Do you go into working on a book having the idea first, or does the idea make itself known somewhere in the course of writing the poems? How important is narrative arc to your writing process?
SOM: I recently finished my first collection of stories, a collection of punctured fairytales filled with characters who are balanced right at the seam of the real and the unreal. There are, for example, a lot of characters on the telephone. Things happen in bars or hospitals or playgrounds. There are daycare centers and taxmen. But these real spaces don’t keep a cloud from bursting open and spilling out children. Or jokes from turning into men. Or a woman from getting pregnant by eating leaves stuck to a tin can. Or a king size bed from turning into a twin. Or a teacher from snowing. Which is to say, I’m experimenting right now with characters living in the present, while still maintaining what was at the center of my first two collections (of poetry): the absolute certainty of the unknowable.
I began the collection as a way to return to the I. Lucie Brock-Broido writes, “It is true that each self keeps a secret self that cannot speak when spoken to.” I wanted to start telling the secrets I was keeping from myself. An old friend once wrote to me about the cover of my collection Tsim Tsum. “I know you think you’re the girl on the cover, but really you’re the animal.” That note made me happy. Because I knew already I was the animal, and also I did not yet know.
What drew you to character, as opposed to a lyric I, or something more strictly persona? What can characters do for poems that the others cannot, if anything? How does giving something a name—a speaker, character, something else—help create meaning?
SOM: I think the different between persona and character is that persona is a mask the poet wears, whereas character is a mask the poet one wore, long ago, and lost, and now it’s covered in must and webs. It’s a mask that might’ve gone slightly rotten on one side, where maybe a small growth has begun to form. The job of the poet is to watch this growth, measure it, and give it a name. And slowly, slowly something resembling eyes and teeth will begin to poke through. Sometimes it takes seconds for a whole entire person to step into view, and other times years, and other times never. Other times all you ever get is an eye and a couple of teeth. Maybe a finger if you’re lucky. Maybe even a heart.
Sabrina Orah Mark Wild Milk
Dorothy, a publishing project
‘Wild Milk is like Borscht Belt meets Leonora Carrington; it’s like Donald Barthelme meets Pony Head; it’s like the Brothers Grimm meet Beckett in his swim trunks at the beach. In other words, this remarkable collection of stories is unlike anything else you’ve read.’ — D,app
from Tin House
On the first day of Live Oak Daycare, all the children are given shovels and a small bag of dirt. “We encourage the children—even the babies, especially the babies—to work hard, imaginatively.” Miss Birdy, my son’s teacher, winks. She sits my baby boy in the middle of the floor with his shovel and dirt. He is not even a year old. I look around. The babies are happy. I have never seen such happy babies. Chewing on their shovels. Spreading around their dirt. Miss Birdy gives me a hug. I wave goodbye to my boy, but he doesn’t see me. “Go, go,” says Miss Birdy. “He’s in good hands.” She shows me her hands. They remind me, for some reason, of my hands.
Three hours later, I come to pick up my boy. He is wearing a bright orange poncho that does not belong to him. He crawls towards me, like a searchlight.
“Your child,” says Miss Birdy, “is a phenomenon.” I blush. “Oh, thank you. We too think he is very special,” I say. I want to ask about the poncho, but Miss Birdy goes on. “I mean, your child is a mana mana,” says Miss Birdy. “What I mean to say is that your child is a real man.” Miss Birdy softly pinches her tongue and pulls out a long white hair. “Oh, that’s better,” she says. “I mean, a ma.” She makes little, tiny spits. “I mean, a no one. Your child,” says Miss Birdy, “is a real no one. No, no. That’s not it either.” Miss Birdy smoothes her stiff cotton skirt. It’s pink with tiny red cherries on it. “What I mean to say, most of all,” says Miss Birdy, “is that I love not being dead.” “Me too,” I say. “Oh, good! says Miss Birdy. Here’s his bottle. He drank all his milk and then cried and cried and cried for more.
In the hallway, I pass a mother covered in daughters. I count approximately five. I hold up my bundled son, like a form of identification. Like he will provide me safe passage across the border. “No daughters?” she asks. “No,” I say. “No daughters.” “How come?” she asks. She seems to be blaming me, unfairly. “By the time they arrived,” I explain, “the daughters had turned.” “Rotten?” she asks. “Not exactly rotten but gigantic.” I hand her my boy so I can spread my arms wide. To show her how big. I take my boy back. “Gigantic,” I repeat. “And mealy. I sent the whole bin back. The whole bin of daughters back. The brave thing would’ve been to keep them, I know, but they seemed so impossible to name.” The mother nods. She still seems to disapprove, but before I can be certain her daughters lift her up, hungrily, and carry her away.
The strange thing about being a mother is how often I’m interrupted. Like something is happening and then something else is happening. It is difficult to get a good grasp on things.
The next day Miss Birdy is peeling vegetables. The babies are watching, transfixed. I have come early to pick up my boy, but I don’t see my boy. Miss Birdy points to a child the color of chicken broth. “Yours?” she asks. “Definitely not mine,” I say. She points to another and another, as if I lost my ticket for the coat check. I don’t see my boy. It is becoming difficult to breathe and I am suddenly freezing cold. The floor opens up beneath me and just as I begin to fall through my boy crawls out from underneath a bassinet. In his fist is a tiny book. On the cover is a picture of a plain brown mouse. He holds it up. “MOUSE,” he says. This is his first real word. “MY MOUSE,” he says. I am amazed. I am relieved. His pronunciation is perfect. I want to pick him up. Reward him with kisses. Hold him and never let him go. But Miss Birdy stops me. “No, no,” she says. She softly wags a finger at my boy. “That’s not your mouse. That’s no one’s mouse.” Her voice slows. “That mouse.” Miss Birdy coughs. “That mouse,” she says, “is alone in this world, and barely…” Miss Birdy stops. “What was that?” she asks. “What was what?” I say. “That sound,” says Miss Birdy. “I don’t know,” I say. “What did it sound like?” “It was a sound that sounded like a sound,” says Miss Birdy. “Like a sound a sound would make. Never mind. Where was I?” “You were with the mouse.” “Oh, the mouse! Do you know him?” “No,” I say. “Unless you mean…” “Neither do I,” says Miss Birdy. “And this is my point. That mouse…” Miss Birdy is now looking at my boy. “That mouse is alone in this world and barely…” Miss Birdy sucks in one long, beautiful breath. “Exists,” says Miss Birdy, triumphantly. “That mouse is not unlike you.” She is still looking at my boy. “When I call out for that mouse in the dark does the mouse come? No, the mouse does not. Do you? So far not even once.” My baby puts his whole hand in Miss Birdy’s mouth, and leaves it there for what seems like days.
