Commentaries

The quotidian

Orchid Tierney

J2 reviews editor Orchid Tierney reads three collections interrogating the poetic forms of the everyday — or, “the intimacy possible in the fractures”: Thousand Star Hotel by Bao Phi, Days and Works by Rachel Blau DuPlessis, and Abandoned Angel: New Poems by Burt Kimmelman.


J2 reviews editor Orchid Tierney reads three collections interrogating the poetic forms of the everyday.

Running into capitalism: John Ashbery's 'Girls on the Run'

Henry Darger, from 'In the Realms of the Unreal.'

If we push the uncritical romantic views of the outsider artist aside, it’s difficult not to read Henry Darger’s In the Realms of the Unreal as embodying the dynamics of an abuse narrative. His epic uses multiple mediums: newspaper clippings, stenciled drawings, watercolor paintings, and narrative fiction to depict a child slave rebellion against their Glandelinian overlords. The heroines of Darger’s allegory of Christian martyrdom are the Vivian girls, rendered by the author in a range of disturbing, one-dimensional fashions: the girls are shown, by turns, adventuring through idyllic, Edwardian landscapes, and falling prey to the grotesqueries of absolute violence, hanged in a field or strangled. Notable is that Darger often draws male genitalia on the little girls, a fact overlooked by many as mere curiosity. John Ashbery encountered Darger’s work in the 1990s and this encounter inspired the corresponding long poem, Girls on the Run. In Darger’s simplistic world, the girls are unquestionably moral and good and the author gives them no room to deviate from their characterization, which feels particularly misogynistic.

If we push the uncritical romantic views of the outsider artist aside, it’s difficult not to read Henry Darger’s In the Realms of the Unreal as embodying the dynamics of an abuse narrative. His epic uses multiple mediums: newspaper clippings, stenciled drawings, watercolor paintings, and narrative fiction to depict a child slave rebellion against their Glandelinian overlords.

Dear beloved humans

A still from "Grzegorz Wróblewski do ludzkości." (c) Krzysztof Jaworski.

For eight years now I have been translating the poetry of Grzegorz Wróblewski, a Polish writer and visual artist based in Copenhagen. So far we have published two volumes: Kopenhaga (Zephyr Press, 2013) and Zero Visibility (Phoneme Media, 2017). We are now working on our third project, Dear Beloved Humans: New and Selected Poems. The title poem offers a good example of transposition.

Coolitude manifesto

A coolitude statement to end this series

When I first read Coolitude: An Anthology of the Indian Labor Diaspora, I was transformed. I accepted the trauma of my history as a dreamscape that shades my daily life. I accepted that the hauntings of colonization, dehumanization, and diabetes were part of this reckoning with my own history. What was it like for my own ancestors Latchman and Sant Ram Mahraj to leave their homes, beset by economic dependence on a colonial system? When they landed in Guyana in 1891 and 1885 what did they see? What colors were the ocean? What songs did they sing aboard the ship? What of all my women ancestors that are not recorded in familial lore — what did they survive? What survives in us because of all of these people’s strains and triumphs?

 

My coolitude is of whale bone