Interview with Frederick Farryl Goodwin

by on Mar.27, 2014


Tales from the Crypt: Year of the Horse—Codex Prime

Frederick Farryl Goodwin, author of Virgil’s Cow (2009) and Galactic Milk (2013) Miami University Press, interviewed by Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

Is Frederick Farryl Goodwin the evental poet of this century?

Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics: I conducted this exchange with Frederick during the first three months of 2014. We still have never met, or spoken on the phone, we employed email. At jump I knew 0 about him personally. But his extra-orbital poems loosed a wanton force majeure sufficient to haul me to him pronto. Banished, vanished, well-hid F. shows lo to no web profile, a magisterial cloaking maneuver itself in our exposé ion eon. How truly create, if not ex nihilo? Our quandary isn’t how Something rose from Nothing, but where did Nothing come from? I give you his debut interview.

As standard Q and A soon quailed confronting such a world-reversing coup, I plied him instead with provocations, sub rosa “constellations,” subliminal suggestiones. Fred mailed back fifteen thousand (15, ooo) words . . . almost overnight. So, to immure and lure you in, please allow me to introduce twin flanking notes Frederick sent before, then immediately after decomposing the bodies of his corpus.

The first is his response to my curt and common question: “Does your email address [which here I must withhold] refer to Eve Futur, by Villiers de L’Isle-Adam?”

And the following, he (Croniomantal, poet beyond the tomb) wirelessed just one “morning after” inking his extended testament below.

Frederick Farryl Goodwin (JAN 17/14)

No, not consciously at least + I’ve not read Villers de L’isle Adam. But who knows the causality of things + the source of words in our lives? Having said that, there’s an anecdotal parallel between Master Janus who, while preparing to initiate Axël into the occult mysteries, asks his pupil whether he is ready to accept “light, hope and life.” Axël replies “no” which I can relate to—& recalls an experience I had w/ Salvador Roquet who once asked me the same question…..whether I was ready to accept “light, hope and life”….. asking me to step outside the room we were in and pass through a door where the light from a dazzling day was streaming in— I couldn’t. I told him so and somaticized my response immediately consumed w/the most excruciating pain, my feet feeling as if someone had basted them with napalm and set them ablaze. It followed two very punishing days with him in Western Mass. where, on the third day, he pulled a woman and myself from a group of thirty or so to do what he termed psychosynthesis in front of everyone for 10 hours — 30 participants + 10 or so therapist/healers of assorted stripes who assisted him— watching and collectively wailing and weeping as a nightmare unfolded. That day, despite myself, but perhaps through me, I was, as Roquet’s principal assistant said to me afterwards, “the spirital center for three days.” Perhaps, as Merwin says, all poetry begins as grief expressed through the wailing wall of the unbroken vowel— the Lament Configuration— until interrupted by the onslaught and tourniquet of the consonants to break the spell— the wife of a gracile/robust australopithecine man is killed by a saber-toothed cat or something like that. The demon was already out of the puzzle box of the collective unconscious for me before Roquet— he helped design and concoct the confection that would contain the demon I saw for the first time with my own eyes when I was 26—while watching a film the screen burned away in front of me from the center out and the red-face and horns came to greet me being of an age when it’s time to use harness the rope and traction of that energy to vatically climb the verticulum towards the other way while accessing the one realm which knowledge of the other allows. I like to think I played tiddlywinks with Oscar Vladislas de Lubicz Milosz in a dream as a boy while listening to my dear friend Grace Lake— Jewish visionary seraphim and feminist socialist revolutionary— tell me over and over again in that heartbreakingly, almost unbearably beautiful voice that was hers alone how she stared at the sun as a child until her vision was permanently impaired, transformed. Derek Dowson, illegitimate great-grandson of an Earl + nephew of the Decadent poet Ernst Dowson— later picked up where Roquet left off, taught me everything I know, saved my life and gave me both future + eon while my seasonal human nature…..drifter[ed] bye.

Thank you for writing, posing the question as provocateur, and for the great kindness of your interest: the short answer is nope.
(continue reading…)

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The The Kristen Stewart Debates: Poetry, Taste and Mass Culture!

by on Feb.20, 2014

I’ve meant to write down a few thoughts about Kristen Stewart’s poem published in (or recited for) Marie Clarie Magazine a couple of weeks back and the ensuing controversy. I think this discussion says a lot about taste, mass culture and poetry.


