Solid Quarter

Visit Trembling Pillow Press for poetry books, broadsides, chapbooks, and Solid Quarter Magazine.

Visit New Orleans Poetry Fest for the annual 4 day poetry festival directed by Bill Lavender and Megan Burns.

Megan Burns' Poeticsofbone&city project on Tumblr

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Post-Kosovo Meal: Brinks & Meat & Cheese

Dave returned from Kosovo and wanted meat, cheese and bread. It's actually really hard to find good bread in New Orleans other than white french bread. We did go to La Boulangerie on Magazine which has a good selection, and then over to St. James on Prytania for the cheese selections. 

Here's the meat: ground lamb made into hamburger patties, spinach and feta sausages and two lamb chops all cooked on the stove in a little EVOO

And softshell crabs are in season, so a little crab cooked up in oil as well. I don't like mine fried, so for a small batch you can season and cook on the stove. For a larger batch, you can throw them in the oven and broil them. 

Some sweet peppers and carrots from our garden cooked as well on the stove with just a little oil and seasoned with some fresh herbs as well from the garden.

There's the salad and cheese plate with a little spicy mustard. 

And all plated up: meat, crabs, lamb & veggies. Yum.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

BodyTrap: Claude Cahun's shade and Banks' Liquorice

"When the mask is taken off it becomes an inert object, like a doll or a puppet, confusing the boundaries between the living and the dead." 

-Gen Doy, Claude Cahun: a sensual politics of photography

Most of Claude Cahun's self portraits are believed to be photographed by her lover Suzanne Malherbe (Marcel Moore). Since Cahun never sought publication for these works, it can be argued that they were composed and created for Malherbe's gaze as much as for Cahun's own personal creative outlets. In fact, in many of the photographs what is most probably Malherbe's shadow can be just seen eclipsing the figure of Cahun as it does in Self-Portratit with Flowers. Gen Doy in the collection of essays titled Claude Cahun: a sensual politics of photography points out that the shadow of the photographer can simply be a quirk of position and lighting, and yet, on another level it reinforces the presence of the one capturing the view, the one behind the lens who remains invisible. In a sense, the shadow of Malherbe in Cahun's work reinforces the intimacy they shared as Cahun performs for the camera and Malherbe actively participates in capturing this performance. The dual photographs of Cahun and Malherbe before mirrors  (Self Portrait with Mirror and Marcel Moore and Mirror) surely indicates that they were aware and playing with the idea of doubling and the gaze. Cahun as well was familiar with Lacan and his "mirror stage" in which he theorized that the mirror phase "is narcissistic and its function is to stave off the fragmentation of one's self image and subjectivity while separating the child from the surrounding world and the mother" (Doy 59). This sense of coherent identity Lacan tells us is a trap for the ego, the ego preserves itself as the other, the ideal image contained in the mirror wherein lies the narcissism, the desire for the self which influences the object of the eye's desire based on this mirrored trap. Doy does a superb job of examining what the current flow of psychoanalytical theory including Freud's definition of the 'uncanny' means for Cahun's photographs as well as for her political stance as a lesbian artist working with her lover to create these images. 

"The power of looking seems to be with the photographer, yet there is a sensual play of revelation and concealment on and across Cahun's face and body"  (Doy 38).

I was thinking about this in regards to hip hop images of female rappers. It seems that the war raged between female MCs occurs in two places, in the ability to spit (orally and lyrically) and on the surface of their bodies. I want to look at Azealia Banks and her new video "Liquorice" and how the female rapper's body is a lethal terrain, presented as both seductive and dangerous, ultra-sexualized and hardened into a mask, a coat of armor upon which the "knives thrown" in the rap world can be deflected. In opposition to the normal mail of chains, this armor exposes the body, it offers up the body as a taunt and a promise as one able to thwart off attacks. And the audience for this performance, while certainly enjoyed by male eyes, is primarily aimed at the one who is being attacked/ or attacked back in retribution for earlier attacks, and it is always female. The performance then of the female rapper's lyrics and body are designed on one level to engage audience and listeners, but the pretext of the performance is to "one-up" or to "out bitch" the bitch who talked smack about either the rapper or her talent. Then what is the subtext of this masked performance designed for the other female, which contrary to Cahun's work is not made in the spirit of collaboration but in the spirit of aggression. What does it mean when women's bodies become the trajectory and the field for engaging in this pseudo warfare over their "turf" in the music industry. 

Azealia Banks grew popular with her "212" video, shot in black and white where she wears cut off jeans and a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. 

Fast forward to the sleek direction and staged costumes of her latest video: "Liqourice."
Banks critiqued rapper Nicki  Minaj for costuming, and yet in this latest incarnation, she emerges as a bat wielding American bomb shell, a horned beast, and a cowboy who eventually has a stand off with, of course, herself (barely veiled reference to being the only one in her league-- a statement often reflected in Minaj's lyrics.)  

Granted, one can argue that the objectification of the self is simply more fodder for the male gaze, but in the hip hop/ rap world, these "disses" and "barbs" feed the media frenzy. Banks' use of American flags from her bikini clad outfit to her nails, her icicle pop and the flag that emerges from her gun all speak to "dissing" Australian rap artist Iggy Azalea who she is most often compared to. Her popsicle scene is reminiscent of Iggy Azalea's PU$$Y video, and if we watch the stand off scene closely, you'll notice that even though we know these are two versions of Banks; the scene is filmed so that one Banks is only represented by her lower back where all we can see is blond hair. Is this a subtle positioning to imply that the one losing the stand off is indeed blond-haired Iggy Azalea, and is it important that instead of being "shot," the gun emits an American flag. The competitive war zone of female rappers means that the images and their subtle intentions are on some level quite consciously devised to attack the other woman, or at least to launch a perceived attack on the other woman. If this stance is a mask, a game, then the question would be have the women engaged in this fierce play fallen into the trap of becoming their masks. As Cahun would say: 

"In front of the mirror one day, you put on your mask a little too enthusiastically and it bites your skin. After the festival you lift up a little corner of it to look, you discover to your horror that the flesh and its concealment have become inseparable" (Doy 43).

And beyond that, the inevitable question is who profits in this power struggle waged on young women's bodies and their creative talent. Who ultimately wins by keeping these females at each other's throats? Does it make for more creative lyrics, does it mean we are more engaged with a rap artist because they are constantly exerting the energy to tell us they are number 1. Or does it perpetuate the image of catty women, does it enact the male fantasy of female on female aggression in a sexualized arena. Does the woman's construction of an image for a female gaze ultimately hold more power if it is done in a state of aggression or given over in a state of collaboration? 

(Iggy Azalea Diss) by Azealia Banks 

Compare Bank's cover shot where a giant golden Mickey Mouse head covers her crotch to 
Francesca Woodman's Horizontale, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976
where Doy says: "a knitted glove covers up the dark 'woolen' shape that it simultaneously masks and draws attention to" (145). 

Instead of a glove, we have the infamous eared rodent, simultaneously announcing the commodification of the women's vagina as well as quite literally "toying" with the masking of it. Where the body would appear is now a trademark, an official billion dollar enterprise that is carefully constructed to present veneers of fun and enjoyment rather than realities.   

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Spring Season 2012 Finale at 17 Poets! with Kim Vodicka's Aesthesia Balderdash



Belatedly—like everything we wait for—Kathy Acker’s great, I mean really great, grand‐ daughter Louisiana, naturally (or un‐naturally). Her “blood runneth cheesecake” who penneth this collection of see‐sick lyrics drunk w/ semantic play and painful as “all lights...even stars.” Vodicka’s Aesthesia Balderdash sisters the disaster of gender in ways that matter: “chronically, / abashedly, / rosily, cockily, / dazzlingly.” Not for the faint of art, this is poetry that cunts, I mean counts.” 
—Laura Mullen, author of Dark Archive

Kim Vodicka grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana and received her B.A. in English from UL Lafayette in 2010. She is currently working on her M.F.A. in Poetry at LSU, where she is also a Graduate Teaching Assistant and Co-Coordinator of Delta Mouth Literary Festival 2012. Kim is an avid lover of music, hosts a psychedelic rock show, "Shangri-La-La Land," on KLSU, and is involved in musical-poetic projects. She believes that poems want to be songs very badly, and she can recite most of her work from memory. Her artwork has been published in Tenderloin, and her poems have been published in Shampoo, Ekleksographia, and Dig. Aesthesia Balderdash is her first book.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Claire Hero Shears and Shears: Dollyland

Claire Hero's newest chap from Tarpaulin Sky 

Claire Hero's newest collection Dollyland features 15 poems about that once dearly- beloved clone of clones, Dolly the Sheep and if Dolly the Sheep opened a theme park, Hero could outfit the House of Horrors with verses such as these: "Below us the dollys wriggle over the earth, white as maggots. I cannot remember a time when we were not climbing Dolly always. Below us the dollys devour the white Wounds of the earth." 

Claire Hero's previous collection from Noemi Press, Sing, Mongrel also dealt in this scape of beasts. Her language rests hoofed and cloven as she takes us in hand to wander in the bones and muscles of that domesticated wilderness of the animal song. 

