Paul Curran - slowly it unveils and embodies what happens when a sensitive mind, scarred by the sins of the fathers and the “acid rain” of today’s neoliberal globalism, revolts by letting his genitals control what’s left of him after the cutting

Paul Curran, Left Hand, Civil Coping Mechanism, 2014.



Left Hand is every reason why Paul Curran is one of the smartest, most daring, meticulous, violent, delicate, awe-inspiring new fiction chiselers in the known world, if you ask me. His work has been a huge favorite of lucky insiders like me for years, and now the secret is finally and definitely out.” —Dennis Cooper

"With Left Hand, Paul Curran has written something so different that reading it will make your eyes burn.”
—Matthew Stokoe

"Stop the psychotic qualitative self-deception of childhood as Henry Miller, Paul Curran’s Left Hand ordered a mandragora sex. It is a cyber ploy plausible to deal with Georges Bataille’s supreme life anyway, this literary alcohol than ecstasy drugs cruel image of Antonin Artaud’s formalin fixed heart that heresy novel is formed on the eroticism cause of supremacy he was attached to the soul of Jean Genet’s sexual literature manual of the internet through perversion strong language.”—Kenji Siratori

“As a manual for how to go mad, Left Hand will find its own audience, but I urge discriminating readers to seek it out and read it with the utmost care and patience: slowly it unveils and embodies what happens when a sensitive mind, scarred by the sins of the fathers and the “acid rain” of today’s neoliberal globalism, revolts by letting his genitals control what’s left of him after the cutting.  We’ve all gone there to one degree or another, but only rarely, perhaps not since the death of Brigid Brophy, has so fine a mind allowed us access to all ten circles of hell.  Or meta-hell: ‘I go to this novel’s funeral, sit on a hard chair, and observe the casket entering flames.’”—Kevin Killian

"Like most fogged and drug-coated apathetic worlds, Paul Curran’s Left Hand begins by playing into our assumptions of the consequences of narrative violence and unpoliced desire. But as we proceed, unraveling takes hold and all perceptions of ordered identity, even the state of the novel, explode into a slowly undulating chaos. The reader is erupted, returned, through amputation and orgasm into a new site of beginning. I felt afraid in welcome, unprecedented ways.”—Cassandra Troyan

Twenty years ago I went back to university to study writing, won a short-story competition and then a scholarship to do my masters. The manuscript I wrote was short-listed for the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards, got interest from several agents, but was rejected by all mainstream Australian publishers. While living in Japan in the early 2000s, I wrote another novel that my agent rejected and then I rewrote the first one. I was based in London by then, and after my agent rejected the rewrites, I sent it to every agent there and they also rejected it. So, around 2006, inspired and encouraged by new internet writing, and particularly the community gathered around this blog, I decided to start something completely new.
Left Hand consists of four interlinked sections. There's two parallel sets of second-person imperatives based on command hallucinations, advertisements, or song lyrics (Left Hand/A Tower of Limbs). These are like columns that the other sections move around and bleed into. The first instruction section runs linear, and the second runs as a broken reflection of the first. Both sets are divided into 21 parts made up of five blocks (1-5) of five instructions (a-e) that are ten words. In several notebooks, I outlined both sections with 10 instructions (a-j) as a paragraph each and then cut five lines from the final list using a random number generator. While following this procedure, I also wrote notes in the margins or across the pages, anything I was thinking about at the time, memories, comments, observations, processes, distractions, and then wrote these up and mixed them with research papers and violent porn descriptions into a 100,000 word document. I scrambled the document by cutting and pasting at random into a new document. Then I used two different translation programs to translate the fragments into Japanese and then back into English. Finally, I edited and rewrote the whole thing as a 10,000 word first-person meta-monologue (Obscure Distortion Organ). I wrote the last section (Scatter), which is third person, straight onto the computer with minimum notes after completing the other three sections.
I finished the manuscript of Left Hand in 2012 and sent it to Civil Coping Mechanism. They got back to me within 24 hours and offered to publish it. Marc Hulson, who I met through this blog, agreed to paint something for the cover and also asked me to collaborate on a project for Five Years Gallery. Part of that collaboration featured covers of previous editions of Left Hand mentioned in the novel. - 
Paul Curran (Tokyo, April 2014)

Easily the grossest of this list, Left Hand immediately brings the reader into its damage by giving him no choice but to interact. Opening to the first page, we find what looks like a set of instructions, spelled out as commands: 
(a) Perch with your feet on either side of the bathtub.
(b) Stare at your cock getting hard through the rising steam.
(c) Hear your lungs sucking in the most air they can.
(d) Exhale and then thrust your mouth down at your cock.
(e) Slip under the water hitting your head and pass out. 
The text goes on like this from there, leading you block by block through scenes of very gruesome abuse and sexual machination, like some kind of roleplaying game penned by Sade.
Then, interrupting the lists of commands, longer text blocks appear, which seem to open the book into the room behind the room, into the mouth of the programmer. Suddenly we seem to be alongside the one directing all the hell. “To stop this novel occurring from this motel room is impossible,” the first non-command sentence states. The narrator appears to be at war with the thing he’s been designated to create, taking part in real-life scenes as close to those we’ve been commanded to perform. It is almost as if the narrator has been enslaved to his creation, forced to recreate things that should have never had a life. By the end, everything is so fucked it doesn’t even feel fucked anymore, and the private life of the narrator doesn’t seem strange either. It creates a truly terrifying feeling—recognizing that you’ve forgotten not to relate to what the book would have you do, which is maybe the rarest sort of power. - Blake Butler

For the first few moments there is the celebration of the left hand. Condemned for centuries for being the evil hand left-handed individuals no longer cower in fear. Yet their lives are full of small insults of a world made for right-handed individuals. The left-handed continually look for their salvation and find nothing. At the end of their lives the right-handed ones try to give them a handshake and fail. Life’s little tragedies fit in the palm of a hand. 
                Doctors try to give out the proper advice. Proper is not a pseudonym for right. What is right is not typically proper. The world is funny that way. Stitched together by fast-moving threads the world is string theory. Everyone tries to hide themselves behind something, clothes, a trampoline, any element of fun really. A body is not fun. A body is something to live inside of for years upon years, waiting as the body thing shrivels up. Inside the body is a mind that is fully aware of this fact and it is unable to stop the aging process.
                A body needs foreign objects inside. Typically this happens many times throughout a day. Food is destroyed inside of a body. Various tools to remove those foods are placed into the mouth to try and brush teeth, to keep the world clean in a jungle of a mouth. Nobody says a word about these things, why they need to happen, what the point is really. Doctors are aware of these facts, fully aware. In extreme cases doctors can replace the human with the machine. Hence there are implants, fake knees, arms, and hands, almost everything. With enough hardship the human becomes less human more imagined. Long ago such a thing would not be possible. Aging terrifies people, enough people with enough power to stall the inevitable decline. 
                Power pushes back. Smaller powers take longer. Life is a pendulum swinging without concern. Eventually everything swings back and forth, having the good moments with the bad moments. From extreme to extreme the balance is fleeting. A select few recognize the balance that lives between the extremes of good and bad. Such moments ought to be cherished. Moments of clarity offer a glimpse into the future. Depending on the strength of the eyes those fleeting glimpses can determine an entire life. Sometimes a future can flash before a person’s eyes. Unfortunately most people tend to blink.- Beach Sloth

