On Bei Dao's _The Answer_: A Necropastoral Political Interlude

by on Oct.20, 2011

Rodchenko's illustration for Mayakovsky's About This

Dudes, I just never get tired of Bei Dao. Never. And I never get tired of ‘Huida’ (‘The Answer’), even if this is his most famous poem, the one they chanted at Tiananmen, an Art-influence that forced him into exile. The official Poetry Foundation translation is here but I like this translation from Maya Kovskaya’s (dead?) trilingual blog, ‘About This’ (A Mayakovsky Reference?! ), below.

In this poem, the abyme/  mise-en-abyme stretches not downwards into hell but is inverted upwards into the sky, where ‘inverted crooked reflections of the dead’ form a kind of anachronistic hieroglyphic, and where the future is inseparable from the past, pictographs and staring eyes– the future seems hungry with its ‘staring eyes’, ready to feed on the present– but it also seems already dead, all eyes, staring like concentration camp victims, already harmed, ready to form a supermortal undead army with the past. Meanwhile our speaker rejects rationalism, truisims, conventional frames for marking reality as reality and invites bitter water– poisoned water, sewage wormwood, apocalyptic water– to flow into him. The present will have to be eaten away, degraded, eroded for the two ghost armies to converge.

Although the ultimate vision of this poem may be positive, allowing for new summits and a kind of future, I see it as a future where that summit will be worn down by the ocean, a kind of innundation,a necropastoralic amphibian floodplain through which ghost species walk.

Here’s the poem:  (continue reading…)

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"Showbiz", Zurita, Drugs, and Conviviality: Some Thoughts on Brooks Johnson's Poetry Foundation Actions

by on Oct.02, 2011

It seems that the one thing that a lot of the commentators/actors in the thread about Brooks Johnson’s protests at the Poetry Foundation agree about is that the ensuing discussion is “stupid,” I think there’s been quite a bit of insightful things said (if sometimes unconsciously), suggesting that whatever the action accomplished or what it entailed (there seems to be quite a bit of disagreement about that), it did succeed in tapping into a “nerve” among poetry readers and writers.

Therefore the protest was a success on some level: it stirred up some discussion about the poetry foundation, it caused some people to write to the foundation and ask for it to drop its charges against Stephanie Dunn..

One might also say that it succeeded in making the poetry foundation into a stage; in theatricalizing the Poetry Foundation; in making Art out of space that is used to limit art to a conventional idea of poet. In so doing, it seems they created something exciting and interesting – if befuddling to many. (But then isn’t Art something that befuddles, disrupts common sense?)

I think we can see the protest in terms of Lucas’s posts about Zurita and “conviviality”: that in getting drunk and naked, Stephanie Dunn created a kind of convivial vulnerability, a wound in the poetry foundation that perhaps echoed Zurita’s own practice of pouring acid in his own face:
(continue reading…)

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Necropastoral Translations: Exoticism, Illegitimate Meetings, Blacked-Out Spaces

by on Sep.29, 2011

It seems that the most interesting stuff being written about translation right now (Joyelle McSweeney, Don Mee Choi, Christian Hawkey) are all suggesting a more mobile idea not just of translations but of all of literature: something more like an illegitimate “meeting” in a zone of art, a zone one might call a necropastoral, or a crypt, or a translation zone, or Art.

Here’s Joyelle on the Necropastoral meetings:

A key factor of the necropastoral for me is not just the way it manifests the infectiousness, anxiety, and contagion occultly present in the hygienic borders of the classical pastoral— ie the most celebrity resident of Arcadia is Death—but also its activity, its networking, its paradoxical proliferation, its self-digestive activity, its eructations, its necroticness, its hunger and its hole making, which configures a burgeoning textual tissue defined by holes, a tissue thus as absent as it is present, and therefore not absent, not present—protoplasmic, spectral. In the next couple posts I want to look at three phenomena: Wilfred Owen’s War Poetry, Christian Hawkey’s Ventrakl, and WikiLeaks– to try to think about how the necropastoral stages networks and ‘strange meetings’.
(continue reading…)

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Violent Accessories, Counterfeit Lineages and "Occult Glamour"

by on Jun.28, 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot about kitsch and Alexander McQueen and fashion and Daniel Tiffany’s essays about kitsch. I don’t have any definite conclusions, but I think in these thoughts I am actually thinking about something like lineage and influence – only counterfeit lineages, translated lineages, artificial influences – so I’m going to write a few posts about poetry of “excessive beauty” and “occult glamour,” and I hope that they will tie into both our recent discussions about “the avant-garde” – most importantly the rejection of a contemporary idea of the avant-garde as linear, “rigorous” and high art – and Joyelle’s idea of an anachronistic lineage, a contaminated idea of influence, as well as my recent discussion of kitsch and Daniel Tiffany’s ideas of kitsch. Hopefully in the end we’ll end up with a “kitsched” idea of lineage, of the avant-garde, of poetry.

Some of the works and topics I will broach include Alexander McQueen, Aase Berg’s Dark Matter, Peter Richards’ Helsinki, China Mieville, Dada and Surrealism (“dream kitsch”) and Science Fiction (also “dream kitsch”?). In other words, artworks that have “influenced” me in some ways.
(continue reading…)

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Telex from Solaris #2: Telex from Kyle Minor

by on Jun.18, 2011

Solaris will be your mirror

What’s great about his write-up is not just that it’s personally gratifying to have someone spend so much time thinking about your work, but that he pulls in so many great associations and makes me want to read and write even more. It makes me want to read and write the whole Internet! Hooray  for Art’s contagion, its amplification, its mutations!

Over and out.

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Contamination (8): Camille Rose Garcia, Kim Hyesoon and the Super-Saturation of the Girl

by on Jun.10, 2011

I wrote a piece for the web journal Burnaway about Camille Rose Garcia


(continue reading…)

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

by on May.20, 2011

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

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

…. I was difflong list erent    I was

anybody else    I was    terrific    I also drunken too    I was

insolete    I was obtained    I was original copy    I was

insistant    who am signa     I   ture    I was also indifferent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Josh Corey on Necropastoral, Timothy Morton and Ecological Writing

by on May.19, 2011

Josh Corey has an interesting response to the essay Timothy Morton left a link to on this blog a while back (I’ve been reading it and hopefully I’ll gather up some thoughts as well), dividing provisionally American poets into relational and uncanny writers:

He presents the choice starkly: “Here’s the deal: do you want a detailed advertorial, a network dense with relations? Or do you need a shocking encounter with an alien entity, opaque yet vivid, illusory yet real, already there?”
(continue reading…)

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Question of the Day: What is Taste? (Or, does it matter where the fashion victim bought her plastic?)

by on May.05, 2011

Question of the day: What is taste? Please answer in the comments field!

I’ve been writing a lot about “taste” it seems; how I’m against it and all that. In the comment to my last post about the Poetry Foundation, Steve Burt writes that he believes in “personal taste.” That concept is very popular in poetry discussions, the idea that we all have our “personal tastes.” And I am sure I have said similar things on this blog.

However, I feel dissatisfied with this concept – both “taste” and “personal”. It seems to me too invested in an idea of personal agency and original essence and interiority – as if we all have this individual taste with which we then approach the shopping mall of poetry (where everything is free).
(continue reading…)

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Publishers On Genre, Specimen One: Spork Press [Part 1]

by on May.03, 2011

Our first specimen is Spork Press.

Spork published a collection of my essays and poems last month in this unbelievably awesome, cheap, and covetable edition, with Eazy-E endpapers!

Motto: Spork Press. Not Dead. Not Sleeping.
Where: Tuscon, Tucson, AZ

What: A fantastic mixed-media and mixed-genre press, Spork makes chapbooks from a collection of down beat materials such as cardboard and scavanged dye, combining punk, recycled aesthetic with high-art processes such as engraving.

3/5 of Spork editors (namely Drew Burk, Jamison Crabtree, and Jake Levine) answered our survey. Answers below.

1)To what degree is your press a host for new genres? What new genres?

Drew Burk: I don’t know that I understand or appreciate the idea of genre enough or in the right way to think that we’re working in or with any genres. We have words on paper, mostly going in a direction, and they sometimes come in one shape, and at other times in other shapes. I’m uncertain whether to attempt to say that any one thing we’ve done functions in any genre. I can say that there’s a wealth of genres expressed in any one piece, but that seems to me to defeat the idea of genre. It seems to lose its usefulness as an identifier when multiple identifiers are needed to attempt to communicate a nonmultiple idea. (continue reading…)

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Fear and Love in Criticism (pt 3): More on "accessibility"

by on Apr.25, 2011

Sandra Simonds wrote me the following on Facebook in response to this discussion:

“This is interesting. First, I should say that David directed my dissertation and I do consider him a friend.I don’t think he’s anti-intellectual, but I do think that he’s approaching poetry from a different tradition. He has claimed that poetry should be able to be understood by a 10 year old (meaning, I assume, that of a poem isn’t understood by someone so young, it’s failing on some level). As you can imagine, I strongly disagree with this idea. That said, I think that he is an advocate of a poem being transparent–like what you see is what you get. At the same time, however, he seems to want for a poem to retain a certain space that is sort of off limits to critical interpretation. I’m thinking that what’s going on here is a sort of Romantic view of poetry (I’m thinking of Wordsworth here…”we murder to dissect” etc). I think that most people would agree that there is some part of a good poem that *resists* interpretation (at least this might be the experimental poet’s interpretation). On a personal note, David’s a lovely person who is fully committed to mentoring younger poets, even those poets (like me) who are writing very different kinds of poems.”
(continue reading…)

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Mother Substance

by on Apr.12, 2011

Joyelle’s postabout the Sublime as Deformation Zone, (along with lots of what’s been going on here lately, e.g. necropastoral, ambient shame, etc) really resonates with my current project, which revolves around—& constellates from—the nonsteroidal synthetic estrogen Diethylstilbestrol (DES) that was prescribed to pregnant women through the mid-1970s under the false presumption that it would reduce the risk of miscarriage (not to mention “render normal gestation even more normal” and “make healthy babies even healthier.”)

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.

Permission granted by the Apothecaries Society: Photo courtesy of Caitlin McCarthy.

Permission granted by the Apothecaries Society: Photo courtesy of Caitlin McCarthy.

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.

a DES uterus

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?

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Garbage In/Garbage In the Necropastoral: On the Road to Kimp'o Landfill: Kim Hyesoon & Camile Rose Garcia & Césaire

by on Apr.06, 2011

The remains of an albatross chick whose mother fed it plastic plucked from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Camille Rose Garcia's Sleepwitch. It uncannily mimicks the decomposed form of the dead chick, while also presenting a system which cannot cleanse itself of toxins but recycles them as counterfeit-nutrients, a distributive system which spreads poison, poison which then saturates the picture plane, creates the visual rhythm; to 'take in' the picture, the eye follows the poison; vision is bio-identical to poison

The Road to Kimp’o Landfill
by Kim Hyesoon, trans. by Don Mee Choi

Cut my hair short again
I don’t want to pull out
the names etched onto my hair that grows daily
As rain fell, garbage bins from the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floor
must have been turned upside down
Hair fell profusely
I kissed in a place where garbage came down like rain
I kissed where I vomited all night long
Every time I sang, vomit flew in[…]

I have long been obsessed by this poem by Kim Hyesoon, translated by Don Mee Choi, and its necropastoral ecologies/economies, here turned on the vertical plane of an urban highrise where garbage falls from the upper stories ‘as rain fell’, falls like and as rain via rain’s distribution system, takes the symbolic vector of rain. Intuitively, the verticality of the apartment building strikes me as an esophagus or digestive tract, catching all this falling hair and garbage and rain and vomiting it back up and out; the speaker is one more micro-organism in the gut of this building, absorbing and releasing toxins. The speaker’s hair is etched with what she ingests. She wants to cut it off of her, cut herself off from its memorial function,refuse to be a memorial register– but more and more of hair/garbage falls as rain from the sky. No hole can be left, no absence not immediately re-filled ‘profusely’. There is a scarcity of nutrients, but plenty to eat. Garbage is what is the case. Garbage in/Garbage in to the urban ecosystem, the global ecosystem, the body. So it is with Camille Rose Garcia’s paintings; see image and caption, above. (continue reading…)

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