Confessionalism and Horse Fucking in the Necropastoral of Louise Glück, "Equus," and Enumclaw, Washington

by on Oct.04, 2012

For my third annual post on art and the animal, I’m going to explore the moist, shadowy field where two taboos collide.  Bestiality (actual and representational) and Confessionalism (poetic, Catholic, psychiatric, juridical) have been on my mind lately.

(continue reading…)

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"The Violent Pollution": Carl-Michael Edenborg's Parapornography

by on Sep.04, 2012

The thing about all this talk about hipsters and/or kitsch is that it’s about art: all poetry can be kitsch (and is according to many people) and all poetry-writers can be viewed as hipsters. I’m not interested in pro- or anti-kitsch poetry, or anti-hipster or pro-hipster poetry. I am interested in dealing with kitsch in a way that doesn’t fall back on these binaries but I also don’t want to move beyond them (to some pleasant world of American Hybrid or whatever), I don’t want to remove this trouble, this anxiety that is part of Art; an anxiety about looking, about uselessness, about excess, about Art’s occult powers and its drug-like “influence” that may ruin our identities as good, stable, progressive subjects with agency. As I noted in my last post I want the forms to rub up against each other, to chafe, to spasm. I want that excessive “foreign body lodged in the overall system of art” to continue to friction in the “system,” to turn it into a horror movie, a B-movie, a “phantom pregnancy,” a spasming necropastoral, a “parapornography.”

One genre that is often compared or made synonymous with kitsch is pornography: Like kitsch it’s too much about affect, too much about effects, too immediate, not properly mediated etc. And most of all, it’s got the “frenzy of the visual.” I think maybe porn can be a way of thinking about kitsch. Or vice versa. Maybe this is why so many people enjoy porn videos from websites like So they can compare and contrast kitsch with porn.


Carl-Michael Edenborg

Just yesterday I read Carl Michael Edenborg’s “Manifesto of Parapornography.” I should mention that C-M runs the important Swedish press Vertigo, which publishes de Sade and Apollinaire as well as contemporary writers like Nikanor Teratologen and Dennis Cooper and Samuel Delaney. He was also once a member of the same Surrealist Group of Stockholm that Aase Berg used to be part of). In this manifesto Edenborg argues is a move away from the rhetoric of both “pro-pornography” and “anti-pornography,” the two prevalent stances on pornography in our “post-pornography” society.

Edenborg argues against the system underlying both anti- and pro-pornography:

According to both, pornography is devoted to men’s fantasies of omnipotence, of a limitless access to and power over women, to never having to take no for an answer. Over and over again, it reassures men that they are phallic. Men will not accept that the very fact that they require this reassurement shows that they are already castrated, because that would subvert their pleasure. Women, on the other hand, are expected to react in the opposite way to pornography: with loathing and disgust.

According to Edenborg: While the pro and the anti depend on uncovering/defending a secret/truth/genitals/interiority, parapornography rejects this model and instead creates something that Edenborg compares to “quantum mechanics”: it can “extract endless excitment from the same skin flap” and “the mucous membranes are prismatic.” Instead of exteriority/interiority we get an undulating figure that admits poisons, a necropastoral pornography of the “spasming membrane” (Joyelle’s quote). This is Edenborg’s list of qualities of Parapornography:

Mechanical repetition
The infinity of revealing
The exploded affection theory
The critical will to power
The violent pollution
Protesology and displacement

(continue reading…)

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Poetry, Genre Problems and Surrealism (I)

by on Aug.31, 2012

[This is the first part of a multiple part post about what I read this summer. This is just the background. More later.]

In Silver Proxy, Daniel Tiffany’s forthcoming book on kitsch, Tiffany traces the concept of kitsch back to the late 18th century and Wordsworth’s attacks on Gray and “poetic diction” – its “gaudy and inane phraseology.” According to Wordsworth, poetry should be “men speaking to men” and all that jive about realness and “rustic life.” (One of his main issues with poetic diction is that it’s impure, that is, that it synthesizes English with foreign languages, relevant I think to my claims that translation is kitsch.)

It’s in this context that Tiffany says that kitsch is about “excessive beauty,” a phrase we’ve been quoting on this blog for a while. Tiffany connects this rejection of poetic diction to the onset of industrialism capitalism and bourgeois culture, and more importantly, the idea of “Literature,” in which prose is considered superior and increasingly central, while poetry is considered increasingly marginal and ornamental (Wordsworth views his poetry as prose with metrics; metrics is not kitsch, but importantly what is left of poetry).

As I’ve often noted on this blog, “Surrealism” has in contemporary US poetry discussions become a new stand-in for this kind of kitsch, the kitsch of the “poetic” and “excessive beauty” (continue reading…)

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Nathalie Djurberg's Parade

by on Aug.01, 2012

Thomas Micchelli has an interesting essay about Nathalie Djurberg’s exhibit “The Parade,” now up at the New Museum in NYC:

Surrealism, like “dreamlike,” has become a meaningless catchall for anything transgressive or eerie. True surrealism, however, is shocking in its familiarity — the obsessions and cruelties played out in Djurberg’s films are the cravings we necessarily but too often unsuccessfully repress in order to carry on with our alleged civilization. The only difference between us and the images of Djurberg’s “Parade” is that they are closer to the mud than we prefer to believe we are. Their transgression is in their distillation of the everyday.

I wrote the post “Necropastoral Parades” about the show after I saw it in Mpls a while back:

As in Joyelle’s necropastoral, it seems the plague is a subtext: art running like Artaud’s subterrenean plague. In the most upsetting piece, the one in which the “sons” torture their purple mother, the sons are wearing plague masks, but it doesn’t protect them against art – and it certainly doesn’t protect their mother… This art plague animates the entire collection into a spasmy, jerky “parade” that ultimately leads to the grotesque, materially occult moment of the last video, where the white man seems both corpse and patient, ravished or saved by the bird of paradise.

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Geographies of the Necropastoral: The Dead Indian Princess and The State with the Prettiest Name….

by on Jul.31, 2012



The State with the History of Extermination, Disenfranchisement, Suffering and Fraud

Florida is an American state where Disney World is. It was claimed in 1513 by Ponce DeLeon as he searched for the fountain of eternal youth—he named it Florida for its floweryness. It took three wars and a few hundred years to finally exterminate the Seminole Indians from this land ( exterminate from the Latin, ex-terminus, push over the border) so that, in the 20th century, it could become a haven of real-estate fraud and delinquency, boasting of the greatest percentage of foreclosures in the US in 2008. Its Republican governor Rick Scott was elected in 2010 despite the fact that the company of which he was CEO was convicted of 14 felony counts of Medicaid fraud and made to pay the government $600 million dollars in fines. By some estimates, Rick Scott has attempted to purge nearly 200,000 suspected “non-citizens” from his state’s voter rolls; 80 percent of those forced to prove their eligibility are Black or Hispanic.


AND The Prettiest Name…

Florida is also, according to  Elizabeth Bishop, the state with the prettiest name. While prettiness is associated with weakness, it is also a weapon: this is the ambivalence of the necropastoral. For Bishop, the prettiness of Florida is completely toxic, undead, ex-terminus, grown through with mangrove roots like corpse fingernails, flown over by condors and other flesh eaters. Debt, death and extermination flourish in this flowery state, exposing its necropastoral force. The poem begins:




The state with the prettiest name,
the state that floats in brackish water, (continue reading…)

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Letter to the editor ("I am its excess spit into the world. I am the city's counterfeit body, the queer it expelled, the queer it now calls on to confess.")

by on Jun.28, 2012

[I get a lot of letters from people I don’t know but who read my poems and/or Montevidayo; it is actually very nice (when the letters are nice, they are just as often full of hate). I just got this letter the other day from Sean Wehle, and I thought it was moving so I decided to post it. Of course I am – as I noted in my post on Dear Ra – very interested in the epistolary form.]

Dear Johannes,

I’ve been spurred by the moment to send you this note, though this moment could also have been any moment in the past two years. I’m a college student, but more importantly, a very frequent flyer over Montevidayo. You and Joyelle and everyone are teachers I learn from everyday and I cannot separate myself now from your one little URL.

I don’t remember what happened. First I found myself in Joyelle’s Loser Occult. “Outside the campus bookstore a few weeks ago, I glimpsed a white minivan with a green bumper sticker reading ‘I miss Ronald Reagen’ in big goopy white Snoopy toothpaste font.” She would soon incant, “the borders of the text fray away,” and I realized suddenly where I was standing: Notre Dame, somewhere between the alumni association center and the guard gate leading me out of the parking lot, into the graveyard. I did a little research on the spot to puzzle out that Joyelle and you, indeed, both live in South Bend, and work at the university. Somehow I had returned — I myself was born in South Bend, and probably at some point already died there. But I did live there for 18 years, with my mother in a house across from ‘White Field’ parking lot, just behind the new golf course. In fact neither of those ‘landmarks’ existed for the majority of those years; my time growing up in that neighborhood is marked out for me by the slow compression of space the university pressured. I left for college to lift up. I can’t be blamed for needing a lift. But when I became a member of the loser occult and began reading Montevidayo, I saw everywhere only signs of the city I left. But its value — transformed. I recognize my luck having been born against a necropastoral, learning to drive in a quarantined parking lot, or seeing my cardboard trash repossessed by men carrying print-outs of protesting dead babies, or visiting my schizophrenic aunt as she hosted salons at Kinko’s. I had always thought my past life produced a sense. I understand now how it only destroyed me.
(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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Another kind of surrealism, another kind of sincerity: Susan Schultz on Kim Hyesoon

by on Jun.13, 2012

Susan Schultz has an interesting, insightful article up on the Jacket web site about Korean poet Kim Hyesoon, a poet I think is among the essential, most important living poets:

Among recent notices on my Facebook feed was one for the new issue of Big Bridge, in particular a feature on “Neo-surrealism,” edited by Adam Cornford. Cornford’s expansive introduction to the feature, which looks back to the history of surrealism and forward to his selection of living poets, includes this definition of his subject: “What defines a Surrealist poetry today, then, is what has defined it from the outset . . . Surrealist poetry can only be ‘a cry of the mind determined to break apart its fetters.’ It must contribute, intentionally or otherwise, to the liberation of the mind ‘and all that resembles it.’” I’m not here to argue against the mind’s liberation, rather to suggest that newer forms of surrealism can be used effectively to record what occurs before the imagined line break in Cornford’s phrase, “the mind determined to break apart / its fetters.” The breaking apart of a mind, most familiar to me as a product (or anti-product) of dementia and Alzheimer’s, can be tracked through what I’ve elsewhere called “documentary surrealism.”

“Documentary” invokes of course the “documentary poetics” that has been popular over the past few years, but I think “document” is more important in this case (after all stylistically Kim is as far from “documentary poetics” as possible, loaded with feverish vision, kitschy metaphors and beautiful, startling images).

Here are some meaning of “Document” from

1. a written or printed paper furnishing information or evidence, as a passport, deed, bill of sale, or bill of lading; a legal or official paper.
2.any written item, as a book, article, or letter, especially of a factual or informative nature.
3.a computer data file.
4.Archaic . evidence; proof.

I think one key to reading Kim’s work is as engaging with “writing” and “media.” Joyelle coined the phrase “body possessed by media” to describe the artwork of Kim’s daughter, Fi-Jae Lee, but it’s also an apt description of Kim’s poetry (as I’ve described it before on this site):

(continue reading…)

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The Gurlesque Deformation Zone: Kim Hyesoon, Maria Margarete Österholm

by on Apr.30, 2012

I’d like to say that I’ve been working on the gurlesque for ten years now – in essays, in my own writing, and in this dissertation. But I hadn’t heard the term until recently. A big girl of flesh, a Baby Wonder, stepped out of the closet and received a name.

(Maria Margareta Österholm, dissertation on “the gurlesque”)

It seems a lot of US discussions about translation get stuck between strategies of domestication (rendering foreign poets into US poets, erasing the process of translation) and foreignizing (emphasizing the foreign-ness of the translated text). I have a problem with both of these models: the first because it tends to lead to the kind of translations that wash out difference, and the second because it keeps the translated text in a kind of quarantine, as if we can’t truly be engaged by a foreign text, as if the foreign text might contaminate (it’s exotic! We don’t have the proper contexts! We’re “appropriating”!). The end result of both seems to be to maintain an idea of US literature, of US literary lineage, and of a certain idea of the text as self-contained.

For example, although I thought it was a really fine close reading of Kim Hyesoon’s All the Garbage of the World, Unite! (and I’m very interested in a lot of the things she talks about in it), I couldn’t help but find in Sueyeun Juliette Lee’s reveiw a strangely striational urge to emphasize that Kim Hyesoon is not an American poet:

Though there are incredible transformations in Kim’s poetry, I found it to be nothing like the neo-American-surrealism that is so popular among mainstream-ing contemporary work. And whether we are attuned to it or not, there are terrifically resonant historical sub-terrains in this mode of writing. There are genuine, deeply dire consequences to the transactions Kim describes in her engagements with the world. She is not trying to be trendy—she is trying to live.

In many ways this quote re-states the rhetoric of Carolyn Forche’s seminal anthology “Against Forgetting,” where she basically makes the point that European poets could write Surrealist poetry because their world had been so overwhelmed by suffering and war, implying that it would be immoral for US poets to be influenced by them (though she herself clearly was in The Angel of History). Here, US poets are merely “trendy” if they write like Kim, while she is “trying to live.” They would be hipsters, people whose lives are ruled by art, style, not necessity, not real “life.” (They’re passing, they’re drag queens, they’re counterfeits, they’re artifice, they traffic in exoticism and kitsch.)
(continue reading…)

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Leertext & disorientation

by on Feb.22, 2012

In a class I’m auditing on translating theory, we recently read a Celan poem called The Shofar Place together. The German title of the poem is Die Posaunenstelle, which more literally means The Trombone Place. Someone in class was reminded of the Book of Revelations, particularly the sectioned entitled The Last Trumpet. Trombones are not trumpets, so I am not sure why the link was made (probably because this person thinks about the Bible a lot), but its translation by John Felstiner actually connects it to the shofar:


A ram’s-horn trumpet used by Jews in religious ceremonies and as an ancient battle signal.

The trombone becomes a trumpet becomes a shofar, the horn of a dead animal, in the interstice of translation.


Here is the poem in english:


Deep in the glowing
at torch height,
in the timehole:

hear deep in
with your mouth.

* (continue reading…)

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"The field– it's covered in blood!"– 'Watership Down', 'a world of difference' and the Necropastoral

by on Jan.27, 2012


[[UPDATE: I’m certain there is an occult link between Watership Down and the ‘Bunny House’ sign in the ‘Food Now’ fake protest performance in Dan’s post just below. I think these two ‘training exercises’ are actually one continuous decades long training exercise.]]

Montevidayans, I’ve recently been musing on the feverdream that was the movie, ‘Watership Down’. This trailer pretty much sums it up as I remember it. Except in my memory, ‘heroic bravery’ is completely outweighed by violence, tyranny, and the excellently mis-matched evil eyes of the bad rabbit. And what the narrator calls ‘a world of difference’.  I’m going to rewatch this film and write more, but for now, here’s the trailer. Anyone else remember this nasty bit of film?



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Zurita and Ecology: Leonard Schwartz and Joyelle McSweeney

by on Jan.24, 2012

[I thought this article relates to the discussion we are having in the “gaudy” discussion thread below:]


…Grace of its linguistic and visionary commitment, its capacity to imagine what is perforce outside experience, Zurita has written a poetry that surpasses what a more politically committed poetry could have achieved. Zurita’s poems might be figured as an eco-poetry in which the space between nature and history is closed up, once we realize that the work reimagines the entirety of the ocean in such a way as to include those thrown from planes into that ocean. And reimagines the mountains in such a way as to include the Disappeared thrown from planes into their snows until one can only speak of those mountains as containing those people. And renders the desert no longer conceivable except if the voices and the deaths in the desert are made a part of that desert. It was Camille Dungy, the editor of the anthology Black Nature: Four Centuries of African-American Nature Poetry who pointed out in her CCP appearance (#221) that the poets in her book do not necessarily view a tree as simply a tree, since it might also be the case that someone was lynched from that particular tree; they do not look at an agricultural site as an idyl, since one’s ancestors might have worked that land in slavery. Indeed, only certain privileged, bourgeois perspectives can divorce “nature” from “history” in order to yield a “nature poetry” that refreshes us in its aftermath. I have argued that to view Nature apart from other discourses and entities (like language for example) is analogous to the pornographic (without taking any position pro or con on pornography), where one function (Nature) is fetishized and isolated from other functions and possibilities (as sex is in pornography). By contrast to a nature poetry, an eco-poetics seeks out complicated interrelationships between multiple modes of the sensual. Zurita’s is one of the great poetries to overcome the artificiality of the nature/history distinction, to give us the Tree and the invisible histories enacted in and around the Tree, as Dungy calls for.

The view Schwartz take of Zurita shows its relationship to the “necropastoral” (as opposed to “Nature Poetry” or “Political Poetry”, never mind that he uses the “porn” trope that I so dislike.), which Kent suggested was incompatible in the comments below the “gaudy” post.

Here’s an excerpt from Joyelle’s piece about Zurita and the necropastoral:

Pinochet’s military converted the very landscape into a mass grave, dropping bodies from airplanes into the mountains and oceans, so that they became, in the words of Zurita’s song, “stuck, stuck to the rocks, to the sea and the mountains/stuck, stuck to the rocks, to the sea and the mountains.” This kernel of assemblage is repeated in all the micro and macro structures of Zurita’s visionary landscape, which saturates and resaturates Pinochet’s landscape (continue reading…)

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Joyelle will discuss apocalyptic art with China Mieville and Evan Calder Williams

by on Jan.14, 2012

at Warwick University in the UK next week. If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by and participate in the symposium on “salvage punk.” Here’s the info.

Joyelle will give a great talk that involves Rihanna, Aase Berg, Kim Hyesoon and PJ Harvey, as well as a talk more specifically about the idea of the necropastoral and a reading.

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