by Feng Sun Chen
The woman is perfected
Body wears the smile of accomplishment
She cannot write when she is full
She must be hungry
She must feel punctured and remember
the poor membranes of primeval times
when the first hungers were gifted to life by a god of cruel proportions
It has been said that love must be cruel
Prophets explode out of love
To be a prophet is to be flayed by the need to drive out the hollowness
to wring the future, to make time ambiguous, to eat death
She must be possessed3
She must stink and be mad
Maybe she had a child and its head ripped her perineum
The prophet does not see men, women, animals
The prophet does not see at all
Everything rots but nothing disappears4
The owl turns its head around but does not look
back… Back becomes front
Move the back of your heart to the front of your heart5
Move the back of your head to the front of your head
Move the back of the earth to the front of the earth
Birds and reptiles. Reptiles and birds
Black matter fossil syrup over the pancake… Everything rots but nothing
Night approaches in an unidentified patch
of woods in Russia... A woman in a red tank
top and gaudy eye makeup stands in the forest pointing
a camera at herself as she violently lurches
her head around while ranting in a hoarse,
ONE forgets that visionaries cannot see anything7
Hope depends on the integrity of life’s proliferation
But we have REGURGITATED something
Something already CHEWED
We have created something
Something already born8
But first look at our bodies, our gaga, gaga bodies
Prophets suck on the end of time
In the old age, the biblical blockbuster
In the new age, a glittery man-made disaster
The prophet wants to commit infanticide
the gorge is swarming with guinea pigs
deep lilies sway
the perverse nature continued to take place9
nobody knows i haven’t yet arrived
the soul fluid filled the prophet
the future is absent
the present is also
the past is disputing every second
you can see shadow only
the fighter of removed is representing to you its fight
which soon will not be needed as we all will burn
like a swimmer who is exhausting to fight
with waves in the lake or ocean-
at time when a man drowned on telaviv beach-
soon I will not have any dress and any tooth
and you will have to take my talk as it is-without any attributes…12
i am no one
the prophet says
We have come so far, it is over
Each dead child coiled13
a white serpent daddy daddy dada gaga
CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR DESTRUCTION14
i do not have miles to go
i sleep before
tv tastes nothing like a wife
is it humiliating and disgusting to live inside a body
be alive, feed oneself, fuck, have complicated emotions
is it sometimes so revolting that horrific acts are necessary15
the prophet says call my agent
TV IS A classic example
a classic example of what16
a classic example of a strain of cruelty
without melancholy, without guilt
Are horrific acts necessary17
It speaks to the eye but the mind has no eye18
Are babies jizz for girls
this the torment darkness of animals
invisible animals, urban dreamsicles
i do not need permission to see
they do not allow to me to
be so as
and my sister with lips of blueberries soil and mush19
explode out of love, move the back of your head to the front
of your head, move the back of your mouth to the front of your mouth
so it speaks to the eye
move the back of your hole to the front of your hole
To be a prophet
is to be flayed by the need to drive20
a white serpent one eyed what has been said
within every three headed dog
is a heart of muscle and pure intention
i came and i come, i saw and i see
the world is a playground
plastic deformation zone
move the back of the slide
to the front of the slide
smooth and wet
see saw with me
[prophets] house and transmit
emotion and history21
through their crotches
There must be a connection between this and the fact that America is
[secretly, quietly, invisibly] obsessed with slaughtering COWS22
who are the prophets of our age23
now it is time
for the cutting
to slowly start to heal
if iron is broken
down into earth and peace24
who are the prophets
cut up things
those who have heard and listened
is it the pig, COW, the woman
the aborted fetus, the foreclosed body25
oh my body
is outside my body
oh my soul
is outside my soul
nothing in her body that pushed back
no resistance either from metal granite or horn26
To foreclose is to turn possession into possession27
you did thsi? you dance bear foot?