Paul Curran is a mysterious man. He lives in a foreign country (rumor has it he’s Japanese), keeps somewhat quiet on Facebook, and doesn’t have an author bio on Amazon. His blog is a monstrous thing that got me fired from work and has tall white men in dark blue suits knocking on my door at all hours of the day. I always hide in the bathroom and try to control my breathing. Anyway, for indie lit connoisseurs, Curran is also one of those gems that make reading one of the best things in the world. But you don’t have to listen to me, here’s what Dennis Cooper had to say about Curran’s latest: “Left Hand is every reason why Paul Curran is one of the smartest, most daring, meticulous, violent, delicate, awe-inspiring new fiction chiselers in the known world, if you ask me. His work has been a huge favorite of lucky insiders like me for years, and now the secret is finally and definitely out.” Well, I knew Curran still had some secrets, so I subjected him to some weird questions. Things got really bizarre and yes, I’ve had sex with a photocopier and sometimes impersonate Brad Listi.
\m/ \m/
Gabino Iglesias: I could try to tell people what I think you were trying to accomplish with the unique format you used in Left Hand. However, I think it’d be best if I asked you about it eloquently: dude, what up with that format?
Paul Curran: You’ll have to speak louder. This phone line’s terrible. Something about the elegant format? Oh, yes. They gave me a painting-by-numbers kit as some kind of therapy for my autoimmune skin condition, to stop me picking the scabs and joining the dots with the stuff oozing out. Did you know that in 1951 Palmer Paint introduced the Craft Master brand which sold over 12 million kits? This public response induced other companies to produce their own versions. But it was only the Craft Master boxes that proclaimed, ‘A BEAUTIFUL OIL PAINTING THE FIRST TIME YOU TRY.’ And you know how in the Tractatus, Wittgenstein’s logical construction of a philosophical system has an obvious purpose—to find the limits of the world, thought and language; in other words, to distinguish between sense and nonsense? Well, the characteristic of being senseless applies not only to the propositions of logic and science but also to mathematics and fiction and pornography or any pictorial form. These are, like tautologies and contradictions, literally senseless, they have no sense. I don’t know what I’m talking about. Are there a lot of numbers or something in Left Hand? Have you read the book? Can you even hear me?
GI: I’m reading the book now and I’m appalled at the lack of teenage vampire romance. Are you against selling books?
PC: You’re reading the book while we’re doing this podcast? That’s brilliant. Have you got a speakerphone or have you undergone some kind of split-brain experiment? I wish they’d given me a speakerphone instead of whatever they did to my brain. I’m finding it hard enough just holding this thing and talking at the same time. I’m also appalled at the lack of teenage vampire romance. I’m sure I included a lot of scenes of teenage vampire romance. They were the best, hottest bits. I can check my notes and get back to you, but as far as I remember, the final draft I turned in was subtitled: A Modern Teenage Vampire Romance. So I’m not sure what happened. Maybe best to ask the publisher or the printer. Or maybe not the printer. And, yes, I’m against selling books. I think they should be free, like in libraries, but you can take them home longer.
GI: Michael J Seidlinger said something about sending the book to the printers and how they would probably stop their work so they could go jerk off. Is the book’s onanistic potential something you wanted to achieve or were you just lucky?
PC: There was apparently some delay at the printers just before the book launch. The story I heard was that some hands were aroused and jerking off and other hands were disgusted and knifing the hands that were jerking off and other hands were entertained and clapping and other hands were bored and just wanted to finish work and so on, and anyway, in the same kind of autoimmune revolt depicted in the book, a refusal to be pinned down and labeled, hands and genitals got jammed in machines and that’s why on the cover there’s those bloody-looking splatters across the title and the border. That is to say, yes and no. The book doesn’t necessarily follow the kind of consistently integrated narrative trajectory conducive to satisfactory onanistic fulfillment, and persecution hallucinations are as prevalent as sexual fantasies, so while there’s plenty of explicit sex and perversion, the perversion is also perverted in a double bind of acceptance and denial that disintegrates hierarchies and unitary forms of human desire until there’s nothing left. This continual shifting makes masturbation potentially dangerous, especially if there are machine around. In Circumfession, Derrida answers the question of what he loves in a different way. No, forget all that. Please cut that answer when you edit this podcast. No one will want to read the book now. Yes, it was intentional, and yes, I’m lucky. It’s a total torture-porn wank fest. What are you wearing? Have you ever had sex with a photocopier? A photocopier (also known as a copier or copy machine) was a machine that made paper copies of documents and other visual images quickly and cheaply. What did you say?
GI: Do you like Brussels sprouts?
PC: Yes, please. The lunches around here are unacceptable. Notice how the ‘s’ is cut when I say ‘Brussel sprouts.’ That’s what I mean about the amputation of onanistic potential. Things coming up and then getting cut down. Time is weird. I’ve been to Brussels, but stayed longer in Bruges. Forerunners to modern Brussels sprouts were likely cultivated in ancient Rome. Don’t you think Roman sprouts sounds better than Brussels sprouts? But they do apparently prevent colon cancer. I’ve had a few colonoscopies and endoscopies. I used to keep the pictures under my pillow until my nurse took them off me. They were like the most amazing kind of internal autoerotic porn. That’s where I found this novel. In its most embryonic state.
GI: Left Hand was accepted for publication 24 hours after you submitted it to CCM. What do you think took them so long?
PC: A manuscript crossing the International Date Line (IDL) eastbound subtracts one day, or 24 hours, so that the calendar date to the west of the line is repeated after the following midnight. Crossing the IDL westbound results in 24 hours being added, advancing the calendar date by one day. The IDL is necessary to have a fixed, albeit arbitrary, boundary on the globe where the calendar date advances in the westbound direction.
GI: I love language that delivers a message without beating around the bush. However, others want sugar-coated fiction. How do you think those readers will react to lines like “Feel the Coke bottle rip the inside of your asshole”?
PC: I guess readers may be put-off by the obscene product placement. I wasn’t even paid for that message. Perhaps I should’ve approached Pepsi. Or at least gone with Diet Coke. Sugar’s bad for your teeth. I’ve got English teeth. So I don’t eat sugar anymore. I’ve lost a lot of weight in here. Did I mention the lunches? I’m actually not allowed to eat anything. It’s all through a drip.
GI: Matthew Stokoe and Dennis Cooper, among others, blurbed LF. Did that make you a little smug for a while?
PC: I’m losing the connection. Are you still there? Something about the blurbs being smudged in that printing fiasco? Well, that made me feel bad, but I was also very happy that writers I admired and was influenced by (ripped off) read and liked the book enough to write something about it and let me put that on the wrapping.
GI: I have a bit of an obsession with Aokigahara. Do you think anything good can come from that? Also, is the weather in London as awful as everyone who’s never been there says it is?
PC: Can you ask one question at a time, please? Yes, I think good can come from anything, especially your obsession with Aokigahara. You should write about it. Just follow the numbers in Left Hand. Or paint a picture. I wonder if there’s a painting-by-numbers Aokigahara version. I’ll ask my nurse after this call. I’ve never been there, but I once climbed Mt Fuji and got altitude sickness and felt like I wanted to die. I’ve got a story in an upcoming Cityscapes with a line, ‘Others speak about the big mistake, millions of drunken needle explosions, automobile industrial accidents, the irresistible stench from a masturbating corpse, and the cute jingle of a sports bag, pecked at by eagles, dragged back from Aokigahara Forest, burned beneath tables in alleyway bars, stuffed into a coin-locker at Shinjuku Station.’ Oh, no, the weather in London is much worse than awful, but everyone goes to the pub all day, so no one notices, and then one day it’s sunny and everyone goes outside and it’s really beautiful for a couple of days and everyone takes their clothes off and lies in the park and gets burnt and forgets the bad weather and then it rains again so they go back to the pub. 9. Blood or whiskey? Is that two questions? I’m not meant to drink in here. It makes my skin worse, and fucks up my meds and my liver. But okay. Why not. What’s the time? Whiskey in the morning, blood at night. Or red wine anytime. I like to compromise. From the New World. Australia or Chile. 10. Who’s your favorite left-handed author? Joan of Arch. Was she a writer? Was she even left handed? Are you still listening to me? Who are you, anyway? I thought Brad Listi was meant to call me. Is this Bret Easton Ellis? Who is this? - Interview by Gabino Iglesias




a) Perch with your feet on either side of the bathtub.

b) Stare at your cock getting hard through the rising steam.

c) Hear your lungs sucking in the most air they can.

d) Exhale and then thrust your mouth down at your cock.

e) Slip under the water hitting your head and pass out.


a) Catch your reflection in the cracked mirror above the sink.

b) Taste the bathroom steam mix with the hallway's thick dampness.

c) Look at Alex slumped on your bed shooting up heroin.

d) Hear yourself asking Alex about the money he owes you.

e) Listen to Alex describe the English language course he joined.


a) Smell Alex's hair as his mouth slurps on your cock.

b) Let go of the curtain hanging broken from your window.

c) Taste some blood that you noticed on your left hand.

d) Watch your hand pushing Alex's head away from your cock.

e) Shut the door behind Alex and collapse onto your bed.


a) This line has been left blank for no particular reason.

b) Wake up to the sound of a phone ringing somewhere.

c) See the words left hand printed deep inside your brain.

d) Lean back in your chair when you smell your manager.

e) Watch your manager saying there is blood on your collar.


a) Spy on a woman in the window behind your office.

b) Feel the head of your cock glide between your teeth.

c) Smell the carpet below your desk after you fall down.

d) Remember Alex calling heroin the only cure for jet lag.

e) Unravel a note that you found in Alex's coat pocket.


a) Click on a Japanese schoolgirl masturbating in a navy uniform.

b) Taste honey in your throat when her limbs are amputated.

c) Look up when you notice a student approaching the counter.

d) Watch the student's eyes and say the manager is out.

e) Ask your colleague if she can answer the student’s questions.


a) Stand in front of your mirror sniffing a schoolgirl uniform.

b) Lay the mirror on your bed and become a schoolgirl.

c) Watch the schoolgirl in the mirror fucking a Coke bottle.

d) Feel the Coke bottle rip the inside of your asshole.

e) Taste soap on your lips and collapse onto the mirror.


a) Tap your keyboard until two words appear on the screen.

b) Say the words left hand to yourself in your head.

c) Change the font from Times New Roman to Courier New.

d) Increase the font size until each word takes one line.

e) Put the words in bold and italics before deleting them.


a) Feel a layer of sweat and deodorant covering your body.

b) Take your left hand off your mouse and bite it.

c) Realize that your computer screen has swirled into tunnel vision.

d) Try to touch the words coming from your colleague's mouth.

e) Listen to your chair swiveling around as you stand up.


a) Hear the sound of your shoulder barging the toilet door.

b) Breathe in the mix of bleached come and air freshener.

c) Smell your invisible left hand in front of your face.

d) Turn on the hot water tap and taste the water.

e) Look at the water running through your invisible left hand.


a) Order a Double Whopper meal at Burger King in Westfield.

b) Go into the Disney store and touch the stuffed toys.

c) Listen to women trying on lingerie in different changing rooms.

d) See a customer pointing you out to a security guard.

e) Look at the security guard asking you to follow him.


a) Walk into Central Bar and order a glass of vodka.

b) Take a mobile phone off the counter and call Alex.

c) Look at the phone and say you quit your job.

d) Listen to the traffic going through the Holland Park roundabout.

e) See a schoolgirl in uniform getting off a 94 bus.


a) Suck on the last piece of ice in your glass.

b) Breathe in deeply and rub your cock through your pocket.

c) Hear a horn blasting the schoolgirl across Shepherd's Bush Green.

d) Catch the scent of her white panties as she walks.

e) Hide behind a tree when she looks over her shoulder.


a) Listen to the schoolgirl calling to you on Goldhawk Road.

b) Inhale her vanilla perfume as she turns down an alley.

c) Grab her hair and kiss her mouth until she resists.

d) Push her to her knees and pull out your cock.

e) Squeeze her throat and fuck her hard in the mouth.


a) Lick your lips then hear footsteps coming down the alley.

b) Glance around realizing your cock has left the schoolgirl's mouth.

c) Smell garbage as the schoolgirl's head hits a brick wall.

d) Catch a taste of her panties as she slumps down.

e) Watch the come spurt from your cock onto her legs.


