"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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My Gothic Childhood: Some notes on emigration, immigration and Depeche Mode

by on Oct.05, 2012

Speaking of transfigurations… There’s an interview with Bob Dylan in a recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine where he talks about his experiences of “transfiguration,” how his own famed motorcycle accident in 1966 and the fatal accident of another “Robert Zimmerman,” president of the Hell’s Angels in 1961, and how he has ever since performed much like a dead person.

His description feels strangely perfect for how I have felt my whole adult life. I’ve been thinking about my own deathy ideas about immigration the past few weeks. Or I should say, I’ve been thinking about my ideas about emigration; or I’ve been thinking about my feelings about my emigration/immigration experience.

For a long time I only thought about my immigration experience. I’ve written about it too. How I came to the US and generated all of this extreme violence in the Minneapolis suburb I moved to. This has become a model for me of understanding my own (non-) identity, an embattled figure. But it’s kind of a static model. It’s a harsh but easy model to adopt.

The other day I was reading Banu Kapil’s Nightboat book Schizophrene. It’s a book that feels like a membrane permeated by both India and London, as if both were ghostly spheres, or as if the speaker was a kind of ghost moving through two separate spheres. That’s actually what made me go back into my own experiences of immigration, experiences that aren’t as easy or clean as the embattled immigrant model I’ve written about in the past. To try to invoke my decidedly gothic view of my life with all of its transfigurations.

Moving to the US when I was 13 totally destroyed me. But it wasn’t exactly the violence of my reception that destroyed me. If anything, that violence provided a myth I could use to understand things. What destroyed me most of all was the idea that I had been torn out of the life where I belonged, my life, and that everyone I knew, everything went on without me. That I had died. That I existed in some kind of sphere outside of life.

This feeling lasted for years. I remember listening to Depeche Mode’s 1987 record, Music for the Masses, and feeling an idiotic identification with this song:

On one level, this is a sex song, but now as then, it strikes me as much creepier (continue reading…)

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"Masks and outfits are exchanged": Some Thoughts on Guy Maddin's Keyhole, James Pate, Minor Lit and Narrative

by on Aug.08, 2012

I think James’s post from yesterday was really wonderful at exploring the idea of “minor literature,” but also art more generally.

I loved this description of a certain kind of artwork:

The novel of manners and certain realist novels are built like a multi-storied house: the family occupies one floor, economics another, the courts yet another. They might be of the same house, but there are still divisions between them. In minor literature, the family triangle is de-Oedipalized: the house is of a single floor, and the family moves among the judges who move among the cops who move among the rabbis and priests who move among the teachers and professors. Masks and outfits are exchanged, roles reenacted, snatches of dialogue tossed about. Genet’s The Balcony comes to mind. In fact, all of Genet’s plays come to mind.

This for me describes a kind of “genre” that I’ve always been interested in: the allegory that becomes too much for an allegorical reading; an allegory where seemingly the stuff of art wrecks the allegory; an allegory where the “floor” between vehicle and tenor collapses. Obviously Kafka is the key example of this (evidence: all the unconvincing books that tries to read his books as allegorical – Freudian or Marxist or religious etc).

Many of my favorite instances of this kind of story are the “minor” works by major artists. Take for example “The Hour of the Wolf” by Ingmar Bergman. (Here’s some corpse-sex, Max Von Sydow in make-up, and general melodrama from that movie:)

Someone who has dwelt in this zone for a couple of decades is Canada’s brilliant film-maker Guy Maddin. In his amazing recent film “Keyhole,” Maddin seems to have come on the same kind of analogy as James: A house where everything collapses together (continue reading…)

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Lispector and Genet, Pink Monsters in My Heart

by on Jul.24, 2012

For weeks now I’ve been meaning to write about Clarice Lispector’s The Passion According to G.H., which was recently re-issued by New Directions in a new translation.  But the Internet, global warming, and my post-MFA job are seriously wearing me out this summer.  I’ve felt as gooey as the white insides of the cockroach that stains Lispector’s book.  And yet, my summer reading has helped stave off cosmic depletion.  Right after finishing The Passion According to G.H. in Portuguese, I read Jean Genet’s The Thief’s Journal.  Both books have startled me, at least in momentary fits, out of slothlike malaise.  What I’ve found invigorating about the power duo of Lispector and Genet is how each writer presents monstrosity as an ethical drive in itself–as a way of becoming and transmutating not out of whim, choice, or design but a need to flourish, gleam, and romantically subsist.

