Wednesday 30 December 2009

Anne Michaels and the ecriture feminine

I find myself coming back again to the ideas of ecriture feminine. Although I am not convinced that language functions merely as an instrument of patriarchal expression, I do see some strong elements of what Cixous describes as feminine writing in the writers that I am currently attracted to.

"Women must write through their bodies, they must invent the inpregnable language that will wreck partitions, classes, and rhetorics, regulations and codes, they must submerge, cut through, get beyond the ultimate reserve-discourse..." (Cixous, H. The Laugh of the Medusa)

Cixous and Irigarary do not accept the very Western idea of a separation between mind and body - the mind being traditionally male, the body female. They are not saying that only women can write in this new, freer more physical language but that this is a more feminine way of writing.

I am currently reading a book of poetry called The Weight of Oranges by Anne Michaels - Michaels is a Canadian writer who started out as a poet but now writes mostly fiction. Her poetry is very sensual and to me embodies exactly the way of writing that Cixous is describing.

"By morning the stones we'd found
were dull with air,
but I couldn't forget the smell
of the trees' intimate darkness,
the scattered sound of the rain's distracted hands,
husks of buds in green pools on the sidewalks."

(from "Turning Twenty-Three" in Michaels, Anne, The Weight of Oranges)

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Overcoming Creative Torpor

I need to start thinking of my written work more in terms of a dialogue between my internal self and the environments that I find myself in - to let the objects that are part of that environment come together to speak through me in the form of some kind of narrative. I have been too busy sitting in my house thinking about essays, wishing that I had the money to travel to somewhere more exciting and feeling uninspired to take the time to really see the little dialogues that are taking place all around me.

I am now planning to re-visit some old and discarded elements of my writing practice: note taking, collecting words, phrases and images, noting done snippets of randomly overheard conversation etc. I hope in this way to gather raw material for a new writing experiment - taking techniques I developed years ago and combining them with the new ideas and ways of thinking and working that have been generated over the last couple of years of intensive writing practice. I am hoping that the result will be stunning but of course it may be paltry, ludicrous or just plain bad. But at least it will be different and will hopefully snap me out of this creative torpor that I sometimes fall into when I have passed a deadline or have been city and weather bound for weeks on end.
(original artwork by Pupski)

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Hélène Cixous, C. D. Wright and My Own Poetic Struggle

I have been reading a little about ecriture feminine. Some writers in the 1970s and 80s wanted to write in new styles that would express women's sexuality, embodiment and sensibility. They would write more fluidly, with less narrative and be less constrained by reason, they would also employ greater ambiguity and more juxtaposition than prose and poetry normally allowed (Burt, Stephen, "I Came to Talk to you in Physical Splendor" Boston Review, December 1997). Hélène Cixous described this as being able "to use our whole body to enable the world to become flesh."

C. D. Wrights work walks a tightrope between ecriture feminine and "the language poets (i.e.Ron Silliman and David Antin) with a small toe dipping its toe into the pool of concrete poetry. This is what makes her poems so fresh and vibrant.

Cixous and other purveyors of ecriture feminine argue that "patriarchy, and its literary styles, forced writers (especially women writers) to mourn, to look back to resented or idealized pasts, to regret or lament already-lost powers, or even lost persons." (Stephen Burt 1998) I recognize some of these themes in my own writing (mourning, loss etc) and know that I want to raise my writing to new levels of meaningfulness. Not to write joyous poetry exactly but to write poetry that celebrates life and all its nuances.

Hearing Poetry

"We listen to a text with numerous ears...Every text has its foreign accents, its strangenesses, and these act like signals, attracting our attention. These strangenesses are our cue. We aren't looking for the author as much as what made the author take the particular path they took, write what they wrote. We're looking for the secret of creation, the same process of creation each one of us is constantly involved with in the process of our lives. Texts are the witnesses of our proceeding. The text opens up a path which is already ours and yet not altogether ours."

Cixous, Hélène, “Conversations” in Seller, Susan, (ed.) Writing Differences: Readings from the Seminar of Hélène Cixous, (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1988)

Monday 7 December 2009


Each of the sentences I write is trying to say the whole thing. i.e.,
the same thing over and over again; it is as though they were all
simply views of one object seen from differents angles.

-Wittgenstein, Culture and Value

Sunday 6 December 2009

Freedom, Revolt, and Love

I have been reading and listening to interviews with the American poet (and this year's winner of The Griffin Poetry Prize) C. D. Wright for an essay that I am writing for my poetics class. C. D. Wright is probably my favourite poet of all time and what has been really interesting about the interviews is discovering what her inspirations are.

She cites as her main influence the poet Frank Stanford: Stanford like Wright was a Southern poet and wrote in an unusual and fresh way. (Sadly he committed suicide just before his 30th birthday) Reading Stanford's poem "Freedom, Revolt, Love" for the first time it was easy for me to see how he influenced Wright - his work very much reminds me of hers. The poem appears to be written as stream of consciousness - one continuous stanza with no breaks except the punctuation which is mostly at the ends of the lines. Stanford's poem reminded me of a Cubist painting - it's as if we are seeing things from several perspectives at once. It is an oddly disturbing poem about some kind of robbery where the two main characters are shot at their breakfast table. But doubly disturbing because of Stanford's unusual style of writing:

"She told him hers didn't hurt much,
Like in the fall when everything you touch
Makes a spark.
He thought about her getting up in the dark
Wrapping a quilt around herself.
And standing in the doorway."

Friday 4 December 2009


"Don't set in motion a huge poetry factory just to make poetic cigarette lighters." (Vladimir Mayakovsky)

Wednesday 2 December 2009


Clinamen: a "swerve" of the atoms so as to make change possible in the universe...