Trisha Low, on DOOM

On October 6th 2012, I read at the Segue Series in New York City. The incomparably brilliant Trisha Low invited me and introduced my reading and my work, and did an excellent job of it. She has kindly allowed me to publish the introduction that she prepared for my performance.

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You guys, I like Natalie Z. Walschots’ poetry because as you all know, I am clearly a narcissist. And Natalie might be my Canadian doppleganger. [[I mean, I guess have a very strong love-hate relationship with myself, I mean who knows. Whatever, whatever.]] Anyway, I’m not actually saying this just because I’m narcissistic but because the points of difference in our approaches to BDSM and nerd//adolescent culture are also points of interest in a larger discussion about : femininity, submission and radical negativity. Let’s start here: we both believe in restraints and not restraint, and we’re both in love with supervillains? But if my approach is more Harley Quinn – ie. the lurid fantasy of Stockholm syndrome – then Natalie has totally one-upped me and found the momentary, the quiet center of being-under-restraints, its non-dramatic displacement and a harder-to-locate transgression. In a section of her book Thumbscrews (Snare Books, 2007), she uses a general sonic constraint : to represent either how each object sounded when it was used – its percussive sounds against the body, or the sounds made by the person it was used upon – and often what arises is an itemized glossolalia of the banal. A poem entitled “Squid Whip,” for example, begins ‘therapy // corset stitched doctor // far knotted tongues // chuckle black neoprene”. These appraisals of instruments become instrumental accounts – forgoing the currency of tropes that BDSM usually trades in for the object itself (be it a paddle or language or otherwise) that unravels into the quotidian as it suffers under a sensually constrained procedure. In these poems, as aural impressions disperse, that which was desired by oneself becomes abducted by the autonomy of sensational organs that begin to tick in nerve meter – but which were first, once upon a time, ‘me’.

Which brings us to Natalie’s DOOM: Love Poems for Supervillains – self-contained snapshots of comic book supervillain insanity. When I ask “Do you have a defining comic book moment?” and Aaron Winslow, who’s sitting over there says “Batman, taught me that superheroes die too”– I think of DOOM and its alarming (or not) premise of that supervillains can love too. Here, world-destroying inclinations, implemented chaos, daddy//mommy issues and crises of masculinity are rendered tame because of the insular feminine desiring, its intimate, almost domestic vocabulary. But this is not a situation as graphically simple as where : we have some characters – and some recognizable desires – and these are predictably thwarted by the unfortunate tendency of characters to interact with each other. Perhaps the most discomforting lesson is that Natalie’s supervillains become ciphers through which our own madness becomes articulated in the process of desiring the undesirable. Especially since the poems we are reading are consistently eroding into an overriding language of pathology and can no longer escape the binaries of the asylum – good or evil, sane, or insane, true or untrue. I love the Joker. Me, I become only a fanfiction of a relational self. DOOM is a networked body of clinical discourse and psychological ambiguity that becomes vast and fragile in its overwrought categorisation. Its sounds and screams are nothing but a devastation of the misguided happiness of any displaced feeling. Like, love, hate, whatever. And its comic sources belie a quiet neutralization of the rigged gamble of representation.

~ Trisha Low, October 2012.

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