* I don’t know Kristen Stewart’s acting career very well but I saw her in a movie in which she was wonderfully paralyzed in the face. I also know that she was in the vampire movies, Twilight (which later turned into that S&M novel fan fiction).

* It’s interesting to see what kinds of people said what about KS’s poem. Marie Claire and the celebrity, mass culture magazine all seemed to repeat the line that KS herself used to introduce the poem: she said it was “embarrassing.” A celebrity sites seemed to merely repeat that word “embarrassing”. We can take that as a sign of their laziness, sure, but I think it says something else: Poetry – even though it’s supposedly “high culture” is – seen from the point of view of “mass culture” – embarrassing. Always embarrassing.
(continue reading…)

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The Sugar Book: Göran Greider on the Pornographic Corpse of Lars Norén

by on Sep.23, 2013

I thought I would talk a little more about Lars Norén, following up on my discussions of his work and Saul Friedlander’s observations about kitsch, or “debased romanticism.”


I am intrigued by the way the reviewers who dislike Norén’s diary (and there seems to be many) tend to resort to very gothic imagery: Norén is a vampire (“The Vampire Diaries” one headline announced), or a baby sucking milk from society, a parasite, even – several times – a corpse. I am particularly interested in this case because I love Norén’s early – maximalist, grotesque, beautiful, kitschy – poetry (“visionary kitsch”), and I am fascinated by the way the diary’s reception seems to re-stage those early works, as well as the way it touches on a lot of issues I’m interested in pertaining to kitsch, nazism and, what Saul Friedlander calls, “the new discourse” about nazism and kitsch.

In other words, I’m interested in the way a lot of the condemnation both tries to condemn Norén’s by invoking such common tropes against such art – kitsch, gothic, grotesque, politically fascist – and at the same time plays into this aesthetic, as if contaminated by Norén’s sensibility.

The leftist poet Göran Greider wrote one of the most interesting reviews – a “poem-review” – of Norén’s diary the other day that touches on a whole bunch of my interests in this case.

Greider starts out by comparing Noren to an Internet troll, “but one published by Bonniers,” as if there’s something tasteless about the whole venture, something that should not be made public or endorsed by the taste-marker of a big press. Norén is too emotional in the work, it seems, for it to be proper art.

More importantly, Greider reads Norén himself as a politics. He calls Norén bourgeois, but implies that he’s in fact fascistic, or even a Nazi. Greider asks: “What would the world look like if Norén had absolute power? Summary executions, persecutions, impulsive destruction of cities…” Who is Greider describing at this point? He is basically calling Norén a Nazi, or more specifically Hitler.
(continue reading…)

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The Sugar Book: On Nazism, Kitsch, Saul Friedlander and Lars Norén

by on Sep.20, 2013

So I’m in Sweden reworking The Sugar Book, my next book of poetry (to be published next year). I’ve come to Malmö in fact to work on the book, to complete it by working through my fascination with certain aspects of aspects of art: its violence, its pointlessness, its manipulativeness, its necroglamour, the way it blurs the boundaries between life and death, art and life, private and public. It’s an unwieldy book: several hundred pages and growing. I can’t contain it. It’s also about being homeless, so that’s why I’ve returned to my home, to Sweden: if I can’t contain it here, I can’t contain it anywhere.


While writing this new draft, a few things have influenced me: Sweden’s obsession with Lars Norén’s diaries, Saul Friedlander’s book on Nazism and kitsch (“Reflection on Nazism”), a book of Francesca Woodman’s photograph (I found in Martin Glaz Serup’s apartment in Copenhagen), Raul Zurita’s poems and performances (cutting himself, writing in the sky, being rewritten as a fascist pilot by Bolano etc), and the use of the word “pornography” as applied to art that may or may not contain naked bodies (for example “ruin porn”) but which almost always betrays an iconophobic attitude about the intensive visuality of some art. This hot-spot of ideas is really fueling my re-drafting of The Sugar Book because that’s what it’s about. But I thought I would also do a little Malmö-blogging for the folks back home…


For those of you not from Sweden: (continue reading…)

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What is "The Prose Poem"?

by on Jun.25, 2013

I was thinking… in my past two posts, I have referred to but not really discussed the “Prose Poem.” Does anybody talk about this form/term anymore? Is this important to anybody?

