by Sarah Fox on Feb.26, 2013
It’s true that John Colburn is an Aquarius—how could he be anything else? He even has an Aquarius moon, meaning the moon was new when he was born, its comma just barely flanking the shadow of the sun. Quite the opposite of last night’s full moon in Virgo, which if you haven’t yet go out and gain yourself some moonshine there’s still time. Virgo—–the nurse, the vestal virgin, the hearth keeper, the fact checker, alchemist even.
The Sabian symbol for this Virgo full moon: “A Girl Takes Her First Dance Lesson.”
Imagine Invisible Daughter taking her first dance lesson. I can imagine it. John Colburn can imagine it, wishes he’d seen it. Invisible Daughter in the nape of the woods off Old Stagecoach Road, sidestepping Thought-Eating Man. Grass spirits air-burdened & humping across a spate of prairie until their legs dissolve in the mud.
Our comrade Peter Richards calls this geography “an unsettling and gently self-contained world,” which might also describe the present situation in Pisces—–Virgo’s opposite sign, upon where the full blast of this pregnant moon aims its spotlight. And John Colburn is not only a Pisces rising, but his sun and moon are found in the 12th house of his natal chart, and Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Chiron, and his Part of Fortune were all transiting the sign of Pisces at the moment of his birth. Mercury’s in Pisces now—–stationed retrograde, since Saturday (yay, just in time for AWP!)—–as are many other planets including Pisces’ (and John Colburn’s) rulership, Neptune. Our world is awash in oceanic feelings, we’re up to our gills in cosmic amnion. Chunks of pope and towers disperse like sediment, like lochia, into the gutters of prehistory. Some colossal birth, we sense, must be immanent.
“I love the sense the reader has of being frequently conceived in this book,” says Peter Richards (a Cancer, clearly comfy moon-merging on the high seas). “I love how it explores the different ways it wants to be beautiful [Venus], and then creates those ways [Saturn]… You’re alive in the mind now seeking the Invisible Daughter. Her whereabouts are complicated, perpetual, and ominous in the way the future seems ominous to the past.” Or, in terms of the Pisces revolution to which these arks we’re building are in most holy and beautiful service, how ominous the past now seems to the future. But we’re alive and undulant in the psychedelic glamor mind of Neptune—–
In darkness surprising words appeared in our minds. I felt I needed
speech therapy or white hair, I felt seductive and deep. As if I knew
where a star might shine. I hoped we could leave time or break the
arms of spirits and watch them grow back. I hoped for sleep easing
its calm under our tent, dense dreams like pomegranates. Long ago
a new part of earth had thickened underwater and now we stood
on it. Dinosaurs had dreamt here and left tremors. Maybe tomorrow
we would have powers, maybe we would disappear into the woods
like ingredients. Older Brother stared into the forming pool. Our
blue air turned one shade bluer. Fireflies lit up a natural stairway,
creek to ridge, all limestone. We knew the devil never made trees
and I touched the vibrating trunks, studied the ridge, a tight waiting
entered our dimming camp, a preoccupation. I told Older Brother
I saw spirits inflating and delivering their own bodies, it was hard
to explain. I told the trees and creek, the crayfish under their rocks,
and either it was true or I wanted deliverance from truth. Would
I know if I lit up? I thought betrothed, engulfed, saturated, confidential,
lapidary. Strange words.
& Invisible Daughter is here to help us cleanse the pater-smear and tower-rubble from our horizon as daughters rise up in droves from the mist to lead us to our first post-patriarchal dance lesson. And as we all know, a revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having. Namaho!
More hype tomorrow on other ghost girls and their wet lands.
by Sarah Fox on Jan.02, 2013
Mother Death Poetics originated here, and I think, Montevidayans, you’ll agree this mater-manifesta furthers our consciousness and our desire. Elisabeth Workman lives in Minneapolis, and I hope she won’t mind me reporting that she actually delivered her baby, by chance, in the bathtub in the bathroom of her own home. Her husband helped. I love her. She says, “It should be noted that this is very much a document in progress, and that any comments may be incorporated into the poetics &/or poetry as it grows.”
The image was made by my goddaughter Grace, who is 12, and is responsible for the cover art of my first book.
Happy New Year!
The Cuntos: A Poetics
The source text for this project was written out of a fugitive anxiety in July 2012. The source texts feeding into that text were written out of desperation in the 19th century, out of significant disdain, out of borders, disillusionment, and uncertainty. A passive voice gets acted upon. A passive voice becomes receptive. The nascent language of a two-year-old girl surfaces. The neurotic language of a mother at the edge of pigeon-hole surfaces. A poet in the word-hole listens. The in-between language of revenants collides with a perverse pleasure of near-sounds and puns and estranged, entangled meaning. It is a blatant abuse of paper.
In July 2012 I had recently re-read Bernadette Mayer’s Memory, her own July project published in 1976 (the year I was born; bicentenialism) that sought to document via photography, sound recordings, and most dominantly, words as much of each day as possible. At the same time Fanny Trollope’s Domestic Manners of the Americans kept resurfacing to the top spot on my bedside pile of books—maybe compelled by my own melancholic nostalgia to not be an American, maybe an extended fascination with wanderlust and frontiers and the lawlessness they foment. Online, I kept returning to readings from Anne Tardos’ Nine, whose concept of the line as independent semantic phenomena—and many aphoristic—I found beautiful and true in a Jenny Holzer on jouissance-poetry-drugs way.
Continue reading “THE CUNTOS: A POETICS” »
by Sarah Fox on Oct.25, 2012
A few weeks ago Danielle posted a link on Facebook to this post by Anne Boyer, which I found tremendously moving and familiar, and in the process of simply commenting below Danielle’s link it soon became apparent that I had more to say than a comment could accommodate, and that I should take the opportunity instead to submit to you, dear Montevidayans, my extended maternal manifesta, as presented below. In the process of fleshing out this post (which, in my mind, dovetails into an ecstatic endorsement of Lucas de Lima’s new chapbook Ghostlines, its resonance with South American myths about bird mothers, women shamans, and the Anáposo ceremony, along with LdL’s elegiac transfiguration and re-imagination of the archetypal holy trinity, among other things), I became waylaid. First, by a lengthy and consuming visit with my newly-widowed mother. And then, by finding myself the subject of a bona fide censuring over a poem—inspired by the curious outrage over use of the word “vagina” among Michigan congressmen—that was published in the magazine Revolver. I was asked by Revolver’s editors to write a statement about this event, which you can find here:
Poets, much less walking vaginas, are rarely consulted in matters as vital to families as the safety and honor of our capitalist economy. But perhaps poetry—like menstruating, defecating, vomiting, sweating, lactating, emoting, birth-giving women—constitutes a filtering system of sorts, with its own innate algorithms and ethic of protection. By unwittingly violating the decorum of Google and its family of advertisers in my poem’s efforts to pin the ironic ironic vagina on the Elephant (or Donkey—same diff), “Decorum of the House” managed to plumb a few gold nuggets from the bowels of The System…
It’s basically raining vaginas in my neck of the woods, I can only hope the same is true for all of you.
I was 23 when my daughter was born, 4 weeks early (though perfectly healthy), during a vaginal delivery that was miraculously accomplished without medication or other interventions despite its taking place, due to her prematurity, in an operating room among masked & blue-gowned ghosts. My post-partum nurse was so annoyed by my insistent demands to initiate breastfeeding with my very own brand new infant daughter (who seemed completely out of my hands, as if I had to *earn* her back from the hospital’s custody) that she finally pushed us into a supply closet near to where other nurses had spent what seemed like hours bathing the mother slop from the body of my baby, and essentially “taught me” how to nurse by shoving my baby’s head onto my breast before abandoning me to sit, bloody & throbbing, on a stool surrounded by mops and buckets.
Later, when I refused to let the nurses retire my baby to the nursery, and even brought her into my hospital bed with me to sleep and sustain our nearness, I’d wake to them attempting to remove her to the plastic “crib” and wheel her out of my room, threatening me with various bullshit tenets about the dangers of co-sleeping and hospital liability. Which is no offense against nurses—my sisters are nurses, excellent ones, like many others I’ve met. But this is the way I remember my (mostly glorious and transcendent) experience of birthing my baby in a hospital.
It took about 8 years to pay off the slack not covered by my insurance—which was granted me through my work as a medical secretary—for an event (childbirth) I could have accomplished in the relative comfort and freedom of my own home. That was 22 years ago; there were no working midwives at my prenatal clinic or any other that I knew of, nor were resources or knowledge about birthing alternatives readily available or discussed by anyone I came into contact with. And I don’t mean to insist that homebirth is preferable or safer in every instance, but I would argue that most pregnancies and consequent deliveries—especially if emancipated from the traditional onslaught of media and medical propaganda—could proceed with success, if not at home then certainly a homier place than a hospital.
One need look no further than The Farm, and its resident midwife Ida Mae Gaskin, for an example of how this works within a larger, intentional community. It wasn’t until the Farm’s 200th birth that they felt compelled by a medical crisis to transport a laboring mother to the hospital where a necessary and life-saving c-section was performed.
