The Operating System

4th Annual NAPOMO 30/30/30 :: Day 15 :: Clara Lou on Trisha Low

135.7lb

1. Having been fed a diet of Lonely Girl Phenomenology and politicized autobiography, I endeavor to set IT HAPPENED TO ME in quotation marks, to matrix it, to learn how to speak from this fractured I.

Trisha is like, “Okay! Let me teach you.”

2. In April of 1933, Antonin Artaud gave a lecture at the Sorbonne entitled “The Theatre and the Plague,” described by Anaïs Nin in her diary as follows:

Artaud steps out on the platform, and begins to talk about ‘The Theater and the Plague.’…It seems to me that all he is asking for is intensity, a more heightened form of feeling and living. Is he trying to remind us that it was during the Plague that so many marvelous works of art and theater came to be, because, whipped by the fear of death, man seeks immortality, or to escape, or to surpass himself? But then, imperceptibly almost, he let go of the thread we were following and began to act out dying by plague…To illustrate his conference, he was acting out an agony…His face was contorted with anguish, one could see the perspiration dampening his hair. His eyes dilated, his muscles became cramped, his fingers struggled to retain their flexibility. He made one feel the parched and burning throat, the pains, the fear, the fire in the guts. He was in agony. He was screaming. He was delirious. He was enacting his own death, his own crucifixion.”

I was reminded of this passage when I saw Trisha read for the first time last winter in the basement of a Lower East Side gallery, as part of Andrew Durbin’s series New Agendas. What was most compelling to me about her reading was her aggressively ditzy presence: hair twirling, a like in between every other word, a question mark at the end of each sentence. Trisha used this pastiche of ditziness to not just address abject and regressive femininity, but also to enact it. It’s one thing to talk about abasement, and quite another to embody it.

3. Hello. What are you up to? I’m listening to Lana Del Rey and contemplating spending my entire paycheck on a pair of Margiela Tabi pumps.

4. Here are the only two questions that are ever worth asking:

(i) In what kind of discursive economy can a clearing your throat, coughing, biting your tongue, or swallowing your words constitute a speech act?

(ii) Who is your favorite member of One Direction?

5. Have we read our Kristeva? Have we? HAVE WE? Okay, okay, okay. SO. For Kristeva, the abject and subject are mutually constituting realms; the subject must cast off that which it understands as abject in order to secure its own continuance. Such a casting off is often represented by processes of shitting, bleeding, and vomiting. In Trisha’s performance and writing, speech becomes abject as well, words being things that come out of us, like so much shit, blood, or vomit. She also locates the abject in the position of the teen girl, in an adolescent drag of diary entries and unrequited crushes.

6. The Frankfurt School drink vanilla Smirnoff and communicate exclusively in nail polish Emojis.

7. Trisha’s book, The Compleat Purge, places the feminist confessional within the framework of conceptual poetry. The messiness of the confessional slurps through and sloshes against the rigor of the conceptual project, calling to mind, again, the mutually constituting realms of subject and abject, and the impossibility of ever clearly demarcating between the two, of the subject ever completely ridding itself of the abject. The Compleat Purge has a three part structure: the first section constitutes a series of suicide notes and wills, corresponding to different years of Trisha’s adolescence; the second, fictional IM logs of conversations with various indie rock heartthrobs; the third, an eighteenth century romance novel entitled Do You Feel Better Yet?. These three sections are bookended by a disclaimer, in which Trisha declares that she intends to problematize “the promise of an authentic identity–a fantasy of authenticity entirely separate from dominant masculine ideology,” and an afterword, of sorts, which situates the project of The Compleat Purge within the theoretical frameworks of Giorgio Agamben and Harold Bloom, among others.

8. I’ve wanted to write about The Compleat Purge for a while, however, I’ve felt prevented from doing so by the fact that the book is, in a sense, a step ahead of me: it’s already dialoging with the thinkers and theoretical frameworks that I, as a critic, would like to put it into conversation with. Trisha is a poet who does theory: her work contains the critical apparatus through which to apprehend it. The Compleat Purge writes its own review. The Compleat Purge swallows the place of the critic.

9. And so I write from a place of having been swallowed. Sorry not sorry. Every New York poet is, at this very moment, toasting bread and then buttering it, so I lower myself to fangirl. I remind myself to be dumb. Keep it stupid. I put fuzzy pink handcuffs and a Swiss Army knife in my backpack for any vigilante justice I may have to enact, thinking of all the girls in beds across the continent, temporary tattoos on their upper thighs.

citations:
Nin, Anaïs. The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume One. New York: Harcourt, 1969.
Kristeva, Julia. Powers of Horror: An Essay On Abjection. Trans. Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.

Clara Lou (Photo credit: Jasmin Risk) is interested in weaponized femininity and the poetics of shame. She constitutes one half of the poetics & performance project HAG, which curates salons, hosts dinner parties, & publishes zines. We’re excited to say she’ll be joining us to fangirl about Trisha a little more for 30/30/30 LIVE! :: GROUP HUG at Mental Marginalia on 4/28. Gratitude to Dia Felix (whose piece on Philip Lamantia you should now head over and read) for passing the torch her way this year!

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