• The Dream Issue

    Christina Chalmers, from Journal of the Revolutionary Year

    The Dream Issue
    Gustave courbet   the trout   wga05474

    The Grapevine Telegraph

    Christina Chalmers, Interview + Poems from Journal of the Revolutionary Year

    How does translation affect your writing practice?

    When I translate, which is about attending carefully to another person’s words, I start to think of my own process of writing poetry from the outside, as more like a translation itself, part based on obvious and necessary connections to do with literal meanings, part random and contingent connections to do with the feel of words. In both cases I’m straining to get the structure of a phrase to make sense in a new way, like in my poetry when I translate scraps of sentences, fragments, idioms, in english or between languages, together into a new syntax, trying to stretch the possibilities of english.

    Best advice for how to write a love poem?

    I’ve only ever managed to write poems of unrequited love. I’m reading Asma Abbas’ “Another Love: A Politics of the Unrequited”, and starting to think that poems of unrequited love can perhaps do some work to upset dominant discourses of affection, relating to a different horizon of politics. A poem about a requited love can seem too filled with its own plenitude. So make sure the other doesn’t love you back? is my prime love poem advice. Or take the saccharine aspects of your sentiments to extremes.

    Best possible collective use of cars in a revolutionary situation in NYC?

    Block the exits. Does this question set out its own answer?

    What’s wrong with the British?

    I think its dominant culture is based in Restoration, protestant work ethic, and colonial apologetics, all types of pathological or reactionary denial. So much british language is mercantile language, which only maybe is possible to turn inside out.

    2 contemporary UK poets people have to read.

    The best book I’ve read recently was Callie Gardner’s “Naturally it is not”, a beautifully weird series of four letters, one for each season, which think about languages of nature. What I’ve read by Momtaza Mehri is brilliant. Otherwise what’s coming out of Boiler House Press is great (such as Francesca Lisette & Nat Raha’s recent books).

    Favourite Italian poet?

    Guido Cavalcanti: “Though still I stay Grief's prisoner, unloosed, / And Fear hath lien upon the heart of me” - more here on the radical potential of the unrequited...

    Most overrated American poet?

    Ezra Pound is seen as this indispensable epic genius, whose fascism can be overlooked: but if we can call anyone overrated (though maybe this really means underrated?) it’s a poet who is very intensely rated by Italian fascism and by a contemporary network of Italian fascist social centres, named after him: Casa Pound. I don’t believe in simply dispensing with him but I’d only really want to read him to know how not to be like him, like Heidegger.

    Why do you write poems?

    They’re a way to see concrete links, or knot together, to present and reflect on the presentation of thoughts or strings of thoughts, that otherwise I wouldn’t know how to work through. It gives me an intuitive way to make connections, like a consciously-induced dream, which I think can be revelatory: and my aspiration is that my poetry will be able to make tangible collective forms of imagining, or awakening, over and above my individual “dreams”.

    What’s your favourite ancient civilisation?

    I don’t know, but I do like revisionist (even wackily, speculatively revisionist) historical accounts of ancient civilisations which talk about the relations these civilisations had with each other, rather than just being these discrete societies. Like Martin Bernal’s book “Black Athena” about Egyptian-Greek relations, or the brazilian activist Abdias do Nascimento who talks about African influences in Toltec society.

    Tell us about the poems you wrote.

    My new sequence of poems grew up out of an old idea to write a book about counter-revolutionary spaces, about the impending future of bourgeois survivalism (gated communities and worlds), and about the symbols in the French revolutionary calendar: think bunkers, the pastoral, Versailles, counter-revolutionary flight. But then I realised I couldn’t write it, but I wanted to write something contemporary - and even futuristic/sci-fi quite like this - and I also started thinking a lot about what’s happening with increasing species extinction and about ways that ecological destruction will become profitable and even utopian (for the enemy). I built up this futuristic narrative where hunters are trying to breed near-extinct fish, but first have to find them in the wild. This developed into me thinking about “rare” bioluminiscent animals (which Pier Paolo Pasolini talked about in a famous essay on the “death of the fireflies” in 1975), amphibious animals (which relates to a reference in Marx about primitive accumulation), and about insects. The idea of breeding near-extinct species for money, for use, or for capitalistic ends, got me thinking about taxonomy, about bestiaries, about the idea of naming and giving symbolic value or significance to things (animals, or other things in general) as an aspect of killing, or harvesting their death. The poem seeks to think about a poetics of description, and anti-description - of making sense - in relation to this. I hope the sequence will be able to channel a lot of these themes, knotting together the 1871 Paris Commune (and Louise Michel), the ecological future, my own relation to nature and the pastoral, the politics of reproduction as related to the politics of death, the description of species, and the idea of metaphorical language and naming.

    from Journal of the Revolutionary Year

           silver light shines across like mirrors to a crime
            the angler’s skin translucently inconstant
                   produces its dark surrounds

            only known in its dead form, name, gens,
                  bioluminescent, qualitative
            geometry of the void beneath the sea
            no sun to speak of
                  find it here in the guts
                  a whole schema of

      forewrought . undererred, whose hand removes its murder .
    by supple blade the guts stain the tables in the affaiblement of
    flesh . food . forbici . fleeting incomprehension of this organ, waste

    reddened, marrow reddening to steal its foretaste, but it not
    being for food . utilisation, whose ultimate end is : consume this,
    leave its carcass behind. said slop, “refuse this”.

