Carrie Lorig collides poetic and essay forms, and rides their cataclysmic energy through extremes of language and expression


Carrie Lorig, The Pulp Vs. The Throne, Curbside Splendor Publishing, 2015.


In the boundless and strange The Pulp vs. The Throne, Carrie Lorig collides poetic and essay forms, and rides their cataclysmic energy through extremes of language and expression. Only there can writers and readers alike breathe, think, and grow. These complex, wildly attentive poems and essays form crises of intimacy that join our lives with Lorig’s exploding, essential imagination.

"When I read this work of expansive inquiry, which repurposes lyric, vatic, diaristic and essayistic writing, I feel we might be entering a Golden Age of feminist prophecy and (inverted) power: a marginal, shredded, spangly and dispersed Byzantium where wisdom has a woman’s name. Like the work of Kim Hyesoon, Lorig’s poetry is at once immediate and speculative, infernal and angelic (in the terrible sense of that word) — a poisoned flower burning alive."— Joyelle McSweeney

"It felt very much as if this person, Carrie Lorig, wrote The Pulp Vs. The Throne in a state of almost unbearable longing, pre-ecstatic on every page. ... Lorig's language is gestural in the sense that it makes you take a posture, reading it... It is very pleasurable to read something that risks: something: in almost every line. And contrapuntal image. I am honored to write in support of this writing, which seems to pour with violence from the soul."— Bhanu Kapil

