Josef Kaplan: Two Introductions


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.

Which is, actually, the utmost terror of the inconceivable: that it is, in fact, conceivable. That our innermost lives aren’t mysterious. That we in fact know ourselves.

And we are hopelessly insane.

It is my absolute, esteemed pleasure to welcome Trisha Low’s writing.



It’s hard for me to talk about Anne Boyer’s writing because I’m a man. And not even a very interesting man! I’m white, half-Jewish, pretty significantly hetero … pretty comfortable, money-wise. I don’t necessarily have the social background that would inform the kind of intimate, exhilarative response Anne’s work so often (and justifiably) inspires. It’s like what Francois Poulain de la Barre said: “All that has been written about women by men should be suspect, for the men are at once judge and party to the lawsuit.”

Luckily, I’m also a pervert, so I’m happy to talk about it anyway. Because you know what gets me off? Saying shit like this: Anne Boyer writes exactly how you would imagine a woman to write.

Anne’s writing works from a position in which the character of its reception simultaneously demands the gravity of actual, lived experience (often traumatic experience), while also presenting that gravity under the mutant, supernal auspice of fantasy. And not even a locatable, readable “fantasy”—the fantasies of, say, Anne Boyer—but an unhinged, projected fantasy: the fantasy of a “you,” the fantasy of a fantasy, that, in its projection, can become also a missive, plea, or accusation.

In these poems, the stakes are never other than dire (one of Anne’s chapbooks is titled Art is War), but, ultimately, dire only as stakes (that same chapbook opens with the declaration “my content is desire”). This is the promise and horror of Anne’s work, that its deep, profound sincerity need always manifest in an aesthetic that, being an aesthetic, is always also separate from it, and therefore forever traitorous.

Anne writes in “The Crowd” that she

[prefers] the teeming crowd of souls to the teeming soul itself […] This is the crowd, how it turns the voice of one man or woman into a voice without words, and this voice without words is the voice for the crowd. How this voice without words is another poetry. How the remedy for the state is always the crowd […] how poetry is often the service of the state.

In other words: no escape for poetry, or from poetry.

Or, rather, it’s not just that Anne’s writing presents us with this idea that there’s no escape from poetry, or from the state, or from anything. That’s a given. Anne’s writing presents us with the more disturbing notion that this idea of escape—of liberation, or revolution—being, simply, an idea (and therefore fantastical, and poetic), may in fact be the most debased and compromised response to this question of the “state,” because to think revolution is to think its image, and to imagine revolution is to fictionalize it.

Which is maybe why it’s so enjoyable.

In other words, Anne is a pervert.

It is my absolute, esteemed pleasure to welcome Anne Boyer’s writing.

Excerpted from ALL NIGHTMARE: INTRODUCTIONS 2011-2012 by Josef Kaplan, UDP 2014. Kaplan is the author of the much reviled but much discussed Kill List. Lemon Hound has been a fan of his introductions since 2011.