On Monday Miss Birdy’s bright pink blouse is fluttering with excitement. “Your boy wrote his name today all by himself!” She hands me a piece of construction paper. Someone, not my baby, has written on it S H R E D S. I hand the paper back. “That is not his name.” “Oh,” says Miss Birdy. She looks at the paper and her face crumples. “I am sorry,” says Miss Birdy. “I don’t know how this happened.” “I don’t know how anything happens,” I say. We hold hands. “I’m so lonely,” says Miss Birdy. “I’m so lonely too,” I say. “I thought you were my hiding place,” says Miss Birdy. I picture her skull. “I thought you were mine,” I say. Miss Birdy ties a yellow scarf around her head. “Stop picturing my skull,” says Miss Birdy. She is clearly upset. Her lips are cracked, and begin to bleed a little. She looks at the construction paper, and traces each letter with her thumb. “If this isn’t his name, then whose name is it?” She sorts through the other babies. She pats me down as if searching for something. She touches me on the thigh. She feels like she’s about to snow.
The next day, there’s a message from Miss Birdy. “We cannot give your boy his bottle. The milk you left was wild. Please bring better milk.”
I rush to Live Oak. I have no better milk. This is the only milk I have. I point to each breast. Miss Birdy is holding my baby. He is shivering and hungry. Miss Birdy is snowing. Hard. I try to walk towards her but there is a great wind and I can barely see through the big, white flakes. “THIS IS THE ONLY MILK I HAVE.” I am calling to Miss Birdy and my boy through the snowstorm. My arms are outstretched. “Come to mama,” I cry. I say my baby’s name. It sounds smaller and flatter than I ever imagined it. I can’t get to him. Miss Birdy is a blizzard that could last all winter. “I AM SORRY.” I am shouting. Miss Birdy has my baby and she is snowing. It is all my fault. I should never have left him. I AM SORRY I AM SORRY I AM SORRY. I am punching at the snow. I am fighting against nature when I know I have no choice but to wait until spring. The mother covered in daughters kneels beside me. This time I count approximately fifteen. “Climb on,” she says. “I am so sorry,” I say. “It is the only milk I have.” “Of course it is,” she says. “Is there room?” I ask. “Around my neck,” she says. I climb around it, loosely. The mother covered in daughters is warm and I am so tired. “Go to sleep,” says the mother. “I will wake you up when it’s time to go.” But the mother never does wake me up. Which is how you know this story is true.
2010-11 Writers Series: Sabrina Orah Mark
Sabrina Orah Mark reads “Pool”
The Wells Visiting Writers Series: Sabrina Orah Mark
Fanzine: You write with great openness, including when writing about moments most people aren’t proud of in their own lives–abusive relationships, suicide attempts, drug abuse, womanizing, and so on–does knowing that one day your daughter will read these essays or knowing that family, friends, and strangers are currently reading them affect how you approach the subjects? Or do you mostly not think about audience when you write?
Jamie Iredell: It seems best to me that if you’re writing the personal essay or the memoir, the biggest villain of the story ought to be the author. Who wants to read something where someone’s talking about how great he is? I guess that’s okay if it’s Chuck Berry, or David Carradine. Both of those guys’ memoirs are amazing, in part for the ridiculous grandiosity of their narcissism–much of it unfounded–that they seem unaware of, so their books have this strange almost unreliable narrator thing going on. But there’s no question that writing about yourself, even when you’re talking about the lowest points of your life, is narcissistic, too. So mostly I’m concerned first with anyone reading it and thinking that I’m glorifying myself or the things I’ve gone through, as that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’m terribly ashamed of most everything I’ve ever done in my life. I feel like I have very few high points. But I think I write about those lows, those terrible things–or at least I have in this book–as a way to confront how imperfect I am. I would never try to present myself to my daughter or any other family member as perfect, or even good. I’m just trying my best to be good, and usually failing. Then again, I’ve often looked at personal essay and memoir as a vehicle through which the artist becomes his art. The words aren’t really the art at all; the artist is his art. The artist has learned to manipulate the language in such a way that said art transmits to the audience. So, I think a lot about audience when I write; I’m just ashamed of who I am, but I’m not afraid of it.
FZ: I’m interested in what you’re saying here about seeing the personal essay as “a vehicle through which the artist becomes his art.” Is art for you more about the process than it is the final product or is there a balance that you strive for?
JI: I’m way more interested in the process than the final product. Just looking at this from the writer’s point of view, you spend so much time with a text, living in it, letting it be this big part of who you are, until it fades, and starts feeling like its own thing, like it’s no longer a part of you. You know you’ve reached this point when you haven’t looked at a text in a while and you read it and you’re like “Who the hell wrote that?” Hopefully you’re also thinking, “Whoever wrote it, it’s good.” After that, everything else that goes with doing stuff with texts feels like a job. I guess there’s the editorial process, and that makes you live with the work again, but sometimes this period feels somewhat artificial, as it’s forced. If you’re working with a good editor–and I’ve been fortunate to have that with most of my books–it’s a great and creative process. But by the time a book’s published and I’m going through the promotional stuff and doing readings and everything, I’m pretty bored with that book, or I’m deeply involved with the creation of another, and my head’s in another space. Don’t get me wrong; I still enjoy doing readings, going on a book tour, having a release party, all that stuff. It’s just that I feel most alive when I’ve spent a day inside something, something that’s so engrossing that when I’m jogging all I’m thinking about is that book, and before I know it I’ve run five miles and I feel like I’m only getting started.
