Monday, February 1, 2010

Kate Durbin

Kate Durbin's recent femme-festo (yeah, I fucking did that, so what?) on feminist writing & possession, also reclaiming the melodramatic hysteria of teenage girls, our frenzied dancing doras. I love this, and it speaks to everything I've been thinking about lately.  It is kind of this post-femme-something vomit of the medusa. Especially since the work I'm love-laboring on now, Under the Shadow of My Roof, is about a saucy teenage libertine possessed (by Frances Farmer, Holden Caulfield's prostitute, Amanda Knox, Sade's heroines, Anais Nin, Artaud, etc), who also imagines herself as a 90s performance artist.

Here is some of it:

Say my feminist writing is itself a fit of possession, and when I climb inside the carcass of a dead woman—as I have with Marilyn Monroe, Amelia Earhart, and others—I do not attempt to empty myself to become her, but rather bump up against her, and all the others within. My writing, then, is a swollen corpse full of babbling she-demons, slobbering and vomiting on one another, emitting a chorus of unholy grunts.

Say when I enact these unholy grunts before a ravenous audience, in preparation I always gild my body in the garb of the girl. Possession, after all, is always bodily, always sexual, always performative, always artifice—demons have no interest in brains in jars, but they are quick to jump into the hot pants of a depressed and slutty teenager with too much makeup on.


For Mad Wife I am taking as a central metaphor the Jewish myth of the dybbuk, humans possessed by former suicides that Plath was so enamored with. And I see myself as being possessed by these women,  Sylvia, Jane Bowles, Zelda, Jean Rhys, Vivienne. In fact, I think all of my works are about possession & performance. Including this recent interest in telling women's lives, inhabiting them, wearing them, performing them. So I love Durbin's link between possession & feminist writing. I think lately there has been a movement in the critical blogging sphere to reclaim Sylvia Plath as well, to steal her back from cliche, taboo, and I'm glad of that.

Along with the idea of writing as a sort of frenzied possession, I have been thinking today of the outsider artist Madge Gill today, her channeling women, through the spirit Myrinerest: