Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Cow

I thought a really good insight into what we talk about when we talk about poetry was when Josh Corey, trying to understand why he liked Ariana Reines' "The Cow", called it "nakedly angry." In other words, he fell back on the old binary of the raw vs the cooked.

In her review of "The Cow" in Raintaxi, Lara Glenum gets closer when she says that the book is about the way culture teaches us how to desire. (As Zizek is always pointing out, there is nothing spontaneous about desire. He would have a field day with this book.) Though the thing about Lara's review that I would quibble over is the way she emphasizes "struggle" in the writing process. This can be misread as a return to the old raw-vs-cooked binary, to the expressionist subject.

Like I wrote to Ariana, mostly her book reminds me of various video art. I think in particular of one piece I once saw at the Walker: distanced camera-stare at a bunch of poor teenagers reenacting professional wrestling. It's boring and violent and quite brilliant.

Though perhaps Josh is right about the "naked" in another sense. The book also has something to do with the exquisitely unsexy boredom of pornography. How such films reveal the artificiality of nudity.

Perhaps it has something to do with Kiki Sera's work: (That's a piece called "Phantom Fuck").

Another example of people falling back into this binary are the blurbs to Anna Moschovakis' book "I Have Not Been Able to Get Through to Everyone." As I alluded to in the entry below, her style is the result of very conscious process of impoverishing - a very artificial act (like all art). Yet the blurbs say that the book is "stripped of artifice" (Ammiel Alcalay), that they display an "absence of artifice" (Lewis Warsh), and (Ann Lauterbach) that Plato "would have loved them" (I thought he only liked poetry that glorified war).

The critics/blurbers I've included in this post all like these pieces. But more frequently these binaries are used to dismiss work, or at least to compartmentalize.


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