Monday, April 12, 2010

Anne Boyer’s Good Apocalypse

Boyer, Anne. Anne Boyer’s Good Apocalypse. Austin, TX: Effing Press, 2006.

Boyer’s collection opens with the line: “I was attacking Culture” through the act of “Pulling a thirty-six-inch strip out of Language” (1). Due in part to her affiliation with Flarfist techniques of poetic production, one can consider this an “attack” on “Culture” because she may (or may not) have “used a search engine/ and mocked the living end” (10) when writing her poems. In other words, if one “love[s] Literature” (1), implementing previous methods of production functions less as an act of reverence toward one’s art form, and more as destructive stagnation; or, as the poem “Brute” informs its readers: “‘catastrophe is convention’” (8). Moreover, Boyer’s poems ask readers to question their methods of production and material realities through the invocation of Marxist rhetoric, such as “what I love about [Literature] is/ the reproductive organs of Capital” (1), as well references to the man himself: “We dressed in Karl Marx” (9). Of course, such an inquiry is inherently problematic in that there “is a degree of ambiguity” (11) as to what portions of the text have been generated through a Flarfist poetic and what portions of the text have been generated through more traditional means. Another important component of Boyer’s collection is the manner in which she integrates images into the fabric of the book. While there are particular commonalities between collages (i.e. all of them contain at least one image of an animal), each function a in slightly different way. For example, the first collage lineates a Guy Debord quote concerning the relationship between the “frivolous” “fashions” “of an era” and the “obvious necessity for revolution” (6), but the poet arranges the text so that it appears to be emanating from the mouth of an otter swimming underwater. Through the juxtaposition of philosophical inquiry and animalistic imagery, the collage fosters both serious, intellectual thought and irreverent and sophomoric humor, producing within the audience a particular ambivalence. At the center of the book-artifact, a collage with the text “This x is in the middle of the square” (14-5) appears. While the reader’s first inclination most likely is to look toward the image (i.e. two children lifting up a rock with a stick, all the while enveloped in what appears to be a flock of ravens) for an explanation of the phrase, the aforementioned concern with a work’s material production offers us a more nuanced understanding. “This x” is, in fact, the collage itself which does appear “in the middle” of the book, which happens to be quite similar in shape to a “square.” As such, the collage forces readers to engage the text not in a representational manner (yet, of course, one can), but through a materialist framework. Doing so, then, one takes notice of the magenta staples from the spine that rupture the surface of the collage, fracturing its organic unity, as well as highlighting the intentionally low-budget, xeroxed-quality of the images. The next collage, which contains two bears fishing by the side of a stream and the text “Is not the distinction of affection almost realm enough?” (20-1) does not immediately present audience members with a clear understanding of its purpose; unlike the previous examples, one must read the poem that proceeds the collage, in this case “Dear Diary,” to comprehend its significance, or at least establish a relationship with the collection. For it is in the poem that follows wherein we find that “flesh comments and shows a bit of biology.// Maybe that’s why I like animals” and “We fish the pity out of our mouths” (23). The final collage confuses established binaries by placing an image of a lamb in the center of the phrase “you greedy whores and criminals” (30-1), thus undermining traditional, Christian symbolism. Such displacement is reinforced and politicized by the Anne Frank quote on the preceding page that states: “‘I twist my heart round again, so that the bad is on the outside and the good is on the inside’” (29). But, perhaps of more importance is the collage’s use of the second-person pronoun “you,” and the manner in which it imbricates readers in the contemporary problems the collection addresses (e.g. economics, culture, politics, etc). Far from acting as a tidy, dénouement that affirms one’s position in the world, it accuses and unsettles us, interrogating our stances “in the loop// of…public discourse” (26).

No comments: