Friday, April 30, 2010

BHARAT JIVA by kari edwards; NO GENDER: REFLECTIONS ON THE LIFE & WORK OF kari edwards, Eds. Julian Brolaski, erica kaufman & E. Tracy Grinnell (1)


Bharat jiva by kari edwards
(a Venn Diagram Production by Litmus Press / Belladonna Books, Brooklyn, New York, 2009)


kari edwards: NO GENDER (Reflections on the Life and Work of kari edwards), Edited by Julian Brolaski, erica kaufman & E. Tracy Grinnell. (Includes Cara Benson, Frances Blau, Mark Brasuell, Julian T. Brolaski, Reed Bye, Marcus Civin, CAConrad, Donna de la Perrière, E. Tracy Grinnell, Rob Halpern, Jen Hofer, Brenda Iijima, Lisa Jarnot, erica kaufman, Kevin Killian, Wendy Kramer, Joseph Lease, Rachel Levitsky, Joan MacDonald, Bill Marsh, Chris Martin, Yedda Morrison, Eileen Myles, Akilah Oliver, Tim Peterson, Ellen Redbird, Leslie Scalapino, Michael Smoler, Sherman Souther, Eleni Stecopoulos, and Anne Waldman)
(a Venn Diagram Production by Litmus Press / Belladonna Books, Brooklyn, New York, 2009)


This text which is not one. That’s how I think of kari edwards’ work. In terms, I mean, of an environment of separations, assertion, and yearning.

Bharat jiva constitutes a realm of recognitions, pleas, prayers, rants, indictments. It’s a book-length poem of many registers (a kind of multimodal mosaic yoga, really) where “even doubt” will “build walls faster than regulatory principles.” I won’t try to explain away. I can only point. Here, for instance:
I watch as we barricade ourselves in and get
ready for the unbelievable, unimaginable,
unspeakable and unquestioned gender deity
of selective speaking to deliver an
uncompromising message of the
undersigned, replete with regret that other
than self-funding fusion that forms a
separate self in others, nothing’s going to
happen sooner than late. (p.30)

Bharat jiva is an untidy work of resistance to the monolith culture we are all increasingly implicated in.
I can not begin to know
producing difference by deferring
second third person construction
in the first third person narrative
promising surrender to the dead
acknowledging, I am an unknown participant
something maybe, something blind
consuming scarcity
producing hunger
constructing gender
breathing markers
making someone a thing
scapegoat instance
another perfect occasion
construct of a common sense sentence
out of many different bank accounts
apparently to produce
a final outcome
illumination legible
newspaper flyspeck
on the edge of an abstract noun (p. 70)

I’m not explaining my relationship to this text anymore than I am kari’s relationship to it. To do so would require a history of, and of my relationship to, the avant art and literature of at least the last 50 years, not to mention the politics (not excluding the sexual politics) of the same period. But I can’t resist saying that there are moments when I think of the mature kari edwards as the love child of Allen Ginsberg and Kathy Acker.

There’s a preoccupation in Bharat jiva with death, the possibility of transcendence, and despair.
everyone’s dying
everyone’s dying to die
everyone’s in my way
on my way to die
it’s too hot and dusty to die
I am eating the ashes of the dead
eating the exhaust of cars
an image sacrifice
looking for a boat to heaven

who will finally complete themselves
to not exist
to see the unseen of the unsaid
in the book of nothingness
that began before birth

who will everything everyone
happening in blood and urine

whose content is not reiterable

Art is questions. And, make no mistake, edwards is an artist (trained as a sculptor).
nothing shatters space
like the imagined real
disturbing regularity
with its regular
promising something
like a real show

nothing gathers up stones
replaces them with shadows
replaced by space
containing neither
proposition or time


kari edwards: No Gender is an exemplary collection of responses to the life and work of kari edwards. There’s work by Frances Blau (kari’s partner), Kevin Killian, CA Conrad, Yedda Morrison, Leslie Scalapino, erica kaufman, Akilah Oliver, Tim Peterson, Julian T. Brolaski, Jen Hofer, Brenda Iijima, Reed Bye, Lisa Jarnot, Sherman Souther, kari edwards &Chris Martin, Chris Martin, Ellen Redbird, Mark Brasuell, Donna de la Perriere, Bill Marsh, Wendy Kramer, Marcus Civin, Joan MacDonald, Rachel Levitsky, E. Tracy Grinnell, Joseph Lease, Eileen Myles, Eleni Stecopoulos, Cara Benson, Anne Waldman, Michael Smoler, Rob Halpern.

kari is reported to have had the habit of signing hir name under erasure: kari edwards. It’s a gesture that provides the title of this important volume, and a gesture which speaks volumes about edwards’ sense of identity.

kari’s project was, in many respects, about finding forms of resistance; particularly in regard to being identified. Here’s kari responding to an interview question from Akilah Oliver:
Well, I may be fortunate or not to be dyslexic, so I have the ability to look at an object and lose its name; for a moment I’m in the presence of that object. I guess the same goes for gendered individuals. I no longer see it as male-female, but the person in front of me; it could be that they are male or female but I never try to fix them to a position. (p. 43)

Tim Peterson’s “Fuck Transcendence: A Close Reading of kari edwards’ Bharat jiva” is a particularly engaging essay in this collection. Peterson keys in on the emotional tenor of the book as well as its constitutional dimensions (its affects and effects). I found both of these passages particularly valuable:
           The immersion in this unending dialectical process of agony, yearning, and more agony makes edwards’ book a challenging read. Never in any previous book has the poet worked hirself into a space this fraught, conflicted or bleak. The book begins with the following phrase: “even when issues arise and obedience can not be secured by the bludgeon, the bludgeon remains.” From the start there is a flat-out denial of optimism or hope as a way of knowing; instead, it is literally axiomatic that the bludgeon (presumably power, manipulation, warlike impulses, the juridical) cannot be
eliminated. (p.45)

           This reading situation is further complicated by the fact that edwards’ writing was generated through such a process of reading, reaction and projection. Sie would often write by appropriating the words of other poets and rewriting or revising them repeatedly, like building up paint over a surface until the original image was no longer visible. The subject or content of hir writing tended to become the act of revising and rewriting words, a narrative of thought process in the contextual moment of composition. The original thought in the borrowed text which had once provoked in hir a reaction of passion, engagement or revolt was nearly eliminated. It began to take on the status of a third text hovering in the background, an unreachable original to which the imparseable abstractions on the page refer. (p. 48)

edwards’ work reminds one of what art is supposed to do: raise questions, and problematize experience.


Tom Beckett lives and works in Kent, Ohio.

1 comment:

EILEEN said...

Another view is offered by Eileen Tabios in this issue GR #14 at