To stop this novel occurring from this motel room is impossible. I go with a girl. We meet a boy. There is sexual intercourse with glass on the floor in a broken pharmacy. A police officer discovers my dead body in the back of a stolen van. The police officer shoots at my dead body. The girl is driving the van. I want to murder the boy. But I think it would be easier to murder the girl. So I try to murder the girl, even though I am already dead, and the boy throws me onto the road. That is the end of this novel.
I leave my father’s remains in a glass case at a strip club and catch a flight to London, shouting drunken methods in an Indonesian bar during a layover on the way, or when I get to Europe in a hostel somewhere east of Prague, where the owner says medicine rather than method has been inserted into your writing. It is no remedy, I reply, and orgasmic childhood psychosis is not self-deception, but if stopped and ordered to ask, alcohol is a plausible ruse for coping with life, and anyway this novel is stronger than medicine because of the heart images formed through fictional masturbation. When the owner asks me to pay, I tell him my money to get high will come from the directors of several multinational companies who intentionally republish this novel in its current unrecognisable form.
London summer is a bone-hot tombstone deceased under where I walk. I arrive as a prostitute accompanied by internet instructions about illegal student immigration. Anyone speaking natural English will confuse the authorities. Language draws up substances lacking actuality, and desire is more easily pursued with confidence when you can blend into the crowd. I work in an ex-curtain factory on Uxbridge Road. I stand in a corner of Shepherd’s Bush Green. A mysterious telephone call on an abrupt slow night possesses enough doubt to deceive what guides me. Her shoes. Her husband. The absence of a pulse. At a sewerage plant, near where they used to make cars, I walk across rusted pipes churning out shit and mulched up paper and enter an abandoned factory converted into apartments now derelict and possibly being used as some kind of theatrical space. I join what appears to be the audience participating in an unrealistic performance of a courtroom situation until my attention implodes and I slink under the floorboards. Other things happen after that. I become another person completely.
I find a young boy in the afternoon, question him about this novel, and discover raw materials and other things without explanation verified control processes or selective systems. I hit the boy with destructive intensity when he is through the door into this motel room. It is impossible for him to recognise me because I am wearing a ski mask. My voice is calmness maintained in a bubble of everything. He tells me he works at a slaughterhouse and plays drums in a heavy metal cover band. He thinks he is a traveller of existence. His arms are virtual reality assembled. I sit his senses next to mine and make my arms part of him watching murder masturbation fear movies. I know I need this boy but I do not know why I need him. He is concerned about things without being. I recognise that meaninglessness. I feel that meaninglessness. I laugh at his secrets. This cruel agony is worse than murder. I clamp his wrists and overwhelm him. I tighten a USB cable around his neck and slit his throat. He cries at the sight of his own blood. I think he understands a number of sounds, perhaps four or five, but no more words. I push acid into his beautiful face. His terrestrial body enters into other conditions. I fill him with morphine and do not give him water. He wakes up. He dies. Perhaps he does not do anything. It is late. I stick needles into the boy and then inject myself with his blood and consciousness. The air deviates near the surface as I shake the semen from my penis into his mouth. I enjoy his body. I play with his body until he wakes up. I dig a hole somewhere through him using my tongue as a shovel. Queer words gush through us in feverish waves like atomic ash, small things brimming with sickness and remote psychological pride. I remember his shoulders in the moonlight, and the smell of his hair. I am looking at the Gulf War on a screen at Bangkok airport. I return to Phnom Penh and then Hiroshima. I paddle in a swimming pool and receive some unnamed but highly contagious genital infection. A metal dropper syringes infected blood out of my vagina. I am in absolute confusion. I can feel my stump, and my stump can feel me.
The two columns my stump scratches in the dirt represent extreme internal division and double-letter fascination processing that helps overcome official helplessness. I suspect I am waiting in some tropical mushroom district with my belt chewed up and my pants falling down, but this might just be the only recognition my senses make possible. Misunderstanding actuality is a conceptual formation disturbance I frequently use for self-protection from other hallucinations. This modification of feelings results in compressed sensitiveness and loss of other things. I am my own specimen under a pin. I want to kidnap 21 identical backpackers and turn them into zombies, or convince them they have been turned into zombies, or self-administer and convince myself I have been turned into a zombie. Perhaps I have brain damage, a severe head injury, defective evolution intelligence, or something settling outside chronic differential diagnosis. Maybe everything here is being written while I force cavity sexual intercourse without a condom on a body entirely asleep, on this bed, in this motel room, and a body entirely asleep forces cavity sexual intercourse without a condom on my body entirely asleep, on this bed, in this motel room, simultaneously, in a chokehold, for at least three or four years, and this is an escape attempt, from us, from me, from this bed, from this motel room, moving literally from nonexistent template to private document to novel.
I have not read this novel. I do not read novels. That is neither a defence nor an explanation. The walls of this motel room roll repeatedly. They merge front and back until there is nothing like mysterious disclosure but crude navigation and perplexity. Disjointedness seems to be an extensive internal behaviour that is impossible to describe through paragraphs and sentences. Being remotely integrated is an illusion supported by the same economy and social politics that makes the left hand a traitor. Perhaps I am dying from gangrene in this motel room after getting my limbs amputated in a cheap clinic in a foreign country. I think I would like to complete this novel before I die. I am trying to rearrange the most important details. The deformed results are guaranteed to bring bankruptcy. I wave my stump at the screens around my bed and confuse the thoughts passing through my brain with the conceptual regurgitation appearing in front of my eyes. I believe I am in a motel room dying from gangrene. I ejaculate excessively.
My doctor gives me insufficient medicine and no sexual relief. He tells me to take out the stitches quickly in order to ensure the scars remain. He recommends sleeping on a trampoline in the garden outside this motel room to avoid visibility. I consider his advice for some time but instead decide to install infected foreign objects into my body. I finger the edge of the scars and open the gauze, several years earlier, infected, returning to this motel room. I tell my doctor power pushed back overtakes time, and your days are numbered. He says this novel clearly demonstrates immature emotionality assimilation and orgiastic self-centeredness. I say each sentence here travels in a straight line and each word in each straight line is a person shunted from a truck into a gas chamber before gathering on the other side of some metaphorical slaughterhouse. He asks to meet my parents. He speaks to them in private before we sit down together. He says there should really be an empty chair in this motel room for my mother’s silent pain.
In order to feel thought as an abnormal mutation written in the mind of an underage girl, I cut off my voice and drift into agreement repetition. I turn in circles, blonde hair, and a tight body, trying to control my enthusiasm, hide it, searching through foundation appearance hallucinations. I lower my panties and show my vagina under the stairway outside this motel room. Someone licks my scars. Someone licks my vagina. My clitoris is the size of an egg. My dildo is a large mushroom. I experience transcendence during my first orgasm. The shock to my vagina is fast and strong. There is an explosion. Fire. I know what to do. I set up fake websites to pursue backpackers. The websites generate rape hallucination fantasies and hardcore back-story devices. I use chloroform and make love to the backpackers I find. They have a natural craving for chloroform. They move around with free will, separated from their limbs. I collect profiles of their friends. I obtain IP addresses and passport images. I know they are not truly the people they are trying to be. Most have been infected by forgery, fraud, and sarcasm. My imagination accumulates facts. I make bombs. They explode. I imagine being part of the lunar surface landing and the World Trade Center collision at the same time. My eyes discover a host of plural transcendental beings living excessively in the darkness surrounding the motel room inside this motel room. They appear in order to rearrange the words pouring from these screens before I can read them. Their fingers come away incandescent from the light cast through the slats in these paragraphs, prickling as thick as carpet, images traced to somewhere else, slipping in and out of consciousness.
Every morning, I come round slowly and want something exciting to do, some morbid thing, some morbid experience. I call a female dancer. She dances for me sexily. We do some functionality games. I lick a little smooth skin and hair. She removes her panties and that magical box gets wet. Something else happens, or develops, or it translates into a first indication without there being words, a meta-image that expresses this moment. Her beauty torments me before having sexual intercourse with her. She tastes gorgeous. We take a shower together. She does not speak English greatly. Because she cannot be a fisherman, her father sells her to a pimp. She goes to school in a third-world ex-colonial museum that breaks her appearance and convinces her to move into a furniture store with her abusive uncle. She sets fire to the furniture store and sends one side of herself to London. She tells me she cannot sleep. She curls up on my pillow. I try to get her to watch at least two screens at the same time. I find it difficult to breathe. I am worried about the blood clotting in my penis. I must be restricted to the night. Her uncle visits the motel room inside this motel room in a schoolgirl uniform. She has not fallen asleep completely. I make her half-eyed awake and tell her about her uncle’s visit. She pushes me away and I punch her in the face. Her body trembles with fear, but it cannot move. She cannot protect herself. I chop her soft leather skin. She is in a white bikini on a beach with her parents. I look at the waves entering and leaving, rolling over her body. She is playing with her sister. I think about tightening a rope around my own neck. I know more trouble will come, guilt and shame, and the insect power of existence, but the ecstasy shock of two virgin bodies rubbing against each other on the same beach as a thousand corpses is the only thing that I can call love.
A corpse must possess some internal relationship power with the being who hides inside that dead shell. I believe the sounds coming from my mouth are from a lobotomised girl. Listening to her moan is like feeling crushed sugar and honey in my hands. I look at myself as this young girl in the shower. She has a beautiful gymnast’s body. She comes to the motel room inside this motel room and we have sexual intercourse. I supply her with unlimited medicine. Between literature classes at university, she goes back and forth anywhere. She finds a dog-eared first edition of this novel and gives it to me as a gift. I experiment with writing on her panties and instruct her to film herself reading this novel in front of her boyfriend. I inhale the show from an open window. I suffocate her with a USB cable. I have sexual intercourse with her before she dies. I have sexual intercourse with her after she is dead. I handcuff her, transfer my penis to her throat, and push hard. Her organs offer further truths about dialectic appearances, objective real-time hallucinations, and the bonds that mediate our relationships. They tell me depression and suicide are a vision of things to come, and only murder can alleviate the loneliness of a troubled childhood.
The map of modification and stability in this novel is assembled in the place it is written. Concentric circles pull the map into parallel lines disappearing from the visual adrenal cortex. I kidnap a boy, have sexual intercourse with him, and torment myself with the memory of that act, restricted to this motel room, writing this novel concerning these things. Another obscure boy enters my imagination. I turn around. The boy inserts his penis into my anus, a hand on my hip, and we come simultaneously. I find this boy at Hammersmith bus station. I use chloroform of course. He stumbles to one side. He wobbles and continues to wobble. His hips are in the mud. He looks like a very thin girl who works at Shepherd’s Bush market. I think they are related. My impulses for and against incest are normal. But whenever the victim is a child, the riff to violate this libidinal rejoicing becomes desperately hard to withstand. Several plural transcendental beings follow us to this motel room. Some of them invent paedophilic insults. I disperse the boy’s clothing and torment his formless genitals with medical equipment. I push his knees under his jaw. I feel dissatisfaction. I chop him up. I attack him with a screwdriver that represents my atrophied penis. When I eventually get hard enough to rape him, perhaps as a boy myself, who is broken in part by the disappearance of existence, my thoughts concerning who I am depart from language and enter future abstract spatial concerns. Instead of smashing my leg in a motorcycle collision, I become a dancer. My brother finds me on television. We have been divided since childhood when our parents got divorced. I never meet my father until after he dies of cancer. I burn my father’s body. He possesses beautiful yakuza tattoos.


a) Hear the beat moving and vibrating down through your intestines.

b) Squint at a glitter ball reflecting racks of colored light.

c) Taste sulphur and sweat that has dried and come back.

d) Watch people talking and laughing crowded around tables and booths.

e) Feel the music circling through your ass and your cunt.


a) Notice a man and a woman dancing on a stage.

b) Look at the woman sucking on the man's soft cock.

c) See yourself in a mirror tied up to a pole.

d) Watch the man trying to fuck the woman from behind.

e) Bite at and chew on the material covering your mouth.


a) Watch the man spraying his cock to get it hard.

b) Try to squeeze your hands out of some wrist straps.

c) Look at the woman grabbing and pulling the man’s hair.

d) Clutch onto the pole and try to yank it out.

e) See the man throwing the woman down on her back.


a) Twist the wrist straps around until your hands are numb.

b) Look at the man pissing on the woman's shaved head.

c) See the woman scratching and then punching the man’s face.

d) Watch the man strangle the woman until she goes limp.

e) Look at the man wanking and coming on the woman.


a) Choke yourself jerking forward on the strap around your neck.

b) Gag on the vomit back-washed through your mouth and nose.

c) Feel and hear the screams coming out of your throat.

d) Watch people talking and laughing crowded around tables and booths.

e) Close your eyes and fade into the music guiding you.


a) Hear the music stop and see the lights go down.

b) Track a spotlight and listen to a voice saying welcome.

c) Feel yourself being lowered into a chair with leg stirrups.

d) Listen to the voice explaining there are only two contestants.

e) Hear the voice saying the first to come inside wins.


a) Reach past the spotlight to a crack in the wall.

b) Feel the crack move as the voice introduces the champion.

c) Listen to the champion strutting around the stage and clapping.

d) Look at people trying to order drinks at a bar.

e) See an assistant grabbing and dragging me onto the stage.


a) Hear the assistant pinning me down and removing my clothes.

b) See the champion inspecting me through the mirror on stage.

c) Watch the champion wanking his cock and punching my face.

d) Look at the champion picking me up in the air.

e) Feel the champion slapping his cock up against your cunt.

a) Listen to me crying as I wank over your reflection.

b) Tell me you want only my cock inside your cunt.

c) Feel the champion’s spit hitting your face and your breasts.

d) Look at your body wasted from drugs in the mirror.

e) Wince each time the champion punches me in the head.


a) See the champion laughing and throwing me through the mirror.

b) Listen to me wanking my soft cock on the floor.

c) Feel the champion kicking your stomach and then choking you.

d) Watch me trying to get up but then falling down.

e) Notice your heart throbbing when you see me standing up.


a) Hear the champion jump on me and fuck my ass.

b) Feel a gust and realize your left arm has gone.

c) Listen to me wanking my cock covered in your blood.

d) Watch the champion rubbing your cunt secretions on my face.

e) Feel another gust and realize your right arm has gone.


a) Taste some morphine and see an assistant slapping your cheeks.

b) Look at the blood spurting out from your left hip.

c) Hear the champion sticking his cock into my droopy mouth.

d) Watch me bite the champion’s cock and swipe his feet.

e) Notice some people below the stage glancing up at us.


a) Look at me picking up a piece of broken mirror.

b) Watch me stabbing the champion in the face and neck.

c) Feel the champion’s full weight collapse on top of you.

d) Listen to an assistant dragging the champion behind the stage.

e) See a different assistant inspecting your cunt with his tongue.


a) Hear music blasting from speakers and then see lights spinning.

b) Watch me escape from the assistant who was holding me.

c) Feel my cock throbbing hard as I pump your cunt.

d) Taste the come spurting from my cock into your uterus.

e) Sense the come travelling up inside and around your body.


a) Gaze at your headless and amputated torso on the stage.

b) Drift to the rooftop and breathe in the midnight air.

c) Feel the neon warmth of Bangkok Hong Kong Shanghai Tokyo.

d) Hear an airplane taking off and rumbling through the sky.

e) Catch your silhouette looking out from one of the windows.

