Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (The Force of What’s Possible—Issue 47, November 2014)

Opening the Space

...What is so terrible about trauma is not abuse itself, no matter the brutality of treatment, but the way terror marks the body and then becomes invisible and inarticulate.

Annie Rogers, The Unsayable: The Hidden Language of Trauma

My driving question as an artist is “How can I make the invisible visible and allow language to give form to the inarticulate?” A need to explore my personal history led me to study the various ways in which testimony and witness replace silence. The more I read and wrote, the more I questioned the function of the prevailing aesthetic. As someone who lives predominantly in liminal spaces—in borderlands and hybrid identities—I started to understand how normative narrative structures reinforce what is accepted as “part of” and what is marginalized as “other,” what is recognizable and what is invisible. Works that blur the boundaries of genre—works such as Bhanu Kapil’s Schizophrene, Anne Carson’s Nox, and Kristin Prevallet’s I, Afterlife—created a space that allowed me to explore my own stories without the strictures of generic expectation. In moving beyond traditional definitions of poetry, my work unfolded in unexpected ways, merging prose and verse, text and image, audio and video. I became engaged in a deep exploration, focused on how language and story telling can function when conventions no longer provide the framework. In that space, the inarticulate finally emerged in a polyphonic expression that was necessary for my own story telling.

By working outside of normative aesthetic boundaries, liminal texts highlight the construct of the poetic notion and, with it, the system of canon-making. As Myung Mi Kim says:

The question of what belongs and what doesn’t belong in some really foundational sense is a question of what has been excluded in terms of the sociohistorical index, and therefore the question of what belongs or doesn’t is one that needs to keep being opened up. There’s got to be some kind of pressure on the question of what closes down the archive, who has authority to create archive. (Kim n.p.)

Avant-garde works provide this pressure; they open the space of dialog and possibility. Whether called avant-garde or liminal, genrequeer, mash-ups, remixes, or experimental, this way of approaching language defies tidy categorizations. It pushes against the forces with a vested interest in keeping the archive tightly closed. To borrow a concept from Rachel Blau DuPlessis, the avant-garde creates “not ‘otherness’ in a binary system, but ‘otherhow’ as the multiple possibilities of a praxis” (154).

Works Cited

DuPlessis, Rachel Blau. “Otherhow.” The Pink Guitar. New York: Routledge, 1990. 140–156. Print.

Kim, Myung Mi. “Ear Turned Toward the Emergent.” Jacket2. Ed. Charles Bernstein. jacket2.org. 2012. Web. 19 Feb. 2012.

Rogers, Annie. The Unsayable: The Hidden Language of Trauma. New York: Ballantine, 2007. Print.