Jamie Iredell The Fat Kid
Civil Coping Mechanisms
‘As if the structure of McCarthy’s Suttree had been used to recreate the events leading to Columbine, Jamie Iredell’s The Fat Kid evokes a twisted exploration of antisocial desperation and revenge, one that in its brazen wake provides a very necessary breath of fresh air into the lungs of contemporary Southern literature.’ — Blake Butler
‘A haunting and pulls-no-punches book about a struggling, damaged son and his brutal, damaged father, and the strange uncanny man who seems master of both of them. Kind of like what might happen if William Faulkner started a novel about fathers and sons, had a heart attack, and then David Lynch was called in to finish it.’ — Brian Evenson
‘Lonesome and brimming with expansive sadness, Iredell’s The Fat Kid reads as a kind of Huck Finn story, a melancholy last stand for men and boys suspended in a gelatin of their own mistakes.’ — Amelia Gray
from Spork Press
The Fat Kid had had a girlfriend. In fact it was unclear if he still did, or if that girlfriend was a girlfriend no longer. Such semantics tired even the Fat Kid. She was around, a “friend” who was a female, and sometimes even still the Fat Kid put his penis inside some of this girl’s orifices. That was a kind of mutual agreement not unlike which one makes with a bank in respect to one’s dollars and cents.
The Fat Kid had met this girlfriend at the Bar and she called herself Sheri. Sheri was a curly-haired brunette. She sat at the end of the Bar’s bar tipping back Budweisers and did so so frequently that it was inevitable that the Fat Kid, Cooter, Gunther—all of them—got to know Sheri and so she became a girl friend to all of them, except that only the Fat Kid put his penis into her. All of them except one of the Nicks who had also put his penis into her at one point before the Fat Kid made of her a girlfriend. She never was Nick’s girlfriend, with the exception of her being friendly and a girl, as has already been stated. But with the Fat Kid she was much more a girlfriend in the sense of that compound noun as opposed to the two separate nouns “girl” and “friend” in which case the “girl” functions much more like an adjective that describes the noun “friend.”
How to say what the Fat Kid thought about the fact that Sheri had done the dirty with one of the Nicks? It both repulsed and excited him. Sometimes when fucking Sheri the Fat Kid imagined her fucking Nick, sometimes fucking random strangers. There was something about Sheri having reckless drunken sex that turned the Fat Kid on. That said, the Fat Kid felt a little tug on his heart (not literally of course, but something inside of him moved when he thought of Sheri) and he thought of her as special, and so the thought of her getting down with random dudes about made the Fat Kid jealous enough to throw something.
Both the Fat Kid and Sheri became proficient throwers of things. Hence the distinction of Sheri as an actual girlfriend remained complicated. For a short stint they had attempted a shacking up of their mutual items and bodies into a two bedroom Victorian down the street from the Bar. However, short lived that remained as windows shattered and Home Depot trips grew exponentially, all for cut glass and window caulk. Thus one discreet and cloud-covered day while Sheri disappeared for where the Fat Kid could not fathom, for Sheri worked no bar nor any other job and where her money came from the Fat Kid never bothered to ask, he—the Fat Kid—packed his things into the bed of his pickup truck, a scraggly dried up monstera hanging limp near the tailgate, and the Fat Kid himself disappeared—at least from Sheri’s world.
Days later she wandered into the bar where the Fat Kid worked and had a few choice words for the Fat Kid. What the fuck did he think he was doing? Where the fuck had he gone? Was he ever coming back? Did he not love her anymore? What the fuck is your fucking problem? I know what your fucking problem is, Fat Kid, it’s that you’re a fucking Fat Kid. You fat fucking piece of shit.
The problem had always been that Sheri, no differently than the Fat Kid’s daddy, called the Fat Kid a fat kid. And that was something the Fat Kid had put up with his entire life. When those words came out maliciously like that, a stream spit out in a drunken rage, sometimes even the spit dribbling from Sheri’s chin and her eyes squinted so hard the Fat Kid thought she might squint her head in two, again something moved inside the Fat Kid. The Fat Kid had a temper that he worried could well up when he heard Sheri calling him a fat kid. It was different than, say, Cooter calling him Fat Kid. Cooter, also, was a fat kid. Even Gunther, lean and cut up like a statue, could call the Fat Kid lunchbox, and the Fat Kid knew that Gunther loved him. But when Sheri swayed in front of him in the dim of that Victorian, after the Bar’s closing, in the spare light, a beer in her grip, and she hissed out, you fuckin fat kid, the Fat Kid grabbed lamp after lamp and hefted them at walls, through windows. He even grunted up the thirty-six inch TV and chucked, sparks flying after it crashed against a wall and settled, setting a corner of the carpet ablaze.
The big question of course is why Sheri insisted upon going right to the Fat Kid’s fatness when trouble arose in their together times, like a cat that no one owned or fed. Sometimes even the Fat Kid didn’t know. But on occasion an old friend would call—a female—not a girlfriend but a girl friend, now that that’s all been established. That was something a girlfriend like Sheri could not stand by and take, especially not after a few Budweisers, without letting the thought of that old pussy reeking into her mind like a stink. Once even, after finishing his bar shift, when Sheri kissed the Fat Kid she said, your moustache smells like cunt of woman. The Fat Kid had had no cunt of woman other than Sheri’s cunt, so if anything she must be smelling her own cunt. And that incensed Sheri to no end, when the fat Kid said he stunk of her own stinky cunt. Then Sheri started in on the Fat Kid and soon he wielded a knife and ripped apart the blouses and dresses that collected dust in Sheri’s Victorian closet—clothing that went unworn, for Sheri had little use for blouses and dresses in a place like the Bar, the one place the Fat Kid knew for sure she ever went.
Jamie Iredell | Lit&Bruised Episode 24
The Bear in the Neighbor’s Kitchen / Jamie Iredell
Book trailer for The Book of Freaks, by Jamie Iredell
‘At its very best, interrogative writing can be angry and unapologetic, bypassing our beliefs and picking at our sensibilities because it couldn’t care less. Anne Boyer’s latest collection of essays, A Handbook of Disappointed Fate inflicts writing that perfects its own oppositions and rehearses riotous tonalities of no against the mandatory, capitalist yes. Saying nothing or staying put as foreplays for saying “not this” are the constant practices of refusalists who don’t put a muzzle on their biting no each time they refuse the prepackaged order of the world, and try to overturn it instead. Without eluding their uncomfortable yet not-that-obvious collusion with death, refusals seem to perform at their best when whimsical or, as Boyer notes, taking the form of poetry: “Every poem against the police is also and always a guardian of love for the world.”
‘Non-human mediators have a long history in philosophy, literature and even more popular mediums such as film – take, for instance, Ildikó Enyedi’s latest cinematic endeavor, On Body and Soul (2017), a gorgeous yet flawed attempt at rendering non-human taxonomies that unfolds (deliberately or not) against its premise of mind-body dualism. Boyer’s essay ‘When the Lambs Rise up Against the Bird of Prey’ works in a similar vein, reminiscent of Deleuze’s description of non-humans as beings living steadily “on the lookout”. Rejecting the innocence that keeps being attached to “lambness”, and replacing it with the shrewd education violence engrafts on living bodies regardless of their degree of consciousness, this piece darkens the boundaries between us and lambs. But this analogy doesn’t work in our favor – on the contrary, it’s the lamb that becomes liberated, extricated as it is from the position of the always losing protagonist in anthropocentric fable.
‘Flagrantly, A Handbook of Disappointed Fate feeds its appetite for impractical questions with shattering ruminations on artists like Missy Elliott, Bo Diddley, Mary J. Blige and Willie Nelson that conjure disappointments and traumas while imagining a future beyond pain and abuse. A spatial counterpoint to such intensities, but also a marker of living in the present, Kansas City emerges as a protagonist in its own right, false nostalgia eschewed. … Incessant longing gets its due too, and, as usual, it’s an utterly difficult category to pin down. Boyer goes for intense yet tender erotologies that could even lure in Jenny Hval’s “blood bitches”. But then again, desire is not exactly something you can put in cold, humidity-proof storage, and writing about it is sure to unpack unrequited feelings – “Could the passing of hours, the spinning of the earth, the silence of birds, and all operation of time have a heartbreak whose cause is category, too?” Against all this messiness, it’s only reasonable to long for utopia, a “formulary for a new feeling” that dissolves the tyranny of coupledom where what passes for love gets swapped between two bodies under a contract with no mouse print.’ — MH., 3:AM Magazine
Anne Boyer A HANDBOOK OF DISAPPOINTED FATE
Ugly Duckling Presse
‘A Handbook of Disappointed Fate highlights a decade of Anne Boyer’s interrogative writing on poetry, death, love, lambs, and other impossible questions.’ — UDP
‘This book is brilliant. A consideration of Bo Diddley sits beside a treatise on “Difficult Ways to Publish Poetry”; there are jokes and lists and disease and spot-on aphorisms that sidestep true/false to become their own category of being. What makes A Handbook essential? The quality of writing, the shape of its thoughts, and the spaces of freedom it encourages in us as participants and co-conspirators. To read Anne Boyer is to join an underdog collectivity, “both always in this world and looking for another.”’ — Jace Clayton
I’ve only watched it once. First there are Missy Elliott’s mortuary metaphors; then the mining lights on the dancers’ heads; then Missy is in a hivelike palace of graves, of honeycombs, of vertical scaffolding made horizontal; and then there are the plastic bags. Maybe a plastic bag is a kite in situ. Maybe a kite is an escape in situ. Maybe an escape is a soaring in situ. It’s not the first time she has brought her performance from a bag. It’s not the first time, too, that her torso is obscured in the foregrounding of her head. Everyone knows that where “WTF (Where They From)” comes from is from years of all of us wanting more, and in this it’s also a song about emerging from ossification. Maybe what is ossified is a fandom’s desire over these long hauls. And where we are from, as fans, is the dim, steady light of waiting. Where Missy Elliott is from is space—not the outer kind but the kind we all move through—and she positions herself always as one joint in the folding body of the world. It begins with the people, as the people always make the scene of sound. It begins with the reminder that the people who listen to music are as real as the ones who make it.
As often as Mary J. Blige leads with a missed call, so Missy Elliott leads with the word on the street, and then the appearance of a child, of the world starting anew with the one who starts out. Where every child is from is possibility, and so the children dance next to her in many of her videos, in this one too. In Missy Elliott’s work this child is also the beginner who is a prodigy—the child genius, dancing with astounding precision, with perfect furor and also perfect humor—a homage, maybe, to Missy the child genius, caught in the brutality of her first home, the one where her mother left behind a few necessary objects as an act of confusing mercy for their abuser.
Missy conducts; she orchestrates. I first thought what she does is conduct a crowd to move laterally, but this isn’t right—what she does is conduct a crowd to move any way it needs to, however the spirit of the crowdness calls. You can put your thing down, flip it, and reverse it: that’s the crowd’s ars poetica. It’s also, maybe, a politics, that not moving forward unless you want to, that taking on any space you need how you take it even if you turn space itself inside out. In this song about being from, in this one viewing of this video, I am reminded that Missy Elliott is an expert in prepositions. She is a “prepositionist,” probably. We are all from, and in Missy’s music there are with’s and at’s and to’s. She unites by direction. It takes a genius to turn prepositions into a politics. Where we are from is the space opened up by Missy Elliott, and if Missy says we should dance from the grave, we do.
If an animal has previously suffered escapable shock, and then she suffers inescapable shock, she will be happier than if she has previously not suffered escapable shock — for if she hasn’t, she will only know about being shocked inescapably.
But if she has been inescapably shocked before, and she is put in the conditions where she was inescapably shocked before, she will behave as if being shocked, mostly. Her misery doesn’t require acts. Her misery requires conditions.