Paul thought he had suffered a fatal brain injury but felt like he had entered a new reality and was experiencing everything for the first time. He predicted what he was going to see before he opened his eyes. There would be palm trees and seagulls and the ocean swelling along the same beach he had seen a million times before. But everything would be totally different. He felt calmer and more in control than he had ever felt in his life. The oscillating binaries of pain and desire had gone. His head had been wiped clear. The tide seemed to be connected to his breathing in an unselfconscious way. He doubted he could move even if he wanted to. He expected to be paralyzed at least.
- - - - -  When Paul looked at the road, time became unstuck and hurtled back into the present. He watched the van swerving away from him before it straightened up and settled into a comfortable pace. He could just make out Robert and Lucy huddled together through the dusty curtain across the back window and he held onto that image for a long as he could. He told himself it didn't bother him that they were together. It seemed to represent the correct order of things.
A road train coming from the mines in the desert ploughed head-on into the van. The impact ripped a hole through this new reality. The van crumpled and flipped into the air before landing on its side. A door came spinning off the van and skidded into a ditch covered with long dry grass. Everything went silent for a second after the crash then returned louder than before. Dragging sound out of every object present, the road train kept going. Paul stepped back as it lumbered past. The driver was focused straight ahead on something far beyond this plane of existence. The van was motionless. No one climbed out from the hole where the door used to be. The heat shimmered everything into a mirage.
 Paul smashed a bottle on a sewerage pipe. He gripped the neck of the broken bottle in one hand and his cock in the other. He staggered along the beach, stabbing the bottle at his chest and wanking his cock until it got hard. When he was about to come he shuddered to his knees and hacked into his cock with the broken bottle. The glass got halfway through and the come spurted out along with the blood. Ecstatic under the influence of the chemicals shooting through his body, and determined to enact their conclusion, Paul hacked the glass through the rest of the flesh until the whole thing came away.
- - - - -  After standing up and walking a few more steps, Paul looked back at the discarded lump of flesh lying there but couldn't comprehend that it had ever been connected to his body. It resembled a dead sea-creature washed up on the tide rather than the rare delicacy he once believed it to be, but of course those two analogies amounted to the same thing in the end. Paul felt voices somewhere in his head and realized the voices were telling him to keep going. The blood now pumping from where his cock used to be turned into flames between his fingers. He stared into the flames until he couldn't see or feel anything. His body became pieces of cinema film, burnt up and melted as he collapsed into the sand.

Elizabeth Mikesch - a subversive text of lingual dissonance in which vocality precedes sense-making operations. Its phonics disrupt narrative through syntactical atonalities

Elizabeth Mikesch, NICETIES: Aural Ardor, Pardon MeCalamari Press, 2014.

“If you’re weary of mild, obedient prose, try plunging into the pages of Elizabeth Mikesch’s exuberant debut. This book is witchcraft: stories refreshingly loosely translated from the real by a mind that moves on its own.”  —Noy Holland

“It will hardly do the trick to say that NICETIES is a breath of fresh air. In Elizabeth Mikesch’s compressedly melodious prose, a reader inhales purifying drafts of something entirely unexpected in these literary dog days—not some novelty intoxicant concocted as a careerist stunt but some rarer ether releasing itself at long last into the world to dazzle, yes, but also to clarify so much of what we had never dreamed clarifiable about the ecstasy of our human mess.”  - Gary Lutz

“What the fiction that is Elizabeth Mikesch’s knows is more than what most other fiction knows. Mikesch makes in ways that makes speech both impossible to say and impossible not to say. Oh but to say it sayingly. Her way of saying is one in which speech comes before meaning and meaning is best left to the music—makers among us. The music, in Mikesch’s hands, is a musicality that makes the entire body into an ear. Listen, listen, and be changed.” —Peter Markus

'Niceties debuts today and pokes a hole in the coma of language. The tired factions, lyric versus experience, this tribal cliché, mellifluous pretension, or language generating language, assaulted usually converse by the plain and sneering, story time, popped out of their tepid beers now by a handier relic, just got outmoded – combined to hurt itself inside a voice both beyond and including narration, the personal event broken to the heart’s proper arrhythmia. A flaying can still be vulnerable even if it takes you with it. The sobriety of our times cannot support this book because the general crusade has been swatted operatic. Anything without khakis is giggled about in these great plots for safety so-called artists use to call themselves important. How much precedence might ones pellet-sized message keep in the face of such wrought mystic twirling up the bowel meant for silence? Don’t fret. Mikesch is here to kick you out of your crib and flout the world that hasn’t started. Think those loops Markus swerves us through tied up in a Finnish peninsular whelp, with an elbow caught between each breath, the chorus tapping out a feel good suicide. I don’t want beauty unless it’s clawing me permanent.' -- Sean Kilpatrick

From the very first sentence of Niceties, Elizabeth Mikesch’s first book, you know you’re in for something Beckettian: “Would we say that we would go a ways to the place of the one who we could never name?” Among those who talk about the music of a sentence, there are at least two kinds: those who like the music to do all the work, to the point where you’re like, “Please, kill me, I want to hear no more,” and those, like Mikesch, for whom the music is just a cover for what is more like a series of hundreds of eruptions, one after another.
Like Diane Williams and Noy Holland, here is a person who can take any sort of world and make it work. Whether it’s the complex image of a dad telling his daughter it’s time to shave her vagina, or kids picking lice out of each other’s hair, the context is like a gel—a thing in and of itself rather than described or played out for entertainment.
The subject matter floods past in currents that run deep as any corridor. “I got robbed,” one narrator mentions sidelong, before taking her roommate to task in the next sentence for leaving her panties all over the place, and then in the next to mentioning how she keeps a bunch of knives beside her bed. There is no whimsy here: Each paragraph is a slab of wicked meat. You might have only 87 pages, but each is worth at least a couple other volumes, and even if you’re not sure where you ended up it still keeps tingling, like getting a hex put on you. Or sleeping with a Ouija board. - Blake Butler

Calamari Press is also known for such titles as The Night I Dropped Shakespeare on the Cat. Talking about his own work, author John Olson compared his writing experience to “the relief of the man who falls from a high cliff only to discover he’s been dreaming”. A relief indeed. Such subconscious forays take on a sordidly urban feel in Nicities. Also published by Calamari, but written by Elizabeth Mikesch, Nicities is a stream of consciousness narrative that, like a naughty child, does whatever the hell it wants. Reading it is a little like watching someone gorge themselves on chocolate, or get laid, or whatever else takes their fancy while you watch, hole-bluthered (gob-smacked) from the other side of the page. It’s exciting, in a crack-cocaine sort of way, and many of the (fathomable) descriptions in the book’s 87 pages surprise you with their ugly beauty and dead vigour. ‘The women there are spindly, thickly liquored,” writes Mikesch, ‘There are things she has to do: get home on the train to her place where the rain fell and wet her daybed’s daisied throw, the place where the kid shits.’
Any Cop?: It sort of takes your breath away, but if you don’t like the idea of showering with the monkeys, or wallowing in urban decay then you’d better stick to Jane Austen. - Bookmunch

Transcripted:  Yea…I used to…I could, I could swim really young and I grew up...um…I grew up in the U.P. and my family had a cabin. They called it the camp: the camp (accent). My great granpa built it. It used to have an outhouse. It was really...rustic...you know...and the water is perfect there. It’s never too cold and never too warm and the mud isn’t rocky, it’s like really smooth, it’s like stepping on cake or something and I used to stay in the water all day. I would wake up in the morning. I would stay out there until dinner...but, yea, I would do handstands and somersaults and the...sensation stays with me forever. I still do it if I go up there.
When I was little – oh! Here’s a story. This is a bad story about childhood. When I was little, I was swimming...and there was a little boy on the dock...and he was playing, um, with a...fishing pole…and he caught me in the eye...and so I had to go to the emergency room ‘cause I had a big, a big cut by the tear duct…and…I remember when I looked at my eye it was crusty...crispily...I was...I got caught like a fish.
Things were just kind of bopping along with him and then I showed him something that had already been published and he just tore it apart. And this is after hours or before class he would have people meet sometimes if they wanted more one on one attention and I had never done it and I was like well you know, why not, because I felt like in class I wasn’t really...I, I don’t know...I didn’t know what was going on. I was in a...I was delirious a little bit. Yea, I showed him and he read through a few sentences and he, he said something like: what have you ever done in your life of consequence? How old are you? I told him that, that I, I was suicidal and he...he kind of scoffed and he was being harsh and he said oh so, so there’s, there’s a murderer inside you and you have homicidal tendencies, well, that’s what I should be reading, things like that...and I started crying and he said: oh, don’t cry, cry about it. And I left...I went to the eighth floor which is where people had space to...it’s kind of like an office where you can go to write, it’s really quiet there. I went up there and I just started sobbing and there were people from class just. They got it. They knew something went down...I was living in New York, not really knowing anybody. So, I was like: why did I do this, why did I come here, I don’t belong here, I’m not smart, I have no talent, I’m an idiot, I’m like five years old, what am I possibly going to get out of this, how am I gonna, you know, there’s no point in doing anything...creative ever because it’s just, everyone’s bad, and, he really wants you...it’s not...I think that it gets misread, like he. It’s not that he wants you to feel bad. It’s that he wants you to rise up and be amazing. That’s what he’s looking for. He’s looking for something insane and something, something, that nobody could fake.
(Addressing random child, song-lilt, most beautiful voice): Hii! What are youu doing? - Interview by Sean Kilpatrick

My Ex Boyfriend Came to Me in a Dream and Told Me Everything I Had Must Fit into a Shoe Rack Inside of His Car: A Conversation with Elizabeth Mikesch

“Under Doors of Foreigners” (from Niceties)

What I don’t know about a house is which dream I will have sleeping inside of its strange beds, above its pallets when I am guest again.
I know that my mother made French fries for father at four a.m. in her mother’s house, and it made her mother’s house burn down. She fell asleep and the grease burned up even the family photos.
I know there are houses I have slept in where I’ve been bitten by spiders for closing my eyes. People eat spiders in their sleep every year they say. I think that’s why I am always sleepy but never can. I also think a house can have a room that is so much of one person that you know them now so much you will finally sleep after all. Sometimes somebody wants you to be the room they fall asleep in so much that you never will.
I slept in a foreigner bed once, a mother and father’s. They had two huge crosses above their headboard. I had a new tattoo. Their son laughed at my arm during dinner but covered his mouth. I didn’t give more than one word before bed. Above where he slept, he had pictures of pigtailed girls and, too, of cartoons. I didn’t understand the soap there, but I wanted to wash around where I started to sweat. I was scared about the ink, and there were so many bloody statues that I stayed awake feeling their marriage all over me.
There were gold-framed photos of their loved ones on either side protecting them. I wrapped my arm in a scarf and watched until the son woke up.


