Born in Salem, Massachusetts, poet, playwright, and translator Ariana Reines earned a BA from Barnard College, and completed graduate work at both Columbia University and the European Graduate School, where she studied literature, performance, and philosophy. Reines was awarded the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award in She has taught at Columbia University and the European Graduate School, where she studied literature, performance, and philosophy. In she was the Roberta C.
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Frank Guan. April 30, A woman and a man are facing one another and testing out some violence: punches to the solar plexus, slaps to the face. Each blow is delivered with a long pause before the next, all with intermediate strength: hard enough to move the other, yet without overt muscular tension.
He is larger, balding, heavier, wears black pants; his chest and feet are bare. Some of their belongings have been set down on the dark, well-swept, stone-tiled floor: light articles of clothing; a half-liter water bottle; a piece of paper with what looks to be small, neat, cursive handwriting; a pen. Unseen drums are struck intermittently to punctuate the action, like title cards in a silent film.
Their sound is prominent but unobtrusive. There is need for it, and space: it fills a broad chamber which, though filled with bodies, is otherwise silent. They part. They return to their original positions, next to their possessions, facing each other. They are standing, roughly speaking, at the foci of a quite eccentric ellipse whose boundary is marked by the bodies of the audience. They take turns reciting, with long, intervening pauses, individual words: nouns pronounced without inflection, intent, or any immediate bearing on the situation as a whole.
But spoken as such, and in such isolation, the words come off dully, ominously, like so many pieces of a damaged alien spacecraft. They close in on each other. He lifts up her body and carries it around the oval for what seems to be a long time, during which they collaborate to shift her body, without setting her down, into a series of states of captivity against his own: her legs wrapped around his upper body and her body dangling, her entire body held up by his arms, upside down at a diagonal, and so on.
This goes on for a while; the tension is such that even watching the performance is physically exhausting. There is nothing to do but observe, listen to their breathing as it increases in volume, and imagine, consciously or not, the weight of a live body.
But, at last, they stand, part, and close in on each other once more. And then they are truly grappling, engaged in a seemingly interminable series of clutches and stances, repeatedly fending one another off and repeatedly rejoining. In spite of his superior upper body strength, the man seems incapable of overpowering the woman, and one is reminded of fights in dreams, where an enemy may be confronted and striven with but never wiped out. The struggle is choreographed at a pace slow enough to discern that it is indeed choreographed, an event that is ordered, yet the pace is sufficiently rapid, and the bodies are subjecting one another to such strain that the potential for something unplanned and unruly must hang, unvoiced, over the proceedings.
The whole affair seems like a kind of engine that converts vision and duration into weight. Though time comes to feel as taut as a muscle, the performance does eventually end.
He lies supine and motionless; she is poised and perpendicular to him, with a foot perched on his throat. And then he stands up and they part, each to their set of belongings. They face each other, the floor between them now darkened with patches of sweat. She is in a wide stance, feet pointing outward, knees bowed out: the effect it conveys is ambiguous, ceremonial yet slightly and mysteriously comic.
They reach under their clothes, into their crotches. She places the tampon in her water bottle and gathers her belongings; he does likewise with his thing. They exit the performance space. Applause begins. But their relative visibility, the composition of the audience skewing heavily toward the college-aged , and the outcome of the struggle seemed to point toward Reines being both the prime conceiver of the performance as well as its primary attraction.
The general character of the performance—highly ritualized, allegorical, body-centered, risk-laden, committed—bore a profound resemblance to that of her writing. If her poems frequently contain details of her own biography, Reines never seems interested in these details merely as such.
The greater interest and excitement, for her and her readers, lie in witnessing her as she transforms her life into a point of departure into the common worlds of culture and history. Her books draw sustenance from, among other things, New York City, astrology, Haiti, medieval love poetry, Gnosticism, porn, Islam, and Paris. She stands at the center of her work not as a self but as a kind of cardiac impatience, as a vessel for materials bound elsewhere; her language, correspondingly, is filled with images of going through, passing out, transport.
To address a carcass is to liquefy it. This is real poetry. The tissue digestors come in all sizes. Composed as it is from a stunning variety of forms, styles, and registers prose and verse, fiction and non-fiction, astral lyricism and blunt vulgarity , the book tenaciously resists reductive assessment.
As the book elsewhere informs us, cow corpses, once suitably addressed, go practically everywhere: they are present in lipstick and plastic and who knows what else. The poet rescues and recovers her disintegrated love through willful acts of reading.
What is not in doubt is that the world needs saving and that the powers to save it reside in images of nature and may be released through incantation and inscription: phrases are repeated even more often than in the prior books, and the central section of the book revolves around actual meaning non-alphabetic alchemical hieroglyphs. A state of paradisiacal expectation had existed in the prior works, but only briefly, under a subdued or faded aspect; in Mercury this state is expressed loudly and at length.