“I am continually born from the idea that giving up on being an open, brave person is not an option. / From the idea that being an open, brave person is a necessary form of monstrosity”
Every page of Carrie Lorig’s The Pulp Vs. The Throne breeds its own tangled garden. [1] Few sentences spill from leaf to leaf. We are, as readers, subsumed by each wave. This visualizing practice allows us to read The Pulp Vs. The Throne in individual sections, parsing each phrase in its bizarre glory. Though the book doubles-over and repeats, its primary principle involves feeling lost in a ghost forest of living. Working from the bare-bones level of printed matter, it’s incredibly useful that the book’s visualization permits meditation. And by meditation I mean something more like A CRISIS / replete with footnotes. [2]
For, perhaps chief among its infinite identities, [3] The Pulp Vs. The Throne becomes an instruction manual. It’s also a catalogue. [4] But, for me, the collection is deeply felt in that it points and indicates. The book teaches us how to read it, but Lorig also uses the work to teach us how to read as a mode of living, as living itself. “To be lost, you must use all your senses,” Lorig explains. The Pulp Vs. The Throne is a tattered wilderness archive that ends by bringing us out of the written record, singing into un-lettered light, so that we may once again re-enter the world without losing the word.
These pages till fields that remain un-contained, their dirt-blood revealed but not restrained. It is in this way that the first paradox of The Pulp Vs. The Throne, a book whose flowers vomit many paradoxes – “Vomiting flowers are talking, speaking, I have read it” – is undergone: how to present, as poetry, “this HOT MASS as you like to call them / this RELIGION OF FLOWERS as I like to call them.” The tension, in writing a review of The Pulp Vs. The Throne and in the book itself, is to fully witness what some might dub a “HOT MASS” – which calls to mind a “mess” – as an excess of exuberance, a celebration of compulsions, a flower-religion, a willingness to fill entire pages even if “none of the forms feel big enough.” Writing and reading inhabit magical properties of transmission, while always-already something is left behind. “What erasing goes into the polishing of writing?” Lorig asks. How much of a book is left out when it is reviewed or read? How much goes unconsidered, unnoticed? How much plasma floats away?
In my reading, The Pulp Vs. The Throne, if it must be “classified,” ultimately transforms into a work of “autotheory” as poetry. Essentially, autobiography + the written work of others (typically critical and/or post-colonial theorists, thinkers, and poets) begets autotheory. Other works help one manifest and realize one’s own work as confessional utterance, making it almost self-less, i.e. I recognize the terror of my own situation and recognize, historically, how others have also worked through this trauma. I do not erase myself, nor do I claim the same status among these writers; but their work points me to my own. Therefore, I write as I read as I live and survive. Or, more succinctly, as Proust puts it: “In reality every reader is, while he is reading, the reader of his own self.”
Most recently, autotheory as a genre has been granted to Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts. Lisa Robertson’s books, a continual source for Lorig, especially her fantastic prose collection Nilling, are also works of autotheory. In Humiliation, Wayne Koestenbaum mixes history and (dis)associative poetics. And Bhanu Kapil, the Holy Lord of Lorig’s book, lives her own life as a kind of autotheory.