ypou did nto sleep and di not eat-
you tookj absue poisones scandla pof hsuabnd befor ework and insteda of sprot triasngina?
you posses vision/
you can move non stop- a out rest poiisitive smotion and money payed. you/
iof not then taker your long fuck to your pocketand hold it ther until you will not posses such features as me-28
without melancholy, without guilt29
you possess vision
1. This poem is possessed by other voices. It is possessed by other voices in that it allows them to pass through it as I allow sound to pass through my body. In many ways, voices are considered possessions. It is as complicated as the way we conceptualize the body in relation to the soul, both of which we question tiredly. Is the voice controlled? Is the voice material? Is the voice a manifestation of the soul? Is the voice unconscious? The voice can do as many things as the body, the body as many as the soul. Are they different? Do any of them exist? How do you own a voice?
The already precarious status of the voice approaches crisis when it comes to/from the woman’s body. This is a project(ion) through women and a crisis of women. The reason I do not use quotation marks in the poem is that I believe there is no such thing as a pure voice, and I am not important. It is appropriate that my words bleed into their words. There are filters that as an artist, one must put up because it is the task of the artist to reconfigure what has become silent. I will not use that filter; I will not use “my” voice. Sometimes reconfiguration is only narcissism. Repetition, theft, sorcery, plagiarism, these are the glorified tools of the poet. And most of all, failure (see “Words”, by Sylvia Plath.) The footnotes here echo the lines of the poem and they speak to each other through the white space. They are not enough.
I mentioned silence. What is this silence? It is a kind of silence that allows us to live, but it is also living that is exactly what we must simultaneously exercise and exorcise. What we do and what we believe are connected to what we say, but consider an old adage like “actions speak louder than words” which no longer resonates. Smart people say that ideology is best summed up by this sentence: They don’t know it, but they are doing it. I let voices pass through me in all their own impurity as a performance of what I do and what we all do every day. The silence of what we let pass through our actions is black with history, the words so copious and crowded that it is completely saturated. Nothing we, the voices, are about to say is new, but newness is not the point. Beauty and comfort is also not the point. Neither is precision nor whatever it is that makes something good and accepted. I will never pretend to do anything good with my poetry. “I see dark jelly beans of pain inside every joy.” I will transmit my own words and the words of others, which I will try my best to attribute via footnotes. These are voices of those who have been infected by demons. If you know even a little about the nature of demons, you will know why I will not try to describe them.
2. Plath, Sylvia. “Edge” Collected Poems. Harper Perennial: 1992. 224.
3. Gayle Rubin, in her essay “The Traffic of Women,” mentions Levi-Strauss’s problematic rendition of women as words “which are misused when they are not ‘communicated’ and exchanged. [ . . . ] this creates something of a contradiction in women, since women are at the same time ‘speakers’ and ‘spoken’...” (Rubin 201). With such a paradoxical and precarious position in language, what is the meaning of “authenticity” in feminine poetry? How can what is spoken speak? The history of woman as object or property or less-than-man is long and complicated. Rubin summarizes the complex history of gender/sex division and oppression that permeates every level of cultural construct, including the symbolic structure of language itself. She traces the ideological history of sexism through Levi-Strauss’s anthropological system of gift exchange to Freud’s psychoanalytical theories of sexuality and Lacan’s further abstraction of the castration complex. Meta-cultural studies like psychoanalysis and structural anthropology, written within an already patriarchal culture, are, Rubin says, “in one sense, the most sophisticated ideologies of sexism around”. It seems inevitable that literature written by women within such saturated “scientific” milieus must be painfully aware that despite decades of feminist efforts, they are still writing within and out of a tradition that is phallocentric. How can we conceive of a world otherwise, if we continue to define and redefine, structure and restructure exactly the ways women have been oppressed/possessed? How does the other speak back to the discourse of dominance?
