QT: Queer Readings at Dixon Place

Monday, November 19, 2007

Wayne Koestenbaum + Gary Lutz: Tuesday, November 27

at Dixon Place, 258 Bowery, 2nd floor, between Houston & Prince
doors (+ snacks, + drinks) at 7 / words at 7:30

Wayne Koestenbaum has published five books of poetry, most recently Best-Selling Jewish Porn Films. He has also published a novel, Moira Orfei in Aigues-Mortes, and five books of nonfiction: Andy Warhol, Cleavage, Jackie Under My Skin, The Queen's Throat (a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist), and Double Talk. His newest book, Hotel Theory, a hybrid of fiction and nonfiction, was published by Soft Skull Press in summer 2007. He is a Distinguished Professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center, and currently also a Visiting Professor in the painting department of the Yale School of Art.

Gary Lutz is the author of Stories in the Worst Way , I Looked Alive, and Partial List of People to Bleach. He has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.

And here are the intros from last weekend's QT-affiliated not-entirely-queer-if-you-mean-queer-THAT-way reading not at Dixon Place.

Jess Arndt’s astonishing sentences teem with life and rot, with endlessly new language and images. In her novel-in-progress, Shanghaied, a fierce lawless erotics of abjection plays out in a pre-regulatory-system Californian frontier, thus exemplifying the Georges Bataille claim that “eroticism always entails a breaking down of established patterns, the patterns . . . of the regulated social order . . . .”

A barroom brawl, a misshapen face, a hurried fuck, and the decaying carcass of a murdered bandit here all coinhabit a joint plane of tenderness, desire, and disgust. Arndt’s language is, in Julia Kristeva’s words, “a language of want, of the fear that edges up to it and runs along its edges.” Burning at the core of this gruff profanity, there’s a slurrily romantic heart of drunk longing for cohesion, seen mostly as through a heavily clouded pane, like the compromised vision of the sentimental, longing One-Eyed Jack. Quoting, to close, Arndt herself: “Overhead in that fevered wan-ness one weak star rolled and leaked its light as if blind.”

If music be the food of love, Kathe Burkhart’s provocative interventions with language are dessert. The bittersweet haiku hanging on the wall in her fantastic show at PS1 right now in five-inch-high chocolate letters; the words on her Liz Taylor paintings, where amid a textural collage of fake fur, fake jewels, rope, dildo, brash words— “fuck face,” “slit,” “up your ass,” and my favorite, “mercy fuck turd”—are poetic in their compression and force.

Equally forceful, though less public, is Burkhart’s writing on the page, which works with intimate forms—letter-writing, journaling—to create private or semiprivate interactions for us to stumble across. Her unflinching texts variously ask readers to confront our own voyeurism, the repetition of desire and emotional disclosure, and the intense discomfort of closeness.

In reading Frances Richard’s first book, 2003’s lovely See Through, I thought a lot about shapeshifting. Through her language in those poems, films between matter and nonmatter are crossed and recrossed, things gaining and relinquishing solidity like one might catch and recover from a cold. A few lines, from a few different poems:

Lit signage clings to the air
Rain hangs its partition
as incense / would alter from thingness to smoke

In her gracefully exploratory work of the past few years it’s becoming even clearer that Richard is, in a way, an alchemical poet, that is, a poet of morphings, of—her word—topology, a word that summons the geographic as well as the geometric. These poems’ zeal for shapeshifting affects the very matter of meaning itself—as when Richard deftly, while invoking both Ali G and the cost of a war, collapses an astronomical sum into its topologically equivalent black hole:

Approximately one
zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero dollars

Similarly, in her use of extralinguistic material—sounds, symbols, phonemes—she both invokes the future-seeking explorations of twentieth-century avant-gardes and rolls back creation—since, if in the beginning was the word, pre-words place us in the realm of pre-beginnings, the unified primordial soup.


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