Everyone should head over to Typo Magazine, where Guillermo Parra has put together an amazing special issue of Venezuelan writing. I’ve been reading it since it was posted.
I love this poem by Miguel James:
MY GIRLFRIEND ÍTALA EATS FLOWERS
(trans. Anne Boyer)
My girlfriend appeared trembling in a bookstore
She showed me lonely street papers and slashed whores
She gave me lovely stones and seashells
An old engraving of untied horses
My girlfriend was on her way from the sun and looked like a gypsy
She told strange stories about twin souls
My girlfriend had a blue dress
She fell in love with me and my sandals
My girlfriend would read Boris Vian
She took a shower bleeding and gave me a body that smelled like nothing
I fell in love with my girlfriend
I braided my hair and took her to the movies
My girlfriend had an ugly blonde child
We would inhabit the city of fog or beyond the seas
My girlfriend became my girlfriend
My girlfriend pashira and ficus colony of herbs graft of flower-eating doves
I loved my girlfriend
My broke girlfriend sold earrings in the markets
She would bring me mandarins when I was in solitary confinement
She would undress in front of bored old men
I was my girlfriend
She adored Fabio and had a balcony to jump from
And it’s just that my sad girlfriend looked like a desolate Maga
My girlfriend was a star
I would have died without my girlfriend
One day my girlfriend said we were looking like open wounds under the sky
That she’d take up the lab books again
That she’d stop sleeping at the foot of the bridge
I didn’t pay attention to my girlfriend
I let her mix Pelusa rock and biology texts
Víctor’s punctual visits and kitchen habits
Johnny’s accurate punches
And it’s just that my girlfriend didn’t wanna eat flowers any more
So then I thought about giving her what she deserves
I’d take her to the mountain top
I’d bathe her in the trail’s creek
Then I’d bombard her with bougainvillea petals from above
I’d spray her with French perfumes
And knowing she was in ecstasy I’d cover her with baby poo
So she wouldn’t stop being my girlfriend
So she wouldn’t get sick of eating flowers
And it’s just that sometimes I don’t feel like being my girlfriend’s boyfriend
Sometimes I don’t feel like being anyone’s boyfriend
But yesterday I saw my girlfriend
She had ripped shoes and she gave me a glass pearl
We looked at a strange dress that cost as much as two hundred cigarette boxes
We talked about banquet fruits with bread and jelly
Because you really start to get sick of eating flowers
But I told my girlfriend that we’d always eat flowers
And I understood my girlfriend
And my girlfriend understood me
But sometimes I worry about my girlfriend
Because my furious girlfriend is capable of hoisting the boy and hitting him like a piñata
She’d shoot her mom on a holiday
She’d blow up the lab with sodium
Because my girlfriend is a beast
She’s a chill she’s a star
And I love my girlfriend
And I know she’ll appear on the avenue singing
She’ll scream absurdities only I understand
She’ll put a knife to my belly button
She’ll say: “Man, take off your pants”
Because my girlfriend’s my girlfriend
Because I know my girlfriend
My eternal girlfriend my girlfriend Ítala
My crazy girlfriend
I read a couple of great reviews today.
The later surveying of the “meat brothel” (pp. 126-127) describes the sculpting of a variety of fake cocks. In the earliest pages, a character named Blubber Socket exclaims, “Ooo! I want me a fake cock, too!” This book of phonies and fakes—of identity-dictators and prostheses—of tailfins and those without—will leave Land-Dwellers demanding an explanation. Derrida and de Man might have never agreed on ‘poetic voice,’ but there’s no denying that the icons and “code” within this book will trigger a jarring musicality inside the mind of any reader. I can think of no better setting for these poems than a stage. Pop Corpse rapidly became one of the most challenging nights at the opera I’ve ever survived. Its perplexing emoticons, neologisms, digi-syncope, and other downright extravagant shit will leave you thinking, ‘No wonder this book has its own intermission.’