Richard Rorty believes that it is the task of the prophet to conceive of a “new language” which will “get woven into the language taught to children” and which is not the language of outcasts before the formation of separatist groups, “[f]or that was infected by the language of the masters. It will be, instead, a language gradually put together in separatist groups in the course of a long series of flirtations with meaninglessness” (Rorty 37). Rorty’s pragmatist ideas parallel Nietzsche’s concept of truth as metaphor, whose value precipitates as “after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding” (Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense”). Pragmatism deems the question of truth irrelevant altogether; value hinges on the utility and progressive power of descriptions. According to Nietzsche, creative power can disrupt the prison of forgotten metaphor and release the individual from bondage to normative truth. The prophet must go farther than disruption, and through relentless struggle and erosion, reconstruct these normative “truths” in the interest of women and feminists everywhere. But how far? And how far is too far? These are hopeful suggestions, hopeful men. We answer, but our answer is stillborn. The answer is that no matter how far she goes, it is not far enough. She must keep going.
Rorty, Richard. Philosophy and Social Hope. Penguin Books: London. 1999
4. Ariana Reines writes about “Sucking” in Action Yes. Her book, The Cow, is both erudite and mushy, a “vat of mushy ideals and disgusting feelings,” in her words, “The reason is that I am often a voluptuary, a vat of mushy ideas and disgusting feelings, and I have resented the cleanliness and elegance of tight and perfect writing. I have felt that writing should be dirtier and more excessive. I still feel this way. Often. Not all the time. A person has the right to feel in many different ways. Writing can be more than good.” Reines is an example of the trend in contemporary female poetry that inverts the classical body and attends to Bakhtin’s Grotesque Realism in efforts to critique consumerism and sexism: “While American poetry dissolved its I the starvational and massacred bodies of all the world larded newspapers with their blood and guts. Shit. LYRIC An integrity must come back to the body, and from thence, into a world, a world where a body can adore another one..." (Reines 56).
Reines, Ariana. The Cow. Fence Books. Albany, NY: 2010. 56.
5. a yogic instruction relayed by Janacka Stucky through Adrianne Mathiowetz
6. This is Refbatch, Anna Matskevich, a middle-aged paranoid schizophrenic Russian woman who compulsively posts videos on YouTube (Jackie Wang, Action Yes). See 12.
7. Great men of literature achieve greatness by rebelling against their forefathers, by presenting or breaching the universal conditions of what it means to be a man or what it means to be human. It is not outrageous for me to say that “human” stands in for “man”. In the linguistic sphere of poetry, there has been a proliferation of women poets who, rather than try to insert themselves into the field of cocks, seek to explode what has been left for them as women, to eat the leftover carcass after the alpha male has chewed off the good bits and throw it up. In the face of Richard Rorty’s pragmatic “Feminism and Pragmatism” marriage proposal, universality and realism are masticated and regurgitated by female poets/prophets as philosophy “[does] the housework so that we can be freed for world-historical activity in the public sphere” (Nancy Fraser). While I enjoy Fraser’s ironic interpretation of Rorty’s proposition, that philosophy as “husband” to feminism should clear the way for prophets to ring in the new Feminist Order, I do not share her cynicism. I am not a cynical person, but I am not an optimist either. I am convinced that the female prophet is not a beacon of hope or mother of a new world. To be a subject that is simultaneously spoken (by the legacy of sexism and objectification) and speaking is to turn inside out. If the language available is already poisoned, it must still be absorbed, the toxins processed and incorporated, and finally dispelled. It may be fatal. If not fatal, always fated. Human progress is a dream of industrialism and the imperial enlightenment. To reject phallogocentric history is to reject the future. Our capitalist, technocratic, exploitative, claustrophobic, miserable human future. The female prophet is a prophet that does not prophesize.
This is not to say that failure is bad. Failure is many things, but not bad.
