"I Play with Death": The Gothic Prose Poetry of Negroni, Di Giorgio, Berg and McSweeney

by on Jun.21, 2013

It’s interesting to hear again and again various people complain that poetry is dead or take credit for finally killing off poetry, or try to defend poetry, try to revive it (or do all of these things as once, as the Conceptualists). Capitalism killed poetry a long time ago, just as it is killing us. Poetry is a plague ground, and we are its bugs. Colorful bugs that make a crackling sound when you step on them.

Most poets out there it seems want to be “innovative” and “experimental.” They want to be the future, to be progressive, to lead the way to a robust future by teaching themselves “critical thinking,” “critical distance.” They want to demystify, reveal, uncover, subvert. They think they can critique themselves out of this slaughterhouse. They want to be strong and rigorous like Ron Silliman, not “soft” or “candy” or kitsch or decadent.

Too bad, because that’s where poetry’s at. We’ve always worn the shitty ghost costumes and the glow-in-the-dark vampire teeth.
It’s also not unreasonable that so many poets these days seem to want to distance themselves from violence and ornaments. Afterall we have drones and torture. So it’s nice to think of the artwork as “democratic” – the reader and the writer make it together, instead of like the governments and CEOs that act alone and dictatorially.

But art is inextricably bound up in violence.
It does violence to the reader and the reader does violence to the text.

So it both is and is not a paradox that a bunch of books and texts that have come out recently that have revived that now-fairly-dull genre of the PROSE POEM not by unmasking the art, by becoming anaesthetic, but precisely by becoming decadent, theatrical, pathologically manneristic, extravagantly 19TH CENTURY – as in Baudelaire and Poe, Lautremont and Rimbaud – and, yes, more GOTHIC.
(continue reading…)

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SOLUBLE PERSONHOOD: On (and In) Julian Assange, Leslie Scalapino, and Lucas De Lima

by on Jun.14, 2013


A few weeks ago I wrote a play called “Dead Youth, or, the Leaks”, which is basically a knifed-up (in/per)version of The Tempest. It features characters that may or may not be Julian Assange, Henrietta Lacks, teenage Somalian ‘pirate’ Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, and a female Antoine de Saint-Exupery, all  adrift on a hijacked container ship, pulled toward Magnetic Island by mysterious currents of dark energy. But as I imagine my play, the critical factors of identity-stabilization—gender, race, aliveness or deadness, whether one is in fact a ‘real person’—are all soluble. In fact the titular character, Dead Youth, is elastically posthumous, multinational, decomposing, erotic,  multibodied, plural.

In thinking about my play, the phrase ‘soluble personhood’ came to mind… I realized that I was thinking about the possibility that what we normally demarcate as a ‘person’ might be in fact be less securely bounded. That rather than a homeland security of the self,  there might be a soluble personhood—a black-lit spectrum of ways in which one supposed ‘person’ might occupy another’s literal and spectral space, become imbricated, a coefficient, a parasite or a saint… On the most conventionally acceptable ethical pole this might be called ‘empathy’, on the most conventionally unacceptable a kind of possession or military/imperial occupation. I have been thinking about this as a model for thinking about both living in the world and the act of writing, the radical act of co-identification that is not always benign, benevolent, ethical, but which radically re-situates the space of ‘event’  in an occult, contradictory, irreal “dark” space… dark in the physics sense of that term…a site we don’t have the coordinates of, an anticause which might issue radical effects…

For me there is an (imperfect, and therefore energy-shedding) analogy for this somewhere in the matter of privacy vs secrecy as it pertains to leaks and drones. The drone is the supposed non-cause which only has effects. It moves around the planet like a leak, and then, like a dream deferred, it explodes.  Only once it has its effect is it deduced as a cause. Relatedly, the TOR-encryption system utilized by Manning and Assange is an elaborate strategy of movement and envelopment. Importantly, the encryption doesn’t encrypt the ‘secret content’ of the leak; instead, the successive onion-like layers of encryption wrap around the content and direct how the content is moved around the Internet through so many nodes and portals that its journey can’t be recreated to find the source of the leak.( Indeed, the very verb hidden in the noun ‘leak’ gestures towards this shadowy/shameful/obscene action, this movement.)

