In the fall issue of Bookforum, Lidija Haas reviews a trio newly published books by feminist poets Eileen Myles and Dodie Bellamy. Bellamy’s new book, When the Sick Rule the World, is an essay collection, while Eileen Myles is seeing the republication of her 1994 “autofictional” novel Chelsea Girls and the release of a career-spanning poetry collection, I Must Be Living Twice: New and Selected Poems 1975–2014. As Haas shows, both writers cavalierly bend literary form to their own needs, flouting genre in the process. Here’s an excerpt:
In his “Long Note on New Narrative,” Robert Glück observes that “transgressive writing is not necessarily about sex or the body—or about anything one can predict.” Instead, it messes with what was traditionally perhaps the biggest boundary between writer and reader: “Transgressive writing shocks by articulating the present, the one thing impossible to put into words, because a language does not yet exist to describe the present.” In different ways, Bellamy and Myles prevent you from forgetting where you are, creating a sense of immediacy while continually jolting you out of it, whether by switching tenses or registers in midstream or by suddenly allowing another voice to intrude. What makes reading Bellamy such a physical experience, for instance, is the awareness of one’s own body reading there, not the content of whatever she exposes about hers. And the sense that any subject matter or material could potentially be brought in also physicalizes the act of writing; the impression is of a voracious text that is attempting to swallow the world around it at any given moment.