8. Levi-Strauss and Freud enable the isolation of sex/gender from “modes of production”, which allows the conception that feminist movements are “analogous to, rather than isomorphic with the working class movement” (Rubins 203). At the same time, sexism is inextricable from the progress and effects of modern economic systems. This is an argument implicit in Reines’s work: the evolution of a culture of capitalism and sexism creates very difficult, interdependent sex/gender relationships within the economy and new forms of exchange of women. Late-capitalism has seen the transformation of women into the ultimate consumer of their own oppression. Cultural, misogynist conceptions of women are enabled through big brand corporations, Hollywood, the free-market. We are made to buy into the system. Sexism and capitalism are not the same, but one enables the other.
9. Aase Berg “The Gristle Day”. These few lines are taken out of her book, With Deer, a book with bright orange cover the color of alarm. See 24.
10. Sylvia Plath’s famous line, “Daddy daddy, you bastard, I’m through.” Plath, who is known for her violent, somewhat masochistic writing, has often been derided by feminists for precisely what Rubin deems problematic in this interpretation or expression of a woman’s psychological being. But dismissing the poet as regressive and assuming Plath to be a consistently unironic female persona ruined by clinical depression/hysteria would miss the point entirely, and is in jeopardy of perpetuating the theoretical repression that Rubin claims is the result of substitutions in the place of critical assessment such as reversions to hormones, “joys in pain”, and biology. Far from being forced into internalizing the identity of an oppressed pacifist, Plath is, like many female prophets, reflexively conscious of gender constructs which she subverts through her highly ironic and performative work. Rubin believes that the “fancy footwork” that has made a feminine virtue out of masochism and suffering is one of the dangerous outcomes of the gender divide that lies at the root of male-dominated culture apropos of Levi-Strauss, Freud and company. If it is true that truths are embedded and constructed through language and repetition, deep revolt can only take place at the roots, even if the instigator is not (or cannot be) overtly conscious of the feminist bent to her acts. Voices that are marginalized have to use the language of the oppressor for their own ends.
Perhaps it is also a mistake on the part of any reader to assume a kind of pure identity authenticity to a work of art, which I want to expand to include personhood as well. If gender and truth is constructed, a social person is constructed just as a work of art is. Sometimes the intentions of the creator, which in the case of a human being is too diffuse (is it society? the parents? themselves? the media? etc.) to consider in a meaningful way, is less important than how another reads the construction. A statement such as “every woman adores a Fascist” (which Rubin footnotes via Plath in her essay) can be taken as a symptom of the female assimilation into culture and the “residual anger” leftover from oedipal trauma. In Plath’s “Daddy”, (which includes the previous quote as well) the father figure is conflated with a German Fascist: “…Daddy, I have had to kill you [ . . . ] An engine, an engine / Chuffing me off like a Jew. / A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen…” (Plath 233). Bad taste? Hysterical depressive? Or the contemporary idiom, “daddy issues” which has lost its connection to its psychoanalytical roots? There are many ways we have developed to dismiss such an “outburst”. “Daddy” cannot be fully understood without reading critical agency into what is obviously working on multiple levels, especially the ironic. Is it a hyperbole to compare a daughter/woman’s oppression to the holocaust? In terms of the individual and the literal, yes. But perhaps it is not unproductive to consider the powerful, invisible, highly developed apparatuses that work to oppress half of an entire race (not to mention others who are not fully “men”) that has been in operation since the origin of culture.
11. A translation of Aase Berg (her prose), a Swedish poet, by Johannes Gorranson (Montevidayo) seems appropriate here: “Language is a living being. [. . . ] The cells of language hovered above earth looking for a host body. It tried to take over dinosaurs and fishes, but that didn’t work, they were stupid or the muscles in their speech organs were not developed enough. Then came humans. The invisible, potential words attacked her, like mosquitoes who know that they need blood and have waited for thousands of years for the first mammal to evolve.”
