Tag: amy lawless

On Terror

by on Apr.04, 2013

I’m writing this from my desk in an office where I have spent the morning watching Al Jazeera videos and reading the New York Times and this is not entirely antithetical to what I’m supposed to be doing at my desk.

A few weeks ago I was getting ready to go to New Jersey for a visit home, which I’ve done more in the past six months than I ever have. There has been literal disaster after disaster. Anyway I was getting ready to go home. My uncle was posting North Korean propaganda videos on his Facebook page and I was watching them the way I read a really good poem – over and over again, trying to assess its balance of irony and sincerity.



The video is dubbed in English in a way that makes it feel like farce, except it’s not. The script in English feels like it must have been written by a contemporary experimental poet with a solid sense of fun, like maybe Amy Lawless wrote it in a fit of black humor. I was just getting into My Dead when I watched the video for the first time and I was thinking about mourning and rituals and pre-emptive strikes, how one must convince oneself both of the seriousness of tragedy and its ephemeral nature in order to engage in the act of grief.

A few weeks later I was having brunch with my best friend and I think we were talking about Amy’s book and I was reminded of a novel I’d read in college called Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda. The main character in the novel, which is set in South Africa, is a man named Toloki who is a Professional Mourner. The day I was having brunch was Easter Sunday and the day before we had gone to see a lecture and reading at the New Museum where Ariana Reines dressed up as Margery Kempe and talked about public grief.



The night before that I was trying to find a bar that didn’t ID so I could take my little sister there and we ended up at a comedy show that was so abject it was a kind of public self-grieving and my friend and I talked about how the responsibilities of Poets, Comedians, and Lawyers are essentially the same – to be observant and self-aware and make public texts of our knowledge. The next morning we added Professional Mourners to that list.



Professional Grief is an epic responsibility requiring a great deal of strength and physical endurance – the endurance literally to cry for many hours or to stand in front of people and say something – in addition to a measured amount of weakness, pliability. There has to be something in the instrument that moves.

My whole entire life I have been aware of my place as an American Girl in relation to War. (continue reading…)

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by on Mar.04, 2013



So a few nights ago I went to this bar in Bed Stuy where every time I go I have only the most ridiculous experience, even the time I went there for literally 15 minutes a few days before Halloween and ended up waking up the next morning having sent out a series of very well-composed 4 AM Facebook messages to my friends signed “Best, Carina Finn.”

Anyway I went the other night to hear Amy Lawless read at shitluck, which is the best and most fashionable reading series possibly in America right now, because I had never heard her read before but I have been drunk with her a few times. Her dress was really good and the skirt had this very in sort of flouncey thing happening. The poems she read were largely not from her forthcoming book, MY DEAD (which will be available for purchase from Octopus Books at AWP), and I liked that.

In the middle of her reading some guy was making a lot of noise taking money out of the ATM, which was right by the stage, and she called to him “How much are you taking out? $40 or $60?” to which the guy replied “$20” and the entire audience proceeded to sort of heckle the guy. Later, Amy justified the heckling by saying that someone who only takes $20 out of the ATM at such a bar is only looking out for themselves, and that’s messed up. I vowed that from that moment on I would read every book that Amy Lawless ever writes.


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You should read this really good conversation between Amy and James Gen, in which there are a lot of really great sentiments like “Poetry is a way to live, a way to talk about the world, a way for shit to matter” and “Formal restraints are super fun.” Then you should go to the Octopus Books table at AWP and buy MY DEAD.

Oh, and should you be at a bar where La Lawless also is, buy her a drink with your ATM $$$.


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