Saturday, October 25, 2014
Friday, October 24, 2014
I preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Many people think that poetry has no practical purpose but I want this one poem at least to prove them wrong.
I prepare a medium loaf pan by spraying it with Pam.
I grate two cups of carrots and set them aside.
In my porn story, the woman is waiting for her lover in a park after dark.
She is standing inside a jungle gym and reflects how it is the iron parody of a gilded bird cage.
“This is where children play,” she thinks to herself, deliciously ashamed.
She feels her high heels sinking into the soft sand.
She has been told to dress like a streetwalker.
There is un-PC element of male dominance in this story
and I am unapologetic about it.
You shouldn’t lie, at very least not to yourself, about what gives you pleasure.
“Art is like ham,” Diego Rivera said. “It nourishes people.”
I mix together one and a half cups of flour, a half teaspoon each of salt and baking powder, a quarter teaspoon of baking soda, and a half cup of sugar, although you can use up to a cup of sugar if you like it sweeter.
Finally I add a lot more cinnamon than the recipe suggests, which is only two teaspoons.
Those are the dry ingredients.
I want this poem, in some way, to nourish people.
I think porn stories get a bad rap; after all, they give people the most intense physical pleasure possible, with the possible exception, perhaps, of eating, and they do it using only words.
In a separate bowl, I beat two eggs, then mix in a quarter cup of milk, two-thirds cup melted butter (or vegetable oil), and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
These are the wet ingredients.
Sometimes I come to a shuddering climax reading a porn story that was written a hundred years ago by an author long dead.
I think, isn’t that amazing?
That someone dead can make me come, can touch me like that from beyond the grave?
Isn’t that real magic?
Isn't that a kind of proof of life after death?
I mix the wet ingredients into the dry, add the carrots and three-quarters of a cup of chopped walnuts.
Where I left off in the porn story, my lover steps out of the dark and orders me to turn around and bend over.
With one hand, he grabs me by the long hair and yanks my head back.
I feel like a lamb about to be slaughtered.
This is important.
I’m suddenly staring at a small patch of stars visible between the trees which have already begun shedding leaves.
It is early October.
It is early October.
He reaches under my plaid schoolgirl skirt and yanks down my panties.
I’m wearing fishnet stockings with garters so there’s no need to pull off anything else.
I feel the chill air on my naked flesh.
He spits in his palm.
You pour the batter into the already greased loaf pan.
You bake it on the top shelf of the oven for 45 to 50 minutes.
He enters me roughly from behind.
He pumps and pumps and my knuckles on the bar of the jungle gym rub painfully into the flesh of my cheek but I don’t move.
There is, obviously, a strong masochistic element to this poem for which I also make no apology.
I close my eyes and open them when he comes and through the tears the stars inside me are somehow joined to the stars in the sky.
It's as if I'm seeing semen spread across the heavens.
You check for doneness with a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf.
If it comes out clean, it’s done.
You remove the loaf from the pan and let it cool.
You eat it warm and you enjoy.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
This past summer I read Irene Gammel's Baroness Elsa http://walkingeyeball.blogspot.com/search?q=baroness+elsa , a scholarly, tightly-researched biography of poet-artist-proto dadaist Elsa von Freytag-Lohringhoven. Rene Steinke's novel Holy Skirts can be thought of as an entertaining companion piece to Gammel's book. Holy Skirts is an imaginative dramatization of the Baroness's unusual and dramatic life. As she acknowledges in her afterword, Steinke has based her novel very—and let me emphasize it very—loosely on the facts, compressing, distorting, and often simply making stuff up to suit her plot. She excuses the liberties she takes by claiming that she is interpreting the facts as she believes Elsa herself would see them. This strategy would be more defensible if Steinke cast the narrative as a first-person autobiography, but the use of a third-person author omniscient voice gives the novel an authority that it oughtn't to have, especially for those who don't know the facts and who won't read the tiny print in the dry afterword. A faux first-person account would also have made the distortions of known facts more defensible on the grounds that we would have been subject directly to the Baroness's highly eccentric view of reality. I highly recommend reading Gammel's book before or directly after Holy Skirts if the reader has any interest in being able to separate fact from fiction. This is a distinction, as it happens, that seldom seems very important to me. But in this instance, I'm glad I did know the difference because Steinke's characterization of Marcel Duchamp, just to cite one particularly annoying example, seems to me to be wildly off-base.
To cite others:
Can canaries talk? The verdict seems to be no, they cannot. But the canary that Elsa wears in a cage in Holy Skirts can. Or maybe she's just imagining it can? If Elsa is an unreliable narrator such a hypothesis would work; the problem, as noted above, is that she isn't the narrator of the book.
Did Marcel Duchamp really shave her pubic area in a movie shot by Man Ray? Much is made of this scene in Holy Skirts as symbolism and eroticism, but, no, it appears never to have happened, or if it did, it was Man Ray who shaved her.
Didn't Djuna Barnes famously say that about Elsa's (possible) suicide, that it was like a joke without a punchline, and not the (fictional?) character of the painter Sara Alright?
You know what this book is like? It just occurred to me. It's like the movie version of a book you've read where they've cut, compressed, and changed things around so it will all fit into a 90-minute cinematic format. As you're watching, you can't keep from poking your companion in the ribs and whispering "that's not the way it happened in the book. In the book…"
Your poor movie-going companion! They're just trying to enjoy the movie, munch their popcorn, and don't need your sharp elbow in their ribs or your hot lips in their ear every thirty seconds You know you're making a nuisance of yourself, just like I am here, but you just can't help pointing these things out.
Having dispensed with these caveats, Holy Skirts is a lot of fun and Steinke writes a beautiful and poetic prose. The Baroness is undeniably a fascinating character, ahead not only of her own time, but our time as well. One can hardly imagine a time she wouldn't be outside of. One can sympathize with Steinke's dilemma of trying to fit such a sprawling, self-contradictory "mess" of living into some sort of fictional order. She does so not only by creatively recreating the historical record but organizing her book around the main loves of Elsa's life: her three ne'er-do-well husbands and Marcel Duchamp.
That Elsa's life should ultimately be defined by her search and failure to find romantic love is debatable, if not a downright objectionable and reactionary interpretation of such a powerful forward-thinking female persona, but so be it. Elsa's fierce and uncompromising independence and poetic ambition, her difficult childhood, as well as the dark undertow of madness (aided and abetted by an underlying syphilitic condition) constantly threatened her life and sanity and make it more than likely that even with the best and most devoted lover in the world she would still have managed to fuck things up. As bad as her husbands may have been, Elsa could not have been any picnic to live with either, as evidenced by the reactions of even her female friends to her many alienating antics.
Let's face it, folks. The Baroness Elsa von-Freytag Lohringhoven may have been a great person to visit, but no one would have wanted to live there. And I feel that Steinke did us a disservice; she shouldn't have shied away from that fact just to make her main character more sympathetic and, gak, likable. I can't help but believe that the Baroness herself would have found such bourgeoisie commercial motivations anything less than vomitable. The whole point of the Baroness Elsa von-Freytag Lohringhoven is that she was objectionable, a challenge to every staid and sensible position, that she was utterly unsympathetic. Her personality was conceptual: it posed a direct attack on all convention, including the convention that we have to sympathize with a person to love them. She's the prototypical square peg individual in the round hole of the world. That's what makes her such a compelling heroine—a star by which to guide one's life, but like a star, not one to ever actually reach, less one burn up, collapse, and become a black hole just like she did.
So go ahead and read this book for the entertainment. But read Gammell's book for the facts.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
A thank you to Michael Jacobsen who posted some of my asemic work at his site The New Post-Literate. It's a fantastic gallery of asemic art of every variety by a huge variety of artists. What's more he has some interesting & provocative theoretical observations to make about what he calls "post-literate" forms of writing/art. Plenty of links to interviews he's given and to other sites and blogs as well. I just discovered this place myself and I've found it to be one of the most vital hubs on the internet dealing with this sort of work. Definitely worth checking out if you're interested in this sort of stuff:
Posted by mcw at 10:12 AM