I won't tell you
I'm not going to call it a wound
But this absence exerts a pressure
I'm not going to call it a wound
We live in a civilized society
with rules that maintain
clamp upon the mouth
of everyone who breathes
the great insult
A CONVERSATION WITH RAUAN KLASSNIK ABOUT HIS MOST RECENT COLLECTION "THE MOON'S JAW"
“Leaning down to pet yr dog, you looked up at me, & shot the
dog in its face. We fucked: & we fucked again. & when I came to you
were sucking me off. Like my brain—Slow & aching. A rat’s in a maze. It
stops—Grows—& it is the maze.”
– (from The Moon’s Jaw)
JC: I have to
ask about the way this book was written, because it seems to me an eruption, an
expressive act – a series of expressive acts – that isn’t concerned at all with
notions of decorum,audience, form, or
even the usual lyric expectations that reader’s might bring to the page. You
mention briefly in the notes that “much of [this collection] was pieced
together from bits & pieces of some erasures […] I made one hot, humid
Mexican summer. The more they corrupted & decayed the more beautiful & flexible they became.”
RK: A couple of
months ago one of my new Seattle
writer friends was telling me about his concerns about the novel he’s working
on. Concerned that there may not be enough of a “narrative arc” for the reader
to follow. And I was like “fuck the reader.” And I believe this. Fuck the
reader. What I mean, and what I went on to explain to my friend, is that I
believe the writer should write with himself in mind as judge, mirror and jury.
When I was working on The Moon’s Jaw I
wasn’t concerned about how the book would or would not work for future, potential
readers. I was concerned about how it worked or did not work for me. And my
assumption is that if the book (the system of energy, images, music,
associations, blah, blah,) works for me then I can assume that it will work for
others. Not all others. But, given the chance, at least, in some others.
So, regarding “notions”
or “expectations” that a reader might bring to the table: well, again, I had
faith, that if it worked for me then by extension and virtue of human nature,
it could work for certain others.
Also, the book,
for whatever it’s worth, was written in starved and narrow mental isolation.
JC: Do you
think you could have written this collection had you not been living in Mexico
at the time?
RK: I started
writing and generated most of the raw material while I was still living in Mexico, but most of the hard work, the
organizing, polishing, wallowing in it, happened where I now live, in Kirkland, WA (a suburb of
That being said
I think the energies and decadences that make this book could have been
realized and nurtured anywhere. But, maybe I’m wrong about this.
JC: Tadeusz Borowski
is mentioned in your Notes. What relation do you see between his work and your
Borowski was a suicide, a Holocaust survivor, and, in the end, an embittered
and corrupt romantic who had stepped “on the throat of (his) song.” In his
writing about Auschwitz he is truly God-like
in that he views and portrays humanity without any splinter of God in him. One
of my U.K.
writer friends, Gary J. Shipley is like this too, I think: i.e., I think the
making and understanding soul of the work is completely godless. This is
something I envy because besides my bleakness and unmitigated atheism I have a
kind of God-Shadow that colors and poisons everything.
But I can also
be ruthless, hopeless and can see “the skull beneath the skin.”
JC: Reading The Moon’s Jaw can be a disquieting
experience.Many poems work that area of
strange sexual engagement that can be found in the Surrealists, in the writings
of George Bataille and Pierre Guyotat. The lyric voice is ambiguous as to
gender and sexuality. The term ‘transgressive’ comes to mind. And then there is
the formal matter of the dash, which is nearly omnipresent.
RK: Yes, the
sexuality is ambiguous, varied and changing and is tied up with a simple sort
of sadomasochism, as well as pleasure. Pleasure for the writer and pleasure for
the reader. I very much like the chaining effect of the dash as well as its
slashing. How aggressive and violent the dash is! How it cleaves in both senses
of the word!
I am not a real
surrealist but I do enjoy and dabble. Especially in the dreamlike.
JC:One can’t help but think of Emily Dickinson
when one reads these lines:
——Sailing By——On A CalmBlueSea——Pale & Slow——
——I’m So Young——& So Fresh——& I Can’t Stop Coming——
——In A Taxi——Crushed In A Lobby——The Phone’s Ringing——
suggest in me an agonized Romanticism, reworked through the nightmare ofa modern narcissism. (The ringing phone
suggests an earlier contemporaneity, a Modernism as opposed to a
post-Modernism.) Was Dickinson
anywhere present in your mind when you were writing these poems?
