j/j hastain to CA Conrad

Dear CA Conrad,

When I got A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon, your remarkable, engaging new book, in the mail, I ripped open the package. I wanted to see if any of the stories that you have shared with me appeared in it. I always look forward to that particular kind of finding–what of the interpersonal that waits in the queue, after time and because it must, is finally published. Appears printed on a page.

I love how your book begins with photocopy-like simulacra of hand written pages. To me, these pages act as a tonal introduction to what we soon learn (in the Manifesto of the book), is sort of a spell/ source-site for strange (and lovely) somatic engagements. When you tell us that “(soma)tic poetry is a praxis [] developed to more fully engage the everyday through writing […] to return this world to its seismic levels of wildness” I am right there with you! What a wonderful way to frame this marvelous intent (“(soma)tic poetry”) that we as readers are being called to pursue! Who knew that we would have to stretch our psycho-somatic appendages when within this place? Who knew that it would require of us? And what a compelling impetus that if engaged in by more than one (what use is impetus without engagement by more than one side (more than one side in states of impetus means commitment)) swallows both writer and reader (us!)  into a shared space of activity, of activation!

I see this book as a new (no one has yet engaged embodied forms of somatic poetry in the particular ways that you are proposing here–I see flashes of Ana Mendieta’s “earth-body” performance art http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ana_Mendieta in these works–in the type of accented consciousness that they propose) form of confession. I see the pieces that make up this work as confessional because they instruct and tell in an at times almost plain, language (“how much compromise does your day comprise?”). It is as if it is important that the words be clearly understood, because the work of mystery is what is to come after your words (as we engage and apply the somatic exercises themselves).

I see the pieces that make up this work as activist posture that while enabling a reader who might engage the prompts and exercises, simultaneously bring forth a standard of selvage-exhibitionism (“vantage ourselves”) and vigilant honesty (“this is about being free by seeing how we are not free“ / “you admit a hard-on while shooting deer”). What brilliant implications are housed in this standard—what tendency fleshed into opening: “write Kari’s name along the shaft […] the chamber can be entered as one enters a ritualistic cave”/ “what is the best love of your life thus far?” / “take notes about how the violence in your life will not leave” / “smear snot or blood or semen or pussy juice or earwax or piss or vomit or shit or spit or sweat or whatever excretion you have available onto your balloon” /  “we cannot train ourselves to feel less” / “I felt revirginized through the ceremony of my senses.”

The aspects of confession in A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon are efflorescent and wafting from the voice of your sweet book. While here, I notice a hefty presence of your own queer desire as well as vulnerable sharing about the homophobic impositions that have followed you: (“my boyfriend Mark (nicknamed Earth) moved to a queer community in Tennessee to work the land. He meditated in a cave each day where homophobic men followed him, bound and gagged him, covered him with gasoline, and set him on fire” […] “catching piano wire here in my mouth” / “entered a flayed bond”/ “maps bathed in testosterone”/ “the sun god’s daughter has a lovely copper penis/ “my favorite morning is not caring if blood on sheets is yours or mine”). Thank you for including these hubs of share here. It is vulnerable to tell us what has happened to you and your boyfriend–sweet Earth (Mark) turning himself into a crystalline deva in the cave. I can’t believe they burned him. I mean, as a queer, of course I can believe that they burned him. It is all too usual and terrible! I hate it! Oh gods! That breaks my hearts.

Your book performs miraculously like a lyrical feeling in the body (as the body moves through it). Somehow it generates the sentiment of lyricism by sensation more than by way of traditionally lyrical lines. The snake-ing, short strands of words strike (“a mouse eating the dead cat”) as much as they soothe (“reinvented home space”), but even in that oscillating quality, even in all of these shuttering grafts, we feel ourselves feeling the space of this book as “milled vibrancy mulled sensuality.”


j/j hastain writes: I woke with sense that there were many visceral gems glistening in my bed (even though I had the covers pulled up and tucked beneath my neck in such a way that it was impossible to see the glisten at all). That was the sensation, simply. Gems rolling into my skin and leaving distinct impressions.