If an animal is inescapably shocked once, and then the second time she is dragged across the electrified grid to some non-shocking space, she will be happier than if she isn’t dragged across the electrified grid. The next time she is shocked, she will be happier because she will know there is a place that isn’t an electrified grid. She will be happier because rather than just being dragged onto an electrified grid by a human who then hurts her, the human can then drag her off of it.
If an animal is shocked, escapably or inescapably, she will manifest deep reactions of attachment for whoever has shocked her. If she has manifested deep reactions of attachment for whoever has shocked her, she will manifest deeper reactions of attachment for whoever has shocked her and then dragged her off the electrified grid. Perhaps she will develop deep feelings of attachment for electrified grids. Perhaps she will develop deep feelings of attachment for what is not the electrified grid. Perhaps she will develop deep feelings of attachment for dragging. She may also develop deep feelings of attachment for science, laboratories, experimentation, electricity, and informative forms of torture.
If an animal is shocked, she will manufacture an analgesic response. These will be incredible levels of endogenous opioids. This will be better than anything. Then later, there will be no opioids, and she will go back to the human who has shocked her looking for more opioids. She will go to the shocking condition — called “science” — and there in the condition she will flood with endogenous opioids, along with cortisol and other things which feel arousing.
Eventually all arousal will feel like shock. She will not be steady, though, in her self-supply of analgesic. She will not always be able to dwell in science, as much as she now believes she loves it.
That humans are animals means it is possible that the animal model of inescapable shock explains why humans go to movies, lovers stay with those who don’t love them, the poor serve the rich, the soldiers continue to fight, and other confused, arousing things. Also, how is capitalism not an infinite laboratory called “conditions”? And where is the edge of the electrified grid?
Anne Boyer reading at the Poetry Project
Reading by Anne Boyer, 11.5.15
Anne Boyer: Garments Against Women
‘I write because writing provides me a good opportunity to drinks lots of Pepsi and Diet Coke. I generally have ambivalent tendencies to the question of ‘why’. I usually fail to provide any special contribution to that question. I prefer to throw it up, do the action. I’m not trying to be obtuse, but perhaps there is no ‘why’? Does there have to be a ‘why’? Why do you write? I just do happen to write? Do I have an intellectual awareness about it? Not really? Maybe I write so I can impose a libidinal cathexis on the world, a purge.
‘Maybe I write so I don’t have to talk to you, so I don’t have to go hang out in the places you hang out in. I definitely didn’t start writing so I could go to a writer’s festival. But then again maybe it’s not about any of those things, maybe it’s because imagination is always going to be the one thing that’s mine. You can’t take it and you can’t make me change it. Perhaps I want to change writing itself. I’m kind of interested in foreign objects, or outer objects embedded into bodies, a psychic unit perhaps, disjecta membra in our physiques, perhaps that’s what writing is – fragments.
‘There’s an innate narcissism to writing though, but people mention that as if there’s no narcissism to every activity. There’s also a pathological repetition to writing, but again, so is there with living. So why do it? Because there’s nothing better to do. Have you look outside lately? It’s a truckload of intrauterine existences and various schizophrenic symptoms and unintelligible machines. Writing is a deodorant. It’s 108 years old. I’m likely to be buried in gravel, under someone’s driveway, and then moved onto a footpath. I notice a mild, gentle wind. I fall around the front of this building. I am matching the wind with my fun manner. I hallucinated a lot as a child. I have nothing better to do with my life.’ — Shane Jesse Christmas
Shane Jesse Christmass Yeezus in Furs
‘Yeezus in Furs. Musty hot dogs. Los Angeles. Interchangeable sexes of tongues and eyes. Sawdust in the sky. A small gas station in Pennsylvania. Radio sounds in the desert. Petrol over the lawn furniture. Grey-green cyanide capsules swallowed in secret rooms. Different body sizes and several animal parts. False mood and subnormal emotions. Learning to read using menus from McDonald’s. A bachelor apartment. The white light, the pre-dawn soft warm scratches. UFO / space. Small outer suburbs. Blueprints. Military devices. The liquor cabinets of foreign ministers. A yellow street lamp. Long eyelashes. Satin clothes and incompetent WI-FI. Rome watches America. Office buildings full of manservants. Hot costumes in paper bag. Vacuum cleaners in the stenographer’s officer. Colour photographs. Gold cap teeth. House cleaners sit on gas tanks. Long and empty drives under dreary palm trees. Musty hot dogs.’ — DWO
PISS CONTEST. I enter the supermarket. She walks. The doors close. She finds herself, gathers her limbs and feels for her baseball cap. Snowballs. Desert sands. Wind machines. Cigarettes and rolling paper. Milky oil. Asphalt. There’s a man with a clipboard outside. I approach him. The man vanishes behind official masks, secret police. White puffs, rainclouds and visible trains in the rail yard pull out for afternoon commuter service. Cars, taxi cabs, Trucks, lonely vessels speed without headlights. A man runs into oncoming traffic. Cracked straw boaters. Chemists. Windows. Spires wax with wet peaks. Flopping smell of rental properties. An empath with rhinoplasty. Bruises on wrist from skateboarding. Straw hat pushed back from forehead. A cracked window. Reign in Blood on the boombox. War Stops War. Some other sunrise. Tomorrow or the day after next. A bus stop. I wait for the bus. Lank hair. Dry. Messy. I wake up. Hair past her shoulders. She hasn’t brushed it. I tighten her belt a notch. Electrical energy fires within. A rimy tear sticks to her fingertips. Music from down the street. The street is a hallway. I have to catch a bus, and then ferry, then bus, and then walk five blocks. Sunglasses over eyeballs. A coat over shoulders. Her back to the street. She stands in the gutter, bouncing slightly. The bus stop. She looks at it. Graffiti written. Hand-drawn pictures. Crude. Abhorrent. Cave paintings. Tears. Apologies. The bus arrives. She lets it pass. Chance. Swine amongst the forest space. Pools of bull fat. Trickery. I feel like a pest. More graffiti. A nurse with a patient. Farm animals sniff. I hear whispers. They’re insignificant. Mural in a building site projects an image of nuclear war. Apathy. Graffiti on the back of your hand. Simplistic pictograms. Hieroglyphics. A tactile world. Footmarks on your face. I up late in the deep night. She listens to the power lines. Priestess buried out on Potter’s Field / Hart Island. Super-computers plug out of gene therapy. Early Morning, Exterior, Rows, blocks, bricks, tenements, NYC fire-bombed out, windows propelled, shards, snowflakes. Freeways abandoned, rusted, fly-blown. Numerous