Reliable statistics on maternal and infant mortality are hard to come by (although this report by Amnesty International is a good place to start); stats on how hospital births compare to midwife-assisted homebirths are even muckier, varying wildly depending on the agenda of the administering agency. Regardless of statistics, a fundamental reality can’t be overlooked: if childbirth was such a tenuous event, necessitating such extreme technological assistance (at such exorbitant cost), then how could humans have managed to overpopulate, dominate, and inflict profound ecological devastation across the entire planet and its atmosphere? Why are countries with the least access to medical technology (much less car seats, food, shelter, water, etc) so overrun by masses of starving babies?
The truth is (actually I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s my suspicion), you are more likely to die just walking down the street than you are birthing or being born without medical assistance. Pregnancy is not a disease, nor is childbirth a medical crisis. Occasionally, yes, there are clear risks that can be moderated and overcome by medical technology. And certainly unforeseen dilemmas emerge during childbirth that could result in bodily damage if not death, whether one births at a hospital or in manger.
However, in my experience and from fairly extensive research and training, each medical intervention introduced during labor tends to provoke a secondary intervention, which leads to a third and fourth intervention, and so on, and more often than not a c-section concludes the process. All of this is much more complicated than I’m prepared to go into at this moment, and no doubt is a deeply contentious situation. But at the end of the day, there is nothing more natural or inevitable than birth (except maybe death).
For the first 10 years of her life, I was my daughter’s single mother—like Anne Boyer, barely getting by (never more than a step away from possible crisis or destitution), working, ironically, as a medical transcriptionist while going to school full-time and milking what I could from federal financial aid—and though no one ever threatened to take my daughter away from me, I was constantly made to feel afraid it might happen if I, her mother, asserted anything too radical about my maternal ethic, or showed myself to be too vulnerable or not a good enough capitalist. I was, basically, poor, and a single mother, which states of being, in the eyes of some, pretty much constitute criminal behavior.
Now I’m a doula, and I’ve worked with many pregnant & parent teens who are legitimately poor and often homeless—22 years later, not much has changed. As a doula I feel my primary function is to radically demystify and deconstruct the net of terror cast over the heart of the pregnant woman, to work toward liberating her from it and convincing her that inevitably the mechanism of her instinct will prevail, and is ancient and real and steadfast.
My own mother, married to a doctor, was prescribed both diet pills and the synthetic estrogen Diethylstilbestrol when she was pregnant with me, and aggressively dissuaded from breastfeeding. Post-industrial maternity remains subjected to the disempowering & fiscal-centric authority of the patriarchy, which authority in fact is fake, and seems driven almost entirely, at base, by its hatred and horror of motherhood. This macrocosmic social phenomenon is enforced by the symbolic narrative of most hospital births, in which the act of delivery is assigned to the doctor/midwife, who “delivers” the infant—her puffy red face barely visible from within the bandage swaddle of hospital-logo’d receiving blanket and tiny cap—into the arms of the often immobile (post-epidural, or C-section, plus painfully stitched, post-episiotomy or abdominal incision), IV’d, still-bloody, half-naked-&-humiliated-in-hospital-logo’d-institutional-garb, ill-equipped to leave the premises, mother. Who, also, must consent to all kinds of regulations regarding vaccinations, invasive testing and procedures, certifications, insurance, conditional oversights re: the acquiring of all the proper equipment (car seat, formula, etc—you may have arrived in a Honda Civic, but you basically need at least a minivan to haul everything delivered by the hospital back home), all these performed upon or deemed “in the best interest of” her infant before they are together “allowed” to walk out of the hospital.
Furthermore, a mother typically isn’t given the option of seeing much less maintaining possession of her & her baby’s placenta, which is tossed with all the other bioshit into hazardous waste; nor, in general, is she given any indication whatsoever that she herself is the heroine of the story who quite logically should be the decider of everything.
I seethe to imagine the horrific injustices inflicted upon women & infants during childbirth, and how intimately and fundamentally these abuses impact the quality of motherhood, childhood, and the whole of society into which these infants are theretofore unleashed. When you can’t even say the word “vagina” in mixed company without causing people to recoil or want to arrest you, despite the fact that the vagina is the very portal through which most humans enter the world (unless delivered by c-section, which by all counts is nearing on average about 40% here in the U.S.), compounded by recent political rhetoric claiming ethical authority over the reproductive and sexual experience of the female body (in terms of access to birth control and abortion, ludicrous assumptions about the female body’s response to rape, etc), how can one deny the extent to which mothers and maternity are systematically reviled? Add to that the fact that the U.S. is ranked 50th in the world for maternal mortality among hospital births (with black women nearly four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women), despite spending $100 billion annually on the medical treatment of pregnancy and childbirth. Yet the dark force of legislative and media manipulation over pregnant women and mothers, alongside a total lack of economic value or social status placed upon their maternal purpose, prevents them from fully realizing the obvious and innate power they naturally possess….. And don’t even get me started on the role of oxytocin in all of this, the so-called “love hormone”—often undermined by its synthetic analog pitocin—the absence of which, in the birth process, it’s been argued, could account in part (if combined with routine circumcision, say, among other factors like enforced poverty, demoralizing and self-annihilating media representations, the institution of standardized market-friendly test-enforced data in place of public education of “the whole child,” the dearth of access to psychological mentoring toward individual self-realization and growth as well as the development of relational tools toward conflict resolution and bonding as a collective, etc etc etc) for the prevalence of dread, anxiety, economic disparity, rape, addiction, greed, personal violence, and war: the building blocks of global patriarchal empire.