In a cellar, I lived with a man who was humungous. He was a freak when he grew tall young, he said. His knees had bone chips in them. This is why he had a hobble. I had stayed very tiny, which he liked and had listed as his number one must-have in the ad about whom he would like to move in.

The walls where we lived were stone. The first time I saw the cellar, I followed him scuffing. He prickled at the click of my shoe.

Pick up your feet.

I hate to make a person mad. I tugged them off and climbed on his bed. I stood on his mattress above bricks to see how fucked of a slant.

Our bed was Siamesed.

My size made the most room for the both of us. We shared covers, which sometimes I stole. He never got mad about that. We slept in shifts. The part where we would switch who slept, our lapse, was when we would lie down beside one another to sleep through the droughts of no dreams. I blew out the nightlight after I ate soup in bed, from cold cans. I liked to turn my back to him and feel him there. I liked him breathing in the dark closer by than when he went to his side.

He wanted to know if I was staying once I had been there for a while. Mostly, I said to him softly, That may be.

I would count tiles. Spiders chomped at our might. Choruses inside me shucked corn. Sheet stains stayed awake with us looking up.

I adored the encrusted forks—I’d have to clean up after the two of us, after we deserted our pannukakku.

They made it from the place I came from with a bay and a county song for when there was no snow. Where we lived, we would sing through the radio out an old call for the patron saint of precipitation. I found I never summoned her now. When the sky leaked through the cracks once in awhile in our home, I felt something like batter without the leavening.

Here is a secret: I do care for being bundled, which was the draw for me living underground, where it is meant to stay cold. I like kindling. I love to be spun.

In the kitchen in the dark before there is sun, it is me in the sink at the bakery where I make ends. The baker comes in after I slashed my batard. Our refrigerator hums low along to what we do like a little grandmother.

The sheets account for the way we sit still and fuss our lips over cups. When I piss, I flip the fan, so I consider the sinkspout without hearing his sneezing. Then, I try to remember my dreams when I open my eyes.

Once before sleep, he said a doctor called his heart too large as a boy. It seemed he had said I know how I need. He told me if I found him to not leave the sheets on our bed.

I could not imagine being responsible for digging open the earth.

Cardamom is the name of the spice in the bread I braid. I bake in the night for work. I bleach the spice out of my nylons on my breaks: the mildewed roux.

In life, I am the queen, yes, in charge of anything having to do with foods. I make us ham sandwiches, the lettuce limply bowed out.

I want to make myself up to the daylight somehow. The way I lived, there was our sleeping and yeasts from the breads. There were not too many nights where I felt something final. I got frightened to think this would be the way. I thought about eating only onions I had grown down below, the occasional rutabaga. I thought I am tired of candelabra.

His moustache fell into the sink one morning and, worried, I dabbed at the fixture once he left to clean homes. He asked me to bite him until the bruises left yellow highlighter where his arms felt numb.

I once saw someone take a nail to a person.

When he turned over in bed, I had private thoughts about a room.

It was, after all, an agreement, I said to him through space. I saw just his back, but his light was kept on long after dawn. I was afraid to turn it off.

Melissa Broder - Every airplane is sleep.I point my finger at a jetliner to rest my eye. Boys smell holes in a neon blue banner I keep in my wallet. The banner says RELAX GOD IS IN CHARGE. Stephen Dedalus you are never on my mind. You come to my island and I am the island. You are well-traveled but that is arid.

Melissa Broder, Scarecrone, Publishing Genius Press, 2014.



Melissa Broder’s

In her third collection, Broder (Meat Heart) manages to conjure a psychic realm best described as one part twisted funhouse and two parts Catholic school, heavy on libido and with a dash of magick. This gritty, cherry soda–black book, where Broder “distorted all the mirrors/ in mucus, oil and blood,” is bizarrely sexy in its monstrousness. “There is no need to be pink when another woman is already pink,” she states, and her poems reject feminine frills, choosing instead to dig into the body’s dark spaces for something beyond the corporeal: “I cried/ because my body/ was not waterlogged enough/ to fall right off the bone.” She reduces the female form to its negative space; holes or mouths hungering to be filled or stuffed: “I ate/ the world and I ate/ the world. It tasted like bandage.” When she is frank, her self-criticism is arresting and comes closest to revealing what she seems to be digging at: “I have wanted/ many unfair things/ What is most unfair/ is that the Earth is still okay/ with me being here/ I think, and even/ encourages it.” One must be careful about what’s filling these wants and spaces, Broder writes, “because/ you shouldn’t just fill one space/ with the unclarity of another.” - Publishers Weekly

If you’ve ever read Melissa Broder, or if you follow her on Twitter, you know her spirit is entrenched somewhere halfway between the club and the void. There’s an odd balance of metaphysical transcendence and material bling-brain to quite a number of her lines, and she is unafraid to have her idea of God bump shoulders with both blood and Tumblr.
Broder says shit like: “Nobody bleeds white like I bleed white / Into a ditch the shadow of my bloodbag is white / I want a darker aura, like I want to be gorgeous.” There’s a weird brand of inner loathing mashed with inner haunting lurking here, but what I like best about Broder, oddly, is her morality. As coal-black as her imagery gets, and as overriding as the sadness in her ongoing personal desolation might be, there is an unrelenting sense that there’s a reason for it. That humans, perhaps, carry hell because they are hell, and that really the self is just a vessel toward something no one really has a name for.
That Broder wields this, and isn’t just pumping out poems full of wry cartoon loathing and social exuberance, shifts the center of the book not onto the self but onto something larger, undefined. I don’t know what a book is if not a latch to elsewhere, and Scarecrone has pressed its skull against the hidden door. It is neither drunk nor ecstatic to be here—it is a state unto itself. - Blake Butler


My wings are made of garbage
At least they can be touched
I want you I want you
Especially the old and ugly
Take these bottles of soda
And tubes of cherry lipstick

These are my demon breakfast

And my red red hooves

It is better to be satan

With half-trash filling

Than try to stuff your holes with clouds
Lacerating on your nails

I once stuffed my holes with halos

Until honey dripped down

The honey smelled like village women

Full of want and feces

Village women screaming out for anything alive
I shut them up with jars of eye cream

And a plastic head

I gave them eggs of pantyhose

And a melting cathedral

I gave them black snakeskins

And menstrual sponges

I gave them sainted men

With semisoft dicks

Making it hard

To feel totally fucked

Every time a new book comes out from Publishing Genius, the author is interviewed by the author of the previous PGP book. I’m pleased to present a bunch of questions that Edward Mullany (author of Figures for an Apocalypse) posed to Melissa Broder (author of SCARECRONE). —Adam Robinson
EDWARD: Can you talk about the figure of the “Scarecrone” as she relates to your book as a whole? What is her significance? 
MELISSA: The Scarecrone personifies my fears around time, death, and the loss of physical beauty / sexual desirability. She is a dry succubus, a cautionary tale of the inevitable and the perceived inevitable. She is a mirage. But she is a powerful mirage. She is dangerous in her unreality. She may have something wise to teach. On a social level, one might say she is the ghosts of discarded women in a culture obsessed with youth, though this book doesn’t really fuck with culture, because I don’t really fuck with culture. I fuck with me, mostly, and my own obsession with youth. I fuck with time. I fuck with fucking. Also death.
To your mind, is the difference between “the inevitable and the perceived inevitable” a significant one? What is that difference?
I made the distinction here, because death is (historically) inevitable, whereas time’s slow, cruel drain on my worth as a human being is a perceived inevitability. Where did I get this fear that to grow old is to become worthless? Did I get it from culture? From my mother? From nature? It isn’t a truth in the way that death is a truth. And intellectually, I know it’s not a truth at all. But to me, on a visceral level, it’s a very real fear. And it dictates a lot of my actions. And I can probably make it true if I believe it enough, or at least I can will my own misery. So I guess I’d say that the inevitable and the perceived inevitable are different, but that one’s reality and one’s perceived reality are the same.
You mention that the Scarecrone can be understood as a sort of succubus. Does this suggest that your poems are concerned as much with the supernatural, or spiritual, as they are with the physical? Or does it suggest something else?  
I tend to negate the value of the physical world and reach for realms of fantasy, the imagined, the spiritual. I think that’s because I’ve always found it difficult to live in a body and sought union with something bigger than me for relief. It’s that tension between soul and body that compels me to write poetry. If I could choose my ideal god it would be a god that protects me from pain, from people, from life–a god that makes me feel blissed 100% of the time. It would basically be heroin, except it wouldn’t be a false god, because I wouldn’t be dependent on anyone or anything for it. And I would never come down. And believe me when I say that I have tried to make many tangible things into this god. And believe me when I say that you always come down.  I mean, I have had a lot of those peak experiences in life–those ecstatic whoa moments that feel lotusy and like I imagined ‘spirituality’ would be.  I am a succubus for those moments. But I’ve found that even when they aren’t attached to a drug or a lover or a guru or X or Y,  they aren’t sustainable. But then there is this other kind of spirituality that is tangible, not as showy, the kind that works through people, action based, pause-based, stillness, quiet moments of gratitude for nothing, a not-reaching for glitter, a more Earthy spirituality, laughter. Its lack of glitter, its humanity, is counterintuitive to me. And it is exactly what I need. It has been instrumental in keeping me on the planet.
Sexual appetite, or need, is strong in the voices in your poems. Could you talk about this?
Yes. These are some horny poems. But is it a sexual need or is it spiritual/creative need disguised as sexual need? Are they the same? Is it both? I’m not sure. There are so many different kinds of holes to fill, not just physical. It’s a lot easier to try and plug those holes sexually than it is with stillness. Like who wouldn’t rather go to a beautiful face for solace than sit quietly? And maybe that’s ok. But at some point it’s going to hurt really badly. Because lovers don’t comply with fantasy. Reality doesn’t comply with fantasy. That sucks. That still surprises me. People aren’t infinite peace like the power is infinite peace, which ultimately, is what I am in it for. To be ok. To feel ok. So heartbreak comes. The heartbreak that is the death of a fantasy. But knowing this, having experienced this many times, I keep going there anyway. Maybe this time it will be god. And more want comes. And more pain comes. And then I surrender and grace comes and the poems come. And the poems are grace, pure grace, even if there are dicks in them. God likes when I am writing poems. And I know it’s god because the holes get filled and the poems don’t hurt me after. But then there is time. And I look away from the poems. And the holes empty again. And I want to fill them. And I want to fill them quickly. And I press repeat.
One of my favorite lines from your book is from the poem, “The Saint Francis Prayer Is A Tall Order”. The poem ends like this:
To be a saint is to be courageous
about the pursuit of what?
I have a pretty mouth.
Meet me at the black clock.
There is something provocative in this. But I’m not sure how to describe it without diminishing the poem’s complexity. Let me just say it puts me in mind of the William Blake line (from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell): “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”. Could you talk a little about this?
In terms of religion, I wasn’t raised to have any hangups or guilt about sex. So I don’t see spirituality and sexuality as warring forces in that sense. But in terms of an addiction model, I know that I am inclined to try and fill an insatiable longing (or holes, as I call them in my last answer) with glittery, tangible stuff. And sex is some of that glittery, tangible stuff. Sex for sex’s sake is beautiful. But for me, having sex to fill a bigger chasm usually only doubles the chasm. And sometimes I don’t care. I am willing to double the chasm if it means a temporary filling, or illusion of filling. And that’s what this poem is doing. It’s saying fuck it. Let’s fix now. Sate me.
What, to you, is an appealing characteristic of human beings?
A good sense of humor.
How would you characterize SCARECRONE’s relationship to your previous books? Do you see it as a progression? A departure? Something else?
The difference between the texts is definitely physical. MOTHER came from the head. It was syllabic and form-driven and clever. And I am so over clever. MEAT HEART was sort of a hybrid, where I took it out of the head and brought it deeper into the body. Maybe the heart, actually. SCARECRONE came from even deeper places, somewhere between the neck and the genitals, also the third eye and this place above the head. I’ve learned how to clear the channel. I’ve learned how to get out of my own way more. I’m still not great at that in life, but I’m happy with where my poetry is headed. The stuff I’ve written since SCARECRONE I feel like I don’t even want to use language anymore, just like burbles and whitespace or something.
I was watching a movie last night, and one of the characters, a film producer, said to his friend, in a conversation about casting, “Unhappy people can act well”. Because they were trying to decide who to give a role to, after an audition. And I’m just wondering what you think about that. If someone was to suggest to you that unhappiness is usually involved in the creation of art, what would you think, or say?
I act as though I believe that you don’t have to suffer to make art. Like, I take daily actions in my life to move towards the light, in spite of how I might feel or mistakes I make. Something in me really wants to live. But I will say that I am way more compelled to write poems when I don’t get what I think I want than when I do.- Interview by Edward Mullany