TOR-encryption is interesting to me because the content of the message is of no interest to the hackers that built this system; only the motion is, the jackets of code that distend and obscure the event of transmission and make it irreal; then, once it arrives, it lyses its content, sheds effects so, so real that it’s reality-changing. Analogously, the much vaunted territory of ‘interiority’, so important to conventional personhood and its handmaiden, literature, becomes chimerical when reconceived from a framework of solubility. One idea, one body, one gender, one ethnicity, one language contains another, another which may also be, a la Heisenberg, a nothing, until it can’t survive it anymore.

I realize one keystone for my thinking about soluble personhood is Leslie Scalapino’s Dahlia’s Iris: Secret Autobiography + Fiction¸the over-nomination of the title accurately forecasting the oversaturation of the book itself with genres, persons, plots.  A lot goes on in this busy brain of a book, including a detective plot, but I was stopped in my tracks by what happens on page 27 when the reader is suddenly given some irreal information about one of the protagonists, the Detective Grace Abe:

Grace had changed. Four years earlier a meeting of occurrences had precipitated, or suddenly there was a man who had been a marine dead who was in her. She would be running out, it would be him running. But she would never leave her body or her own mind when he was there.  He’d been Special Forces, an assassin when he was alive; she hadn’t known him but she would feel the presence of his activities, ‘ghosts of actions she had done’ which were apparently his, or hers. Though she hadn’t acted (when he had killed someone, before entering her).

First addicted to Ibogaine, a drug used by Indian hunters, causing illness of vomiting followed by elation and an utter lucidity in hunting, she’d spiraled with the marine being there erratically. Then addicted to a Peruvian drug derived from frogs, the secretion applied to burn marks on one’s chest or arms […] She changed. The marine who really was a particular unknown person, did not return.

Yet there were still flickers as if she’d known people before, whom she was now seeing. […]


As in the entire oeuvre of Alice Notley, here one figure is a medium for the dead but the effect is neither consistently revelatory nor tolerable, neither stable nor totally eradicable. Is Grace ‘hosting’ the marine or at war with him? She does violence to her ‘self’ in an effort to burn him out, or maybe in an effort to mimic his own drug addictions or chemical warfare in Vietnam. Thus she might be most fully ‘embodying’ the marine and accepting his occupation when she is mimicking him and using her own body to stage the event of violence against him. Scalapino’s typically charming and frustrating prose flickers across the lines, the graceful comma or the unexpected ‘or’ often doing the linking of two quite disparate or unbearable thoughts. “She would be running out, it would be him running.” As this sentence suggests, solubility and fluidity is not a lovely thing; one entity is drained, another filled, both poisoned, both killed. Everything is adulterated. Although the ‘marine’ supposedly does not return, he does somehow return as after-effects, irreal re-cognitions.

And yet, I find this passage incredibly liberating; I feel a self-re-cognition everytime I re-turn to it. This is what it feels like to be in the world, to be a figure at once perpetrating an occupation and suffering one, to be bearing in one’s ‘self’ the virtual violence of everyplace. What I buy, eat, wear, use is a violence on myself and others.  I cannot think of exceptions. Meanwhile I host a radical array of others, of ideas, images, griefs, fantasies, disappointments, which seem to occupy the part of ‘me’ that other people think of as their ‘selves’. So I’m carrying all this violence around, doing it to my ‘self’, all the time. I wish I didn’t have a self and could just be passed out in the puddle like Narcissus. It’s debriding and decomposing and sad this solubility, but sometimes often spectacular, a drug. I think of Lucas De Lima’s lucidly surreal elegy on the death of his friend, Ana Maria, by alligator attack, an irreal project of solubility which requires of occupation of the poet-space by many spectral and real and irreal bodies and species. Lucas enfigures this co-habitation when he writes:

My beak returns to Ana Maria’s throat. Feeding.