arterials, tracking shot, freeway after freeway, off-ramps join off-ramps. Overgrowth under bridges, remains of automobiles and oil-tankers, tobacco and barley pressed by wind in every direction. A woman pushes through toward the apartment blocks. She holds a watering can. She wears gabardine pants, tough material made into shirt and jacket, limp and greasy hair, long, curling, kinking at the shoulder. Smoke, fires smoulder, left over from the evening before. I clasp the watering can in her right hand. She walks toward the apartment blocks. Sunshine over cold fields and car parks. Dew drops in rubbish wrappers and newspaper. Hieroglyphics under the overpass. Graffiti scratched into concrete with car antennas. You’re in the distance, walking in a grove of abandoned buildings and empty possessions. Subtitles beneath the pages of this book. Police officers surround the apartment blocks in golf carts. One of them enters six-digits into her cell phone. Sun lamps for sale on the street corner. Mouthpieces from IBM are dying and starving. The bully, the third world, the mineral kingdom, the East River. Science and art. Your anus decomposing when washed with soap. TV purified from plant source and sea. Restaurant menus litter outside restaurants. Fireworks. Cut To: Interior: A telephone. Dimensions of your mind. Criminal offences in a public park. A gravestone. She wants to be life and passion. Isn’t going to happen. Sidewalk and other commonplace hold phone conversations. A plastic bag of solvent in your left hand. Examination rooms of doctors studying other doctors. Studying and re-examining. Teenager chases teenager down flight of steps. I huff the solvent from the plastic bag. A close full shot of black hair and white headband. Bedroom doors clap at the same time. Sound is vast. I am at the front entrance of an apartment block. She surveys it. She bends down and scratches her ankles. Cigarettes and lighter in your jacket pocket. They rub against her stomach. Motion starts and I follow. The sun rises over the buildings / apartment block. Weak heat in the alleyway. Sulphur permeates construction sites. Locusts buzz in rubbish bins. I sidestep puddles. A door. Your shoes on a doormat. The door is rickety. It’s been kicked in a few times. The door is water-logged, rotting. This is the industrial part of the city. No more manufacturing. Eternally rundown. The only people are those left behind. I hold the watering can in her right hand. Her wristwatch ticks. Shirt collar encrusted. Shoes unpolished. Movie projectors pour light into your eyes. Her forehead pounds. Orchestras playing at 5 to 11 percent their potential. Shoe polish washes from synthetic leather. I wear no socks. Her exposed ankles. Insect bites on scabby bone. Mud on gabardine. A locust lands on your belt buckle. She inhales more solvent from the plastic bag. I pour water on the doormat. Your hair is unruly, ridiculous. She is her early twenties. Cheekbones are gaunt. She waters the doormat. The door opens. A chubby, cigarette-chomping man. She’s dressed in pyjamas and a dressing gown. Hair is combed-over. She’s furious with me. Plastic bag up to your nose. Plastic bag moves with your lung. I water the doormat. Inhales the paint fumes. I hold the plastic bag toward the combed-over man. The man slams the door. I water the doormat. The battered door. Throat gurgle rise from the street. Psychic nose on her. Bruises. Trains in the rail yard pull out. Blood drains from your nose. No needs for faces in NYC. Spit cloth around shoes at Grand Central Station. Unsound chairs. I bathe in the restroom sink. Jehovah’s Witnesses with clipboards. Post-humans jammed up the front of the Staten Island Ferry. Cryo-patients chipped and thawed by jackhammers and drills. Chemical leeching understood through haptic perception. Perpetual studying and re-examining of infrawaves under the East River. Livers and lungs wash ashore in Astoria. Indefinite lifespan in your sweat pores. She slides, and then penetrates your body. Sea and space colonies outgrow modern civilization. Robotic self-replication, molecular manufacturing. They’re building the O’Neil cylinder out in Morristown. Trance-like on Ward’s Island. The homeless taking giant shots of Spanish brandy. Fire in the hearth. Someone on the subway barbequing commuter’s faces. Buskers all bored. I stand in the driveway, lit up by the streetlights. I hold her weapon. She fires a single shot. Her head disappears entirely. A torrent of blasts rip into a burning house. Bricks destroyed. Cement vaporises. Wood splinters. Clouds of dust and fireworks. Tanks in Times Square fishtail sideways. Soldiers stomp heads halfway between BB King Blues Club & Grill and the MTV Studios. Coffee shop for lease. Retail shop for lease. Chest pockets on police uniforms. Armoured vehicles to the right of soldiers. Armoured vehicles roll down the street. Smouldering houses. Fire fighters strip to their smalls. NYC bombed back to Year Zero. Mouths open but no sound coming out. Canons adjusted. Canons erupting. Cacophony. Dust and bullshit. Police pound the steel bodies of abandoned cars. Scrap metal, flint sparks, glass shatters. The vehicles are aflame. I drop her wine glass. She’s bored, stacked and tied in twine. Hare Krishnas awake and learn that their entire life has become secondary to the broadcasting of a meme. At every opportunity that Hare Krishna is mentioned, the broadcasting is complete. Fire in the hearth, barbeque sausages somewhere. Heat against the apartment blocks. A tap drips. A coffee cup. Apartment doors above the street open. Cab drivers stand in phone booths. They hand out copies of the New York Post. Cab drivers throw patterns, strobe shapes onto the sidewalk. People head out of NYC via the Trinity ChurchCemetery. A camera pans across my face. Horses plod outside. Locks are latched, stockings fastened, jackhammers crank. I drop the watering can. She kneels, touches the water that’s soaks the doormat. This is an advanced kind of NYC. People with their eyes on me. Flesh folds over your belt buckle. Mechanisms undulating. Claws on the police wagon. Engines rip me apart. Targets painted scarlet. Your lips glazed. Sunrise again. Sleepiness under the Brooklyn Bridge overpass. Dirt. Windblown dust. Under the overpass is the amphitheatre where I lives. Refrigerators. Cardboard boxes. Rotten copies of the Wall Street Journal. Half-sheets, advertisements for Prada products sun-starched to the wall. Bodies are water-drowned. Sodden. Outside the NYC. Sunrise still. An empath with rhinoplasty. Bruises on Your wrist from skateboarding. Straw hat pushed off her forehead. Hair tufts through a crack in the hat. Rain and Upper West Side like canine. CVS pharmacy catalogues on backseat of cabs. Video rentals with torn posters in window. Your mouth glistens. A crudely-made noose around neck. She is barefoot, standing on sandy ground. No chair holds her up. No chair she can kick from beneath so she can swing from the rope. She stands with the noose around neck. Movie poster on alley wall. Rain sodden. Half-snivel from the outside. Immense rainfall over baseball fields. Car parks at the front entrance of tenements. Dew under the girders of RobertF.KennedyBridge. Crypto-anarchists making settlements out near Hell Gate. Orange headbands around my hands.
