Art lives shattered like glass in your buttocks. Archetypes in you shift to a coma.” I’ve been thinking a lot about where art comes from and why. (Though really isn’t the search for origins located in patrilinear beliefs about genealogy + time? And if so, might it not lead to a policing of boundaries based on what’s ‘right’ and what’s ‘wrong’?) How do I frame art, how does art frame me, as I explore a spiritual self? I’m realizing that all of my writing is an ongoing how-to book, a manual on how to be of the world and not-of the world, a manual that dreams itself and destroys itself and destructs what it seeks to instruct and to dream, a manual that is perpetually outdated. It’s a loop.

I wrote this book

“Jacques Derrida is also this collection of texts.” Art, my other-body, a host-body for the undead-uncanny which it has the uncanny ability to simulate (fail), also has an authentic if illusional, delusional relationship with the psyche (and body and politics and history). Art, the supernatural emanation, bewitches (the human) me, it causes the human to be reeked/wrecked either ecstatic/ethereal or monstrous/grotesque. This “magical metamorphosis” which in art may happen with weird delays and interruptions or a waiting, cave-in.

• All of this is an attempt to conceive for myself a complexity – so as to reconcile spiritual concepts with aesthetic concepts: ‘higher self’ with ‘Dada’, ‘healing’ with ‘art’s poison’, ‘sustainability’ with ‘expenditure’, ‘natural’ with ‘unnatural’, ‘wholeness’ with ‘exhaustion’, ‘planetary evolution’ with ‘no future’. There are many points of connection: outsides & insides are crossed, membranes of real/reality/realism are fickle, reality is augmented, there’s death, syncope, the ludic, the ecstatic, rituals. (Maybe the antinomies are in my own head!) In any case, the point is not resolution nor accommodation nor ==> simplification. Binaries, of course, merely reduce, separate, oppose and therefore must be resisted, no, held in tension within a paradigm where complexity can irrupt—where the presence and pressure of every complementary/competing practice or theory can be registered—and so can instability and ambivalence and paradoxicality.

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Will you be a clown with me?

by on May.31, 2011

(I’m so sure Montevidayo’s national (irrational) costume is not t-shirts but clown hats.)

A Users Guide to Demanding the Impossible is a guide and manifesto about art & art actions published by the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination. It is freely downloadable here so I charge you to read it. Then, “Take up residence in the thing you will transform.” Abolish yourself. Become a post-capitalist machine. (Mis)perform.

Costume Change Not Climate Change

Keep the fashion police on their toes.


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"We’re here to give metaphors for your poetry."

by on May.20, 2011

If we accept Hannah Weiner’s claim that she was clairvoyant, that she indeed saw words (“I started to see words in August 1972. And I saw them for a year and they were all over the place, coming out of my hair and my toenails, and god-knowswhat.”), then she was in contact with the paranormal.

[*Clairvoyance: Direct nonsensory awareness of (or response to) physical events. – from Stephen Braude’s glossary in The Gold Leaf Lady]

…. I was difflong list erent    I was

anybody else    I was    terrific    I also drunken too    I was

insolete    I was obtained    I was original copy    I was

insistant    who am signa     I   ture    I was also indifferent

And why not believe her words over the overwrought claims put forward by a global mental health industry bent on manufacturing ‘psychiatric conditions’ and ‘mental illnesses’?

Para + normal. Alongside, beyond, contrary to, or altering the normal. But is there a normal? (Whose normal? Why normal? How normal? I just remembered Joyelle McSweeney’s amazing essay about Hannah Weiner’s texts as “disabled texts”.) “There is no difference between a real perception and a hallucination, taken in themselves,” writes Charles Sanders Peirce. The difference is “in respect to the relations of the two cases to other perceptions” (quoted in Stephen Braude, “Peirce on the Paranormal”).

In a fantastic interview Jeffrey Kripal, when asked What does writing about the paranormal require, replies:

A truly open mind. An attempt to think in terms of paradox rather than binary logic. A willingness to entertain the possibility that materialism, objectivism, constructivism, and naïve realism may not have a total purchase on all of cosmic reality, including, and especially, the human form. And, most of all, an impish delight in the weird and wonderful. It also requires a willingness to be tricked from time to time and an understanding that the truth can be hidden in the trick, that the two are not always mutually exclusive, as with a placebo. The paranormal, after all, is a trickster through and through.

Oh wait is the necropastoral paranormal? Is there a difference between writing about the necropastoral and writing a necropastoral? What does writing the paranormal require?

: An openness to instructions, to signals, to Bataillean “raw phenomena”. A refusal to be embarrassed (“Oh, Charles, I don’t have time to be embarrassed! I’m always seeing words!”). UFOs, aka the damned. (“Here we have an impossible stew of fraud, propaganda, secret military projects, paranoia, science fiction, a modern technological angelology and demonology, mystical illuminations, psychical experiences, out-of-body experiences of various kinds, and occasionally some very convincing sightings by multiple reliable witnesses.”) Paranormal forms, maybe a spider or spit (“I bought a typewriter. And I looked at the words all over the place, and said you have three choices: caps, italics, and regular type, and that settled it, that’s all.) and paranormalizing genres. Para-genres which would seek to instantaneously, insistently, intensely, repeatedly expand the genres that comprise “paraliterature” (Samuel Delany: “those texts which the most uncritical literary reader would describe as just not ‘literature'”). Ghostly genres. Mystic genres. Becoming-genres. Sensational genres. Shadowy doubles. Leaky things and animal, flower, stone. Faux folk tales and burlesqued classics.

If poetry itself is (the) paranormal – and art (think Spicer’s dictation, Surrealists’ automatic writing of Surrealists, Rimbaud’s Je est un autre) – but wait – did you say writing comes from the subconscious? I say it’s UFOs, stupid. In any case, does it have to be either/or? Inside/outside? desire/death? – so, anyway, what does that make poetry? A kind of super-intelligent, super-conscious force, perhaps – which wants to do or say what? Are poems messages? Assuming we are getting these messages in time (on time)? I’m not saying they are revelations. Maybe poems are just intelligent in a way that eats normal intelligence, or intelligence you would normally consider intelligent. Maybe their intelligence can neither be explained not believed. “Explanation and belief, after all, represent the epistemologies of the previous Dominants of Science and Religion.”

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Anachronism & Failure

by on May.01, 2011

“Incredible as it may seem, the Tarahumara Indians live as if they were already dead. They do not see reality and they draw magical powers from the contempt they have for civilization.” – Antonin Artaud, The Peyote Dance

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