For me, Roland Barthes helps generate and bolster my own optics, this way of understanding and being in the world. For Lorig, Kapil is of foremost importance – “I read [Bhanu Kapil’s] online diary everyday. I read what she constantly makes public. I lap it up. I cherish it. I think about it when I get up and move. I bring sea glass and sea bone home from the sea” – and so is Bernadette Mayer. These are the two writers to whom Lorig’s work is probably closest in kin and in kind. Though these writers’ works (along with a host of other ghosts, including John Ashbery, Gertrude Stein, Edmond Jabès, Alice Notley, Myung Mi Kim, Raúl Zurita, Etel Adnan, Elizabeth Grosz, Deleuze and Guattari on Kafka, and even Jai Paul, Gwen Stefani, and Miley Cyrus, briefly) are essential to the making of The Pulp Vs. The Throne, the principle idea, for the reader, is that really any writer’s work can become word-optics because one essentially reads the world and one’s self through their works. The Pulp Vs. The Throne overwhelms the reader with codices, footnoted progenitors, and page-mothers: the book is nothing if not an acknowledgement of written past and record as a method of working through the present.
And when I say “the book” here I mean both The Pulp Vs. The Throne and all books that “grow through our willingness to risk closeness.” Yet very few works capture this feeling with such an emotionally felt resonance: so many theorists and poets and writers indicate to us that, yes, what we’re reading is pulp and paste, but Lorig drives toward the awareness of also “‘Being enthroned,’ says Etel Adnan.” “The Pulp Vs. The Throne,” as a phrase, recognizes the human relationship between word and world, books and bricks, fantasy and materiality, reading and writing. And by “relationship,” it’s “relationship” in a messy gut sense of the word. This is not symbiosis; it is real partnership: love, argument, being near/being far away, close but against, anti- and for. It is a binary / it is several binaries / where:
“There’s Nothing Versus about A Boundary-Disabled Multitudinous
Shooting Spree Vs. The Simple Pleasure of Holding a Phrase Like
I Love You in Your Mouth”
Even with the temptation of binaries and classification, all reading becomes, in a Barthesian sense, misreading. But this is a living, an acknowledgement of the self. As Lorig writes: “Reading / it is weirdly like hearing myself, I misread.”

[2] “I am continually born from crisis. From fault lines…From forces and the felt underneath”
[3] As Lorig quotes the poet Myung Mi Kim on living and on writing: “ ‘-To a body of infinite size there can be ascribed neither center nor boundary.’” And also:
“When I say The Pulp Vs. The Throne,
                        I think of The Softness / Its Hardness, An Endlessness
[4] Lorig gestures to Walter Benjamin’s question of future literature looking like catalogues and adds: “Poetry is a mouth or a catalogue for the lost, a catalogue for the attentive obsessive lost in the vastness of writing, a catalogue for the enthusiast.”
Another thing to notice is no blurbs on the back masquerading as “the beginning / like a Bulb or a muscle.” Another thing to notice is no works cited. Another thing to notice is the cover, a sequence of triangles arranged into a greater triangle (aquamarine, hyper-green, molten black) against a backdrop of fading bloodred on subway platform. Another thing to notice is how low the book is to the ground, but how its weight requires a full hand. Another thing to notice is the O rhyme ending and ringing throughout the titles of the first three sections, that O noted by Jenny Zhang at the end of her essay “How It Feels,” that O craved and crafted by Pauline Réage – “the gutter in which writing speaks” – in Historie d’O as quoted by Lisa Roberston from Nilling in her essay on “Lastingness.” Another thing to notice is that the book is composed of two poems singing to each other and with each other, divided up into sections. Another thing to notice is “sections” instead of “poems.” Another thing to notice is “an intense, imagined autobiography or autoportrait (to use a term coined by Édouard Levé).” Another thing to notice is Lorig saying in an interview with h_ngm_n: “Why can’t I stop being changed by what I read / write?”

