Poetry News

Lara Glenum, Donna Haraway, & The Little Mermaid

By Harriet Staff

Lara Glenum

Joshua Ware at Vouched Books reviews Lara Glenum's third book, Pop Corpse (Action Books 2012), invoking, appropriately, both Hans Christian Andersen and Donna Haraway:

Glenum retells the mermaid’s tale wherein the protagonist becomes a champion of (and allegory for) sexual and creative freedom in a post-apocalyptic and “post-gender” (48) world. To this end, the book echoes Donna Haraway’s insistence in “A Cyborg Manifesto” that those with non-normative or marginalized identities need to “seize the tools to mark the world that marked them as other” through “stories, retold stories, versions that reverse and displace the hierarchical dualisms of naturalized identities.”

In her manifesto, Haraway also recognizes that we are engaged in a “border war,” the stakes of which are “territories of production, reproduction, and imagination.” In order to proceed most ethically, we should take “pleasure in the confusion of boundaries and for the responsibility in their construction”; ultimately, such confusion and construction will aid in the “imagining of a world without gender.”

And it these very issues of border construction, confusion, imagination, reproduction on which Glenum’s book focuses. Near the beginning of the Pop Corpse, an Undersea Denizen says:

[The mermaids'] gender was chosen for them by their parents. The King and Queen of the Sea. Who have the most to gain by keeping the current power structures in place. And they succeed not by openly oppressing us but by persistently courting/curtailing our lines of sight with spectacle of their Vision Machines. (37)

The Denizen goes on to tell his companion that a Vision Machine is a “culturally-produced spectacle that naturalizes highly specific forms of desire and consumption” (37). In other words, systems of power enforce predetermined gender roles by providing subjects with highly-stylized images in order to produce and reinforce a particular type of want and, thus, thought. Even more troubling, XXX the mermaid informs the reader that. . . .

Discover how the mermaid informs the reader, and more on how Pop Corpse succeeds at not sucking seahorse, here.