If Sandy Florian’s novella Boxing the Compass is the answer, then the question might be: is the era of climate change spawning a specific literature? Some exploration of this question will lead us into the astonishing work of mourning Boxing the Compass is…Whatever else climate change is, it is an event in language. The extinction of myriad species of fish should make writers differently aware of the biotic referents of tropes such as “to spawn a literature.” Extinctions bring about irreversible absences. The prospect of the extinction of Homo sapiens draws language into a hurricane swirling words up and away, or down and out, from anthropic referents. What happens to words as their referents irreversibly disappear? In becoming bereft of their referents, words may kindle mourning. Within language, climate change is metamorphosing frighteningly many words into words of mourning.
Adam’s comments about pornography below reminds me that I don’t think I ever posted a link to this wonderful review of my book Haute Surveillance by brilliant poet John Yau.
What the poets associated with “Flarf” recognize — and the literary mainstream still ignores to a large degree — is that the Internet has flattened daily life into a constantly swirling, cacophonous mosaic. Instead of extending that jarring, two-dimensional world into poems, Göransson has absorbed Frank O’Hara’s “intimate yell” and made it all his own. Haute Surveillance is a world of wounded voices.
“I have a nightmare about a girl covered with blood and when I wake up sweating my wife tells me a fairytale.”
For all the disparate information that Göransson brings swiftly and confidently into play, Haute Surveillance is not a collage. None of it feels arbitrary, which is nothing short of miraculous. At the very least, the author’s ambition was to write a new “Song of Myself” addressing these confusing, contradictory times in which we are at war, as well as to construct memorable situations without resorting to a plot or other familiar literary devices. He succeeded at both. His reasoning is simple and direct:
“Sometimes I want a room of my own, but mostly I just want a room without all these corpse-patterned wallpaper.”
Göransson’s fast-paced, present-tense writing critiques itself while moving forward, collapsing together all of discourses and vocabularies associated with the nightly news, feminism, sexual identity, Hollywood movies, science fiction, performance art, pornography, and poetry invested in the stable lyric “I.” Bots from academia mix with bits of the street.
Haute Surveillance is written in blocks of prose, lists, and lines. The collapsing together of different discourses doesn’t stop at the literal. Goransson turns it into a book that is unclassifiable — part epic poem, part science fiction, part pornographic film, and all literature. He writes sentences that the reader has to stop and think about. This is what I found so powerful about Haute Surveillance.
Blake Butler has written a column for Vice Magazine about Fence Books (and the journal), “Fence has been Reconfiguring the Literary Landscape for 15 Years.” Fence has obviously been hugely influential to contemporary poetry over the past 10-15 years.
Since 1998, Fence magazine has been independently publishing a biannual journal of prose, poetry, art, and criticism; in 2001, they began publishing several lines of innovative, ambitious books. While most magazines (this one excluded, of course) and literary journals can be dry and tedious, each issue of Fence seems to raise its own benchmark. There’s always something in there to befuddle you, to challenge the idea of what could appear on paper, to make you wonder how or why a thing was made. Fence occupies a rare place in new language, and has charged itself with the noble “mission to encourage writing that might otherwise have difficulty being recognized because it doesn’t answer to either the mainstream or to recognizable modes of experimentation.” Editor Rebecca Wolff is unique in that she doesn’t aim to control or even codify the work the press presents: the work is the work, thank God, and understanding is a product of the experience of reading, rather than a kernel to be swallowed.
Blake also wrote a recent Vice review of my new book Haute Surveillance:
There’s an ecstatic kind of media collision at work in the body of language produced by Swedish-born Johannes Göransson. Over the course of six books of his own, as well as translations of major Swedish authors like Aase Berg and Henry Parland, he has assembled an incredibly volatile and feverish vision, somewhere between Artaud and Lars Von Trier, though one more interested in the awkwardness and orchestration of the profane than simply milking it. His latest work, Haute Surveillance, may also be his most provocative. Here Johannes has assembled a feverish and explicit set of images and ideas revolving around power, fetish, porn, media, violence, translation, punishment, performance, and aesthetics. Taking its title from a Jean Genet play of the same name, it’s kind of like a novelization of a movie about the production of a play based on Abu Ghraib, though with way more starlets and cocaine and semen.
Things have been pretty sleepy here in Montevidayo, but The Actuary has been posting several great posts.
For example, Drew Kalbach applies some recent media theory to Joyelle’s concepts of “bug-time” and The Necropastoral.