“I thought I didn’t remember any of the book, / just the feeling of reading it / out loud / out loud against / my apartment’s wood floor / just the feeling of it”
I hate the review-form, this cold rigidity of pseudo-academic writing. Because, to tell you the truth, I can keep up my analysis of Carrie’s book as I’ve been trained to do by a variety of excellent professors and institutions, but why would I? It’s terrible that it’s taken so long to get to this point, in my writing and in my education. And this is exactly the kind of reading Carrie advocates for: not mining books with footnotes as if they’re only works of study; these are works of living. Mary Ruefle, in an essay, asks: “Is there a right time to read each book?…And if that is the case, how many times in our lives do we make the match?”
 I read The Pulp Vs. The Throne at the right time in my life. This year, I finally found Bhanu Kapil, Bernadette Mayer, Alice Notley, and Lisa Robertson. I traveled halfway around the world to study in India and, terribly homesick, fell asleep every night to John Ashbery’s reading of The Skaters. So when I opened Carrie’s book and the epigraph of its first poem displayed three lines of Ashbery’s poem, I broke down. I couldn’t keep it together. Every book’s charge and spark depends on the work of the writer, yes (and Carrie has absolutely put more work into this book than I can imagine), but it also depends on that place of the reader:
                                                                                    TO YOU
                                                                                    TO YOU”
The book, for me, sings the archive’s blood-blossoming. It’s an artifact, a future desert, a fire-mouth. Being stone means living stone means glass sack means books born a Leo. I can recite the opening lines of Ashbery’s poem verbatim and they act almost as a prayer, “decibels as flagellation,” the small notes where being enters and being is apart from it, though also existence as a part, a substance nearly substance-less: sound, words in air. All you’re left with is almost indecision: an indecision within decision: a rub: a being there and a being not.
I have heard myself through misreading. I have hurt myself through misreading. I am myself because I misread.
I am convinced, to crib a phrase from Susan Howe, that Carrie Lorig will be “Our Emily Dickinson,” if only for the most purposeful use of a punctuation mark now distinctly her own. Carrie’s application of the backslash (or the virgule) is so widely scattered yet tightly controlled – like Emily’s seemingly dashed-off em-dashes – that it brings her work into brutal and cutting textual realities. What other writer can use a single backslash stroke to indicate a manipulation of knowledge as powerful as Dickinson’s “Chaos – Stopless”?
“The slash / is me
trying to lie down///////////////////////////////////////////////////”
CL pic
In S/Z, Roland Barthes describes the backslash’s “panic function,” writing: “it is the slash of censure, the surface of the mirror, the wall of hallucination, the verge of antithesis, the abstraction of limit, the obliquity of the signifier, the index of the paradigm, hence of meaning.” All of this could describe Carrie’s backslashes, yet her own unraveling of them makes the most sense: they are a pictorial depiction of “TO LIE DOWN / IN AN ATTEMPT.” The slash forms a hieroglyph representing an edge, not an ending:
d                                                       “to move while reading
/ the writing, to move while living / the writing. To resist is to pull you closer / through the creation / of an excess of boldness. To resist is to pull you closer / through the creation / of an excess of surface / for us to lie down together on.
To resist is to collapse.”
In India I refused the energy / I refused Hannah and her tarot pack / I felt most comfortable in bookstores and libraries, not in temples / but I didn’t realize that bookstores and libraries are still temples / no energy going unnoticed. “Haunting is an excess / of barrenness / of absence which can be felt,” says Carrie.
What are the absences that can be felt? This year, my friend Laura Warman introduced me to Chris Kraus, whom Carrie quotes:
“ ‘…I’ve fused my silence and repression with the entire female gender’s silence and repression. I think the sheer fact of women talking, being, paradoxical, inexplicable, flip, self-destructive but about all else public is the most revolutionary thing in the world’ – I LOVE DICK, Chris Kraus.”
Like Emily Dickinson, Carrie’s structural poetics and idiosyncrasies are not dedicated to discussing experiences that are hers alone; these experiences become shared, with Carrie writing: “How A Woman? / How a Woman / A Privacy? / How A Privacy / If it’s Already / So Alien? / If She’s Already / An Alien?” The backslash allows us to see a gendered separation and dividing line. It is a wall; however, we can also see over that divide and recognize the binary shown by the slash.
Susan Howe says in an interview: “If you are a woman, archives hold perpetual ironies. Because the gaps and silences are where you find yourself.” It is within these gaps and blank spaces that Carrie’s book moves through a masculine canon it spits on and rejects:
“But I don’t / own my preceding / I don’t collaborate with murderers / I don’t own the letters I write to you / but I do know something about being flooded with interconnectivity, about sensing your movements from far away”
This is another of the book’s paradoxes, one of its central boundaries being untied from its status as “boundary” and hindrance. There is the acknowledgement of “how A power / how A female power must repeat A thing / so intensely / in order to be heard / in order to be regarded.” The book needs to be a tangled garden, a Bernadette Mayer line in which a flower screams / in which the house becomes a midwinter dream in a day. In which the poem is never owned by maleness, masculinity, or men. The book reveals the neck of a woman, her hair held aloft by a[nother’s] hand. Carrie claims:
“ ‘I hate the men who made me hate Bishop,’ I tell N
at the breakfast table. What I mean is, upholding Bishop
and her odd, intense work as a paragon of tradition, / as a
reason to reject incorporating emerging notions of
language’s alive-ness into our study of language, / as a
reason I should reject myself, / is despicable…”
Elizabeth Bishop becomes, for Carrie, a poetic example of a woman falsely used to uphold a kind of canonical misogyny, and the horror in that Bishop incorporated those boundaries into her poetry – “because men are part of what / made Bishop hate herself.” And so hinging on the possibilities and impossibilities provided by boundaries: whether these are the covers of a book and its inevitable ending or “the body” – “Where is the vernacular for body?” Carrie asks – as a [gendered] boundary. To acknowledge these boundaries and to not reject the self; to continue the messy movement of “A LIVING” and “A CONSTANT RE-COLLECTION.” To be:
“continuous in how I question / in how I answer / in how I receive / in how I send it all to you. I want to be closer / to sensing the process of how it gets written down.”
The language’s “alive-ness” and its personality comes from Carrie’s direct encounter with living persons (represented throughout as individual letters: N, C, J, and so on), with herself, and with the reader. The book’s work is that of incorporation involving interconnectivity, the exchange of energies; it rebels against masculine erasure that solely permits a misogynistic literary canon. Edges that will not be softened and shaped. This being that will not be rejected. With a slash, to indicate a laying down / to show a broken line without breaking it.