Book trailer for ‘Napalm Recipe’ by Shane Jesse Christmass
Lupara Sound System with Shane Jesse Christmass @ Radio Valerie
‘Anne Serre’s first work to be translated into English is a hypnotic tale of three governesses and the sensuous education they provide. Roaming the country estate of a staid married couple, Monsieur and Madame Austeur, Inès, Laura, and Eléonore are not exactly Jane Eyre types. Prone to Dionysian frenzies, they lounge naked in the sun or bound about like deer. Should any passerby fall “into the trap of their vast, lunar privacy,” they pounce upon, seduce, and devour him (“in a ladylike manner”) to sate their ungovernable desires.
‘These are no ordinary governesses, after all, and this is no ordinary country household. The governesses “wind up, all three, at the end of the afternoon when the garden is getting chilly, pressed up against the gates like dead butterflies,” waiting to seduce strangers who happen to walk by.
‘This could be the setup for a neo-pagan farce about the battle between Eros and civilization, but as Serre delves into the three women’s existence, the novel taps into deeper, quieter waters: the Keatsian twinning of joy and melancholy. “It was life itself advancing,” Monsieur Austeur thinks upon witnessing the governess’s mysterious arrival, while sensing that each of these hedonistic women harbors an unknowable secret and ineradicable sadness. He provides a sense of order to counterbalance their chaos, and indeed, the same could be said about the work’s steely prose.
‘Told in surrealist bursts, each sentence of this novella evokes a dream logic both languid and circuitous as the governesses move through a fever of domesticity and sexual abandon. Serre works in fairy-tale archetypes, but she subverts them, too. Monsieur Austeur is an ironic but benevolent figure of order and masculinity who calms the feverish longings of his women just by concentrating late at night in his smoking room. “He receives all these cries, these chirrups and yelps from the women and children of the house, and, shuffling them together in his heart, sends them back transformed, slow and steady like the signals from a lighthouse.”’ — collaged
Anne Serre The Governesses
‘In a large country house shut off from the world by a gated garden, three young governesses responsible for the education of a group of little boys are preparing a party. The governesses, however, seem to spend more time running around in a state of frenzied desire than attending to the children’s education. One of their main activities is lying in wait for any passing stranger, and then throwing themselves on him like drunken Maenads. The rest of the time they drift about in a kind of sated, melancholy calm, spied upon by an old man in the house opposite, who watches their goings-on through a telescope. As they hang paper lanterns and prepare for the ball in their own honor, and in honor of the little boys rolling hoops on the lawn, much is mysterious: one reviewer wrote of the book’s “deceptively simple words and phrasing, the transparency of which works like a mirror reflecting back on the reader.”
‘Written with the elegance of old French fables, the dark sensuality of Djuna Barnes and the subtle comedy of Robert Walser, this semi-deranged erotic fairy tale introduces American readers to the marvelous Anne Serre.’ — ND
The child grew. Scarves and little cardigans were knitted fo’r him, and such enormous quantities of miniature socks that no one knew what to do with them. The women in the house were all at it, from Madame Austeur in her white salon, her workbasket at her side, to the little maids unspooling cherry-red and sky-blue balls of wool under the porches. Every time Monsieur Austeur walked through the house, he had the impression of a nest being built. There were scraps of wool everywhere: on the rugs and mantelpieces, dangling from the wainscoting or wound round the banister posts on the stairs. Everywhere he went women would be knitting away without so much as a glance in his direction.
It was starting to get on his nerves. Miniature clothes were piled up on the dressing tables and commodes, and on one occasion he even found a pair of pretty red booties on his desk, which certainly didn’t belong there. He lost his temper and called for a semblance of order in the house. He even employed the word ‘respect’. But nobody was listening. They continued to toil away blindly like ants, avoiding him whenever they crossed his path, making him feel like an obstacle, a deadweight, a sort of menhir whose founding role had long been forgotten. So he shut himself away in the smoking-room, lonelier than ever. Even his midnight vigils had ceased to serve any real purpose. No one needed him to put them back on orbit any more, to soothe and direct their sleep. His ministerings were in vain. The center of the house had shifted. It was now located in the room adjoining Laura’s on the first floor, behind a cloud of muslin, screaming, crying, laughing, fresh as a baby waterfall.
It was this still unformed voice and consciousness that henceforth regulated the movements of the household. To Monsieur Austeur it came as a shock. What! His age and experience and all the hardships he had endured could simply be usurped by this tiny creature with next to no knowledge of life? Was the child’s arrival in the world really enough to unthrone him—he who, on account of his age and experience and the hardships he had endured, had always felt entitled to run the house? It was as though his whole life up to that point had been weighed on some strange scale and judged of no more worth than the featherweight of existence enjoyed by this piddling little infant.