  (continue reading…)

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by on Jul.02, 2012

ASSIMILATION IS SINCERITY: foreigners, maids, & Love…


1. In order to be sincere you have to have interiority; You have my heart, my darling; You see right through me; You see who I really am inside, etc etc, your eyes are beautiful, eyes are the window to the soul, blah blah roses kisses put babies in me, forever future, never ending love.

2. Even in the cheapest romantic comedy there is this one absolute Rule that needs to be obeyed: The Rule of Sincerity. You HAVE to arrive sincerity at the end; reveal who you really are, accept who he/she really is; pour your heart out, fall in love, roses kisses put babies in me, forever future, never ending love.

3. Why is it that forwarded “cute” emails are filled with annoying pictures non-human love?


(continue reading…)

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Percussion Grenade: Or, Persephone: Suicide Bomber; Or, Sound as Violence

by on Jun.19, 2012


Dzhanet Abdurakhmanova, 17. Teenage widow and suicide bomber.

The Argument:

My late book, Percussion Grenade, is a book of poems-for-performance, which is to say that they are supposed to have a very overt sound structure to either thump the listener on her head (anaphora) or tangle her up in knots of sound (assonance/alliteration) so that she becomes totally ensnared in the poem’s sonic loops and suspended in its time signature.

Sound is a kind of violence– it touches and changes the air.

Police in Chicago were equipped with acoustic or ultrasonic weapons which damage or rupture the eardrum and incapacitate the target.

Hearing damage is the No. 1 disability in the war on terror, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The word for ‘grenade’ comes from the Old French for ‘pomegranate.’

‘Pomegranate’ is also the fruit of the underworld; when Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds, she had to stay in Hades six months of the year.

Now Persephone is the percussion grenade, she has the pomegranate seeds inside her.

Persephone as suicide bomber, whose body, per Jasbir Puar, is a costume and a weapon. She goes up to earth in Springtime to ruin the spring– to ruin Ceres, to strafe the land with sound, to make it hybrid, to ruin sincerity.

Persphone, from, person: a bomb: a mask:

Person: early 13c., from O.Fr. persone “human being” (12c., Fr. personne), from L. persona “human being,” originally “character in a drama, mask,” possibly borrowed from Etruscan phersu “mask

Persephone, a bomb dressed in sound.


The Poem:

Here’s what passes for a ‘narrative’ poem for me- it’s a Persephone poem. The Chechnyan teenage widow suicide bomber ( that’s her in the photograph above). She comes up to the city, brings spring and her body-as-bomb. It’s also a necropastoral. It’s a bomb exploding in CGI– slowly. The first stanza ends with four line misquote from Sarah Palin (Per NYT: “So you,” she told a young woman who risked her life to save a stranger, “having a kind of a downer day being in a valley, to then have been at this peak now, Angelica, because of your selfless action.” “So kudos to you and thank you so much.”}– a typically garbled transmission.


Arcadia (Post-Caucasia) For the Caucasian Dead

(continue reading…)

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Paragrafiti: Poetry from Mexico/California/Indiana by way of Iran

by on Jun.08, 2012

Notre Dame MFA candidate Alireza Taheri Araghi has an intriguing international journal called Paragrafiti. In this most recent issue he has an excerpt from another Notre Dame MFA student, Lauro Vazquez’s ongoing project, a visionary poem that starts out with an immigrant working as a “dishboy” in California and explodes out with visions and news from the world and an array of formal variations (including dramatic sections and a series of epistolary exchanges about the virtue of Marxist revolution between the dishboy and Mona Lisa). This publication also features some cool illustrations by an Iranian illustrator named Pedrom Tanaomi. Alireza is an Iranian writer and translator (he had to really work hard to get to come to the US) and Lauro is from Mexico (he had to work hard too) by way of California. I mention this journal not just because I’m very proud of Ali and Lauro, but also because it suggests that MFA programs can be interesting meeting places between writers who might not otherwise come in contact.

