Essay: An Excerpt from Lissa Wolsak

An excerpt from An Heuristic Prolusion. 

~ To respond, in making linguistic pavés, to exhilarate transformation, with an art of perceiving movement, within being, within language physiques. And question…can we dispense with our proclivity to sacrificial structures?
To subtend the map via fever-chart. To approach separation itself. An enactment of otherness. To exceed speech…language intensifies in retreat from its own nocturnal noise.
I proceed…by letting develop intuitive notions and experience of order, extending to fresh fields of trans-semiotic, a priori intimacy.

To be absorbed, and to wake. These are my methods.

There is no real production, only interdependence           —Buddha

~ Phenomenology, numinosity, discrete packets of light within words, family resemblance, synchronicity, appropriation, clinamen, imaginary acts, construction, animation, rhetoric, chance/non-chance maneuver, radical energy released at the boundaries of affinity and repulsion, at the gap between conceivable and presentable. Tribo-electricity, zizz, dispersion, anagnorosis (the critical moment of recognition or discovery, especially before peripeteia ~ sudden change or falling ~ a sudden turn of events or unexpected reversal), instinct, sound…as I found it, the culturing of surprise, leaning heavily at the mouth of my mouth, in a pointing toward that which withdraws.

Kate Durbin from Anna Nicole Show

CNN: Prosecutors presented this video as evidence that Howard K. Stern conspired to keep Anna Nicole Smith in a drug stupor. Stern’s lawyers say Smith was acting for the cameras.
HOWARD: What do you think Anna? Is Riley going to be your new makeup artist? Is Riley going to be your new makeup artist? Have you found a new makeup artist? Cuz your baby. Your other one of your babies. Your baby down there. That one. Say that again. Say it again. Let me get a shot of the baby. Let me just get a shot of the baby. No. Yeah. Put it there. Okay. You think this is a good time to announce the sex of your baby. Okay. Talk to me Riley. Riley talk to me. Talk to me. For the baby? How do you know it’s not a real baby? How do you know the stork didn’t bring it last night? [Anna,] how come your butt’s wet? Just turned off the music, although it might be too late. Whole tape being usable. You’ll have to see. The camera—Why you taking it off?
RILEY, AGE 7: We’re gonna use these first, bunny. You can open your eyes. Close ‘em. Now close ‘em. I wish you could go on the waterslides. But you’re pregnant. If you’re pregnancy, your heart’s bad, if you have a broken bone, or a back condition. I read the signs! Yep. You can’t. Your other—your baby down here. Why aren’t you pooting, then, or does it hurt? She does. The clown needs some medicine. No, I don’t have some. It’s your baby. It’s your baby. The clown doesn’t need gas medicine, she needs baaaby medicine. Baby. Baby. That’s your baby kicking you. Watch this. She isn’t real. Look. She’s having brain trouble. Brain trouble. It’s fake. Look. It’s a battery baby. Bad. She’s fake. Howard, can I talk to you for a sec? She has major brain trouble. Get the screwdriver. Yes, take one battery out to prove that that’s not a real baby. Howard! I’ll go to the nursery and look, okay? It’s okay. Why don’t you bring it up? Anna, she’s fake. Look! It’s what I’m hearing, huh. It’s fake. Camera, camera. Oh my lord. And now, I couldn’t find it. I couldn’t find it. Can I do it, Anna? I’m going to play along. I’ll go get it. I’ll go get it. I’ll go get it. Can this come off? She might get hot.
ANNA: Huh? I don’t know. Oh. You said open ‘em. With a wha—for a waterpark? I wanna go. Why not. My baby’s over there sleepin. I think I just have a little gas. I think I just I think I’m having some gas trouble. It hurts and I need some gas poot stuff so I can poot it out. Huh do you have some. I need some cuz look how big this belly’s getting cuz its gas. Nu uh. It’s gas. No it’s gas. And for sure—nu uh. Eh gu and you know how when you’re having gas and you feel it and its like owwww. No. My baby’s over there. Don’t open her skin. She might die. Can’t do that. Stop it. Hu huh. Yes. I’m your mama. Hehehe. I think she peed on me. Hold her head up! She’s crying; she needs her binkie! She needs her binkie. It’s cryin. Get a her binkie; it’s cryin. Hmm. My baby whore. I’m gonna go give her her binkie cuz she don’t know how to take care of a baby. Shhh. You’re not fake. Did you put powder in her diaper. Did you put powda. Powder right here. Right that squash. The powder is this in my—by my tub. Powder. She pee pee on herself. What? Hahaha. What? Hey say mama. Want your binkie. What. I love you! You love your mama? Get you some new clothes on. What. What. What. What you sayin. Huh. Ubegububu. Hold on. Hold on. I’m gonna put you something else to wear, okay? Okay? Hey what. Do you look cute? Hehehe.
MECHANICAL BABY: Mama. Mama. Waaah. Waaah. Waaah. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Waaah. Waaah. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Waaah. Waaah. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Waaah. Waaah. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Waaah. Waaah. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama.
DISTANT MUSIC: “Angel Baby” by Rosie and the Originals