“Broder risks the divine … shrewd, funny, twisted, sad poems.”—The Chicago Tribune

“If you listen past the weird, you can hear all sorts of things: sadness, seriousness, life, death, and a whole lot of laughter … Broder is a tremendous talent.”—Flavorwire

“At the core of Broder’s poems is hunger, the drive to consume or destroy, an instinctual void as visceral as it is absurd.”—The Rumpus

“Melissa Broder performs a kind of literary augury few poets have the stamina for … Broder’s insight and honesty will make your brain light up and your hair stand on end.”—The Examiner

“Broder’s poems beam oracle energy. They pump a music of visions for the life-lusty death dance.”

Melissa Broder, Meat HeartPublishing Genius Press, 2012.

Don’t believe Melissa Broder when she writes, “I’m afraid / to say anything with heart.” This book is not afraid, as she proves right away and on every page, and that’s why we needed her to make it. A little dark, a little damaged, a little deranged, but definitely not afraid—and never short on the titular organ, which also acts as mouth and mind. The whole book pumps, and I swear some of what’s coming in and out are flashes of light that you can read it by.- Mark Bibbins

The speaker in Meat Heart is either an old-world witch or a contemporary warlock. That is to say, this speaker-being gallops through time making thrilling observations. There is a focus on meat, blood and food. The poems tear through the reader with a reassuring giggle, yet remain ominous. Broder writes, “I find a thighbone in his mattress / and think of friends gone missing.” She also writers “G-d loves my hair,” so we are reminded not to be overly frightened. To read Meat Heart is to consume, perish, murder, glitter, and prophesize. To say that Broder is fearless is not saying enough.- Natalie Lyalin

With her hallmark wit and brilliance, Melissa Broder has followed up her heralded When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother with Meat Heart, a book of poems that is at once apocalyptic, full of sorrow, and packed with images crystalline in their beauty and truth. In these poems, Broder takes us through a world that is both alien and familiar to the world that we already know, a wild landscape where there is “ash fish / and elemental octopi,” where “cornhusk filaments / Still jacket tongues,” and where in a place with “200 flavors of panic/the worst is seeing with no eyes.” All of these freakish things to help us confront the bald fact that we are all just a series of meat hearts ourselves. It is here that Broder shows her generosity as a poet, because she makes us a new world in these poems where we go beyond meat—a world where Broder tells us, “Somewhere I stopped looking for magic.” I guess she found all she needed; this book is full of magic.- Dorothea Lasky

Building on the foundation she laid in her lush and sneering debut, When You Say One Thing but Mean Your Mother, Broder's second collection cranks up the weird by mining the grotesqueries of her speakers' relationships with men, god, the self, and food. That these elements often become indistinguishable--as in "Ciao Manhattan," where "It is so god/ When the voice is like wheat// Spooned wheat/ In whole milk"--is evidence of Broder's talent for showing us our contemporary conflict: god is both a haven from the grotesque and the name we rail against when we aren't safe from it. But Broder is smarter than to suggest that there are only two sides to this dilemma. Out to "crucify boredom," her poems show us how any relationship with the divine is no less at risk of engendering grotesque lust. "Yesterday the worship rattled like an engine," she writes, and "God keeps unfurling me/ with god's gigantic helium." What makes Broder such a pleasure on the page is her insistence that these dramas play out on a workaday stage infused with surreal Pop and imaginative muscle. "When the last Beatle dies," she tells us in "Ringo," "the president hits a kill switch/ and all our possessions/ drift like eyelashes/ through a crack in the sky." In Broder's hands, it's good to kiss them good-bye.  -Publishers Weekly 
But it’s unsurprising that Broder should be responsible for poetry that shoves a live wire into the premise of its making. She’s run a reading series for years. She holds down a day job at one of the biggest book publishers in the world. She edits a fierce and lasting online literary magazine. She’s pursuing an MFA. She tweets like you wouldn’t believe. She backs other writers’ work, and her own is a force of exact and exuberant play. Her poems are made of worlds. Melissa walks the walk, and here, she talks the talk.
Peter Moysaenko Your poem “Blue Period” opens up, “I know / I am menaced / by art.” By what degrees might you say your writing practice figures as diversion or confrontation? And would you say the bulk of your writing practice eventually leads toward or ultimately centers around poetry?
Melissa Broder In “Blue Period” I imagine being attacked by classical pieces of visual art—like literally getting eaten by museums. I’m not really into the traditional museum experience, because as a kid it felt so oppressive. Adults tried to “culture” you with Mary Cassatt, but I just wanted to be in the cafeteria eating pudding. I felt like I was dissolving with ennui. That is a negative experience of disintegration. But on the flip side, there can be a very euphoric form of vanishing, which is what writing does. It validates the itch. It makes the itch worth something. And it gets me out of my “me-ness” enough to enjoy being on this planet, where I’ve never felt particularly at home. So I think my writing practice figures as an integration. By vanishing, it’s the wholest I can get.
I’d say most of my practice eventually leads toward poems. I’m pretty utilitarian for a fantasist. I keep a lot of scraps around—pages of hoarded nouns, half poems that never made it out alive. I don’t like seeing anything go to waste. A lot of my work is surgery, or alchemy—fusing salvageable lines together from dead poems or taking a journal entry and replacing any “me language” with nouns thefted from a home and garden statuary catalog (i.e. crypt, panther, sphinx). Poetry can grow out of anything.
PM You’ve mentioned, more than once, that you’re apt to write poems while in transit. I wonder, is such approach strictly a matter of convenience or expediency, or does your sense of poetics link firmly to such fleetingness?
MB I’m a perfectionist. A nice desk in a pretty room doesn’t work for me, because the expectation that IT’S TIME TO MAKE ART is too high. I have to outwit myself and act casual—to approach with a sense of play. That doesn’t mean I never get “serious.” It’s just a question of outrunning the shit-talker within. There’s something about writing on the subway, or while walking, that frees the subconscious. It’s sort of a rebellion thing, like, I’m not really supposed to be doing this here now. I should probably pay more attention to my surroundings. But I get really entranced by the work. And the utilitarian in me feels good to be using every moment productively.
PM What does a poem offer you that a song or a film or a painting or a sculpture or an industrial park or a skyscraper or a mattress or a rendered whatever can’t or doesn’t offer?
MB If I had an ear for music I’d be in a band for sure. Poetry is all I know how to do. It’s the tool I was given by something bigger than me, so I use it. I do love the intersection of mediums—where one informs another. Recently I’ve been using Tumblr image blogs to write ekphrastic pieces. Here is where I hoard images, many of which are NOT SAFE FOR AN OFFICE PARK.
PM Do you imagine that recent ventures to bring poems or poets into realms of film and video at all enhance poetry’s broadcast and influence?
MB Okay, so while I like ekphrastic poems or cinema-inspired poems, my favorite place to encounter a poem is still on a piece of nice paper. That being said, San Francisco poet and video artist D.W. Lichtenberg and I just did this sweet collaboration. I wrote like, what, 50 words? And he spent hours and hours making the animation, the original track.
PM I was recently reading about this high-end restaurant, housed in an American-owned hotel-casino complex in China, that keeps on staff a so-called poet whose job it is to compose personalized verse for VIP guests. Does this sort of kept-poet gig strike you as deeply perverse? Or does it seem no worse than, let’s say, a regimen of chasing grants and juggling adjunct teaching appointments?
MB That casino sounds nuts. I bet it’s crazy inspiring with its glitz and weirdness. I am visualizing a giant buffet with gold glitter sauce. But the poet doesn’t sound perverse enough. I am hoping the poet wears pasties with tassles, vintage Vegas style. That would definitely be preferable to teaching freshman comp. Actually, a friend of mine has been taking pole-dancing classes. The pole-dancing school made her sign an agreement that she would never do it for money. That’s kind of like adjuncting, right?
PM What’s a favorite noun of yours, common or proper? And can you think of a verb that trumps it?
MB My favorite noun is probably me. A verb that trumps it is surrender (can also be a noun).
PM Surveying trends in attire and grooming, as far as you’re concerned, what are some all-time fashion bungles? Bustles? Wooden clogs? Dressy cargo pants?
MB Honestly, I don’t think there can be a bungle if it’s on the right person. Adam Robinson, who runs Publishing Genius Press, has a sweatshirt covered in acorns that he makes look very chic.
PM So what’s the difference between style and art?
MB I don’t know. God?
PM Is the myth or reality of the doomed but brilliant poet—or, let’s say, the poète maudit—gone for good? And for the better?
MB Nah, as long as there are 16-year-old boys with angst and Moleskines the poète maudit lives on. And there’s something beautiful about that. We can rub our emo phases together and make a shared past. But I don’t romanticize the effect of substances on creativity anymore, because I can’t afford to. It stopped working for me.
I read this quote recently, something John Lennon said about the impact of drugs on The Beatles, and I found it interesting:
It’s like saying, “Did Dylan Thomas write Under Milk Wood on beer?” What does that have to do with it? The beer is to prevent the rest of the world from crowding in on you. The drugs are to prevent the rest of the world from crowding in on you. They don’t make you write any better. I never wrote any better stuff because I was on acid or not on acid."
I mean, I don’t think that tells the whole story. John said this in 1972, in hindsight, after the experiences had already been had. It’s like, Come on, John. Those experiences did expand your mind. They took you through another door—they showed you that other doors even exist. But you can definitely access some pretty trippy creative portals through meditation, art, other avenues. You really can. It’s way slower, but you get to keep it. Also, when you’re fucked up all your fresh ink looks genius. You fall in love with the crappiest shit. When you’re sober you know to give it some time before deciding what’s good.
PM I’m wondering, what do you make of faith—how might you describe the idea or experience of faith in relation to those of compulsion, mania, fear, shame? Does passion ultimately win out over reason?
MB I think faith is a muscle. You gotta work it. Mania, fear, and shame are doing push-ups right alongside it. And faith can definitely contain both passion and reason. Like, there are the occasional peak experiences, the moments of pure serenity or grace. I live for those, because I like highs. But then there’s the practice of it, which is quite—well—practical. Prayer, for example, is a very reasonable thing to do if it sustains you. If it works, do it—even if the only cosmos it affects is your brain.
- Interview by Peter Moysaenko

Melissa Broder, When You Say One Thing but You Mean Your Mother, Ampersand Books, 2010.