It seems like there was a lot of talk about it in the 90s and early 00s. I remember reading the journal “The Prose Poem” (edited by Peter Johnson) back in the 90s because it was engaged with a certain surrealist sensibility which I obviously also was interested in. And it provided a kind of “hybrid” space that was neither the official quietist aesthetic of MFA programs or the official/Language aesthetic of PhD study. The big influences in this journal were James Tate, Russell Edson and Charles Simic. But it would also publish, say Maxine Chernoff, who’s kind of an odd poet that doesn’t really fit in with schools and lineages.

I think it was probably very influential – and by “it” I might mean this notion of the prose poem or the official journal itself – creating not only a space where prose and poetry could interact but also a space where translation was valued. Afterall, this prose poem was largely derived from Max Jacob and other foreign writers. It seems to have generated a whole host of writers from my generation (Zach Schomburg, Mathias Svalina and others).

I occasionally read this journal back in the day but I felt put off by a certain goofiness that struck me as moderating. Edson was a big influence, but many influenced by Edson lost something really important about Edson: the utter lack of interiority, the saturating violence, the merciless absurdity. In many prose poem writers it seemed Edson’s move was coupled with an indie-rock emotional register (goofy, wistful, whimsical).

My own interest/emotional register doesn’t really fit in with that zone; and also the formal movement within the poems seemed too set. For example, I was interested/inspired by Basquiat – and I wanted to bring that mania, that horror vacui to the poems. That’s in part what drew me to the prose poem (and does still I guess on some level) – it allowed me to see the page as a near-canvas, which might consist of a discarded door or box.


It’s interesting (if only to myself) that my distinction here is what other genres/media the prose poems “bring into” poetry – indie rock vs painting.

But as far as writing goes, I first started writing poetry in large part from reading Rimbaud’s prose poems and Lautremont’s Maldoror, Burroughs and the Beats, and Genet’s baroque theatricality, and that kind of convulsiveness has always stuck with me. By the time I came across the Prose Poem journal I was also reading Aase Berg’s guinea pigs and Ann Jaderlund’s necropastorals:

The big valley is a vast mother-of-pearl mirror. There walks the large dead swan in her dead shroud. And there walks the mother-of-pearl children. Or the fragile foundling clumps. That grow out of the virgin mother’s throat. They led the swan into a forest and placed beautiful white stones of mother-of-pearl on her back. Go now and eat that which you have taken from the swans. Then one ran up and cut a branch from the tree and grabbed a burning branch and stuck it into her throat. And scrubbed her both up top and down below. Until the swan’s flesh fell off in beautiful heavy clumps. For some time the swan lay in the bushes and slept. And black merchants came riding on black mother-of-pearl horses. Then they took the swan and carried her away.

(from Jaderlund’s Soon Into the Summer I Will Walk Out, published in Typo 7)

Jaderlund’s suite is actually a kind of montage of biblical tales written down in the 15th century, a kind of proto-prose-poetry based on Swedish translations of foreign materials (Christianity being of course a foreign text itself).

Fast forward a little bit: In 2006, Peter Connors published the anthology PP/FF. The abbreviations are for Prose Poem and Flash Fiction. Peter didn’t want to come up with a term like “hybrid” to actually bring them into unison, but wanted to allow them to be unsynthesized, and I liked that. Because this anthology includes not so much “prose poetry” but poetry in prose, and poetic prose etc.

Peter writes this in his intro:

In 2006, it is fair to say that prose poetry is a vital Amreican genre: there are prose poetry journals, anthologies, university courses, and attendant experts. Perhaps classifying it as a stale genre is too harsh, however, in compiling this anthology it became obvious that many writers have felt shunned from traditional communities of poetry and prose – including prose poetry – for consciously resisting genre expectations. To wit, prose poetry should not contain too much narrative or it becomes fiction; flash fiction should follow a narrative arc or it risks fragmentation to the point of becomign prose poetry; flash fiction should stay within specific, albeit arbitrary word counts; prose poetry must not utilize line break; surrealism and humor is acceptable, but topicality is not…

Here Connor’s point is similar to my own – that a genre that was born out of dissatisfaction with genre expectations had generated its own conventions.

