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…)
SHAKING THE HABITUAL SHOW
April 22nd, 2013
We just have to go faster we mean breakneck we mean “like crazy”2
We are never faceless, not even in the most grey anonymous streets of the city. We will never stop being responsible, being extensions, of one another. We will never stop longing for each other, and for something else.3
We, The Knife, will be performing live. We will be there, on stage, all seven of us, sometimes all ten of us, or even more. We have worked hard, together. Things, ideas, concepts have been tried, tested, discarded, evolved, perfected and discarded again.
We know of the performative parts of power (Hegemony! Hi!), the on-going upholdance of everything through the performance of everyone. The habitual dance of the ordinary, the narratives of the normal. We know how the norm functions. But this is not every day. We have put on our glitter, we are ready to sparkle. This is special, if we were birds, (maybe we are) our feathers would shine (they do). We are building a place, a scene, a moment. But the blocks aren’t set, the pieces move. We slipper and slide around it, under it, above. Shaking our habitat.
With raging lungs we breathe, exhausted but enthralled. We sweat and smile and frown, laughing at the future, crying at the past, holding on. Legs astride, one foot yours, one foot ours.
So just in my lazy post-putting-kids-to-sleep brain I suddenly last night thought about the movie “River’s Edge” from 1986, and by my bad fortune it was on TV!
Anybody have feelings about/for/through this movie?
I remember watching it back in the day and loving it. THis time around it brought too many intertextual connections into my brain, as if this was some kind of key to American culture, to the 1980s, or some kind of un-secret, or unheimlich or peripheral center of a late 20th century American gothic.
FOr example, it’s of course impossible not to think of Blue Velvet, which was made at the same time roughly, with I think the same cameraman. But it’s hard for me not to think of it more in connection with Twin Peaks – because they are both prime examples of that great 80s genre of the teenage movie, just as they both feature as their main characters a dead, pale woman by the river (ie the great convention of American folk music, I killed my baby by the river la la). But if I think about teenage movies it’s also hard not to see the connection to Fast Times and Ridgemont High, with Sean Penn’s Spiccoli a kind of predecessor of Keanu Reeve’s stony character. Like Fast Times, River’s Edge is not only stoner-ific, it also inhabits that strange space where things both comic and tragic, scary and funny mingle (the little brother in River’s Edge reminds me of the angry little boy on a bike in that John Cusak movie – “I want my ten dollars” etc). Both Fast Times and River’s Edge seem to participate in that lurid genre of warnings against “the youth of today.” Interesting to think of them thusly in dialogue with the movies warning against (and/or revelling in) the violence of the lives of African-American youth in the 90s (Boyz in the Hood etc); perhaps black youth took the place of youth for a while?
The Parapornographic Manifesto by Carl-Michael Edenborg
In the Moremarrow by Oliverio Girondo (trans. Molly Weigl)
Pop Corpse! by Lara Glenum
The Warmth of the Taxidermied Animal by Tytti Heikkinen (Trans. Niina Polari)
Mouth of Hell by Maria Negroni (trans. Michelle Gil-Montero)
Aase Berg read here last night. Thanks to Coleen Hoover, who filmed the event, you can now watch it here (complete with my incomprehensible introduction):
We’re reading at the Myopic Bookstore tonight (Saturday, April 6) at 7.