Ars Poetica vs. the Anthropocene

by on Jan.15, 2014

“We never tear away the earth’s skin.  We only cultivate its surface, because that is where the richness is found.”

— Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman

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ARS POETICA or, I wanted to unlock my phone

by on Sep.13, 2013

[It’s been suggested that I preface this. Well, I think the world is drenched with grief and I think poetry is the map of the grief, continually mapping and remapping itself and saturating and resaturating itself with ink and image and sound and damage and contaminants until something else breaks through. Another viscousness or viciousness. Not necessarily better, but next, or again. I don’t know whether there’s really a way out of the anthropocene with its lethal logics but I do think that Poetry is anthropocenic (though inhuman?) and has a lethal (ill-?)logic and is therefore up to the challenge of going up against the anthropocene, just as a bacterium with a porcine vector can go up against a person with a gun.  I guess I do want the world to end and reboot without us. This ars poetica is made from the contaminants that influence my writing: technology, hacking, corpse jewlery, corporate hegemony, environmental degradation, dread, ecstasy, haruscopy and augury, fashion, art, etymology, sacrificial rites and the classical world, those doomed and doomy bastards.]

Like dead Etruscans on their couch...

“like dead Etruscans…”



ARS POETICA, or, I wanted to unlock my phone

I wanted to unlock my phone.

I wanted to unlock the geode. I wanted to press it to my skull. I wanted to go right through the temple. Bedazzle my occipital. Be dazzled like a jeweled vagina or an improved corpse.

Incipio. And you can come in now. Bedazzled like a victim or an improved phone.

Nuncio, you’re fired now go home.

Get back on that fucking U-boat you rowed in on and float.

After I gave birth, an immediate labial tuck.

Cataract surgery, a backing track, and a ticket for checked luggage sutured to my gut.

I took exception.

I woke up a walking garment.

My innards for a pennant, a permanent crest or crown

crimped and crenellated, filleting my brow and my baby for a pigskin clutch. Accouchement.

On a couch, we rowed like dead Etruscans for the afterlife, clutching

thick slick magazines and

the handgrenade named for the pomegranate.

Bon chance, bon chance, shit out of luck, up shit creek on a

leaky horseshoe hung up the wrong way

twin emblems of closeness: horseshoes, handgrenades.

More weight.

In that pink slick (Grenadine)

rode the drowners

pulled from the Seine with a seine net. With a purse seine.

And set up in the Paris morgue as in a marble parlor

A bejeweled purse, a lime sluice, a pearled vagina, a pullulating designer

dog, in puttees, the puttied vault of the sky, the ovulating

cranial crate which was about to be wider  as it

split at its eyeteeth

It was a civic duty to visit them on Sundays

amid the gropeurs and pick pockets

To copiously paw and snuff the nose-wrinckling tissues

To bring them back into the human family.

To try to identify them by face, clothes, or posture

That piece of shit is not my father.


The bodies hit the ground in a fusillade like fuselage

You cannot hear this sound except on a snuff site

You have to go out as shame to hear this report

more like handgrenades than like pomegranates

with their little list of Hadean jewels inside

twisted inventories for the Christies auction

nextbodies texting their nobiles

fifty and two hundred bodies hitting the ground like exploding

I wanted to go live there

I wanted to go live in shame

as blood floods the vaulted chasm

I block the run-off-channels and snuff up the charnel-chum

I wanted to stop the clock

I wanted to give my brain a tuck

I wanted my brain to fold over.

I wanted to close the incision with cat gut and tungsten.

I wanted to hack my own phone.

Edison wanted to make a light bulb.

Franklin wanted to make a kight light up at night.

They both needed a conductor.

Franklin used his son’s arm.

Edison used the groin hair of a sacred goat, later slaughtered.

gh gh gh

you can’t even say it it’s voiceless

you can’t even hear this sound unless you hit the snuff site

so rank it rankles

too rank for superfund

I wanted to defund it

I wanted to give my head a kick.

