INTRODUCING TRISHA LOW I think we can all agree that “emotional poetry” is a disease. Maybe not the poetry. But the incessance of the emotional environment—the appeals to a “felt” response that exists only in its inconceivability, and its consequent legitimacy as a response recognized only insofar as it remains inconceivable—surely this can be described in no other terms than illness. Specifically, mental illness. Obviously, it is totally insane to cry over a poem, or to even be made happy or slightly sad or slightly happy by a poem. It’s just a poem. You would have to be a hysteric to experience these things. I know that this is an easy critique to make, but I make it in order to highlight a moment, or rather a collection of moments, in Trisha Low’s “Confessions [of a variety],” in which she transcribes recordings of herself confessing to priests about how much she liked it when a man hit her during sex. How deliciously degrading it was. How the pain mingled with the pleasure and got all … twisted. [Heavy breathing happens here.] The priests, suddenly confronted with this overtly sexualized (and thus taboo) projection of their (internal) ritual of penance, leave behind their priestly vestiges (vestiges, it should be said, that represent a conduit to the sum personification of the unthinkable) and assume the role of … psychoanalyst. Like, check out what this nerdy-ass priest says:
Well, I don’t know, I wish I could say more to that. M- more about that, you know? But I think that’s something you can—work out—talk about, I guess, you know?Trisha’s work turns us all into bad psychoanalysts. The work confronts us with an “inconceivable” emotional life presented as if it were totally knowable. Like a Freudian taser, Trisha’s work reduces the “felt” logic of emotional response to a near-mathematical matrix of stimuli, parsed out in disjoined, assaultive bursts.
- She records a map of her body’s scars, complete with exact coordinates
- and a catalogue of degrees of retained trauma.
- She cuts a dude’s feet off.
- She describes an unannounced, dream-like scene thusly: “a creature in a dress / the head of a creature below it in a bonnet. / the head of a creature in a bonnet in the lap of a creature in a dress. / the head of a creature in a bonnet in the lap of a creature in a dress, jerking / the leg of a creature in a dress and the head of a creature in a bonnet.” This section ends with, “right?” As if this were merely a timeline of confirmed specifics, as if the interpretive labor of the reader ends precisely at recognizing that this is really happening, man. It’s really happening.