I just downloaded an article from the Electronic Journal of Sociology (citation on bibliography page – Fox, Nicholas) on the concept of intertextuality, defined as: “the process whereby one text plays upon other texts, the ways in which texts refer endlessly to further elements within the realm of cultural production” (1). This immediately reminded me of Gottlieb subtly drawing upon Cixous and her theories of writing one’s self… it’s always nice to be able to attach a label to whatever you’re writing about. The second connection I made was also from the first page, this time in the from of a definition of postmodern analyses, which “challenge the ontological status of modernist claims to knowledgeability concerning the world” (1). To me, this sounded extremely similar to the definition of queer theory as quoted in my last post. When applied to writing and intertextuality, these analyses (whether defined as queer or postmodern) view texts as  “fabrications and as such are subject to deconstructive re-writing and re-reading” (2). Claims made in social science texts, for instance, should be seen not as essential, capital-T Truths but rather as “claims” of truth, or narrative work that can be contested. Compare this to a portion of the Sandahl definition of queering: “appropriating a representation for one’s own purposes, forcing it to signify differently” and you can see commonalities surrounding critical analysis and reclamation of concepts, constructions, texts, and supposed Truths.

Fox also looks at Cixous and her concept of ecriture feminine, or the act of writing woman, linking it to textuality by using “one text as de-constructive of another, itself in turn dissolved or reread” (6). One particular passage also reminded me of my sexuality and gender classes, contrasting Cixous’s philosophy concerning feminism with that of a Marxist and/or modernist viewpoint:

Unlike philosophies of resistance… which have grounded their logic of resistance in identity (membership of a class or gender), a concern with the intertext is a celebration of difference and the possibility that things can be otherwise. Such a politics of difference goes far beyond feminism and suggests the potential for resisting discourse, knowledge and power through intertextual practices. In the context of writing social research, it replaces objectivity with indeterminacy and the search for control and closure with generosity and openness.

Applying these notions to Daphne Gottlieb and her poetry comes in as less concrete and more conceptual (which itself is postmodern or queer in nature) in comparison to academic and social science writing. Poetry in Gottlieb’s sense is definitely a form of narrative work and/or claim of “truth” from a personal sense. She details her personal-is-political esque stories using language and formatting that is quite unique to her work yet also reminiscent of her influences, or her intertextuality. For example, drawing upon Cixous’s theories is a form of tracing the genealogy of her work even though the wording and very medium is different between the two women’s writing. Gottlieb engages in the process of writing her self, writing “woman,” and therefore celebrates the concept of difference over sameness, subjectivity over objectiveness. I enjoyed taking this article, which was clearly written with academia in mind, and using it as theory upon which to build my analysis of poetry in this project.

In an article we read in class by Carrie Sandahl (2003) from GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, she introduces the connection between Crip and Queer identities and the concept of using these terms as verbs (emphasis mine):

Members of both [queer and crip] groups have developed a wry critique of hegemonic norms. In queer communities, the application of this critique has been given its own verb: to queer. Queering describes the practices of putting a spin on mainstream representations to reveal latent queer subtexts; of appropriating a representation for one’s own purposes, forcing it to signify differently; or of deconstructing a representation’s heterosexism

She continues:

Both queering and cripping expose the arbitrary delineation between normal and defective and the negative social ramifications of attempts to homogenize humanity, and both disarm what is painful with wicked humor, including camp.

In the article, Sandahl uses cripping and queering as verbs in the process of “solo autobiographical performances” in which (in these cases) a member of the “crip” or differently-abled community uses his or her disability to point out the biases and normativity of the audience and society at large. Similarly, I see Gottlieb’s poetry in some cases as queering notions of language, poetry, and sexuality.