Before that anthology, Peter edited Double Room with Mark Tursi, which published some section of my book Dear Ra back in 2003 (I wrote the book in 2000-2001 while going crazy). In this book I used the epistolary form – which I got from letters of serial killers and crazy consumers – with a kind of surrealism and also Ted Berrigan (b/c I loved his manic energy).


It struck me that in my past two entries I dealt with “prose poetry” – but these are great examples of prose poetry that is not so much part of this convention as poems that form a space where various media and genre convulse without definitely being synthesized into Prose Poetry. For example, Joyelle’s Salamandrine is categorized as “Fiction”, but her virtuosic sentences are charged with the kind of texture one might expect from the most saturated poetry. In James’s Fassbinder Diaries, the “prose poem” seems like it is constantly being harassed not just by film but the narrative urge/push of novels. This seems true of a lot of things I’ve been reading recently: Aylin Bloch Boynukisa’s My mouth is full of teeth and time, Under Siege: Four African Cities (Documenta 11;Plathform4), Sara Shamloo’s Gloria, Emma Lundmark’s Hans Fru Judith, Uche Nduka’s Ijele, or Moldovian comic book artist Neurotrip’s work:


But at the same time, what makes Negroni’s Mouth of Hell and di Giorgio’s History of Violets so amazing is in part a kind of “return” to the prose poem at its purest form – Baudelaire, Rimbaud etc.


So to sum things up: I wonder if “prose poetry” has any value anymore – As a form? As a context? As an idea? As a lineage?

As usual I’m suddenly drawn to it because it seems dead, anachronistic – and the opposite of the notion of “American Hybrid” that is so powerful these days.

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The Violence of Style: Larry Levis, Sylvia Plath, Mark Levine etc

by on Feb.05, 2013

I want to continue thinking about the kind of relationship between masculinity, violence and art that I broached in my last post, about the West Memphis 3 and “violent femmes”. This is of course something I’ve written about frequently in my own poetry (luckily I write about things I don’t understand, so I can continue). I’m interested in how the identification of violence and masculinity in poetry; and also how this relates to the foreign, the ethnic. But mostly what I’m going to talk about here is how violence is said to be “masculine” in fact comes off as “feminine” in many ways inside art, and how this relates to “style”, and in fact “too much” style, or “inflation” as I’ve called it elsewhere.

In older posts I documented how the “early” Larry Levis and cohorts were dismissed for their “glut” of poetry that was surrealist – violent, slapstick bodies, foreign/translation-influenced, sensationalistic – and how they “moved on” to write poetry that was about grief-as-interiority, “narrative” memories, but strangely almost paralyzed in their quietism. You can get a good sense of this violent early poems by the title of his first book, “Wrecking Crew.”

I get a gun and go
shoot an airplane full of holes,
and stare at the thing on the runway
until its covered with rust.
This takes years.
I turn forty somewhere, waiting
for the jet underneath me to
clear its throat of burned

I think it’s also pretty important that this “early” poetry was Plath-influenced in exactly these regards. The other day on Facebook, Brian Henry posted the following quote from Helen Vendler’s famous essay on Sylvia Plath:

Poems like ‘Daddy’ and ‘Lady Lazarus’ are in one sense demonically intelligent, (continue reading…)

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“James Pate Should Be Famous” (Pt 1) – On Fan Fictions, Fake Fame and Atmospheric Aesthetics

by on Jan.18, 2013

A while back, Gene Tanta set up a facebook page called “James Pate Should Be Famous.” The page makes a very startling point: I think Gene and I are the only members of the group.

The only reason Gene and I know James’s work is that we somehow ended up in MFA school together in the late 90s (three strange people – the Swede, the Romanian and the guy who grew up in a crack neighborhood in Memphis). This facebook page sets up an alternative world in which James Pate is famous.
In that it’s a bit like the ASCO “No Movies” I’ve talked about quite a bit on this blog. ASCO, a group of Chicano artists from East LA, made “promotional stills” from movies that did not exist, imagining an alternative world in which they would have the movie and power to actually make movies, rather than just stills. ASCO should be famous.


