And I am boycotting against putting an image for this post! Not everything can be illustrative!
Did my first real reading for the book. It is striking to be a body with the book. It is quite an experience to read the work, and reading it, realizing how uncomfortable the work made some (or am I projecting?) or people nervously react, they don't know how to react. Which of course pleases me and displeases me at the same time. One of my great idols of performance is Karen Finley, Karen Finley, one of Artaud's sisters, loudmouth on stage with her tit hanging out. I wish I could be so brave. I am not. I am a contained body when I read, although I do channel something, the work was a form of channeling. Of what? I did not realize until I read, how much I am channeling Sylvia Plath's BBC recording of Lady Lazarus. But I do when I read the Maggie sections. I channel her trauma-mama-drama voice. And A. Alvarez in The Savage God writing about how Sylvia would come to visit him when she was writing the frenetic, frantic Ariel poems, and she would kneel before him, insist on reading them herself, these must be read, she said.
I guess I also didn't realize how much I was channeling "Lady Lazarus" the poem when writing the Maggie sections. There is even a line that echoes "The first time it happened I was ten/It was an accident" that whole series Plath writes of the first time, the second time. And when she writes about the cat and nine lives. I write:
Once Maggie laid down on the tracks but the train didn't come and she got up again. That was Attempt #1.
Maggie-the-Cat has 9 lives she wishes they would hurry it up already and be done with.
Now, Maggie-the-Cat is a reference to Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but the rest is pure photocopy of Plath. It is like that feeling when you open your mouth and your mother's laugh comes out, a parlor trick.
I used to want to be a performance artist. Desperately. Senior year of college, I am depressed, desperately depressed, I don't go to classes, I organize instead a week of experimental performances on campus no one attends except ourselves and we ape the Vienna Actionists and Finley and the rest. I read C.Carr's columns on performance in the Village Voice. I read Artaud. I learn about Karen Finley and Carolee Schneemann. And I take a course on performance of poetry, I am a journalism student, but my best friend is a theater major and all I am interested in is performance, the performance of my self, my drama, my trauma. And I perform "Lady Lazarus". I perform it like I wrote it. I perform it sitting on the floor and I feel others watching me, I feel them be transfixed, I am mesmerized by the words, I feel their power, the intensity of the poem. And did it sink underneath my skin? Did I swallow it? Consume it? To vomit it out later? I do not know.
At the Q&A session after the reading I realized how intuitive my writing of O Fallen Angel was. I was asked about how repetitious it was, its incantations, and I murmured something about Molly Bloom, and about Artaud's Theater of Cruelty and that is all there, yes, and Clytaemnestra's rage and Cassandra's screams, yes. But of course "Lady Lazarus." And "Daddy." To me Plath's most performative poems in Ariel, maybe the most cruel, the most obvious, the most literal, and hence my favorites. I had not realized how much I glossed from the texts, in my Maggie sections, rage against the family, the patriarch. The work itself which is about two suicides. Even my characters "Mommy" and "Daddy." And the sense of being on exhibition. There is a charge for the eying of my scars. There is a charge for the hearing of my heart. It really goes. Has anything more powerful ever been written than Lady Lazarus? How many of us are still repeating this poem, repeating it, with all of its repetitions?
And I have been thinking about the body in my writing, and the concept of the grotesque, both O Fallen Angel and the work I'm writing now, Under the Shadow, the work I'm writing now so much more ostensibly an homage to Artaud, who I write as Ar-toe in the work. Much more inspired by Brecht's A-effect (which I call Asshole effect in the work, a joke cracked by Monkey amidst a series of anal rapes). In Monkey's notebook I quote from this Artaud poem, which we can measure against the body cavity search/burlesque in Lady Lazarus, the spectacle of the abject physical female body (the cases might be fucked up as everything is low-case in Monkey's section and I can't bother to look up the proper version):
that I am suffocated;
and I don't know if it is an action;
but by pressing me thus with questions
even to the absence
of the nothingness
of the question
I was pressed
even to the suffocation
of the idea of body
and of being a body,
and it is then that I smelled the obscene
and that I farted
out of folly
and out of excess
and out of the revolt
of my suffocation.
The fact that I was being pressed
right up to my body
and right up to the body
and it is then
that I shattered everything
because my body is never to be touched.
And I now I am thinking of where Artaud meets Ariel, both works of cruelty, of the body, the body being sacrificed, like a Greek tragedy, a spectacle of the self-devouring. And I have been describing my work as a "grotesque homage to Mrs. Dalloway," and now I am considering what that means, the grotesque, also Frances Bacon's grotesque, twisting figures. In Logic of Sense Deleuze linking Artaud to Lewis Caroll, "the grotesque trinity of the child, the poet, and the madman," and Plath has that too, that childlike trauma and repetition-compulsion in Daddy and Lady Lazarus.
And Ross Brighton writes here of Johannes Göransson, bringing in Kristeva's notion of the abject:
The phenomenon of grotesquery as a means of questioning gender norms and identity isn’t confined to women. Johannes Göransson is a male poet working in this field. He relies on the Julia Kristeva’s framework of the Abject, which centres on the othering, fracturing, exploding and mutilating the speaker’s body and consciousness through a regime of continual violence and transgression.
So I want to read more about this, this phenonmenon of grotesquery as a means of questioning gender norms and identity. I find this very interesting. And then also James Pate's brilliant essay on the grotesque and Daniel Borzutsky (who we're publishing at Nightboat, a very radical work dealing with the body and poetry and terrorism, it's fantastic) and Lara Glenum and Ariana Reines' The Cow. Ariana Reines like the lovechild of Artaud and Plath. And then Joyelle McSweeney writing about the abject maternal.
And then Pate writing about the distorted figures of Beckett, linking this to what Deleuze writes about Bacon. And of course since I am selfish and self-involved I am trying to see where I fit into this. As all of my writing is really involved with writing Bacon, trying to write these grotesque twisting writhing figures.
And so what does it mean to write the grotesque? To write the body, all of its fluids, its transgressions. But then I still do not understand where the body without organs fits into all of this. Isn't the body without organs about transcendence? What if you cannot escape the abject female body? Where do Artaud's daughters fit into this? Karen Finley, Carolee Schneemann, Hiromi Ito, Ariana Reines? Plath writing the body as exhibition, as spectacle about to go up in flames. She is Lavinia who refuses to cut off her tongue.Does the abject stand in opposition to Deleuze & Guattari's ideas of the body without organs? I am a theory-body not a theory-head. Any thoughts? I will welcome a reading list, writers that perform these ideas, theory that is about these ideas.