In her poem, “mastering the art of poetry,” (link to full text) I see three verbs that can be intertwined: mastering, queering, and writing. In a free-write exercize, I jotted down something that may or may not make sense out of context:

Queer writing, master narrative, poetic mastery,
Power over language and ideas of sexuality
She is queering, writing, and mastering sexuality in this poem

Basically, in the poem she describes the “art of [writing] poetry” as a BDSM-esque experience, a master/servant relationship in which the writer/poet makes the poem “beg or struggle” by pushing it to “the edge of what it can stand.” This is one of my favorites because it gives an honest and unorthodox approach to pushing one’s self to the limit when writing… describes the process of searching for new words, formatting, ideas, and audiences.

The following lines on the first page of the poem:

“listen to your poem’s desires / and get ready / to be powerful and terrible. / your poem is quivering in front of you / and your iron will / as it kisses the collar you hold”

can be contrasted with these from the end:

“hold that precious poem close / show it how much it has pleased you / and rest. give it your name / and kiss it / goodnight.”

in detailing the powerful but loving (or at least lustful) struggle between both a master/writer with her subject.

(working on an analysis of this one… it’s one of my favorites)

mastering the art of poetry

make sure you have everything
you will need
on hand: (more…)

handed
by kate gramlich

I had my first
lover
when I was
seventeen.
I locked
the door, turned on
the music
to drown out
any noise.
I  was          nervous.
It was          longer
than I’d expected;
Thicker.
Smooth and
pink. Eager.
Hard,
pulsating
Plastic.

Three Glorious
Speeds,
although we never
made it past the first
(that night.)
There I was,
breathless, flushed
pink and
pulsating.      Happy
Birthday, my
friend had said
when she handed
me the
box.

I admit to having struggles already with the blogging format in this assignment.  I feel so connected to the linear style of writing and so comfortable with the relatively rigid academic formatting guidelines (Limit usage of personal “I!” Don’t interject “I think/feel” sentences! Follow citation rules! Keep everything neat and tidy!) that subverting or queering them for the purpose of this little textperiment/sexperiment (har) seems off. Don’t get me wrong, I adore blogging and love using it as a medium for my personal and poetic writing, but combining it with academic text (which is the point of this) is like writing with the wrong hand (or, to tie in some Cixous, masturbating with it.)

My main concern is that this will be confusing or too jumpy, or on the other hand, that it’ll end up too rigid and conventional… it’s a damned if I do/damned if I don’t situation that only I am creating for myself. Perhaps this is one of the mental roadblocks that queer or progressive writers face: how do we balance? how do we avoid being “too extreme” AND “too boring”?

I feel like both Gottlieb and Cixous would be shaking their heads and saying “Fuck ’em, just go for it.”

Sexuality  as a separate yet connected element of the personal self is a theme that spans both Cixous and Gottlieb’s work and is particularly important to analyze in terms of language because it is often less apparent than others (or at least less acknowledged, due to historical/social taboos). Helene Cixous places a heavy emphasis on this concept in her theories of the self, stating that writing is:

[An] act which will not only ‘realize’ the decensored relation of woman to her sexuality, to her womanly being, giving her access to her native strength; it will give her back her goods, her pleasures, her organs, her immense bodily territories which have been kept under seal… (880).

Cixous continues to cite sexuality and the honest recording thereof as a means to reject the hushed and limited nature of societal views on female sexual practices (as well as societal views on sexuality in general), a way to tear women away from the “superegoized structure” of androcentric society (880).

Likewise, in Telling Sexual Stories, Ken Plummer states, “Sexual stories live in [the] flow of power. The power to tell a story, or indeed to not tell a story, under the conditions of one’s own choosing is part of the political process” (26). The weight of telling sexual stories, especially ones dealing with concepts such as victimization, being queer, or having “explicit” sexual desires – all of which are often seen as even deeper taboos – can be a source of empowerment for both the writer/speaker and her audience (27).

Daphne Gottlieb’s work deals with all three of these more “risqué” topics, and her telling of her sexual stories and sexual self is simultaneously uninhibited and carefully calculated. By writing about past sexual abuse experiences as well as current forms of reclaiming sexuality using fluidity in her lexicon and imagery, the poems embody the power that sexual writing can hold according to both Cixous and Plummer.