11.01.2006

Glenum's Hounds

H. and I were talking the other day about how there's sexy, gritty but still fairly picturesque sex, and then there's the deeper, uglier, messier, sexier (?), no-one-should-see-this, this is NOT comely sex. If you apply this to books, Richard Siken's Crush might gently tap at the boundaries of the first; Lara Glenum's The Hounds of No squats firmly in the farthest reach of the second, baring its teeth. Words that aren't in the book but that remind me of it: lance, boil, pustule, pestilence, buboe, afterbirth. Things I kind of expected the pages to do while I was reading the book: drip blood, ooze animal fat. Hounds is hypnotic in the way that Mark Z. Danielewski's novel House of Leaves is--in that when you close it, it still looks like it might keep talking to you, leaking into your hours, and you want to tie it up with rope and store it far away from your bed.

Hounds is also brilliant, dazzling, and important--one of the most 'important' poetry debuts of 2005, I think (actually, I think the most). Intelligent, thorough, and nicely-developed takes (if you like that kind of thing [grin]) on Glenum's book include Jasper Bernes's review in Jacket 29 and Kirsten Kaschock's review in H_NGM_N, #4.

12 comments:

Ali Davis said...

Interesting that Silken's book won a major prize and came out on a mainstream press while Glenum's book is on a new, indie press. I wonder if this is at all sex related--that, perhaps some readers are more ready to accept gritty, ugly, messy, physical material from a man than from a woman?

early hours of sky said...

Of course they are, society as a whole does this. I do think if Silken was a woman, the book would not have been so accepted into the mainstream. Women can write about sex as long they compare it to rocks and flowers;)

Emily Lloyd said...

Hmmm...I don't know. I mean, yes, probably--but to be honest (don't know if you've both read them both), Glenum's messy makes Siken's messy look like a Calvin Klein ad. But--that aside--I know absolutely nothing about the history of Glenum's book, whether she submitted it to such things as Yale...but...is it out of the realm of conceiving that she might--that one might PREFER to have one's first book published by an exciting new indie press (who did a gorgeous job with the cover, lay-out, etc., by the way--the book is beautiful) than by Yale via a contest? Kind of like how some (including myself) would rather appear in certain e-journals than in certain print journals? (Okay, that analogy's not great, but it's another concept some find surprising)...

chris said...

Just stumbled into your universe and found it interesting, thought I'd let you know you have a reader in Nebraska.

early hours of sky said...

But wouldn’t you say the basic question is, no matter what the press, does society accept sexuality in the same way it does a woman as it does a man?

And if they differ, why is that? Would Plath and Sexton be considered sexy if they weren’t dead, and dead btw, because of tragic love affairs with men. Is writing about sex and being female safe if it includes natural elements? I’m not trying to go all feminist on your blog or maybe I am but I do think there are unwritten rules in writing that need to be broken.

Ali Davis said...

Let's break 'em!!!

Emily Lloyd said...

Hi, Chris, thanks--I look fwd to checking out your blog.

Okay: no matter what the press: "does society accept sexuality in the same way it does a woman as it does a man?"
Well...good question. I don't want to automatically say no, though I know I might have in the past. You mention Sexton and Plath (and, ok, I would argue strongly that it was clinical, chemical, and pretty much lifelong depression that lead to their deaths, not their relationships)...I don't think I've heard Gluck denounced as a "hysterical female" the way I have heard Sexton--do people do that? I think of Gluck lines like "Someone fucked me awake," "Your cold feet on my dick," and the VERY bold, very threatening "I hate them as I hate sex"...Gluck being so mainstream as to be the judge of one of the awards we're talking about...I am not sure what level of "gritty, ugly, messy, physical material" men are getting away with these days--first, I just don't read enough: tell me! Second: my feeling is that men can write about sexuality as long as it's functional and not too graphic, either--I mean, we don't have men writing about, say, smegma. Or really even balls that often, do we? It's still kind of "the penis, mightier than the sword," I think. I guess the most graphic depiction I've read of male sexuality in a poem would be from Ginsberg (though I haven't read enough recent Liu; I think he's got some, too)...I remember AG tried to write a poem on a typewriter while haxing sex with Peter Orlovsky--I don't remember the title, but one of the sticky images was a piece of shit the "size of a chicken heart" falling, I think, out of Peter's ass...