I wanted my brain to double over, holding its gut.

In the train compartment. Its tank top riding up

to expose its kidneys to a kick

up the luggage compartment.

to stuff it up a suitcase

like a prettier girl I could waste on a snuff site.

The thread of life narrow as a jeweled thong for the bride

disappearing up the crack

reaching through the crack to hug the waist

to find the egress

up the ass of the egret

into the afterlife

the birds we are wasting in Iraq and Iran

know the only route to the afterlife

Bereft of sense

I don’t want to make sense

But I want to make something


as it leaves the body

the cloth of Veronica which wiped the face of Christ

producing the fake  known as the Shroud of Turin

Fake like a purse is fake and flashy

and sold on folding tables or a sheet

grab it and run

when the heat comes

it cuts the air above the android  in his android suit.

The bull is wearing his bull suit.

To cook what’s inside like a sacrifice.

Oxygen cocktail. Interior force.

I wanted to wear the fake mask of Christ.

I wanted to wipe the face of the crisis with my heat.

I wanted to make a mask of sweat, urine, sucrose, and  dopamine.



I wanted to grow chesthair in the mirror.

It’s breezey today and the leaves flash their asses.

Something hangs down under the line of the short shorts.

Something like hell-fruit: lemurian pomegranate.

The puddled cloth, the placket of blood

like a garment for the flagstones

below the smashed skull

sewn on the bias

the seam lies flat

as a cellphone in the street

after it snapped the precious picture

the picture more precious than a skull

that smashed up screen makes a star in the sky like



panties in a vending machine

coolant pools which smirk and leak

an attempt to build a thermonuclear barrier at the beach

going to the beach


catching the fish

under the flagstones

sandals made of a tank tread rubbed with fish guts

ceaseless report

a gun firing

a tracer whistling

the house folding

a satellite crashing into the Indian Ocean

croupier’s flourish

as air douses his hand of guilt

like money

stacked flat and veronica-ing

like a hiccupping GIF

a mortgage or flat tummy

a smart fabric tensing infinitely

into the air like the gut of a gull

that’s hauling a plastic reel

so thin it’s not a live anymore

so thin it can slip through the net of the sky

through the purse-seine up the Seine

and become the parenthesis for the next event

so thin it talcs the air with boanmeal

as in a nursery

ashmeal moanmeal  veronica powder

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The Most Poetical Topic in the World, According to Mario Bellatin, is No Longer the Death of a Beautiful Woman

by on Feb.07, 2014

as Poe once declared, but instead the death of her sidekick and counterfeit, the hairstylist in drag, now a shiny prosthesis to beauty’s phantom limb.


Ready for a new do: the Peruvian-Mexican writer Mario Bellatin

This is what Bellatin’s slim novella Beauty Salon (City Lights, trans. by Kurt Hollander) proposes in its revision of the decadent tradition, a call-to-arms much like Joyelle’s “We Must Be Decadent, Again” post against the ‘forward-thinking’  moves trending in our midst.  The book’s indulgence in dystopian-utopian artifice, in fact, moves backward on multiple levels.  Not only does it transplant the muse of beauty onto anonymous cross-dressing queers in an unnamed city, but it turns our RuPaul-friendly clock back to the beginning of the AIDS epidemic by any other name:  the disease afflicting gay men in the book is likewise blacked-out, unidentifiable as in its early years.  After the narrator describes having transformed his salon into a hospice for the HIV+, he unflinchingly refers to it as “the Terminal” or “Moridero” in Spanish, a word whose medieval source recalls those dark ages of the bubonic plague:

The increasing number of people who come to die in the beauty salon is no form of entertainment at all. (continue reading…)

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New Books from Birds LLC

by on Aug.22, 2012

[Got this email today from Birds LLC:]


We’re crazy excited to announce our next two titles, Rise in the Fall, by Ana Božičević (Fall 2012), and The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather, by Sampson Starkweather (Winter 2013).