On cloudy nights when she dies again I have to perform such dives—



It is not a hacker we pursue

Or a wireless connection to bathe in

We want a waterfall in the Space we digitize together

I maximize windows when Ana Maria throws a seed at me

Keep MySpace blank for her


This occupation may be a consensual one on the part of the poet but it is a painful one, a grief-engorged one, an intolerable one, an unsurvivable one, as one death is transferred into the body of another, what Lucas might call ‘conviviality’, or I might call co-morbidity. We might call solubility a survival strategy for life in the Anthropocene if survival itself weren’t such a debatable goal, and if we weren’t already dead.


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West Memphis, Witch Hunters, and the Cult of the Violent Femme

by on Mar.24, 2013

Rather than rehashing issues of exculpatory evidence and procedural travesties in the still-unsolved triple-child-homicide and triple-wrongful-conviction that is the case of of West Memphis Three Six, Joyelle’s and Johannes’s recent essays chart some interesting new territory — see “Metallica, The West Memphis Three, and the Narcissism of the Law” and “‘Paradise Lost’: Violent Femmes, Hysterical Masculinity and the Threat of Art (pt 1).” In a future post, I’d like to engage Joyelle’s observations — specifically “Art’s occult movements, its paradoxically linked power and obscurity,” and the ability of Narrative to “exercise a ‘real’ force” not only on the historical record but on the bodies of its “characters” — via an examination of the power of Magic(k)al Narratives, in the absence of inculpatory evidence, to secure from spell-bound juries what Marianne Moore might have called “real convictions for imaginary crimes.”[1] The following touches on those ideas, but only in my attempt to discuss the “strange sexuality” that Johannes sees in the West Memphis case, as well his notion of “the threat of Violent Femme,” both of which I examine in the context of the imagined sexual violence in the case as well as Prosecutors’ (conjoined-) twin obsessions with inversions of religious rites and perversions of sexuality — obsessions that are by no means limited to the not-so-metaphorical witch trial in West Memphis, of course, but that enjoy a history of at least a couple thousand years even in the narrow context of persecution / prosecution.

I should also note that Joyelle and Johannes both tend to write from the perspective of discussing Art / Literature, while I am presently doomed to see everything in terms of the plodding banality of crime; the only Art I discuss anymore, or so it seems, being the aforementioned Prosecutorial Magic, and the only “literature” the most depressing collection of nonfiction tomes on crime, particularly sex crimes, as well as (or, rather, including) our species’ long history of persecuting those among us whom we believe are “beyond redemption,” etc.


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Mother Death in the Narco-War: Violeta Luna’s “Requiem for a Lost Land”

by on Feb.21, 2013

On her website, Violeta Luna offers the following description of her arresting performance piece “Requiem for a Lost Land”:

Requiem is a performative intervention by way of ritual, to remember the killings committed in the “war on drugs” initiative from the central government in Mexico.

The bilingual title makes reference to the bi-national reality of the “war against drugs.” Requiem is an attempt, from the space of performance art, to open with a coroner’s knife the very same discourse of death broadcasted by those in power under the guise of “national security.” Inside its rotten entrails, we re-discover the daily suffering of the common citizen, the most affected by a vicious and pathological decision of the state that has nothing to do with his or her well-being, and much to do with some of the darker designs of power that Mexico has seen in its history, with unconditional support from the US.

