Performative Criticism and Against Conceptual Poetry

I recently participated in a panel discussion on the topic of performative criticism at REVERSE, the Copenhagen International Poetry Festival held at their LiteraturHaus. My co-panelists were Danish-Norwegian critic Susanne Christensen, Swedish critic and poet Magnus William-Olsson, and Danish writer Kamilla Lftstrm. The conversation was reasonably lively, focusing on performative criticism as a critical phenomenon, most often seen in the wild: critics deploying what could be called, for lack of a better handle, themself as part of their critical apparatus. The choice of the grammatically incorrect singular is of course intentional, for the self that is critically performed is a self whose unity comes forth in the purported disjunct (or performed disjunctification) between the person and the critic (or the author as I and the authorial I). So far, so postmodern-y good. Theres a certain metafictional-metaphysical comfort in… read the full review »


Life in a Box is a Pretty Life

In Dawn Lundy Martins challenging, evocative, necessary new book Life in a Box is a Pretty Life (Nightboat Books), she offers smart, frank, actual living thought that seeks to destabilize and illustrate some of the ways that black female subjectivity continues to be framed by mis/conceptions and mis/representations of the black female body. And what do we really know about the black female body? Though never explicitly posited in her book, this question floats as a central premise around her pieces and requires us to consider the ways that representational violence, colonial history, and ongoing gender and racial prejudice continue to shape psychic realities today. Through her strong engagement with visual arts, Martin also furthers the incredible dialogue that authors such as Tisa Bryant, Deborah Richards, Urayon Noel, and Roberto Tejada are also contributing… read the full review »


the L notebook

As temperatures hover in the upper 80s, summertimes fantasy of ease takes over, gives rise to a self that, in lieu of work, throws on flip-flops and a swimsuit and heads to the pool. This summerself, only partly satisfied by hours under the shade of an umbrella reading trashy novels, contemplates a fling with that gorgeous creature sunning across the patio. In such a mood the summerself might think romance too much workunless, that is, one was able to keep the pleasure simple, physical, charming. But is this possible, the summerself wonders, shifting in her lounge to get a better view: the dangerous ones start out easy and charming but then maneuver into mystery and complexity, creating the kind of bliss that does more than just please. Such experiences alter us.

Sabine Machers the L notebook, translated by… read the full review »


End of the Sentimental Journey: A Mystery Poem

I am old, I leave the house less and less, I dont go to as many poetry readings as I used to. But I read a lot of poetry—as a reader might hope a reviewer would. But readers of poetry reviews, i.e. yall, are not like readers of movie reviews; the latter might see a few movies a year, and the former are likely reading as many books as the reviewer. Similarly, the average movie-goer is probably not too concerned with the film shes currently directing. So I think it is safe and fair to say that whatever anxiety the poetry reviewer feels is akin to the anxiety of the poetry reader, akin to the poetry performer, akin to the poetry writer. I think all but a few of us feel some anxiety about our preferences, our “likes” and… read the full review »


Things To Do With Your Mouth

Recently released by Les Figues press, Divya Victors Things To Do With Your Mouth examines hysteria and psychoanalytic theory, exploring how bodies are fragmented, dismembered, and silenced when they enter the symbolic order. Victors appropriations, permutations, and repetitions serve to explode the basis by which hysterics bodies and psyches have been perceived as damaged and in need of a “cure.” Victor subverts the way normative meanings are constructed by fragmenting case studies, interrupting interrogations, and saturating us with an excess of body parts and excretions, torturous directives, and biblical curses. By fragmenting and overloading these texts with descriptive excesses, she unleashes the female, sometimes child, “hysterical” being from the knowledge systems that otherwise seek to diagnose, medicalize, and constrain her. If Victors writing sounds harrowing—it is. But it is also terrifically magnetic, glowing with intelligence, elegance, and control…. read the full review »