Friday, October 06, 2006

I'm not feeling angry today. But I'm not at ease, either.

I've never written a long poem in the traditions of H.D., Pound, Olson, Waldman, Duplessis, or any others. But I'm still reading Iovis.

Out of everything I've read in the past three years, the work that has been the most helpful and intriguing in terms of my own writing has been fiction.

I sound like a broken record, but anything by Jane Bowles, Jean Rhys, or Djuna Barnes is so good it makes my hair stand on end. I'd add Mary Butts, Colette, and Laura Riding's stories to that, and Alejo Carpentier, Peter Matthiessen, and Paul Bowles. And Cydney Chadwick's Flesh and Bone, and any fiction by Susan Smith Nash but especially To the Uzbekistani Solder Who Would Not Save My Life. Dodie Bellamy and KathyAcker are obviously in my list (or on it). I respect Burroughs but can't read him because I'm never prepared for how much he hates me.

Maybe I'm reading fiction because I want my poems to think in terms social interaction and interpersonal psychology and fiction helps me do this. I'm not concerned with history. I mean that I don't begin with history and go towards human interaction, I try to do the opposite. In terms of form, working with both prose and poetry isn't really very new. So, so, so, well, I'll figure out what to do about that when I back into editing mode.


Ian Keenan said...

I'm curious which Rhys, Carpentier, Bowles you like.

K. Lorraine Graham said...

All of Rhys. All of it. But especially Good Morning, Midnight. Carpentier's The Lost Steps, all of Jane Bowles--but especially the short stories, including "Camp Cateract." In terms of Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky changed my life. And I'm also a fan of The Delicate Prey.

Ryan W. said...

I need to make a big poster for my wall that says "remember how when you remember to read fiction it makes things so much better for you?"
I'm glad to have this list of things to read.
I have a hard time reading fiction sometimes.
Fiction is very powerful stuff.

L.A. Howe said...

yes, fiction is very powerful.
i have seen entire groups of students practically yell during class discussions because they hate how powerful some fiction is.
a student once complained that burroughs "plagued" her, not because of the misogyny embedded in _naked lunch_, but because she felt assaulted by the sexual violence depicted in the novel (e.g., the scene where the young boy is being fucked by a man who hangs off the boy after the man has tied a rope around the boy's neck and pushes him off an edge). that scene wasn't just powerful; it was _over_-powering for her, so much so that she couldn't "get" any of the admittedly subtle ethical points that burroughs was making in the book. combine the sexual material with the defamiliarizing experimental techniques burroughs uses, and even today, fifty years after the book was written, many readers still stay they can't make sense of the book, and even if they could, they wouldn't want to because they find the sexual material repellent.
i have felt repelled and even--in a certain way--violated when reading burroughs. i have also felt that when reading barnes. and acker. and bellamy. i choose to keep reading, though, and as i read, i wonder how it is that these writers are able to do what they do. and also, how they themselves felt/feel about how their texts act on readers (i know dodie has talked in interviews about her own designs on the reader).
these are very interesting questions.

K. Lorraine Graham said...

Lisa, G-d, you are exactly right on about this. If my own writing doesn't upset me and make me uncomfortable, then I feel like it's not doing it's job--I'm not pushing it enough.

Designs on the reader: surely reflection and discomfort is a design that all these writers might have had. An attention to sensorial experience. An attention to how central violence is to the everyday. And sex.

There's a level of sexual violence, especially, in art that I cannot handle. More to be said about that.

I find myself wanting to also go back and look at much of Leslie Scalapino's work relative to Burroughs, Acker, Bellamy--relative to violence, sex, narrative possibility. dot dot dot.

You've been writing fiction, Lisa, right? Send me some...