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Five Questions for Dodie Bellamy at HTMLGIANT

By Harriet Staff

“Poets have often seized the discarded.” Dodie Bellamy answers some very thoughtful questions over at HTMLGIANT about experimental writing. There are lots of, or in this case, five ways in. Christopher Higgs has got a great schedule for this interview series, having already talked with the likes of Brian Evenson and Miranda Mellis, with forthcoming interlocuters including Eileen Myles, Evan Lavender-Smith, Johannes Göransson, Sesshu Foster, Dennis Cooper, Selah Saterstrom, Vi Khi Nao, and Michael Martone. Higgs asks Bellamy (most recently the author of the buddhist, writings based on her blog Belladodie) about relationships between experimental literature and the body, politics, economics, and race. As for the latter:

CH: When asked about the relationship between women and experimental literature, Alexandra Chasin responded by asking, “What about the relationship between people of color and experimental literature in the U.S.? What about representations of race and racial Others? Can we talk about that?” Since this sentiment was echoed by various of the previous “Five Questions” participants, and because it strikes me as true that discussions about race and representations of racial diversity tend to be underrepresented in the field of experimental literature, I think it’s important to pursue answers to those questions. What are your thoughts?

DB: I think all forms of otherness should be addressed in writing—groups othered by whatever dominant culture the writer is dealing with, as well as individuals who are simply too fucking strange to fit into that culture, for whatever reason. As writers we have to remember that we can never dispel another being’s otherness. In order to avoid that dreadful colonizing gaze of understanding, we need to honor the mystery of others. For writing to be alive it needs to look at what’s consciously or unconsciously occluded from the now. Transgression in art isn’t necessarily about finding a weird pocket of extremity. It’s about shedding light on what’s all around us that nobody dares look at. Though everything seems pretty extreme these days, like we’re entering a century of pure hysteria. . . .

Higgs concludes the interview with a request for reading suggestions; Bellamy responds that “to name one person means you’re leaving out like 20 others.” Yet she counts as important to her work constants like Bruce Boone, husband Kevin Killian, Kathy Acker and Eileen Myles; alongside David Buuck & Juliana Spahr, Ariana Reines, Stephanie Young, and specifically new chapbooks by Tyrone Williams and Dana Ward (we concur, read Typing Wild Speech, if you can get a copy!). But it is from a blogging position that she’s able to “[queer] that space between private and public”:

I’ve always been interested in the disenfranchised in writing, and my project of writing from the position of a woman whining on a blog about being dumped by some guy—even a Buddhist teacher—is about as disenfranchised as you can get. If you look at the hierarchy of experimental writing, at the top you have maybe Ben Marcus, and at the bottom you have me grubbing around on Belladodie. I was committed to exploring that position of utter weakness, valuelessness—but without the brazenness and brilliance of other women bloggers, I wouldn’t have had the strength to push on.

The interview in full can be read here; also see Alan Gilbert’s review of the buddhist for Harriet.

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Posted in Poetry News on Saturday, June 11th, 2011 by Harriet Staff.