Vintage photograph c. 1975 from the collection of James Mullineaux, “Darkroomist,” courtesy of Goldline Press.
Not too long ago my friend Kiki and I were sharing an impressive order of fries and hashing out the long-held divide among feminists about the frivolity vs. importance of fashion in general, and personal style specifically. Always an expert with the killer one-liner, Kiki managed to skewer the notion of fashion as frivolity with, “First humans clothed themselves, then they started drawing on cave walls.” Meaning that “fashion” is in fact so integral to our sense of self, of personhood, it preceded all other forms of expression short of, possibly, language.
Sure, to call the clothing that enabled early humans to migrate out of Africa 170,000 years ago “self expression” might be a stretch, especially since we wouldn’t evolve the high order thinking skills that led to “art” for another 130,000 years, but still. Let’s just say our ancestors married form and function.
Either way, in the intervening centuries fashion has evolved as a form of language in and of itself–an aspect of personal visual culture that can be “read” with all the subtext, narrative arcs, and suspense of a good book. The stories of our “selves”–our bodies, our fears, our aspirations, our successes, our interests–are the stories we tell with our clothes. Continue reading
“Even when the work is about the Self, we want and expect that others will weigh in on it, critically, as art. But many poets—especially, I wager, queer, feminist, marginalized, and young poets—read a Myles poem and see, beyond the work as literature, a vision of the self we would like to enact in the world: brash, confident, living large.”–Arielle Greenberg on Eileen Myles
With the new year comes a new crop of totally amazing reads. Here are some I can’t wait to get my hands on:
1) Where the Words End and My Body Begins by Amber Dawn
(Arsenal Pulp Press)
Amber Dawn’s known for her award-winning memoir How Poetry Saved My Life and her novel Sub Rosa, which reads like a feminist pulp novel/fairytale about sex workers. Where the Words End and My Body Begins, Dawn’s first book of poems, pays homage to legendary and emerging queer poets including Gertrude Stein, Christina Rossetti, and Adrienne Rich with a series of poems written in the 15th-century Spanish glosa form.
2) Houses by Nikki Wallschlaeger
I love how Nikki Wallschlaeger’s poems travel from building to building, room to room, from the exterior to the interior, from the often female-embodied everyday to the vast and looming social world that surrounds us, filled with problems and possibilities: “I have children that need lunches in the morning so I love them best. I also love lipstick and Europe, and the things that dead men say.”
Wallschlaeger’s first full-length book Houses is coming this May. Until then read some of her knockout poems here and here and here.