Dollyland is composed of 15 prose poems; the construction of the chapbook small enough so that each poem fills the white space on the page. Opening the first poem "The Making of Dolly" is the reminder that "Never was it a questions of not." But dwelling in philosophical and ethical platforms about cloning is less the subject of this text as is the terrain of actually inhabiting what is the dark underbelly of a thing found first not in nature but in the lab. What is the animal and what is the image; Dolly the sheep existed as an idea to far more people than the actual living creature; and Dolly encompassed that symbol of the first step into a world previously only found in the covers of sci-fi novels. Science, religion, politics and belief came to the forefront in the unlikely form of a sheep, a wooly being through which we worked out our dark need to control and contain the shape of life and death. 

Claire Hero engages that darkness; her use of the word dolly repetitively toys with that notion of the plaything. Dolly was our clone toy; we watched to see what would happen to her. Hero's language hooks on the play of words as she twists and turns into the symmetry of her particular surreal imaginings:

Sometimes the fleece falls open & I see inside Her. Her
wreckage of ribcage & staircase. Her factory of small 
parts. Conduit & spool. Sometimes the fleece falls
open & I see a dazzle of pasture. A needle & a wound

(from inside Dolly)

There is a strange metamorphosis that occurs in the body of the poems, in the body of a thing repeated as we trot out language to see how it fits in this particular arrangement. Hero lets the wound stay open, she allows the reader to fall into the abyss, a bit terrible and also bitten down into the mouthfuls that she shoves in repeatedly. In this place, we are the beast, we are the faulty construction, we are the ones supplying the wool against the cold night and we are the ones choking on how much we swallow: "Hunger is the Eye of Dolly & we feed it. We feed it ourselves. Deeper & deeper we glide into the darkling Eye. Look at me, Dolly, I say, & the Eye says, Look at me." (from the Eye of Dolly)

Dolly the sheep is a doll--never to be played with but subject to our gaze-- behind glass in the National Museum of Scotland:

The poem "the Vagina of Dolly" reminds us that Doll'ys body is an object and by comparison-- the female body is stripped down so it is meat and product, commodity, not a thing of purpose or design, but instead: "ground up for fertilizer. Is taxidermied for the Royal Museum." Hero wades into the debate by first destabilizing the reader with her surreal images stacked up and seductive in their syllabic repetitions and meanderings, but in this is the subtle rejoinder, the subtext which questions what becomes of the body when science supplants the function. How is power traded and who profits and who is simply "on display." In the objectification of the female body lies the clue to Dolly's name: 

The name "Dolly" came from a suggestion by the stockmen who helped with her birth, in honor of Dolly Parton, because it was a mammary cell that was cloned. (

I feel like this Zombie from the Second Season of The Walking Dead when I read Claire Hero's poems. 
I'm shearing my face off to get to them.
 I can't get enough. 

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Kate Durbin is my Reality Show

"If we never write anything save what is already understood, the field of understanding will never be extended. One demands the right, now and again, to write for a few people with special interests and whose curiosity reaches into greater detail."  -E. Pound, "Thrones" 

What happens when Nothing Happens:

This is not a review or a critical assessment of Durbin's work, but rather a personal response to what  I find interesting and not so interesting in Durbin's work. I think for me Durbin's work is analogous to some of  the things that I find compelling in the artist Dario Robleto's work. In that sense, the poem product that we find on the page needs to be considered in light of how is it constructed and what the process of that construction means for the both the artist and the reader. Durbin's written works then are functioning in a different way than say a poem that is working in the constraint of the page or a poem that is wrestling with the confines of lyric, language, poetic device, etc. In some sense, the idea of exploring reality TV or stars like Anna Nicole and Lindsay Lohan is obviously going to reflect the surface, shallow mirror that these "images" encompass. But why look, why spend hours looking and transcribing: What can we learn from it and how do we begin to understand the impact of the collective gaze. The "gaze" is an interesting idea if we accept and-- statistically it's evident that there are millions of eyes on these figures--if we are at all interested in collective response, collective consciousness, or what we as a whole deem to be important, what we as a society allow to be spoon fed into our living rooms, then we have to be able to value conversations about what appears vapid. 

Would the work have a more serious slant had Durbin been transcribing White House transcriptions of debates on why and when to end the Iraqi War? The end result would have still produced an "unpoetic," stilted and slow read; but would our value of the subject be altered by what we consider to be important or not trivial entertainment? And if we assume that reality TV assumes a place that is not "important," a place that is both real and edited, a space of real bodies and yet unreal events, unreal lighting, sets, expectations to the norm; what then is this fascination and how does that reflect on us? How does it shape our interpretation of what is real and what is unreal, how are we ourselves complicit in our own scripts? These are questions that begin to emerge when I sit and think about what Durbin is doing. And what about the final product.