Interestingly, I think "society" is most squeamish about what straight women might write if they got really messy, as opposed to lesbians. Because, I suppose, it leaves straight men vulnerable to critique. But there is also a sense that we (society, editors, whoever) need to "protect"--be politically correct--towards women, so my question rather than would Siken's book have been accepted by the mainstream if it had been written by a woman would be: would it have been accepted if it had been written about women, if Siken had been writing about man-woman, not man-man, stuff, but with the same kind of grittiness? (I realize it is somewhat fruitless, wrong-minded to try to imagine this, because part of the grittiness, at least, was due to it coming from a queer perspective--part or all of the "danger" of the relationships in that book comes from them being queer--so you can't pop heterosexuality in there like a MadLib).

T, you write: "Women can write about sex as long they compare it to rocks and flowers;)." Ever since you commented, I've been trying to write a really raunchy, unpretty, messy sex poem using rocks. I don't have one yet but I can't stop thinking of geodes. [grin]

V said...

I think even a lot of the lesbian sex poetry we have these days is all hearts and rocks and flowers--too tender--and it's okay as long as it stays that, but let a lesbian poet try to publish something really gritty, ugly and messy and forget it.

I do, though, think that simply by being a queer writer, one gets away with more because there's this idea of subversion from the start. And also, possibly, because, if a man writes about looking at a woman and wanting to do all this nasty stuff with/to her, it could be taken as offensive, but if a lesbian writes the same thing, it's transgressive. Which is a whole different sort of thing to have a problem with.

In terms of graphic male sexuality: try Mark Wunderlich's latest book. It's got some gems. Especially "I Too Am An Animal of Great Beauty" and "The Triangle Song." And, of course, Liu, the stand by. But his latest stuff isn't as dirty.

early hours of sky said...

Interesting points you brought about Gluck but do you think she is a writer who embraces her femininity? I always find it interesting that she has no poems about being a mother though she is; nor does she seem to voice any struggles in the area of womanhood. And no, I’m not suggesting that if you are a mother you need to write about it but definitely Sexton and Plath filled pages about identity, sexuality.

I am just suggesting that even in writing, strength=masculinity to some and I have a huge issue with the fact that motherhood can’t be sexy and strong. Okay, I know its personal b/c hell I’m sexy and strong but I would like to see it portrayed more in the general media.

Emily Lloyd said...

V, you write, "if a man writes about looking at a woman and wanting to do all this nasty stuff with/to her, it could be taken as offensive"--yes. That's what I meant about "protective." When I was having the original conversation about "no one should see this, this is NOT pretty" sex--I had in mind Dorothy Allison's (I think) short piece (fic or non, I'm not sure) that uses the term "frog fucking"...there has been more room for the messy for all in fic and nonfic to date, I think.

T--Gluck does have some poems that mention her son, I think, watching him engage with the world--it's been a long time since I've read her. I would say she grapples with her femininity sometimes...but you're right, I think she's more interested in selfhood, "I"-hood than womanhood in her writing. Have you read Mina Loy, the modernist poet and artist? If not, oh do do do. The Lost Lunar Baedaker is her collected and includes her feminist manifesto; I also think you'd love the bio of her called Becoming Modern (perhaps even more than her poetry). She wrote intelligent, sometimes biting, often sexual, and always concerned with her own brand of femininity, poems from a straight female perspective. Gert Stein said of Mina, "She understands, she has always understood." One of her more famous (although she really was swallowed up and forgotten by many for a long time; her collected and the bio only appeared less than ten years ago) poems is called "Parturition"=a visceral poem on the actual act of childbirth. She was also sexy and quite an interesting player in her time, dating brilliant male artists and standing up to them, designing lamps and wearing funky hats and so on. I thought of Loy a few times while reading Glenum's book. Though they're doing different things, Loy was messy-taboo-ey in a similar way (very much so for her time). She is best know for her "Love Songs to Joannes" (1915? 1916?) of which I remember bits (line breaks may not be exact):

Spawn of Fantasies
silting the appraisable
Pig Cupid his rosy snout
rooting erotic garbage
"Once upon a time"

pulls a weed white star-topped
among wild oats sown in mucous membrane

I would an eye in a Bengal light
eternity in a sky-rocket
constellations in an ocean
whose rivers run no fresher
than a trickle of saliva

There are suspect places

I must live in my lantern
trimming subliminal flicker
virginal to the bellows of experience

Colored glass

//
we might have given birth
to a butterfly
with the daily news printed in blood
on its wings

Writings about the Love Songs: here

about Loy's life: here

(Okay, now I'm so excited about you & Loy that I feel like I'm fixing you up. You are meantt for each other!)

Emily Lloyd said...

PS--a better (more enjoyable, at any rate) link for Loy's life, maybe: here.

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

High praise for Mina Loy. Love Songs is vastly underrated.

I appreciate this discussion on words & mess & acceptance/purpose/reception of written sexuality.