(As Joyelle just put it this morning , “Montevidayo is our “no movie”.” IE, it imagines a fake academic/poetic world which is the way we want it to be. )

I love how Asco’s “no movies” stills create rather than a definite (prize winning, famous) film, an indistinct atmosphere, a glamorous and violent ambience that has no limits. I often recount how when I watched Twin Peaks over a couple of weeks – several episodes a day – one summer in the late 90s, all the flaws in the plot made it all seem like “fan fiction,” and I when I started to dream about Laura Palmer, the dreams seemed as legitimate as the actual episodes – that’s the space I feel Asco dwells in.

They even made “no movie” still from a fake award ceremony….
In the book accompanying the recent exhibition, “Elite of the Obscure” (I guess they finally became famous!), one writer quotes Jean Paul Sartre’s Nausea to define “asco” (which mean nausea):

“The Nausea is not inside me: I feel it out here in the wall, in the suspenders, everywhere around me. It makes itself one with the café, I am the one who is within it.”

(continue reading…)

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by on Jan.18, 2013

I. Preamble


This past Monday, I painted my nails with four different kinds of sheer pink glitter. On Saturday, I had been called baroque. Recently I have been going out more and more often in my petticoats, some of which are borrowed.



I am twenty-four years old. I have degrees and a job and an apartment. I have never learned to grocery shop. Almost two years ago I stood in my kitchen covered in facepaint and wearing my Swarovski-encrusted riding helmet from my teenage years, at a loss; a camera was on. I didn’t know how to look at it. My roommate’s parents kept us well-stocked in arbitrary necessities. In the cabinets, we had many canisters of sugar.

i. Memorandum

In living, one seeks the “sweet spot” – the punctum. At this moment the body becomes a gel in which the “I” is suspended, separate. The self perceives itself as parts of a sum of parts; a granular agent of decay.

This is not what one remembers. When I say “remember” I mean the body re-feels a traumatic moment. Every remembered moment is a trauma because the act requires a severing.


So Barthes’ camera is surgical. Photographic saturation of the eye triggers a phenomenological flattening of the substance which acts. (continue reading…)


"We took action!": ASCO and Zurita

by on Jan.03, 2013

Back in 2011 some time, I read this article in the NY Times about the Chicano art collective ASCO, who were active in LA mostly during the 1970s, making murals and fake movies as well as staging baroque happenings. I was immediately smitten by this nexus of activity and art. I was especially intrigued by the “no movies,” fake movie stills which reminded me of some of my favorite art: Jack Smith’s fake movie still (from before he started making movies) and Joseph Beuys’s photographs that supposedly document his art happening but really create a sense of an entire life as art.

Well, I was as always busy as hell and forgot about it, but then I remembered it yesterday and asked about it on Facebook, and somebody gave me a link to this awesome blog post on the blog East Long Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Line.

Among other things, it features this totally inspiring movie about the group:

This is such an inspiring movie.

Another inspiring movie is this witnessing of Montevidayo’s favorite poet Raul Zurita, sky-writing his poem “La Vida Nuevo” in the heavens above NYC.

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"Vlada's green-eyed superalert face everywhere": Kitsch and the Foreign in Lidija Praizovic's Poems

by on Nov.12, 2012


What makes the metaphysical dilemma special, if not unique, is that it exists in the space just after the effort and before the completion of the tear. The body and soul are not yet rent, but they are somewhere in the midst of that process. What emerges from the ongoing rupture is delicate, baroque vomit, an undeniably human substance, the existence of which is totally outside bodily limits.