Who's the queen of kundalini bloopers, Emily Dickinson's attitude problem (that bitch) and California dreams? It's Melissa Broder, who will charm your pants off and show you a little tough love in this vivid, witty first collection of poems. Each poem is artisan-crafted in controlled couplets, weighty triplets, tight syllabics and assonance that will take the top of your head off. But you won't have the time to absorb the academic monkeyshine—so absorbed you'll be on the flip side of Bat Mitzvah stress-syndrome, Aunt Sheila's in Taos, vampires in absentia, and brand names, brand names, brand names. From junkie fetishism to a housewife with a special "thing" for laundry, Broder does dark with magnetic charisma and enchanting humor.

This debut from Broder, editor of the online poetry magazine La Petit Zine , and a publicist at Penguin, is as funny and hip as it is disturbing. Poems with titles like “Where Is Your Vampire” and “Not Quite Ready for the NRA” feature jumpy, accessible lines about love and lust in a drug- and media-fueled world. “You’re nobody,” Broder only half-sarcastically proclaims, “ ’til some sweet-faced junkie/ with a Dixie cup of juice// and methadone loves you/ more than his drugs.” These poems are also quirkily compassionate (“Faith is a muscle// like the rotator cuff./ After the matinee// she saved soiled tissues—/roses in her coat—//remember that sadness won’t make you explode”), sexy, and at times even gross: “I’m wearing sunglasses// in the supermarket,/ mourning follicular fallout,/ getting pus on all the towels.” Throughout, Broder searches for a place to stand, and for an object for her considerable sympathies. This is a bright and unusual debut. - Publishers Weekly

In her new book When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother (Ampersand Books, 2010), Melissa Broder performs a kind of literary augury few poets have the stamina for. Like Nikola Tesla’s 1896 experiment to illuminate freestanding light bulbs in a field to show that electricity could be conducted wirelessly, Broder transforms the bombardment of pop-propaganda that eventually leads most thinking human beings to at least one crisis of self, into a signal-beacon of lucidity. Where Tesla’s invisible force was electrodynamic induction, Broder’s could be called sociodynamic deduction: both have gone so far as to use their bodies as a conductor.
Consider these lines from Broder’s book: “Remember the drug dream you had/ in ’79 where New York City/ got silent sometimes? It died this evening./ Now there is a word for everything.
Like photos of Tesla, calmly scribbling in a notebook amid free-flying bolts of electricity, Broder plucks her language from contemporary psycho-social energies: a land of celebrity-rehab shows, unpredictable plate-tectonics, slap-happy kitchen devices and endless male enhancement innuendo-mercials. The voice of the psyche in Broder’s poems stands amid a whirlwind of fragments: the present, the past, “Hart Crane and Kurt Cobain,” the “shtetl and the seersucker suit,” “J.R. Ewing and Ted Berrigan,” polaroids and .jpgs, a paper doll with interchangeable hair on an LCD screen. How to navigate this bizarre no-body-land that nevertheless emphasizes we perfect our physicality at all costs?
The traditional channeling-ground of poets has been that crossroads between self and environment, but as we flit between the 3-dimensional and a virtual simulacrum of reality that is billed as somehow more “interactive,” it becomes less and less clear what solidity is. What of having a body, through which the cell-phone conversations of others are constantly pinging? Broder’s answers shift honestly, as frustration levels and tolerance dictate. At times she is devil-may-care: “Here we levitate the ghost/ of Liberace, stuffed on daiquiris./Plug me back in. I see how little/time we get. Even the slots men,/ whooping at sevens, are growing gray./ Let’s ask questions of ourselves and they’ll pay.” At others, bitterly mocking: “You could hug and dry hump/ and he’d show you how to shoot up/ movie myths under the Brooklyn Bridge.” Then frank and lyrically practical: “You can be a lily pond/ for poems to land on; if you live in the city/ be a parking spot.
The muscular, resilient, compassionate force behind When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother characterizes a new generation of poets who have cast off the safety net of simple repartée and are singing the current of lyric at contemporary warp speed: jamming and enjambing words and ideas together to form a new language, not for witticism’s sake, but because they have decided to claim this ultracontemporary language, harness and drive it in the direction of their choosing. Nature, now, is not dominated by the sound of horse hooves on cobbles (Whitman) or mountain streams (Wordsworth), nor is it the suitcase falling down stairs (Tennyson) or against the regular piston-grinding of the machine age (Langston Hughes, Marianne Moore), or Plath and Eliot’s echolocating shouts from within a post-war echo chamber, or Ginsberg’s capering, cyclic boil-overs: this poetry is otter-like, playful but with sharp teeth. It is peppered with the mottos and jingles and deeply conflicting info-feeds that every generation since the invention of television can relate to—the mental assault of being marketed to at every moment of every day from an increasing number of sources—visible and invisible. As Broder demonstrates, at this point our very bodies are conductors (or at the least obstacles) for our own relentless broadcasts: we are our own spaghetti-test: flung at the mirror, what will stick?
The result in this volume of poems is an inventive, restless ricochet between a cultural psyche at war with what it has been taught to idealize, and its bullshit-sensitive belly-mind. Broder’s insight and honesty will make your brain light up and your hair stand on end. - LJ Moore

 Whether describing the “warped pudding” of dried vomit or the downy lanugo of an anorexic, the loving ministrations of a mother over a sick child or the man who’ll soon “pet / your cloche until the flowers fall, / lick your little doll skull / to sunburn, a wolf in friendship...” Melissa Broder shows major chops. Here is a poet with a gift of gaze, able to look long and hard and deep at the world, then think just as hard, churning near-perfect lines out of her observations, telling stories, in this book, about both coasts, from pure childhood to the angled hipster present in a narrative voice that is charming, disarming, and instantly addictive, hitting the pitch for tough, sexy, funny, sad, and wise, often all together, and in harmony.
It’s the range as well as the rhythm that makes this book, how Broder can shift, with ease, from the interior world of “field hockey fillies / and cotillion colts” to that of Jewish matriarchs, from field notes on a variety of men, their manly get-up and let down, to “Boys,” seen through the sugar-buzz crush gaze of adolescent awe, “Sparrow spirits on skateboards, // bottles of Tahitian Treat, Rose’s Cola / and blue raspberry Slurpees laced with vodka.”
With poems that make a quick slip from glory holes to “a frozen Jenny Craig / glazed salmon,” Broder offers serious and steady consideration of our human world, from detox to religion to bad finger-banging, from deconstruction of the romantic “movie myths” of heroin use to meditations on the sage initiatory advice of Seventeen magazine. This book is a pleasure, but it is also, relentlessly, more than that, far more than a mash-up of the moment’s culture, the flaunted moxy sheathing some heavy reflections. Tattoos aren’t just talked about; their ramifications are considered. Aging anarchists aren’t just nudged; they’re offered heartfelt condolences for the dangerous naïveté of their dreams.
Indeed, Jim Jones clones lurk behind liberal sentiment, and the spiritual Pop Rocks of paperback Tantra might not be too far removed, in terms of ultimate act, from the desires of fry cooks monogramming their biceps with cigarette burns. Consider the former New York real estate agent, wandering into the landfill that is San Francisco and the tragedy that is his own faith in consumer reinvention. The city
...distends to make room for him
and his brand new Tensor Lo 5.0
skateboard parts, surfboard on back-order, Oakley
blinkers, pocket Dharma Bums, as he drinks
Anchor at Vesuvio, brushes asses
with the young ladies of Columbus, buys bad weed
from the pavement teens on Upper Haight and good stuff
from the medical place at Fillmore Street.
But there’s empathy even in the most dismal portraits, and a concern with humanity—as the whole mess of us, poetic narrators included—which shores together these pieces into something solid, something more than the sum of their technically excellent parts. The greedy and potentially selfish work of poetry is itself held up to scrutiny, as in “Your Mother is Dying and I Want Details,” where the narrator hungers for “updates, last regrets,” description of “the stench.” Elsewhere, the intimacy of the poem’s voice is bolstered by the vulnerability just under the bluster. In the face of the new organic sincerity, the narrator has to “reach in my trick sack // for a nicotine patch / and a bottle of Klonopin.” The poetic witness here is indicted and effected, meshed in the scenes and desires it relays. When, for instance, we hear that
Men sold Tecate, limes and sticky smack,
the telephone rumored of midnight sluts
and what they did in vacant parking lots,
hard with Aqua Net and Charlie, rubbing
up against somebody..
It’s not just a stage set or a cluster of nifty words. The world of this book is real world, profoundly felt.
Freud held we sometimes let slip such deep feeling, unintentionally. Broder, on the other hand, has put her muscle into each poem here count as a statement of reality.
And in so doing, she’s infused something sparkling and super-charged into the seemingly banal—which is maybe a decent definition for art. Broder can work with anything—from the Dixie cups at the methadone clinic to pots of chicken soup. Check this description of laundry action: “Cotton / won’t shrink from the quickening friction. / Fluff it, pat it, crease and repeat.” Childhood, young adulthood, family, language, life, death, and desire—all these are folded in, still sparking with static and radiating warmth from the spin cycle, to make When You Say One Thing but Mean Your Mother a major statement from a poet with skill and soul. - Spencer Dew

interview by Daniel Nester @ The Best AmericanPoetry

I am afraid to be nothing.
The nothing is me, my totality and disintegration, or maybe it is just a feeling.
I call the feeling ‘nothing’ not because I am deep or French but because there is no word for becoming a whale and then dissolving.
Let’s call the feeling nothing1.
There is another kind of nothing, we’ll call it nothing2.
This nothing is a cinematic nothing, more tactile than the first, a black vacuum, a gooey void, memelike, the French one.
I have no relationship with nothing2, because it has rejected me, though sometimes I pretend to be well-versed in nothing2.
I speak as though nothing2 is a close friend, an ally, has me on its list.
I do this so as to appear deep.
I want to appear deep, because i do not feel like enough of a something.
The act of striving to appear deep, the hope that I might convince someone of my depth, feels like a something.
It feels like a punch in the nothing1.
There is no punch in the nothing1.
You cannot fake friendship with the nothing1.
There are blankets you can wrap around the nothing1.

Then the blankets dissolve with you.

what hurts more? that the world doesn’t comply with my fantasy or that i try to make it comply?
when i have a peak experience i fall off the other side. i want the world to rise to meet me. when i taste sugar i want to stay in sugar.
but real life isn’t like that.
what is real life like?
my father says: if the world was as you see it, the world would be a better place. i am 13 and haven’t started fucking.
the poet Maggie Nelson says: Fucking leaves everything as it is.
is it worth it to have the experience when i will only fall off the other side?
i am not even falling. i am creating the illusion of falling by rising. i am altering my template of arousal till nothing else is quite as good. i am putting sugar in the wound and it crusts. i am _____________.
when i am in the experience it is an intravenous shot of YOU ARE GOOD. if only i could give myself that feeling.
the clock is ticking on me giving myself that feeling.
also the clock is not ticking.
i am the one making the clock tick.
also the clock is ticking.

3 poems in the new issue of Fence, excited abt this one. it’s not online but order it–so tight. always.
did a thing at Blackbook w Myles Klee
read poems w Mira Gonzalez and w Marina Blitshteyn in Venice and taped dat shit
reviewed god and botox A++ highly recommend

in the dream i ate a handful of black pills yes i wanted to be cradled yes i was trying to die no the black pills were not drugs yes they were vitamins yes i tried to kill myself with vitamins yes i had to kill myself with vitamins because i wanted to protect my sobriety yes even in dreams i protect my sobriety yes even in death i protect my sobriety no the vitamins were not time-release yes they were coffin-shaped no i did not die yes i woke up in my bed yes i got in the shower yes the shower turned into a coffin yes the coffin filled with all my headstuff yes my headstuff is loud yes this happens every morning yes i can make anything into a coffin no i do not pride myself on this yes sometimes i do yes sometimes i build a persona around my coffin-making yes female poets and suicide no i do not consider myself a female poet no i do not consider myself a male poet yes i am tired of considering myself no not tired enough to stop considering myself yes all i do is consider myself yes this is what the headstuff is made of yes it is made of made my considerations of myself yes the headstuff is an allergy yes it is an allergy to reality yes there is a way to turn it off yes i can turn it off with light no i cannot do this by myself yes i know where to find the light yes that is a blessing yes hallelujah yes sometimes the light comes to me yes that is called grace yes most times i have to walk to the light yes that is also grace yes the grace to keep walking yes i must like the light yes i must really like the light yes i must like it better than the coffin yes i keep walking there

I don’t know anything about ego-slaying  except I know a little.
I fail and fail and fail at ego-slaying every day.
I mean, ego-slaying  is about the practice anyway, and practice includes total failure, so it’s fine.
Also, ego-slaying  is about the rehumbling, I think, the building self up on ego bullshit so as to then have it cut away AGAIN and be slain and laid fucking bare AGAIN and have to surrender to the benevolent and egoless truth AGAIN.
I only choose the benevolent and egoless truth as my last-ass resort.
Like, I don’t choose it until I am forced.
I crawl towards it begging.
And it always takes me back.
And it always takes me back.
I think it chooses me.
But that is also another story.
The story I want to tell is thus:
Ego-slaying in writing poems is doable.
You can so get out of your own way.
It is a muscle and it can be worked–the getting out of your own way muscle.
I don’t write poems from my brain anymore, not anymore ever.
I write from somewhere fucking else and am grateful to have found that place.
I wrote my way into it and prayed and meditated and channeled.
I pray and meditate and channel only because I have to.
I fucked up my way into it, really.
I write from there and there alone now.
I like it there.
I like that place.
Fuck the rest.
So I write from that place and then I put the thing I wrote away.
Then later, only later, I take the thing back out.
I edit it until the thing is quiet.
When I say quiet I don’t mean quiet like sound-quiet or tone-quiet.
I mean quiet in the sense that there isn’t any part left that when it speaks I feel like ‘shut the fuck up asshole’.
Asshole is ego.
But you knew that.
That’s all I have to say.


I am not in love with anyone, only god. God of the caves and god of the boys. God of the dumpsters and god of the ash.
And I don’t want to be taught anything anymore.
When I read ______’s essays I feel completely wrong, like everything I have done is wrong, cos this is who I am most of the time–the kind of person who feels wrong. A person who does not trust herself.
No I don’t want to be taught anything anymore.
Sometimes there is trust. When I am alone on my _______ I am aware that things would be easier if I got a better one, and that I would be safer with a ______, and maybe even safer if I had more knowledge, but this is the one I have, and this is the knowledge I have, and so the only one.
Trust that this is the only way and feel free.
I felt a freedom like this in walking down the street alone in ________, writing on my ______, oblivious to everything around me including time. I could have been anywhere though I was very much in ________. 
I was scared that when I moved to ___________ I would lose those pockets of freedom, like that freedom was contingent on place, like the need for it wasn’t inside me and it wasn’t something I would make happen anywhere.
But lo and behold I have found the pockets here too–or I am making them–the same amount of pockets, maybe even more, where I actually like myself cos I have disappeared.

Sadness leads to a set of doors then another then another.
The doors are fake because I expect.
Real girls walk through everything and are worshiped for their casket faces.
This is what I told myself in the dumb doors and became somebody else but didn’t.

I say I don’t believe in the flesh but I totally believe in the flesh.
My altar is way shittier than where I claim to worship.
Most of the things that give me hope are slops.
The miracle already happened but I forget what it was.
Last night some thing was inside me.
I know this because I hurt down there.
At least I don’t hurt in my heart.
I totally hurt in my heart.

Here are two new poems at The Green Mountains Review.
Flavorwire says I will make you care about poetry (thx Jason Diamond).
Sampson Starkweather and I did a collab thing at HTML for his new anthology.
Been sexting a lot. Might post some here (just mine, not the ones I get).
**update** Not going to post any sexts just yet, but–
Someone emailed me and asked if I am able to sext without developing feelings. And if so, how do I do it? And if not, how do I move on when it stops?
I said this:
‘I always get feelings and it’s always a problem and it can be a distraction from poetry but in the end the feelings are generative for poetry. I think.’
There is a lot more I could say on this subject regarding the heartache and blessings of being a creative human/addictive human/human inclined toward projecting my own fantasy narrative onto others so as to generate wonderful feelings within myself that are the equivalent of a high, which then lead to a low when the fantasy inevitably dissolves one way or another (as fantasy always does) (thus exacerbating the tension between want and reality) (which leaves me no other choice but to write or die) but it’s all there in my poems.
Ultimately the poems feel redemptive, despite my sometimes-failure to learn from my own mistakes.
I don’t think you have to suffer to make art, and I don’t think my sometimes-failure to learn from my own mistakes has the goal of making art in mind at the outset, but I do think that both come from the same place within me maybe. It’s the wanting out of self, the longing for something higher–sometimes by way of misguided vehicles– beautiful and ugly.

Here are some pieces I wrote in bed by hand that are now at Pocket Notes
Here are three new poems at Banango Street 1 | 2 | 3
A new poetry vid called SEX TAPE
Another new poetry vid called TENDER BLACK


Dear _________,
If I found a note inside a box of bandaids at CVS I would want it to say YOU ARE GOING TO BE OKAY. I keep waiting for a grownup to tell me YOU ARE GOING TO BE OKAY but that grownup unfortunately has to be me for me. I also want that grownup to tell me what to do though I hate being told what to do or maybe I love it.
In any event, I can barely do anything IRL. The ghost I pine after is a midwestern fantasy and I know nothing about chili or bratwurst or having people come stay in one’s home and feeling relaxed about it and making them feel welcome, so even that ghost is not for me.
I don’t know anything about you but I assume if you hung around my twitter feed long enough to want a note in a box of bandaids you actively feel some uncertainty about things, maybe your life, the world or your place in it? What I mean to say is that none of us really know what is going on or what we are doing but if we can just reach out to each other once in a while and express that in the ways we can (which for me is sending this note) then I think that helps us feel less alone, terminally unique, weird in the ways we don’t want to feel weird.
Or maybe you have it all figured out, in which case mazel tov and thank you for wishing for this note — it made me feel special and weird in the ways I want to feel weird.
Be well, I wish you exciting and meaningful experiences, people and things.
Melissa Broder

“What is the use or function of poetry nowadays?’ is a question not the less poignant for being defiantly asked by so many stupid people or apologetically answered by so many silly people. The function of poetry is religious invocation of the Muse; its use is the experience of mixed exaltation and horror that her presence excites…poetry, since it defies scientific analysis, must be rooted in some sort of magic…
Welsh poet Alun Lewis…wrote just before his death…of ‘the single poetic theme of Life and Death the question of what survives of the beloved.’ Granted that there are many themes for the journalist of verse, yet for the poet, as Alun Lewis understood the word, there is no choice…Perfect faithfulness to the Theme affects the reader of a poem with a strange feeling, between delight and horror, of which the purely physical effect is that the hair literally stands on end…
The Theme, briefly, is…the birth, life, death and resurrection of the God of the Waxing Year; the central chapters concern the God’s losing battle with the God of the Waning Year for love of the capricious and allpowerful Threefold Goddess, their mother, bride and layer-out. The poet identifies himself with the God of the Waxing Year and his Muse with the Goddess; the rival is his blood-brother, his other self, his weird. All true poetry…celebrates some incident or scene in this very ancient story, and the three main characters…not only assert themselves in poetry but recur on occasions of emotional stress in the form of dreams, paranoiac visions and delusions. The weird, or rival, often appears in nightmare as the tall, lean, dark-faced bed-side spectre, or Prince of the Air, who tries to drag the dreamer out through the window, so that he looks back and sees his body still lying rigid in bed; but he takes countless other malevolent or diabolic or serpent-like forms.
The Goddess…will suddenly transform herself into sow, mare, bitch, vixen, she-ass, weasel, serpent, owl, she-wolf, tigress, mermaid or loathsome hag. Her names and titles are innumerable…The reason why the hairs stand on end, the eyes water, the throat is constricted, the skin crawls and a shiver runs down the spine when one writes or reads a true poem is that a true poem is necessarily an invocation of the White Goddess, or Muse, the Mother of All Living, the ancient power of fright and lust—the female spider or the queen-bee whose embrace is death…
Sometimes, in reading a poem, the hairs will bristle at an apparently unpeopled and eventless scene described in it, if the elements bespeak her unseen presence clearly enough…
The Night Mare is one of the cruellest aspects of the White Goddess. Her nests, when one comes across them in dreams, lodged in rock-clefts or the branches of enormous hollow yews, are built of carefully chosen twigs, lined with white horse-hair and the plumage of prophetic birds and littered with the jaw-bones and entrails of poets.”
–Robert Graves, The White Goddess

I don’t want to say yes to the future.
Dracula come kiss the mouth and suck backwards.
Sleeping in a garden there are always wires.
Lasceration music I do it to myself.
I make boundaries against the glorious anon.
Women of devil’s island vs. boys of heaven.
Works by me and others I don’t care.
The unknown dead are underground.
I still want you to be okay.
When I slice my heart in half I am surprised.
There are still maskless people in there.
They really care about other people.
Movie stars have bees in their eyes and I don’t care.
Graduate from self to self and I care.
At the end you get a box or urn.
In the middle somebody hugs you.

Three new poems in Sink Review (poem 1) (poem 2) (poem 3)
New poem in Ghost Proposal.
Two new poems in Illuminati Girl Gang.
Here is a video of my reading (yelling) at the HTMLGIANT lit party at AWP. Thanks to the rad DJ Berndt for taping this.

Poems Online: