Contemporary British and Spanish Feminisms – Jèssica Pujol & Sara Torres

(Editorial note for alba Londres 07)

Despite the ‘Contemporary British and Spanish Feminisms’ rubric, this is not a nationalisation of a contemporary struggle but a geographical survey, a Shibuya Crossing of different voices with blurred identity that have plenty to talk about. Reading the poems, hearing the voices, reading them loud, hearing one’s own, realising that whenever celestial rhythms sneak into prosody cherubs get slapped in the face: ‘Beauty is our enemy caffeinE dander’ (Verity Spott) is only the beginning. For this issue, we dialogue with the work of a group of poets whose practice appears as always in tension with traditional approaches to identity and corporeality. In conversation with the co-editor of this issue, Sara Torres, we agree on the insufficiency of inherited languages and their symbolic systems: ‘No s’han inventat les lletres/ per confegir el significat/ de tots els esfondraments/ que ens devoren.’ [‘Letters have not been invented/ to spell out the meaning/ of all the collapses/ that devour us’] (Maria Antònia Massanet). But then, structures still need to be built upon the logic of this system, and that explains why these voices are overflowing with antagonism, criticism, violence and parody, mostly in paratactical arrangements: ‘Sorry he misinterested the cut, is it up/ the slack/ or what, the cat is the nature/ an ox? A man or ox?’ (Holly Pester).

The linguistic material of these poets is like a radioactive jellyfish entangled in a fishnet stocking: or a new slimy and dangerous reasoning: ‘Menjar el que no diu cap paraula/ i així, amb la boca plena, escriure.’ [‘To eat what words do not say/ and so, mouth full, to write’] (Mireia Calafell). Deconstruction is still taking place, still insisting: ‘call me only by what I’m not… I want to be the architect of my own disappearance’ (Samantha Walton). In this particular Legoland sexual pieces battle against conventional gender: ‘Me dijeron:/ el hombre y la mujer se buscan y se juntan por naturaleza/gozan el uno del otro/ toda mujer se realiza en la crianza/ lo que tiene de madre la hace sagrada y distinta a nosotros.’ [‘They told me:/ man and woman look for each other and come together by nature/ they pleasure themselves/ all women realise themselves breastfeeding/ what the mother has makes her sacred and distinct to us’] (Sara Torres). Unadulterated reality does not need to reconstruct but to show its bare skin, its imperfections: ‘which we can not decide but can wish to divide and disfigure publically your body’ (Spott). This revolution provokes breakdowns in Kantian categories: ‘I’ve totally librettoed myself/ such a horrific fear of dismemberment/ Ah, breakdown in Kantian categories/ Hmm, terrifying snowslide’ (Amy De’Ath), fear: ‘because I am scared and seeing is/ so many things I’ve never seen/ before or want to again that the/ incredible is not a category now/ but a present feeling end of this/ moment into the next too fast’ (Jennifer Cooke), and more fear, a return to womb posture: ‘mira y no se atreve ¿qué es/salir?/recupera postura anterior/animalito bicho bola perséfone/ ovillo aguanta miedo’ [‘looking but not daring.  what does getting out/ mean?/ resumes previous position/ tiny creature insect ball persephone/ curled up through the fear’] (Nieto).

Violence against the system is violence against our blurry selves and against the defined positions that want to suck them up: ‘I can’t describe how hard I want her dead. Not biology-dead (being JUST hardcoreficktion) but the death of the office her body is’ (Lucy Beynon & Lisa Jeschke). But with violence and fear comes a particular version of the tender, one that tries to dwell on basic ingredients rather than mass-produced wrappings: ‘dónde/ si persiste dónde animal y ternura/ para él’ [‘where/ persisting where animal and tenderness/ for him’] (Nieto). Which takes us back to questioning the identity of the voices that speak here: ‘Ser (lo). Criatura impenitente, cubierta por el vello leve de un polluelo. Animal aterido y/ múltiple como el plancton. Sin unidad, sin composición, sin lazos de familia.’ [‘Being (it). Impenitent creature, covered with the downy fuzz of a chick. Animal frozen stiff, numerous as plankton. With no unity, no composition, no family ties’] (Laia López Manrique). The feminine pronoun returns to the dada stage and its referent rises in potentiality: ‘what is it that poetry can’t do that everything else can/ except create a self each line to kill it the next’ (Walton). This fuels a transformation of the referent, and extends the limits between reality and fiction; fiction and fiction; reality and reality.

Seeking to represent agency in the desire, the feminine is subject and object. In its fissures we find the niche of the possible: ‘Al abrir el bolso, el timbre se dispersó como una película rápida sobre el crecimiento de la hierba. Lo cierto es que estaba lleno de crías rosadas, picos hacia la luz. Lo insólito cursa como veneno encefálico, simplificador: le extrañó que todas pusieran tanto empeño en sobrevivir.’ [‘When she opened her bag, the ringtone dispersed like a time-lapse film on the growth of grass. In any case, it was full of pink chicks, beaks towards the light. The unheard of progresses like an encephalic poison, simplifying: she was surprised to see them all making such an effort to survive’] (Julieta Valero). But, beware, the system is so classy that we are just beginning to discuss its politics here: ‘Evidently Burtynsky wants his cake/ And eat it./ Burtynsky eat your cake./ Now: apologize’ (De’Ath). And if you are still not convinced dare to listen to your own voice as you read these poems aloud.