I’m reading Lidija Praizovic’s new book “PORR FÖR VLADA/HJARTAHJARTAHJARTA!!!/MITT LIVE SOM MUN” [Or: “PORN FOR VLADA/HEARTHEARTHEART!!!/MY LIFE AS A MOUTH”] (from the brilliant new Swedish press Dockhaveri Förlag (“Doll Wreckage,” very gurlesque, also published first book by Montevidayoan Aylin Bloch Boynukisa)). And in particular how her foreignness (as an immigrant, as an cobbler together of foreign words and phrases) creates undulations in a poem like this:

Belgrade Beer Fest

enorma halmhattar och homofobier
Vladas grönögda superspända ansikte överallt

suck me
lick me
fuck me
(pulseringar inom mig)

koliko kostaju rogovi

Belgrade Beer Fest

enormous straw hats and homophobias
Vlada’s green-eyed superalert face everywhere

suck me
lick me
fuck me
(pulsations within me)

koliko kostaju rogovi?
(continue reading…)

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Preliminary Notes From The Conference on The Unstable and [de] Mutable Boundaries Between Meteorological Atrocities and Human Political Economies with Bodies-as-Subjects Coming Into Being As They Are

by on Oct.29, 2012

In New York City everything is quiet and we are locked in our downtown apartments with candles and books and nothing to do but wait for something to happen, and hope it doesn’t. Like countless barricaded thinkers before us, yesterday evening, as we prepared for the storm, Seth Oelbaum, Stephanie Berger, and I held a relentless and exhausting conference on The Unstable and [de] Mutable Boundaries Between Meteorological Atrocities and Human Political Economies with Bodies-as-Subjects Coming Into Being As They Are.

Following Seth’s opening address and a reading from D&G’s Rhizome, I presented my position on Logs: The Diminished but not Diluted Potentatalities of Rhizomatic Laws and Other Deleuizan “Things,” a talk inspired by the large tree directly in the path of several windows in the apartment where we stayed last night (we’ve since moved slightly more inland). The crux of the argument centered around concepts of romanticism and body-performativity versus the actual fallibility of human bodies as, at a crisis-point, non-performative entities. Guest panelist Joyelle McSweeney commented, “Oh think of me as that branch,” which was posited as having the potential to come through the living room window.

The whole point of the rhizome is a sort of megaconsciousness of natural form; this is how weather comes to acquire subjectivity. What’s particularly frightening about the weather as having subjectivity is that it has consciousness without emotion; a storm is a sociopath, totally unconcerned with the consciousnesses of the subjects it attacks. As was mentioned in the panel on Weathery Cinematic Structures of Where The Heart Is, or, Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman, Country Music, survival in the face of a disaster seems mediated primarily by the those same catchwords of the contemporary literary conversation: melodrama, and sincerity.

Because we happen to be, as we are, two girls and a boy holed up in wait for a disaster, because Stephanie is shopping online for dresses and Seth is writing and I am checking the weather obsessively, as though knowledge of a flood might stop it (it won’t), we can’t help making the Melancholia metaphor on an almost hourly basis, wherein I am, bizarrely and unexpectedly, Charlotte Gainsbourg rather than Kirsten Dunst. A lot has been said about the film, its relevance, and its overdetermination of events. But the crisis, distant and baroque as it might seem, is a real crisis; a crisis of bodies. Actual bodies which speak and are subject to the whims of a thing as heartless as weather, at the moment between when everything is fine and everything is not, reach a point at which they can no longer perform.

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Oh, Bad Blues: Larkin, Plath, Donne, Bessie Smith, & The Metaphysical Dilemma of Radical Narcissism

by on Oct.02, 2012

The most important times to be awake are dawn and dusk, so that one might see both the open and close of the day; what happens in-between is insignificant, the abstract lyric – one need not be able to touch it to know that it was there. The edges of days create spaces in which form makes its demands upon the human participant: here is a beginning, here is an end; it’s up to you to fill in the rest.

The aubade is formally “loose” in that its parameters tend to be defined by the practitioner’s relationship to the concept of parting. Although traditionally, the purpose of the form is to address the beloved-other, aubades often become meditations on the dilemma of the body/soul divide of the speaker. The lyric takes the place of the physical body which cannot remain forever in bed with the beloved, and probably doesn’t want to. The meditation on time becomes a time-loop itself, serving to prolong the becoming-day not for the sake of more time with the beloved, but such that the speaker might revel in displeasure.