Here’s an excerpt of Lauro’s poem:

August 16: Morning

Luna Negra by arcadio hidalgo is playing on the kitchen radio:

Yo fui a la revolución, yo fui
Yo fui a la revolución a luchar por el derecho,
pa’ sentir sobre mi pecho una gran satisfacción

mas hoy vivo en un rincón, cantándole a mi amargura
pero con la fé segura y anunciándole al destino
que es el hombre campesino nuestra esperanza futura.

from the inside the dish-room is like a giant stomach/ there’s no other way to describe this/ a giant stomach/
with people in it/
like moist intestines/a tripe-noose taut/ on the neck/

sometimes jorgito/ the pizza maker/
the smile maker/
like when he says no mames guey! and I say no mames! / like right now
(continue reading…)

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On Beauty, Excess, and the Limits of Identity Politics in Lambda and Beyond

by on May.26, 2012

Trans poet/rapper Mykki Blanco reacting to all the brouhaha.

If you haven’t been following the queer poetry blogosphere the past couple of days, a provocative conversation has arisen about beauty, style, race, and privilege in contemporary American poetry.  Over at Lambda, a piece by Jameson Fitzpatrick has come under fire for championing the self-presentation of NYC poet Alex Dimitrov, the organizer of a much-talked about poetry salon called Wilde Boys.  Fitzpatrick’s article is itself in response to a comment made by Eduardo C. Corral about his feelings of exclusion in the queer NYC poetry scene.  Here’s Corral followed by Fitzpatrick’s take:

“The queer poetry community in New York City is full of beautiful people, which makes me an outsider…I’m disappointed in many of my queer peers. So many of them want to be part of the hipster crowd. So many of them value looks over talent. The cool kids form clubs, become gatekeepers. So many of my peers are clamoring to be let in.”

Though I’m impressed by Corral’s candor, and lament his experience of exclusion because of his appearance, I bristled when I read this. I found myself worrying that this sort of attitude, taken a bit further, could lead to the devaluation of something important to me—namely, fashion and beauty. Moreover, I’m afraid such an attitude sets up a false dichotomy: looks or talent, style or substance. I refuse to settle for one or the other. Silly as it might sound, I want to be beautiful and I want to write beautiful poems.

As many on the comments thread and other blogs point out, Fitzpatrick’s argument overlooks the role of race, class, and other power dynamics rampant not just in queer poetry circles but the LGBTQ community at large.  By contrasting Dimitrov’s emphasis on aesthetics with Corral’s words, the article fails to account for the politics behind ‘beauty’, a concept all-too-often synonymous among gay men with being white, thin/muscular, affluent, and stylish.  As Corral, a Latino poet, says in his interview, “One young man told me, ‘You don’t look like the rest of us.'”

As a queer, light-skinned Latino poet, I have many feelings about this discussion not because I’m familiar with either Dimitrov’s or Corral’s work (I’ve only read a few poems by each) but because the rhetoric on both sides of the debate seems worth questioning.  While I think Fitzpatrick’s article is problematic, I wonder if much of the dissenting response isn’t guilty of its own brand of normativity and policing about what queer writing is and does. (continue reading…)

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by on Apr.27, 2012

I went to an interesting talk the other day. The medievalist Chris Abrams talked about Beowolf, arguing for a reading of it not as an “Old English” text, but as a Scandinavian text. But not exactly: more like a text in a “hyperspace” that might be “Scandinavia,” a space of cultural translation. Abrams argued that Beowolf is a text that “is not itself,” but rather a constant result of various kinds of framings and interpretive strategies, translation. His question was: What happens if we read this text as a Scandinavian text? But also: What if “Scandinavian” was not a stable entity but the result of crosscultural imaginations?

There are of course some direct, tangible results in the interpretation, but I think his “hyperspace” is an interesting model for all of poetry. Rather than poetry that is lost in translation, that must be kept within national traditions and lineages, that must be determinable, we can read poetry as “hyperspace”, as texts that are not themselves.

The other day I wrote about liking “contextual” book reviews – but contexts that move across time, language and media, a translational lineage that may be said to be “hyperspace.”


It was interesting that when I posted about the general shying away from context in US poetry reviews, one of the most dominant responses was that context stabilized readings, strangled the poetry, overdetermined it. It seemed people who had this response assumed I meant: classifying poets according to school, formal features etc. In essence: lineage-making.

There is of course a very prominent context that people have all kinds of problems dealing with: American Poetry. This is of course a context that I – in part because I’m an immigrant writer – have been rubbing up against my entire writing life. But in some sense, it’s an overbearing context that most writers rub up against – to invoke Bakhtin, the centripedal force of a monoglossic lineage that makes a claim for a unified American Poetry.
(continue reading…)

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Somnabulist in the graveyard // Tan Lin, Pam Lu, Subterranean ambience

by on Apr.21, 2012

Hola, long time no see.

1. The somnabulist in the graveyard. I was reading an essay written by Angana Chatterji and I couldn’t help but think of Montevidayo. Angana is the anthropologist who helped launch the inquiry into unmarked mass graves in India-occupied Kashmir. She writes:

In undertaking work for the Tribunal, I have travelled through Kashmir’s cities and countryside, from Srinagar to Kupwara, through Shopian and Islamabad/Anantnag. I have witnessed the violence that India’s military, paramilitary, and police perpetuate against Kashmiris. I have walked through the graveyards that hold Kashmir’s dead, and I have met with grieving families. I have listened to the testimony of a mother who sleepwalks to the grave of her son, attempting to resuscitate his body.

I was struck by the oneiric, almost lyric nature of this image: the mother attempting to wake her son from death while she is herself asleep. The mother and the son rhyme together. They are denizens of two types of subterranean life: the dead son in the graveyard and the mother’s underworld, by which I mean not her dreamlife, but her traumatized melancholia. The image reveals the strangeness of inherently political imagery–not strident as in American protest poetry, but surreal, contradictory, grotesque.

Angana is reading tonight at AAWW with journalist Mirza Waheed, whose novel The Collaborator stars a Kashmiri teenager who collaborates with the Indian military as a counter of corpses, and the artist Kanishka Raja, who has created a series of paintings and an artist book re-imagining Kashmir as the Switzerland of South Asia; Kashmir used to be the setting for pastoral Bollywood romances until the state crackdowns moved the films to Switzerland. Here’s his artist book.

2. I’ve been blown away lately by Tan Lin’s Insomnia and the Aunt and Pamela Lu’s Ambient Parking Lot. They’re going to be reading at AAWW on April 27 with poet Juliette Lee and in conversation with avant poetics scholar Dorothy Wang. I figured it seemed like a good fit for this site, so I’ve asked Triple Canopy’s Lucy Ives to live-blog the event on Montevidayo. Here are some descriptions

Tan Lin’s INSOMNIA AND THE AUNT is an ambient novel composed of black and white photographs, postcards, Google reverse searches, letters, appendices, an index to an imaginary novel, reruns, and footnotes. The aunt in question can’t sleep. She runs a motel in the Pacific Northwest. She likes watching Conan O’Brien late at night. She may be the narrator’s aunt or she may be an emanation of a TV set. Structured like everybody’s scrapbook, and blending fiction with nonfictional events, INSOMNIA AND THE AUNT is about identities taken and given up, and about the passions of an immigrant life, rebroadcast as furniture. Ostensibly about a young man’s disintegrating memory of his most fascinating relative, or potentially a conceptualist take on immigrant literature, it is probably just a treatment for a prime-time event that, because no one sleeps in motels, lasts into the late night and daytime slots.

Part fiction, part earnest mockumentary, Pamela Lu’s Ambient Parking Lot follows a band of musicians as they wander the parking structures of urban downtown and greater suburbia in quest of the ultimate ambient noise—one that promises to embody their historical moment and deliver them up to the heights of their self-important artistry. Along the way, they make sporadic forays into lyric while contending with doubts, delusions, miscalculations, mutinies, and minor triumphs. This saga peers into the wreckage of a post-9/11 landscape and embraces the comedy and poignancy of failed utopia.


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The Global Economy in Trans Terrorist Style (starring more Star Fuckers and "Mickey" Jagger!)

by on Jan.13, 2012

Another discovery I made in Brazil is the hipsterlicious trio known as Banda UÓ.  I think their name is an adaptation of “wow” into Portuguese–a gesture that already opens our orifices to Third World counterfeitness and the group’s cheesy garbling of Anglophone hits.  Banda UÓ reworks classics like Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” and Willow Smith’s already excellent “Whip My Hair,” which they’ve mutated into the rock star drama of “Shake de Amor.”  Here’s their explanation of the song:

What has Mick Jagger ever done to you to deserve the plotline in “Shake de Amor”?

The song is based on the story between him and a TV host from Brazil named Luciana Gimenez. The story is satirized, but basically the story is, the Rolling Stones came to Brazil to do a concert with the tour Bridges to Babylon, and Jagger met Luciana. The two hung out for a couple of months, while he was still married the the model Jerry Hall. Then she got pregnant and he denied everything, trying to get out of the situation. That’s why in the chorus we say “vou me vingar de você” (“I will avenge you”) a billion times, she is really pissed.

I wonder if Banda UÓ reads Montevidayo?  Almost everything about “Shake de Amor” seems inspired by Johannes’ post on star fuckers, Andy Warhol, Candy Darling, and Mick Jagger!  Candy Mel (“Honey”), the trans singer in the group, even casts herself as the center of Johannes’ “orbit of transveticism.”  If there’s an added ingredient to the music video, it’s the final shot in which the star-fucker-cum-star gets a decorative splash of Jagger’s blood on her face.  Also listen for machine gunfire throughout the track:

I’ve relished thinking about this video as a cannibalist, terrorist reckoning of sorts (continue reading…)

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Science Fiction Movies About Exile

by on Jan.05, 2012

[For some reason I wanted to write the script for a sci-fi movie for Tarkovsky to make from behind/beneath the grave, but instead I ended up writing a blog post. It’s obviously inspired by the Kim Hyesoon interview from the other day.]


The movie takes place in a hospital which seems to be snowing on the inside. The movie tries to tell me that Art will make me whole again but I don’t believe it. It’s snowing inside as if we live inside a television with no reception. Art will shatter me. Art will shatter me. I will have bleeder’s disease in the snow. In the movie the hares are piled up in the birth room. The pink ice-cream is melting on my body in the cyanide room, where I go to keep track of my postmodern condition. On the television there’s a train accident. The kind that burns. I decorate the tubes with crayons. I’m a child afterall. Art’s child.

No, the movie has to be much more violent than that.

When I first came to the US I was met by brutality, tackled into lockers and pushed into tables.

When I first made a science fiction movie the soundtrack was the sound of rabbits being used for decorative purposes in the snow.

I’m always afraid in the snow.

But I don’t want to screen out the violence that is always here.

I don’t want to pretend that Abu Ghraib isn’t part of our culture – as art, as crime, as hickup, as dance routine, as love letters, as explosions in the personality market.

In the personality market I am a zombie: ugly because I am covered with melting wax while impersonating a radio (anachronism is the sling-king).

In Abu Ghraib, I am one of the most ornate torturers: the one with the cracked vase and the black lipstick.

The one holding an ornamental knife from the plundered museum.

The one holding the knife to a rabbit in the fashion shoot for the latest dictator.

The one who runs and runs through the hallway but always end up in the showers with the man wrapped in tarpaulin.

In tarpaulin I am projecting “Battleship Potemkin.”

In Strindberg’s “Fadren” (anachronism is horror movies), art distorts the son and the mother has to envelop the father in an elaborate play, which undoes him, turns him into a son of sorts: sucking the tits of a nurse while tied up on her lap.

Her milky fluid is the milky fluid of art.
(continue reading…)

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Star Fuckers – Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, James Pate, Nick Demske and Old Dirty Bastard

by on Nov.30, 2011

[Warning: I don’t know much about the Rolling Stones so if somebody wants to clue me into any background errors etc, please feel free.]

The other day Joyelle and I were in Pittsburgh talking about the necropastoral at a conference called ASAP. Joyelle went to a panel that talked about how “Star Star” by the Rolling Stones was actually addressed to Candy Darling and evidence of Mick Jagger having been drawn into “Andy Warhol’s orbit.” Apparently, upon entering into this “orbit,” Jagger began to model his look and appearance on Andy’s transvestite “superhuman crew” (Bob Dylan had been pulled into the Warhol orbit some five-ten years earlier). In other words, he was a superstar who became a “superstar.”

I think “orbit” and especially Raggedy Andy’s “orbit” of super saturating art/life is an interesting way of thinking about an alternative to influence/lineage and all that: “a zone where interesting things happen.” A necropastoral “strange meeting.”

First, here’s the song and the lyrics:

“Star Star”
Songwriters: Keith Richards;Mick Jagger

Baby, baby, I’ve been so sad since you’ve been gone
Way back to New York City
Where you do belong
Honey, I missed your two tongue kisses
Legs wrapped around me tight
If I ever get back to Fun City, girl
I’m gonna make you scream all night
(continue reading…)

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