This space of urban-meets-nature-mingles-death is a space of failure, decay, and mutation, a space that proliferates more than it moves forward. It’s a model of time that is uninterested in a nice linear gesture, but wants a swarming thrust. It is very much this hypertrophic image of counterprotocol Galloway and Thacker begin to map out. McSweeney’s necropastoral is itself a shape, a site, for these potential exploits to take place, or maybe it is an exploit in itself. It takes advantage of a networked system’s ability to replicate quickly and efficiently by going through massive amounts of data, of creation, of artworks, many failures and successes and deaths, uninterested in posterity or futurity, in order to create something pushed beyond the confines of typical artistic practices. The necropastoral is a space of art, death, politics, mutation.
And Evan Bryson has an incredibly thoughtful post on Seth Oelbaum, the prince of darkness and fashion who has been terrorizing so many people on HTMLGiant over the past month or two:
His collapse of all hope to a point of bitter dismissal is, in its way, a thrilling move, and its trajectory is defined no more starkly than in the history of queer writing itself. (Only looking at the spines to my right, I see American Sympathy by Caleb Crain, Policing Public Sex edited by Dangerous Bedfellows, Samuel R. Delaney’s The Motion of Light on Water, and Tiresias: The Collected Poems by Leland Hickman. Each volume has that Cepheid pulse of gay agony and gay ecstasy.) Snuffling in this abyss, Karlie Kloss‘s editor is a kind of martyr, a cutthroat priss, freighting his stigmata. He is a disgrace without shame, a boy who trespasses to be caught; he acts out his misguided zealotry before an audience he hopes will punish him. “[The stigmatized] is generally warned against fully accepting as his own the negative attitude of others toward him,” notes Erving Goffman in Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. “He is likely to be warned against ‘minstrelization,’ whereby the stigmatized person ingratiatingly acts out before normals the full dance of bad qualities imputed to his kind, thereby consolidating a life situation into a clownish role.” Karlie Kloss‘s minstrelsy is the absurd consolidation of gay bad press.
But his discussion also makes some apt observations about the Gurlesque and Artaud:
Action Books recently published Molly Weigel’s translation of Oliverio Girondo’s legendary book En la masmedula (In the Moremarrow). I’ve been obsessed by this book since I first heard Molly read an excerpt at a reading of Latin American poetry with Cecilia Vicuna (who called masmedula “a milestone in the history of poetry in Spanish”) at an AWP a few years ago. I’ve been searching for essays on it – turns out there are a ton of them but they are all in Spanish. However, I managed to find this elegy by Pablo Neruda from the journal Salmagundi from 1974.
By Pablo Neruda
(translated by Ben Belitt)
But under the carpeting,
on the otherside of the pavement,
between two immovable waves
a man’s been divided
and I’ve got to go down and see
for myself who’s been lost:
meanwhile- hands off, all of you:
here’s a line,a bite in a plate,
here’s a pressed flower in a book,
a transparent skeleton.
Oliverio,all of a piece,now
comes together again under my eyes,
definite as cut-crystal:
but however closely I come, whatever I
wring from the silence or keep to myself,
what looms large in my memory,
death’s little keepsake to me
will be only a stingy reminder,
a silhouette scissored in paper.
The man I remember and sing of
glittered with mutinous life;
I shared in the bursting explosions,
his comings and goings and backtrackings,
his horseplay, his wisdom:
elbow to elbow we greeted the sunrise
smashing the glass of the sky,
climbing the terraces
of mildewing palaces,
taking trains that never existed,
raucous with health
in the early hours of the milkman.
I was a sea-going yokel
( one could see the peninsular
cloud in my clothing)
while Oliverio walked
up and walked over the crowds,
the outsmarting customs-inspectors,
keeping cool on the crossings
( his big tie askew
in the wardrobeof autumn)
tossing down beer after beer in the thick
of the smoke, wraithlike in Valparaiso.
In the web of my boyhood
Oliverio Girondo is what happens. (continue reading…)
Drew Kalbach has written a fine response to my last post over at the Actuary, drawing the connection between Joyelle’s “Bug Time” and media theory:
I can’t help but read this as a network analogy. Instead of the progressive picture of literary linearity, it’s a networked image, where each node is independent but constantly interacting with any other node. And more than that, there are viruses all over this system, causing glitchy new nodes to spring up, older nodes to blue screen and disappear, etc.