    open door onto field :
    open casket onto the open sea :
    the earthquake seizes the compound
    (structure of)
    the hands shake as much as the weather of earthquakes
    wails unhampered desecration :
    no tarte aux framboises on the
    cruise ship ; spoons sink beneath their
    shimmering poor tic,
    the light seen from its green copper
    as collecting coupons for
    food banks ; rig-workers’
    wives await the unreturning new ;
    underwater mining
    feel the hands in their shake
    no kiosque no goatherds
    lovers and idylls here will be
    plasticated into the ship’s walls
    the boats don’t leave
    the harbour

    and so could call it an ark
    but don’t, the womenfolk
    being the half-beings in front of
    the mirror, to which we bring
    our errant friends, errant specimen
    loves, bark at it . inspect ourself
    by the svelte distinctions of fate.

     Water as imperfect metaphor :
      can’t make a palace of hidden
     nature’s game, where everything
      turns into gas . the unthinkable :
     the world for a palace of ice
     where what wouldn’t melt
      is out of mouths, cups,
     vehicles or vessels flooded
      in the garden – rusted,
      splaying the night with
     yellow, yellow

     . so the sunflowers grow
     through their roots .

       eat the seeds – grey striated husk,
       green inside. Nothing blooms,
       “everything becomes modern”
          (Tom Raworth)

    grey afternoon : suppleness of the outer layer
    seems chronophile at this distance . clouded sky
    the traced-me-awake , everyone in their reverie
    of the dark, go outside my house to find
    an architectonic of horsefly routes in the night
    which in the dream we dodge and sever, clean
    figures of men, or evil wasps, stung party-goers,
    or urbanites, bats are predators like other species
    of blanquist in the space menagerie . this dream is
    a gaoler’s terrible inventory of recently defunct
     several names for melancholy
       (class hatred, in soft-focus the symbols of dead revolt)
     objects, codes flapping their ineffectual limbs (luddites die)
     photos curl up at their ends and their faces turn and crawl
       back into the inexistent space
     words for nations/territories, these themselves
     several dead species of love

    shore in the childhood sands.
    the fascists exit the land.
    the fascists exit the land (question) .
    requisition wasn’t the metaphysic
    many things lie fallow in themselves,
    am not trying to improve anything,
    crossing the gap between childhood
    and supple education, between
    lore & science. the land’s raw
    repulsive surface is textured with yellowed grasses;
    for which there are a hundred loving prescient
    efficiencies, given in name .
    their function is : burn this,
    leave the ashes behind. for the cinders to say .
    in the case that we might prove it
    nothing will be improved.
    childhood, buried in the dunes.
    the fascists exit the land.
    material is the fantasy

    the ghost-object
       parted from the body

    won’t leave you
       (it is a ghost)

    No architectonic
       without shame

    no flow
       without authority

    hold my hands out to seep
       into the poem

    like my sieve in the dream
    my fiends moving seaward

    In the night farm
      tractors, hooves
      nothing like gills

    the lower level of my teeth fall out
    I put a strap around my face to hold their fleshly
    tape . harmonies swilled, muttered to my others
    the nausea fantasia of the fear in my somnambulant
    mouth. my humours have been modernised .
          sweet rosewater
          ashen rainfall after cigarette
    nausea’s signalling bilious obsolescence, in which I’d become
    my own petrification , save myself for tomorrow,
    preserved in the mud like the neolithic
    gold mine accoutrements , prettify this odorous
    magnetisation, in the food watered thin .
    holding backwater against monochrome
    urbanite foreground, salve on this wound
    salvo to the futuristic . waking . dreamer
    whose meat-hungry molars whose bodies
    denuded of prey uselessly
    tremble in the morning

    it’s a stomach, universal

    in the ruins of so much love
    the eyes of so much was and still
    specifying by the laboratory’s
    LED shadow bright white petri-
    light, new names for sullenness
    subordination : writ on paper
    the silken / unruly taxonomies
    threaten ruling in their names
    underwrit : where is happiness?
    where are single beings in this

    smoking cocktail cigarettes
    in the rainbow colourette
    my mother fought with hers

    sports have a relation to war
    in the museum of anthropology
    sublimation of stork,
    fight to the death

    am damned for a kestrel hologram

    The Pterodactyl Calendar.

    Am turned by different necks
    wood curls up at your feet
    as though claiming a metaphor for youth.
    Boiling milk. Skins charm like a
    lake of pure gold turned to tacky
    leaf – didn’t know she would
    be the one holding the pan’s handle.
    In a chalet but never to step a
    foot down on a varnished piece of
    lace. the fascists exit the land.
    All things lay fallow in themselves
    like the shy mooded once was.
    Metempsychosis. Frustrate sensate
    matter, turn on her nerve, her neck
    glides into 180* position to see
    her mother turn to a chamber maid
    making lace & scruples for the master.

    Christina Chalmers is a poet, film-makar, & translator from Edinburgh, Scotland, currently residing in Queens, New York. She is working on a thesis about Italian Marxist & feminist philosophies of history, a poetry book called Subterflect, and a film called Exit Strategies. Past works were the chapbooks Willingness (2016, Materials), Work Songs (2013, Shit Valley), and the short film Notes on Capture (2018). Currently she's thinking about the legal history of birds & labour, dialectical ludditism, and queer alternatives to childhood.

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