Peace on Earth begins with Birth! And, not to change the subject, but the dismantling of the patriarchy—which is necessary for our, and other species’, survival, in terms of global empire and the absolute exaltation of capital and corporate personhood over life liberty and the pursuit of happiness—can only come about through both a willingness to abandon the current system to its inevitable collapse (and the sooner the better if you ask me, which is why, generally speaking, I decline to participate in the “democratic process” of presidential politics in voting for one evil, however “lesser,” than another—not to get too tangential, but no one can convince me to suck it up and throw my support toward a guy who boasts about how much drill-baby-drill he’s accomplished on public lands, and authorizes the use of drones, and refuses to address environmental catastrophe, and with all seriousness claims some practically religious pride in the patriotic murdering of “terrorists,” and almost everything else he says no matter how eloquently he might say it), but that dismantling also entails the radical healing and reinvention of fatherhood.
Additionally, it might be useful to remember that traditional healers have maintained an active, mostly uncertified/unlicensed and underground presence for thousands of years, and continue to exchange and expand the tools and knowledge of their ancient systems and lineage. Young people everywhere are dropping out of college to apprentice on organic farms, or with herbalists and radical doulas and midwives and bodyworkers and acupuncturists and curanderas and anarchist movements of all sorts. The resources we need to ensure our reproductive freedom and consummate health await us regardless of any federal or state legislation. If we could just indulge ourselves with a cold, hard analysis, we might realize that such legislation and its legislators not only can’t dance, they can’t overpower us without our consent. All we have to do, essentially, is refuse.
These rantings, and more, will be revisited in the coming days when I draw your attention to the revolutionary queer maternity and mystical poetics of our very own Lucas de Lima as introduced in his glorious chapbook Ghostlines. Stay tuned (and, if possible, be patient, since my inner work toward patriarchal demolition involves a re-imagination and biorhythmic realignment of a conventional perception of time.) Until then:
P.S. I have a secret hope that you all will feel moved to share your own birth story, or any story or thoughts, in the comments below to keep the labial flames on high.
P.P.S. HELLO SCORPIO
by Sarah Fox on Oct.14, 2011
“Art is fundamentally tasteless” (Johannes Göransson)
“It’s a good thing I was born a girl, otherwise I’d be a drag queen” (Dolly Parton)
Reporting live from San Diego, where I’m gazing out from my Surfer Beach Hotel balcony at the pale morning moon hanging over the ocean, a footloose guitarist serenading the surfers, salty breeze stinging my eyes a little—if I were a Cancer, I’d be weeping. Instead, I’m merely a Gemini who’s hounded by Cancers, despite what Sarah C says, including the Cancer in question, even if my experience of this hounding is, at bottom, just a fanciful and elaborate distraction, My Own Private JG you might say. And apparently I’m not the only one who takes issue with Cancers: Mary Anne Carter, in “Astrological Noise” (Supermachine #3), claims “Cancers are the most convicted criminals and have the highest chance of becoming serial killers.” So that’s unsettling and maybe even true. Some Cancers, the more evolved ones, know how to mediate these rather more grim aspects of their character in places like colonial pageants, animal bodies, masquerades, blog personae, abandoned bible belt warehouses, guinea pig caves where rodential bachanalia translates as black blood that keeps coming and coming, as depth psychologists, poets, mothers, and so on. Humbert Humbert was probably a Cancer, but so might Gregor Samsa have been: oh meow meow Gregor, woke up as a giant beetle?, wah wah wah, get over it! Glitzy American Quilty got your stodgy European knickers in a twist? Queering up your little knee-socked Lo? Oh boo-hoo-hoo.
But let’s not jump to conclusions; destiny is elastic; any inflexible allegiance to freewill is, I considered the other day, just another way to pretend you’re not immortal. Carter adds that “these irrefutable truths taint the delicate, gentle group of you, who upon us exude as a whole a gentle essence…and bitchin’ determinism.” . And lest we forget, Cancers are the zodiacal mother substance.
Our in-depth and ongoing study into the complex nature of our subject, Johannes Göransson, has preoccupied much of our creative, intellectual, and occult energies over the course of the past 2 months, but the time has come to share our findings and de-hound. Due to the shock and awe we’re certain these revelations will impose upon the Montevidayan readership, we shall mete it out over the course of the next 48 hours or so, allowing you to absorb it gradually while still making some time to take a surf lesson or occupy Wells Fargo in whatever town you currently find yourself. Below we offer a preview, perhaps even an outline (we’ll see how I feel after surfing), with some multimedia treats, and teasers, to blaze our astrotail.
Johannes Göransson, THIS IS YOUR LIFE
by Sarah Fox on Aug.03, 2011
It’s no small matter that the word influence derives from Astrology, since Astrology’s objective, in large part, is to elucidate the interplay of mythic characters engaged in mythic narratives, and subsequently apply those insights to the revelation of psychic material (á la, for example, Archetypal Psychology; or Freud also works (less well), et al, pick your poison, but some practice of Astrology has been influencing & informing human consciousness–at the very least–since the advent of human consciousness). As a practice, Astrology is both Socratic and Mystic in its aim to expand consciousness and its exaltation of same. I think the ancient folk knew what they were doing (“considered future generations”) when they fastened the old stories to the cosmic field–an inclusively visible, celestial overmind. Astrology, perhaps, proposed and provided the original framework for managing a collective unconscious, one timelessly reflected in the vast mythic map imprinted up there in the sky.
The word “zodiac” comes from the Greek zodiacus: “little creatures.” Horoscope (“watching hour”): a map of the planets on the sun’s orbital plane (eclipse) at the exact time and place of one’s birth. What are the little creatures up to up there. One is born beneath a vibrating mirror of sky on which the little creatures play, one takes one’s first breath, one has a face now, is influenced and influential. Enfaced enfant. A karmic event that happens well in advance of Lacan’s discombobulated mirror, linguistic utterance, alterity, standard assessments, and so forth. I’m a doula, I’ve seen this. Like seeing in the Tiresian sense such a mirror–cosmic horizons replacing, as boundary, placental ones; a primal transcendence.
If Astrology, like Art, belongs to superstition (Latin, superstitio: “standing over in amazement; surviving; religious exaltation”), then in order to accommodate, in my own conscious assessment of reality, the existence of: the stock market, corporate personhood, wildly unbalanced distribution of global resources, the weather, “products,” “democracy,” the CIA, state of the union addresses, the fucking media (bar Amy Goodman and Democracy Now!, which I wish everyone had the wherewithal to watch or hear every day), bail-outs, wars on “drugs” & “terror,” or simply the brutal fact that our government’s chief occupation is mass fucking [moral] murder, etc etc, I have to either get extremely high, or constantly and radically re-evaluate the signifiers that determine cultural convention. Or both, which has proved a winning & recommended tactic thus far. Continue reading “Women Under the Influence: An Interface (Part 1–Julian Assange)” »
by Sarah Fox on Apr.12, 2011
A typical dose for pregnant women was equivalent to an intake of 700 birth control pills a day. DES was also used as a food supplement for cows, chickens, and other corporately farmed livestock–not only did it fatten the meat, but, conveniently, it chemically castrated the males. Notably, the FDA banned its use in chickens close to 20 years before banning its use in humans. Shortly after the initial synthesis of DES, male lab workers handling this “mother substance” (as it was christened by its discoverer, Charles Dodds, who had synthesized DES from a coal-tar derivative in 1938 at the University of London) began to grow breasts and become impotent (which Big Pharma fixed by hiring only female lab workers.) Dodds had intentionally forfeited his patent from the start, aware that the Nazis were conducting hormone research as part of their eugenics program, and wanting to protect against experimentation on women. He never expected DES would be used for healthy women, and (like Oppenheimer) he agonized over and regretted how the PCPs (patriarchal capitalist pigs) commandeered his discovery. Nevertheless, Dodds was knighted in honor of his contribution to science, and served as Master of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries where his achievements were endowed with a stained glass window representing his “coat of arms.” Crowning this armor, emerging like Athena sprung from the head of Zeus, is a woman holding an open book revealing the formula for DES.
DES Daughters (female offspring of women who took the drug) became victims of the first transplacental carcinogen known to humans, sometimes developing a rare form of vaginal clear cell carcinoma—requiring the removal of their entire genital tract & all reproductive organs—as young as age 14. Potential cancer of the vagina, uterus, cervix, vulva, breasts, and ovaries perpetually haunts all DES Daughters since the carcinogenic medium installed during in utero chemical exposure can have a decades-long latency. Additionally, these daughters (I’m one of them) experience a variety of teratogenic effects resulting from their prenatal exposure: t-shaped, septated, mottled, and smaller-than-normal uteri; cervical hoods, adenosis, and other cervical deformations; increased miscarriage, infertility, preterm labor & ectopic pregnancy; increased risk for auto-immune disease; endometriosis and other nondiagnosable/untreatable (defaced) menstrual disorders, etc.
It’s like we have 3 parents really, one of them synthetic: splitting & surging—as physical matter becoming a fetal body—alongside all the other “natural” stuff. Hybrid body, part “machine” (pharmaceutical), part organism. This indeed is sublime parentage, producing endocrinological disruption/dys-circuitry, an interior/invisible performance of cyborg femininity, plastic sensations at the meat core, non-alive therefore non-dying, embodied monstrosity. My uterus is just barely recognizable as a uterus; ultrasound techs are always shocked to discover that I managed to grow a baby in that thing. It’s a sublime uterus, dreadful & captivating & incomprehensible. Imagine the horror of those DES daughters who required removal of their vaginas. How do you remove a hole?
by Sarah Fox on Dec.31, 2010
2. Ghost Fargo, by Paula Cisewski
4. Eileen Myles: The Inferno; The Importance of Being Iceland; Sorry, Tree; + all of her Harriet posts especially the one involving Eliot Weinberger and the ensuing commentary! (I’m a fan of Weinberger, but you really have to admire her chutzpah.)
7. Torture of Women by Nancy Spero
Continue reading “A few faves from my 2010 reading list” »
by Sarah Fox on Oct.14, 2010
A few years ago, John and I participated in a peyote ceremony in Western Wisconsin presided over by an Andean ayahuasquero who had also apprenticed with some elders in the Native American Church. His wife—a Mexican curandera—prepared the peyote buttons while the rest of us set up our nests in the enormous teepee outside. It was around this time of year, in the vicinity of Samhain, and chilly, maybe even snowing. In the middle of the teepee the designated Firekeeper summoned an architecture that would sustain a strapping fire till morning and accommodate the shifting proprioception awaiting our collective postprandial experience. Outside the teepee, the Roadman was digging a puke pit. Eventually everyone settled in, the ayahasquero sang and smoked over the buttons, we ate them in rounds and sang icaros continuously, without break, throughout the night. (This was a kind of hybrid ceremony, you might say, icaros and Amazonian mapacho traditionally belonging to the realm of Ayahuasca.) The four young children of this shaman couple joined us in the teepee, sometimes singing, sometimes chasing each other and giggling or squirming out of boredom, mostly though they slept because the ceremony didn’t start until 11 PM and ended at 7 the next morning. Their mother, who was at the time 8 ½ months pregnant, did not sleep. Her singing voice mellifluously transcended the baseline arc of sound and spun shapes and animals and petroglyphs in the air around us. Because she was pregnant, she was entitled to the last button, and had, every other round, taken two instead of the one button allotted the rest of us—since she was essentially eating for two, this was the proper shamanic comportment. As far as “queer,” or perhaps better might be “wrinkled” temporality, well time gets all spontaneous and slippery and ruptured and synesthetic in the mescaline field and nobody remembers or cares about schedules. This is more like mythic time: the break in linear consciousness, in spatio-temporal normativity, is pretty much the whole point of the exercise.
Continue reading “Another Side of Occult Motherhood” »
by Sarah Fox on Sep.14, 2010
“divine materials” (Whitman)
“I am going toward a future that does not exist / leaving every instant a new corpse behind me”—René Daumal, Le Contre-Ciel
* * *
“Colour differs from substance. Is colour always lyric? We are not sure. It seems to consist of the detritus from natural history stuck into sentiment. For example, it is said that among humans, women are colourful. Nothing more needs to be said on this theme.” —Lisa Robertson, Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office of Soft Architecture
(e.g. Cecilia Vicuña, precarios):
Continue reading “My Favorite Detritus: 2” »
by Sarah Fox on Aug.12, 2010
(The following originated as a fanciful, off-the-cuff comment to Joyelle’s post. . .Near future posts will more directly address placentophagia, sorcery, entheogenic incantations, and sitting with Marina.)
* * *
I dwell in Possibility (Emily Dickinson, #657)
Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs! ….
I speak the pass-word primeval, I give the sign of democracy. (Walt Whitman, SOM, XXIV)
* * *
Artaud—that mystical fore[mother] of post-historical artistic anarchy & transcendence—can surely guide us on our adventure to go genreless, for example in his First Manifesto of the Theater of Cruelty: “…one sees that, by its proximity to principles which transfer their energy to it poetically, this naked language…(not a virtual but a real language) must permit, by its use of man’s nervous magnetism, the transgression of the ordinary limits of art and speech, in order to realize actively, that is to say magically, in real terms, a kind of total creation in which man must reassume his place between dream and events.”
Genre: taxonomy, classification, diagnosis…
Artaud, like the beatific Hannah Weiner and so many others living and dead, just couldn’t get with a genre. And so Artaud was removed to a sanatorium where the chaos of his ungenred imagination could be, if not embraced, at least disappeared from the logos of good cultural hygiene.
According to Clayton Eshleman (no stranger to genre transgression), “Artaud is a shaman in a nightmare in which all the supporting input from a community that appreciates the shaman’s death and transformation as an aspect of its own wholeness is, instead, handed over to mockers who revile the novice at each stage of his initiation.”
* * *
Maybe genre’s a little like religion. (Do people still write jeremiads?)
“I can do nothing without this culture of the void inside me.” (Artaud)
“Jon-Jo said ‘the perfect person employs his mind as a mirror. It grasps nothing, it refuses nothing. It receives but does not keep’… it is called ‘the void’ in Buddhism; it doesn’t mean ‘void’ in the ordinary sense of emptiness. It means void in that it is the most real thing there is…” (Alan Watts).
* * *
Walt Whitman, buoyantly transposing his utopic prescription on the New World’s post-war void, envisioned a future America revolutionized by literature, “not merely the pedagogue-forms, correct, regular, familiar with precedents, made for matters of outside propriety, fine words, thoughts definitely told out—but a language fann’d by the breath of Nature…” Democracy entailed “displacing all that exists, or that has been produced anywhere in the past, under opposite influences.” Leaves of Grass is the always-destabilized cosmic mirror of his democratic vista.
America as hybrid, experiment, empty. Empire.
What is “hybrid” if not reproduction? As well as tenuous & transient? Hybrid’s a placeholder, possibly a smokescreen. Euphemism. Handy moniker for a culture at war with the Imagination.
generic genera genetic general genial generalization gentleman [en]gender
“The first work is visionary, freeing the imagination. Just envisioning freedom, knowing where we want to go, and questioning the basic tenet that says ‘coercive authority is necessary,’ is a big and necessary first step.” (Dale Pendell, interviewed—by me—in Conduit)
* * *
Norman O. Brown famously concludes Love’s Body: “Everything is metaphor; there is only poetry.”
Poetic does seem a lot more accommodating than prosaic, or dramatic, or fictive, or _______. Poetry is elastic, not even remotely confined to literature. Because just about anything can be poetic: a tree’s shape, the texture of a placenta, quantum physics, justice, monsters, dreams, death. Might we entertain the proposition that poetry transcends genre and/or engulfs it? (Baudrillard: “theory could even be poetry.”) Is there, on the one hand, poetry-as-genre, and on the other a more Orphic, or gnostic, or even primordial poetic function originating in Cro-Magnon’s first metaphoric projections on cave walls—”oceanic feeling,” e.g.—that is, terminologically, a kind of universal principle?
That’s easy for you to say, you might say, a person officially branded “poet.” But how do you brand a book like this?
The publisher genre-lizes it as “Alternative Health/Literature,” but I’ve only ever heard Dale call it poetry (“entheogenic poetry” was Terence McKenna’s clarification). Dale’s former teacher N.O. Brown (“NOB”) was surprisingly baffled by Pharmako/Poeia‘s anarchic style: “The problem is that there’s no separation between the science and the non-science. You can’t tell when it is science or a flight of fantasy. . . maybe you need an epistemological preface. . . . The problem is that you present poetry as literal truth.”
Presenting poetry as literal truth is, no doubt, a pretty big problem—I can hardly imagine a bigger one. But I think that’s precisely Dale’s point (and one recognizes NOB’s nostalgia—he seems to have pathologized intensive states of consciousness.) Poetry is never literal truth, (“everything is metaphor”). And that’s the thing about genre—it’s so literal. As Dale suggests, “In a dark age such as our own, it is difficult to find the true poison path.”
Genre as false poison, transitional object, rubric, teleology & tautology, sanity (sanitation). True poison: Dionysian flux, chaos, eschatology, the exuberant & plutonic dance of Kali Ma, dreamtime.
Genre as ego (?)