I am fascinated by these assertions because of how Berg challenges the modern conception of humans as agents of free will, who may use language to communicate their inner consciousnesses. It is an alternative description of our relation to language from the pragmatist utilitarian construct, in which humans are capable of using language as a tool, of controlling language in a constructive way. Berg’s vision of the mosquito-words turns language-as-tool inside out. Humans are now the tools of language, which is an uncontrollable, exterior force not unlike viruses or bacteria in their potential for infection.
Berg goes on to describe the parasitical relationship between the infant and its mother: “The mother’s relationship to the baby is the root of language, madness and complexity.” This is a deliberate move on her part, as the infectious language attack the human and live inside her like a parasite, the infant is, and this is scientifically verified, detected by the mother’s body as a parasite or foreign body. Sarah Fox, a Minnesotan poet, informed me of this fact. She says, “In fact, the embryo within the mother’s body IS detected as parasitic/devouring other, a dilemma perfectly mediated by the greatest of all mediators: the placenta. It–a collaborative creation facilitating various sorts of unconscious communication between uniquely fluxing bodies as an autonomous entity (thus there is no “fusion” in pregnancy contra Freud et al.; the placenta is the common site of attachment and individuation)–prevents the normal defense mechanisms involved in rejecting foreign antigens from being activated in the maternal body. But only locally, at the site of the uterus, so defense capacities against other potential infections etc remain at alert. Irigaray uses this example of a perfectly nondiscriminating intersubjective structure as the basis for her proposal of a Placental Economy.”
12. --Refbatch, corrected text from video descriptions, (Wang)
Wang, Jackie. “Serbian Ballerinas Dance with Machine Guns: The Cosmic Vision of Refbatch”
Action Yes. Issue 15. 2011. <http://www.actionyes.org/issue15/wang/wang1.html>
13. The following passage from Jackie Wang’s article illuminates: “The paradoxical nature of Refbatch’s monumental document is that it’s totally nonsubjective, even though it is an obsessive record of her life. Her videos and texts do not document her interiority. She denies the ego. Her existence seems to completely revolve around relations and exterior events. In a way, Refbatch is possessed. The media, history, and information colonize her entire being. She often writes of herself as if she is an object, a hollow vehicle defined solely by the singular purpose of transmitting the truth. She has stated that she—a woman female object—has not existed since 1999, making her a residual shadow that remains only to broadcast her struggle. The fighter of removed is representing to you its fight. Refbatch is a ghost. Like a ghost, she lingers in an intermediary zone between life and death because she has unfinished business. Her phantasmic presence is nebulous, shadowy, lacking any solid grounding. She is only half here. In some sense, she is pure message. Since she lacks the presence of being, her temporality is destabilized. Time crumbles because the intrusion of the past scrambles the forward linear trajectory. She writes that the future and the present are absent, and declares that the past is ‘disputing every second.’”
Again, I have invoked this figure (via Wang) because of the way she troubles the necessity of agency in speaking/language. One of the great assumptions of Western thought and philosophy is the integrity of the Ego/soul/mind/personality that, in the psychoanalytic tradition, may be analyzed and brought to sensibility through therapeutic, conversational, or discursive practice. But here is a hysterical, psychotic woman/prophet who is coherent, yet completely, it seems, without reflexivity. The world seems to pass through her, everything oppresses and threatens to annihilate her, her ability to speak. She allows, in a way that no one of “good health” does, the external to her completely take over and possess her subjectivity. She oscillates between the second person perspective and the first person while feverishly relaying the “truth”, they way global events seem to exactly relate to her individually, the way she is victim to a global conspiracy that she continues to fight. It is not insignificant that her medical prognosis gave her a death sentence that passed long ago. She has defied the institutional of health and institutionalization. She videotapes herself dancing in the fields and the forests with maniacal prolificacy, as if, since words are poisoned or inadequate, she must speak through her body, the body’s kinesthetic gestures.
How do we comprehend a prophecy or performance like Refbatch’s, one that is not “performed”, but lived and embodied both outside and inside the frameworks of art and society? She is the spoken and the speaker, a medium through which oppressive powers flow, yet which she continues to resist. Is it that different from something that is “consciously” performed? Do we speak for our actions? Do we speak for ourselves, our speaking, our not speaking?