She gave birth to me. Reines has written, elsewhere and approvingly, of the maternal fixations of Baudelaire whose prose she has translated and Proust. The Cow , originally, was rescued from a pile of waste material.
And I found it. Another one, a young white poet-critic of the avant-garde, a man frequently contemptuous of other poets and mostly justified in his contempt, swears by Ariana. It appears as if Reines, who adores Ashbery their nocturnal preoccupations and essentially religious sensibilities have much in common , will soon become as central to American poetry today as Ashbery whose first book, incidentally, was fished out of oblivion in much the same manner as The Cow became during the Seventies or Eighties.
Reines has already taught temporarily at Berkeley, Columbia, and the New School, among other places, and only a desire to remain at liberty keeps her from teaching permanently wherever she pleases. Poetry becomes a blessing: one not received but rather taken through an active, wounding struggle with a strange being. The fantasy of new beginnings has a long tradition in America. The desire to divide oneself from the past is, in all likelihood, the sole true continuity in its culture from the past to the present day.
This makes for, generally speaking, a sense of history somewhat less than gratifying to those who, by whatever strange fault in their nature, seek out origins and wholeness. Like all things animated by a great will, the dream of America as a blank slate for the spirit has had its great poets: Whitman composing rhapsodies of a self wiped clean of the stains of time transforming outer space to match its inner vision, Stevens carefully demarcating the distance between the Old World and the New in order to extend that distance into the mental infinity he defines as poetry.
What gets less press, though, is the fact that the dream of escaping from the past is, fundamentally speaking, bullshit. Americans, in pursuit of this dream, have invented a host of new grievances and savageries, but such novelties are grounded in the class resentment and the violence inherent to the societies which their ancestors, out of bravery and cowardice, fled.
The inchoate insecurities and cruelties harbored by Americans do not mark the end of history, but rather represent its distillation. We do the term civilization a disservice to associate it merely with castles, palaces, temples, and the like: the brutality on which those structures depended, and which they licensed and perhaps in part excused, is no less integral to civilization than order and beauty, and whoever seeks to end such brutality should begin by explaining its character in full, from the past to the present.
Her books possess both the density of real filth and violence and the dreamlike purity of dedication needed to discover the root of filth and violence. The books are the antithesis of amnesia. But there are keener pleasures than enjoyment, pleasures that inspire the exertion needed to feel them, and these she offers in abundance.
Several episodes end with Tom burdened by enormous debt, and one ends with Tom in Hell. Online Only June 2, June 1, May 30, Book Review Frank Guan How She Got Over She stands at the center of her work not as a self but as a kind of cardiac impatience, as a vessel for materials bound elsewhere. On Ariana Reines. Email Address. A woman With a passion for Liszt and Rachmaninov, a woman whose cruelty Would come, basically, from her failure to have saved the world A woman to lose everything A woman born to lose [.
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How She Got Over
This is the character of Billy Nolan, talking to the pig whose blood will be used to prank the socially-stunted Carrie as she steps on stage to be crowned prom queen. Formerly inert objects become weapons, maiming the students and staff. Carrie bears what is left of the pig all the way home; it drips from the crown of her head like holy oil. Once inside, she soaks the pig from her skin into warm bathwater, before draining it away. What comes then, of attempts to foreground the animal? Being that, although we exist in a time in which the rights and agency of nonhuman subjects — such as plants and animals — are being theorised and considered more than ever before, these same candidates are simultaneously subject to increasing exploitation and destruction at human hands.
The Apocalyptic Visions of Ariana Reines
OK, that is a slaughterhouse on the cover of The Cow , and those are dead cattle. Perhaps those who like poetry or sausage should not watch it being made. Consider vomit and velleity. In the same way, velleity needs a similar anchoring: used non-ironically, it can still compare the language of consciousness with the fingertip precision of sewing lace. In both cases, the feedback loop is profoundly physical. Her verbal shredding has none of the clinical neatness of the computer algorithm, or the vaguely reassuring frisson of scissors on paper. Reines removes the scholarly mask and talks even more directly: the harshly clinical frame of the manual and the constant sense of the body as muscle, blood, and water make the possibility of rebirth or any meaningful myth much less luminous, and much filthier.
Review: The Cow
Emily Wolahan. At starboard, a white kirtle which is the moon. The day has a hallmark, the night also. Go on.
The Historical paw-print: thoughts on Ariana Reines’s The Cow
Only you know if we did it. There is something chilling in any attempt to communicate with the eventual inheritors of the planet we are destroying. The challenge is existential what can we say to them? The danger is still present, in your time, as it was in ours. There is no dispelling the anxiety, however, that it may not be possible to fully account or atone for what we have wrought. All of these tentative messages speak not only to an uncertain future but also to an uncertain present, and what they convey is that we have no idea how to tell our story.