“Last time you wrote to me, you said, How does it make you feel?”
I want this review to breathe fire because this book breathes fire. I want this review to be a monstrosity because this book is a monstrosity. I wanted to hold up a mirror to the book; perhaps I have only mirrored myself:
“I wrote this out of fear.
I wrote this out of fear that made me flourish”
All an attempt to communicate, so that “you write back to me.” To take out of the footnotes what becomes unjustly marginalized there. To “write in the margins.”
“ / Through a ghost of the book
/ Held together by a body
/ By its movement
/ By the form it
/ Creates
/ Destroys
/ Combines”
I read so I can write. Carrie Lorig’s The Pulp Vs. The Throne helps me live. - John Rufo

Carrie Lorig, Nods, Magic Helicopter Press, 2013.

Essentially every line of Carrie Lorig’s interstellar nods. is a train made of skin absolutely Anna Karenina-ing all over you. If you are the fieldcrop we all need to keep our breath fresh, and you know you are, then please do rest all polka-dot-pj’s-assured of this: Lorig’s poems are sweet hail; are banjo locusts; are leather boomerangs bopping you where it matters. The poems hurt good. The poems pock; pock and puncture. You’ll end up feeling like a cricket caught in a wiffle ball by the gravy end. You’ll end up wasted on Lorig’s manna-lush-rush. You’ll end up cut then butterflied whole again. Powerful medicinewoman of the verses, Carrie Lorig is her very own planet, where the astronaut cows and them acrobat horses jitterbug, damn it.” — Abe Smith

Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle.
The above quote is an appropriate epigraph for Carrie Lorig's chapbook, nods., published by Magic Helicopter Press, as her chapbook is all kinds of nesses, be it cultishness, pinkishness, or gentleness. But not unhappiness or lovelessness.
     This book belongs to a dead ocean, washes over you with thousands of cattle hooves, which is to say you'll be surprised at how pumped you will feel when you finish one of the poems. The work is dense, but reliable in its own kind of unreliability. Ordinarily, I'd attribute unreliability as a bad trait for a speaker, but Lorig's speaker is so easy to love because of its density of language, because of its in-step repetition, because of its love-letter-blocks that kick open your human-heart-wishing-to-be-cattle-heart.
it's like dissecting the pain beast and following it at the same time. this part is a body i've never heard of. this part is a body i've never heard an animal noise from. animals make noiseflowers, sweeter and tamer than any animal writing. animals make noiseanimals that eat spaces in the earth. animals make animal clowns that speak like the earth. i said this book of animal writing in order to find the hurricane sugars in the hooves of pain beasts. i eat the earth that hunches up into the soft spaces of their feet, the little hurricane lockets, and my body tightens and tightens with more parts. the pain beast munches bedroom dust out of my palms.
In "SCATTERSTATE," (the poems are all titled "SCATTERSTATE," "CATTLEHURTER," or "IT CAN'T BE LOVE / BUT IT MUST BE LOVE") Lorig's speaker dissects and reassembles a beast, eager to discover something new in a literal sense. nods. is an enthusiastically sensory collection, as there are cattle, nightmares, and echoes offering a frayed length of rope to tug you in, deeper and deeper. The speaker is naïve, but curious—in love with the world. But rather than choosing select words to convey that love, the speaker uses all the words in a way that conveys genuine admiration. That's what nods. is at its core—a series of innocent love letters to the world.
    I think this is the kind of book independent publishers should be producing, that is books that appear to be perfect fits with their publisher. The poems in nods. use the whole page of the custom-cut chapbook in a useful, has-to-be-this-way way, that is to say, Gertrude Stein would be proud. I've found myself writing differently since I finished Lorig's poems, and isn't that what a first chapbook should do?
     In another "SCATTERSTATE," the speaker opens by stating, "i write with a bad mouth you can dance to" and ends with "these letters drink a fifth of American grain, space, and groan with grass." The poem, and the overall collection, screams duende over and over again at me in a way that makes me want to carry Tender Buttons and nods. with me every day forever, and I can't think of a more authentic, more flamenco-colored work I've read in the past year.-  Nathan Kemp

I saw Carrie Lorig read with Nick Sturm and a couple other local-ish talents in Cincinnati, my current digs, a week or two ago. When she began, or maybe it was after her first poem, Lorig mentioned that her being into sound is pretty obvious. It is. It really is obvious, and this chapbook from Magic Helicopter is proof and success.
The first thing I feel I must relate this book to is Ariana Reines’s book THE COW, as that book and this one both have some amount of focus on the cow’s body in order to discuss the human body, but this book is a book much more concerned with the sentence, with its restructuring, with its ness in every sense, and with making or remaking or tweaking slightly certain words to help the flow flow. What I mean is: “a cow looks like me when it pets all over my underneat. a cow looks like me when i choke light. when i choke light, it is immediately.”
The language here is playful, sentence-considerate, and somehow Lorig manages to vary sentences over long-ish poems that sustain themselves on this language and on this variance. The poems, in discussing the body somewhat, mention blood or the body often, but rarely directly, and I have this wild idea that this restructuring of language while playing with modes of variance and repetition seeks, perhaps, to consider a restructuring of the body, to restructure a considering of the body, to make a body happen out of thin air. This book is a body. -