A few words about these amazing books, as well as videos of Ana and Sampson reading from their work:
(continue reading…)

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Fake-ish Memoir Totes Sincere, Unusually Embodied Affect Performance

by on Jun.19, 2012

The excellent new issue of PANK Magazine has some excerpts from The Book of Scab, my fake-ish memoir epistolary novel ‘under the sign of poetry’ (a phrase I borrow from our brilliant friend Kate Zambreno). This includes MP3s of me reading the excerpts wherein you cannot hear my teenaged neighbor playing a warbly, tripped-out electric guitar version of the melody to Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” but rest assured I could. The first excerpt is ars poetica re: beauty & sincerity:

Dear Mom and Dad,

I wanted to make something clean. Don’t you know? I wanted to make something that was not porous, no matter how closely you looked—and not you, but your machine, lens exponential in its uncompromising pronouncement. Something without fleck or pore, without texture. I wanted to make a surface that exceeded all classical efforts in its commitment to beauty. I did, then. Like everyone.


Did I lose my taste for beauty, or did I just cross into the room where its mask was worn?

(The second is all crush-abduction–maybe a hint of Johannes’s Dear Ra Shirley Temple gender-inverted–and the third has psychic powers, FYI. Includes melodramatic sincerity & brattiness. No sadcore tigers, yet, unless you count Mötley Crüe.)

Carina Finn’s throwdown “MELODRAMA IS THE NEW SINCERITY” reminds us that in order to convince the normate (see Rosmarie Garland-Thomson) of one’s sincerity, a feminine subject must do things like widen her eyes, tear up (real or with irritants; see America’s Next Top Model crying photo shoots), dilate her pupils with physical effort-conjuring-special drops (movies often use the drops; pupil dilation also conveys sexy feelings and possible anime conversion!), tilt her head (trust; exposed jugular; etc.), spread her hands out in front of her (see “The Girl Without Hands” Grimm 031), and show restraint in the face (on the face!) of overwhelming emotion (see Boris Kachka on Joan Didion in the recent New York Magazine: “Both The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights are recognizably memoirs of grief, but they’re rendered in Didion’s familiar remote voice. It’s an oddly effective fit: Her coolness plays against the genre’s sentimental excesses but still allows her to avoid argument and indulge in open-ended reveries built from repetitions of painful facts.”).

It’s not surprising. Identity studies has long demonstrated that if marginalized subjects wish to communicate sincerity, trustworthiness, honesty, and the like to those in power, they must early on learn to properly perform humble and subjugated gestures. & since none of us is a performance-bot, these embodiments become complex messaging systems (see, for instance, George Yancy Black Bodies, White Gazes). Like any other, the learned sincerity-performance may be internalized, may become a central component of the subject’s experience of essential self. When I meet your eye, widen my eyes, when I blink back the tears, am I revealing myself or my construction? I’m sure I don’t know. (continue reading…)

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Puke Silk: Rihanna and Kim Hyesoon

by on Dec.07, 2011

As readers of this blog may know, one of my favorite poets is Kim Hyesoon and one of my favorite pop singers is Rihanna. They are very different, but they also have some things in common – the way the body seems traversed by media, causing vomiting and inhaling, singing and eating of a kind of volatile mediumicity. Instead of interiority, you have this media that traverses the body.

This post is an ars poetica written while wearing green earphones and tracing burn marks on my skin.

For me the key moment in Rihanna’s new video comes at 4:03:

There she vomits out some kind of purple foam. This comes as the culmination of the nauseating montage of drug-taking and nauseating euro dance music. It seems genre conventions are driven to a point where the video convulses the medium out of itself, out of the “medium’s” (Rihanna’s) mouth. One of the things I like about Rihanna’s videos is the way they way her body seems constantly “corrupted” by media, never self-contained, always shot through by colors, by drugs, by special effects. Things move through her.

