Friday, July 30, 2010

A Fetish for Good Poetry

Edited by Rose Kelleher, Issue 12 of the Shit Creek Review is kinky in the best way. It makes us think about the relationship between poetry and perversion. One might say poetry is a perversion of everyday language. Saying so not only sexualizes poetry, but also politicizes it. For who gets to say what is normal and what is perversion? Under whose regime are we still living, no matter how hard we try to liberate ourselves?

What does it mean for me to publish my poems about a father's belting, anal sex, underaged sex,  SM and fisting under the rubric of "perversions"? The line in the sand is always shifting: is anal sex still considered perverted or is it on its way to normalization? Normalized under what regime? There must always be lines, as there must always be regimes of control.

The Latin root of "pervert" means "to overturn" or "to subvert." The meanings overlap but they are not the same. Subversion is the diligent, secret work of sappers. Overturning is the work of revolutionaries. Perversion as a weapon has an analogy in deconstruction. Should it be seen as the endlessly differing and deferring sign? Or is it  the destruction of an old order to build a new one? I want perversion to be the second, but fear it is only the first.


Shropshirelad said...

The sad thing is that perversion so quickly becomes passe. There is something intensely elderly about it, I think, like the Emperor Tiberius. It is very hard to keep a work of art feeling fresh and unnatural.

But not impossible. The great exception being, Lolita.

Jee Leong Koh said...

What is labeled as perversion becomes passe, but not the idea of perversion itself. The idea is both ancient and fresh.

Shropshirelad said...

That is an interesting assertion. I am not sure I see how the idea of perversion remains ancient and fresh though--what mechanism keeps it fresh?

I suppose we could say Art does. But even there, fashions change. The naughty novels of Anais Nin and Henry Miller seem so dated.

Perhaps it is the desire, the pursuit of new rich ways of perverting ourselves, changing ourselves, which remains ancient and fresh. Sensation seeking: I think I can understand this better. I like sensations. As an artist, I tend to gobble them up.

Personally, I think I would reserve the word perversion for the stale, child-stained underclothes of Emperor Tiberius.