14. Ito, Hiromi. Killing Konoko. Action Books. Notre Dame, Indiana: 2009. 33-39
15. Slightly altered Ariana Reines. See 22.
16. Carson, Anne. “TV Men: Hektor”. Glass, Irony, and God. New Directions Books. New York: 1995.
All lines on this page including TV is taken from TV Men.
17. This line is another Reines quote, and also another good place for Aase Berg, who is well known for her “horrific” poetry. Here is more of her thoughts on language: “It might not have been a particularly logical language; more likely, it was paradisical and timeless, a kind of happy babbling for the sake of babbling, a kind of music. But with time it became more descriptive instead of creative. It became an aid. It began to strive toward developing the future instead of standing with both feet in the joy (or angst) over the fact that the now can be expressed and come into existence through words. For some reason, language became both more stupid than it really is and more self conscious and anticipatory than was good for it. I don’t think it was the whole of humanity that was to blame for this development, but rather a very specific segment of humanity: those who benefited most from the patriarchy, that is to say, the men. Since the patriarchy is all about power, they took control over language made language a means to maintain power. That is how the first war came to be and the first colonies, chronology and narrative structure, the social order we still have today.”
Although Berg is vague, I have invoked her “prophetic” expression because of her insights on how sexism is inextricable from evolved culture, which, in her eyes, is a battle among men for power enabled by language. In a Nietschzean and Foucauldian sense, language, the army of metaphors, has been used effectively to germinate “stupid” divisions, which I am liberally interpreting as the sex/gender divides that Rubin talks about in “The Traffic in Women”. Of course, the sex/gender divide is not inherently sexist or asymmetrical. The origin or onset of the oppression of women and otherwise unmanly individuals is difficult to locate. Rubin productively reads Levi-Strauss and Freud as figures who rigorously described systems which are already sexist in order to determine where or how the asymmetry emerges in thought. There is nothing inherent about sexism or oppression, she says. But linguistic structures have powerful ways of determining how we perceive and interact with each other. Kinship emerged with a built-in binary of exchanger and exchanged, wherein the woman was and continues to be figured as a gift, the exchanged, a role that does not have the power to exchange herself or others.
According to Tradition, language has been the age-old marker for the uniqueness of mankind against animals. Rubin argues that kinship is as seminal to human culture as language, though without the latter, there would not be the former. With language came naming, an intricate system of signs began to evolve, and with it, an intricate system of kinship: “Kinship systems are ways of naming members of the community. The signs of language is essential to this end, to the creation of objects and property which has thus far operated within a system “in which women do not have full rights to themselves” (Rubin 177). The kinship system is an apparatus that continues to divide the sexes on unequal terms whose tangible existence has been alienated from cultural consciousness. To say that is to invoke an alien parasite that has been feasting on the flesh of human beings. But it is important to say that.
18. Another piece from TV Men. See 16.
20. I repeat myself. I repeat others. I repeat Gayle. Rubin runs Freud through her subject-position grinder. Freud, she argues, is useful for feminists because psychoanalysis reveals the production of sexual personality and contains implicit feminist critiques. More specifically, the Oedipal complex “fashions the appropriate forms of sexual individuals”. Lacan solidifies the phallus as a symbolic object that is circulated through women and between men as the “embodiment of the male status” that constructs gender identity and divides the sexes, and which leaves us with the ever rich and complex “penis envy”. She writes, “The psychoanalytic theory of femininity is one that sees female development based largely on pain and humiliation… If women, in finding their place in a sexual system, are robbed of libido and forced into a masochistic eroticism, why did the analysts not argue for novel arrangements, instead of rationalizing the old ones? [ . . . ] Kinship systems require a division of the sexes. The Oedipal phase divides the sexes. [Feminism] must call for a revolution in kinship.” Rubin calls for a reorganization of the sexual property system so men do not have overriding rights in women, and so that gender is rendered obsolete and double standards (such as Plath’s alleged “joys in pain”, wherein masochism is implied to be essential to woman, but of course, is bad in men) of interpretation and clinical diagnosis are not employed.
