Poetry News

Redell Olsen's Punk Faun as Companion Species

By Harriet Staff

What calls to mind both Donna Haraway and the term "lang-drag"? Why, it's Redell Olson's new book, Punk Faun: A Bar Rock Pastel (Subpress: Oakland), which has received a review at the Kelsey Street Press blog. "I don’t care how you get it. Get a copy," writes Monica Peck. More:

...[S]o I want to argue that what’s happening in Punk Faun is word-drag page-performance; just as the language interrogates the politics of its formation, so too drag interrogates the politics of gender-formation. Redell Olsen’s poetry is total lang-drag. Sometimes Olsen is lip-synching, sometimes she’s vogue-ing, and sometimes she’s turning a dirty Halloween wig into Judy.

Let’s recall that a faun is a hybrid human animal – specifically goat/human. A hybrid god clearly illustrates the irrefutable fact of ecological interdependence, that humans are part of the animal body, that the social body necessarily must include everything; the social body is the earthly sphere and that must also include the safe-keeping of the so-called non-living (the moon, rocks). Fuck fracking.

and holds Go wary Poppy-Headers of settees
read pipes wax joined not in name but living
in singeing years of takings i.e. no more a
stranger to my dogs than the moon herself (58)

Dionysus was a faun. Pan. Christ’s main competitor. The pied piper, too, perhaps. What is this darkening lure towards intoxication, animal-loving, and music?

I feel like Olsen wants me to be asking these questions. I feel like she’s sitting in the empty seat next to me (18B), coaxing me to continue to ask these questions, even as the passenger on her right persists in asking if he should purchase a Mac or PC for his daughter. We are politely answering his questions on the relative merits machines, while secretly reminiscing about the text.

lonely landfill lies licking hurry for bleak high ( 59)

This Punk Faun is butting it’s velvet horns against the language hegemony, is beautifully and persistently poking at the oppression of the capitalist lexicon, suggesting and prodding and nuzzling the language into a post-capitalist vocab of communal interdependent multiplicity.

As Donna Haraway (2008) explains in Queering the Non/Human,

Queering has the job of undoing ‘normal’ categories, and none is more critical than the human/nonhuman sorting operation. That is crucial work and play. But perhaps companion species can remind us that terran critters have never been one – or two. Tubes, membranes, orifices, organs, extensions, probes, docking sites: these are the stuff of being in material semiotic intra-action. There is no ontological starting or stopping point, neither order nor disorder, boundaries nor boundary violations. That is not a recipe for free-fall in abstract space, but for coming to know our obligations to each other in all their impossibility and necessity, across species and in communion. Companion species are about patterning, consequences, and the possibility of response. Living and dying on earth is tangled turtles all the way down (“Foreward: Companion Species, Mis-recognition, and Queer Worlding,” xxiv – xxv).

Olsen’s “punk faun” is the human psyche’s “companion species,” reminding me that species is illusion, taxonomy a parlor game, and that separation from my ecosystem is impossible. . . .

Also worth a read: Charles Bernstein recently pointed to, and scanned in, Olsen's poetics statement, "Not, a Conceptual Art Poetics," from the Drown My Book anthology. "Not the dematerialization of the poem, but the intermittent re-materialization of the word as object."

Originally Published: November 9th, 2012