The second of two posts featuring Kate Durbin. “Anna Nicole Show” was first published in E Entertainment (Insert Press). The piece won an &Now Innovative Writing Award, and will be re-printed in the Diamond Edition of E! Entertainment, forthcoming from Insert/Blanc Press. 
Kate Durbin is a Los Angeles-based writer and transmedia artist. She is author of The Ravenous Audience (Akashic Books), E! Entertainment (Blanc Press Diamond Edition, forthcoming), and the post-conceptual fashion magazine The Fashion Issue (Wonder, forthcoming). She has also written five chapbooks, including FASHIONWHORE (Legacy Pictures) and Kept Women (Insert Press, forthcoming). Her projects have been featured in Spex, Huffington Post, The New Yorker, Specs,, AOL, Poets and Writers, TMobile’s Your Digital Daily,, VLAK, Lana Turner: A Journal of Poetry and Opinion, Black Warrior Review, Joyland, berfrois, SUPERMACHINE, Drunken Boat, NPR, Bookslut, 1913, LIT, Fanzine, and The American Scholar, among others. She is founding editor of Gaga Stigmata, an online arts and criticism journal about Lady Gaga, which will be published as a book from Zg Press in 2012.

Kate Durbin: from Ravenous Audience

The Clothes

a black embroidered handbag     a pearlescent Bakelite clutch     a jewel-encrusted evening bag with a chain strap     a Lucite handbag     a clear bejeweled handbag with an embellished closure      the same bag filled with matching accessories     a red patent-leather handbag with a gold closer     an arrangement of 13 of Monroe’s bags     a wool hat with two ostrich feathers     a white wool hat with a large satin bow     two lacquered fans      a white fox-fur collar     a sable collar     a black broadtail jacket with a brown mink collar shown with a brown leather handbag     a three-quarter-length black mink coat     a three-quarter-length cheetah-print coat     a cream-colored cardigan with a two-toned mink collar and a diamenté closure     a 1954 appraisal slip valuing a black mink coat at $10,000
 at $10,000
at $10,000
The Jewels