It’s apt that Joyelle uses the bug metaphor; there is nothing more inhuman than the network. Alexander Galloway says in The Exploit:
“Human subjects constitute and construct networks, but always in a highly distributed and unequal fashion. Human subjects thrive on network interaction . . . yet the moments where the network logic takes over — in the mob or the swarm, in contagion or infection — are the moment that are the most disorienting, the most threatening to the integrity of the human ego.”
This swarm is essentially the “plague ground” Johannes Goransson brings up in a different post, and which is very much related to Joyelle’s post: it is the swarming, bug-like, highly distributed and highly interconnected network of poetry being created today on a massive scale. It proliferates, uninterested in ‘posterity’ or any concept of futurity, with only the desire to reproduce itself in the moment. Joyelle’s bug time wants to revel in this swarm, in the shaky ego. And since it’s so distributed and connected, there is no longer single ‘taste-maker’ acting as the arbiter for quality. Instead, everything mashes into the hive and slimes along each other, replicating. This is a large part of the current anxiety over contemporary poetry. With all this proliferation and connectivity, how can we know whats good from bad! Which I think is an absurd fear, and is really more of a nostalgia for modernist hierarchical control models.
Over at The Actuary, Drew Kalbach has written an excellent post on response to Ange Mlinko’s review of the new Norton Anthology of postmodern poetry, finding in her rhetoric a desire to “shut down enjoyment”:
Mlinko’s review genuinely confuses me. Really, this type of rhetoric confuses me in general. Its only goal seems to be to not allow people to enjoy something. She seems to suggest, in the first paragraph, that students who are forced to purchase this book (leaving aside the agency all students have, and the availability of inexpensive used texts, etc etc) are somehow being done a disservice. But she assumes that these students will get nothing from these poems, will not enjoy these poems, because she does not enjoy these poems. More than that, she assumes these students can’t choose for themselves whether or not these poems are worthwhile; they need to be taught proper taste.
His post makes me think about another thing I recently read in Zizek’s book Violence (which I quoted a couple of days ago on a related topic):
What Nietzsche and Freud share is the idea that justice as equality is founded on envy – on the envy of the Other who has what we do not have, and who enjoys it. The demand for justice is thus ultimately the demand that the excessive enjoyment of the Other should be curtailed so that everyone’s access to jouissance is equal. The necessary outcome of this demand , of course, is asceticism. Since it is not possible to impose equal jouissance, what is imposed instead to be equally shared is prohibition.
So far, Zizek’s analysis seems to follow Kalbach’s: especially in an age of “glut,” when there’s “too much” poetry, “too much” poetry that is – inherently in the quantity – tasteless, we more than ever need prohibitions. It seems the only acceptable form of criticism in the poetry world is to stage prohibitions. Witness for example Tony Hoagland who has made a career it seems of attacking poetry that does too much (too “skittery,” too political, too extravagant etc).
But I think it’s important to be clear that those prohibitions come not just from Poetry Magazine, but also of course from “experimental poetry,” which is full of prohibitions – against “the lyric I”, against images, against this and that, against “expression,” against the poetic, against poetry itself (in the case of Conceptual Poetry) – and full of anti-kitsch rhetoric – against the “too much”, the flood of “soft surrealism”, of excess of “MFA poets” etc. Even Flarf in its jokey embrace of “bad poetry” is of course re-confirming the insistence of Taste (you just have to have enough good taste to imitate the bad taste, to know that it’s bad). In many ways, the rhetoric of experimental poetry often reminds me of Zizek’s notion of “hedonistic asceticism.”
2. What model of literary time is provided by this mutating field time, this bug time, this spasming, chemically induced, methed up mutating, death time, this model of proliferant, buggered, buggy, moist, mutating, selecting, chitinous, gooey, bloated, dying time, a time defined by a spasming change of forms, by generational die-offs, by mutation, by poisoning, a dynamic challenge to continuity, and by sheer proliferation of alternatives, rather than linear succession? How would T.S. Eliot’s golden lineup of genius allstars, constantly reordering itself but still male- and human- and capital-assets- shaped, be affected by this swarm of ravening pissed-off mutant bugs out-futuring them by dying six times a summer, by having no human-shaped future at all?