I've never seen the Hills; I watch almost no reality TV. But how does one escape culture and the pervasive need of the Media to inoculate us with the intimate details of media darlings who appear and disappear with a rapidity that belies any sustained concern for them as human beings. What are the limits of language? We can deconstruct, we can poke fun at, we can bear witness and hope to pull back the sheen a bit, but we can rarely do so completely excised from the beast within whose belly we all find ourselves. 

Durbin states in an interview that she is interested in illustrating how the women stars on these reality shows are used, objectified and made to perform. Conversely, Durbin herself also uses these women in her work. As much as she is bringing attention to their subtexts, she is also in the path of garnering attention by using celebrities to draw attention to her work. Any basic knowledge of search engines reveals that throwing in the names of a few celebrities will boost the numbers on how often people will look at the proposed result. So, where does the artist stand in using these women for her own ends? How do we the reader, the audience feel about our complicity in viewing what is constructed by Durbin's art. Has her art managed to release the shackles of fame and media objectification or has she simply more cleverly disguised the bonds. 

I like poetry that brings with it questions and confrontations and not so much answers and understanding. That being said, I don't really want to read pages of transcribed scenes from The Hills any more than I want to read some other conceptual poets whose works walk in that space of maddeningly slow and purposefully not entertaining. I get it; it's the point but I get to walk away from the final product as the reader and sit with what I find fun, which is wrestling with why this product exists or why would an artist make this exist in the world? In that sense, it is the most human desire to create that sparks my interest and to try to reach some communion in accepting what the artist presents and why they feel it needs to exist. 

I like the artist in the midst of failure; in what I like to think of as the exact opposite of the beautiful, plastic, photoshopped, airburshed, rehearsed and edited world of art objects that are presented to us in so many genres. The artist in the raw space of failure is always a bit intriguing and a bit awkward and even a bit boring. I don't really get Durbin's videos; they don't speak to me and seem a bit pointless as to their design. Again, I'm less with final product and more with the intention: I do like to think they are somewhere between narcissism and exploitation of our current desire to project everything, to share in a nearly uncensored way as we have never before via the internet. In that sense, the art reflects that overload of self-exposure enacted each second online in a subtle nod that teases and continues to tease out whether we are in on it or whether we as the viewer are being taken for a ride. It's a thin line, not an abyss so much, that separates the uncanny from the canned, and it's blurred by zooming in so much that we can't decipher which pixels amount to what or who. In some ways, Kate Durbin is most interesting if she only exists online; if she, like the works she transcribes, is somewhere behind the screen--behind the curtain-- pulling the lever. Maybe as a mermaid gif that we click on as much as we like, but then where does that leave us? Which side of the screen are we on, the real one? 
And each time we press play, which of us becomes a real girl? 

Some more on Kate Durbin in her own words:

From an Introduction for a workshop at the Los Angeles Public Library for teenage poets:

"Once I realized this, my art-making process began to change. Instead of primarily writing memoir-type, lyric pieces, where I described in vivid detail something that had happened “to” me, I began to work with the materials of culture around me in order to make myself and others more aware of the disturbing messages we perpetuate daily without questioning them. I didn’t necessarily judge these messages—I simply, through processes of transcription and other methods, attempted to show them as they are, in order that a reader might discover them for themselves, in themselves.

Once we discover our culture’s negative messages inside our own bodies, we realize we have the power to stop taking them for granted as “the way it just is or the way someone else decided it will be.” For example, I transcribed an entire episode of MTV’s reality TV show The Hills, often-criticized for it’s potentially “scripted” nature, and in doing so realized that all of life is itself scripted to some degree—that we all allow other people to frame our bodies, our environments, what we believe about our genders, our monies, our relationships, our worth. It took transcribing a reality show to teach me about my own "reality," my own role in perpetuating this problem. In reading my transcription, readers of my work have had similar experiences of awakening."

[My note: I love that this talk was given to teenage writers. It not only examines the ephemera that makes up their world but confirms what they may secretly suspect. It enacts a way of dissecting, a way of cutting through what is fed via the screens transferring power back into the hands of the one who bears witness, the one who transcribes.  I was a teenage girl; I would've eaten this up.]

From the TENDERLOIN interview:

KD: Since these pieces are transcriptions of television shows, I am not sure that hanging them on the wall and never reading them would be very different than the way most people watch these shows to begin with, which is to say, blindly. I want them to be finally read.