She is a “loser” in that she can’t even shoplift correctly (she starts to fuck and waste the products) -she’s wasteful, all expenditure. But she’s also a very powerful loser: she throws a dart at the wall and a house collapses, an atom bomb goes off.

This all remind me of Joyelle’s post from a long time ago about a “body possessed by media” in discussing Fi Jae Lee’s work:

The Korean artist Fi Jae Lee’s work operates in this zone of contamination, inflammation and metasization. Her work is multimedia, but with none of the technophilic, flow-chartish nicety and expertise that term has begun to imply. There are too many media here, too many, even, for the multimedia environment of the Internet—her website has too many images to get a sense of the whole body of work; so much text crowds the text window that the scrollbars must be constantly manipulated to bring more into view; on my screen the crucial scrollbars are occluded. As for her art work itself, it involves sculpture, painting, installation, monologues, her own body and hair, the performance of rituals. As much as they are brimming over with color, texture, scale, activity and sensation, they are also lousy with text, text which is a bad fit for the artwork, in that it seems to occupy a testy, inflamed adjacency.

(continue reading…)

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Fear and Love In Criticism (pt 2): Billy Collins and Accessibility

by on Apr.21, 2011

Billy Collins is often held up as a paradigm of “accessibility” (frequently published in venues with aspirations toward “general readership” – NPR, Best of American Poetry etc) or denounced as a simpleton. I have never really read his work but lately I’ve been interested in reading it as a way to think about this mythic “accessibility” and such. Here’s a poetics poem (turns out almost all of his poems are about reading/writing poetry):

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

(continue reading…)

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From the Motherland: The Apotheosis of Michael Jackson and Its Consequences

by on Mar.28, 2014

“I remember when your head caught flame.”
– Lorde

I passed through my motherland (Missouri) today, en route to Tennessee after abandoning my (not so) stronghold in the mountains of Colorado. For those following my seemingly willful courtship with disaster, I returned home after several weeks of being displaced from a thousand-year flood only to lose my job a month later. Since like most humans on this planet I still subsist on money and electricity to support a mediated/subjugated lifestyle, I had to hustle to find a solution and found one in my mother’s motherland.

But what I really want to talk about is Michael Jackson.

I remember seeing the video for “Smooth Criminal” for the first time as an 11 year old in 1988 and realizing in that moment what an artistic mistake it was for Michael Jackson to select “Bad” as the titular framework and audiovisual initiation to his follow up to Thriller (1982). Bad (1987) was the end of the legendary MJ / Quincy Jones collaboration that began with Off the Wall (1979), and the beginning of the end for Michael’s out-of-this-world command as an image artist. By 1987 the effortless impossibility of his ’83 Motown performance had devolved into something more alien than otherworldly, a mutation distilled to perfection by Corey Feldman in real life and in the entirety of Dream a Little Dream (1989), but especially this scene:

My feeling is that Michael was fucked up on pain and painkillers by that point, the real beginning of the end occurring at approximately 6:15pm on January 27, 1984 during the ill-fated filming of a Pepsi commercial in support of The Jacksons’ Victory tour, when Michael achieved apotheosis by going up in flames. Watch how alone he is here, his supposed brothers oblivious to the plight of a genuine god burning at the stake/stage. There is no coming back from a trauma like this. If you’ve been wondering what kind of triggering event would lead someone to eventually seek out a straight up oblivion drug like propofol as opposed to say the narcotic depths of heroin, This Is It:

(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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New Books/Old Books from Feng Sun Chen and Gina Abelkop (and me)

by on Mar.14, 2012

Quickly I just wanted to alert you to the fact that Montevidayo’s Feng Sun Chen not only has her new Butcher’s Tree out; She also has a wonderful new book called blud out from the amazing Spork Press.



rabbits are capable of tenderness especially when pounded.

love makes you curl up into the earth fetus… your organs melt…

the gas of love assaults you… and the nox origin barely holds its oracular shape, teh soft apple lodges between the armor plate of the gregor body… neither sub nor superhuman suffering, the huge verminous body does not know it has wings.

the wings lie folded and hot
inside the hard lips.