Larkin’s ‘Talking in Bed” is an excellent example, wherein the speaker appears totally uninterested in his bedfellow. Here, the tragedy of parting rests in the terror of sound, the solitude of day; dawn does not cause the break, utterance does. The plaintive gesture of the first line, “Talking in bed ought to be easiest,” denotes the fact that, at this distance from coupled silence, under-painted in the poem as some Whitman-esque ideal of nature, to speak is to break apart one’s humanity.

As far as aubades go, this one feels cold, blanketless – where is the joy in the agony, where is the longing? It creates itself through the speech-act, just as “the wind’s incomplete unrest / builds and disperses clouds in the sky.” Plath’s “April Aubade,” though hung with more troubadour bling – “snowdrop stars,” grass-garlanded lovers – plays a similar trick, draping the skeleton of daybreak’s despair only to arrive at the conclusion “Again we are deluded and infer / that somehow we are younger than we were,” an eerie echo to Larkin’s “Words at once true and kind, / Or not untrue and not unkind.”

Which raises the question – if the act of longing is what creates the despair, if it can be avoided through silence, and refusal, why write the poem? Because being-alive requires that the sun continues to rise. The poem, then, can function only as an inadequate container for the petulance of the troubadour lover upon the realization that they must, at or just after dawn, rise, and sing, that it is impossible for the singer to make any utterance in the presence of the beloved. Or, the wand’ring minstrel cannot wander chained.

Beauty, then, in the aubade, functions like Donne’s “rags of time” in “The Sun Rising,” draped by the dawn upon the constant-moment just before the morning’s first speech – a punctum. Metaphor serves to create systemic traps or arms for keeping the lovers in.

In Donne, Plath, and Larkin, the self is paramount, the lover almost entirely absent. This is intentional; the serenade, the aubade’s opposite, is meant to be sung to or for the beloved, whereas the aubade is meant to be whispered through the crack in the door just at the moment of escape, an indecipherable scrawl upon the beloved’s day. This forced silence, in that the beloved must never hear the aubade for it to take its effect, is an act of violence.




Bessie Smith’s “Empty Bed Blues” shows us the view from the other side, the body of the beloved which has been “taught” to bear the silence of the lover for the sake of continued partings, the agony of which are the soul’s only respite. We arrive at The Blues because the impending day is always-already shrouded in lack. The only certainty is that other burnt-end, twilight, which brings with it the promise of yet another agonizing dawn.

It would seem, after a study of the aubade, that the poet’s destiny is untenable loneliness, to lie with a lover for the sole sake of feeling the sadness of parting; the purpose of feeling the sadness is to sing of it. Love, then, becomes not about the other, but an act of radical narcissism; a means to Art.

This is not a new thing, although it’s a prevalent theme in so much new poetry, which is internet-y as it is “confessional” and has troubadour aspirations. That the fleeting loneliness of any given self should be important is a ruse that contemporary language allows. The flat affect of poets like Andrew Durbin and Steve Roggenbuck ascribe an importance to that which is common. There is not the urgent sense, as in Larkin and Plath, that without the utterance, or form’s container, the I of the lyric will self-destruct; rather, the self is already obliterated, chopped up and sifted through a sieve such that any loneliness, any lyric-I, could be the same.

What makes the metaphysical dilemma special, if not unique, is that it exists in the space just after the effort and before the completion of the tear. The body and soul are not yet rent, but they are somewhere in the midst of that process. What emerges from the ongoing rupture is delicate, baroque vomit, an undeniably human substance, the existence of which is totally outside bodily limits.

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Feature on CultureStr/ke

by on Aug.05, 2012

I couldn’t ask for a more satisfying presentation of my writing than this feature on CultureStr/ke, a terrific website that sheds light on the contemporary art, culture, and politics of immigration.  I’m especially thrilled with Lisa Chen’s comparison of me with Filipino artist Manuel Ocampo:

De Lima’s spiritual and political cousin can be found in the fever dreams of artist Manuel Ocampo. His paintings, with their baroque phantasms of Catholic iconography, Nazi symbolism, monster roaches and Klansmen are the bastard products of history.

Of particular interest to Montevidayans might be Ocampo’s series “Kitsch Recovery Pogrom.”  Some of those paintings are here.  But I think I like these genocidal feather-storms from the 90’s most of all:

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