RK: Not really.
I tried reading reading Dickinson
when I was in my early 20’s and then again in my early 30’s (I’m 45 years old
now) and failed pretty miserably. So, all I really know about her is 2nd
hand: masochist, mystic, ecstatic, religious poet, etc. And I guess I’m ok with
that. And am ok, of course, with comparisons.
much I used the dash, it’s inevitable that Dickinson comes up. And I’m ok with that too,
“An old man’s riding his daughter’s breast
milk. She tries to rise—Boned in light. But he’s dragged her down: & pulled
out her heart. Her skull. & her spine: Floods of red surging smoke: Crows,
falling, like bits of ice. Or a Peacock—Rattling its universe: Blue &
green. Like the skies over Auschwitz:
Welcoming us. W/ arms wide open.”
JC: I have an
old copy of the King James Bible, given me by my grandmother, and the back of
the book has a section titled “Summary of the Books of the Bible.”About the Book of Revelation, the summarizer
writes: “Its main theme is “I come quickly.” Which got me thinking about The Moon’s Jaw and what I might say
about it if I were asked to reduce it in similar fashion.I’d go with something like: “The fallen world
is fallen. Hold me. Fuck me. The fallen world is still fallen.” What should I
have come up with? What essential meaning am I missing?
like “I’m coming, over & over”?? I dunno, man, the book seems now to me
like a wasteland where the corpses are still stirring. Perhaps with maggots. Or
maggot-like electrical brains, flesh and urges. It’s dark and bleak, but it’s
still surging with this dead (this “necro”) energy.
meaning”??Again, I dunno. But let’s
have a beer and I’ll tell you about my dog.
JC: Not too
long ago I saw you give a reading from The
Moon’s Jaw at Dave’s Fox Head Tavern in Iowa City. First, what struck me was how
musical yourpoetry is when heard out
loud, how wonderfully metered your lines are. Second, – and this I’m not sure
what to make of this, then or now – was how much laughter the audience offered
at moments that were especially violent. Was this reaction expected or did it
I’m dead—But alive. & we’re in kind of
a 69 position. To heal me. The side of yr head: Against my cold, black panties.
“Please, be careful,” you tell me. “Please.” & it feels like we’re
kissing—& it feels like we’re making love. A woman, dead, in childbirth:
Tiny bones, resting, still, between her legs.
RK: Thanks, I work hard at the “music” of my work.
And with The Moon’s Jaw I worked hard
(and was compulsively doomed) to fuck that and everything else up with incompetent
and diseased punctuation and typography.
And, sure, I’m
ok with laughter if I think it’s legit (not just some drunk, insecure punk
types who think they’re cool—you know how those readings are).
at my readings might be of the nervous sort. But, then again, when it comes to
my new book, laughter, at many points, is a reasonable response. I mean a lot
of the violence and grotesque sexuality of this book is just over the top.
Really kitschy. Really camp.
Also that night
Johannes Göransson (that
fiend!) was in the audience and I think his sudden and genuine outbursts of
laughter (which I loved) were infectious and/or encouraged others. Johannes, of
course, is an authority on dark, violence, kitsch, etc, and I really like
reading when he’s also “in the house”, so to speak.
JC: What else?
Did I miss anything?
RK: You missed
how good looking I am! And you missed how great a blogger I am (http://htmlgiant.com/author/rauan/) and how my twitter feed (@klassnik) is kind of a bible, epic and
sustaining. Nah, really, man, you’ve covered everything like a small pox
Just kidding, because, seriously, you’ve been very thorough--and
I appreciate you spending time with and thinking about the book.
[END OF CONVERSATION]
Klassnik was born in South Africa,
spent much of his life in Dallas, TX, and now lives in Kirkland, WA
with his wife Edith and their two dogs. The
Moon’s Jaw is his second book from BlackOcean (Holy Land, released in 2008, is the other).
Below the trailer for Rauan Klassnik's book The Moon's Jaw (Black Ocean, 2012).