Another book I’m reading right now with great delight is Gina Abelkop’s Darling Beastlettes.

Chapter 14

Greta dreamed a bird.

Woke and reached for scissors.

(This is an excerpt from a 19th-century-Wuthering-Heights-type-of-“novel” at the end of the book.)

Also, one more thing: Apostrophe Books and I have decided not to keep my first book, A New Quarantine Will Take My Place in print. You can buy the last few copies at SPD. In a couple of years we’ll put out a new remixed version.

Here’s an excerpt from that:

Sometimes there is a beautiful world inside the world of poetry. Sometimes the children
have nosebleed inside my ornithologies and sometimes the cheerleaders are naked inside
interrogations I keep holding (continue reading…)

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Pablo de Rokha IN ENGLISH – the Inteverview with his translator – URAYOÁN NOEL!

by on Sep.26, 2011

Pablo de Rokha photographed with his friend Salvador Allende

Urayoán Noel, stateless poet, professor, polemicist and performer, has recently translated a  terrific, fabulous, historically important, and wondrous book entitled U by the great Chilean poet Pablo de Rokha, whom it appears has yet to have a book translated into English.  And it doesn’t appear that there are many translations of individual poems by de Rokha out there as well.  There are a few in The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry (translated by Molly Weigel), but I can’t find much else that’s currently available.

This (U!) is an exciting, momentous event, and to mark the occasion I thought I’d ask Urayoán some questions about his work with de Rokha, and in the process it’s my hope to draw some attention to Urá ‘s great project and to get some folks here in US poetry land aware of and interested in this great Chilean writer.  It’s also important to mention that Pablo de Rokha’s wife/collaborator/co-conspirator–Winétt de Rokha is also a fascinating writer whose work is badly in need of some translating.  So hopefully some of her work will soon appear in English as well.  We dream big here on Montevidayo.
(continue reading…)

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Juan Carlos Flores and Georges Perec in the Ruins of the Imagination

by on Sep.17, 2011

I.  “We live in space, in these spaces, these towns, this countryside, these corridors, these parks. That seems obvious to us. Perhaps indeed it should be obvious. But it isn’t obvious, not just as a matter of course. It’s real, obviously, and as a consequence most likely rational. We can touch. We can even allow ourselves to dream.”

These lines are from the foreword to Georges Perec’s great essay (though that’s not the right word for it) “Species of Space,” which is divided into: The Page, The Bed, The Bedroom, The Apartment, The Apartment Building, The Street, The Neighborhood, The Town, The Country, Countries, Europe, Old Continent, New Continent, The World, Space.” From small to the impossibly large Perec sets out to document spaces “of every kind and every size, diversified.” The spaces then get subdivided – The Apartment, for example, into “Walls” and “Staircases” and “Doors”.

Before we had a name for documentary poetics, Perec had a practice for it, and if there’s an argument in “Species of Space”, it’s that we are formed by spaces we don’t even recognize and which we mostly don’t pay attention to. This is about architecture and urban planning and global politics and local politics and communities and memory and mis-memories and decay and abandonment and utilization and birth and death and shoes.
(continue reading…)

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Isn't Poetry Dead?

by on Aug.05, 2011

In a comment to the Kent Johnson blog post, a question was raised: why do we even care about poetry? Isn’t it a “tired media”? Shouldn’t we make it “new”?

Isn’t poetry dead?

Isn’t the poetry “of our moment” “skittery” as Tony Hoagland keeps saying: manneristic, feminine, ephemeral. Shuddering. Spasmatic. Out of control.
(continue reading…)

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