PRAISE SONG FOR WHAT’S MISSING
Somewhere in the apocalypse of downtown Los Angeles, I took a wrong turn and—akimbo to the street, bracketed by tilting telephone poles and a fractured contrail from LAX—I ended up at the locked and lurid door to WE COME CA I ORNIA NIGTH CLUB CO KTAILS.
Once upon a time, this bar was known as the Welcome Cocktails California Nightclub. And then with its characteristically rapacious urge to confuse, the city overpowered the nightclub’s best attempt at coherent communication.
That former door opened into the licentious predictability of poorly mixed drinks and robotic lap dances.
Now, lacking letters, this is my door to my town, and it offers the delights of my mind: dyslexic jouissance. Disorganized arrivals. Collective confusions. The indulgences of accidental poetics.
I got lost at WE COME NIHGT CLUB on the day I returned home to LA from four months working on projects at Nazi concentration camps in Germany and the Czech Republic. After months creating often tragically incorrect meanings for indecipherable Czech signage, this hometown encounter with disrupted English was a startling rendezvous with my native tongue, signed by someone whose English is like my Czech.
Clearly, much had changed in my absence. My Ls and Fs and Cs dismembered or gone missing. In a summer following the trail of omission, destruction and absence of an entire people, the poetry of my city seemed to echo this obsession with what’s not there.
Deep in the heart of art: white space. The empty places.
I am reading a writer of substantial genius: Hélène Cixous’ Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing. She writes that her most beloved artists “go through the back door of thought” and “must at least once in your life have realized you were undergoing the opposite of what was coming.” (She addresses us directly, you, as though hoping we will become her beloved.)
Like the hallucinatory portal to WE COME CA I ORNIA, like the artist brain, like the cities in which we live, her love is only partially coherent.
She introduced me to her colleague Clarice Lispector, who dedicates her book The Passion According to G.H. to “those who know that the approach to anything is done progressively and painfully—and that includes as well passing through the opposite of what is being approached.”
Sometimes we create through doors like this, that connect the Ukraine to Brazil, Oran to Paris, Berlin to Culver City. Languages disoriented by translation. Our Ls and Cs and Fs impounded as we pass through the opposite of what is being approached.
In the maze of concrete and advertisements, a city’s signage can be read as runes. To those of us who pander with words and pictures, the city makes a riddle. Artists exist as oracles at an everyday Delphi. Our work is filling in the absences, the omissions. Our work is with the empty spaces. With the white page, the blank wall, the empty canvas.
We are always arriving in language without the proper permits.
We come to the back door—the very opposite of what is being approached. We undergo the opposite of what is coming. We come. Jouissance.
—Quintan Ana Wikswo, www.QuintanWikswo.com
We at Drunken Boat would like to send out a special thank you to everyone who was able to attend the launch party for Issue #12. We couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out. Check out some pictures of the event:
Again, thank you and we’ll see you next time.
On December 21, 1921 an advertisement established a writer’s most hated cliché and foe.
A picture is worth a thousand words.
Writers generally hate cliché. Here we are writing in the most depressing hours of late, late night with the only light in a our lives the glow of a MacBook monitor reflecting off our thick black-framed spectacles while we drink glasses of Jameson as we sit in our ironic, self-deprecating fashions torturing ourselves trying to find the perfect way to say that thing we are not always sure we are trying to say. And then there is getting someone to read and find meaning in our selection of words.
And then there is the picture, with its immediate way of communicating what writers do for page after forsaken page.
I like tension, though. A lot. There is tension there, in that cliché, in that distance created by making words and image enemies. Neat, interesting stuff comes from tension.
I thought I would like to use this space to explore ephemera, and while I would still like to highlight the texty, transient side of image, I would also like to explore the different ways writers have conflicted, notsoconflicted, relationships with the visual, by highlighting a visual artist who uses text in their work, or featuring a writer who also identifies as a photographer, painter, imagemakinghooligan. Every now and then I’ll also put out a call on a theme for readers to submit images.
Or you know what, just send me images. I like me a nice picture. Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few weeks ago, the online magazine Drunken Boat published a collaboration between Kristen Nelson and Noah Saterstrom2, entitled “Ghosty.” Noah’s drawings accompany Kristen’s spare but moving account of the death of the narrator’s father, with whom she had a conflicted, troubled relationship. While the story suggests that her father’s remains will likely end up as ashes, what “remains” for the narrator is a host of unanswered (and perhaps unanswerable) questions, and an inability to articulate even the simplest of responses to a question about what sort of life he had lived–though, she says, “an unspoken answer fills up my mouth. It gets bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger.”
Sometimes simplicity is the way to go. I’ve watched this Ruins song layered on top of the Sex and the City movie trailer about 5 times now. I have no idea who made this, but they’ve made me really happy today.