* * *
“I understood that the mushrooms were speaking to me: ‘These are the Principal Ones.’ I felt infinite happiness. On the Principal Ones’ table a book appeared, an open book that went on growing until it was the size of a person…One of the Principal Ones spoke to me and said: ‘María Sabina, this is the Book of Wisdom. It is the Book of Language. Everything that is written in it is for you”…I cure with Language, the Language of the saint children.” (María Sabina)
“It is language that speaks.” (Mallarmé)
* * *
Like María Sabina, the Mayan authors collected in this book are, for the most part, what we would call “illiterate.” These Tzotzil women in the Highlands of Chiapas “claim their spells and songs were given to them by the ancestors, the First Fathermothers, who keep the Great Book in which all words are written down.” They learn their incantations by dreaming them, or from cave ghosts whispering in their ears, and regard them as sacred, magical, and above all utilitarian. The original version of this book was handbound at the Taller Leñateros, a collective facilitated by the ex-pat Ámbar Past, using paper and ink made from a poetic cornucopia of local ingredients: corn husks, heart of maguey, recycled women’s cotton huipiles, bridal veil fern, “beating the fibers in a mill which spins by bicycle power,” and while the paper dries they “print poems on oak leaves and pansy petals.” Ámbar Past calls this process “something between a performance piece and an act of witchcraft.” (The book’s back cover tags it “Indigenous Literature.”)
“Poetry is called nichimal k’op, ‘the word in flower.'”
“The word comes from the mouth of the seer. It lives a life of its own in the body of a snake. The word is larva that penetrates the Earth, emerges from the caves, flies through the air… Words take the forms of stars, of circles, of glyphs drawn on the face of the blood.”
Subcomandante Marcos sent a handwritten note of congratulations to his Zapatista sisters upon the publication of their Incantations.
* * *
After helping her perform this script, Anne Carson mailed me a copy:
* * *
Let us take for example the hexagram K’un, THE RECEPTIVE, earth:
Yoko’s ecstatic and vertiginous scream?
* * *
My friend S texted me the other day that she wanted to hang hundreds of dolls from the tree in front of her house. It reminded me of The Island of Dolls.
(I doula’d S’s two girls.)
Perhaps the hanging dolls—as on Isla de la Munecas—will appease hungry ghosts, while also normalizing magical gesture as an aspect of feminine agency. S fantasized about how the hanging dolls would “tear a little crack in the sidewalk that bursts open to reveal a whole army of succubi waiting beneath the surface of the earth to join forces in annihilating the patriarchy.”
In addition to practical magic, a creative jouissance infuses her vision. Perhaps here too, in the synthesis of sorcery and art, one might recognize a poetic act. An act informed and inspired by, among other things, theories about abjection and the grotesque which currently preoccupy S, yet a gesture also entirely committed to somatic expression & connection, to the visceral potential of her performance as catalyst for (communal) transformation / (public art).
* * *
Joseph Beuys, poet-shaman, practiced unsafe art—he didn’t wear a genre. “Only on condition of a radical widening of definition will it be possible for art and activities related to art to provide evidence that art is now the only evolutionary-revolutionary power. Only art is capable of dismantling the repressive effects of a senile social system to build a SOCIAL ORGANISM AS A WORK OF ART.”
Maria Abramovic precludes genre through the exploitation of her body as both source and screen for her art. Her most recent MoMA performance, applyng the metaphor of a cell (both biological and political), engaged the core energy (placental?) where merger and separateness co-exist within the nucleic, midline fuse of the gaze: formless, wordless, invisible, intertransferential creation. Here subject and object exchange celestial fluids—become each other—through a ritual process of pure communication. “There are no firmly established religious structures any longer, the old structures have all been destroyed and new ones have not yet emerged. Artists accompany us on our search for a new order.”
Niki de Saint-Phalle took a rifle to genre and shot the fuck out of it. “I shot against men. I shot against myself. . .I shot because it was fun, and it made me feel great.”
* * *
Genre-resistance. Communal, immediate, healing, transcendent? (“The future of poetry”?)
* * *
Genre is a product and problem of patriarchal economy. Genre = the DNA of the book, its certain paternity, distinction, the disavowal of chaos, “the author.” It’s where the money is (or isn’t). The vessel for both genre and authorship is the book. Which, among other things, is, in a very important sense, a “waste product.” The jouissance and potential “insignificance” for one traveling in the rectal cauldron meet a grave with a trapdoor—just a “little death,” and afterward no toxic trace on the planet (a planet tumored and asphyxiating from all our death drive hyper-reproductivity.) The book—embalmed by genre and the petrified death cries of the forest, metonymous for (reproducing) the person of the author herself—is a burial vault.
So when Joyelle asks us to think about what it really means to go genreless, to essentially speculate about the future of our enterprise, I find myself pondering questions like these: If forced to describe “what you write” without naming genre or any terminology related to the notion of genre, how would you do it? Is genre democratic? Manipulative? Are the constraints of genre part of your process? Are you addicted to genre? In what ways is your identity, your image, significant to the readers of your work? How come nobody but us gives a shit about our genre? Is permanence, and/or “legacy,” crucial to your creative investments? Do you know who you are without genre? Can there be books, or even authors, in a genreless culture?
Paradigm is our enemy. Everything is malleable. There’s only poetry.