Within the contemporary climate of highly industrialized countries like America, some of these contradictions and issues rooted in gender division appear almost invisible or at best, residual, absorbed as they have been into commercial culture and a kind of superficial political and economic equality. In an age of anachronism, when the increase in connectivity paradoxically reveals a mottled world where communities even within the same geographical location do not seem “up to date” with each other, it seems futile to speak for anyone or anything as a whole. Terrible, bloody things are happening to women all over the world, even here, but not here.
I, as a poet, can only speak as a privileged, straight woman who can afford the commodity of higher education. What kind of revolution is possible when people are too busy listening to the lulling hum of the great capitalist machine? Women are equal to men. It is not a question of Penis Envy, as that phrase has faded from the collective consciousness and pasteurized of its sexual signification, but Envy. The legacy and language of the Oedipal complex is all but a ghost, one that seems as crazy as Refbatch, who flails and shouts insanities as the world conspires to censor her. Rorty presents the possibility of a “dream” for women, a feminist invention of an unplayed role, (even if this possibility is an open gate to nightmares or regurgitated evil, though he does not address this implication, as pragmatism is an amoral exercise at its core), “[for] until then only the language of the oppressor is available, and most oppressors have had the wit to teach the oppressed a language in which the oppressed will sound crazy--even to themselves—if they describe themselves as oppressed” (Rorty 21).
21. The female genitalia have been made analogous or even equivalent to Medusa’s head. Freud explains the castration anxiety of the male gazer in response to the darkness of this region, which is the site where life and death converge, where cultural laws and taboos are either upheld or transgressed. It is a terrifying place. The irritating and sentimental notion of the sublime has served as a great way of apprehending while simultaneously dismissing the attractive/repulsive female body. The sublime is always “unreachable”, and affirms with it an essentially ungraspable unknown. This unknowableness, the hot mess of the realm beyond order/civilization, is kept conveniently and permanently at bay by its own definition. The sublime object also becomes framed, something that cannot be approached yet may be gazed upon like a torrential mountain landscape with thunderclouds on top. With danger kept at a distance, the beauty and horror of the sublime monstrosity of nature is beheld as the peripheral glance of the absolute unknown. Its edges must be tamed, its tendrils trimmed, and herself be made abhorrent of the frail yet hazardous constitution of her body.
22. Reines, Ariana. “Sucking” Action Yes. Issue 12. 2010 < http://www.actionyes.org/issue6/reines/reines-sucking.html>
Ariana Reines, a poet obsessed with cows, sees the invisible industrial slaughterhouse as a metaphor and analog for sexism, which has been folded into the greater evil of exploitation endemic to capitalism. Echoes of Plath’s distasteful holocaust “gobbledygoo” run through Ariana’s veins. Slaughterhouses, like sweatshops, are displaced, both physically and symbolically, and kept out of sight from the consumer. “Empowered” women are responsible for their own failures. It is not that powerful institutions are sexist or phallocentric, as official forms indicate that gender is not a negotiating factor in terms of employment or recognition of merit. It is not that the media continually attacks women with a variety of oppressive messages, it is that women as individuals choose to buy into it. Beef is just beef. If you want this purse, you can buy it and stop feeling Envy. You are just as good as a man. If you want to shave your pubes, do it for yourself because it feels good. You are independent and powerful. Who needs a man when you can buy this great dress, made in China? Who needs a man when you can indulge in this chocolate cake and then throw it up? Moody? You can take an Advil, birth control, and this expensive, colorful, sleek tampon because you must be getting your period. All better! What a novel arrangement.