a collection of necklaces bracelets earrings and brooches   a gold necklace possibly by Paul Flato from the early 1960s the long chain is hung with stylized “lily” drops     a necklace with a diamond center stone      a jade beaded necklace     a link necklace with a square clasp      a jade beaded necklace with a gold flower clasp     a diamond necklace with a diamond and ruby pendant     a pearl necklace with a pearl and diamond pendant     a pearl necklace        a diamond Art-Deco style necklace     a pearl necklace with a flower clasp     a Blancpain diamond watch     a Marvin diamond and gold watch     gold ear clips     pearl and gold cluster earrings     pearl drop earrings     diamond and pearl cluster earrings     pearl and gold pineapple earrings     diamond and gold starburst brooches     a pearl and gold brooch     a pearl brooch     a pearl and gold pineapple brooch     a diamond and gold brooch        a diamond and gold link bracelet     a four-strand pearl bracelet with a gold clasp      a diamond and ruby bracelet     a jade and gold bracelet
 at $10,000
at $10,000
The Keepsakes
an army-issue sewing kit likely given to Monroe in Korea in 1954     a typewriter belonging to Monroe with a letter to Arthur Miller’s father     the bottle of Chanel No. 5 that Melson found on Monroe’s nightstand after her death    a cookbook of Mexican and Spanish recipes along with recipes of Monroe’s     a tin box filled with stamps     three of Monroe’s cookbooks     six coins found with Monroe’s belongings     an Autobridge set     a Blockhead! game set     a hairbrush comb and mirror set     two silver candelabras      a sequined brown and tan case     a porcelain parakeet figurine     a pair of green dice     a silver tea set   a recording of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs song “Some Day My Prince Will Come”     a black leather stamp case     a floral china set with gold trim        a holiday calendar     a folder marked “Photographs/Stills on ‘Something’s Got to Give’”        the back of Monroe’s favorite photograph of herself which shows her standing in a jeep taken by a soldier in Korea during her U.S.O. trip there           a 1958 report card for Robert (Bobby) Miller Arthur’s son    
 at $10,000
at $10,000
The Prescriptions
receipts for medications purchased by Monroe and Arthur Miller including Seconal a barbiturate and Noludar a sedative     prescription receipts from Schwab’s Pharmacy     a collage of prescription receipts     a Schwab’s receipt from May 1960     another Schwab’s receipt     more prescription receipts from Schwab’s      receipts from Fairfax Drug Company in Los Angeles      more receipts from Fairfax Drug Company and one from the Prescription Center in Beverly Hills     receipts from the Prescription Center and one from the Westside Hospital Pharmacy     a file folder with pharmacy information
 at $10,000
at $10,000
The Legal Documents
a document certifying Monroe’s divorce from James Dougherty dated September 1946     a 1947 letter from Monroe to Twentieth Century-Fox     a 1949 William Morris Agency contract     another page of the contract     a telegram from Twentieth Century-Fox assistant secretary Frank Ferguson     a 1954 letter from Frank Ferguson     an unsigned contract with Ben Hecht from 1954     a contract signed by Hecht and Monroe on March 18, 1954        a 1954 letter from RCA     a 1954 letter to Jacques Chambrun        a telegram from Frank Ferguson     a 1960 sag-Theatrical Agency contract between Monroe and MCA Artists       a 1961 memo from Aaron R. Frosch     page 2 of the memo     page 3 of the memo     page 4 of the memo     page 5 of the memo     page 6 of the memo     Monroe’s birth certificate and other documents     an envelope containing the birth certificate and other materials
 at $10,000
at $10,000
The first of two posts featuring Kate Durbin. *“Marilyn: Leftovers” is excerpted from The Ravenous Audience, selected by Chris Abani for the Black Goat Imprint of Akashic Books. Purchase the book on Kindle or in paperback from

7-11-12_KatesBio: Kate Durbin is a Los Angeles-based writer and transmedia artist. She is author of The Ravenous Audience (Akashic Books), E! Entertainment (Blanc Press Diamond Edition, forthcoming), and the post-conceptual fashion magazine The Fashion Issue(Wonder, forthcoming). She has also written five chapbooks, including FASHIONWHORE (Legacy Pictures) and Kept Women (Insert Press, forthcoming). Her projects have been featured in Spex, Huffington Post, The New Yorker, Specs,, AOL, Poets and Writers, TMobile’s Your Digital Daily,, VLAK, Lana Turner: A Journal of Poetry and Opinion, Black Warrior Review, Joyland, berfrois, SUPERMACHINE, Drunken Boat, NPR, Bookslut, 1913, LIT, Fanzine, and The American Scholar, among others. She is founding editor of Gaga Stigmata, an online arts and criticism journal about Lady Gaga, which will be published as a book from Zg Press in 2012.

On Reviewing Natalie Walschots

LH: What do you think the purpose of a review is? If you also write about books on a blog, why? What does blogging let you do differently?

NZW: The purpose of a review, be it a book review or an album review, is to communicate with that text’s potential audience, to place the text in its cultural context, and to engage with both the writer and the potential readers about the text’s success.

I see two potential purposes that a review may have, and an individual review can embody one or both of these traits. First, to work as a piece of cultural criticism. This involves situating the text within it’s cultural context, examining how is upholds or disrupts the status quo within that context, and analysing the cultural work that the text is doing. This can involve categorizing the text within a genre or genres, looking at the text’s form and content, identifying moments of innovation and change, and otherwise providing a detailed look at how and where the text operates in the cultural landscape.

Another potential purpose of a review is to match a text with a potential audience.
This involves identifying the audience that the text is attempting to reach and analyzing whether or not the text is successful is doing so. In this regard, the purpose of a review is also to let that audience know whether the text in question is any good or not, and whether a member if its target audience might enjoy it. A review is also an endorsement, a vote of confidence or a warning.

Sometimes I turn to blogging when I don’t want to do either of these things, when I instead wish to write about my own, personal, not-necessarily critical relationship with a book. Texts often act as triggers, or can become am important marker in our lives — a record we listen to obsessively during a break-up, a book that we passionately identify with while navigating a difficult life change. Blogging allows the space and freedom to do this free from the “work” of criticism. That said, even on my own blog I usually write reviews.

LH: If you write reviews, how would you describe your approach, or method? Do you offer or engage in exegesis, theoretical, academic, reader response, close, contextual or evaluative readings? If you don’t write but read reviews, what aspects of reviewing do you notice?

NZ: I employ exegetical, contextual, close, reader response and evaluative techniques most often in my own writing. I tend to avoid excessively academic and theoretical language because I find that it often alienates my potential audience. Poetry and heavy metal are both difficult mediums that require a lot of readers and listeners, and further complicating things by writing reviews full of impenetrable prose seems counter-intuitive and unwelcoming. In terms of my method or approach: the most important aspect the review writing process for me is time spent with the work, and research. If it is a book, I read it more than once and allow myself some time to digest what I have written. If it is an album, I listen to that album several times and in different contexts. On each pass I take notes. I also read up on the author or band, in the form of interviews, bios, and other materials, so I know as much as possible about the work when I begin writing.  

LH: What do you think makes for a successful review? Is there an aspect, a stylistic choice, or perspective that necessarily produces a more significant document? 

 NZW: Good reviews are defined by good writing featuring a deep engagement with the text by an informed reader who has taken the time to get to know the substance and context of the work extremely well. If there is one thing that defines a good review, it is knowledge and confidence, opinions that are stated clearly and bravely, and backed up with proof.

LH: When you review, do you focus on a particular text (poem, story), the book at hand, the author’s body of work? Do you think this choice of focus influences criticism, or your own criticism, and if so, how? 

NZW: I always focus on the book/album at hand, as that is always the primary thing that is being reviewed, but the creator’s body of work is definitely something I consider as part of my review of the single text. The context of the author’s other work, and indeed their life is extremely important. For example, I refuse to review albums or books by people who have made openly racist, sexist, homophobic or other hateful statements (I have slipped and mistakenly reviewed things that sadly fall into these categories, but I strive to avoid them as much as I can). A knowledge of the author/musician’s life and other work is necessary to be able to make these calls. 

LH: If you also write non-critical work, how different is the way you approach reviewing or critical writing to the way you approach your own “creative” writing? 

NZW: Completely different. Criticism is an utterly different mode of writing for me — though, both are certainly creative acts, and I don’t value one over the other. The headspace that I occupy when I am writing is extremely different. I can produce criticism to deadline, under tight time constraint, whereas with poetry, I need to be much gentler with myself. 

LH: Have you been in a position where you have had to write about a book that you don’t care for, or a book that is coming out of a tradition that you are perhaps opposed to, or resistant to on some level? How do you handle such events? Or how have you noticed others handle these events? 

NZW: Absolutely, I write about albums I don’t care for all the time. I don’t feel that this is problematic at all. As a cultural critic, one of our roles is to point to material that we think is unsuccessful and explain why. Some pieces fail. The ideas don’t work, the structure is not sound, the themes are not properly executed, poor choices are made. I don’t think there is anything problematic with pointing those things out. In doing so, you are flagging these problems for potential readers, and backing up your opinions with examples from the text. Criticism that is unable to make value judgements is toothless. This illuminates something that I think is a key difference between music journalism and poetry criticism: as a music critic, you are absolutely expected to say whether a piece is good or not. This is a given. The supposition that this is somehow improper or off limits is poetry-land boggles my mind. That said, I think there is a precedent for work being dismissed out of hand by critics who don’t understand it, or who look down upon work of a certain genre or by someone who conforms to a certain demographic. Hence, the hesitation to make calls ourselves.

