living next door to alice (in W-LAN) (2010)

off with her head

i’m never really here
never really not here

this is the in-between
where we un-appear
in the web of day to day
it’s the back alleyway
that sucks us in

mind that gap, gal, you say,
it’s no zero-sum game.

ja-nee
it’s a dirty crack habit
but i’m not paying, pal!

i’m chasing that rabbit
i’m hunting that quark
i’m ripping, unzipping
tumbling through the dark

i’m pulled, i’m polluted
the vertigo’s heady
the jostling vacuum
blaring and unsteady

warrens of voids
streaming past
screaming future
endlessly new
have i seen this already?

uh-huh, it’s not pretty
these blown-up dead pixels
no taste, so not witty
they stink like nothing

on earth

in asunderland
nothing rots

i’m always here, not-here
it’s off with me ’ead
when bored, i bore deeper
through holes yet unread

i need more; drop a fresh tab

hop a window

and i tiptoe
past the daemon
with a keygen
while it snores
unlock the door

to

another tube flickr-ing
twittering, bickering
low resolution
there’s no revelation
there’s no revolution
just revaluation
search optimisation
and too many shares

i spin rumpelstiltskins’
straw dogs into gold
using worm-riddled troll jam
i scavenge ‘twixt threads

i needle this grey gunk
i snip it to shreds
i bump and i juggle
grind bones badly bred

i flip and i giggle
i slough off my shame
i slurp it up, spew it out
flooding the drain

logged in or logged out
i have no real name
if I do it is M.U.D.
and i’m out of my death

and where is my body?

my own flesh and blood
it sleeps with the ‘fiches
not holding its breath

see, it doesn’t do digital
it keeps crashing
so it’s chained to the terminal
wired to the grid
with a stay of execution

logged on or logged off
the haunted dimension
buzzes in my marrow
drowns out my dreams
howls me back
out of bed
out of the car
out of the street
from the supermarket
from the sunset
from supper
in a stupor
on my phone
into my inbox
unto my outbox
onto the blog

*welcome to [UR(hel)L]*

you can’t turn off a never-present stranger.

(2010)

alice1

louise bourgeois on the difficulty of expression

How are you going to turn this around and make the stone say what you want when it is there to say “no” to everything? It forbids you. You want a hole, it refuses to make a hole. You want it smooth, it breaks under the hammer. It is the stone that is aggressive. It is a constant source of refusal. You have to win the shape…

Gaston Bachelard would explain this by saying that the thing that had to be said was so difficult and so painful that you have to hack it out of yourself and so you hack it out of the material, a very, very hard material.

I read Bachelard when I was over seventy-five. If I had read Bachelard before, I would have been a different person, I would not have been divided inside since I would have taken the materials, with their different characters, and I would have been more friendly towards them. In the past, every time somebody asked me about materials, I used to answer, “What interests me is what I want to say and I will battle with any material to express accurately what I want to say.” But the medium is always a matter of makeshift solutions. That is, you try everything, you use every material around, and usually they repulse you. Finally, you get one that will work for you. And it is usually the softer ones–lead, plaster, malleable things. That is to say that you start with the harder thing and life teaches you that you had better buckle down, be contented with softer things, softer ways.
__
Excerpted from Louise Bourgeois’ Destruction of the Father / Reconstruction of the Father: Writings and Interviews 1923-1997.

Louise Bourgeois with soft head sculpture, 2009.

Louise Bourgeois with soft head sculpture, 2009.

More about Louise Bourgeois’ soft sculpture faces and the restorative act of joining things together HERE.

katie collins – woven into the fabric of the text (2016)

The following is excerpted from a feature essay on the LSE blog by Katie Collins, entitled “Woven into the Fabric of the Text: Subversive Material Metaphors in Academic Writing”. Collins proposes that we shift our thinking about academic writing from building metaphors – the language of frameworks, foundations and buttresses – to stitching, sewing and piecing. Needlecraft metaphors offer another way of thinking about the creative and generative practice of academic writing as decentred, able to accommodate multiple sources and with greater space for the feminine voice. 
__
[W]hy do I regard switching from a metaphor of building to one of stitching as a subversive act? For several reasons. Throughout history, needlework has been a marker of femininity in its various iterations, a means to inculcate it, and something to sneer at as a way of shoring up women’s supposed inferiority. Theodore Roethke described women’s poetry as ‘the embroidering of trivial themes […] running between the boudoir and the alter, stamping a tiny foot against God…’ (165), for example. Women’s naturally nimble fingers were to be occupied; we were to be kept out of the way and out of trouble, shut in the top room of a circular tower and thus prevented from engaging in the masculine pursuits of politics, thinking, reading and writing and making Art (for a fascinating discussion on women, folk art and cultural femicide, I recommend this post by Dr Lucy Allen). The frills and fripperies our needles produced were ample evidence, should anyone require it, that we were frivolous creatures entirely unsuited to public life. Or so the story was. So using needlework metaphors in my academic writing blows a resonant raspberry to that notion, for one thing. But the subversion here is not as straightforward as reclamation, of presenting something usually disparaged as having value after all. Femininity and its inculcation is a displeasingly twisted yarn of benevolence and belittlement. The trick is to unpick the knots without snapping the thread and unravelling the beautiful work, to value that which has been constructed as feminine while at the same time escaping its constricting net.

Ana Teresa Barboza - embroidery and photo transfer on fabric

Ana Teresa Barboza – embroidery and photo transfer on fabric

Imagining academic writing as piecing fragments is one way of recognising that it can integrate all sorts of sources but, more significantly, piecing is also a decentred activity. When quilting, one can plan, cut and stitch many individual squares whenever there is a moment spare, before bringing them together to form the overall pattern, which is flat and in aesthetic terms may have no centre or many centres, and no predetermined start or end. This holds true both for the practice of quilting and how we might think differently about academic writing, with each contribution not a brick in a structured wall but a square ready to stitch onto other squares to make something expected or unexpected, the goal depth and intensity rather than progress (see Mara Witzling). There is sedition here in several senses. This way of imagining how writing works is not individualistic or competitive. Each voice is a thread, and only when they are woven together do they form a whole, as Ann Hamilton’s tapestries represent social collaboration and interconnectedness; many voices not one, cut from the same cloth or different.

But acknowledging that one might have to fit the work of writing around other things, a problem that has occupied me from the moment I became a mother, is a particularly rebellious act, I think. As Adrienne Rich expresses in the poem ‘Transcendental Etude’:

Vision begins to happen in such a life
as if a woman quietly walked away
from the argument and jargon in a room
and sitting down in the kitchen, began turning in her lap
bits of yarn, calico and velvet scraps,
laying them out absently on the scrubbed boards
in the lamplight, with small rainbow-colored shells
sent in cotton-wool from somewhere far away,
and skeins of milkweed from the nearest meadow –
original domestic silk, the finest findings.

This way of imagining academic writing as something that is part of life, rather than something apart, challenges the view of the scholar as the extraordinary, solitary genius who sits alone in his study day after day while the minutiae of clothing and food is organised for him, around him, despite him. But with metaphors that emphasise the piecing of fragments, both everyday and exceptional, we recognise a way of working in which every fragment that can be pieced together into a square is ‘the preservation of a woman’s voice’.

Read the whole of this great essay by Katie Collins HERE.