The Real-Time Review League reads nods by Carrie Lorig

Magic Helicopter Author Interview: Carrie Lorig

A ventilation / an echosystem: An interview with Carrie Lorig

s c a t t e r s t a t e by Carrie Lorig
how low levelled is a crush on the inside of us. how lower gram. it is smearing late. it is e-lating on the web. press the button to provoke seed. open, open the crushed windows. there’s a juke waiting out there in dining area. and i will put a bit in and re dreaming. and re dreaming and i will. re dreaming and still. even when still. try to figure out the arms. leaking is all our arms flying in the ways. i’ve been collecting a hundred thousand spaces for it. space is juicy, juicy. and now, away from the wet language you are nothing but a tan line from looking. from looking at the fields with us arranged in the same places of each other. i page blood. that is too close to the beginning actually. all the words jump out of the water at the same time. they fall back down below with something new in their mouths. before the earth gives out, it lets a little. it’s in a tinfoil ball. you open it so many times, you are overwhelmed by the blur. unfold is the wrong arm ways. i peeled the hold. how did you begin actually? feverish. i was stuff with your mouth. last night, again my sleep moved around on me. every inside part of us knew i was a space between thin alarms but me. i am closed under now at the thought. the rain times us before it finds us. finds us a vein in us. what did i read to you? this is not the place where you can request copies. to do that you will need the building with no voice. nobody sees someone do this copy. everything put on top of the fire is quiet now. it’s been a heart on top of lives lately. it’s been lit from under a clear coat. i fit everything in but the arms. i feel ugly presses swallowing down tucked in under our room. i feel leaking all the time. i’ve shouted this a hundred more times with my mouth around. without warning, the sky turns towards more black than the rest of my mouth was combined. there are notes of crop and burn in the air. there are notes on the color of the dirt’s tights in the air. who picked these details out of their hooves? we’re listening back to the cheeks pressed against the land. you couldn’t pay me to be around this much crops. this much useful stalks. at the hardest part of this date i do good. we pitch at the roof. tear a hole in its cheek. now there are black spots in it. it went on without you for awhile. now, you are covered in air. you smell like space. the cattle crowd around you to eat it. the cattle say eating gush this color makes their red dance. they say let’s grind it up into a powder. they clap their hooves together and release you into a air. i wonder how things are deleted remotely. i wonder what this song is that the juice coming out of my ears is leaning a house. i wonder how despite me eating one at every opportunity while closing under i still do this. get me a face i touch my dark felt under. just pieces of it. nothing too soaking. every face has a sheet up. i looked up everything. i looked up everything tagged poetry sucks. i am because my little cows know me. i am because i’m going to stuff the land you were weight into me. me coats me with pain codes that could turn the electric fence lawn. and i’m up for just reading poems we like. and our voice doesn’t have to. it doesn’t have to husk hear or dead enough.  


Carrie Lorig & Sara Woods, Stonepoems, Solar Luxuriance, 2014.

In their second collaborative poem-cycle (following 2013's rootpoems), Carrie Lorig and Sara Woods explore the constellation of effects achievable with the noun "stone." A birthstone is the blood from one who vomits after being removed from a freezer; "fuck you stone, that is hard to read." Often, these permutations present a stone not as a stone but as the pouring rain, as bars, as a habit. Before disappearing, stones gush God. (Secretly, this book is also about blood).

from PROCESSIONAL/CONFESSIONAL Carrie Lorig & Elisabeth Workman

PDF download // free!!

Carrie Lorig

Carrie Lorig is the author of the chapbook NODS. (Magic Helicopter Press) and several collaborative chapbooks, including Labor Day (Forklift, OH) with Nick Sturm and rootpoems (Radioactive Moat) with Sara Woods. 


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