Through Luna’s ritual, a kind of Mother Death emerges as a simultaneously contemporary, prophetic, and ancestral figure:  her head leaks the blood of narco-victims (estimated to number from 60,000-100,000) so that the fluid becomes her own, the motherland’s, and Mother Earth’s.  In the performance I saw at the Hemispheric Institute’s Encuentro, Luna even distributed soil to audience members.  Much in the same way that Raúl Zurita’s poem continues to be scrawled into the Atacama desert by villagers, the audience spread the soil within the piece’s cocaine border in what amounted to an ongoing, ever-repeating burial rite performed on contaminated, militarized land.   (continue reading…)

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Art's Materialism: A Letter to the Mulleavey Sisters (Rodarte)

by on Feb.12, 2013

Dear Kate and Laura Mulleavy,

When you speak, I can’t tell whether you are talking about yourself or your clothes. Are you the weird girls or are your clothes about weird girls from horror movies. Do the shoes bind up the collection, or do they bind up the body of the models? Is the hair-covered face your own hair-covered face, or is it the children of Japanese horror. Are you interested in their eyes or the hair? This show should take place in a velvet underground, or did you sell all the records to buy fabric?

It’s not that I want to find the answer to these questions. I’m inspired by the way your statements seem to function like and-also: tying together contradictions. Mohair-surrealism. Or rather introducing time into an image: first she has eyes then they are covered with hair. You go into the kitchen to get some sugar. There’s sugar on my lips and in my eyes.

Art animates the body, so it’s no wonder, the animated corpse is the most poetical topic in the world. It’s no wonder the clothes are the “pure” red of blood, as if the body was already in the same realm as art, as if it consisted of an “organic matter” like hair. Or slashed fabric. Or things that looked like they could be debris. But might be mohair or hair-hair. Or hare-hair.

It’s like Teemu’s observation about Cark Ashton Smith’s “literal-minded,” “nearsighted” “misreadings” of 19th Century French poetry: the literalizing translation. Thinking Baudelaire’s fabric. You say it’s the “idea of the color red…. the idea of blood-soaked cloth… a real pure color red.” The scandal of art is the scandal of an idea that is a color. The infamous “Piss Christ” (by Andres Serrano) is suspended in that sugary yellowish color. Color as an idea. Sugar as method.

In Wojnarowicz’s “Fire in my Belly,” the ants crawl over Christ’s body, searing its orifices for sugar to bring back to the nest, to make honey in the dry Mexican earth. The sugar asks us to consume Jesus’s body in an extreme form of worship: art’s transubstantiation, art’s “misreading.” It asks us to look at his beautiful body. Look at him. He is made of art. I am made in a video.

I am the passenger.
I ride and I ride through the streets of Los Angeles.
I look out the window and what do I see?
A city saturated with sugar.
A Jesus with pearls on his body.
A Juarez where women wait for the busy at night
with lipstick smeared on their lips and tar
streaking their cheeks.
(continue reading…)

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Occult Influences: Yi-Sang and Haute Surveillance

by on Feb.08, 2013

As most readers of this meager blog probably know, I have a book coming out this spring called Haute Surveillance. It’s kind of a novel-poem. Or something like that. I tried to write a murder mystery but it turned into more like the memoir of a man imprisoned in the shining mansion on the hill, having been brought there by Reagan and/or a guy in a Reagan rubber mask.


At one party someone made a doll of me. It was a scratch-doll. It was a charged body. There were a lot of tasers at the party. We were partying on media. Now, a child said. Blue, a child said. Now now now. a child said. I knew she must mean me.
I am supposed to build a barn in order to burn down with the pigs inside. I mean the garble-garble inside. Which belongs to the radio on account of the bite.
This is a rampant state. Everybody wants me to leave now because I failed them. Or because the Black Man is no longer coming for me, I have lost my celebrity status.


The artwork on the cover of the book is by Fi-Jae Lee, about whom my wife have written many brilliant and intellectually flamboyant posts. It’s an homage to the Korean poet Yi-Sang, “the Rimbaud of Korean literature” who died in a Japanese prison camp at the age of 27. Before that, though, he seems to have been a wonderful dandy. According to Kim Hyesoon, he used to operate several cafes around Seoul, including one where the overturned furniture made it hard to even get in the door, much less sit down. According to KH, he wore all white.


I put it on the cover because I feel this book (and for that matter, The Sugar Book, my next book) is in close, almost occult dialogue with Yi Sang and his white-clad corpse.

Here are some some excerpts from poems in Three Poets of Modern Korea (trans.by Yu Jung-yul and James Kimbrell) (BTW everyone should buy this book ASAP):

The toy bride might come back, remembering the rich landscape of noon. She is warm like the notepad in my bosom. The scent of her is all that comes close to me. I waste away.

If I give a needle to the toy bride, she will pierce some random objects thoughtlessly. Calendar, book of poems, pocket watch. And the place in my body where the past perches most closely.
This is proof that thorns rise in the mind of the toy bride. That is, like a rose…

13 children rush down a street.
(A dead-end alley will suffice.)
(continue reading…)

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In Defense of Extreme Difference: Some Thoughts on Peripheries, Cannibalism, La Pocha Nostra, and the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics’ 8th Encuentro

by on Jan.28, 2013

Last week I had the privilege of attending an artistic/activist/academic conference I didn’t know could exist in the hyper-fragmented world we live in.  Unlike most conferences I’ve attended, the Hemispheric Institute’s eight-day smorgasbord here in São Paulo invigorated as much as it exhausted me.  Beyond lectures and roundtables, the conference also offered teach-ins and work groups in addition to the intense schedule of the performances themselves.  Actually, in my work group we even created our own performances.  For me the conference was an experience in “extreme culture”—a term used by Guillermo Gómez-Peña, one of the artists who epitomizes the border-defying, periphery-prizing spirit of the Hemi (as it is affectionately called).  I think poets of the Montevidayan variety, in particular, stake a claim in the extremities and peripheries being celebrated at the Hemi Encuentro.  It’s one of those art spaces where people constantly use the word “poetics” without ever mentioning poets or poetry.

Maybe &Now would be US poetry’s equivalent to the Hemi Encuentro, except without what I consider to be one of the latter’s extreme aspects:  its ambitiously politicized continental scope, as reflected in how much the event tends to provincialize the US.  While the talks were translated from or into Portuguese, Spanish, and English, the performances conducted in Portuguese or Spanish were left untranslated.  My work group, where I talked about horse bestiality as an expression of gender, was in Portuguese.  This marginalization of the lingua franca, I think, partly reflects a commitment to countering US-American hegemony.  People at the conference were very conscious about the imposition of the term “performance” as a US-American export.

Yet, I think the inherent radicalness of much contemporary performance art—or arte accíon as some Latin Americans call it—provides organic reasons for the Hemi’s decentering of the US.  Such an anti-colonial impulse, I’d argue, is vital to the making of provocative art, or art that resists being boxed in and made legible as mere representation, seeking a process and practice-based disorientation of bodies instead of the identity politics being viciously co-opted by the state/market (see Craig Santos Perez on the White House’s selection of inaugural poet Richard Blanco). (continue reading…)

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Metallica, The West Memphis Three, and the Narcissism of the Law

by on Jan.25, 2013

In the past week I’ve huddled in a freezing apartment before my laptop and watched the entire Paradise Lost trilogy  as it recounts the nauseating saga of the West Memphis Three, railroaded as teens for the vicious murder and mutilation of three eight-year-olds, a crime supposedly prompted by their supposedly Satanist taste in books, clothes, music, handwriting and hairstyles. Since I am hearing impaired and the DVDs have no captions, my attempt to force my neurons to process the dialogue added a layer of obscurity and stress to the proceedings which amplified the competing layers of obscurity and stress which are the raw material of this ongoing multidecade saga.

west memphis


As a mere viewer of these films, I am not an expert on this topic like my friend Christian Peet (see his Supplicium blog), but I am an artist with an interest in Art’s occult movements, its paradoxically linked power and obscurity. The three films themselves, of course, are Art– they are documentaries made by the filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofksy, and therefor compositions, carefully edited, composed, re-edited, condensed, revised, and, always, set to music. As twenty years of legal time condenses to nine or so hours of film-time, we are watching a medium which at once condenses, reanimates, and disorients time, remaking the flesh and hairlines and clothing of both the main protagonists and the minor characters with as relentless and as ludicrous a sense of aplomb. Art touches every aspect of this story, adds and strips away years before our eyes, drives apparent ‘facts’ together and strips them apart. Art is lucidity, instrumentality. The only things which do not change visibly are, interestingly, still photographs– mug shots, school portraits, crime scene photos. Yet different affects and interpretations gather and drain from these still photos, so even they become penetrated by the obscure power of emotion, narrative, and Art.

