Wednesday, 21 August 2013
Kruk / Scozzaro / Chalmers
The poets Frances Kruk, Connie Scozzaro and Christina Chalmers have poems in the recent trans-atlantic virtual poetry mag The Claudius App (V). Having seen all three read the work printed here, relatively recently –different readings, in different cities, of these different texts – differently prickly and differently energizing in all sorts of different ways – it’s nice to see them in the same place, though I have a feeling they’ll be overlooked in the wake of lengthier E-mail Theory Spectaculars or the work of ‘bigger’ names. Would only, also, that the App were printable, not entirely enmeshed in its on-screen graphix scene…But anyway, here’s some sort of canned capsule synopsis stuff.
 Kruk’s work, sections of an untitled poem, is crabbed and cramped and dense with implication and suggestion and a biting humour, a humour that is never safe, whose bite renders it not really humour at all, exactly; it’s not ‘light’, or mocking in contempt; it might bite your leg off, like the “dog” “you” are, but never as a polemicized aggression; it’s more sly, harder to read than that, tho’ not out of any moral evasion – its ethical commitment doesn’t waver. Who is the target of address, who is being put down by whom? Who are You? “You’re a dog. / And the mangy kind [...] / busy dreaming you’re no dog / gob you slave into the plague.” The jammed-impacted lines crab out on a carefully wrought, sharp assonance, a dog becoming a mouth and a ragged carrier of disease; this dog that could be the dog you say your enemy is, capitalist pig, god of war, or the dog that these masters make you, the “slave” who is part of a plague-ridden and -carrying mass of workers made animal, a “killed” “fool” damp with spittle, reduced to a drooling “nil” who dreams of a “no place” and whose self is eaten by inculcated linguistic values, the words for ‘you’ you don’t control - “those words you / Thought were yours but now they eat you / now they eat you now they / Bring you and they x you” - eaten as and by pie charts, as “data-packed / False triangles,” bleeding jam blood, “Jam / at the gates. / Red in black at every entrance”, “super-nerved- & data-wired,” one of those ghosts of the dead whose rest (as per Walter Benjamin and as per voodoo) can or has never be settled in justice, can never be safe, recycled into cycles of consumption and quasi-cannibalism of labour murder and exploitation, the administration and organisation of death: “dotted lines every time / & no not even the dead are safe.”
 OK: Scozzaro’s humour comes from a different frame of reference, to Kruk’s, or take on that frame, a consideration of the impact of labour on daily living and on sex and on gender relations: it undermines or complicates or ironizes or makes bathetic a statement that somehow nonetheless remains sincere – goes for the same kind of register or affect as the Shaggs song its title, ‘What is Parents’, half-references, but without turning that into a knowing naïvete or scorn for the real stuff that gets expressed badly, or ‘well’, within the formal frameworks the Shaggs inhabit. Perhaps the comparison doesn’t go much further than that; it doesn’t; but e.g. what I mean is that the poem can say that the Incredible String Band “play their instruments / well” as a joke or a near-joke, and really mean it at the same time; ‘well’ here isn’t just a put-down indicating some practiced corporate ‘success’, just as “we fuck really well because I love you so much” needn’t be a sneer. The voice that speaks these poems, not quite a single or singular self, is one that works with/in the daily frustrations that make the “heart” an object in a game, a domino – “the heart is a domino, stacked in a line of many,” queuing in a line for a handout, for money or food, ‘stacked’ like some object on a supermarket shelf, as part of a collective of equally rent individuals living within the real drudge of a despairing bathos in which “your rented flat” and “this table” become substitutes for the “paradise” of the settled bourgeois home You Should Have; the heart, itself a metaphor for some feeling felt as bodily and mental but not acceptable or accepted, not happy as a normal or comfortable happiness, happy within structures of normative or ground-down feeling: “What is / working when you have no end for it […] most people ask me why aren’t you happy / like they’re happy, their spirits bent in the shape of a / smile.”
 Chalmers’ ‘Hell, Realism’, full-on political-personal mash/mesh. In form the run-on, or off, to the end of the prose-enclosed line, internal rhyme, a block of text unpunctuated, would seem almost the opposite to Kruk’s shorn bursts, though often there’s a similar sonic patterning. “this is not pre-political is not post-political” - wants to shout out against that which would close it down, “that which co-opts collective resistance, “collaps[ing] into the bourgeois public sphere.” Here the language of, say, Marxist political activism or a more academy-enclosed, tho’ still political ‘theory’ bursts out into, again, daily lives lived under and within and through labour, communication breakdown: “there is no expectation in love / and conversation.” Labouring or laboured bodies become actors, like the actors in Blanqui’s ‘Eternite par les Astres’, that vision of the cosmos as a theatre in which is enacted the eternal return of a nineteenth-(say now twentieth- or twenty-first century) bourgeois hell, in Chalmers’ version as actors who can’t even remember their lines, who are not “saying the right lines at all”; imprisoned bodies as prisons themselves, “phoning myself on skype”, protest-energy depleted, (w)rung out, “for my hands are tied to / our exhaustion”, where “grief” becomes mere “decadence”, where life does or can not live. This is the realism of hell, its communications networks as “uncomprehending telephone line[s]” and “listrooms” and skype, economics as a game played by incompetents, world budgets treated like Las Vegas sprees, “gambling machines which return no money,” the whole thing captured for a fleeting posterity on a live feed, “video ingestion”; the deferral of hope disguising itself as hope itself, as a kind of freezing to apathy, “refrigeration by hopefulness”; “cry[ing]” out not to be that, to be more than that, debris of a Blanquis-esque cosmic drama or “cosmic metaphor”, theological remnants of a fetishized and arcane-religious secular system, its numbers, its diagrams, “swaddling / the use value of militancy”, causing to fall into “the sink-holes of the depoliticised.” But “you” are, still, “the breakings of restraint.”