Category: Bellamy, Dodie

at school with Kathy Acker (quote)


Dodie Bellamy’s “Digging Through Kathy Acker’s Stuff,” WHEN THE SICK RULE THE WORLD pp. 141-142

A copy of Kathy’s Hannibal Lecter, My Father appears on my bedroom floor. A note tucked inside reminds me the book was a farewell gift from Laurie, a student who graduated a couple of years ago. Kathy would tell her students at the Art Institute, “Don’t let anybody tell you how to write” — a warning I gave to Laurie as well, to no avail. Kathy apparently didn’t criticize student work, she just gave them permission. A typical Kathy assignment: write a piece in which you have sex with the most disgusting person in your family. Lynn Breedlove told me Kathy advised them to write while masturbating. Acker: One thing I do is stick a vibrator up my cunt and start writing — writing from the point of orgasm and losing control of the language and seeing what that’s like. Vanity Scare. The Art Institute was too sterile for her methods, so she held her classes at a bar — the appropriately Gothic Edinburgh Castle. Bob Gluck theorizes that students didn’t learn from Kathy, they absorbed her. Kathy’s ghoulish white face looms out at me from the back Hannibal Lecter. All other details are obscured except a half-zipped leather jacket. The jacket splits open with the curvaceous grace of a calla lily, Kathy’s head is its pistil, her right ear dripping with gewgaws, a studded choker about her neck, her short bangs dipping into a V, her puffy lips hinting at a pout. Beside her head, a quote from her “Diaries of Laure”: This writing is all fake (copied from other writing) so you should go away and not read any of it. She looks like Billy Idol in his “White Wedding” video. Hey little sister, shot gun. Inside the book on the title page in the top right corner, written in black ballpoint: Love, Acker. Kathy’s round childlike printing is unmistakable. I write in my journal: Kathy’s leaving me breadcrumbs — she’s the witch at the end of the trail, stoking the fires of her big cunt oven. I crack open Hannibal Lecter at random and read: The desperate needs I feel are now burning.

once more to the salon (quote)


Dodie Bellamy, “The Beating of Our Hearts,” WHEN THE SICK RULE THE WORLD, 167-68.

In July, 2012, I read with Francesca Lisette at Woolsey, a series curated by Paul Ebenkamp and Andrew Kenower at their apartment on Woolsey Street in Berkeley. With the plummeting of arts funding and the general disappearance of public space, salon-style events (“house readings”) are taken very seriously in the Bay Area; performing at one can garner more kudos than at a public venue. House readings frequently take place on the weekend and are just as devoted to partying as to poetizing. Though all ages are welcome, most who attend are in their 20s or 30s. When the reading begins the party slams to a halt and attention is rapt. The atmosphere may be casual — those not lucky enough to snag a seat on a couch are crammed together on the floor, some are sprawled across a mattress that somebody — who knows who — actually sleeps on, but this audience knows poetry, and they listen with razorlike precision. At house events I love to share fresh work, writing I have frantically edited until an hour beforehand, for it is at such a reading that my work feels most vital, leaping off the page and into these others who “get” me. At such readings, whether I’m performer or audience, I feel like a beat in a larger matrix of communal creativity. And I, who am so not a group person, enjoy this. At Woolsey, Francesca read a range of her writing, beginning with a Cambridge-inflected, intellectually rigorous, ironic style. These poems were solidly constructed, impressive — but the later work, which Francesca felt understandably insecure about, was full of risks, in both form and content — it turned angry and vulgar and outrageous, heckling distressing political inanities. It was a writing bursting its seams, and she blew the room away. When the applause ended, the party picked up again, full swing.

barf passionately (quote)

9781584351689“Barf Manifesto” by Dodie Bellamy, WHEN THE SICK RULE THE WORLD p. 53

The essay form I’ve always found oppressive, a form so conservative it begs to be dismantled. In the San Francisco avant garde feminist poetic circle of the early ’80s, a sort of patchwork personal essay was de rigueur. The feminist poetic essay riddled with collaged texts and vulnerability. It switched person at will, “I” flipping to “she,” inside magically flipping to outside, and back again. I didn’t know what to make of all these anti-logocentric Theresa Cha/Cixous/Irigaray inspired poetic prose things, spastically shifting and disrupting before my eyes with no apparent rhyme or reason. ’80s avant garde feminism produced lots of self-indulgent, sloppy work, but still it was exciting — and important — to undermine the patriarchal hegemony that created the MLA Style Sheet. Around the same time I discovered Kathy Acker, who in some novel had a character shit on a priest’s altar — which I’m sure she got from Bataille. Even though desecrating Catholic icons is so old school, has been so done to death, the zeal with which Acker does it is infectious. Passion in writing or art — or in a lover — can make you overlook a lot of flaws. Passion is underrated. I think we should all produce work with the urgency of outsider artists, panting and jerking off to our kinky private obsessions. Sophistication is conformist, deadening. Let’s get rid of it.