Across the three films, Art is most lucidly and obscurely embodied by the Metallica soundtrack. Striking aerial footage of the highways frames the films and is frequently returned to throughout the films; this aerial viewpoint and the Metallica instrumental become synonymous, as is evident even in the trailer, here:


As I watched the films, for hour after hour, hunched over with my back cramping and my ears to the tinny laptop speakers, trying to force sound into my cerebellum,  I was so struck by the Metallica riff, which, higher pitched than the mostly male-spoken dialogue, slipped its wire into my brain with no problem at all. As it floated so lucidly, with so much interest in the proceedings, the music itself began to seem more and more sentient. It is up in the air, it occupies a position normally awarded to God or a movie camera. The more time I spent with its synesthetically aerial view of the music, the more and less I ‘understood’ about the saga; I slowly came to recognize that what I was seeing was not just rural highways, truckstops, a large drainage pond illustrating a remote rural community, but the dumping ground where the three victims’  bodies would be found. Dreadfully familiar to me,  I felt claimed by the dark and dreadful knowledge of the film itself. This dumping site would then become a kind of retroactive stage whereupon all kinds of fantasies would be scripted and enacted by the prosecution and played out again and again on the stage of the courtroom. As I continued through the hours of documentary, my body buckled and froze up as I struggled to hear, and I found myself more and more in the physical position of the defendants in their uncomfortable wooden chairs sitting through hours and hours of rancid testimony. Only when I heard the Metallica was I allowed to float lucidly free, high above West Memphis, Arkansas.

As the trilogy continues, the soundtrack has other roles– sometimes it plays as the camera barrels along an interstate to a new setting, as if enacting the camera’s insistence on driving the narrative to a new stage, only to double back to older footage, arrive at a new setback or be locked outside of courtrooms. At other times it moves through the underbrush as the crime scene is revisited. It marks where the camera is moving, but at the same time it is takes on and sheds anguish, the fluid that is running along side, through, on top of the documentary just as it runs along side, through, on top of each version of the narrative presented by this sad epic’s inmates. This is thought-provoking in the sense that Metallica is both at the inception of this story– part of the dark aesthetic tastes of which the original case against Echols is built– and threaded throughout it, as the emblem of the ‘celebrity interest’ that allowed supporters and resources to flow to the story, funding new and comprehensive forensic research which would lead to the West Memphis Three’s release.

The real and unreal effects of the Metallica soundtrack– and/or  Art itself– are strikingly (and paradoxically) bio-identical with each other. That is, the soundtrack, as the camera’s audible trace, shows Art’s instrumentality in shaping this story. We are not watching ‘facts’  but a narrative, a shaped version of events, a synthetic counter story to the prosecution’s official narrative. This constructed narrative, as the three films unfold, eventually exercises a ‘real’ force, winning support and resources that brings about the triumph of the West Memphis Three’s narrative of railroading. Art bought real time for the condemned Damien Echols, and eventually bought him back his life.