Madame Austeur could sense her husband’s confusion. She would have liked to come to his aid but had herself been swept up like a wisp of straw on this powerful new tide, and had no sooner turned to him with open arms than she disappeared from view, as though swallowed up by the room on the first floor.
Had the governesses been more thoughtful, they might have shown him more respect. But what a fool he had been to count on their support! They no more knew what they were doing than Madame Austeur did; as tenderhearted as the little maids, they sank down in this ocean of softness, bouncing happily about in a kind of zero gravity.
And to think he’d expected them to rally round at the first puff of smoke from his cigar! That, whatever the circumstance, whatever the temptations, it was to him they would turn, him they would support with their powerful young love.
Wounded, Monsieur Austeur spent more and more time out of doors: in the orchard, where he would clip the trees; in town, where he suddenly had things to do; or on long walks that led nowhere and only brought him back to a house where life had withdrawn to a spot that was off-bounds to him.
Nobody prevented him from entering that room, and yet he couldn’t help tiptoeing past it, removing his shoes on the landing when he came in late. And were the door to start open while he was standing there, he would hurry back to his living quarters, hugging the walls like a burglar, without once finding the slender, austere silhouette of Madame Austeur waiting there to console him.
Anne Serre vous présente son ouvrage “Les débutants”
Anne Serre vous présente son ouvrage “Voyage avec Vila-Matas”
M15-04 – Vers l’Avenir avec Anne Serre
p.s. Hey. To anyone who might be interested, there’s an excellent article about PERMANENT GREEN LIGHT and my work in general titled ‘The Devils of Our Better Nature: On Dennis Cooper and His New Film’ newly up at the Los Angeles Review of Books site. You can read it here. ** Dominik, Hi, pal! Well, I welcome the happy news that your foot is improving, and I hope this week makes it as light as a feather again. I’m good. My week was a lot consumed by frustratingly non-charging but steady-ish work on the TV script. I still haven’t locked into the needed groove, and I desperately need to. And stuff. Friend/d.l. Kier and a friend of his are here, so we’ve been hanging. We went to Le Manoir de Paris, the Paris haunted house attraction, last night, and it was really great, as good as most of the US haunted houses even. And so on. Oh, no, Anita’s moving away? That’s really sad. But you guys can commute for frequent visits? Prague’s nearby? I’ll look at a map. My sense of geography isn’t stellar. I hope your too tiny visit was beautiful though, and I’m sure it was. You have the best weekend, and I hope the book festival lives up to the festival part of its name, and I look forward to talking with you soon! ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. ‘The Haunting’ scared a few years off of my life when I was a kid. ** Kai, Whoa, Kai! It has been what feels like meta-milenniums since I’ve had the pleasure to do the word-exchanging thing with you. Hugs, buddy. You have a kid, wow, and you’re often in Tokyo, which is an equal level wow. Sweetness all the way around. Oh, great that you want to show ‘Them’ to your class. Thank you! There is good documentation, yeah, especially of the production we did five years ago. I think the person to touch base with to get the link or etc. is Ishmael. I’ll check in with him to find out if that’s the case or not, and I’ll write to you as soon as I’ve sorted that. Fantastic! So nice to see you! Love, me. ** Bill, Very happy you liked Wu’s films. Me too, obviously. Never heard of ‘A Dark Song’ unless I’m spacing. I’ll get it known enough to think about accessing. Have a super great time in Chicago, and give me the scoop. ** KeatoneyBun, I loved your Halloween piece. It hit exactly the spot that has really been needing to get hit. Thank you, kudos, and beyond. Enjoy stabbing that pumpkin into misshape. Man, I miss all that shit. Few things are creepier than a creepy beach, and it’s not easy to find an honestly creepy beach, really. I found one in Normandie. The one in ‘Like Cattle Towards Glow’ actually. I think I was scaredest when I accidentally stumbled into a robbery at a 7-11 around 3 am-ish back in the early 80s and this frothing, drug-crazed guy put a gun to my head. That’ll do it. Big up re: your totality. ** Alex rose, Alex! I still buy CDs too. Even though my computer is the post-CD slot model and my player is a thousand miles away. Strange, no? You’re importing a lot into yourself, that’s good. Really, I’ve never had any inclination to read that Knausgård guy. Maybe if he’d written one novel under 200 pages. I guess it’s all the ‘him’ talk. I still haven’t read Bolano either, same deal. Now Gary Indiana, that’s juice I know and I understand. Making work, you, that’s divine news. I want to make work. Well, I guess the TV script is work, but I mean ‘into the void I go’ work. Weird, I just told Keaton about getting scared when a crazy guy put a gun to my head. That was pretty bad. What else … I couldn’t sleep one night a long time ago, and I gave up, and I turned on the lights in my bedroom, and there were literally something like 50,000 spiders on my ceiling. I guess they climbed through the window. That was pure horror. Recently … hm, I can’t think of anything. That’s depressing. Wait … no, nothing. Hm. Love spiralling, me. ** _Black_Acrylic, It’s not just you. Well, if I count as another, I mean. I’m waiting for the postal person to deliver a different Amphetamine Sulphate book by artist superstars and d.l.s Steven Purtill and Thomas Moore! Have lots of fun with your mom and even when you’re not with her. ** Steve Erickson, Yeah, me too. That’s one of the biggest joys and tricks of gif combining. ‘Boy Erased’ sounds like an afterschool special. Do they still make those? Interesting about Joseph Kahn. I’ll be curious to read your interview. Of course I like the way he’s making films. ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. Necco Wafers are saved? Well, … that’s good. No, it is. Things at their level of uniqueness should not die whether they have a logical place in the contemporary diet or not. It seems like there should be some kind of statute or law or something designed to save unique, historically significant food items from the wrecking ball of financial instability like there is for buildings. ** Corey Heiferman, Hey there, Corey, good to see you, man! Your read on Berlin meshes with my reads. Highlights? Awesome that the trip revved you up. Fingers crossed on the US magazine front. Keep it going, yeah. Excellent weekend to you as a start. ** Right. It’s been long enough since I did one of these posts that I have five, not four, count them, five beloved new books to recommend to you this time. Please enjoy what they promise. See you on Monday.