get out the letraset and a blank page. rub on an M. rotate page. rub on an X. rotate page. rub on a g. rotate page. rub on a line using a border. rotate page. think that y should maybe have been an A but then do it anyway. lament half-rubbed on letter until i own it as part of the thing. rotate page. rub on a J but make its tail kiss an i.
I think of feminism as a fragile archive, a body assembled from shattering, from splattering, an archive whose fragility gives us responsibility: to take care. — Sara Ahmed
And with such force in their fragility; a fragility, a vulnerability, equal to their incomparable intensity. — Hélène Cixous
When Jacket2 invited me to compose a CFP for a special feature spanning multiple modes of thinking, it was the summer of 2017 and we were several months into Trump’s presidency. I had just returned to the United States, where I am a naturalized “citizen,” after years in Singapore, where I was employed as a faculty member on a work visa, a status determined almost solely on the state’s articulated understanding of my temporary utility to society — a condition that defines and delimits the lives of immigrants everywhere, but especially in oligarchic states (like Singapore and the US) that bank on the sweat and blood of certain bodies, the profitability of distended indenture (including debt), disenfranchisement, carceral surveillance, and other forms of coercion.
“To live through the days sometimes you moan like deer,” writes Claudia Rankine in Citizen: An American Lyric (2014), her critically acclaimed book of poems regarding race in twenty-first-century America. Rankine’s book is a motley hybrid of text and image; its lyric verse, prose fragments, film stills, photographs, and other visual images all center, whether directly or obliquely, on the accumulative traumas of structural racism.
It is as if every valorization and every “politicization” of life […] necessarily implies a new decision concerning the threshold beyond which life ceases to be politically relevant, becomes only “sacred life,” and can as such be eliminated without punishment. Every society sets this limit; every society — even the most modern — decides who its “sacred men” will be. It is even possible that this limit […] has now — in the new biopolitical horizon of states with national sovereignty — moved inside every human life and every citizen.
Could it be a coincidence — that two Flarf poems inspired by Amiri Baraka both contain the word “popsicle”? There is Benjamin Friedlander’s “Somebody Blew Up America” (2011), a response to Baraka’s poem of the same name: “if you leave your popsicle in the sun, / you have to expect the pages to get sticky. // It’s one of the reasons Lynne Cheney is careful with any book.”
Could it be a coincidence — that two Flarf poems inspired by Amiri Baraka both contain the word “popsicle”? There is Benjamin Friedlander’s “Somebody Blew Up America” (2011), a response to Baraka’s poem of the same name: “if you leave your popsicle in the sun, / you have to expect the pages to get sticky. // It’s one of the reasons Lynne Cheney is careful with any book.” And Michael Magee’s “Mainstream Poetry” (2003) flarfifies Baraka’s “Black Art” through a series of Mad Libs-style deformations:
The assault on poetic conventions is the core of Open Mouth’s seemingly colloquial and improvisational manifesto, through Lý Đợi’s article, “Poetry: we do not make poetry” (2004). Seen in a larger context, this statement points to a dialogue between the present and the past, a battle between the novelty of the avant-garde and the decay of the conservative, a proposal of poetry as anti-poetry that is certainly not an outlier in the history of poetry, an attempt to resist perceptions that have turned fixed and fossilized, an urge to speak that arises within a suppressed presence.
Note: These poems were originally self-published in the bilingual book of poetry Bài thơ một vần/One-rhyme Poems (Giấy Vụn/Scrap Paper Press, 2009), by Bùi Chát, with English translation by Lê Đình Nhất-Lang. The works appear in Jacket2 with the agreement of the author Bùi Chát.
Note: These poems were originally self-published in the bilingual book of poetry Khi Kẻ Thù Ta Buồn Ngủ/When Our Enemy Falls Asleep (Giấy Vụn/Scrap Paper Press, 2010), by Lý Đợi, with English translation by Nguyễn Tiến Văn. The works appear in Jacket2 with the agreement of the author, Lý Đợi.