On the other hand, Art changed fantasy into reality; the ‘Satanic Panic’ of the townspeople and prosecutors became true; their supposed fears of the rape, mutilation, torture, cannibalism of young boys at the hand of Satanists were inverted, amplified and applied to the young bodies of the West Memphis Three themselves. Across the films, various participants call for the three young men to be raped in prison, have their faces bitten off, be tortured forever, shot up, etc. The justice system worked its Satanism on the phantasmatic and real bodies of these three young men; perhaps then Satanism is the phantasmatic double of the law itself, which is why the Law in this period is so interested in Satanism. Rather than Echols or other teenagers, it is the Law’s fatal narcissism which attracts it to Satanism; it is the Law which is prompted by narcissism to study it, to learn its lingo,  to wear its executioner’s clothes, to enact its supposed rituals of dungeons, violation, torture, and murder. It is the Law that wants to reflect on itself, to declare itself incontrovertible, its decisions final and its hairstyle permanent and correct (this, it would seem, is the meaning of the wigs worn in British legal proceedings). But as is evident by the irrationality of the Alford plea which eventually won the Three’s freedom by allowing them to plead guilty and proclaim their innocence in the same breath, the hair of the Law is not gleaming but thinning, its flesh wasting and jowling, its hands tremoring, its power arbitrary, now sinking, now swollen, a corpse which nonetheless raises itself from its reflecting pool to express its vanity and rage.




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"…overcrowding, doubling up, debility and damage": Vicuna, Asco, Ethnic Fan Fiction and Possession

by on Jan.04, 2013

I’m going to piggy-back on a few recent posts by myself and others.
Yesterday, Joyelle wrote the following about “The Black Art of Hilma af Klimt and Kim Hyesoon”:

“…and also of Kim Hyesoon’s entire ouevre, any poem, in which forms contain, die, give birth, give way to more forms, and the end of eternity can never be found. Creatures keep consuming each other, shitting, tearing, pushing through each other, and the significance of any given form or container is that it marks a boundary which can be pushed through, though one which always might reconstitute itself.”

A while back I wrote about Fan Fiction in similar terms:

What became apparent to me from reading Megan’s review is this crucial notion, the “vampirism” or “cannibalism” or “channeling” of art: it’s art that makes more art, that feeds off other art to make it immortal, to pass on fluids from one art to the next artwork.

The difference between the “black art” of Kim Hyesoon and a vampire however might be the sense of the poet as a medium rather than a vampire, the art moves through the poet with much less of a conscious sucking of blood (and shitting out immortality?). A few years ago when Joyelle wrote about the art of Fi Jae Lee (KH’s daughter) as “body possessed by media,” she was already calling forth this occult dimension of art:

(continue reading…)

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Everything was Sublime: The Black Nature of Hilma af Klint (and Marie Curie and Kim Hyesoon)

by on Jan.03, 2013

“The fern craze opened as men’s clothes turned black.”— The Victorian Fern Craze: A History of Pteridomania, by Daniel Allen Elliston


We may have missed the future in which Hilma af Klint’s work could have been received.  Perhaps we encounter it now in its permanent quiescence, a ruin of the former future. Her work is occult, runic, enclosed and split open, some works 11 feet tall, others closed in 150 secret notebooks, secret leaves conjuring to each, awaiting a dead/future reader. Her day job was painting flowers, producing the autokitsch of Swedish naturalism; her black work was drawing occult diagrams, geometric forms and colors which seek to understand the life force or ‘astral guidelines’ in these very flowers, songbirds, lichen. Her work thus unites the strictures of Malevich with the necrotic knowledge that life is an uncanny thing which must make its way fields of black matter by scavenging for various forms; her spirit teachers told her, “Your mission is to open their eyes to a life that lasts for eternity.”


She wrote in her notebooks in 1917,

“Everything is contained within the black cube: The greenery of the earth is the bottom of the cube, the blue air is its roof, and the water-filled part is situated at that section of the cube that I rest my back against.” Her own body is a measuring stick for the totality; she turns her back on the black cube to draw it again and again; she knows it intimately, by heart, as if it has been transferred through the bones of her back.