23. If children are the future, a world without future cannot accommodate them. Survival is absurd, because the value of progress is absent. Think about Berg’s concept metaphor of language as parasite, and the parasitical metaphor of the infant.
If the woman is “spoken”, she is an already pregnant text (that fails). She fails to communicate as she is already communicated. Self-violence is a symptom of a kind of social creature but can become a political performance as the spoken speaks, explodes, breaks down, and so on. “What comes after that?” isn’t the right question, if she wants to stay devoted to an anti-humanist exorcism.
24. Aase Berg. With Deer. Black Ocean. Boston: 2009.
25. Female prophets are vomiting and having abortions/miscarriages all over poetry? This is not a prophecy of the apocalypse. It is a prophecy of dead prophets. There is a certain “flirtation with meaningless” that is evident in this kind of performative female poetry in which poets like Berg and Ito are scattering their poetry with dead babies and visceral impressions that are purposefully nonsensical, but charged with objective, or, more accurately, subjective. Rubin writes, “The danger in my enterprise is that the sexism in the tradition of which they are a part tends to be dragged into each borrowing.” What about the enterprise of poetry/prophecy? So female poets are writing horrible poems, eerie, nonsensical poems of carnivalesque excretion and psychic ritual because if they cannot speak outside of a language burdened by an oppressive legacy, at least they can mangle it beyond recognition or transgress it to a subnatural state. They can retreat to a place (perhaps one of many possibilities) where gender does not exist, and these prophets have chosen the untimely place of “horrifying dough” (Berg) and unidentified flesh, a place that exists before language and historical time entered the mammal, the amniotic sac, the vibrations of the mother’s voice before sounds are recognized as words. Or perhaps the reason is more complicated (or simple?) if the strange mutations cannot be read or placed into dominant ideology because there is simply no language for them, no language of equality, no language without asymmetrical binaries or values. To conceive of one is absurd. Not even biology can be neutral. Excess and repetition achieve a kind of paradoxical purpose in meaninglessness by their own overwhelming nature.
26. Berg implies that the roots of oppression are so embedded in language as it has evolved over history that it may as well have begun that way and lost any possibility of real change. She perceives it as an infection, one that has now become a “living” thing outside of our control. Like Refbatch, Berg speaks through the performance of her body to subvert or destroy the social order of language. Her poetry is somatic, grotesque, achronological and speaks from the inside out, as if the body has exploded. The female body does not begin in a good place and then transform into a monster. She elaborates on the Kristevian abjection of the woman’s body, which occupies an ambivalent space where, on the one hand, the woman’s body may be coveted and romanticized similarly to the romanticized wilderness, and on the other, everything that is horrible about the wild is also rolled up in that projection. Berg’s poetry does not differentiate between the monstrous, animal, and the human. Kinship relation is also made horrific, ambiguous or mutilated beyond recognition (see With Deer). Are horrific acts necessary? Berg implies that it is inevitable. What is spoken must speak. And when what is spoken is the oppressed, female as body, as uncontrollable leakage, weak, inferior, same-yet-other, etc., what must speak is cannibalistic, angry, grotesque. There is no possibility of a female voice, otherwise. The question of “authenticity” or “truth” is not relevant. And why not look the weak, the bastard, the disgusting, by squeezing it through poetry and make the contamination apparent? New order can take place only when the old is miscarried.
27. Rubin writes, (and this is purposely taken out of context):
“Since Levi-Strauss argues that the incest taboo and the results of its application constitute the origin of culture, it can be deduced that the world historical defeat of women occurred with the origin of culture, and is a prerequisite of culture. If his analysis is adopted in its pure form, the feminist program must include a task even more onerous than the extermination of men; it must attempt to get rid of culture and substitute some entirely new phenomena on the face of the earth” (176).
Rubin, Gayle. “The Traffic in Women”. Towards an Anthropology of Women. Ed. Rayna R. Reiter.
Monthly Review Press. New York: 1975.
28. Again, Refbatch, uncorrected. See 12.