LH: What is the last piece of writing that convinced you to a/ reconsider an author or book you thought you had figured out, or had a final opinion on or b/ made you want to buy the book under review immediately? 

NZW: I never rely on single reviews of an album or book to make my purchasing decisions. Instead, I read as many as I can, and take them together to get a better idea of how that book is being received by may writers and different publications.

LH: Is there a quality you are looking for in a review that you haven’t found? 

NZW: The best reviews are the brave ones, where the writer genuinely states their opinions and does their best to back them up. Not enough reviews exhibit real vulnerability combined with intelligence, or take enough risks.

LH: Critical work is increasingly unpaid work; will you continue to do this work despite the trend? Do you see this trend reversing, or changing course? 

NZW: All the book reviews I have done, I have been paid for. In music journalism, reviews are very seldom paid work but are often connected to features, interviews, etc. that do pay. They are a gateway to paying work. As such, I will continue to do both. 

LH: What do you hope to achieve by writing about writing? Do you believe that reviews can actually bring new readers to texts? I absolutely believe, and see demonstrated all the time, that reviews both attract and inform new readers and listeners.

Natalie Zina Walschots is a music writer, poet and editor based in Toronto, Ontario. She writes for a variety music publications, both in print and online, including Toronto Standard, Toronto Is Awesome, Hellbound, About Heavy Metal, Angry Metal Guy and Exclaim!. Natalie currently serves as the Managing Editor of Canada Arts Connect, and her weekly column about feminism and aggressive music, “Girl Don’t Like Metal,” is hosted on Canada Arts Connect Magazine. She is the Metal and Comics Editor for Toronto Is Awesome, where she contributes the columns “Heavy Metal Ambassador” and “Image Seeks Words.” She is also the Reviews Editor of This Magazine, and her biweekly column on individual songs from recent Canadian metal albums, “One Track Mind,” appears on the This Magazine website. Her first book, Thumbscrews, won the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry and was published by Snare Books in the Fall of 2007. Natalie’s second book of poetry, DOOM: Love Poems For Supervillains, was published by Insomniac Press in the Spring of 2012. You can follow her on Twitter.

Two Poems from Helen Guri

Being secret, like a leg brace from childhood.
Not having anything, to eat or worry about.
A bus transfer sailing through seven seas of air. The resting places
of lost raisins.
The lobster, boiling. Surgical procedures to revive the senses of
those born blind and deaf.
Common senselessness, the dripping sponge of it.
Emotions duned like ash from the work week’s smokestacks on a
little side table.
A sudden wind from the patio, its fairy tale.
The cryptic luck of numbers. The ulterior motives of all the objects
in a room.
My little walnut of sadness through clothing. My close-bitten peach
pit of glee. The texture of the legs on all the spiders in the room.
The bath of my senses like several tides around her, the shoal of it.
Certain gadgets reserved like Egyptian artifacts for later.
The island of plastic bottles in the Pacific that is a secret the size
of America.
The wine stain deep in the turning lane of my Pentax-squat.
Why my better half looks so steamed in all the pictures.
Two whatsits cheek by jowl in a kitchen.
She slumped over the bunion of the tuber.
As if the snow globe of the world shook
and they collided, an unlikely set –
Barbie and her jowly pug, heroine and sidekick,
kid at Christmas cradling her rare
albino coal, Madonna and infant
of an irradiated cosmos, shiny as ash.
But it was getting on supper hour.
I cooked romantically – you can guess who lost out.
I cleaned a dozen gleaming sockets
with my peeler’s plover end,


an eye, an eye, an eye.


In time a broom swept through, filtering
the little glints of sight from the tile.
Who knows what anyone sees in anything?


Helen Guri graduated from the University of Toronto’s Creative Writing program, and has taught writing at Humber College. Her work has appeared in many Canadian journals, including Arc, Descant, Event, Fiddlehead andGrain. The above poems are from Match, her first collection, shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry. She lives in Toronto. You can read an interview with Guri here and here