It makes me think of Marie Curie, knowledge of radium learned as isotopes passed through the hands, writing out their own semiotics in fatigue, burns and and leukemia–

marie curie

and also of Kim Hyesoon’s entire ouevre, any poem, in which forms contain, die, give birth, give way to more forms, and the end of eternity can never be found. Creatures keep consuming each other, shitting, tearing, pushing through each other, and the significance of any given form or container is that it marks a boundary which can be pushed through, though one which always might reconstitute itself:

From “Sublime Kitchen” (trans. Don Mee Choi)
I caught a glimpse of her kitchen once
The rain cloud of flour mushroomed (continue reading…)

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"The morning / dew / is alien cum": David Applegate on Dan Hoy

by on Dec.16, 2012

[David Applegate, frequent commentor of this site and maker of strange music, wrote this piece about Montevidayoan Dan Hoy:]

“Revelations & Confessions: Blood Work Volume II” by Dan Hoy, an occult science-fiction chapbook

Dan Hoy’s new chapbook “Revelations & Confessions: Blood Work Volume II” from Slim Princess Holdings introduces so many ideas, it seem to overflow its short length.  Thoughts on sexuality, technology, pornography, and free will explode from its thirty-three pages.  Taking the pulp science-fiction trope of aliens versus humans as its central conceit, the chapbook follows a narrative arc which begins with the invention and subjugation of the human race by aliens and culminates with the reclamation of human autonomy.  In the opening poem, Hoy writes: “Aliens / invent human beings / out of aliens / and fuck them.” A few poems later: “People are… / forced to fuck each other” as sex slaves under alien authority.  When we arrive at: “The morning / dew / is alien cum / on my face” it becomes clear the aliens are functioning in these poems as a metaphor for nature at large; the nature which invents human beings out of itself and lays them low by imbuing them with a sexuality which appears, at first, as a degraded drive which can only lead to misery.

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"Loaded": Undead Romanticism

by on Nov.29, 2012

[I first wrote this as a response to Teemu’s post about Clark Ashton Smith, but since it’s pretty long I decided just to post it as a separate post.]

This is such a rich post… It seems to really speak to issues of kitsch and modernism in intriguing and new ways.

I love the idea of the heuristic imitation, a kind of anachronistic translation (of course translations are often anachronistic, as Benjamin makes clear in his famous essay). But I’m not so sure that he gets it all wrong so to speak. To some extent Smith is in fact doing what the Romantics and – as you note – Symbolists did. So much of that poetry is totally b-movie stuff (Keats and Baudelaire write about vampire women etc etc). And of course Poe is such an essential poet for both American and European symbolists. As Daniel Tiffany shows in his new book, the origins of kitsch has to do with the poetic, with romanticism, more than anything else.

(From our favorite blog, Runwayward)
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Graffiti of the Pig Boy: Pichação and Hilda Hilst’s The Obscene Madame D

by on Nov.21, 2012

Before embarking on her pornographic trilogy (whose first book I’ve written about as “porn for children”), Hilda Hilst had to meet her calling.   She had to profane the sacred, tearing God out of a birdshit-ridden sky.  The result was The Obscene Madame Dher first work to appear in English via a unique partnership between Nightboat and the Rio-based A Bolha, and co-translators Nathanaël and Rachel Gontijo Araújo.

“What is obscene?” Hilst once asked in an interview.  “To this day nobody knows what’s obscene.  Obscenity, to me, is poverty, hunger, cruelty.  Our era is obscene.”  Hilst’s pronouncement finds resonance in the very mega city where she lived before secluding herself with nearly 100 dogs in a rural refuge known as Casa do Sol.  São Paulo, a city where wealth and destitution brutally clash, happens to be the birthplace of pichação—a practice of class warfare in which young, poor Brazilians scale and spray-paint the facades of monuments, chic high-rises, and government buildings.  As an NY Times article points out, pichação can be fatal.  While defacing structures, gang members not only risk falling to their deaths from dizzying heights but are prone to brawls with rival groups who are also vying for prized buildings.  The drama of these stakes is, to say the least, notable.  The pichador, you might say, is ready to die for his art-crime, itself a visionary execution at once urgent and extravagant.  Because it smears that which is exalted—literally staining upward mobility with the threat of precarity—his weapon bleeds out societal extremes with its own brand of crude, black scarring. (continue reading…)

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