I sometimes think about this passage from Zizek’s book Violence (and other places, he does famously repeat himself…):
Today’s liberal tolerance towards others, the respect of otherness and openness towards it, is counterpointed by an obsessive fear of harassment. In short, the Other is just fine, but only insofar as his presence is not intrusive, insofar as this other is not really other… In a strict homology with the paradoxical structure of the previous chapter’s chocolate laxative, tolerance coincides with its opposite. My duty to be tolerant towards the Other effectively means that I should not get too close to him, intrude on his space. In other words, I should respect his intolerance of my over-proximity. What increasingly emerges as the central human right in late-capitalist society is the right not to be harassed, which is a right to remain at a safe distance from others.
I am frequently reminded of this quotes in discussion in American poetry. It seems frequently that having a difference of opinion (no matter now meekly expressed) amounts to a gave offense, that there’s something “aggressive” or rude about expressing opinions. One becomes a “troll” by expressing one’s opinion.
I remember an angry email I received from a poet for disagreeing with her on a public blog; she wrote “this isn’t about you” and “you are from somewhere else” – as if I was being a megalomaniac foreigner (which of course might be true) by disagreeing with her on a public forum. I was hurt by that; I still think about it.
Of course, there are also these “trolls” that are repetitive and insulting in comment sections, and I find they often tend to be inherently normative (attacking people who express unconventional opinions). I used to have an “open” comment section to my last blog but stopped because I would just get tons of these hateful, thoughtless comments, so that’s why I have to approve comments to this blog (even though I seldom decline comments, and the few times I have I probably shouldn’t have). When does someone with different views become a “troll”? (Troll is of course not human, and that seems important here.)
Recently I noticed somebody wrote that Seth Oelbaum was a “troll” because he had expressed his views (in a highly performative fashion, as always) about poets he liked and didn’t like (as well as disagreeing with my ideas about “the glut”). You may disagree with him, but is he a “troll” for having strong opinions? For being too performative in the way he expresses them? Or for quite simply having opinions that differ from the common consensus?
Can we imagine a version of poetry discourse that is based on exchange or engagement with different opinions, and not on ‘tolerance’ or its phantom twin, shunning (i.e. don’t feed the troll…)?
(For the record: I totally agree with Oelbaum that Joyelle and Chelsea Minnis are two of the “top poets” in the US. But I also really like Aaron Kunin!)
(And now for something utterly original . . .)
Furniture without Rest by Thomas Evans
“Can feast on the real thing” (Cat Power)
Oblivion as They Rose Shrank like a Thing Reproved
Grounded in so great a project’s percept, you might just move through this book, its every page contentious. Hence that completed form of all completeness: don’t spell it at all just write it down.
“Means or doesn’t mean means nothing.” (Jean Genet)
Fashion perceives the rights of the corpse in the living, vanquishing both dissonance and gloom.
There’s only one good system, and that’s the Splendid System. Raven, evil seer at dusk, if the child is father to the man, man is father to the corpse . . .
When it gets too hot for comfort
And you can’t buy an ice cream cone
T’aint no sin to take off your skin
And dance around in your bones
T E quote: 3/6/13
G C-H misquote: 3/7/13
John Keats: Endymion
John Cage: An Alphabet
Jean Genet: The Screens
Walter Benjamin: The Arcades Project
Percy Bysshe Shelley: Adonais
Unica Zurn: Hexentexte
Francis Picabia: Eunuch Unique
Philip K Dick: Clans of the Alphane Moon
Wm. Burroughs, Robt. Wilson, Tom Waits: The Black Rider
In a Montevidayo super coup The Crypt Keeper obtained the following exclusive/effusive mission statement from the artist currently known as Thomas Evans.
The Pedestrian Thought Theatre is a theatre composed of individual stages [platforms], upon which thoughts and ideas are arranged as walks. Each thought is realized as an object of mental furniture *. These furniture objects attach to individual stages [stations] that, when arranged in a sequence, form the walk. (continue reading…)